The Battle is the Lord’s: A 3-Part Series
The entire missionary movement is propelled by the word “go.” The Great Commission compels us to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). This mandate, coupled with a work-oriented culture has sparked well meaning “world Christians” to action. What we have now is a task-oriented missionary movement with thousands of workers doing the “impossible” to finish the task by the year 2000. We want to see the world reached with the gospel. In light of this urgency and the immensity of the task we ask: How are we going to reach the world in such a short time? We study, we think, we hold consultations and congresses, we do research, we devise plans and strategies and we circle the earth. Soon we realize that the return does not match the investment. So we begin to turn to the apathetic and try to stir them up to action. We recruit more workers, raise more money, and devise bigger plans. We take the task to heart, and we work hard, thinking that we are being obedient to God’s word, so surely He must be pleased with us. We could not possibly be doing anything wrong since our intentions are good. We want the glory of God, not our own, because we are willing to forsake everything and do anything for the cause of Christ our Lord.
How do we know that what we are doing is right or wrong? Is there a biblical answer to how we must conduct business for God? Or are we left to our own wisdom and our own ways? To what extent can we copy the business world without violating God’s Word and the models of biblical characters who paved the way before us? Are the models of Jesus, prophets and apostles obsolete and out of date?
It seems to me that the modern missionary movement in general has diverged from biblical teaching. Our organizations look more and more like secular agencies and money-oriented businesses. We have absorbed the world into our mainline thinking and behavior to the extent that we now take it for granted that we must conduct our work based on “good business principles.”
The results are not as good as we like to think. We are not producing New Testament type communities of believers. Rather we are producing “churches” which are dependent on the west, churches plagued with strife, divisiveness, love of money, and hunger for power. We are reproducing ourselves.
God’s way is the best way and is the only way we should conduct our lives and our ministries. Let us examine our practices in light of God’s word which is the only authoritative source of wisdom and guidance in opposition to the best books produced by men.
1. Jesus was not in hurry.
Compelled by the desire to obey the great commission and a passion to reach the unreached we have gotten very busy. Many Christian workers are too busy working for God to even spend time with him. When we speak at churches and conferences we advise people to sign up immediately. We seldom advise people to wait on God.
Jesus, the author of the great commission, did not seem to be in a hurry to thrust his apostles into action immediately after his ascension to heaven. He commanded them:
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised which you have heard me speak about…. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:4-8)
Jesus essentially told them not to go anywhere but to just wait for the Holy Spirit… “You will receive power, then you will be my witnesses,” he told them. Is he also asking us to wait on him? We may not have to wait for the initial coming of the Holy Spirit, but even Paul waited many years before God felt he was ready to be sent out. Yet we say, “we are running out of time!” We say, “The century is almost over! There are more than three billion people and thousands of people groups still unreached! What if Jesus returns soon?”
It is interesting that the disciples were concerned about when Jesus would restore the kingdom to Israel. Our concerns today are only slightly different: “When will the great commission be fulfilled? When will “a church for every people be established?”
The answer Jesus gave to the disciples two thousand years ago is just as relevant to us today. He basically told the disciples that it was none of their business “to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” The timing is in God’s hands. We have to obey God, not our own man-made man-dates. Jesus is telling us that we need to leave this matter to God and simply do what he calls us to do.
2. The Power of God
The answer Jesus gave his anxious disciples is simple but earth shaking:
“you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses…” Acts 1:8
In other words, Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit and leave the rest to God. This is God’s promise: If we wait on our knees until we are truly emptied of ourselves and filled with his Spirit, we will receive power. When we are filled with the Spirit then we will naturally be witnesses everywhere we go. This is God’s job, not ours. It is God’s battle, not ours. It is God working through us as we yield ourselves to him. We only go at his command and in his time.
The disciples knew well that without him, they could “do nothing” (John 15:5). The Holy Spirit turned their fear into boldness and their weakness into strength. Paul waited three days in fasting and prayer before he began to witness in Damascus. He waited three years in Arabia before he went to Jerusalem. While the church in Antioch waited on the Lord, worshipping, praying and fasting, God chose to “call” Paul for a special task. Paul had nothing to do with the call. He had everything to do with obedience after the call. The church in Antioch was in a spirit of worship, fasting and prayer when the call came.
It is power we need, the power of God, not our own. Paul stressed emphatically that:
“..our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit…” (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
We know we need this power. We frequently repeat in words and song: “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.” Yet our practices demonstrate lack of faith in God’s power and a reliance on man-made ideas and strategies. Perhaps our ministries lack evidence of the true power of the Spirit because of our failure to wait on the Lord. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter who denied Christ out of fear, would not have been able to stand boldly before the large crowds and with a powerful sermon lead 3000 to Christ. As we yield ourselves fully to God and wait on Him for guidance, He fills us with His Spirit, empowering us for His work.