We live in challenging times. The other day I was listening to a talk show while driving when a caller asked the host, “What should I be more concerned about–Ebola or ISIS?” Fifty years ago before the acceleration of worldwide inter-connectedness, that would have been a mute question. But last week, with the death of an Ebola patient on American soil, the infection of another, and the arrest of a 19 year-old American at O’Hare Airport making his way to Syria to fight for ISIS, that is no longer the case. These larger concerns have become our personal concerns. And they do impact how we engage the world in missions.
Did you know that there is a wonderful promise that Jesus gives to those who, in the midst of the challenges of our day, step out in faith to go on mission with him – a promise on which he will never renege – a promise that is as good today as it was when he gave it 2000 years ago – a promise that is for every one of us?
This promise is given as the very last sentence of the book of Matthew. In Matthew 28:20 we read, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” It is as if Jesus is saying, “If you commit to me, I will in return commit to you, and do it right up to the very end.” He promises that his presence goes with us in difficulty and danger, through difficulty and danger, and at times will keep us out of difficulty and danger. Now that’s a reassuring promise!
In a very unsettled world, God is looking for willing hearts to go anywhere on mission with him. He is looking for total engagement by each and every one of us in his great Cause. He is looking for those who will take this promise of his “Personal Persistent Presence” at face value, no matter what our role:
He is asking for some of us to be senders, and others to be sent-ones
Some to give their lives, others to give of their resources
Some to do the work, others to support the work
Some to be on the front lines, others to be in the background
Some to go, and others to stay, so that the some willing to go, can go
No one gets an exclusion! John Piper once said: “When it comes to world missions, there are only three kinds of Christians: zealous goers, zealous senders, and disobedient.” Obedience to the teachings of Jesus is seldom easy. Obedience to taking Christ’s love to hard places can be even more difficult. On one level, it takes a combination of willingness, determination, faith and risk-taking for one to personally cross over into other cultures and live on foreign soil to bring peoples to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
On another level, it may simply mean helping those who commit to such a path, by rendering support services through committing to regular prayer, financial resources, material assistance, technical support, or moral encouragement. Taking Christ’s love to hard places, both here and abroad will take you down one of these two paths.
In this age we believers have more resources at out disposal to finish the task than any previous generation. We have more informed people, more financial resources, more material resources, and more technological resources. However, the one thing lacking, the thing in which believers today seem most deficient, is the will to act. Maybe that lack of will is tied to a lack of trust in Jesus’ promising reassurance of his presence.
In troubling times our will and willingness to be involved needs to be anchored on one sentence: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” It seems that if we first say, “I am willing,” than Jesus in return will follow through with his promise, “I am with you.” The “Personal Persistent Presence” of Jesus should drive us forward on mission with him no matter how uncertain the times or challenges we may face.