Sacrificially for the sake of the Great Commission
By Shaun Willcock
How seldom is
mission work even discussed among Christians, let alone actually supported!
The call to the
ministry is a divine call, and it is true that not all Christians are called to
it. And even of those men who are called into the ministry, not all of those are
called to missionary work. There were a number of ministers in the church at
Antioch, but only Paul and Barnabas were called into missionary work (Acts
13:1-4); the others stayed behind to minister to the church there. Some are
called as evangelists (missionaries), whereas others are called as pastors and
teachers (Eph. 4:11).
Not all men are given the necessary linguistic abilities, the necessary physical
qualities, nor the spiritual qualification, to be a missionary. It is certainly
true that "we have many members in one body, and all members haven not the same
office"; that we have "gifts differing according to the grace that is given to
us" (Rom. 12:4,6).
Nevertheless, ALL Christians must be intimately involved in mission work!
Intimately and sacrificially involved! You may not be called by the Lord as a
missionary, to go to some foreign land to preach the Gospel; but if another man
is going, making great sacrifices necessary to serve the Lord as a missionary,
then you must take the sacrifice to send him, and to support him when he is
Somewhere along the line, it has become part of the thinking of many professing
Christians that sacrifice is something only the man called as a missionary has
to make; that sacrifice is his particular calling, his particular burden to
bear. But this is a great error: the truth is, all Christians are called to live
sacrificial lives for the sake of Christ and His Gospel! But that doesn't sit
well with many professing Christians, particularly those who live in what is
called First World countries.
These Christians - prosperous, cushioned, comfortable -wallow in a life of ease,
and often the lap of luxury, never lift a finger to do what they can for the
dissemination of the Gospel to some needy, sin-darken corner of the world. "That
is the job of the missionary" they say. "The Lord has called him to live that
kind of sacrificial life, not me. My calling is different. I have a job, a wife,
a family. I have responsibilities and other commitments."
They fail to understand (or conveniently ignore the fact) that the missionary
may have also a wife and family (1 Cor. 9:5); that he too has responsibilities
and commitments; and that whether one is a missionary or not. I ask you, reader,
to consider whether or not are you the kind of Christian I am describing.
There are many professing Christians who can wax eloquent about various
doctrines of the faith, including the doctrines of grace and the sovereignty of
God - but their theology doesn't move them to live a sacrificial life. A
perishing world does not move them. Neither the lost teeming millions of Africa
or Asia, not the world just outside their own front doors, moves them. The world
goes on in darkness, hell-bound, down the broad way, but they remain unmoved.
If their theology is so sound, why does it not produce practical fruit? Many who
are so soundly orthodox when it comes to the sovereignty of God, do absolutely
nothing in fulfillment of Christ's great commission! They are so busy theorizing
about how, precisely, God saves the lost that they are not actually going out
and preaching to the lost, or supporting those who are! they are so sure that
they have true Gospel doctrine in their heads, yet it make no difference to how
they live in the midst of a world on its way to hell. Then know nothing of
living a sacrificial lifestyle!
So let us consider this matter. What exactly does it mean to live a sacrificial
lifestyle? A number of things.
For one called as a missionary, it can mean sacrificing many modern
conveniences, many luxuries. Many missionaries endure great hardships, sacrifice
so much, go without so much, take the Gospel to new lands. But before you nod
your head and say, "Yes, that's so true, but it's the missionary's calling, "
consider yourself, Christian! It's true that you may not be called to a
missionary, but even so, you can and should, live sacrificially! For although
you may not be called as a missionary yourself, you are called to support those
who go to the fields, and you are called to live at all times with eternity in
view, and putting the needs of your fellow-man first.
The Lord Jesus Christ left the glories of heaven, and laid down His life at the
hands of His enemies -laid it down as a sacrifice - to save His people; and you,
if you are one of those for whom Christ sacrificed so much, can certainly make
sacrifices too, for the work of missions! And many missionaries have laid down
their very lives, in far-away lands, and their bodies have been laid to rest in
lonely, forgotten graves. They sacrificed so much. There are those who are doing
it still, at this very time. Ought not those who remain behind to make
sacrifices as well?
Do you really need very new mod-con, the latest this and that? You who have so
much - do you really need even more? Is it not time for you to read and
carefully ponder such Scriptures as Heb. 13:5 which says, "Let your conversation
be without covetousness; and be content which such things as ye have"? Or 1 Tim.
6:8, which says, "And having food and raiment let us be therewith content"? If
you have been under the mistaken impression that only the missionary needs to
live sacrificially, then it is high time you were better instructed from God's
Word. So much more could be done to advance the Gospel throughout the world if
those who name the name of Christ would begin to live as Christ lived, and to
obey what He taught!
There is nothing wrong with having possessions. We all have them and some have
more than others, and that is how it has ever been and ever will be. A rich man
will naturally have more than a poor man, and there is nothing sinful about
this. But "them that are rich in this world" are charged to do good, to be rich
in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate (1 Tim. 6:17,18); and
what great good could be done for missionaries and for mission work if those who
have much would live more sacrificially, and support the work of Christ as it is
in their power to do!
And although you may not be what is considered a rich man in your own country,
if you so much as own a car you are a rich man compared with many preachers in
Africa who are traveling about on old and battered bicycles, seeking to conduct
missionary work, evangelistic work, in remote areas! And if you live in an
air-conditioned, carpeted house, you are rich compared with some missionary in a
mud hut in some Third World country! And if you go out to eat from time to time
in a pleasant restaurant, you are a rich man compared with that man who, like
Paul, is "in hunger and thirst, in fastings often in cold and nakedness," in
order to preach Christ in some dirt-poor and neglected part of the world (2 Cor.
Wealth is a very relative thing. Poor you may indeed by the standards of your
neighborhood or your country; but there are those who would find it hard to
believe, were they able to compare your lifestyle with theirs. Think on these
things, and then, perhaps, you will be willing to sacrifice so much more for the
sake of the Gospel of Christ.
But living sacrificially can mean other things than a lowered standard of
living. It is true that missionaries living in jungles and among barbaric tribes
have make great sacrifices in their lifestyles, living in very rough conditions
with no luxuries, etc.,and this is the traditional picture most people have of
the foreign missionary. But we must keep in mind that this is only one type of
missionary work! Many are called to be missionaries in the very sophisticated
and civilized societies! And this has been always the case. Paul the apostle,
for example, was often to be found, even for months and years at a time,
evangelizing in the world's great cities! This idea that the missionary always
goes to live with half-naked savages and eats grubs and spends a large amount of
his time fending off snakes and crocodiles is a gross over-simplification, no
doubt popularized by the false notion that the sophisticated parts of the world,
the "civilized parts" are "Christian" and therefore do not need to be
Not everyone called to mission work is called to live in very poor conditions.
If, for example, a man from the Congo was called by God to go as a missionary to
London or Paris, his living conditions would actually be for the better than
those in his home country! He would enjoy a standard of living unknown to
millions of his fellow-countrymen! A sacrificial lifestyle for the missionary,
then, does not always mean a lowered standard of living. Well then, in such a
case, what kind of sacrifices would he have make?
Sacrifice, for that man, would mean loneliness, culture shock, etc.,etc. To live
in a concrete jungle, a huge city, with no friends, no family, in a foreign
culture, unable to speak the language for perhaps many months, adjusting to new
foods, new customs - this is a great sacrifice for any man to make! Loneliness
is indeed a terrible enemy. And, yet, while the missionary is far from home,
having sacrificed all, having left behind his loved ones and everything that is
familiar to him, all too often his brethren in Christ back home go merrily on,
with hardly a thought for him, or others like him. Hardly a prayer ascends up to
God's throne on his behalf, hardly a tear is shed for him, hardly a letter is
written. A sacrificial lifestyle is to be lived by all Christians!
Not just the missionary , but by those who remain behind as well! They are to
sacrifice their time, writing to those on the mission field, praying much for
them (Rom. 15:30-32; Eph. 6:18,19), etc. They are to sacrifice, their money,
providing his needs, caring for him (1 Cor. 9:3-18). And also, surely his
example of selfless sacrifice should move those who remain behind to speak to
their neighbors, the people they work with, and others, about Christ and His
Gospel! If some Christians sacrifice so much for the sake of the Lord and His
Gospel, all others can sacrifice a whole lot more!
Then too, when a young missionary leaves home and loves ones and all that is
dear and familiar, his parents are called to make a great sacrifice at that time
as well. Oh, what a heart-wrenching sacrifice this is for them to make! They may
not be going to some foreign field themselves, but they are called to make a
sacrifice almost as great.
They are called to stand back, and to say, "Whatever hopes and dreams I had for
him, these are not important; he is the Lord's chosen instrument, and I must be
content to let him go and serve the One who has called him. I may never see him
again; he may even die in some far-away place and I will never know it; but his
is the Lord's servant, and I must willingly make this sacrifice."
But there are parents, professing Christian parents, who do all in their power
to prevent their son from going forth as a missionary! They cannot bear it. They
view it as a waste of a useful life. They would much rather he went to a
university like other young men, and became an educated, important man in the
community, a wealthy and successful man (as the world measures these things),
with a good home, a good wife, and children for the grandparents to pamper and
spoil. What are the parents willing to their children go to the mission fields?
No wonder Jesus said, "He that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worth
of me" (Matt. 10:37)!
Christian parents must love their children, but there is such a thing (and my
readers must understand me at this point) as loving them too much. Christ must
be loved supremely, but there are parents who make idols out of their children.
We read once of a mother, whose son was going to a foreign mission field,
standing on the platform at the railway station as his friends and family had
gathered to see him off.
It was a great sacrifice for her to make; it cost her much in human suffering
and emotion to be there that day, watching him leave, knowing she might never
see him again. But when one asked her how she could bear it at all, she replied,
with Rom. 8:32 in heart and mind, "God spared not His Son." Ah, that was a
mother who had seen to the very heart of the matter! God spared not His own dear
Son, but delivered Him up for all His elect; and the sacrifice she was called
upon to make was a small one in comparison with that. If God could do so much
for her, sparing not His own Son for her salvation, then she would not spare her
son, either, that others sitting in darkness and the shadow of death might hear
the glad tidings of the Saviour of sinners.
Christian parents, are you prepared to make such a sacrifice, if the sovereign
Lord lays His hand upon you child and sets him apart for such a work? Or will
you try to hinder it, reluctant to make such a sacrifice yourself, for the sake
of your Lord and Master?
And there is the sacrifice made by the wife of the missionary, who has to follow
her husband into new, stranger, often hostile parts of the world with the
Gospel. What a sacrifice she makes! Far from home, friends, family, all that she
knows and understands, struggling in her own sphere against obstacles her
sisters back home will never struggle against or even imagine, often having to
raise children in such circumstances, and often too, having to watch he children
die, carried away by some exotic disease that takes them suddenly, or even by
some strange disease which would be easily curable at home, but for which there
is no cure out on the field. Yes, missionary's wife pays a high price indeed.
But now a word to you Christian women whose husbands, although not called as
missionaries, still want to serve their Lord in some way: are you prepared to
make such a small sacrifice, when your sisters in Christ on the foreign mission
fields have made great ones? If your husband wants to go out one or two nights a
week, door to door witnessing for Christ, will you hinder him? Will you stay at
home complaining, unwilling even to make this small sacrifice? Or will you join
him, and sacrifice some of your time as well, to serve your Lord?
In conclusion: although you, as a Christian, are not called to be a missionary,
you are called to be mission-minded; to have mission work at heart, and to
sacrifice for it in various ways; to live for a higher purpose, in other words,
than merely your own self! May you be stirred in your heart to examine yourself
in this matter, to examine your motives, and your goals, and the things that
mean most to you; and to make it the business of your life to live sacrificially
for the sake of the lord Jesus Christ and His blessed Gospel!