Jesus’ last commandment was, “Go make disciples of all nations.” Now, he didn’t instruct us to simply get people to say a prayer and move on; he specifically said make disciples. Making disciples is a long process that requires more than a short term missions trip but it doesn’t necessarily require you to travel across oceans. My friend (and cousin) Tony is involved in kid’s ministry in Reading, Pennsylvania – one of the poorest cities in American and only half an hour from where I grew up. Some of those kids never heard of Jesus before so, in a sense, they are an unreached people group. It’s an important ministry to be involved in. However, there are lots of important ministries you could become involved in. One is not necessarily more important than the other.
I believe God is the ultimate chess player and He moves willing people strategically around the world to accomplish His will. This means some missionaries will never leave their country and some missionaries may never come back to their country, but they are all bringing more glory to God in their own particular way; using and even finding new talents that God gave them at birth for His purposes. Our only responsibility is to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s prompting; not rich, successful, talented, trendy, intelligent, or even able, just obedient. If we submit our free will to God’s sovereign will, God uses us for His higher plan and trust me, it probably won’t make sense to you. That’s why God requires us to trust Him. You may not even think you’re qualified to do what He’s asking but God is not limited by your lack of ability, only your lack of obedience.You may not even think you’re qualified to do what He’s asking but God is not limited by your lack of ability, only your lack of obedience.
It seems like God directs the path of the righteous and uses those righteous people to hold evil in check. Righteousness reacts to evil and likewise evil reacts to righteousness. When one pushes, the other reacts. So if God controls the Righteous Kingdom and, in His sovereignty, knows the thoughts, intents, and battle strategies of the Evil Kingdom, He can successfully manipulate both kingdoms to achieve His will. Then Why doesn’t God just vanquish the evil kingdom and get it over with? Because the evil kingdom has a lot of human beings in it, and God isn’t willing that any should perish (John 3:16). Too often we Christians believe that God should do away with the evildoers and we forget that, at one time, we were also evildoers. If you think about it, it’s quite selfish to benefit from God’s mercy while He waits for us to respond to His call for salvation; then as soon as we’re saved we wish God would stop with this mercy stuff and destroy all evildoers. I believe God’s mercy is what is holding off the destruction of the world. The world is evil not because God isn’t in control, it’s evil because people are choosing to follow their own wills. An evil world is evidence of God’s mercy in action; a good world is His will influencing the world through the obedient acts of His righteous people.
I’ve been struggling with this blog for a week and today Rick, my preacher, shared about Jonah’s calling to Niniveh and finally some pieces clicked.
I think God insists on using people to carry out His will. Romans 10: 14-15 seems to indicate Gospel will not spread without humans being the vessel through which it’s transported.
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10: 14-15
I think the famous quote by Edmund Burke may carry more weight than we realize: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Even Jesus asked us to pray for more workers in the field. Why? God wants more disciples so His righteous will can influence this world on a grander scale.
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. – Matthew 9:38
God is quite interested in making disciples. That means the God who breathed galaxies into existence is intently interested in the quality of your character. In fact, He may be waiting to move in some way until you’re prepared for the mission He has for you. I don’t know about you, but that’s humbling. I’m selfish, dumb, and bent on doing things that are bad for me. Remember, though, God is merciful. That mercy has a goal, and that’s bringing evil into subjection to His will. I believe God’s will is for evil to be erased through conversion, not extermination.
I believe God’s will is for evil to be erased through conversion, not extermination.
Nineveh was a town of 120,000 people located in Assyria and was known for it’s evil, despicable torture practices and murderous ways. They were comparable to, say, ISIS at that time. They were despised, deservedly, by the surrounding civilizations. When God called Jonah to go preach to the Ninevites so that the Ninevites could be saved, Jonah probably felt several things. First, Jonah probably didn’t want God to spare the Ninevites. They deserved to suffer because of their evil. Second, Jonah didn’t want to go preach to the Ninevites because there was a good chance they would just kill him, and probably in some horrific way. Can you blame Jonah?
Here’s our first lesson. You may ask, why was God allowing the Ninevites to murder, kill, rape, torture, and destroy? Why did God allow this evil? If God could have stopped that evil, why didn’t he? Well, it seems God respects our ability of choice. Good or bad, he lets us make decisions and then reap the consequences. I would argue that the evil on earth originates from people making wrong choices and an evil world is evidence of God’s grace, not his lack of power. So is God responsible for evil? No, because He’s not the one who made the bad choices. But how can a good God let all this evil happen? The answer is that evil is happening because God is good.
Let’s look at it this way. At what point do you want God to destroy evildoers? Are you not an evildoer when you lie to your parents? Should God have killed you for that? If God killed children for lying, you would likely say that He’s heartless. What if you cheat on your taxes? What if God finds lust, greed, or covetousness in your heart? What if you commit adultery? We love when God shows us mercy, even though our sinful actions may hurt others. Yet on a grander scale, when God spares civilizations (and in doing so allows their evil to continue for a time) we mistake God’s mercy as weakness. Make no mistake, God orchestrates events in opposition to the evil society perpetuating violence against others. Jesus said that “two sparrows are sold for a penny but yet not one of them falls to the ground outside the will of My father.” The innocent lives caught in the consequences of an evil society are not forgotten by God and are used as judgement against the evil society. At a certain point God’s mercy runs out and the judgement against a civilization becomes too great for God to overlook. This is when old people start building very large boats.
But before the earth floods, God always makes sure the society or civilization is warned. This was Jonah’s job. And Jonah ran from it. He boarded a ship and began a journey to a city over 2,000 miles in the opposite direction of where God wanted him. Of course, we all know the story. Jonah gets found out and thrown overboard where a giant fish swallowed him alive. Jonah was in the whale hotel for three days before being vomited back onto dry land near Niniveh. Jonah didn’t need more convincing. Now, since Jonah was in the digestive tract of a whale for three days, his skin would have been bleached white and and all his hair would have dissolved from the acid. People would have definitely noticed him, yet this oddity made his story credible and the entire city of Nineveh repented in a matter of days.
Later in the story, Jonah made a booth to sit under for protection from the sun. God caused a vine to grow over the booth to give Jonah shade. Jonah would’ve enjoyed the shade more than the average person because his skin would’ve been so white and sensitive to the sun.
Jonah made his own decisions but God’s sovereign will was accomplished. The Bible specifically points out that God appointed that whale to be present when Jonah was thrown overboard. Jonah suffered the consequences for his actions (he sat in digestive juices and seaweed for three days) but ironically, Jonah’s actions, made in defiance of God, may have made him a more effective witness for God’s message. If Jonah would have walked into Nineveh as an average looking person and told them their city would be destroyed, he would’ve been dismissed. However, when a strange, white, and hairless man shows up surrounded by incredible stories of being eaten by a whale, people tend to listen.
God is in the business of using people. As soon as you give up and surrender to God’s will, He can take your past rebellion or stupidity and turn it into a meaningful and important part of the story.
This brings me to another point. God prepares His disciples. Disciples accomplish two things: (1) Showcase the intangible qualities of God in a tangible way and (2) carry out the sovereign will of God on earth, in that order. For God to use you, He must prepare you. To prepare you, God replaces your will with His own which will likely be a painful process. How does He do this? It seems his method of choice is suffering. Nothing strips away the distractions and frivolities of life faster than suffering. Suffering removes pride and replaces it with perspective.
Sometimes our suffering is brought on by our choices, sometimes by other’s. Both are equally useful when given with a surrendering spirit to God. This means that if you were abused, taken advantage of, cheated to, lied to, cheated on, God doesn’t waste those experiences in your life, that part of your life was not wasted. God takes that dirty rotten part of your life, buries it in the ground, waters it with forgiveness, and out grows a beautiful flower that is a species all your own; a stunningly unique species that could not have grown if your past experiences never happened.
While evil is raging in the world, God is using the suffering produced by that evil to disciple His followers. Once that suffering has produced fruit in his disciples, God then uses His disciples to combat the evil in the world. In this way, even evil is used in God’s plan (although God isn’t the cause of evil).
It’s been said that the the talent of an artist is showcased by his ability to turn mistakes into art. God turns mistakes into art everyday. It’s the process of being a disciple. God takes our failures, and like a good parent, uses them as teaching opportunities for his children. The faltering steps of a newborn believer are used as building blocks to mature sainthood. All we have to do is trust, submit, and obey Him in whatever He calls us to do and then refuse to stop trusting Him when life doesn’t make sense.
I think it’s important to note that a human being, especially one like myself, trying to understand the complexities of God is like a lady bug describing the mechanical engineering that goes into a Boeing 747. It’s just not possible to grasp the entire thing from our perspective and it’s likely I’m wrong in some way or another.
I’m saying all this so that you realize I’m not advocating for very single person to pull up their roots and move to the opposite side of the globe. I’m saying all this so you see that you are chess piece on God’s chessboard. I believe that every Christian is to be involved in missions, whether it’s across the street or across the world; whether it’s giving or it’s going. If you’re a Christian, you’re called to be involved. If you’re a Christian you should want to be involved. This is just a friendly reminder that the job Jesus gave us isn’t done yet.
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