Sunday, February 22, 2009

Too Many to Count—part three

“I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

And that great multitude cried with a loud voice, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10).

I would like to post three more stories…short and to the point…but utterly important to ponder. Taking the time to revisit true accounts of who God used to further His gospel in the past will place that one goal we must have as believers firmly in our soul today. It was the last thing Jesus instructed us to do before He went back to heaven—“go and make disciples of all nations.” Period—to the point! The methods and means may vary but our purpose is the same—we must be about the salvation of man. That is what should motivate our every move. Hudson Taylor, John Paton, and Mary Slessor desired this purpose above all else. Their physical losses (comfort, family, health, fame, wealth) will be traded in for an eternal reward—forever rejoicing with those they were willing to die for.

Chinese from the Interior
Ningpo Province

Hudson Taylor was the first missionary to enter the Interior of China. He experienced the call to “go” as a teenager—“Go for Me to China”—the Lord spoke clearly on a December day, in 1851, and Hudson obeyed! Although he endured storms at sea and many trials on that five-month journey by boat, God miraculously saw Hudson to his destination at the age of 22!

Hudson Taylor began to learn the language and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the river towns until he moved “West of the mountains, South of the clouds, North of the lake”—Inland China—in 1865. Through his passion and vision the China Inland Mission was birthed! His fervent prayers and mighty influence drew more than 800 men and woman to leave the companionship of family and comfort of home to cross the ocean and minister within the far reaching miles of inland China. That number is staggering—one man's work encouraging 800 more to serve! At Hudson’s death in 1905 over 125,000 Chinese Christians were serving God in their own country. The Word of God increased in the mountains of China—the Word of God continues to increase in the mountains of China—all through the faithful obedience of one man. Our step forward, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem at the time, may have a monumental effect upon the Kingdom of God.

Hudson’s family endured many griefs and hardships—Hudson himself underwent many trying years personally and spiritually while serving in a foreign land—but it did not deter him from the task. We do not share Christ’s Redemptive plan with others because we are emotionally, physically or spiritual “set”—we share because that is what our King told us to do. Hudson trusted all of his pain and confusion to Jesus and waited for healing and comfort—but while he waited, he worked. He received both revival of heart and harvest of souls.

Can you imagine what would have happened if Hudson Taylor had chosen to put aside God’s obvious command to “go” until he felt adequate enough to carry it out? Multitudes of Chinese alone will one day bow in worship before the throne of their great God—all because of Hudson Taylor’s humble response to the Spirit and obedience to the Great Commission!

The Tannese
New Hebrides

As a young man, John Paton heard the Lord say, “Go across the sea as the messenger of My love; and lo, I am with you.” John was determined to follow that order! In April of 1858, John said goodbye to his homeland of Scotland and sailed to the South Pacific. He arrived on the small island of Tanna (in the New Hebrides) in November of that same year. His faith was severely tested on that cannibal soil—he was overwhelmed by the superstitions and the cruelty of heathen at their worst. Witnessing war, murder, and the cooking and eating of human flesh filled John’s heart with both horror and pity—driving him at times almost to the point of despair.

It was the reality of God’s presence, “Lo, I am with you,” that gave him the strength to complete the task God had given him to do. Years and years of grueling trials, death threats, and grief were used by God as a machete to hack through the thorns and thistles hindering the furtherance of the gospel on the island of Tanna. Although discouraged, this man of God labored on and was rewarded!

Paton declared, "In heathendom, every true convert becomes at once a missionary. The changed life, shining out amid the surrounding darkness, is a gospel in largest capitals which all can see.” And so, John had the privilege of watching men transformed from brutal savages to those zealous for the things of Christ.

Paton died at the age of 83 in 1907. The last sentence of John’s autobiography states: “Let us commune with each other again, in the presence and glory of the Redeemer.” The angel told the apostle John that multitudes of every tribe and tongue would one day stand before their Creator in heaven giving all praise to the Savior of their souls—and because of John’s faithful obedience—the Tannese are included in that incomprehensible number!

Okoyong Tribe

At the age of 29, Mary Slessor stepped upon African soil along the Calabar River in 1876. Mary left a hard life in Scotland (her father was an alcoholic) to serve her Savior among the cannibal tribes of Africa. She entered what was known as “The White Man’s Grave” with incredible spunk and determination! The further Mary traveled the more needs she discovered and her heart was full with the passion to share Christ with those who had never heard. Working in the coastal villages she longed to go where no white man had ever gone before. As she would lay awake at night and hear the distant noise in the jungle, she prayed fervently that she would be able to go “and help reach them!” The human reasoning given her by other missionaries always said: “No. You would be killed. They cannot be reached.”

Despite this negative response, Mary never gave up praying. God answered the cry of her heart and in 1888 she traveled up river to the Okoyong people—feared by many other tribes. She was the first outsider to ever live among them. A day did not go by without a serious crisis. These people knew only vengeance and cruelty…through the gospel of Jesus Christ, lived and preached, Mary began to teach them what love looked like. Through her intense ability to work, share, learn language, and teach (despite sleepless nights, tropical disease, and physical exhaustion) the Okoyong began to accept Jesus. Free of pagan gods, the Okoyong were now released to understand the love of a Savior—the love Mary had demonstrated year in and year out! Idols disappeared and churches were built!

Azo Tribe

Although rejoicing in the salvation of her blessed Okoyong Tribe, Mary Slessor felt a great tug on her heart for the “region beyond”! The call was “Onward!” and she answered that call without looking back.

Without looking back—what an example of Paul’s “focusing all my energies on this one thing” exhortation in Philippians 3. Without entertaining one thought regarding any demands her body would have “rightfully” made for retirement, Mary settled among the Azo people. This cannibal tribe also rejected Christ’s message at first, but soon began to listen to what Mary taught because of her example! Although none could read or write yet many believed those things Mary taught. Soon more than 200 converts were reported and Mary begged for pastors to come and teach these new believers.

Mary walked those rough Azo paths until she was too old and feeble to do so. It was then she was carried. In January of 1915, the Lord took Mary home to heaven. Her body was taken down river to Cape Town. There she was buried on a hill next to the mission station where she first served. It was there her body was buried…for her spirit went directly to be with her Savior. After 39 years of dedication in Africa, Mary will one day have the privilege of praising her Redeemer with a vast number of the Okoyong and Azo Tribes (and I am sure countless others), bowing before His heavenly throne for all eternity!

Continue to read true stories of believers who risked everything for the sake of the gospel and, as you do, allow their faithfulness—their utter determination—to excite your own spirit toward fulfilling the Great Commission. Use their stories to excite your own children toward this end.

God was true to His Word, even when it looked like He had forsaken His own. Despite death, disease, fear, captivity, rejection, curses, loneliness, and heartache He answered their prayers—He carried them along and He eventually established His church among heathen nations. He did not do it automatically—in fact, many missionaries of the past were not able to see the full impact the gospel brought to the areas they pioneered. That is often true today as well. It takes time. Lots of time. It is hard to see spiritual progress…goodness, it is hard to see physical progress…especially when you are up to your knees in malaria, markets, misconceptions…cultural differences, language learning…or laundry for that matter. And that is why it is absolutely necessary to supply those, who labor in the field, with encouraging words! With reminders of God’s promises! “A good report” (Proverbs 15:30). The last was God’s idea completely—He desires that we provide refreshment for those far away!

Spend time this week crying out on behalf of the missionaries you know…those who have left family and the comforts of home, in order to draw others to this reality of the “heavenly throne” we are promised in the book of Revelation. Pray that they would be filled with hope and strengthened in their task. And then write and let them know you are praying.

Hudson Taylor, John Paton, and Mary Slessor had the support and prayers of their churches in Scotland and England—but they were not blessed to receive communication as readily as we are today. Take advantage of this technology more often…post a letter, send an email, make a phone call…! Let these dear servants of the King know that you remember their struggle, that you fight their battles in the heavenly realm, that you appreciate their extreme sacrifice, that you have not forgotten their dedication, and that you look forward, with great anticipation, to that wonderful day in eternity future when you will gather to worship the Savior with the very people they are being diligent to reach.

“I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

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