It was said that “Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50 years, Aristotle for 40 years, and Jesus only for 3 years. Yet the impact of the finished work of Christ in that 3 years infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined 130 years of these 3 great philosophers of all antiquity.” At the cross, Jesus said “Tetelestai” which means (in English), “It is finished.”
As Christians, it is our responsibility to take that finished work of Christ across the street and across the world. For this reason is why the very last words Jesus left them with before His ascension from earth into Heaven as revealed in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts is what we call today ‘the great commission.’ In His very last words, He said:
“Be my witnesses! Go to the ends of the earth and spread the gospel to every creature, make disciples of all nations, as the father sent me, I send you.”
Being an authentic witness for Jesus Christ means you are doing the one thing that is nearest and dearest to the heart of Jesus. The one ministry that is nearest and dearest to the heart of Jesus is the ministry of witnessing and bringing the lost to Christ. We can fellowship all we want, we can educate, teach, entertain, sing, dance, go on retreats, conferences and have in-depth Bible study, but if we do all of these things and are not involved in witnessing for Jesus Christ and making disciples for Jesus Christ, we are not doing the one thing that is dearest and nearest to the heart of Jesus.
When we give up the noblest, purest, and truest work of the church – of saving souls by being fishers of men, we will lose sight of who we are as the church of Jesus Christ. When we pray that God will give us wealth and possessions and a life of ease, there’s a good chance we’re not praying according to God’s will. God’s priorities are reaching the lost and equipping the saints for ministry.
In contrast with the early church, their number-one goal was to bring glory to the name of Jesus. The early church measured success in terms of eternal gain, not church growth or prosperity. You must feel sorry for the apostles and martyrs of the early church-if only they had enough faith, they would have had gold chariots to ride around in, mansions in the ritziest section of Jerusalem, and vacation villas on the Sea of Galilee. Instead, most of them owned nothing, suffered persecution, and died by crucifixion, stoning, or beheading.
“I personally believe with all my heart that the Lord grieves in Heaven when He sees His redeemed children having vision for everything in life (from retirement plan to vacation plan and so forth), and yet not having any vision and plan in their obedience to the great commission. I believe the Lord is grieving when His redeemed think more about their leisure than the rebirth of sinners, I believe He is grieving when we think more about the few years we have here on earth than where we would be spending our forever and eternity.” – Dr. Michael Youssef.
The apostle Paul had a dream and goal in life and a vision for life given to him by God. As revealed in his written letter to the Romans (Romans 15), his vision was to preach the gospel wherever it has not been preached. His ultimate destination was Spain. Why? because at that time Spain was an unknown world. Did Paul make it to Spain, did he achieve that dream?
As I reflected on this, I realise it does not really matter because when God gives you a vision or a dream, it is what you do in accomplishment of that dream or vision that really matters, it matters more than accomplishing it. Moses had a dream to go the promise land with his people, he never made it there, but every waking moment of his life, he worked, taught, ruled and judged with the whole purpose of getting there. David had a dream to build a magnificent temple for God, but he never got to lay a stone in the building of that temple. And yet, he lived all of his life trying to achieve that dream, and he left his entire network in order to build that dream that God has given him.
What really matters to God is not whether you have accomplished the dream He has given to you or not, but it is how faithful you have been in trying to accomplish that dream. God is not so much interested in the destination as much as He is interested in how faithful you have been in trying to get there. If there is a desperate need in our day among believers, it is for Christians to dream dreams for God of conquering and accomplishing great things for God.
It takes a heart after God’s own heart to say I want my life to count for something great for God.
General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, a man who literally gave body and soul to the service of God was kicked out of the church, but he received it with joy, and went on and reached out to where nobody else was reaching – the slums of London. He reached souls and bodies for Christ. One day, the doctors examined him and discovered he was about to lose his eyesight, and so they asked his son to break the bad news to him.
On hearing the awful news from his son, general booth had the following conversation with his son, he repeated – “Do you mean completely blind?” His son replied, “I’m afraid we must contemplate that dad” then Booth added, “You mean to say that I shall never see your face again” In reply, his son added, “No, probably not in this life.” Then general booth, the great man of God that he was, he thought for a moment and then he said: “Well, I have served God with my eyes, now I shall serve God without my eyes.”
The reason why witnessing is so difficult is because it is the one thing we can do that Satan hates the most. Some people think that what you need is a 10-year course in apologetics before you can witness, or that you need is to be eloquent, articulate, or must have read two dozen books before you begin to witness. forget it!
To be a witness for Jesus Christ all you need to do is to have an authentic real born-again experience and a genuine repentance experience. And, all you need to know is that you have been forgiven your sins past, present and future at the cross of Calvary when Christ died a substitutionary death for you on the cross. Simply put, our witness is this:
“I was a sinner heading for hell, but Jesus forgave all my sins, and now, He’s taking me to Heaven.”
When the emphasis in witnessing and evangelism is on the technique, or marketing, drama, methodology, programs, formula and the rest of it, who gets the glory when the person is converted? It’s that methodology or the program. But when you stay on your knees in prayers and go and simply give a simple witness of the account of the hope that is in you, God gets the glory. When God equips his witness, God is all that you need.
In the book of Acts (Chapter 16), we read about Paul and Silas travelling through Europe to spread the gospel. At first, we read about the conversion of Lydia and her entire household. And secondly, we read about the slave girl possessed by the spirit of divination which brought her owners much gain by her fortune-telling. Paul commanded that spirit to leave the girl, and it did at that very hour. But her owners became furious when they saw that their hope of gain was gone, and so, they dragged Paul and Silas in front of the authorities to the city, and the crowd joined in on the attack. The magistrates ordered them both to be stripped and beaten, and afterwards, they were thrown into prison with their feet fastened in the stocks, and also with the jailer closely guarding them.
About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them. Now imagine this, if Paul and Silas were normal Christians today, what do you think they would have been doing? They would have been complaining perhaps saying, “we should have never started on this trip, the gospel can’t go to Europe, this is impossible,” or if they were theological, they would have said, “clearly this people are not elect, let us move on and find some that God would bless,” or if they have been like a lot of our current churches today, they would have said, “I’m not very happy being beaten with rods and locked in this stocks, and I know that God wants me to be happy, so let’s get out of there.”
But thank God they did not say any of these things, instead they prayed and praised God in the middle of their anguish, loneliness and desperation. They sang praise to God even though they were falsely accused and did nothing wrong under the law. In the middle of the night, when the darkness was at its darkest point, when all hope seems completely lost, when everything was compounded, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, Paul and Silas were thankful to God for their salvation, and they glorified God for His goodness. This is true faith! But the story does not end here, because that very same night, there was a great earthquake that shook the foundation of the prison, and immediately, all the doors of the prison opened, and every prisoner became free from their chains.
Their story is indeed a testament that Faith in Jesus always honours Jesus, and it is the kind of faith that Jesus honours. All earthly power is fleeting, all worldly power is only a mirage, all political power is only temporary, all material power can take wings and fly away, but the power of praise is real, and not just lasting but everlasting.
Christians can talk all they want about the return of Christ, they can talk about the last days, the end times, but if they have not taken advantage of the opportunities that God has placed in their hands (of serving the living God, reaching the lost in the world, and equipping the believers), they will miss out on the rewards. Jesus said, “occupy till I come,” he did not say calculate dates, he did not say debate the final issues of theology till I come, he did not say take pride in debating with each other over styles of worship till I come, no and a million no.
To elaborate, when Jesus said, “occupy till I come,” He is saying be diligent and work hard till I come, be faithful with the gifts I’ve given you till I come, share your blessing that I’ve given you till I come, witness to your neighbours till I come, tell others about me till I come, disciple others till I come, serve others till I come, take advantage of the opportunities that I’ve placed in your hand till I come.