by Rick Wood
As evangelical Christians, we often speak of living to glorify God. I usually sign my columns here with, “For His Glory.” But what does that really mean in our everyday lives? How does this desire to glorify God affect the way we live, the commitments and sacrifices we make, and the price we will pay to build God’s kingdom so He will be worshiped and glorified by all peoples?
As we seek to establish God’s kingdom within every unreached people and destroy Satan’s dominion over their lives, we must ask ourselves the question, “Are we willing to pay the price needed to see these peoples come to Christ?” Is there a price we are unwilling to pay? Will we say to God, ‘I am sorry, but Your glory among the nations and Your worship by all peoples is not worth my time, my money, my ________?'” You fill in the blank. Are we willing to give up the possessions we hold dear, to suffer, or even risk the loss of our lives for the sake of His glory and His kingdom? These tough questions strike at the heart of our concept of God, the nature of our relationship with Him and our priorities in life. They are difficult for all of us to honestly face and answer.
In a world wrapped up in the passionate pursuit of materialism, comforts, pleasures, safety and the abundant life, where do the examples of a Jim Elliot or a Graham Staines fit in? Both were martyred as they attempted to bring the Gospel to an unreached people. Do we see their lives as well spent, or do we pity them for being so foolish as to leave the comforts of their homes and risk their lives to bring the love of Christ to people who were unworthy of their attention?
Who chooses most wisely: the one who plays it safe and seeks all of the things this world has to offer or the one who “gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,” as Jim Elliott wrote, so that God’s kingdom would be established and His glory made known to all peoples? The answer that each of us gives to these very important questions will reveal a great deal about where our heart is, what we value most and the quality of our walk with Christ.
Based on the relatively small number of churches that are actively involved in world evangelization, it appears that the bulk of the evangelical Church lives as though their heart and priorities are dedicated to gaining God’s blessing on their own lives and families so as to achieve the abundant life of comfort, pleasure and happiness. It’s as if the average church member were saying to God by his actions, “My purpose in life is to raise good kids, live a happy, healthy life and promote righteousness in my country so I do not have to suffer the consequences of the sins of those around me.”
But let’s say that we achieve all of these goals. We have a wonderful family; our kids are great and they love the Lord, at least enough to get saved. We have beat back the vices in our country; abortion is gone, pornography is non-existent, all the casinos and lotteries have been eliminated, the new president is a Bible-believing Christian and everyone is living “clean” lives. Even if we achieve all this, what is the ultimate purpose? Is our purpose simply to seek comfort and pleasure and to keep God’s blessings to ourselves, or is there a higher purpose?
Many of the students who are involved in the student renewal movement are asking this same question. They’re saying, “We are having a great time enjoying the Lord in worship and being greatly blessed, but is my blessing all that God wants? Is there something more, an ultimate purpose higher than myself, that is worth giving my whole life to?”
They are realizing that their personal worship is not an end in itself, but a means to achieving an even greater end, the worship of God by ALL peoples so that His glory is known in all the earth. If we worship God only for what He can do for us, then our God is too small and we short-circuit what He wants to accomplish in and through our lives.
We must give ourselves to God and His purposes with abandonment and passion that is focused on building His kingdom so that His worship would be complete from every tribe and tongue. This is a cause worthy of our total commitment and the sacrifice of everything we hold dear.
This is what Floyd McClung referred to as “apostolic passion“. McClung writes:
“I have lost it, too (apostolic passion), when I make decisions based on the danger involved, not the glory God will get. Those who have apostolic passion are planning to go, but willing to stay. You know you have it when you are deeply disappointed that God has not called you to leave your home and get out among those who have never heard His name. If you will not suffer and sacrifice for something, you are not passionate about it. If you say you will do anything for Jesus, but you don’t suffer for Him, then you aren’t really passionate about Him and His purposes on earth.”
No person in his right mind goes out seeking to be a martyr, but likewise no believer should hesitate to risk everything for the sake of establishing God’s kingdom – making His glory known and destroying the works of the devil within every people. This is the mission to which God has called all of us. This is the “apostolic passion” that all of us need to cultivate in our lives and the lives of our families and church members.
Are we as evangelical Christians willing to accept this calling? Are we willing to pay the price? The choice that each of us makes will mean the difference between the kingdom advancing or retreating.
Graham Staines, martyred recently in India, and his wife Gladys answered the call. Today, the godly example of Gladys Staines, who has openly forgiven the murderers of her husband and two young sons, is piercing the hearts of millions in India. Her forgiveness of such brutality is being seen as “true spirituality” which is inherently attractive to the Hindu mind.
This “true spirituality” is what our relativistic post-modern world is crying out for. The world is looking for truth that is lived out with conviction, passion and changed lives. Each of us must decide whether we are ready to present this kind of “true spirituality” to a waiting world regardless of the price we must pay.
After the murder of her husband and two sons, Gladys Staines said, “The thought of getting up and leaving has just not occurred to me once. I just feel that this is where God has called me.” Even after all that she has suffered and the terrible price she has had to pay in serving Christ, she is not willing to turn from God’s calling on her life. Her terrible suffering has not diminished any of the “apostolic passion” that first led her and her husband to India. May we also similarly resolve not to turn from God’s calling on our lives and to commit ourselves anew to reaching the unreached peoples regardless of the cost. God’s glory and worship among the nations are worth it.
This is an excerpt of an article that first appeared in Mission Frontiers Magazine in November 1999.