Behind The Scenes Work For The Gospel
God has a plan for each of our lives - find out what it is for you and live your life for God.
Alright, thank you very much. And hello, friends. How are you today? I wanna go on with you, if I may, with the 13th chapter of Acts, beginning with verse 24. This is in the middle of Paul’s talk at Antioch in Pisidia, where he’d gone to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. And as was their custom, after the reading of the law on the prophets, they would invite visitors if they had anything to say, to comment or a message to give to do so. So, Paul has given this brief summary of the history of God’s chosen people. He got as far as David and reminded his hearers that God promised to David certain things.
He promised David that He would raise up of his descendants a Savior and that that special descendant of David would never see corruption. This is referred to later on in this passage. And then, Paul simply says, of this man’s seed, in other words, from his descendants, God has, according to His promise, raised up onto Israel a savior, Jesus. And that’s where we stopped the last time. And remember, I was reminding you that there is tremendous power in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t be ashamed of His name. Be proud of Him and own your allegiance to the Lord Jesus. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men,” said the Lord Jesus, “him will I confess before my Father, which is in heaven.”
Now, we come to verse 24 of Acts Chapter 13, and said when John had first preached before Christ’s coming, the baptism of repentance to all the children of Israel, God raised up unto Israel a savior, Jesus, when John had first preached, before his coming, the baptism of repentance to all of the children of Israel. And as John was fulfilling his course, he said, “Whom think he that I am? I am not He.” In other words, “I’m not the Messiah.” “But behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.” This is a quotation of course, from what you can read in the gospel record. John said, “I’m not worthy to unloose the latchet of his shoes.” I’m not worthy to do the work, in other words, of a slave. He’s so far beyond to me.
Then he said, “Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham and whosoever among you feareth God,” this included then the non-Jewish members of the congregation, “to you is the word of this salvation sent.” Well, we’ll stop here long enough to make a comment or two. God does have His forerunners. Not everybody can be a Billy Graham and not everybody can be a Charles G. Finney, and not everybody can be a Charles Haddon Spurgeon or a Dwight L Moody or a Wesley. You see, God does have His forerunners, people who get things ready and who prepare the scene.
Would you be willing to be that kind of person? I think oftentimes, we lose out on the blessing of God because we’re not willing to take the place that John the Baptist took in relationship to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, “I’m the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” Many of us would be glad to share the limelight but we’re not quite as willing to do the work. Give some thought today. And this is just a little aside. I’ve sort of dragged it in by the heels, but it’s something that needs to be said again and again. Give some thought today, to whether you’re willing to be one of God’s little people, an anonymous somebody who makes it possible for someone else to do God’s work.
I got so conscious of this in the early years of Youth for Christ, when for example, we would go into a foreign country. Take for example, our visit to China in the days before China fell to the Communists. When I was in Shanghai, you could hear the gunfire rattling the windows every night, and sometimes during the day, the fighting was that close. Well, we did some considerable evangelizing in meetings and campaigns there along the coast of China. I was down in Canton and up and Shanghai and over into the interior a little and so on, okay? One thing I noticed, and this is true of every country I’ve ever visited in connection with evangelizing and holding campaigns and all of that, but one thing I noticed, and that was that God had used the dedicated work of His precious missionaries and the national believers, Christians. In this case, we were in China, so it’d be Chinese Christians.
God had used their faithful work to prepare a situation where I could come in and do some, let’s say, harvesting for God. Oh, there had been faithful planting of the seed, and there had been faithful watering and cultivating of the seed of the word of God. And now, here comes this man from the United States. He doesn’t know the language, he doesn’t know the customs. He’s dependent upon an interpreter, and dependent so keenly upon the promptings of the Spirit of God every split second, and God graciously gives to this visiting nobody, the privilege of harvesting the crop that was planted a generation before by faithful missionaries and by national Chinese believers.
Now, I know this to be true. And the same thing has happened to me in every other country. I think how the wonderful meetings that Meryl Dunlop and I had in Japan in 1948, and those meetings were directly the result, not of our coming at all. They were the result of the faithful missionary labors of people like Smith Sensei, Gertrude Webster Smith. They call her Smith Sensei. Sensei is an honorable teacher title, professor sort of a title in Japanese. And this dear lady who had known the the sufferings of imprisonment and who had invested her life in a loving service to the Japanese for the cause of Christ had almost single-handedly set up some lovely meetings for Meryl Dunlop and for myself and we had the privilege then of preaching the gospel in 1948 in a number of places, and seeing people come to the Lord Jesus Christ. Sure.
And so, what I’m saying is, God allows some people to harvest and He allows other people to plant. That’s what Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “One plants, another waters, and God gives the harvest.” My question simply is, to myself, as well as to you, my dear friend. Are we willing to be the folks who, like John the Baptist, prepare the way? And who can say, honestly, He the Lord Jesus must increase and I must decrease. Is that true of us? If it is, then God has great potential for our lives, I’m sure. As John fulfilled his course, what was the wind-up of John’s life? It was imprisonment and beheading. Not a very glamorous prospect, was it? To preach to thousands and multiply thousands so that the whole countryside turned out en masse to hear this man of God with his stentorian tones proclaiming repentance. And then to see his crowds dwindle and to see his usefulness suddenly curtailed by imprisonment, and then after a while, to know that one day, the executioner’s sword flashed, and his head rolled from his body. Boy, you know you don’t like to contemplate something like that, do you? What does it mean to be in the will of God? It doesn’t always mean roses, friends. It doesn’t always mean the plaudits of the crowd.
My dear pastor friend, it won’t always mean that you’ll be called to a larger church the next time around. It may mean suffering, it may mean misunderstandings, it may mean persecution. It may mean a physical deprivation or suffering. I don’t know what it may mean, but it says as John fulfilled his course, he did his job. Paul says to Archippus, as recorded in Colossians 4:17, say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which thou has received of our Lord Jesus Christ that thou fulfill it.” You see, your job is not to be successful as the world measures it. Your job is to be faithful. Your job is to fulfill your course. Paul could say when he got to the end of his life, “I have fought a good fight. I have finished the course,” that’s as he ran out the race. “I have kept the faith, henceforth, there’s laid up for me the crown of righteousness.”
So, Paul, John here, it says, fulfilled his course. He finished the job. Now, he didn’t finish the way you and I would write the scenario. We would have had him in something more of a recognition. We would have gotten him out of jail by divine edict. Isn’t it interesting that God got Peter out of jail by divine intervention, but let John the Baptist stay in jail and get executed? Isn’t that interesting? Why does God allow one person to live and another to die? I don’t know. I don’t know. I only know that God is God and He doesn’t make any mistakes, and I know that His plans are exquisitely beautiful and absolutely perfect, and I can trust God’s planning for me.
God says, through his ancient prophet, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of peace and not of evil.” God knows what He’s thinking about. He knows what he’s planning about and He knows you and me in the bargain. He’s planning specifically for us. John fulfilled his course. Could you say that you’re willing to fit into that kind of a setup, as John the Baptist did? Well, I don’t know. It’s a big assignment, isn’t it? I think it takes as much grace to surrender to God in terms of doing the kind of faceless and unrecognized work that we’re talking about here. It takes as much grace to do that as it does to be a martyr, or to suffer, or to serve greatly in some public way.
It takes grace to serve as well as to shine. And friend, you can depend upon God’s grace to give you what you need today. Some of you say, “Oh I’m only a housewife” or “I’m only a business man” or “I’m only a student,” or “I’m only a little child.” Never say only. What you are and as you are, if you’re trusting the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s part of God’s perfect plan for you. And so, let Him use you, will you? And let him speak in your life and through your life, His perfect will. Amen.
Dear Heavenly Father, as people go off to work and school, and the many tasks of the household, may the presence of the Lord be wonderfully real and precious all day long. I ask in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. Amen. God bless you, my dear friend, all the way today. That’s all for now.
Until I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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