Marching Orders

God doesn't always explain what He has in mind when He tells you to do something – but he does expect you to obey.

Scripture: John 1:6, Acts 8:26, Isaiah 53
Topics: Obey, Harvest, Reap


Alright, thank you very much. Nice to be put on air with a friendly voice. I can remember sometimes years ago, when I was on the air every morning live at 7:00 that sometimes the dear announcer was a little hungover, and he didn’t have too happy a time of it. [chuckle] Well, I appreciate my friends, fellows and gals at the transmitters, God bless you dear people. And hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? I trust everything’s all right at your house. God bless you and keep you in His care. I’ve just been praying that His truth, and His love, and His concern for you, and His power, all of it might be just wrapped up in the words that I say and even in the tone of my voice. Somehow, somehow I want people to feel as though God is saying to them through yours truly, “I love you and I have plans for you,” because He does.

Well, we’re in John, the Gospel of John. And I was talking with you about the fact that God sends people. Jesus said to His disciples one day when they came back with some food. They’d been in the town and found everything closed up because it was noon day, and everyone was taking their siesta, but they finally found a deli that was open and came back with some corned beef and rye and whatever else, and they said, “All right, Master, here’s lunch.” He said, “I have meat to eat that you know not of,” and they immediately got upset. They said, “Somebody gave Him lunch while we were in there trying to find something to eat.” “No,” He said, “Listen. I sent you in there to reap, instead you’ve been busy with groceries. Did you tell anybody about me?” “No.” “Did you tell them I was the Savior?” “No.” “Did you tell them that I could change their lives?” “No.” He said, “You say that it’s sometime else there’ll be a harvest, look here, there’s your harvest.” And here came the towns people tumbling out of the town. In their eagerness to find this man concerning whom a lady, who was no lady, had said, “Come see a man that told me all things that ever I did.”

You wanna throw a scare into anybody, just have him or her face the threat of being “told on,” as we say. Well, that’s what had happened to them, and they came out to see this man. And they said after a while to the lady, they said, “Now we believe, not because of thy saying only, but because we have seen Him and heard Him ourselves and believe.” “There was the harvest,” He said, Jesus said, “I sent you to reap. Yes, you came back with lunch, but you didn’t come back with a harvest. I sent you to reap.” That verse in John 4 was a turning point in my own life back in 1948. I could sense in those early days that ’47 and ’48, I could sense that things were changing, I was pastoring a church with my brother-in-law, Torrey Johnson, and the two of us were busy, busy in Youth for Christ. He was President of Youth for Christ International, and I was Vice President of the so-called Great Lakes region and was also running the Chicago every Saturday night rally in Orchestra Hall. And during the winter months in Moody Church preaching at Midwest Bible Church, busy, happy and occupied with the things of God, but I sensed that there was a change in the direction of my life, and I knew that there might be a shift of emphasis.

Especially as I contemplated a trip that would take me to the Philippine Islands, and Japan, and China, and India, and on around the world, in the early days of 1948. So I was praying. Merrill Dunlop and Gregorio Tinkston and I were on a string of one night stands through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and we were raising some money to take this trip that was ahead of us. I remember on one night occasion, my room was in a little so-called tourist home. It was a private home where they rented a room or two for people who were on the road, and so there I was in this little narrow bedroom with a single cot and a dresser and a chair and that was it. And I knew that I had to seek God. I got down on my knees, opened the Word of God, I said, “Oh, God, say something to me that will tell me the direction that I’m to take. What’s really happening here? I need to know.”

And I prayed so earnestly. Looked in the Word, read it and prayed, read it and prayed. Finally, I came to this passage in John, where our Savior said to the disciples, “I sent you to reap.” I sent you to reap, and immediately it dawned on me that the ministry in which I was going to engage was not a standard missionary activity, so much as it was a reaping procedure, which would capitalize upon the dedicated work of the dear missionary who may have been on the field for decades, and I would be there together with the Gospel team that I was with in a reaping procedure that would bring people to Christ who could then be followed up. I sent you to reap. That became the cornerstone of my whole approach during that year and other years to follow. You’re not supplanting, not supplanting the work of the church or the missionary. You’re supplementing it, you’re complementing it, you are helping the local church and the local pastor at every point that you can.

That was the thing that God impressed upon my mind, “I sent you to reap.” God does send people, and… I think one of the great illustrations of that ought to stir our hearts as we think of what our Lord said to Philip the Evangelist. Do you remember that story? I’m turning the pages of my big Bible back to Acts chapter 8. “Philip went down to the city of Samaria, preached Christ unto them, and the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake. Unclean spirits crying with a loud voice came out of many. People that were taken with palsy and that were lame were healed. There was great joy in the city.”

Now, later on, it says in Acts 8:26, remember they had a citywide revival going now, so big that Simon Peter himself came on down to check things out. All right, verse 26 says, “The angel of the Lord spake unto Philip saying, ‘Arise, go toward the south onto the way that goes down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert,’ and he arose and went.” A small thought here, God doesn’t always tell you what He wants when He gives you directions. Don’t expect God to explain everything to you before you obey Him. My father was an authoritarian. His forebears came from east of Munich, which would make him a thoroughgoing Prussian. And when he gave an order to his boy, he didn’t want any questions. Sometimes, as a little boy will, I would say, “Why, Pop? Why do I have to do this?” He would look at me sternly and say, “Because I said so, my boy.” [chuckle] And that was it. [chuckle]

Well, I don’t know whether that kind of upbringing is in vogue anymore or not, but it didn’t hurt me a bit, I’ll tell you that. In any case, our Heavenly Father doesn’t want any back talk when He tells us to do something. Philip never got an explanation of why he was supposed to leave a citywide revival. It would be like Billy Graham checking out of a city right in the middle of a crusade with the civic auditorium jammed, and thousands of people coming and delegations from 50 miles around coming in every night, and the radio and the television covering it all, and the daily press covering it all, and if he suddenly decided he had to go someplace else, we would consider that quite a change, wouldn’t we?

And here’s Philip, he’s in the middle of a citywide revival, and God says, “I’ve got something for you to do. I want you to go down to the desert.” Well, I don’t know whether I would have been up to it or not, dear friend. God doesn’t always explain what He has in mind when He tells you to do something, but you better obey, because God knows. He said, “I know the thoughts that I think towards you, to give you a desired end.” John chapter 6 says of our Lord, “He Himself knew what He would do.” And the second chapter of John says, “He needed not that any should tell Him of man for He knew what was in men.” Our blessed Lord knows what He’s about, and you can trust Him even though He may not explain things to you. Obedience doesn’t need an explanation. Obedience needs obedience.

Anyhow, Philip did it. It says, “He arose and went.” Well, when he got down to this place in the middle of the desert, it says, “Behold a man of Ethiopia, a man of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians who had charge of all her treasure and had come to Jerusalem to worship was returning and sitting in his chariot, read Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said… ” Now, the first thing God said to Philip was, “Get on out of Samaria and go down to the desert.” The second message was, “Go near and join thyself to this chariot.” God sends people in a general direction, He then follows up with a specific direction, but notice what happened. Philip ran thither and heard him read Isaiah and said, “Do you understand this?” God sends you and at the same time expects you to use your own good sense. The Spirit didn’t tell him what to say, Philip took his cue from what was happening.

I want you to think about that. When you are engaged in obeying God, go ahead and do the best you can, use the good sense you have, and God will tie Himself to you. Did you know that? Get your marching orders from God. I learned this from a book called the Law of Faith. Get your marching orders from God and then when you’re out in the field and there isn’t any time to call a committee meeting or a prayer meeting, do what you feel you ought to do while trusting your Lord and He’ll tie himself to you and see you through. Do you understand? When the man said, “How can I? Come up and teach me.” And so, before you know it, Philip was riding in the chariot and preaching to this man concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. He began at the same scripture, this was Isaiah chapter 53. He began at the same scripture and preached unto him Jesus.

And the upshot of the matter was that the man was converted, stopped long enough to be baptized, and Philip was called away and the man went on his way rejoicing. Sent. Sent. God doesn’t explain to you what’s gonna happen, what He wants you to do is to obey. When you obey God follows through, and when He gives you a charge of some sort that involves action and you take that action, then you follow it up the best you can and God ties Himself to you, for He hath said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” The Lord shall guide thee continually. When you’re trusting God, the indwelling Holy Spirit works in what you say even though you may not be conscious of it at the time. People have said to me time and again, they’ve said, “Mr. Cook, I remember something you said to me 20 years go.” I can’t remember that. It turns out that it was something that the Spirit of God laid on my heart at the time and God nailed it down in that heart. You obey God. God sends people. Yes, He does, and He’ll send you to do His will and to bring people to Christ. And as you open your mouth and speak lovingly to them of Jesus, God follows through with His wonderful power. It’s a great truth, isn’t it?

Father God today, send us to somebody, to win that person to Jesus. I pray in His name. Amen. ‘Til I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with The King today and be a blessing.

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