A great word of encouragement from Dr. David Sills!
“William Carey was a Baptist pastor in England toward the end of the 18th century. Reading Captain Cook’s journals, he was profoundly moved by the spiritual needs of the world. Specifically, he was burdened about the need to convert the peoples of India. However, Carey found that some of the other Baptist pastors in England believed that God would save the heathen in His own time without their help. Carey could not accept the decision to leave them in spiritual darkness. He challenged them through a sermon entitled, “Expect Great Things, Attempt Great Things.” He led the way by sailing to India in 1792 and launched such a remarkable missionary effort that he became known as the father of modern missions. In that day when many English Baptists considered the work God had given to them to do at home to be sufficiently challenging, going to another continent to minister among peoples of different languages, worldviews, and religions was too great a challenge.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because that mentality is alive and well and sometimes resides within us. Perhaps you wonder why should we go elsewhere when there are still lost people among us, indeed even in our own families. Why invest elsewhere when our own buildings need improvement or expansion? Why go to preach truth in places where people already have a religion and don’t want us to come? Why attempt such an audacious task? What hope do we have of success? What should we expect? The same Bible that spoke to Carey still speaks to us today. Why should we expect great things from God and attempt great things for God?
There is no danger that attempting what our sovereign God has commanded His people to do will fail. I do not mean that every plan we devise will succeed in ways that we measure as success, but when we are prepared instruments in His hands seeking to bring Him glory, there is nothing that will prevent Him having His way in His world. Never be afraid that the Enemy’s gospel-hostile mean people will prevail against the sovereign hand of God. When you’re sure that that hand holds you, never fear to step out and walk by faith.
The mission we set out to accomplish is not our own, it is His. The mission Dei, encompasses more than we can fathom, but He shares a part of it with us. When you attempt great things, you are not inventing a missions idea and asking Him to bless it, you are joining Him in His mission. His mission will not fail. You are joining the mission of the invincible, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent Creator and Ruler of all that is
In Matthew 28:18, Jesus said that all authority has been given to Him. With His authority He commands us to go to all peoples and obey all the Great Commission. Because He has all authority, no earthly pretender to authority can deny us or stay His hand. There are creative access countries in the world, including some that are mistakenly labeled as closed countries. “You can get into any country, but you may not be able to get out. There is no such thing as a closed country to one who does not care if he gets out again,” famously responded Bible smuggler, Brother Andrew, to a warning that his work was too dangerous to do in Communist countries. Brother Andrew understood that because Jesus Christ has all authority, no government ruler and no human heart can thwart His mission.
Many of us live our lives wondering what Jesus would do in various situations we face. A better guide for us would be to look in to the Bible to see what Jesus did do, and then seek to imitate Him. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Christ cleansed the Temple when the court of the Gentiles had been appropriated for the ease and profit of the Jews, He healed those outside Judaism, and said that when He was lifted up that all kinds of men and women would come to Him. Jesus was and is concerned for the nations. Christ came to seek and to save the lost. Imitate Him.
We can attempt great things for God expecting Him to do great things through us because of His indwelling Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God lives within us to guide us, empower us, endow gifts, encourage, and bless our efforts to glorify Christ. Christian workers who seek to obey Christ’s command and walk in step with the Holy Spirit go forth in Jesus’ name and authority and in the power and fellowship of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. Such knowledge provides hope when discouraged, the needed word when we do not know what to say, and insight into all the truth we are to teach to others.
Everyone is not to be a mega-church pastor, serve in a soup kitchen, plant churches, be a pioneer missionary, or teach in a seminary. The unique and God-given mix of gifts and burdens, life experiences, opportunities, and His guidance leads each of us to the paths we walk in our Christian life. Some are more zealous to know and fulfill their role in God’s plan for the world than others. But no matter how God calls you to serve Him, you can serve Him with all you are to attempt great things. If He has called you to be a housewife in suburbia you cannot glorify Him more by being martyred in Somalia. The highest and best use of your life is to do what He has called you to do in the place He has called you to do it. When you know His calling on your life, embrace it fully in faith and obedience. Jim Elliot challenged the called ones in his generation, “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation that you believe to be the will of God.”
The world is in desperate need of the gospel, of hope in the midst of hopelessness, and light in darkness. Lost and dying people need to hear the Good News that though God hates sin He loves us and gave His Son to save us. Over half of the world has not heard the gospel. Just in the Americas there are 999 people groups, with over 2/3 of them unreached and over 1/3 unreached of them unengaged. The numbers of peoples who do not know Jesus is heartbreaking. Many others may have heard but have no Christian churches with trained pastors to teach them the truth of God’s Word and help them apply it to their lives. Other crises are growing as well. Flesh trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry around the world. Tens of thousands of children die of starvation and hunger-related diseases daily. Thousands of people die from the lack of clean drinking water. Globally, millions of orphans live in the streets. Amy Carmichael said, “Missionary work is a grain of sand, the work untouched is a pyramid . . . Face it. Look and listen, alone with God. Then go, let go, help go. But never, never, never think that anything short of this is being ‘interested in missions’” There are so many needs, so little time, and so few responding to help.
When asked to identify the greatest commandment, Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” If you love the Lord with your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you will want to see the peoples of His world bring Him honor and worship. And if you love your neighbor as yourself, you will want to see them find forgiveness and enter into eternal life, and be at peace with God through Christ. John wrote in his first letter, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” Let us attempt great things and expect great things because of the love of God that the God of love has put in our hearts—love for Him and love for others.
We say we love the Lord. But to step onto a plane to leave the land of Walmart, family, friends, and all that is familiar seems a giant leap. Who would do that? Why would they do that? Because He commanded and true disciples obey Him. Prompt obedience has been a characteristic of God’s faithful servants since the days of Noah built the ark and Abraham offered up Isaac. The first disciples Jesus called left their nets and boats and obeyed His call to follow. Sometimes His call to us seems a bit too radical in a world that promotes comfort zones and safety. The last command Jesus gave us was the Great Commission. His word to His church is clear. Is our obedience as clear? Remember that you can say “No,” and you can say “Lord,” but you cannot say “No, Lord.” The minute you do, He’s not; you are. Prompt obedience is a mark of a true disciple. Jesus asked, “Why do you call me, Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?”
We should expect great things and attempt great things in full assurance that success is certain. Isaiah 11:9 prophesies, “for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” And a confirming repetition comes in Habakkuk 2:14, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Notice the absence of even a hint of “maybe” or “hope so.” I love the scene that John describes in the Revelation, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”’
We may expect and attempt great things because a successful end is certain.
God’s people make choices daily. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Decision magazine reminds us of the reality of Joel 3:14, “Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” What a cause for praise and thanksgiving we would have if the whole world had heard the gospel in a way that they can understand and now dwelled in the valley of decision. But they haven’t. And the sad truth is that God’s people have read the Great Commission, the Great Commandments, and the great compassion of Jesus in the Bible, and many have heard the call to give or go, spend or be spent, yet they remain in the valley of decision. Don’t waver any longer in indecision, if God is the Lord of all, commit today to expect great things and attempt great things. Here are ten reasons to do so. Hundreds more could be presented. Only one is needed. Who will expect and attempt great things for the glory of Christ and the advance of His kingdom?”