Recently I heard a message by Paris Reidhead entitled, “Ten Shekels and a Shirt.” In this message, Reidhead tells the story of two Moravian missionaries who left their communities to sell themselves into slavery in order to reach African slaves with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the two Moravian men boarded the boat and left the harbor, they faced criticism from others, knowing they would likely never return. The two men's response to this as they faded from sight was to cry out: “May the Lamb who was slain receive the reward of his suffering!”
This story jarred me, challenging my purpose for serving God overseas. What is the primary purpose of our lives on earth as followers of Christ? Put another way, what is the most compelling reason for partnering with God in extending his Kingdom, whether here or abroad? Do we engage in this cosmic battle primarily to improve the lives of countless millions who live in abject poverty? Do we go forth in Christ's name primarily to make disciples? Do we face the onslaught of the enemy merely fueled by the desire to rescue people from a Christ-less eternity? While all these things are part of our mandate as Christ followers, they do not lie at the heart of God's mission, and thus, should not form the primary motivation for our partnership with him.
To accomplish the mission which God has entrusted to us, our focus must extend beyond ourselves and others. Improving someone's life—even rescuing that person from eternal torment—inevitably will lead to an inward focus, whether on ourselves as individuals or on our fallen human race. Our actions can only be sufficiently sustained by a vision that focuses unswervingly on Christ.
The entire canon of Scripture attests to God's desire to receive worship from the nations. From the Hebrew patriarchs to the prophets and poets, the Old Testament resounds with the call to all nations to join in worshiping, YHWH, the one true God (e.g. Ps. 117:1; 67:4). In the New Testament, the stage lights focus on the person of Jesus Christ and his dramatic role in accomplishing this goal of cosmic worship. The climax, which has been building throughout Scripture, arrives with the advent of Christ and the future hope of all nations coming to him.
Christ's life, death, resurrection, and ascension to his Father's throne set in motion many things: the redemption of the cosmos, the vanquishing of the powers of darkness, and the establishment of his eternal Kingdom. Christ's goal was (and still is) to redeem people from every tribe and people and language. Because of Christ's sacrificial life and death, he is worthy to be exalted far above all principalities and powers (Phil. 2:5-11).
Christ's reward is his holy Bride, the Church, which will include people from every people group and language. At this moment, we live in the time period between creation and new creation; we live with the opportunity to continue the ministry of reconciliation, of continually working towards the full realization of Christ's reward—the inheritance of all nations. Jesus Christ is the rightful King whose rightful reward is the worship of all creation. “Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:11).
We go forth in the power of the Spirit, not because we are able, nor primarily because we want to rescue people from an eternity separated from Christ. We go forth in the mission of God for the sake of Christ, so that he may receive his due inheritance, the everlasting worship of all peoples. May the Lamb who was slain receive the reward of his suffering!
-Written by a member of the team currently completing their last phase of training at the ABT base.