Psalm 104: Pleasure of God in His Creation (Piper)

Psalms 104:31

    May the glory of the Lord endure for ever, may the Lord    rejoice in his works.

In our first message  of this series on the pleasures of God  we saw that God delights in his Son. For all eternity God has been exuberantly happy in the fellowship of the Trinity. He has been overflowing with satisfaction as he looks out over the endless panorama of his own perfections reflected in the radiance of his Son’s face.

Then  we saw that one of the lessons to be learned from that divine happiness is that God is complete in himself. He has no deficiencies. And therefore he can’t be bribed with something he craves or blackmailed with some secret weakness or coerced by some superior power. And so all that he does, he does, not under constraint, but according to his own good pleasure. He is free, and he takes pleasure in all that he does.

Today we focus on one of the most astonishing things that God has done: he has created the universe, and what a universe it is! And there are two questions that I want to try to answer:

  1. Does    God take pleasure in his creation?
  2. And if so, why does he?

1. Does God Take Pleasure in His Creation?

The first question I would answer with a resounding, “Yes!” God does take pleasure in his creation.

The Testimony of Genesis 1

How do we know this? Genesis 1 describes for us not only the fact of an ordered creation by God, but also God’s response to his creation. Five times, you recall, God stands back, as it were, and takes stock of his creation. Each time the text says, “And God saw that it was good” (vv. 4, 12, 18, 21, 25). And when all was finished and man and woman were created in his own image, it says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”

I take this to mean that God was delighted with his work. When he looked at it, it gave him pleasure. He was pleased and happy with his creative effort.

The Testimony of Psalm 104

Today’s text, Psalm 104, is a song to express the joy God has in his creation. The key verse for our purpose is verse 31:

    May the glory of the Lord endure for ever, may the Lord rejoice    in his works.   

This is not a prayer for something that might not happen. The psalmist does not mean: “O, I hope God will rejoice in his works, but I am not sure he will.” If that were the meaning, then the first line of the verse would have to have the same sense: “O, I hope God’s glory will endure forever, but I am not sure it will.”

That is surely not what he means. The rock solid confidence of the whole Bible is that the glory of the Lord will not only endure forever but that it will cover the whole earth like the waters cover the sea (Numbers 14:21; Habakkuk 2:14).

The psalmist is not praying that an uncertainty might come to pass. He’s exulting in a certainty that will come to pass. There is no doubt behind the shout, “May the glory of the Lord endure for ever!” And there is no doubt behind the shout: “May the Lord rejoice in his works!”

So the answer to the first question is YES! God does take pleasure in his creation. He delights in the work of his hands.

Why It Is Important to Ask the Next Question

Now the question is, WHY? There are two reasons why this question is important to me.

1. One is that I feel compelled to explain why this pleasure God has in his creation is not an act of idolatry.

Why is this pleasure that God has in creation not a dishonor to the Son of God? Why shouldn’t the Son be jealous? Should the Father really share his affection with the world? Should he not be totally satisfied in the beauty of his own perfections reflected back to him in the person of his Son?

2. The other reason for asking why God delights in his creation is that we need to know this before the delight itself can tell us very much about God’s character.

Two people can desire the same thing for such different reasons that one is honorable and the other is perverse.

2. Why Does God Take Pleasure in His Creation?

So for these two reasons at least let’s try to answer the question why God takes pleasure in his creation. I’ll try to sum it up in five statements based on this psalm and some other parts of Scripture.

These statements about why God delights in his creation are not really separate reasons because they overlap so much. But they each express a little differently the basic reason. So let’s begin with the basic reason that seems to me to be right here in verse 31.

    May the glory of the Lord endure for ever, may the Lord rejoice    in his works.   

What this suggests to me is that the joy that God has in his works is owing to the fact that they are the expression of his glory. In other words, I think the two halves of this verse are related something like this: “As long as the glory of the Lord endures in his works, God will indeed rejoice in his works.” Or you could say, “May the glory of the Lord endure for ever, so that the Lord may rejoice in his works.” So my first and most basic, statement is that . . .

1. God rejoices in his works because his works are an expression of his glory.

This is what Psalm 19 makes very clear:

    The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament    proclaims his handiwork.   

So the most basic reason that God delights in his creation is that in creation he sees the reflection of his own glory, and therefore he is not an idolater when he delights in his work.

But what about the Son of God? Does this mean that the creation is in competition with the Son for the affection of the Father? Remember that the Son, too, is called the reflection of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3). Does God delight partly in the Son and partly in the creation? Does the creation rob the Son of any of the Father’s delight? Should the Son be jealous of the creation?

No. Before creation the Father and the Son rejoiced in each other with overflowing satisfaction. And when the time came for creation, the Bible says that both the Father and the Son were active in the work of creation (1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16).

    In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the    Word was God. All things were made through him and without him was    not anything made that was made. (John 1:3)   

In other words the work of creation is not merely the work of the Father as though he had to satisfy a need that the Son couldn’t meet. Nor was creation merely the work of the Son as though he had to satisfy some need that the Father couldn’t meet. Instead it was the work of both of them together.

And so when the Bible teaches that creation expresses the glory of God, we mustn’t think merely of the glory of the Father or the glory of the Son, but rather the glory that they have together. And the glory that they have together is that overflowing mutual joy in each other’s perfections. So creation is an expression of the overflow of that life and joy that the Father and the Son have in each other.

There is no competition or jealousy in the Godhead. The Son and Father are equally glorified in creation, because creation is the overflow of gladness that they have in each other.

So the first and most basic statement we can make about why God rejoices in his work of creation is that creation is an expression of his glory.

2. God rejoices in the works of creation because they praise him.

In Psalm 148 the psalmist calls on creation itself to praise the Lord:

    Praise him, sun and moon,     praise him, all you shining stars!     Praise him, you highest heavens,     and you waters above the heavens!     Let them praise the name of the Lord!     For he commanded and they were created . . .     Praise the Lord from the earth,     you sea monsters and all deeps. (vv. 3–5, 7)   

What does this mean? Well we might say that sun and moon and stars praise God by testifying to us about God. That would be true—that’s what Psalm 19 says. But what about verse 7: “Praise the Lord you sea monsters and all deeps!”

One of my favorite poems is “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray in 1751. One of the stanzas says,

Full many a gem of purest ray serene,     The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:     Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,     And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Gray had been moved by the thought that on the bottom of the ocean there were beautiful gems that no human eye would ever see, and that in distant deserts millions of flowers would bloom, blush with vivid colors, give off a sweet fragrance, and never be touched or seen or smelled by anybody—but God!

The psalmist is moved by the same thing, it seems, in verse 7: “Praise the Lord, you sea monsters and all deeps!” He doesn’t even know what is in all the deeps of the sea! So the praise of the deeps is not merely what they can testify to man.

It seems to me that creation praises God by simply being what it was created to be in all its incredible variety. And since most of the creation is beyond the awareness of mankind (in the reaches of space, and in the heights of mountains and at the bottom of the sea), it wasn’t created merely to serve purposes that have to do with us. It was created for the enjoyment of God.

Ranger Rick arrives in our house. I open it and read about the European water spider that lives at the bottom of a lake, but breathes air. It does a somersault on the surface of the water and catches a bubble of air, and holds it over the breathing holes in the middle of its body while it swims to the bottom of the lake and spins a silk web among the seaweed. Then it goes up and brings down bubble after bubble until a little balloon of air is formed where it can live and eat and mate.

I sit there with my mouth open and I think God smiles and says, “Yes, John, and I have been enjoying that little piece of art for 10,000 years before anybody on earth knew it existed. And if you only knew how many millions of other wonders there are beyond your sight that I behold with gladness everyday!”

Right here in our text, Psalm 104:25–26 it says,

    Yonder is the sea, great and wide, which teems with things innumerable, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan which thou didst form to sport in it.   

Why did God create great sea monsters? Just to play, to frolic, in the ocean where no man can see but only God. The teeming ocean declares the glory of God, and praises him a hundred miles from any human eye. That’s the second statement about why God rejoices in his works.

3. God rejoices in the works of creation because they reveal his incomparable wisdom.

Look at verse 24:

    O Lord, how manifold are thy works!     In wisdom has thou made them all;     the earth is full of thy creatures.   

“In wisdom thou hast made them all!” In other words the Lord delights in the expressions of his wisdom. This universe is simply a masterpiece of wisdom and order. Or if you just take a part of it like the human body—what an amazing work of knowledge and wisdom. Who can fathom the human brain and the mystery of mind and body!

The world is full of the wisdom of God. Take diatoms for example. In December, Ranger Rick had color photographs of microscopic diatoms. There are 10,000 known species of diatoms! In a teaspoon of lake water there may be a million of these tiny invisible plants. And what are they doing while entertaining God with their microscopic beauty? They are making tons and tons of oxygen so that the animals in the water can breathe!

    O Lord, how manifold are thy works!     In wisdom hast thou made them all.   

The psalmist simply marveled at how everything worked together. You see this in verse 14.

    Thou dost cause the grass to grow for the cattle,     and plants for man to cultivate,     that he may bring forth food from the earth.   

What a wonderful experience it is when God grants us a moment in which we don’t take anything for granted, but see the world as though it were invented yesterday! How we would marvel at the wisdom of God.

    The Lord is the everlasting God,     the Creator of the ends of the earth.     He does not faint or grow weary,     his understanding is unsearchable.     (Isaiah 40:28)   

4. God rejoices in the works of creation because they reveal his incomparable power.

In Isaiah 40:26 Isaiah looks up at the star-filled sky—perhaps on a night like I remember on a mountain in Utah in September 1968, when the sky was literally a sheet of light and star could not be distinguished from star—he looks up and says,

    Lift up your eyes on high and see:     who created these?     He who brings out their host by number,     calling them all by name;     by the greatness of his might,     and because he is strong in power     not one is missing.   

If Isaiah was stunned at the power of God to create and name and sustain every star in the heaven that he could see, what would be his worship today if he were shown that the nearest of those stars in his sky, Alpha Centauri and Proxima Centauri, are 25 million million miles away, and that what he was seeing in his night sky was a tiny patch of our galaxy which has in it a hundred billion stars, and that beyond our galaxy there are millions of galaxies?

What is this universe but the lavish demonstration of the incredible, incomparable, unimaginable exuberance and wisdom and power and greatness of God! And what a God he must be! What a God he must be!

Which brings me to the final statement.

5. God rejoices in the works of creation because they point us beyond themselves to God himself.

God means for us to be stunned and awed by his work of creation. But not for its own sake. He means for us always to look at his creation and say: If the work of his hands is so full of wisdom and power and grandeur and majesty and beauty, what must this God be like in himself!!

These are but the backside of his glory seen through a glass darkly. What will it be to see the Creator himself! Not his works! Not even a billion galaxies will satisfy the human soul. God and God alone is the soul’s end.

And so our text draws to a close like this (Psalm 104:31–34):

    May the glory of the Lord endure for ever,     may the Lord rejoice in his works,     who looks on the earth and it trembles,     who touches the mountains and they smoke!     I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;     I will sing praise to my God while I have being.     May my meditation be pleasing to him,     for I rejoice in the Lord.     Let sinners be consumed from the earth,     and let the wicked be no more!     Bless the Lord, O my soul!     Praise the Lord!   

In the end it will not be the seas or the mountains or the canyons or the clouds or the great galaxies that fill our hearts to breaking with wonder and fill our mouths with eternal praise. It will be God himself.


Psalm 116 (Spurgeon)

Verse 1. I love the LORD. A blessed declaration: every believer ought to be able to declare without the slightest hesitation, “I love the Lord.” It was required under the law, but was never produced in the heart of man except by the grace of God, and upon gospel principles. It is a great thing to say “I love the Lord”; for the sweetest of all graces and the surest of all evidences of salvation is love. It is great goodness on the part of God that he condescends to be loved by such poor creatures as we are, and it is a sure proof that he has been at work in our heart when we can say, “Thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” Because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. The Psalmist not only knows that he loves God, but he knows why he does so. When love can justify itself with a reason, it is deep, strong, and abiding. They say that love is blind; but when we love God our affection has its eyes open and can sustain itself with the most rigid logic. We have reason, superabundant reason, for loving the Lord; and so because in this case principle and passion, reason and emotion go together, they make up an admirable state of mind. David’s reason for his love was the love of God in hearing his prayers. The Psalmist had used his “voice” in prayer, and the habit of doing so is exceedingly helpful to devotion. If we can pray aloud without being overheard it is well to do so. Sometimes, however, when the Psalmist had lifted up his voice, his utterance had been so broken and painful that he scarcely dared to call it prayer; words failed him, he could only produce a groaning sound, but the Lord heard his moaning voice. At other times his prayers were more regular and better formed: these he calls “supplications.” David had praised as best he could, and when one form of devotion failed him he tried another. He had gone to the Lord again and again, hence he uses the plural and says “my supplications, “but as often as he had gone, so often had he been welcome. Jehovah had heard, that is to say, accepted, and answered both his broken cries and his more composed and orderly supplications; hence he loved God with all his heart. Answered prayers are silken bonds which bind our hearts to God. When a man’s prayers are answered, love is the natural result. According to Alexander, both verbs may be translated in the present, and the text may run thus, “I love because Jehovah hears my voice, my supplications.” This also is true in the case of every pleading believer. Continual love flows out of daily answers to prayer.


Verse 7. Return, unto thy rest, O my soul. He calls the rest still his own, and feels full liberty to return to it. What a mercy it is that even if our soul has left its rest for a while we can tell it—”it is thy rest still.” The Psalmist had evidently been somewhat disturbed in mind, his troubles had ruffled his spirit but now with a sense of answered prayer upon him he quiets his soul. He had rested before, for he knew the blessed repose of faith, and therefore he returns to the God who had been the refuge of his soul in former days. Even as a bird flies to its nest, so does his soul fly to his God. Whenever a child of God even for a moment loses his peace of mind, he should be concerned to find it again, not by seeking it in the world or in his own experience, but in the Lord alone. When the believer prays, and the Lord inclines his ear, the road to the old rest is before him, let him not be slow to follow it. For the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee. Thou hast served a good God, and built upon a sure foundation; go not about to find any other rest, but come back to him who in former days hath condescended to enrich thee by his love. What a text is this! and what an exposition of it is furnished by the biography of every believing man and woman! The Lord hath dealt bountifully with us, for he hath given us his Son, and in him he hath given us all things: he hath sent us his Spirit, and by him he conveys to us all spiritual blessings. God dealeth with us like a God; he lays his fulness open to us, and of that fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.


Verse 9. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. This is the Psalmist’s second resolution, to live as in the sight of God in the midst of the sons of men…. but the truly gracious man considers the presence of God, and acts under the influence of his all observing eye. “Thou God seest me” is a far better influence than “My master sees me.” The life of faith, hope, holy fear, and true holiness is produced by a sense of living and walking before the Lord, and he who has been favoured with divine deliverances in answer to prayer finds his own experience the best reason for a holy life, and the best assistance to his endeavours.

Verse 16. The man of God in paying his vows rededicates himself unto God; the offering which he brings is himself, as he cries, O LORD, truly I am thy servant,rightfully, really, heartily, constantly, I own that I am thine, for thou hast delivered and redeemed me….Note how the sweet singer delights to dwell upon his belonging to the Lord; it is evidently his glory, a thing of which he is proud, a matter which causes him intense satisfaction. Verily, it ought to create rapture in our souls if we are able to call Jesus Master, and are acknowledged by him as his servants.

“It is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your spirit is flavored with the words of the Lord, so that your blood is Bibline and the very essence of the Bible flows from you.” -Spurgeon

Doing Missions When Dying Is Gain, Piper

My mission statement in life and my church’s mission statement is,

We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.

I love that mission statement for a lot of reasons. One is because I know it cannot fail. I know it cannot fail because it’s a promise. Matthew 24:14, “This gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (And I hope that you know that “nations” doesn’t mean political states. It means something like people groups, ethnic-linguistic groupings.)  We may be absolutely certain that every one of them will be penetrated by the gospel to the degree that you can say that a witness, an understandable self-propagating witness, is there.

Now let me give you some reasons why we can bank on that.

The Promise Is Sure

The promise is sure for several reasons.

1. Jesus never lies. “Heaven and earth may pass away, but my word will never pass away.” And it was Jesus who said Matthew 24:14, not me.

So this mission that we’re on together is going to finish. It’s going to be done, and you can either get on board and enjoy the triumph or you can cop-out and waist your life. You have only those two choices, because there is no middle option like, “Maybe it won’t happen, and  I can be on the best side by not jumping on board.” That won’t happen.

2.  The ransom has already been paid for those people among all the nations. According to Revelation 5:9-10, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” They’re paid for, and God will not go back on his Son’s payment.

I love the story of the Moravians. In northern Germany two of them were getting on a boat, ready to sell themselves into slavery in the West Indies, never to come back again. And as the boat drifts out into the harbor they lift their hands and say, “May the Lamb receive the reward of his suffering.” What they meant was that Christ had already bought those people. And they were going to find them by indiscriminately preaching the gospel, through which the Holy Spirit would call them to himself.

So I know this can’t abort, because the debt has been paid for each of God’s people everywhere in the world. Those lost sheep, as Jesus called them, that are scattered throughout the world  will come in as the Father calls them through the preaching of the gospel.

3.  The glory of God is at stake. There are oodles of texts about this. Let me just pick one. Romans 15:8-9, “Christ became a servant to the circumcised in order to confirm the truthfulness of God, so that he might make strong [or sure or reliable] the promises made to the patriarchs, and in order that the nations might glorify God for his mercy.”  The whole purpose of the Incarnation was to bring glory to the Father through the manifestation of his mercy to the nations.

The glory of God is at stake in the Great Commission. Back in 1983 at Bethlehem Baptist Church, me and Tom Steller—my sidekick now of 17 years—were both  met by God in amazing ways. Tom, in the middle of the night, couldn’t sleep, so he got up,  put on a John Michael Talbot song, laid down on the couch, and he heard our theology translated into missions. (We are a God-glory oriented people, but we had not yet made sense of missions like we ought.) John Michael Talbot was singing about the glory of God filling the earth the way the waters cover the sea, and Tom wept for an hour. At the same time God was moving in on me and Noel to ask, “What can we do to make this place a launching pad for missions?” And everything came together to make an electric moment in the life of our church, and it all flowed from a passion for the glory of God.

4.  God is sovereign. God is sovereign! A few weeks ago, as I’m preaching through Hebrews,  we arrived at Hebrews 6. As you know, this is a very difficult text about whether these people are Christians or not when they fall away. And in verses 1-3 there is this amazing statement (which is just a  tiny piece of the massive biblical evidence for why I’m a Calvinist!) that says, “Let us press on to maturity, leaving behind the former things … and this we will do if God permits.” When we looked at this, there fell across my congregation the most unbelievable silence, because we heard the implications. “You mean God might not permit a body of believers to press on to maturity?”

God is sovereign! He is sovereign in the church, and he is sovereign among the nations! One testimony to this is in the article in  Christianity Today that came out a few weeks ago  retelling of the story of Jim Elliot,  Nate Saint,  Pete Flemming,  Roger Youderian, and Ed McCully. Steve Saint tells the story of his dad getting speared by  Auca Indians in Ecuador. He tells it after having learned new details of intrigue in the Auca tribe that were responsible for this killing when it shouldn’t have happened, and seemingly wouldn’t have and couldn’t have. Yet it did happen. And having discovered the intrigue he wrote this article.

I want to read one sentence that absolutely blew me out of my living room chair. He said,

As [the natives] described their recollections, it occurred to me how incredibly unlikely it was that the palm beach killing took place at all. It is an anomaly that I cannot explain outside of divine intervention.

“I can only explain the spearing of my dad by virtue of divine intervention.” Do you hear what this son is saying? “God killed my dad.” He believes that, and I believe that.

According to Revelation 6:11, when you have a glimpse of the throne room and the martyrs who  shed their blood for the gospel  saying “How long O Lord? How long till you vindicate our blood?,” the answer comes back, “Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete who were to be killed as they themselves had been.” God says, “Rest until the number that I have appointed is complete.” He’s got a number of martyrs. When it is complete then the end will come.

The Price Is Suffering

The price is suffering, and the volatility in the world today against the church is not decreasing. It is increasing, especially among the groups that need the gospel. There is no such thing as a closed country. It’s a foreign notion. It has no root or warrant in the Bible, and it would have been unintelligible to the apostle Paul who laid down his life in every city he went to. Therefore, there are martyrs in this room.

Statistically it’s easy to predict. One Sunday recently there was a focus on the suffering church, and many of you were involved in it. This World Missions Fellowship was involved in it, and you all saw videos or heard stories about places like Sudan where the Muslim regime is systematically ostracizing, positioning, and starving Christians so that there are about 500 martyrs a day there.

I get very tired of people coming to look at staff positions in my church, which is in downtown Minneapolis. We all live in the inner city,  and one of the first questions they ask is, “Will my children be safe?” And I want to say, “Would you ask that question tenth and not first?” I’m just tired of hearing that. I’m tired of American priorities. Whoever said that your children will be safe in the call of God?

YWAM (Youth With A Mission) is a wild-eyed radical group that I love. I got an email on September 1st,

One hundred and fifty men armed with machetes surrounded the premises occupied by the YWAM team in India. The mob had been incited by other religious groups in an effort to chase them off. As the mob pressed in someone in a key moment spoke up on the team’s behalf and they decided to give them 30 days to leave. The team feels they should not leave and that their ministry work in the city is at stake. Much fruit has been seen in a previously unreached region and there is great potential for more. In the past when violence has broken out between rival religious groups people have lost their lives. Please pray for them to have wisdom.

Now this is exactly the opposite of what I hear mainly in America as people decide where to live, for example. I don’t hear people saying, “I don’t want to leave, because this is where I’m called to and this is where there’s need.” Would you please join me in reversing  American evangelical priorities? It seems to be woven into the very fabric of our consumer culture that we move toward comfort, toward security, toward ease, toward safety, away from stress, away from trouble, and away from danger. It ought to be exactly the opposite! “He who would come after me let him take up his cross and die!”

So I just don’t get it! It’s the absorption of a consumer, comfort, ease culture that is permeating the church. And it creates little ministries and churches in which safe, secure, nice things are done for each other. And little safe excursions are made to help save some others. But, O we won’t live there, and O we won’t stay there, not even in America, not to mention Saudi Arabia!

I was in Amsterdam a couple weeks ago talking to another wild-eyed wonderful missions group, Frontiers, led by Greg Livingstone. What a great group. Five hundred people sitting in front of me who risk there lives everyday among Muslim peoples. And to listen to them! During the conference they were getting emails, which they would stand up and read, saying “Please pray for X. He was stabbed in the chest three times yesterday, and the worst thing is his children were watching him. He’s in the hospital in critical condition.” Then they say, “This is a missionary in the Muslim world, let’s pray for him,” and we would go to prayer. Next day another email comes, and this time six Christian brothers in Morocco have been arrested. “Let’s pray for them,”  so we did. And so it was throughout the conference.  And at the end of it the missionaries were ready to go back.

Do you think I’m going to come back to America and be the same? Do you think I’m going to stand up in front of my church and say, “Let’s have nice, comfortable, easy services. Let’s just be comfortable and secure.” Golgotha is not a suburb of Jerusalem. “Let us go with him outside the gate and suffer with him and bear reproach” (Hebrews 13:13).

Suffering is Also the Means

But  in saying that there will be martyrs and there must be suffering I haven’t yet said the main thing  about the price  of getting the job done. That’s because suffering is the means and not just the price. It’s the means.

Now here’s what I have in my mind: I’m going to read a verse for you that’s very important, that is, Colossians 1:24. A few years ago its meaning just came crashing in on me. I’ll show you how I got it.

“Now I rejoice,” Paul says, “in my sufferings.” He was a very strange person. “I rejoice in my sufferings” is very counter-cultural, very un-American, very counter-human. “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of his Body [that is, the ingathering of God’s elect] in filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” Now that’s on the brink of blasphemy. What does he mean by “filling up what is lacking” in the afflictions of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ?

He does not mean that he improves upon the merit and the atoning worth of Jesus’ blood. That’s not what he means. Well then, what does he mean?

I typed into my  computer Bible program the Greek word for “fill up” (or “complete”) and the word for “what is lacking” and found only one other place in Scripture where both of these occur together. That’s in  Philippians 2:30.

The situation is that Epaphroditus was sent from the Philippian church over to Paul in Rome. He risks his life to get there, and Paul extols him for risking his life. He tells the Philippians that they should receive such a one with honor, because he was sick unto death and risked his neck to complete their ministry to him. Here’s the key parallel verse:

Because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

This is the only other place where these two words come into conjunction: “to complete what was lacking in your service to me.”  I  opened up my 100 year old Vincent’s commentary on Philippians and read an explanation of that verse which I think is a perfect interpretation of Colossians 1:24.  Vincent says,

The gift to Paul from the Philippians was a gift of the church as a body. It was a sacrificial offering of love. What was lacking was the church’s presentation of this offering in person. This was impossible, and Paul represents Epaphroditus as supplying this lack by his affectionate, zealous ministry.

So the picture is of a church that wants to communicate love in the form of money over to Rome, and they can’t do it. There’s too many of them. And it’s too far away. So they say, “Epaphroditus, represent us and complete what is lacking in our love. There’s nothing lacking in our love except the expression of our love in person there. Take it and communicate it to Paul.”

Now that’s exactly what I think Colossians 1:24 means. Jesus dies and he suffers for people all over the world in every nation. Then he is buried and, according to the Scriptures, raised on the third day. Then he ascends into heaven where he reigns over the world. And he leaves a work to be done.

Paul’s self understanding of his mission is that there is one thing lacking in the sufferings of Jesus. The love offering of Christ is to be presented in person through missionaries to the peoples for whom he died. And Paul says, “I do this in my sufferings. In my sufferings I complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” Which means that Christ intends for the Great Commission to be a presentation to the nations of the sufferings of his cross through the sufferings of his people. That’s the way it will be finished. If you sign up for the Great Commission,  that’s what you sign up for.

About three years ago I was working on Let the Nations Be Glad, and I hid away at Trinity Seminary in Deerfield, IL. I hid because I didn’t want anybody to know that I was there, so that they wouldn’t bother me. My wife and kids were at home, and I was working 18 hours a day.

Then I got word that J. Oswald Sanders was going to be in chapel. Eighty-nine years old. Veteran. Great missions leader. And I said to myself, “Shall I go public and risk having to talk to a lot of people and getting dinner engagements and all this stuff and not getting anything done?” But I wanted to hear him, so I snuck into the back of chapel and listened to him. And  this 89-year-old man stood up there, and I was just oozing with admiration and desire to be like this when I’m 89. And he told a story that so embodies Colossians 1:24.

He said there was  once an evangelist in India who tromped across the roads to various villages preaching the gospel. He was a simple man, no education, loved Jesus with all his heart, and was ready to lay his life down. And he came to a village that didn’t have the gospel. It was late in the day and he was very tired. But he goes into the village and lifts up his voice and shares the gospel with those gathered in the square. They mock him, deride him, and drive him out of town. And he was so tired—no emotional resources left—that he lies down under a tree, utterly discouraged. He goes to sleep not knowing if he’ll ever wake up.  They might come kill him, for all he knows.

And suddenly, just after dusk, he is startled and  wakes up. The whole town seems to be around him looking at him. He thinks he’s a goner. He starts to tremble, and one of the big men in the village says, “We came out to see what kind of man you were, and when we saw your blistered feet we knew you were a holy man. We want you to tell us why you got blistered feet to come talk to us.” So he preached the gospel and, according to J. Oswald Sanders, the whole village believed. That’s what Paul means by “I complete in my sufferings what is lacking in the afflictions of Jesus.”

Now I have one other little parenthesis about J. Oswald Sanders. At 89 years old  he said, “I’ve written a book a year since I was 70.” Eighteen books after 70! There are people in my church and all over America quitting on life at 65 and dying on the golf course in Nevada, when they ought to be laying their lives down among the Muslims like Raymond Lull.

Raymond Lull, 12th century oriental scholar and Muslim missionary, retires and comes back to Italy. He does his oriental language thing for a while but eventually quits and begins to ask, “What am I doing? I’m going to die here in Italy. Why not die in Algeria across the Mediterranean?” And so, knowing that’s what it will cost him to preach publicly, he gets on a boat at 80-something years of age and crosses the Mediterranean. He stays  underground a while encouraging the church, and then he decides this as good a time as any. So he stands up and  preaches, and they kill him. What a way to go!

Listen, you 60-year-old folks, I’m 50. I’m almost there. I’m getting letters from the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), and they’re trying to get me on their lists so I can get discounts on  trains and airplanes. I’m almost there, so I’m talking  to myself here (and my church has heard me say this and they’re going to hold me to the fire) when I say that when you’re old you not only don’t have anything to loose in martyrdom, you get discount fares.

Why should we think that putting in our 40 or 50 years on the job should mean that we should play for the last 15 years before we meet the King? I don’t get it. It’s American lies is all it is. We’re strong at 65 and we’re strong at 70. My dad is 77. I can remember when my mom was killed, and he was almost killed, in a bus accident in Israel. And I picked him up 10 days later with her body and him in the ambulance, and all the way home from Atlanta to Greenville he laid there with his back wide open, because the wounds  were so bad they couldn’t stitch them. And he kept saying, “God must have a purpose for me, God must have a purpose for me!”

And here we are 22 years later, and his life has exploded with ministry! He’s working harder today at 77 for the nations than ever before. He prepares lessons from Easley, South Carolina, including some tapes. And they’re in 60 nations with about 10,000 people believing in Jesus every year because God spared my dad and caused him not to believe in retirement.

The Prize is Satisfying

Now last point: How do you love like that? Where are you going to get this? Are you feeling ready for this? Do you think you have  it within you to be able to endure this?

Read Stephen Neill’s A History of Christian Missions. On page 161 he describes what happened in Japan when the gospel came there in the 1500’s. The emperor began to believe that the incursion of the Christian faith into their religious sphere was so threatening that they must end it. And he did end it, with absolutely incredible brutality! It was over for the church in Japan. And I don’t doubt that the hardness and difficulty of Japan today is largely owing  to the massive (though short-term) triumph of the devil  in the early 1600’s.

Twenty-seven Jesuits, fifteen friars, and five secular clergy did manage to evade the order of banishment. It was not until April 1617 that the first martyrdoms of Europeans took place, a Jesuit and a Franciscan being beheaded at Omura at that time, and a Dominican and an Augustinian a little later in the same area. Every kind of cruelty was practiced on the pitiable victims of the persecution. Crucifixion was the method usually employed in the case of Japanese Christians. On one occasion 70 Japanese at Yedo were crucified upside down at low water and were drowned as the tide came in.

I cried 3 days ago when I read that, because I’ve got a good enough imagination to picture the lapping water with your wife on one side and your sixteen-year-old on the other.

Are you ready? You think you got that within you? You don’t. No way does anybody have that kind of resourcefulness within them. Where are you going to get it? That’s what I want to close with.

You’re going to get it by believing the promises of God. Hebrews  10:32-34 is my favorite text about where you get the resources to live like this.

Recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction and sometimes being partners with those so treated.

Now let me stop there and give you the situation as I read it. In the early days of the church persecution arose. Some of them suffered outright and publicly, and others  had compassion on them. You’ll see in the next verse that some of them were imprisoned and some of them went to visit them. So they were forced into a decision. Those who were in prison in those days probably depended  on others for food and water and any kind of physical care that they would need, but that meant that their friends and neighbors had to go public and identify with them. That’s risky business when someone’s been put in jail because they’re a Christian. So those who were still free went underground for a few hours and asked, “What are we going to do?”  And somebody said “Psalm 63:3 says, ‘The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life.’ It’s better then life. Let’s go!”

And if Martin Luther would have been there he would have said,

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever. Let’s go!

And that’s exactly what they did. Let’s read the rest of it. Verse 34, “You had compassion on the prisoners and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property.”

Now here’s what happened. It doesn’t take any imagination. I don’t know all the details precisely, but here’s what happened: They had compassion on the prisoners, which means they went to them. And their property—house, chariot, horses, mules, carpentry stools, chairs, whatever—was set on fire by mob or maybe just ransacked and thrown to the streets by people with big knives. And when they looked over their shoulder to see what was happening back there they rejoiced.

Now if you’re not like this—when somebody bashes your computer when you’re trying to minister to them, or you drive downtown to  minister and they smash your windshield, get your radio, or slash your tires—if you’re not like this, you’re not going to be a very good candidate for martyrdom either. So the question is, “How are you going to be like this?” I want to be like this. That’s why I love this text! I want to be like this.

I make no claim to be a perfect embodiment of this; but I want to be like this, so that when a rock comes sailing through my kitchen window—like it has done twice in the last couple of months—and smashes the glass and my wife and children hit the floor not knowing if it’s a bullet or a grenade, I want to be able to say, “Isn’t this a great neighborhood to live in.” This is where the needs are. You see those 5 teenage kids that just rode by? They need Jesus. If I move out of here, who’s going to tell them about Jesus?

When your little boy gets pushed off his bicycle and they take it and run, I want to be able to take him by the neck while he’s crying and say “Barnabas, this is like being a missionary. It’s like getting ready for the mission field! This is great!”

I gave a message on Colossians 1:24 in Pensacola, Florida two years ago. I had my 16-year-old Abraham with me, and he heard me say much of what I’m saying here, this kind of heavy-duty suffering stuff. And we got in the car to go home, and my wife said to Abraham, “Well, what do you think God was doing in there?” He said, “I’m going to buy a one-way ticket to the hardest country in the world.” That’s all he said. I bumped my head on the ceiling. Whew! This is great! Thank you Lord for Abraham and what you’re doing in his life.

Now I haven’t gotten to the main point of the text yet. How did they have the wherewithal to rejoice at the plundering of their property and the risking of their lives? Now we get it: “Since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” This is what I call faith in future grace.

If you are a Christian, God is holding out to you indescribably wonderful promises. “‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ Therefore, you can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:5-6) Well,  actually, man can kill you. But that is no defeat, because you know what Romans 8:36-39 says:

We are counted as sheep to be slaughtered all day long…Yet I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, nothing ultimately can harm you. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 21:12-19? “Some of you they will kill and some of you they will throw into prison…Yet not a hair of your head will perish.” “Some of you they will kill…yet not a hair of your head will perish.” It’s just Romans 8. Everything, including death, works together for your good. When you die you don’t perish. To die is gain.

Doing missions when death is gain is the greatest life in the world.

So I pray that you will come along and leave behind the American way of security and ease and comfort and retreat and withdrawal and emptiness. Leave it behind and join this incredibly powerful movement. There are students all over the world—like in South Korea—ready to stand up and lay down their lives for Christ.  I invite you to do it too.

Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions, Platt

One Overarching Truth

A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death-defying devotion to global missions.

Pastors who believe that God is sovereign over all things will lead Christians to die for the sake of all peoples.

Three Underlying Premises

This will clarify where we’re going, and maybe even disarm you a bit from objections that may already be rising in your mind and your heart.

(1) Local ministry and local mission are totally necessary.

I am not saying tonight—or advocating at any point—that we should neglect local ministry, in the local church or the local community.

(2) Global missions is tragically neglected.

The northern part of Yemen has 8 million people. That’s twice the population of the entire state of Kentucky.

Do you know how many believers there are out of those 8 million people? 20 or 30.

There are more believers in a Sunday School class in your church than in all of northern Yemen.

Over 2 billion people in the world today are classified as unreached—which means more than “unsaved” but that the gospel is simply not accessible to them.

(3) Pastors have the privilege and responsibility to lead the way in global missions.

Over 6,000 people groups with over 2 billion people in them are not yet reached with the gospel. This is a problem not for mission boards and mission agencies to address—this is a problem for every pastor and every local church represented in this room to address.

Pastors, we love people in our local churches (local ministry) and we love people in our local communities (local mission) to the end that one day all peoples in all the world receive the gospel of God and revere the glory of God (global missions).

And what drives all of this—in the heart of a pastor and in the heart of a local church—is rock-solid confidence in the sovereignty of God over all things.

Revelation 5:1-14

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me,

“Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Four Theological Truths in the Text

(1) Our sovereign God holds the destiny of the world in the palm of his hand.

Revelation 5:1, “I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll. . . .”

Revelation 4:11, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy:

Almighty God, just because he is almighty, needs no support.

The picture of a nervous, ingratiating God fawning over men to win their favor is not a pleasant one; yet if we look at the popular conception of God that is precisely what we see.

Twentieth-century Christianity has put God on charity. So lofty is our opinion of ourselves that we find it quite easy, not to say enjoyable, to believe that we are necessary to God. . . .

Probably the hardest thought of all for our natural egotism to entertain is that God does not need our help. We commonly represent Him as a busy, eager, somewhat frustrated Father hurrying about seeking help to carry out His benevolent plan to bring peace and salvation to the world. . . .

Too many missionary appeals are based upon this fancied frustration of Almighty God. An effective speaker can easily excite pity in his hearers, not only for the heathen but for the God who has tried so hard and so long to save them and has failed for want of support.

I fear that thousands of younger persons enter Christian service from no higher motive than to help deliver God from the embarrassing situation His love has gotten Him into and His limited abilities seem unable to get Him out of.

Add to this a certain degree of commendable idealism and a fair amount of compassion for the underprivileged and you have the true drive behind much Christian activity today.

(2) The state of man before God apart from Christ is utterly hopeless.

Revelation 5:2, “I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.”

The scroll contains the grand purpose of God in the world. And the silence of heaven testifies to the sinfulness of man. No one is worthy, and John is weeping. There is no hope apart from Christ.

Thomas Watson: “Thus it is in Hell; they would die, but they cannot. The wicked shall be always dying but never dead; the smoke of the furnace ascends for ever and ever. Oh! Who can endure thus to be ever upon the rack? This word ‘ever’ breaks the heart.”

George Whitfield used to speak with tears in his eyes of “the torment of burning like a livid coal, not for an instant or for a day, but for millions and millions of ages, at the end of which souls will realize that they are no closer to the end than when they first begun, and they will never, ever be delivered from that place.

The way we talk about hell—helluva game, helluva song—shows we have no idea what we’re talking about.

The state of the unreached in the world: they haven’t heard of God—and yet they have heard him and seen him.

Romans 1:18-23, “What may be known about God is plain to them because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Although they knew God, they neither glorified God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like birds and animals and reptiles.”

The innocent man in Africa goes to heaven—the only problem is that he doesn’t exist. There are no innocent unreached people in the world. They are guilty before God and thus they need the gospel!

There are over 2 billion people in this world at this moment whose knowledge of God is only sufficient to damn them to hell forever. But there is hope!

(3) The greatest news in all the world is that the slaughtered Lamb of God reigns as the sovereign Lord of all.

“One of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’” (Revelation 5:5).

He was promised centuries ago to patriarchs of old: “the lion of the tribe of Judah . . . to whom shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10).

He is the Root of David: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him . . . and he will stand as a signal for the peoples” (Isaiah 11:1-2, 11).

“I will raise up,” declares the sovereign Lord, “for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king” (Jeremiah 23:5).

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:55-56).

“Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Throughout history, from the beginning of time, men have come and men have gone, women have come and women have gone, all of them, the noblest of them, the kindest of them, the strongest of them, the greatest of them—all of them have fallen prey to sin.

All of them—every single man and every single woman—a slave to Satan.

All of them—generation after generation, century after century—every single man and every single woman succumbed to death.

But then came another man—unlike any man or woman before.

This man did not fall prey to sin; He possessed power over sin.

This man was not enslaved to Satan; He was enslaved to righteousness.

And this man did not succumb to death; He triumphed over death.

How? By suffering as a lamb.

He was marred / despised / rejected / stricken / smitten / afflicted / wounded / chastised / oppressed/ pulverized in our place—and all who hide under the banner of his blood will be saved.

The Lamb of God has not only endured death in our place; he has defeated death by his power. He bears the scars of death, yet he is sovereign over death.

Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side, Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified. No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight, But downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright. Crown Him the Lord of life, who triumphed over the grave, And rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save. His glories now we sing, who died, and rose on high, Who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.

Revelation 5:7, “He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.”

Breathtaking audacity.

Salvation through sacrifice.

The consummation of the kingdom comes through the crucifixion of God’s Son.

Jesus was “obedient to death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has exalted Him to the highest place and given Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:8-9).

(4) The atonement of Christ is graciously, globally, and gloriously particular.

“Four living creatures and twenty-four elders fell down and they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed/purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth’” (Rev. 5:8-10).

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has “chosen you in him before the foundation of the world, that you should be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, He predestined you to be adopted as his son through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in Him. In Him you have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of your trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on you according to His purpose. . . . In Him you have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:4-11).

Brothers and sisters, if there are 6,000 people groups that have still not been reached with the gospel of Christ, then we have missed the point of the atonement.

Our obedience to the Great Commission of Christ is incomplete if we just make disciples. Our commission is to make disciples of all the nations, of all the peoples.

Particular atonement drives global missions. So if we believe Revelation 5:9 (if we believe that Jesus died to purchase people from every tribe and tongue and nation), then let us go to every tribe and tongue and nation.

Why? Because we feel guilty that we’re reached, that we have all these resources? Aren’t we just “guilting people” into going overseas to the unreached? We feel bad so we go?


What drives passion for unreached peoples is not guilt, it’s glory—glory for a King.

It’s people who know that our sovereign God deserves the praise of not just 10,000 people groups on the planet, but all 16,000 of them. And we’re not going to stop until every single people group purchased by Christ is exalting His Name.

Four Implications of What We Should Do

(1) Let us lead our churches to pray confidently (for the spread of the gospel to all peoples).

Tell them Matthew 24:14. Tell them that “the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Tell them that, and then lead them to pray for the end to come. Ladd said this verse is “the single most important verse in the Word of God for the people of God today.” “God alone knows the definition of terms. I cannot precisely define who all the nations are, but I do not need to know. I know only one thing: Christ has not yet returned; therefore, the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come. Our responsibility is not to insist on defining the terms; our responsibility is to complete the task. So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission.”

Teach them how to use Operation World.

(2) Let us lead our churches to give sacrificially.

For every $100 a Christian in North America makes, an average of $0.05 goes to the unreached.

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: “The Bible’s teachings should cut to the heart of North American Christians. By any measure, we are the richest people ever to walk on planet Earth.”

See Psalm 67.

God gives his people worldly wealth for the spread of worldwide worship. The sovereign God of the universe has willed for us to be wealthy for the sake of his worship.

(3) Let us lead our churches to go intentionally to all peoples.

We need to have short-term, mid-term, and long-term missions.

There’s no question that we see Timothy-type people in the NT and Paul-type people in the NT.

God calls Timothy-type people to stay in a church (among the reached) and shepherd the body.

God calls Paul-type people to leave the reached and scatter to the unreached.

And pastor, there are men and women in your church whom God is calling to Paul-type ministry. Maybe not everybody, but some of them. God is calling them to pack their bags and move overseas to spread the gospel among unreached peoples.

So are you

  • encouraging them?
  • calling them out?
  • coming alongside them?
  • taking time during the year in your preaching and in your pastoring to speak specifically to them?
  • leading the church to fast and pray like Antioch in Acts 13 and listening, “God, who are you calling out next to go long-term to unreached people groups overseas?” and waiting until he answers.

Are you listening? Could he be calling you?

Why don’t we just send money and let the local people do it? There are no local Christians, there are no local churches . . . that’s what it means to be unreached. God’s design is not for you and me to send them our money so they can lose their lives spreading the gospel instead of us.

(4) Let us lead our churches to die willingly.

A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death-defying devotion to global missions. Pastors who believe that God is sovereign over all things will lead Christians to die for the sake of all peoples.

Romanian pastor Josef Tson recounted a time he was being interrogated by six men. He said to one of them:

What is taking place here is not an encounter between you and me. This is an encounter between my God and me. . . . My God is teaching me a lesson [through you]. I do not know what it is. Maybe he wants to teach me several lessons. I only know, sirs, that you will do to me only what God wants you to do—and you will not go one inch further—because you are only an instrument of my God. Every day I saw those six pompous men as nothing more than my Father’s puppets!

Tson again:

During an early interrogation I had told an officer who was threatening to kill me, “Sir, let me explain how I see this issue. Your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying. Here is how it works. You know that my sermons on tape have spread all over the country. If you kill me, those sermons will be sprinkled with my blood. Everyone will know I died for my preaching. And everyone who has a tape will pick it up and say, ‘I’d better listen again to what this man preached, because he really meant it; he sealed it with his life.’ So, sir, my sermons will speak ten times louder than before. I will actually rejoice in this supreme victory if you kill me.” After I said this, the interrogator sent me home. Another officer who was interrogating a pastor friend of mind told him, “We know that Mr. Tson would love to be a martyr, but we are not that foolish to fulfill his wish.” I stopped to consider the meaning of that statement. I remembered how for many years, I had been afraid of dying. I had kept a low profile. Because I wanted badly to live, I had wasted my life in inactivity. But now that I had placed my life on the altar and decided I was ready to die for the Gospel, they were telling me they would not kill me! I could go wherever I wanted in the country and preach whatever I wanted, knowing I was safe. As long as I tried to save my life, I was losing it. Now that I was willing to lose it, I found it.

So pastors:

Let us be finished and done with puny theology that results in paltry approaches to missions in our churches.

Let us believe deeply in the sovereign God of the universe who holds the destiny of the world (and our lives) in the palm of his hand.

Let us see the hopeless state of man before God apart from Christ, and let us lead our churches to pray, to give, and to go to unreached peoples with the greatest news in all the world.

We have been saved by a graciously, globally, gloriously particular sacrifice, so let us lead our churches and let us give our lives—let’s lose them, if necessary—for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom and the accomplishment of Christ’s commission.

And let’s not stop until the slaughtered Lamb of God and sovereign Lord of all receives the full reward of his sufferings.