My notes from David Platt’s session at TGC13′s World Missions’ pre-conference, “God’s Love Compels Us.” (All notes are paraphrased.)
My text is 2 Cor. 4:13-18. So tonight, in a world made up of approximately 16,000 people groups, of whom approximately 6000 are still classified unreached, we read these words.
[In this message] I am not trying to propose a particular utopian vision nor a particular eschatological vision. I’m not saying we in this room or in the western world can pull up our spiritual bootstraps, nor am I saying we are sovereign over this task… but as we are coalescing around the gospel, I want to urge us not to be content with the daintiness of talk and prettiness of words, but to let’s… go after the most dangerous people groups of the world… and do it with all joy. This, I am convinced is the heart of the apostle Paul in these words in 2 Cor 4.
I want to exhort us in a definite attempt to render the world evangelized under the sovereign grace of God… for that is what the gospel compels us to do.
As we believe the gospel with deep seated conviction in our lives, let’s proclaim the gospel with death-defying confidence in the world. In 2 Cor. 4:1-12, we heard Paul describe the power fo the gospel and the weakness of the messenger, and now he reaches back into the Psalms, in Psalm 116:10, where we see a clear connection between believing and speaking. Suffering cannot silence the spirit of faith, the psalmist says. And this, Paul says, is the same spirit at work in us. So believing automatically leads to speaking. Possession of faith automatically leads to proclaiming the faith. According to Paul, when you believe in the resurrection, you proclaim the resurrection—there’s no such thing as a privatized faith according to Paul. If you believe the gospel, you will proclaim the gospel no matter what it costs.
A privatized faith is a profound curse in the Western church. A faith that says, “It works for me, but who am I to tell my neighbor what they are to believe—even more who am I to tell the nations what they are to believe? And even more, who am I to tell them that if they don’t believe what I believe, they’re going to be condemned to hell?”
We can all relate to that.
When telling the people of my church about visiting Northern India, where approximately 99.5 per cent of the population is non-Christian, thinking “who am I to tell them that all they believe isn’t true—that all their gods are false and if they don’t turn to Christ they will spend an eternity in Hell… that’s extremely arrogant, isn’t it?” And it would be the height of arrogance—if it were untrue. But we know this gospel is true—and it is the height of arrogance not to speak. It is the most evil thing you can do to know the truth and keep it from others.
But if you believe the gospel, in the resurrection from the dead, you can’t not proclaim it.
So do you believe the gospel? Do we really believe this—because if we really do then we can’t sit idly by in our churches while 2.8 billion people have never even heard the news of the resurrection. We believe and so we are compelled to proclaim the gospel to unreached people groups, knowing that we will face suffering and affliction while doing so.
And we know this because they’re unreached—it’s going to be hard. All the easy groups are gone. These people don’t want to be reached.
As I continue to study this text the more convinced I become you cannot rightly understand it outside the context of gospel proclamation in dangerous situations. We see this in all of his examples of his suffering—it’s all the result of proclaiming the gospel in Asia. The principle here: persecution follows proclamation.
Think about our brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia, North Korea or Somalia right now… if they don’t speak, they don’t have a problem. But as one woman I spoke to in the horn of Africa said, “If I share the gospel with the wrong person, I will have my throat cut.”
Now we all won’t face the same situations as in Saudi Arabia or North Korea or Somalia, but we have to remember that persecution follows proclamation. We don’t do this because we have sick desire to be dangerous. It’s just the reality of what we’re going to face—resistance. So why go? Because of the gospel—as we believe this gospel in our lives, let’s proclaim it with death defying confidence in the world.
As we live to extend God’s grace among more people, let’s long to exalt God’s glory among all peoples. Don’t you love the tow-fold goal Paul has in ministry? Verse 15 sums up the purpose of all Christian missions. “All suffering is for your sake so that more and more and more of you can experience God’s grace.” Isn’t that what all our ministries are to be about? To extend the gospel to more and more and more people so that more and more and more people would know the resurrected Christ.
In Northern India, in one of the most physically and spiritually impoverished areas in the world, an area about the size of Tennessee—100 million people—where the population is about 0.1 per cent Christians. And there approximately 50000 people die daily, which means approximately 49999 people plunge into an eternal hell, most of whom have never heard the gospel.
So we’ve partnered with brothers in ministry, training Christians to reach the people. Two brothers go to some training where they’re told to go into villages and say to the first person they see and say, “we come in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, can we pray for your village?” They did this in a village with no Christians. They got as far as Jesus and the man they spoke to brought his whole family and 20 people came to Christ. And they trained these same believers to go and do the same. And now three years later, their are churches that are started—real churches, not just “where two or three are gathered” churches—and they’re worshiping Christ. One villager shared his testimony and said, “Our village was like hell until we heard the gospel.”
This is what we live for. We want more and more people to know the gospel.
But, that’s not all.
Listen to Paul, “It’s all for sake so that it may increase thanksgiving to God.” The proper end of missions is not the saving of souls, it’s the glory of God. More specifically thanksgiving to God.
More and more people who are happy in God!
That’s the cry of the psalmist, and the angel in heaven and of the Apostle Paul himself!
And that’s the problem itself isn’t it? Apart from the gospel, they’re not giving thanks to God. That’s what we know from Romans 1—they didn’t give thanks to God. Their foolish hearts became darkened, thinking they were wise they became fools… they exchanged the true God for images of created things.
There are scores of people who are not worshiping the true God, giving thanks to Him, and this drives missions—not because we feel guilty, not because we have all this stuff, it’s glory for our God. We must sacrifice our live and shepherd our churches to penetrate unpeople groups because our God doesn’t deserve the praise of just a few thousand people groups, but of all 16,000 people groups!
That’s why we’re going to go to the 200+ million Americans who aren’t giving thanks to God… to Laos and Japan where there are over 350 million people following Buddhist rules and regulations instead of giving thanks to the true God… and people who believe the gospel, who believe Jesus is worthy of worship will be driven to go and reach them.
It’s the supreme purpose of missions—it’s what makes the great commission great—as we live to extend God’s grace among more people, let’s long to exalt God’s glory among all peoples.
As we continually envision eternal glory with God, let’s joyfully embrace earthly suffering from God. So it all makes sense what Paul says at the end of this chapter. As long as we believe this gospel, as long as we proclaim this gospel, our outer selves will be wasting away. We will face affliction.
Pushing back darkness is never going to be easy. Ministry, missions will never be easy so long as we’re pushing back darkness. We follow a Savior who sent out His disciples as sheep among wolves. It’s not a good place to be, among wolves. Our danger in this world increases to the degree we’re committed to the Lord. So those who want a comfortable easy life in this world, stay away from Jesus.
So we’re told, don’t be surprised by what is about to happen to you. This is the unavoidable takeaway. The more passionate and committed we are to taking the gospel to the nations, the more we will face affliction.
We have made safety a “god” not just in our world but in our churches—we have equated safety with wisdom. And I’m not saying we should be reckless…but God will pass us by so long as we embrace safety over obedience.
But this is the crux of the text. Suffering may be inevitable, but God’s purpose is inevitable. Suffering will come, affliction will come, Paul says, but all of these sufferings are from our God for our good. It’s granted to us—given to us—by God so that we would know God. As we share in Christ’s afflictions, we share in His comfort, too. Suffering may be inevitable, but God’s purpose is unstoppable.
I love how Satan acts not only under God’s permission, but to fulfill God’s purposes. In Acts 8, we see Stephen persecuted and the church is scattered and proclaims the gospel out wherever they go. And we see that Paul is there approving of Stephen’s death, and in doing so winds up founding the church that would later send HIM out on mission. The gospel going to more and more and more people will involve suffering, but it will be worth the price.
As we coalesce around this gospel, let us coalesce around the accomplishment of this gospel. As we believe the gospel with deep seated conviction in our lives, let’s proclaim the gospel with death-defying confidence in the world. As we live to extend God’s grace among more people, let’s long to exalt God’s glory among all peoples. As we continually envision eternal glory with God, let’s joyfully embrace earthly suffering from God—knowing that if God is for us no one can be against us.