There’ve been all kinds of great missionaries in the history of the church. If we started naming them, we’d not get stopped. Who can forget the grandfather of missions, William Carey, or the great prayer warrior of missions, Hudson Taylor, or the great explorer of missions, David Livingstone.
Yet as great as they are, there’s one great missionary who outshines all others. You read about Him in our text this morning. It is Jesus. In John 4:1, it says of Him:
Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), 3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria.
Now you all know that going through Samaria was not normal. Jews never did it because they hated Samarians. To the Jew, they were unclean, religious traitors who deserved nothing but contempt. Yet, Jesus, because of His great missionary heart was compelled to go through Samaria. You see, there was a lady there waiting for Him. She didn’t know it, but Christ was about to rock her world and change her whole town.
And it wasn’t just this hapless harlot that Jesus wanted to reach. Quite honestly, Jesus’ burden was his alone. His disciples did not share His sentiments nor His burden. Which brings us to the second reason He was compelled to go through Samaria. You see, He had a lesson to teach them about becoming missionaries. After He has so effectively revealed Himself to this needy woman, His disciples return with their “take-out” order and bring their Master some food. That’s where we pick up their story down in v 27 of this chapter:
And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” 28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him. 31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?”34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”
In these verses Jesus begins to speak to His disciples about the importance of being missionaries. Now I can’t really tell you they fully grasped what He told them. In fact, we’d probably have to agree that this was just one of many conversations, but no one can deny that the disciples ended up becoming great missionaries. In fact, they turned the world upside down.
That’s why I want you to listen this morning. See, I know when I say the word “Missionary” something goes off in your heart that wants to resist. The reason is that you don’t consider yourself to be in the “missionary” league when it comes to spirituality. You see missionaries as being super-saints that walk on water. I want you to know, this morning, that you can really become a missionary. In fact, if you know the Lord, you’re already one, you just don’t know it. Jesus describes for His disciples in these verses exactly how they can become effective missionaries. Listen.
And others of us want to avoid the whole “missionary” idea because of the responsibility. We know that being involved in reaching out around the world could get very costly. It might cost us our career; it might cost us our money; it might even cost us our son or daughter. We seek to slide through our Christian lives never really stopping to think about what our neglect is costing us. But here’s the problem: Witnessless Christianity is a farce. Don’t take it from me. Listen to a real expert: - DVD PENN GILLETTE
Now here’s a guy who makes no apology for being an atheist but he says it so clearly. “How much to you have to hate a person to not warn them about hell, if you really believe they are going there.” If you really know the Lord, you can become a missionary. No, I have to take it further: If you really know the Lord you will become a missionary, you won’t be able to help yourself.
Now I know my saying that probably makes a few of you nervous. There are some in this room who have never led anyone else to Jesus Christ and you know it. When I start saying that being a believer will always lead you to be a missionary, you want to disagree and you may even get defensive because you know that you’re not. But I just want to encourage you to drop the defensiveness this morning and really listen. There’s an unbelievable harvest waiting for you, if you’ll just open your eyes and see it. You really can become the missionary Christ has in mind for you to be, but there will have to be some changes. The first one you see illustrated right here in this chapter. In the first place, if you want to me a missionary you must have
DIV 1: A CHANGE IN PRIORITY
Missonaries are peculiar people. Now it’s not that they are strange or crazy, its that their value system is different. In this passage of scripture when you observe the difference in Jesus and His disciples it is immediately apparent that He had a different value system. For one thing, he valued people over prejudice. Hey! If it had been up to His disciples they would not have even gone through Samaria. The Jews hated the Samarians for at least a couple of reasons: For one thing, when the Kingdom of Israel had split, the northern Kingdom had developed its own amalgamated religion. When the people of that Northern Kingdom went into captivity, the King of Assyria, in order to assure his conquest, had immigrated some of his own people to the territory. The result of this mixture was a new people whom the people of Judah called the “Samaritans.” And they hated these people. They saw them as half-breed traitors who only held to the Pentateuch instead of to the whole of scripture. You see the hatred reflected in the Samaritan woman’s reply when Jesus asks her for a drink of water. She says, “How is it that a Jew asks me for a cup of water?” In other words, there was such a hatred between them that even asking for a cup of water was out of the question.
And it wasn’t just the fact that this woman was a Samaritan that made this conversation unlikely in the mind of his Disciples. It was the fact that she was a woman. In fact, when the disciples return with the Big Mac’s, the Bible says in 4:27 that they “marveled that He talked with a woman.” Did you know that women were held in such low regard in this time that some rabbis said that to talk too much with a woman, even with one’s own wife was a waste of time. (Husbands just look straight ahead and don’t say a word. Even a twitch of your eyebrow could get you killed right now). These rabbis said that talking with a woman diverted one’s attention from the study of the Torah and could, potentially, be so great an evil that it would lead to hell. In the eyes of some rabbis, teaching your daughter the Torah was more inappropriate than selling your own daughter into prostitution. These disciples returned from their fast food run to find two of their greatest prejudices on display.
Yet Jesus intentionally challenges their prejudices and their priorities. He lets them know by His example that people are more important than prejudice. And O, how we need that lesson today! Listen, go ahead and be a conservative, but just remember that liberals are people who need Jesus too. Go ahead and be a republican, but just remember that democrats are people who need Jesus too. Go ahead and be white or black or brown, you really don’t have a choice, but just remember that those who aren’t your own race are people who need Jesus too. Go ahead and be an American and be proud of it, but never forget that Indians and Pakistanis and Hindus and South Africans and Indonesians and, yes, even Muslims are people who need Jesus too! Listen, your prejudices, and you have them, are just prejudices and they must never get in the way of the gospel. Jesus teaches His disciples that Samaritan women are worth loving and worth saving! He challenges their prejudices and He changes their priorities. He shows them that people are to be valued over prejudices.
But he challenges another of their priorities, and this may have even been harder for them to accept. He shows them by his own example that obedience is more important than comfort. Now I just have to believe that these disciples were typical men. You know what I mean. They were ruled by their stomachs. By the way, did you know that some research suggests that the drive for food is the most important for men? That’s right, their focus on food comes even above their focus on women. One psychiatrist, presented with these findings, said: “From a Freudian perspective, it would be viewed as a man's regression to childhood," said psychologist David Haynes of food's surprise win. "And the boys are being babies, treated by their mothers/wives."
Or maybe it's not that complicated. Maybe it just because food doesn't mind if you are also watching television.
Whatever the motivation, these disciples were just being typical men. They were hungry and they wanted to eat, so when they return bringing food back to Jesus, they expect Him to be motivated by the same thing they were. They were valuing their own comfort, you see. Jesus teaches them a valuable lesson. He shows them that obedience is more important than comfort. One disciple, at least, never forgot the lesson. You see, this book of John, written by the disciple, John, when he penned this account clearly teaches us this lesson: Evangelism is more important than comfort.
You see it clearly in two actions that happen in this story. First, v 28 tells us that, when Jesus has revealed Himself as the Messiah, the woman does something very interesting. It says: “The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him.” Wow! This lady threw caution to the wind, or I should say, she threw comfort to the wind. She forgot about her need for water and even left her water pot to go and evangelize. And it went even further than that. You see, as she went back to the city to tell about Jesus, the clock was ticking. The whole point of her coming to the well in the middle of the day when it was so hot was to avoid the confrontation that would have happened if she had come when the rest of the women in the town came. She wasn’t just forgetting about her physical need for water, she was abandoning her social need for privacy. She valued evangelism over comfort.
So did Jesus. When the disciples return with food He teaches them an object lesson. In v 31, the Bible says they urge Jesus to eat. But Jesus refuses. In v 32, He tells them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” The disciples puzzle over this, unsure of what he means, then He tells them that His food is not bread, His food is obedience to the Father. His example shouted to the disciples, “Hey fellas, this isn’t about me or you being comfortable. Your comfort is not the goal of your life. The goal of your life is obeying God and He is calling you to share Who I am with the world.
Listen! Whatever you may think of missionaries. Whatever you may think of those who leave family and friends to go to a strange place to reach out to strange people, this you must know. Those who genuinely do that for God are people who have changed their priorities. They have come to value people over prejudice and obedience over comfort. And if you and I are to become missionaries, we must do the very same thing.
And some may be objecting. “ That’s great, Rusty. I guess I would agree. It is certainly true that missionaries must have different priorities than the average person. I can’t argue with that. I just have one objection: Whoever said I wanted to be a missionary?”
Ok, I get your point, but can I simply share with you the Word of God? Acts 1:8 says that you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be witnesses across the street and around the world. Would you agree? Well, then just consider: The Bible also says in Romans 8 that if someone doesn’t have the Holy Spirit living in them, they do not belong to Christ. In other words, when you are saved, the Holy Spirit comes to live in you and if the Holy Spirit is not alive in you, you are not saved. If all this is true then follow the logical conclusion to which it leads:
First, if you are saved, you have the Holy Spirit. Second, if you have the Holy Spirit, you will receive power. Third when you receive power, you will be witnesses across the street and around the world. So then if, when I receive power, I become a witness, and if, when I receive the Spirit, I receive power, and if I receive the Spirit when I am saved, or else, I am not a believer, then the obvious conclusion is this: If I am saved I will be a missionary. It will be the natural result of receiving the Holy Spirit into my life. So it is not possible to say, “I am a Christian” and at the same time say, “I am not a missionary.” It is an impossibility!
And Jesus is teaching here that, in order to become an effective missionary, there have to be some changes in your priorities. If I am to fulfill this calling of the Spirit in my life, I have to allow the Spirit to change the priorities I pursue.
Let me just suggest a few of these that need to change. First, if I am to put people ahead of my prejudices, what need to be different in my life? Well, that means that, as a Christian, I have to stop thinking that unbelievers are to be avoided. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that as a new believer, sometimes you need to make a new set of friends so that you don’t get led back into sin. I am not talking about that. What I’m talking about is learning to love people who are lost, even though they may be doing things that we object to. You see we tend to isolate ourselves from the world in the wrong way. We look at an alcholoic and thing that they are unreachable. We look at the drug addict and think, “They’ll never get clean.” We look at the homosexual and think, “They’re just too perverted to see God change them.” We look at the prostitute and think, “They’ve just been too scarred and hardened to ever be broken before God.” We look at the intellectual and think, “We could never change their opinion of the truth.” And people group by people group, we allow our prejudice to isolate us and rob us of our missionary zeal.
Our prejudice against unbelievers keeps us from evangelism and so does our prejudice against certain cultures. We all have heard that the Sunday morning hour is the most segregated hour in America. For some reason, cultures diverge when it comes to Chrsitianity. We all want to feel comfortable worship with people who are the same color as we are or the same class as us. That’s why I am so thankful that God has begun, here at Peace Church, to crack the iron curtain of segregation. Hey, Christian, if the Holy Spirit can’t bring about racial and social reconciliation, what hope is there? But, I’m here to tell you He can and He is doing it right here! And that’s just the way it should be if you and I are to be missionaries. Becoming that missionary God wants us to be means that begin to value people over prejudice.
Peter Malkin participated in the capture of Adolf Eichmann, the famous Nazi who helped to carry out Hitler’s outrage against the Jews in WW 2. Eichmann escaped to Argentina, but was tracked down by Israeli operatives and brought to justice. It was Peter Malikin whose own father had died in the death camps. For all of his life he had lived with the desire to capture the one at least partially responsible for his father’s death. When he finally finds Eichmann and captures him, he is powerfully moved. He sees this monster living a normal life in Argentina with a family of his own. When Malkin captures him, he asks him, “How, when you have a family of your own and a little son like I was at the time, how could you have killed my father?” Eichmann is reported to have turned, looked at him with a shrug, and replied, “But he was a jew.” Isn’t that what we often do? We know that those around us are perishing and going to hell, but we just shrug and say, “But he’s gay; but she’s on drugs; but he’s a professor; but she’s had a hard life.” We allow prejudices to keep us from becoming the missionary God wants us to be, but here’s the deal: We will become missionaries when our priorities change and we value people over prejudice.
And not only must we let go of prejudices, we must let go of comforts. Christian, just how important is spreading the gospel to you? The answer to that question lies in the comforts you are willing to let go of in order to reach the world. Now the answer to this question will not be the same in every case, but here’s some things to consider:
God may want you to let go of the desire to increase your lifestyle and call you to be an enthusiastic, sacrificial supporter of His work around the World.
God may want you to give up the desire to stay in Wilson just because you you’ve been here all your life. He may call you out of this town, out of this state, or even out of this country in order to reach the world.
God may call you to give up the comfort of staying safe. While I don’t think we should foolishly risk our lives, it is very possible that He may want you to risk yours in order to get the gospel out. Taking that kind of risk is really the only way we will be able to reach into the Muslim world. It is very possible that the path to heaven for many Muslims will not be paved with the crimson of their own blood as they die for Allah, but with the crimson of believers in Jesus who die to reach them for Christ.
There were five of us traveling across the Sahel of Africa, just south of the Sahara Desert. We had started out in Niamey, Niger, and we were working our way toward the Dogon in Mali. We were traveling through Burkina Faso in a Toyota Land Cruiser. The air conditioning system was broken, and the temperature outside was 120 degrees plus. It was dusty, the windows were open, and it was hard to carry on a conversation. There were three people jammed in the back and three of us in the front—the driver, our guide, Judy Anderson, the wife of the director for West Africa of the World Relief Corporation, and me. You could only talk to the person right next to you because of the road noise. I was seated next to Judy, listening to a story that made the whole trip worthwhile.
Judy said she had grown up as the daughter of missionaries from the Evangelical Covenant Church in the old Congo. When she was a little girl, there was a celebration held for the 100th anniversary of the coming of Christian missionaries to that part of the Congo. She said that in typical African fashion, it was an all-day event—starting at sunrise and going all the way until sunset. There was food and music and speeches and parties. It was a great time of celebration. Near the end of the day, when it was almost dark and time for everyone to go home, a very old man asked if he could come and speak to the gathered crowd. When he came up there he said, "There's something I know that no one else knows, and I'm soon going to die. If I don't tell you, then I will take this to the grave with me. A hundred years ago, when the missionaries first came to our people, we had never heard of their God or of their book or had seen anyone who had looked anything like them. Our people didn't know whether to believe what they had to say or not. So our leaders got together, and they conspired to come up with a test to find out the credibility of these newcomers. The test was they would poison one of them and see how everybody reacted."
What ensued was one day a little girl got sick, and her parents thought it was an ordinary illness. But nothing they could do—nothing in the missionary medical book that they brought along—seemed to cover this situation. Their daughter, just a child—a preschooler—got sicker and sicker, and she died. Here they thought they had come to establish a community, and they started out by establishing a cemetery.
A few weeks later, a husband in another family got sick, and it was a similar sickness. He just got sicker and sicker, and he died. Then the wife of the third couple and another child—until this old man explained how they all died. His people watched how each missionary died and decided the message must be true. It was then, the old man said, that they decided to follow Jesus.
I don’t claim to know what God may ask of you. I can’t tell you what comforts He will ask you to let go of in order to serve Him, but I do know that if you become the missionary He’s calling you to be, your priorities must change. You must come to value people over prejudice and evangelism over comfort.
C.T. Studd knew what priority was all about. He was the son of a wealthy planter, but when he was converted to Christ, he really sold out to Him. He held nothing back. He was one of the Cambridge Seven who volunteered to go to China at the plea of Hudson Taylor. When his wealthy father died, he inherited a large sum of money, but before he even knew how much it was he gave almost every bit of it away to D. L. Moody, George Muller, and others who were serving God.
Three years after arriving in China, C.T. married a young Irish missionary from Ulster named Priscilla Livingstone Stewart. Just before the wedding he presented his bride with the remaining money from his inheritance. She, not to be outdone, said, "Charlie, what did the Lord tell the rich young man to do?" "Sell all." "Well then, we will start clear with the Lord at our wedding." And they proceeded to give the rest of the money away for the Lord's work.
That left him without income and when he was later turned down by some financiers in his attempt to go to Central Africa as a missionary, he told them: “Gentlemen, God has called me to go, and I will go. I will blaze the trail, though my grave may only become a stepping stone that younger men may follow." Leaving his wife, who was in ill health, and four daughters in England, C.T. sailed, contrary to medical advice, for the heart of Africa in 1910, where he continued to work until his death in 1931.
It was one of his four daughters whom Elizabeth Elliott, wife of Jim Elliott, the missionary killed by Auca Indians in South America heard on her first date with Jim. Elizabeth says that on that first date, Studd’s daughter told of his death. As he lay on a little cot in Central Africa only a few hours from death, he looked around at his few possessions and said. “I wish I had something to leave to each of you, but I gave it all to Jesus long ago.”
Maybe that’s why when, shortly after 10:30 p.m. on a July day in 1931, C.T. Studd died, the last word he ever spoke was "Hallelujah"!
Christian, you don’t have very long on this earth. This short life will soon be over. Missions is all about making the most of it. It’s about taking as many as you possibly can to heaven with you. If you are to do that, it will mean that your value system is vastly different from everyone around you. It will mean that you value people over prejudice and evangelism over comfort. It will mean that you have a drastic change in your priorities. So may I ask you this morning, What’s most important to you? Does the gospel of Christ come before everything else in your life?