“Expect Great Things From God. Attempt Great Things For God.”
This event is supposed to be true. It seems a debate was taking place among older pastors and younger ones. As usual, it was an open discussion that permitted younger pastors to ask questions regarding the traditions of the churches. One young pastor asked this question as a topic of debate: Whether the command given to the apostles to teach all nations was not obligatory on all succeeding ministers to the end of the world, seeing that the accompanying promises was of equal extent. The date was 1786 and his name was William Carey. He later became the first Baptist missionary in the history of the church. His work in India still remains to this day in Christian colleges, churches, and translations of the Bible. His question was sincere and honest. He simply wanted to know if the command to reach the nations as given to the twelve apostles (in Matt. 28:18-20) was still relevant since we are so bold as to claim the promises God gave the original disciples. After hearing him, an older pastor (by the name of Ryland) made this comment: “Sit down young man. If God wants to convert the heathen, He can do it without your help or mine”.
I recently wrote of God’s sovereignty in giving us mercy (see Sovereignty of God – Part 1). Does this mean that we do nothing? What is our responsibility? We can also abuse the sovereignty of God by our neglect of duty. Jesus commented on this remission in a parable (Matthew 25:14-30). He compares the Kingdom of God to giving each one a certain number of talents. The king decides who gets how many. That is sovereignty. But one of the recipients, after sufficient time has lapsed, and there is no fruit, says this to the king:
Matt 25:24 ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,
Notice that: “reaping where you did not sow” or, “gathering where you scattered no seed”.
In other words, the erring servant said, “You don’t need me”. You don’t need methods or means. Not so, said the King. Rather, the problem is, you are lazy and useless and wicked! The King calls him out for his true motives. Therefore, we should understand that though God is sovereign, we are to sow the seed, be good stewards of our talent, recognize the need for work, and use every means available to get the job done!
By the way, this discussion in 1786 led to Carey’s writing An Enquiry which laid out the case that the Great Commission was a mandate for all Christians to take the good news into areas of the world where the gospel hadn’t been preached, and promote missionary activities so that other believers could do the same. He went to India, learned the languages, and spent his life there for Christ. For Carey, God’s sovereignty was not an excuse to disobey this mandate but a motive for full commitment. He later preached a sermon to these pastors. It was a famous call to a life of missions from Isaiah 54,
Isa 54:1-3 “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord. 2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations …”
His sermon title is instructive: “Expect Great Things From God. Attempt Great Things For God.” I can only say, “Amen, brother!”