By Gayla Parker, BCM/D WMU Executive Director, Missionary for Missions Education/Customization, Missions Innovator Specialist, WMU, SBC
“Then Jesus came to them (the disciples) and said, “…Therefore go and make disciples…And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20 NIV) The Great Commission is probably the most quoted passage of scripture when studying the Biblical basis of missions. As a missionary it is a passage I have referenced many times.
The Great Commission may be the most familiar passage but did you know that it is not the first passage to challenge us to go?
Isaiah 49:6b: “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” (NIV) Isaiah tells how the Lord formed him in the womb to be his servant. God says, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant.” Just imagine the magnitude of that statement! God is saying, “I WANT SO MUCH MORE FOR YOU than just being a servant. I want you to be a part of claiming the nations with me.” God is asking us to be His partners in bringing salvation to every nation!
Jonah 3:2: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” (NIV) Jonah had a hard time being an obedient servant! God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn them of the consequences of sin. Jonah literally said, “No!” So God sent him on a little detour to the belly of a big fish. His days in the fish gave him time to think. After the fish spit him out, Jonah headed for Nineveh and preached his message. He experienced what every pastor and missionary would love to experience, the people of Nineveh actually listen! They put on sack cloth and beg God to have mercy on them. God hears their prayers and does not bring destruction on them. Instead of rejoicing, Jonah pouts! The destruction he prophesied did not come and he is angry with God. God’s response is this, “Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left… Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
God cares about the lost. Every city, every nation, every continent is in the midst of His thoughts. More than anything, He desires every person know His love. We can be a part of that by loving others.
I Cor. 13:13: ”The greatest of these is love” (NIV). is mostly quoted at weddings but my reminder that love is still the perfect gift. How can the lost understand love without knowing the love that took Jesus to the cross? How can they know unconditional love without knowing God? Regardless of how few my talents and gifts might be, I can show love to others and according to Paul that is the greatest gift.
Num. 13:30b: “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (NIV). These words were spoken by Caleb after going into a land that God had shown Moses. Many spies went into the land but when they saw the giants they came back advising Moses to stay away. Caleb was the only one who reported back to move forward and take the land. The Israelites chose to ignore Caleb’s advice. As a result they spent years wondering in the desert instead of enjoying milk and honey.
There are still giants such as fear, shyness, sin, past criticisms, finances, and on and on the list could go. Giants are anything that keeps us from moving forward and taking possession of the land that God has shown us. Caleb knew the words Jesus gave in the Great Commission before they were ever spoken, “And surely I am with you always.” Caleb knew with God any giant could be conquered. There will always be giants that frighten us but they should never keep us going and making disciples.
God has given us all unique gifts that are just right for conquering our giants and sharing God’s love. Our mission field will change with life stages; the key is not missing a single moment. In Genesis 18:16, Jacob says, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it.” (NIV). He almost missed it. Wherever you are, know that the Lord is there. We are His light. He loves the lost, conquers giants, loves others. So we should follow His mandate, “Make disciples!”