Preparation For A Gospel Mission
John McAlpine, Troon
IT should be the aim of every assembly of the Lord’s people to have a Gospel mission once a year. It is a matter for thanksgiving that it can be truthfully asserted that all our assemblies are evangelical, but if nothing more is done to reach the unsaved than to hold one Gospel service in the week, we can scarcely lay claim to be evangelistic. Those who are evangelical believe the Gospel; those who are evangelistic propagate it. “We must evangelise or fossilize.” Believing as we do that those who die out of Christ are lost for ever, and that we have the only message that has the power of God inherent in it to save the sinner, we are surely lacking in love for the Lord and our fellow-men if we do not persistently make efforts to reach them. Again and again has it been proved that during special missions a time of reaping was experienced as the reward for the weekly sowing of the good seed. A concentrated effort gives the Christians further opportunities to invite strangers to the hall, and many have responded to the importunities of the seekers for souls.
There are those who plead that it is so difficult in these days to get people to attend Gospel services that it is not worth the labour and expense. It is the slothful man who says: “There is a lion in the way.” Difficulties are made to be overcome, and the resources we have in God are unlimited. It has been said: “A pessimist is one who sees a difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist is one who sees an opportunity in every difficulty.” The message of God through Malachi was: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse . . . and prove me now if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing.” That is written for our learning, and God is looking for men and women of faith and prayer who will tap those infinite resources for the blessing of their fellow-men.
Not only is a Gospel mission a means of reaching the unsaved; it is needed to kindle afresh in the hearts of Christians the evangelistic spirit, and to remind them that they are to be fishers of men. It makes for the health of the assembly when the Lord’s people are revived and the spirit of prayer is kindled anew. The songs of praise that arise from the hearts of those born into the family of God take us back to the days of our first love, and we join with them in singing:
“Oh happy day that fixed my choice
On Thee my Saviour and my God;
Well may this glowing heart rejoice
And tell its raptures all abroad.”
Let it be carefully noted that a special mission demands a special effort. To enter upon it in a half-hearted spirit is to court failure. Lukewarmness is nauseous to the Lord, and fervency of spirit is His delight. Much enthusiasm and little gift will accomplish more for God than much gift and little enthusiasm.
There is an incident in the life of the prophet Elisha which provides an illustration of the preparation that is needed for revival, and how God responds to faith. Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, allied himself with Jehoram, the wicked king of Israel, against the king of Moab. The allied kings took a circuitous route to avoid Moab’s fortified cities, and they ran short of water for the host and for the cattle that followed them. In their extremity they consulted Elisha the prophet, and the message the Lord gave him was: “Make this valley full of ditches. Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain, yet the valley shall be filled with water.”
It is man’s part to make the trenches. If no trenches were dug the water would have speedily disappeared. God will not have His gifts wasted. Digging is hard, back-breaking work, but it was necessary if victory was to be gained over their enemies. It was also humble work, and work for all. They were to dig not one trench, but many: “Make the valley full of ditches.” God is going to send a copious supply, and the amount of water He will give will be in proportion to the depth of the ditches. Here are some ditches we can all dig:—
I. Have Earnest Desires for Blessing.
Note Paul’s vehement longing for the salvation of his fellow-countrymen as he expresses it in Romans 10: “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved.” And in Rom. 9. 2: “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.” If we had such a burden upon our hearts for the souls of men, how much might be accomplished. When the Lord told Samuel that Saul had turned back from following Him, and that he had not kept His commandments, Samuel cried unto the Lord all night (1 Sam. 15. ). Another has expressed the longings of his heart in these well-chosen words:
“Oh for a passionate passion for souls,
Oh for the pity that yearns;
Oh for the love that loves even to death,
Oh for the fire that burns.”
“Oh for the prayer, the prayer that prevails,
That pours out itself for the lost,
Victorious prayer in the Conqueror’s Name,
The prayer of Pentecost.”
II. Be Importunate in Prayer.
Preparation for the reception of blessing by means of supplication is a law of God’s kingdom. The prayer of the leper made way for Christ’s miraculous healing (Matt. 8. 2-4); the beseeching entreaty of the Syro-Phenician woman brought down the blessing she desired (Mark 7. 24-30); the supplication of the early Church was the preparation for the descent of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2. 14). Supplication is the placing of the wood upon the altar in readiness for the coming of the fire from heaven. Daniel was kept waiting for three weeks on one occasion before he received the answer to his prayer.
It is interesting to note that when the trenches were dug as commanded, the blessing came mysteriously and sovereignly, by the way of Edom, a very unlikely place. There was no wind and no rain, yet the water came as if there was some rock in the desert, as at Horeb, struck by the hand of God. The blessing may start in an unexpected quarter, and not in the way that we think. The most unlikely people may be the first to be converted. There were sinners in the camp here who might have hindered the blessing, as sometimes they do. At other times God seems to set them aside, as if to say: “My time to work has come, and in spite of the Jehorams I will reveal My power and compassion for the lost.” How copious was the supply. Sometimes I have known a mission that was arranged for three weeks to be extended for two months, and even four months. God in His grace exceeded our expectations, and when the blessing came it flowed like a stream.
It is most suggestive that the blessing came when the meal offering was offered. Frequently in Scripture do we find the blessing given at the hour of sacrifice. It was at the time of the evening sacrifice that Elijah the prophet drew near to the Lord and prayed. Then the fire of the Lord fell. It was at the time of the evening sacrifice that Ezra confessed the sins of the people and prayed for forgiveness, and the people wept sore. Their hearts were reached. As these sacrifices were types of Calvary, we are reminded that there is nothing in the way of blessing for man apart from the cross of Christ. Furthermore, it is when our service entails sacrifice that it is acceptable to God. To Abraham God spoke after he had obeyed in offering up Isaac: “Thou hast not withheld ... I will bless.” I am persuaded that the work of God in the hearts of sinners is in equal ratio to the depth of work in the hearts of saints.
Brethren, let us prove God again, and He will respond to us as in days of yore.