The large team was reviewing its efforts in sharing the Good News the past quarter. Each B4T worker listed the names of their local friends who they had spent more than 24 hours with that quarter on the huge white board and then they each listed what they had shared verbally, spiritually together; their testimony, a Gospel story, a tract, prayed together, etc. Each B4T worker had 2 to 13 locals next to their name who they had shared with, all but Bob. Bob had excellent language so I asked him, “Is there a reason you haven’t shared with anyone?” Bob replied, “Yes, I am the leader of the business, if I share with locals, I might get kicked out and if I get kicked out of the country the business would collapse and everyone else here would have to leave.” At that the team leader spoke up, “Bob” the TL asked, “How much money do you have invested in this business?” Bob replied, “Nothing.” The TL continued, “And how much do I have invested?” He answered, “I’d guess $80,000.” The TL then said, “Bob then you have nothing to lose, and I have much to lose. You are not only here to run the business and model the Gospel, you are also here to proclaim the Gospel. When the time is appropriate and God creates and opportunity, speak the Truth to those you know and let me worry about the consequences to the business.”
As our Lord was headed for Jerusalem and the cross, He told His disciples,
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:24-26)
Death is the secret of honoring God and the cross is the secret of fruit. It is possible to find a hundred subtle ways to avoid the cross. We would never say to ourselves, “I will not speak boldly about Jesus for fear of my personal safety.” But we may be tempted to think like Bob,
“I must be careful. I cannot minister if I am thrown out of the country. It will not do anyone any good to get kicked out.”
When this happens, we are not bold, we do not take risks, and we can be described by that most horrible of words—careful. Careful for our own sake. We become our own protector and our own provider. Jesus is no longer really on the throne. God is looking for us to apply spiritual truth, not modify it to fit our circumstances or comfort.
Some of us do not believe in the effectiveness of the cross. Yet willingness to die is listed as one of the keys to victory:
“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Rev.12:11)
The cross is a powerful weapon. We lack fruit not because the cross is weak, but because we will not to apply its power.
And all through life I see a cross,
Where the sons of God yield up their breath;
There is no gain except by loss;
There is no life except by death;
There is no vision except by faith;
No glory but by bearing shame;
No justice but by taking blame;
And the Eternal Passion saith –
Be emptied of glory, might and name
There are many fields where it is impossible to see fruit without extreme sacrifice. But whenever that sacrifice is made, God gives fruit. As Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
For us, the essential thing is not cost. We must recognize that God will honor our sacrifice and give us fruit. Any man’s usefulness in the kingdom is inversely proportional to his “I won’t list.” That is, the more we are willing to endure for the kingdom of God, the more we will be used by God. Paul models this. He was so greatly used because he was willing to endure so much;
As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:4-10)
In some ways the cross is simply the price of doing business in a war zone. But some of us do not want to pay that price. Talk about doing it, yes. Sending our brothers and sisters, yes. But doing it ourselves – No way! We reflect the “Vietnam syndrome.” We want to win the war. We just don’t want anybody to be hurt in the process. However wars are costly. More to the point, victory is costly.
How do we face this cost? First, we must remember the promises of God. Our sacrifices will not go unrewarded by God. It is the souls of martyrs (not mission workers, evangelists or pastors) who are under the alter of God (Revelations 6:9). In modern terminology, they are given the front row seats in heaven. It is not the workers but the martyrs of whom it is said, The world was not worthy of them. (Hebrews 11:38)
Second, we can fix our eyes on Jesus…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2) We may not always understand why God allows us to suffer. But when we look at the cross, we are sure He allows us to suffer out of His love. God does not simply talk about His love for us.
“But God demonstrates His own love in that…Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“…Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” (John 13:31)
When we feel discouraged, disappointed or confused, we can turn our eyes on Jesus and receive encouragement from His example and strength from His love.
Lord, when I am weary toiling, and burdensome seem Thy commands,
If my load should lead to complaining, then Lord, show me Thy hands, –
Thy nail-pierced hands, Thy cross torn hands, my Savior, show me Thy hands.
Christ, if ever my footsteps should falter, and I be prepared for retreat,
If desert or thorn cause lamenting, then Lord, show me Thy feet, –
Thy bleeding feet, Thy nail-scarred feet, – my Jesus, show me Thy feet.
O God, dare I show Thee my hands and my feet.
Brenton Thornburn Bradley