“Go Forward”

I’m reading a book about John and Betty Stam, missionary workers and subsequently martyrs in China in the second quarter of the last century. The extract below is an address given by John on his graduation day infront of “hundreds of guests”. It is, as the writer puts it “a stirring challenge to advance the cause of Christ at home and abroad.” The whole address can be read here.

Our Lord told us that the field is the world. In politics today men are thinking in terms of international affairs, in business all the continents are being combed for markets, and even in daily life every newspaper reader is becoming world-conscious. And yet, we, the people of God have not fully realized that we are to be a testimony to the world.

Heathen populations are growing in numbers daily, but we are not reaching them, much less matching their increasing numbers with increased efforts to bring them the gospel. Not only are heathen populations growing, but with the frontiers of civilization forging ahead and education advancing, superstition and idolatry are breaking down. Now is the time as never before to reach men whose minds are swept of old barriers ere Communistic Atheism coming in like a flood raises other barriers tenfold harder to level, and before this generation of heathen passes into Christless graves.

Our own civilized land also challenges us today as Christian workers. This country once so strong in its Christian testimony is becoming increasingly godless. If the foreign field and the godless civilization about us both call for the faithful planting of divine dynamite that will break stony hearts and save souls, the church of Christ surely has a claim upon our service.

If there is a challenge in the work itself, the difficulties under which the work must be done are equally challenging. All forms of Christian work at home and abroad are quite naturally feeling the effect of the depression, but we have not risen to the occasion and demonstrated to this world that God’s people at home as well as on the field can sacrifice joyfully to keep His work going forward.

Will our God who once commanded us to preach the gospel to every nation order a retreat because conditions seem impossible? Let us remind ourselves that the Great Commission was never qualified by clauses that called for advance only if funds were plentiful and if no hardship or self-denial were involved. On the contrary, we were told to expect tribulation and even persecution, but with it victory in Christ.

Friends, the challenge of our task with all its attendant difficulties is enough to fill our hearts with dismay, and if we look only to ourselves and to our weakness, we are overcome with forebodings of defeat. But the answering challenge in our Master’s command to go forward should fill us with joy and with the expectation of victory. He knows our weakness and our lack of supplies; He knows the roughness of the way, and His command carries with it the assurance of all we need for the work. The faithfulness of God is the only certain thing in the world today and we need not fear the result of trusting Him.

Our way is plain. We must not retrench in any work which we are convinced is in His will and for His glory. We dare not turn back because the way looks dark. Of this we may be sure, that if we have been redeemed by Christ’s blood, and our called into His service, His work done in His way and for His glory will never lack His support.

We too must press forward, for it is no time for delay when a million souls a month pass into Christless graves in China, with other countries adding their hundreds of thousands. We must bring them that message that will deliver them from the power of Satan and bring them into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

People of God, does it not thrill our hearts today to realize that we do not answer such a challenge in our own strength? Think of it! God Himself is with us for our Captain; the Lord of Hosts is present in person in every field of conflict to encourage us and to fight for us. With such a Captain, who never lost a battle, or deserted a soldier in distress, or failed to get through the needed supplies, who would not accept the challenge to “Go forward, bearing precious seed.”

It’s a challenge to every Christian.

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