Missions; The Sender and The Sendee
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 07, Aug 2019
Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:10-20
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Philippians chapter 4:10-20 is Paul’s commendation on the giving of the Philippians. His perspective is that they cared for him. They have done well and they shared in his ministries. It was not the first giving of the Philippians church to Paul. Paul thanked them for the past and present giving. Then Paul declared a promise to the Philippians regarding their own financial needs: God shall supply all their needs. The rewarding will not be merely from His wealth, but also in a manner that befits His wealth; on a scale worthy of His wealth. God is very rich. What can we learn from this portion of scripture?
1. God’s global missions
Philippians 4:15-16, ‘Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
Three cities were mentioned here: Philippians, Macedonia and Thessalonica. Paul had been moving from city to city; not just these three cities from all over Asia Minor but even unto Crete, Rome and others. Paul understood God’s mandate. God’s mandate is world missions. And Paul understood his role in God’s global missions.
The bible is the story of God’s global missions. If you practice responsible hermeneutics (skilled in interpreting and making clear the bible) and preach according to context of passages in the word of God (background, framework, the setting and the situation) you will inevitably and even regularly uncover the larger story of God’s global missions. I am talking about God’s plan from before the foundations of the world to ransom people from every tribe and language and people and nation; about God’s design for global gospel proclamation as revealed in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. From cover to cover, the Bible is not ambiguous about its plotline. God is on a mission to gather a people from every nation who will enjoy his grace and extend his glory. And the climax of God’s passion for global missions is the sending of His son to die on the cross so that the world can be saved. You will notice that before Christ’s death, salvation was limited only to the Jews. But after the death of Jesus Christ, the Gospel spread to the Gentiles world. Jesus said it so clearly, ‘Go ye into the world and preach the Gospel.’ If you understand this important paradigm shift since the birth of the church in the First Century, it will significantly impact the way this church understands and adopts our role in God’s missions.
If we understand missions we will give generously. The Philippians church understood missions. And they gave generously. Because we will see God’s revealed heart for the nations and the current realities of people (the true conditions of people) separated from their creators. It will convince us that money spent mobilizing missionaries are more valuable than cash spent maintaining our comfortable lifestyles. And the truth of the matter is that you can never out give God. The wealth of God is open to those who love him and love His fellowmen. This mission giving releases the blessing of God. I said two weeks ago from Psalms 20:3 that YHWH ‘remember all thy offerings and accept thy burnt sacrifice.’ He who gives makes himself richer, for his own gift opens to him the gifts of God. Paul emphasizes the loving care of God the Father for his giving people. He will meet all your needs (material and spiritual) as you present them to Him. I have lived for 40 years as a child of God and 33 years as a missionary and I learn this important lesson in life. God is no debtor to me. He owes me nothing. What I have given him, he has return me back multiple folds in this life; I am not talking about the life to come which will far supersede what I receive from God right now. I dare to say that my missions giving has been an investment that pays me rich spiritual and material dividends. My YHWH keeps the accounting book and has never failed to pay me dividend. The church is poorer who fails to share materially to others. That individual is poorer who fails to share substantially to others. YHWH is a rewarder. This is a truth about God of which many Christians don’t seem to be aware. He rewards good works; he rewards good stewardship and He especially rewards missions giving because Missions is the heart of God’s global plan.
Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 is so clear. It says, ‘Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven (seven represents completeness in giving), and also to eight (eight represents new giving), for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth (you give because of the evil upon this world).’ This was written in the light of an uncertain future. It addresses a people that are ignorant of the future. If there is a time in history where the future is so uncertain, it is our generation. If there are a people that is so ignorant it is this age group. The recent 5.9 earthquake magnitude at Batanes (last week of July 2019) see the loss of lives in Northern Philippines. But I also notice that the number one features of the news coming out of Batanes was the collapse of the church’s rooftop. I also notice that during the earthquake in Bohol in 2013 at 7.2 Richter scale, the featured news that caught the attention of the Filipinos is the collapse of 7 iconic, historical churches in Bohol alone and 3 churches in Cebu. In 2011 a Major Earthquake struck the New Zealand and the first mention of the collapse is concerning two church buildings in that city: the Anglican Christchurch Cathedral and the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. The irony of it all is that the city where the earthquake structed is called Christchurch.
Brothers and Sisters, I always believe in signs and we need to have the spiritual discernment to know what God is speaking. The world is shaking and the church is not doing anything and God is judging and holding the church responsible for what is happening to the world. 1 Peter 4:17 says, ‘For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begins at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God?’ Hebrews 12:26 says, ‘whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.’ From the bible we learned that the pillars of the earth are the mountains that goes deep into the oceans. But God says he will shake even these pillars of the earth and not only that but he will shake the heaven. What comes from heaven; rain, hailstones, snow, meteorites. God has rained brimstones and Sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah and he now says, yet once more I shake not the earth only but also heavens.
The Singapore government is alarmed recently because the number of suicides in Singapore rose 10 percent from last year but the thing that shocked the Singapore government is that suicides among boys aged 10 to 19 is at record high. It is said that this year alone, 19 boys at this age range committed suicide. Why? Aren’t they at the prime of their life? Isn’t Singapore one of the richest countries in the world. God is speaking.
We have to obey the mandate of God’s Global Missions Plan. We went into Cambodia because God told us specifically to reach out to Indo China region. Solomon in writing these two verses understood the ancient practice of sowing seeds over flooded fields along the riverbanks, such as the Jordan River. One meaning of the Hebrew word for ‘bread’ is ‘grain’ or ‘seed.’ When the rains had come, the Jordan river swell and creep into its banks and the low-lying fields of the Jordan River valley. The valley will be well under water. Then a Jewish farmer would get into a boat, because the water in the valley has gone too high. He would row out over his fields and sow/throw his seeds upon the face of the water. Casual observer or traveler like us from distant places who witnessed the Jewish farmer casting his seed from the boat, will think that the farmer gave every appearance that the struggles of life had taken their toll and that the farmer is now probably lunatic. What the Jewish farmer knew that the concerned traveler did not, was that as the seeds sank to the bottom of the water, the current would deposit a rich sediment/soil covering over them, almost guaranteeing that farmer of an excellent harvest. Pastor Lily and I look so stupid giving so much to missions year after year; we seemed lunatic people. For many years we gave 600,000 pesos every year without fail when we were employed and even today when we are unemployed, we still gave 100,000 every year. Last year we gave 100,000 and we paid all. We are so stupid to do that. But what happened? The returns are also unbelievable. Cast thy bread, you shall find it after many days. I don’t think God has returned us everything. The many days is still not totally fulfilled. I personally believe that there will be a gigantic monetary blessing that will come to Pastor Lily and I in the near future.
I quote again Ecclesiastes 11:1-2. It says, ‘Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight, for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.’ It implies that the day is coming where the earth will go through great difficulties. But God just showed me a verse for those who give to missions. Psalms 37:19 says, ‘They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.’ You want to survive in the days of calamities; give now.
If we understand God’s global plan we will mobilize within. The more this church is praying to the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers, the more people will rejoice to see laborers enter new fields. Our strategy will shift from one of passive encouragement to active recruitment – from merely applauding those who sense a call to enter new fields, to proactively enlisting qualified and capable goers.
If we understand God’s global plan, we will take ownership of sending and supporting our missionaries. We will own the mission by caring for the ones we send. I am very encouraged that this church has learned to take ownership of the responsibility given to the various leaders in this church. Without us constantly reminding, the Youth Church, the teens department, the TKC, the AVL department, the Music Department have taken ownership of their own department. The leaders took their responsibility seriously improving the department constantly. Likewise, if we understand God’s global plan, the church as a whole will take ownership of sending and supporting our missionaries. When we give this morning, we as a church is taking ownership of sending and supporting our missionaries.
2. Partnership in the Gospel
Philippians 1:3-7 “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains [jail] or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share [the same word that was used before: partner] in God’s grace with me”.
Regarding missions, Hudson Taylor said: “The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed”. The Spirit of Christ has always been the Spirit of Missions. The nearer we get to Christ, the more intensely missionary minded we become.” Regarding the giving of our lives to Missions, Jim Elliot says ‘He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose”. The most beautiful giving is to give out of great sacrifices and not out of abundance. The Philippians church gave out of poverty, not out of riches. Keith Green says ‘”This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of souls on the earth!”
Some times ago, I was reading ‘the message’ bible. As I was reading, I realize something that God has spoken to me 33 years ago that I fully understand now. I realize that God has really called me to become a missionary. Before I came to the field. God told me He will give me souls that will come from the north, the south, the east and the west. That verse was from Isaiah. Then I was reading Genesis from the message bible and God told Abraham the same thing; to leave his country, his house, his kindred and go to a place where God will tell him and if he obeys his descendant will spread to the north, the south the east and the west. You are my descendants. Then God told me that this verse is actually a missionary call. When we go to the world to preach the gospel, people will come to the salvation of Christ from the North, the South, the East and the West. God needs missionaries to preach the gospel. Even during Abraham’s time, God has already started the missionary call. That was 4 thousand years ago. The heart cry of God is Missions. God’s main intention in human history is to reunite himself with a world that is estranged by sin. Thousands have enlisted in this great mission adventure down through the ages for various motivations: visions, voices, gratitude, guilt, compulsion, concern or compassion, to name a few. I came because I heard a voice so clearly, ‘say ye not there are yet 4 months then cometh harvest; I say unto you, look unto the field, for they are already white unto harvest.’ But what is the fundamental biblical motivation for participating in God’s strategy in human history? John the Baptist called out: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” God wanting to reunite himself with a world that is estranged by sin allowed his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to sacrifice himself for us on the Cross. This proclamation in many ways sums up what Jesus’ mission was all about; to literally pluck souls from the fire of hell.
But missions is only possible when there is partnership or partnering. Paul tells his fellows Philippians that they are partners with him. Listen to what he said: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains [jail] or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share [the same word that was used before: partner] in God’s grace with me” (Philippians 1:3-7).”
David, before he was king, was engaged in some battles. On one particular occasion, there were some men who had stayed with the supplies (stayed at home with resources) while others had gone on to engage in the front-line battle. There was some conversation afterwards by those who had gone down and done the fighting. They thought they ought to receive a greater share of the loot and booty (rewards) that had been taken in the battle. David was very clear that those who stayed with the supplies have an equal portion with those who had actually gone down to the battle. Likewise, I want to say that those who stayed at home but gave (the suppliers) and those who had gone down and done the fighting (the missionaries), will received equal portion of blessings. When we the supplier do that, Paul said you shared in that grace. Because as the gospel is shared, you the sender shared in that grace. A missionary from Canada to Russia, who has a heart for the Chinese and Russian, probably near the Siberia wrote this in an e-mail ‘It is already a week since we arrived home safe and sound (he called his mission station his home). We weren’t on the airplane that crashed in Irkutsk, so probably our work here is not yet done. We flew safely on that day. Vincent Lee and Joe Yang from Canada, and Stephen Lee from Hong Kong, worked very hard teaching during each day and preaching each night at packed meetings. They returned home feeling like a sponge that had been squeezed dry. Rejoice with us [may I add, share in the grace with us] over the 30 new decisions and 17 believers who followed Jesus in baptism in cold rivers, and over 20 hours of Bible school that was provided each week to between 10 and 15 students, some of whom had come to Russia just for that very purpose. Your prayers guided us through each thrilling day. What a pleasure it is to serve God.”
This missionary asked the sender to share in the grace with him; to enjoy the fruits of their labor and the rewards of Missions. They are partners because this missionary wouldn’t have been able to do all these without the monetary support. In heaven many of you will be shocked because you will receive rewards you never taught it belongs to you because you are the supplier of the sent. I mean isn’t that is what Jesus said, ‘When you give a cup of cold water to another, you will receive a reward.’
3. The Joy of Missions Giving
Philippians 4:1 ‘But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again.’
Paul asked his sender to make his joy complete. Do you know that you can make the joy of our missionaries complete? You have an important role in this. The truth is that missions, the missionary enterprise, would not even exist except for strong local churches like us. The Key to missionary enterprise is the local churches. Except we say ‘Missions will be part of our church, ‘our church will be committed to missions’ -then the missionary enterprise will fail. After all, who will go for us? The sender and the sendee are equally important.
The word ‘Joy’, or its derivative occurs almost 20 times in this letter to the Philippines. It is normal for Christians, even the most committed ones to view missions giving as an occasion for trepidation or dread rather than an occasion for joy. Of course, for Pastor Lily and I even until today it is a challenge when we give, but we always do it in faith and God has never failed all these years in our Mission Pledge. We have never owed what we pledged. And the returns has always more than what we give. I can only say that ‘It is worth the sacrifice.’ But in what ways can giving make you a joyful person?
Because giving revives our concern. The word ‘renewed’ found in verse 10 pictures something that was dead now coming to life. The word sometimes is translated as revived. It pictures a tree or plant that is barren in the winter, but when spring comes, the tree or plant blossoms with new shoots and flowers. The Philippian Christians had been barren in expressing their concern for Paul, but now, with the gift of money they sent him, they were blossoming anew with concern for Paul’s welfare. Giving takes the focus off ourselves and puts it onto something or someone else. Giving becomes a tangible way we can express concern and love to other people.
Also, you can have joy when you give to Missions. Because Jesus is glorified when you give. Especially when it given generously and cheerfully. Also, because you help a man in the field. We are helping a couple with two kids and two young people. That is 6 people altogether. Do you know that we have never failed to send money to our missionaries on schedule? We have never said, ‘Missionaries, we are sorry, we couldn’t send this month.’ Why? Because of your giving. It is amazing that this church can do that. We are simply just helping these poor saints. For Paul his ministry was hindered because some churches lacked faith enough to get behind him. But for the Philippian church Paul was thankful for how his needs had been met through offerings. It brings gladness to Paul’s heart. It not only brings gladness to Paul’s heart but also it bring gladness to our heart when we give. And again, it is in giving that we receive. When we let go of our grip on money God will help us to enjoy the act of giving.
I want to talk a little bit about making our missionaries’ joy complete. Paul talked about it. You need to know what would make our missionaries’ joy complete. Do you know that it is even the small things that would be an encouragement to make their joy complete? Recently when the missionaries came back from furlough, we went out with them. Also, even during the time we were with JECPP, we went out with the church planters. Other church planters heard about it. They were also expecting us to go out with them. Why? It is these little things that would be an encouragement to them and make their joy complete. If you give your missionaries a little attention, they would be encouraged. You need to find out what is happening with them. You need to perhaps surprise them with some act of kindness. I am a missionary and I totally agree with that. And I speak from my heart as a missionary on behalf of our missionaries. A little attention, some acts of kindness, finding out what is happening to them would bring encouragement. You want to know what can happen to them and how your little attention, our acts of kindness, and finding out what is happening to them can be encouraging. They will feel that they are not alone. They will feel that they are part of this congregation. They will feel that whatever they do is observed by a group of people, the people of Evangel Tabernacle.
The missionaries have stories to tell; missionaries have news to share; missionaries have an insight on the world. You need to encourage them to be able to share that truth with you. The truth is, as we partner with our missionaries at the point of their suffering, we somehow share in the work that they do, and then the benefit of it somehow comes to us. It is credited to our account. Now I don’t know how God does that. But I know that Paul said that. We need to understand what missionary life is like. These people live out at the edge. They live in high-risk, stressful situations. So, at that distance, with that kind of pressure, they may be prone to loneliness. Many missionaries fight depression. They miss the things that make up the normal life, and these things are losses to them and they have to handle that. It isn’t that any one little thing that is such an awful thing, but (so many little one thing) together they make up a load. For instance, they’re not able to attend their niece’s or nephew’s birthday. They’re not able to go to that graduation event. They’re not there for their own birthdays or for the family Christmas celebration. They’re not there when their grandmother passes away. These events are all missed for them. To be honest with you. For Pastor Lily and myself, 33 years is a long time. Of course, we now understand what missionary life is like. At times we live in stressful situations. With that kind of pressure, far away from home, we are prone to loneliness; hey we fight depression. We miss the things that make up the normal life. Our family, friends, a cozy and familiar environment, the favorite food, the old faces. These things are losses to us. And we have to learn to handle that for 33 years. I am not able to attend the weddings of all my brothers and sisters. I have 4 sisters and 3 brothers. Pastor Lily is not there where her three brothers died. And when she did go back for her father’s funeral, the coffin is already closed. She cannot see his face. We have missed Chinese New Year family celebration for 30 years. Not to talk about 33 Christmas family celebrations. We are not sure when our children need us when they are down. We are not there when our grandmother passes away. Hey these events are all missed by us. It isn’t that any one of these things is such an awful thing, but together they make up a load. Today I am not talking about myself. I am talking about all our missionaries. They are human too. They have the same lack as Pastor Lily and I; all these are homegrown missionaries. All these names mentioned are born again through Evangel Tabernacle and have become missionaries. Pastor Lily and I are missionaries. So, we need to come alongside. We need to suffer with them. We need to partner with them. We need to help them pay the real cost. That means we need to support them financially. But if you give so little, we can only help them so little. But if you give a lot, we can help them more. We can do more little things for them. If you say that now is not the right time to give because the world is going through a recession. Remember J.R. Morrison during the 1930s Great Depression (the worst recession in all of history), to support their missionaries he pleads ‘Can’t you do just a little bit more?’ We do that corporately as a church, and it’s wonderful that you do. You also need to engage in personal way to each of them individually to encourage them. So, every first week of the month, however your cash comes in, give away as much money as you can. That is the most fun part you’re going to have with your money. Everything else you spend your money on, you either consume (you know, like the gas bill) or it wears out (like clothes and stuff like that) they are gone. But what you give for missions is eternal. Remember I quote Jim Elliot. ‘‘He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose”.
4. Because Souls will go to hell
I heard this familiar statement many times and since the beginning of missions it has been made. It happened to William Carey, it happened to me. When William Carey, a young man, wanted to be a missionary to India, and proposed a discussion at a minister’s conference on whether or not the Great Commission is binding upon them that day to go and teach all nations, an older minister rebuked him saying, ‘Sit down, young man. When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine! There was one time my relationship with my brother was estranged because he had some problem with the Pastors of my ex-church. He was attending another church that teaches this doctrine and he told me in no uncertain term the same statement; ‘If God wants to save the world, he can do it himself. He doesn’t need your help’. But God’s method is a man. God himself need to send Jesus to save the world.
Dr. Tucker, a pastor told this amazing incident: He shared this: ‘Dr Percival, a busy surgeon, was a Christian. He had one daughter, Kitty, whom he loved devotedly. One day she came to her father and told him she was going as a missionary to China. He said, ‘Kitty, I forbid you ever to get out of my sight.’ At last she gave up plans for going, and married. She had two darling children. I lived next door to Doctor Percival. One day he told me that he had to give up his surgeon’s license because of the condition of his eyes. Later he had to have an operation on his eyes. When the bandages were taken from them, his doctor said, ‘In two weeks you will be totally blind.’ Dr Percival sent for Kitty and the babies to come. He carefully felt their faces and seemed to get a mental picture of them in his fingertips. He then took me out (the pastor) in those 2 weeks to ‘look at his pastor’. It was a sad day in our block, and everyone was weeping. Months later I went out to lunch with Dr Percival. I had to help feed him. As he walked home, I could see that he wanted to say something. ‘Say it, Doctor.’ I said, ‘Dr Tucker’ he said to his pastor, ‘do you think God is retributive? I told him I did not believe it. He said, ‘Tucker, I told Kitty that she could never go out of my sight, but God has taken her from my sight. Whenever you go, plead with parents to keep out of the way when God calls their children into His service.’
This morning I want to plead with you to give because it not only will do good to your soul but it will save your soul. I know this to be true because I can hear literally the beating of God’s heart for souls and for missions.