“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” (John 4:35)
Jesus impressed upon the hearts of his disciples the urgency of the task before them. After Christ’s ascension they went into all the world and boldly proclaimed the gospel as if the return of Christ was imminent and as if their task was infinitely important. Paul set out to preach the gospel where no one had ever gone before and he trained men and started churches as if his days were counted. I wonder if we sense that urgency today. I’m ashamed to say that I often don’t grasp the immediate need of getting the gospel to the world. I work as if I had all the time in the world.
What is the difference between those first-century Christians and us? Well, they certainly took Christ’s command to go and make disciples seriously and we often take it more like a suggestion. They had a profound belief that Christ would soon return and they served God in anticipation for that day. But I believe there is another reason that we often overlook: They were persecuted for their faith.
They knew the tremendous risk of sharing their faith. They knew that they could face imprisonment or even death for proclaiming the gospel so they lived each day as if it were the last. Paul would go into a city and preach the gospel and quickly and thoroughly train the believers because he knew that his life would most likely be short and he had no time to lose. The gospel would have to continue in his absence.
I have seen this urgency in the life and ministry of my friends serving God in China. Last Sunday I got up to get ready for Easter Sunday and I checked my e-mail as I usually do in the morning. What I read shattered my heart. I read an e-mail from missionary John Walz saying that the police had interrupted the church service in Harbin, China and taken the Chinese pastors and the missionaries into the police station to interrogate them. After a few days the verdict came. They had ten days to leave and they would be unable to return for another five years.
While that is horrible news, the Taube and Walz families were ready for that day. Jake Taube had started the work in Harbin seven years earlier and had worked with the knowledge that at any moment he could be kicked out of the country. The day they dreaded finally came but the work will continue. After only seven years of service in China they have trained several pastors and started four churches to the glory of God. They truly understood the urgency of the mission.
I want to follow their example. I want to live each day as if time is running out and the gospel must go forth, believers must be trained and churches started. May we understand the urgency of our task! Please pray for the work in China and for my friends Jake Taube and John Walz and their families. To God be the glory!