17 When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them;
20 that they may see and know,
may consider and understand together,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.
The sovereign purpose of God in missions and evangelism suggests two things. We should count less and pray more.
Too often our expectations are about the size of the crowd. We want to count the converts and rejoice in our success and our missionary’s success. This can come dangerously close to idolatry, but at the least it focuses our attention on our methods instead of the people God has called us to serve.
Here’s how it should work. As we are faithful in declaring the good news of the gospel God himself will open hearts and make the waters flow. None of us will add to the number of God’s elect.
Yes, we can and should make sure the missionaries we support are faithful in declaring the gospel, but we should not measure their success by the metrics of man. They plant and water but God gives the increase.
Paul’s early letters to the churches did not focus on the size of their congregations but on the condition of their hearts. Which lead to my second point. We should count less but pray more.
I don’t mean that we should pray for our missionaries to be successful, if by success we mean that they should come home on furlough and report fifty converts, although we would rejoice if they did.
I mean we should pray for them, that they would be alert to God’s working in hearts around them. We should pray for their health and strength and faithfulness, lifting them up and encouraging them by joining them in prayer for specific people with specific needs. We should care for their children as if they were our own. We must surround them with urgent, intercessory protective prayer, so the work of God will not be hindered and in fact not be hindered by the missionaries themselves.
God will build a church in Carlos Paz, Argentina, where my friend Ivan and his wife are working. There are thirsty people there who are already seeking him. I’m just praying that Ivan will be perceptive enough to see it, wise enough to say what needs to be said, and strong enough to help. I pray that every distraction of the enemy will be thwarted and every grace revealed. I pray that he will be faithful, rather than successful, and that God’s strength will be made perfect in his weaknesses.
Ivan needs me to pray in this way. So do the individuals he is building a relationship with. I need to do this, so that when God does his work Ivan and I both will “consider and understand together that the hand of the Lord has done this.”
Kim Hoyt keeps a blog about their adventures in Argentina at http://kimfromthesouth.blogspot.com
Note: This is an excerpt from a recent sermon on missions. You can listen to or download the entire sermon on our church website, cbcjonesville.org.