Calvary Road Baptist Church

“MISSION IMPOSSIBLE”

Second Corinthians 2.16

 

The goal of our Missions Conference this year is to educate you, to indoctrinate you, to persuade you, to challenge you, to encourage you, and even to cajole you to some degree in this process whereby I seek to accomplish my assignment of perfecting you for the work of the ministry.[1] It is clearly established in God’s Word that the Great Commission is not only a worldwide effort whereby disciples are made for our Lord Jesus Christ, but also a lifelong process that has only begun when the sinner comes to Christ. You see, not only is this church’s charge to simultaneously evangelize the entire world, but also to engage in the process of “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever” Christ has commanded.[2] Since sanctification is gradual, which is to say since spiritual growth is slow, since no one will ever “arrive” in the course of this span of life, God’s plan for your life is to come to Christ, to then be baptized in obedience to Christ’s command, thereby being brought into the body of Christ as well as under its authority, and to then be subject to the instructional and training ministry of the pastor for the rest of your life, Ephesians 4.11-12.

This year, I have brought in for your edification and encouragement three couples who are directly involved in our church’s missions program. Steve and Sue Grey are longtime missionaries who are now serving with us in our Jerusalem of the San Gabriel Valley. The Pattersons and the Goodmans are serving in places where we are both responsible to God for, and unable to actually tend to ourselves. Therefore, we send them on our behalf, extending the reach of our congregation’s ministry to the regions beyond in obedience to our Master.

This evening our annual Missions Banquet will be held at The Monrovian Restaurant. There Harvey Goodman will seek to persuade you by legitimate means to make a rational and spiritual decision to lay up treasures in heaven by investing in our church’s missions program through regular missions giving. There you will be given an opportunity to decide what your plan for the coming year’s missions giving will be. Many plans and prayers have gone into our Missions Conference, and into the preparations needed for our banquet this evening to be successful. For the first time since we have formed our yearly pattern of conducting missions conferences, I am speaking to you during our Missions Conference about the impossible task given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. I have titled the message “Mission Impossible.”

If we consider God’s Word (and we should always consider God’s Word), we find a number of examples that are appropriate for guidance and instruction concerning missions and our involvement in missions. They help us to face the impossible mission we have been assigned and that we exist to pursue. For example, we could focus our attention on David’s flight from King Saul and those men who followed him and who tarried “by the stuff.” Those men who stayed back while David and some of his warriors pursued after the enemy serve as great examples of church folks supporting missionaries while faithfully giving as they tarry by the stuff at home. We could also spend our time considering the prophet Jonah, who was sent by God to do the impossible of preaching repentance to the wicked city of Nineveh. Though we rightly pay most of our attention to Jonah’s experiences of being swallowed and then spit up by the great fish, which is a sign Christ pointed to of His own resurrection, the fact that Nineveh responded to Jonah’s preaching was also a great miracle. Missionaries also make use in their travels from church to church of the words of the prophet Ezekiel, who “sat where they sat,” when he came to them of the captivity in Babylon. Many a missionary has spoken to the folks back home of his experiences of sitting where those without the gospel sit, so he might bring them to Christ. Another wonderful verse is Jeremiah 8.20: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”

Of course, the consummate missionary is the Lord Jesus Christ. What better illustration of missionary endeavor is there than the eternal Son of the living God leaving heaven’s glory to be born of a woman by means of the virgin birth, so He might live a sinless life before dying a substitutionary death on the cross of Calvary, before His glorious resurrection and ascension to the Father’s right hand? The incarnation and the resurrection are both impossible accomplishments, yet they are accomplishments Jesus fulfilled. However, the most complete template for missions ministry is undoubtedly provided for us by the Apostle Paul, through his life and the epistles he wrote. Like us, he was a sinner who was unable to save himself from his sinful condition. Like us, he was utterly dependent upon Jesus Christ to do on his behalf what he could not possibly do for himself. Like us, he was called to take the gospel in obedience to Christ’s Great Commission, bringing the lost to Jesus and starting churches wherever he went.

It was during his comments to the Corinthians about the gospel ministry, and in particular his description of those who are gospel ministers, that the Apostle Paul wrote a staggering and usually misunderstood phrase that resonates in the consciousness of preachers everywhere, and in the minds of overwhelmed church members. Remarking about a door of opportunity God had opened to him, the victory that was guaranteed to those who serve God, and the sobering reality that the gospel we preach is both useful in some coming to life in Christ, and also instrumental in the deaths of those who reject our message, the apostle asked a rhetorical question in Second Corinthians 2.16: “Who is sufficient for these things?”

If you have not studied this passage carefully you might jump to the erroneous conclusion that Paul is here suggesting that no one is sufficient for the great task God has called us to. While it is true that none are sufficient in themselves, that is not what Paul is stating here. To avoid the common misconception, let us be careful not to make the mistake of ignoring what he has written immediately before and after this question. Two verses before, he writes, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ.” This, of course, points out the guarantee we have of victory in the gospel ministry. Then, in the verse following his question he writes, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” So you see, Paul is contrasting the genuine gospel minister with the fraud, showing the difference between the fake and the real. Those men who are sent from God do not corrupt the Word of God. To be sure, our “our sufficiency is of God,” Second Corinthians 3.5, but it is our sufficiency that Paul is pointing to through God’s grace rather than our insufficiency in ourselves.

So, what is the answer to Paul’s rhetorical question, “Who is sufficient for these things?” The answer is, we are. Have we been assigned an impossible task? Yes, we have. Is ours a mission impossible? Of course, it is. However, Jesus said these words in Mark 10.27: “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” Has He done impossible things? Yes. Does He use others to do impossible things? Yes, He does.

My friends, it is impossible that men and women who are dead in trespasses and sins can be made alive through faith in Jesus Christ in response to the gospel we preach. However, we have been assigned a mission impossible, so we do it. And the result is that from time to time dead men and women are made new creatures in Christ. It is impossible that churches would be started and congregations would be established in this most holy faith on the basis of miracles such as the creation of all things in six literal days, the incarnation of God, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ three days and nights after His crucifixion, and reliance upon the Bible as our rule of faith and practice. However, we have been assigned a mission impossible, so we do it. The result is that from time to time congregations of Bible believing Christians are raised up to the glory of God, though it is an impossible feat. Finally, it is impossible that a church our size, and with the limited visible resources at our disposal, could have a far reaching gospel ministry that is felt in every continent of the world. However, and once again, we have been assigned a mission impossible, so we do it. Our church supports missionaries in North and South America, in Europe and Asia, and in India and Australia. It is impossible, but God seems to bless and it gets done, nevertheless. Amen?

How do we do it? Of course, we make use of our great privilege of prayer. We actually have access to the throne room of God in heaven through our Lord Jesus Christ, so we approach the One Who is terrible in majesty in prayer, and ask Him to bless our efforts . . . and He does just that. We also recognize the role of the blessed Holy Spirit of God in our endeavors. It is the Holy Spirit of God who makes our congregation a temple of God, First Corinthians 3.16. It is the Holy Spirit of God Who indwells us as individuals and makes each believer’s body a temple of the Holy Spirit, First Corinthians 6.19. It is the Holy Spirit of God Who initiates our prayers and pleadings to the Father, Romans 8.26. The ways in which the Holy Spirit works in believers and in a congregation is certainly beyond our full understanding, but the grand design of the involvement of God’s Spirit can be summarized by a phrase found in Zechariah 4.6: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”

Therefore, as we work hard to serve God, by both our giving and our going, we pray to God for wisdom and guidance and results, knowing the Spirit of God must be the One who actually infuses our efforts with life to produce lasting fruit. This is our ministry, why we exist, and the reason back of our annual Missions Conference to enlist volunteers in our great gospel enterprise. However, because we have an impossible mission that requires faith, it is no surprise when some are filled with doubts. Do you find yourself overcome from time to time with such doubts? Are you one who says, “I am poor, feeble, and weak. Some are strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, and do a great deal of service for God. But as for me, I am a poor Christian, and so am able to do little or nothing for God.”

My friend, “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work,” Second Corinthians 9.8. This morning, I would like to show you how a congregation like ours, how a Christian like you (if you are a Christian), can accomplish the impossible for God by means of His abundant grace.

Please turn to Proverbs 30.24. When you find that verse, stand and read along silently while I read aloud:

 

24     There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:

25     The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer;

26     The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks;

27     The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands;

28     The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.

 

May I suggest to you that we can find wisdom for our own use in the example of the ant, the conies, the locusts, and the spider? A simple message from God’s Word to show what can be done to accomplish an impossible mission.

 

First, THE WISDOM OF ANTS

 

Where do we find the wisdom of the ants? We are told in verse 25: “The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer.” During times of plenty, they lay up for the time of want.

Is that not what God used Joseph to do when the seven fat years preceded the seven lean years in Egypt, and Joseph led the Egyptians to save during the fat years so they would have food for the lean years?[3] As well, is that not partly why our economy is doing so poorly and China owns all of our debt? The Chinese people save upwards of thirty percent of their income, while Americans are overcome by materialism and borrow money to buy luxury items we do not need. They save money, while most Americans tend to spend money we do not have, with results that are telling.

I am so thankful that our church operates on a very lean basis, which is why we were able to replace our parking lot when it became dangerous for our ladies to walk on and risky for our kids to play on. We had saved and saved and were able to make the needed improvement when replacing our dangerous parking lot was no longer an option. As well, this is how we operate our missions program. So many of us give a fixed amount each week, and the cumulative effect becomes significant for our missionaries, for the churches they start, and for the people they reach with the gospel. We do what we can, whenever we can, according to our plan. Thank God, we are in a place where we can give to missions. There will come a time when we cannot.

Therefore, it is good to do what you can when you can, so that when the time comes when you cannot you will have already demonstrated the wisdom of the ant. However, notice that the ant does nothing by himself, but works in allegiance with others of his kind to accomplish with numbers what a solitary ant could never accomplish by itself. Is this not a picture of our church?

 

Next, THE WISDOM OF THE CONIES

 

We saw what we think were conies when we were in Israel a few weeks ago, furry little varmints that live in the big rocks that dominate the landscape throughout Israel. Where do we find the wisdom of the conies? We are told in verse 26: “The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks.”

If conies could talk, you can be sure they would make no boast of their strength. They fully recognize their weakness, and have no intention of boasting a false pride of strength or power. Their wisdom lies in their determination to dwell in strong places. That should remind us of the wonderful hymn we just sang about our souls being hid in the cleft of the Rock. The songwriter was hiking in the highlands of Scotland when a quick storm came, with a driving and cold rain. It was when he ducked into the safety and comfort of the cleft of a large rock that the irony struck him, leading him to see the parallel between the comfort and safety of his body from the rain and cold in that rock, and the comfort and safety of his soul in the Rock which is Christ Jesus.

As the conies know their safety comes not from their strength or cleverness, but from the strength of the large rocks they hide in, so we need to recognize the folly of going through life alone and away from the comfort and protection offered by our Savior, the solid Rock Who is my Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Third, THE WISDOM OF THE LOCUSTS

 

We are told of the locust’s wisdom in verse 27: “The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands.” Though they are weak as individuals, yet they join together, and so are strong. Does this not reinforce Ecclesiastes 4.12, “a threefold cord is not quickly broken”? There is great strength in numbers. Once again, a reminder to us of the wisdom of those who are inherently weak, as we are, working together to have an enormous impact based upon our numbers. And while some run astray and involve themselves in para-church ministries, or delude themselves into thinking they please God with a Lone Ranger approach to Christianity, that which is actually authorized by God and blessed by God is the church of Jesus Christ.

Only we, and congregations like ours, are authorized to conduct the Great Commission by evangelizing, by baptizing, and by teaching converts to obey all things Christ has commanded. Only we, and congregations like ours, are authorized to administer the ordinances of communion and the baptism of believers. Only we, and congregations like ours, are authorized to address sin in our midst, to reconcile estranged parties, and even to go so far as to discipline those in our midst who refuse to repent and make restitution for the sins they commit against us.

That said, what is it that we were observed by our neighbors to do last night? “The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands.” Is that not what we did as a church last night, and what we routinely do on Saturday nights? We go forth by bands. As well, though you each have your own homes and places of employment, we go forth into our community to seek the lost, do we not? And we do it by bands. That, my friend, is wisdom.

 

Finally, THE WISDOM OF THE SPIDER

 

Wherein does the wisdom of the spider consist? He tells you in verse 28, “The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ chambers.” Though the chamber of a king is continually swept and cleansed by maids and butlers, yet by their industry spiders can still dwell in the most unimaginable places, high and out of danger.

My friend, do not we who know Jesus Christ as our savior dwell in a King’s chambers? Consider what Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesians 2.4-6:

 

4      But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

5      Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

6      And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

 

Call it whatever you want, the heavenly places where Christ Jesus is enthroned is the chamber of the great King, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. Thus, we are blessed with a wisdom comparable to spiders, because of Jesus Christ, “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”[4]

 

Think for a moment. Although these creatures are weak and feeble in themselves, yet by their wisdom their weakness is offset, so that they are able to save themselves from injury and wrong as well as if they were stronger. How so? The Bible terms it wisdom.

Shall the ants, the conies, the locusts, and spiders, be wise in their various ways, and shall not a Christian also be wise? Consider the Christian life and the church Jesus brought into existence for our welfare and it is apparent that the wisdom of the ants, the conies, the locusts, and spiders is useful to us. True saving grace is the “best wisdom” is it not? Every godly man is a wise man, and though you or I may be weak in grace, yet we can exercise true wisdom; the wisdom of the ants, to provide in summer against a rainy day; the wisdom of the conies, to build in the Rock which is Christ; the wisdom of the locusts, to join with others; and the wisdom of the spider, to take hold on those high beams and arches of God’s promises, which are in the chamber of Christ our King.

Are you weak and feeble on your own? Of course, you are. We all are. However, if God has compensated for your weakness with this wisdom, why should you complain or doubt? Why not display the wisdom of the ant and give to missions while you can, against the day when you cannot? Hide in Christ, like the conies. Go out with us by bands, rather than staying home on Saturday nights. Finally, like a spider, hide in the lofty beams and arches of God’s promises, in the chamber of Christ our King.

You are familiar with Paul’s great proclamation in Philippians 4.13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Now you can see how God works with the weak and the feeble to accomplish His will, how we must exhibit the wisdom of ants, conies, locusts and even the spider. All that remains is for you to act upon what you know to do. In this way, we accomplish the impossible task of reaching our world for Christ.



[1] Ephesians 4.11-12

[2] Matthew 28.18-20

[3] Genesis 41

[4] 1 Corinthians 1.30



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org