As our team began to develop our mission work in Romania, we often heard this excuse from Christian workers “Nu avem, de aceea nu putem.” There is a lot packed into this phrase, so let me provide a dynamic equivalent translation. “Because we don’t have the stuff we think we need to do God’s work, we are excused from the responsibility to participate in God’s mission.” I’ve since discovered that this kind of thinking shared by many other believers in Jesus Christ. And to be honest, I sometimes find myself in that group more often than I would like to admit.
After hearing this excuse all too many times, a colleague of mine began teaching about the abundant resources that we have to do God’s work in order to challenge this “poverty mentality”. Since it is never hurts to remind ourselves of the unfathomable riches we have in Christ, here are the primary resources God has given us to do Great Commission work.
Our first and greatest resource is God. What seems impossible with us is possible with God Almighty (Mark 10:27). He is Jehovah Jirah, our provider (Gen 22:14), able to supply all of our needs (Phil 4:19). Jesus, who is at the right hand of God, intercedes for us (Rom. 8:34), gives the Spirit without measure (John 3:34), and he builds his Church (Matt. 16:18). The Holy Spirit gifts and empowers us for service (Acts 1:8) and guides us into all truth (John 16:13).
A second resource is the Word of God. God has given many wonderful promises to make us adequate for the work. (2 Peter 1:4-8; 2 Cor. 1:20; Psalm 34:10) A promise that I committed to memory early in my discipleship journey reminds me of this fact: “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant” (2 Cor. 3:5-6). Another great promise is Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
A third resource is prayer. In answer to believing prayer (Mark 11:24) doors are opened (Col. 4:3) – quite literally in the case of Peter (Acts 12:5f) and Paul (Acts 16:25,26) – workers are sent forth (Matt. 9:38), the Gospel spreads rapidly (2 Thes. 3:1) and needed resources are provided (Matt. 6:33 ). Because of this, not only do we devote ourselves to prayer, but we invite others to faithfully pray for God’s work. “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).
A fourth resource represents our front line co-workers. God has gifted each believer with spiritual gifts to God good works (Eph. 2:10). Our diverse abilities and giftings work together for God’s glory (1 Cor. 12; 1 Peter 4:10,11). Combining our diverse experiences, gifting and abilities, we have a greater return for our labor (Eccl. 4:9). Godly and effective workers automatically emerge from the baptismal waters. They have to be equipped for doing good works (Ephesians 4:11-12; Timothy 3:16,17).
Finally, our supporters are a fifth, valued resource. These godly men and women faithfully uphold the work in prayer (1 Thes. 5:25) and give financially (Luke 8:3; Phil. 1:3-5; 4:15-18; 2 Cor. 11:8). Christian workers cannot go make disciples if they are not sent. (Rom. 10:15). So those who send are a vital part of Great Commission work. In fact, those who send are as much co workers for the truth as those on the front line (3 John 8).
All these resources, promised and freely given to us by God, should be adequate to “disciple all nations.”
Why then has the Great Commission task not been completed, if the resources are adequate?
Perhaps the answer lies in our failure to properly utilize the resources God has given us.
Perhaps we’ve come to believe that material “stuff” is essential to do God’s work – stuff that the Apostles did not have – Peter did say” silver and gold have I none” (Acts 3:6)– and that the “stuff” that the Apostles considered essential to do God’s work, we don’t have- for example it was said of Stephen (Acts 6:5) and Barnabas (11:24) that they were “full of faith and the Holy Spirit.”
Or perhaps we ourselves have become lukewarm, thinking that we are rich but in reality spiritually poor, lax in prayer, doubtful of God’s promises, or have majored on minors while neglecting to make disciples who are passionate about realizing God’s purpose in the world – thus leaving us without the co-workers, prayer and financial means necessary to complete the work. But this need not be.
Not all Christian workers in Romania share the poverty mentality I mentioned in the first paragraph. I’ve heard numerous stories of how Romanians in the interbellic period (between WWI and WWII) and in the Communist era and up to the present have followed God’s command to preach the Gospel — even though they had little. They traveled from village to village by bicycle, by horse and wagon or on foot to share the good news. As a result, today there are more evangelicals in Romania than the rest of the countries in Eastern Europe combined. Their example should inspire us. They may have lacked much of what we consider essential today –salaries, automobiles, cell phones, cameras, computers , church buildings– but what they did have, zeal for the Lord, made up for any lack.
Their example – and the example of those from around the world who are “full of faith and the Holy Spirit”– challenges my own poverty mentality and also challenges me to fully use all the resources God has provided for Great Commission work.
What’s your “take” on why the Great Commission task has not been completed, if the resources are adequate? More importantly, how well are you putting to work the resources God has promised and provide for you?