The Exceptional Long Reach of....the Gospel

I have always been moved by the “dimensions” there are to God and the Christian life. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was that they would have the strength to “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” (Eph.1:18,19) The dimension that is particularly fresh in my mind is the length...more, specifically, the exceptional long reach to the Gospel! In basketball, a player’s value and ability is enhanced if he has a “long wing span”, the long reach that helps him both offensively and defensively. You’ve heard of the “long arm of the law” where your sin (crime) will find you out, and someone is arrested for some past or hidden crime that they’ve tried to hide. Then there’s definitely the long reach of the grace of God! It reached the prodigal even when he found himself in bondage in the “far country.” David acknowledges this in (Ps.139:7-10) where he says, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” It is really hard for people to run from God because of the long reach of His love and grace! What is vivid in my mind as I am sitting in the airport in Johannesburg, South Africa is the EXCEPTIONAL LONG REACH OF THE GOSPEL! I’ve just finished preaching in Windhoek, Namibia and I was so stirred by what God is doing and this truth of the long reach of the Gospel. Since many Americans are “geographically-challenged,” if you look on the map (I’ll give you a moment to find it) you’ll see Namibia right above South Africa at the bottom of the Continent. When I say to people, “I’m going to Namibia” and they give me a blank, unknowing stare, I simply say, “I’m going to Africa” and then a little recognition comes. What is so special about Namibia to me and our church in Tucson, AZ? Twelve years ago, in December of 1997, we sent Steve & Shirley Anderson and their family to pioneer a church in Windhoek. They had just come from laboring in Kostroma, Russia and had the faith and zeal to “go again”! I was there in 1999 in the early stages and I saw the beginnings of a powerful work of God. There were real conversions and already a number of disciples were rising up in that congregation. Steve & Shirley had to leave in 2002 because of visa problems, but fortunately, Peter & Eminee Ajala from South London, went in to take over the pastorate of that church. When they did it was like an accelerant was added to a fire! The church really exploded in growth and impact in that nation. Today the church is pastored by Set-son and Mary Ndahangwapo, and they have sent out seven churches into different cities of Namibia. It was a very long trip to get there (two overnight flights) but it’s not the distance or travel time that moves is the long reach of the Gospel! If you fly one of Qantas airline’s 747's they have stenciled on the front of the aircraft 747 "Longreach" because it can fly non-stop from Los Angeles to Sydney which is some 13-14 hours. But that can’t compare with the Gospel’s reach! From Tucson, AZ God’s grace has enabled our church to reach around the world in a truly remarkable fashion. This is a testimony to who God is and what He can do when people embrace His vision, “go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt.28:19). It is staggering to think that there are churches and thousands of people who would not be saved today, who would not have eternal life through Jesus Christ, and who would not be ready to make heaven their home, without the long reach of the Gospel through the faithful people in our congregation! Preaching in Windhoek to over 500 people on Sunday morning just brought home to me this wonderful sense of what God has done. These are people who don’t have an “organizational” attachment to our assembly but an “organic” one. There are real “family bonds” with people recognizing and appreciating the investment, the history, and the destiny that has come about by our labors in the Gospel, along with the church in SouthLondon. I think of the Bible’s testimony to this dimension of impact beginning when Jesus stepped out of heaven to come to earth in order to reach you and I! When Mary broke the alabaster box of precious ointment and poured it on the head of Jesus, it triggered this powerful reality. Jesus said, “Truly, wherever this Gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” That is a long reach, folks! Jesus said her actions would transcend time, cultures, and geographic boundaries, reaching down to our present age! Here is the text and testimony that comes to my mind that illustrates the work we’re involved in. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about his ministry. He was actually forced into defending the validity of his ministry against the critics and the pretenders. Even though he was uncomfortable doing so, he left us with some important truths and challenges. “But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. We were the first to come all the way to you with the Gospel of Christ. We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (2Cor.10:13-17) There are areas of influence that God gives to people and churches to reach other people and nations with the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. His hope (and ours also) was that in recognition of the partnership of that God-given “reach,” the Gospel’s area of influence would be greatly enlarged to other people and places. As this happens then it is the Lord who gets all the glory! As Christians, we are called to keep reaching: deeper, and higher, and farther. This is a sacred obligation. (Rom.1:14,15) says, “I am under obligation (debtor) to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome.” Paul clearly wants to have a “long reach” for God and the Gospel. There is a song that says, “For it reaches to the highest mountain, and it flows to the lowest valley...the Blood that Jesus shed, from day to day, it will never lose its power.” That power will reach to your loved one or family member, or to that person you work with, or it will reach across the street to your neighbor. IT WILL ALSO REACH AROUND THE WORLD...AN EXCEPTIONALLY LONG REACH!