Different things work for different people, but for my wife and I this was an excellent release, a kind of emotional and spiritual outlet. We would come home from church Sunday night after a full day of ministry. One of the local radio stations aired a “Comedy Hour” from 10:00 to 11:00 on Sunday night. Laughter is good medicine for the soul, and we found ourselves in stitches over some of the humor. “Clean” humor is much more difficult to pull off. You have to be truly funny to make it work.
One routine in particular involved the comedian, Kevin Meaney. A number of his sketches involved his upbringing, with the emphasis, in a humorous sense, that parents were weird. With his parents, he said it was the fact that they were “big pant people.” “Where do you think you’re going, mister, with those tight pants on? We’re big pant people. The Lobermann’s are coming over, so march back up to your room, and put your big pants on!” Now, I don’t want to get into a discussion here about skinny jeans! Instead, I want to address the fact that we’re called to be....“Big World People!” In the DNA of a true Christian born-again experience, God is at work to transform and to grow us into “Big World People.”
The instances may be a bit more rare but, I’m sure you’ve the true heard stories and reports of those who’ve never ventured beyond the boundaries of their own city or state. For some, it’s even narrowed down to their neighborhood and their “homies.” How sad, but, when Christ takes up residence in people’s hearts, He brings a unique enlargement. They begin to embrace and live out a (John 3:16) lifestyle, “God so loved the world.” If you look at Jesus with His disciples, there were several distinct “teachable moments” where He is impressing on them the reality of “out of every tribe and language and people and nation.” He was forging them into “big world men.” From our text, I want you to consider with me the big question, “How?” How does God work to make us “big world” people and churches? (John 4:30-38), “They went out of the town and were coming to him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." So the disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought him something to eat?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."
Sustenance That Causes Us To Thrive
It definitely had the disciples puzzled, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” There were questioning looks among themselves. Raised eyebrows asking “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” Somehow, their carefully-prepared-for lunch plans were disrupted. What is the old saying, “You are what you eat.” In the Christian lifestyle, if we’re going to grow big world people that’s definitely a major part of it. If we were in Australia then, “That was some good tucker, mate!” One Christian leader acknowledged that there is an epidemic of “fast food spirituality.”
This is the hidden danger of a lot of junk food. Think about it, you can be eating, but still be malnourished, starving yourself to death. Gary Inrig told about the dilemma park wardens face in Banff, Alberta, which is a popular place for tourists, honeymooners etc. Listen to how he put it:
“The vista from the top of Sulphur Mountain, just outside the town of Banff, is one of the most picturesque views in the Canadian Rockies. A gondola takes you to the top of the mountain where you stand looking at peak after peak, stretching off into the distance in a virtual sea of mountains. When the sun is shining, and the snow is glistening, it is a breathtaking scene. On top of the mountain, there is a tea house, as well as a herd of about thirty mountain sheep. They have become very tame and have taken to begging handouts from tourists. They love anything salty, and that is the problem. Those sheep are actually starving to death on a diet of peanuts, potato chips, popcorn, hamburger, licorice, and even salty plastic bags. As a result, the herd has been neglecting its normal grass diet, and, consequently, the animals are losing weight, and the females no longer produce enough high quality milk to nourish their lambs. One of the park wardens said, ‘Sheep develop a taste for this kind of junk. It is pathetic to see, but there is really very little we can do about it. I wish people would realize their ‘kindness’ amounts to cruelty.’ Those sheep have actually become “junk-food junkies.”
It’s not only the four-legged sheep who have nutritional problems. The sustenance of many of Christ’s spiritual sheep results in spiritual malnourishment. There is a fascinating aspect for a lot of junk food: it nearly always tastes good; but, it spoils our appetite for God’s solid food. We’re looking at the plight of so many Christians today. In contrast, the key point the Lord Jesus makes (His spiritual secret), vs.34, “My food (nourishment) is to do the will of Him that sent me and to accomplish His work.” Thankfully, Jesus didn’t leave them playing guesswork. The nourishment He had in mind was the harvest of souls that was already right there, vs.35, “You know the saying, 'Four months between planting and harvest.' But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.” To grow into big world people, the one place to begin with is examining our spiritual diet! The old poem contains a lot of truth for today,
“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Adopting A “Sent” Posture
I don’t know who first said it, but “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Chick-Fil-A is a great example of knowing what is central, and maintaining the core clarity this brings. If your name is Chick-Fil-A then it’s pretty certain that you’re not about beef or pork or lamb or even seafood. No, you’re about chicken. Sure, there are related things that you can do, but the main thing is always going to be chicken. As Christians and as a church, the heart and the center of who we are and what we do is the Gospel! Yes, there are other things in connection with that, but we must labor to keep the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the very heart of who we are and all that we do. We cannot be distracted.
This is why we must remind ourselves who we are, that like Jesus, we are a “sent” people. This is a key phrase and component; “my food is to do the will of Him that sent me.” This quality set Jesus Christ apart and he was ever cognizant of this fact and its ramifications. (Jn.6:38-40) “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” This and similar references are repeated 30x in John’s Gospel! Surely, just the amount alone, says something! The application of this for our lives as Christians is staggering. (Jn.20:21) “So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also am sending you." Jesus has passed on to us the most central reality of identity and calling and responsibility
This is the inescapable Gospel logic presented to us. (Rom.10:13-15) "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they have been sent?” The reason that this is critical to becoming big world people is that what it means to be a sent people is that we are “under orders” and a people who are living life on purpose. This is what motivated C.T. Studd, a wealthy and famous cricketeer to leave that behind and present himself to serve His Lord and Master in the nation of China. It is also one of the things that motivated him to write:
"Some wish to live within the sound
Of church or chapel bell;
I want to run a rescue shop
Within a yard of hell."
The Sacrifice We Cultivate
The man known as the “Father of modern missions” was an Englishman named William Carey. Along with his friend, Andrew Fuller, and a small group of like-minded believers, they established the Baptist Missionary Society. The aim of the organization was to raise funds for missionary endeavors, write periodicals, recruit called men and women, and correspond with missionaries on the field. Part of the promise Carey, Fuller and others had among themselves was, “I will go down, if you will hold the rope.” In spite of serious personal hardship, Andrew Fuller persevered and stands as the model “rope holder.” Jesus stated that His kingdom enterprise demanded that kind of dynamic partnership: those who will go and those who will send; those who will venture forth and those who will hold the ropes. vs.36-38 “The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! You know the saying, 'One plants and another harvests.' And it's true. I sent you to harvest where you didn't plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest."
Here’s something critical: we will not become big world people without an on-going commitment to give and to invest. Jesus said this is how we’re wired when it comes to money and the heart. This is an enduring, unfailing life and heart principle. Jesus summed it all up, "Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matt.6:19-21) Our hearts follow our treasure. Giving is a God-appointed means of enlarging our hearts. This is highlighted in the offering for the building of the Tabernacle. (Ex.25:2) “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.” The New Testament necessity does not change either (2Cor.9:7) 2 “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” This exposes a major shortcoming in much of the Christian world today. From every study I’ve read, the statistics remain consistent: the average Christian giving (at least in the West) is in the area of 2.5-3.2% of their income to God. If money is a true indicator of the heart (i.e. money talks), then there’s a serious inconsistency at work.
This is where the original inspiration for this post began. I was reading (Prov.11:24) and the TM paraphrase reads, “The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.”
Look at the connection here! Big world people are the product of lavish Gospel generosity. I’d love to have you think just how much “larger” your life has become because of the Gospel and consistent and sacrificial investment. On the first of every month I’ve seen this play out. The treasurer goes to the bank and/or MoneyGram to send support to our missionaries around the world. Ladies and gentlemen, class is in session!
“I’d like to send $$____ to Ouagadougou.” “Whaaa...go, ga..du?” “Could you repeat that, please?” [sounds lot like Gaga] “Yes, Ouagadougou, which is the capital of Burkina Faso.” “Oh, I see [not really].” Yes, that’s in Africa, OK? “Fine, is that a country?” “No, Africa is a continent.” You can seem a similar exercise whether it’s Asuncion, Paraguay; or, Marseiiles, France; or, Dar es Salaam or Mwanza in Tanzania. People’s worlds just got a little bit bigger as a result of faithful giving. What makes this investment so unique is we’re not talking about organizational giving. This is more like Abraham who was victorious against an opposing army with “318 trained servants, born in his own household.” There is a superb truth at work here: the workers and laborers needed to take the Promised Land were born, raised up, and trained in a local church setting. That’s why we refer to ourselves as a “Local Church with a worldwide vision.”
Our congregation is made up of people of all ages and backgrounds. They are becoming “big world people” as a result of their obedience, and taking seriously (Matt.28:18-20) "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." It is such a joy seeing this quality of largeness being cultivated in the hearts of God’s people. This is another “chicken and the egg” scenario. You know, which came first: a vision and inspiration that triggers generosity, or, generosity that reinforces vision and inspiration? We have the record of early church life in this dimension (Acts 4:32-25) “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”
Last month I preached in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the Bible Conference for our church there. It was an outstanding time, and I think one thing that contributed to this was the fact that it had been 7 years since I was last there. In the interim, there are a number of newer pastors I’d never met. It was the final night and the building was packed, so I was waiting up front right next to the stage to clear my mind and make any final preparations for the concluding service. I was trying in my limited and broken Spanish to talk to a couple of the pastors about our website and materials that would be helpful to them. Before I knew it, when I looked up, there were about a dozen or so pastors gathered around hungry, listening intently, and asking questions. The sense of impartation was so real, and in looking back on my trip, I’d list that as one of the highlights of the trip. Plus, the distinct thought.....“this is how I want to spend my life!” We live in a big world, with overwhelming needs that can only be answered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To continue doing our part, and to be faithful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has commissioned us will require “big world people” and “big world churches.” It’s all made possible because we serve a BIG GOD!
Right now our church-planting and missionary commitments run between $43,000-$75,000 a month. This is over and above the normal operating expenses of the church. Maybe the Holy Spirit is calling you to partner with us in this Biblically-centered, time-tested, and on-going outreach ministry.
With the launching of our new Church App, The Door Church, in iTunes and Google Play stores, we have added a feature for on-line giving through a simple and secure debit transaction. This, along with the same feature on our church web-site at (http://www.thedoorcfc.com/giving) will allow some people to partner with us in a real and meaningful way (Phil.4:15-19). Thank you for your big heart!