God’s Vision is the World!
By Peter Youngren
Many have not in their wildest imagination seen what God sees.
God is interested in the world – the whole world! Jesus said: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel!” God loves every person. His view is not narrow, or merely a local vision – God thinks of all people. Jesus shed his blood, died and rose again, not for one religion, or for one people, but for all. His word is the seed, and the world is the field.
God’s interest in nations is because of the people who live there. That’s why God is interested in Canada because 36 million people live here. If God cares about Canada, he also cares about France with 67 million, Nigeria with 191 million, Brazil, Pakistan and Indonesia, each one of those countries with between 200 and 300 million people. God is interested and thinks about the United States with 330 million, India with 1,370,000,000 precious individuals, and China with 1,434,000,000 people. One person is worth more than the wealth of the world. There’s nothing small or limited about God’s vision, it includes every one of the 7.8 billion people alive now.
Some Christians have only a limited, introspective vision. When they pray they pray for themselves, “God bless my family, my work, my ministry.” Many have not in their wildest imagination seen what God sees. Others see a little further, and they may pray; “God bless my neighbour, my church and my city.” Some may see their nation or their culture, and when they pray they say; “God bless my country, bless my people.” Still they do not see as God sees.
Sadly, many pastors do not see God’s vision; they see their pulpit, their ministry and their congregation. To see with God’s eyes is to see the world. When I started in ministry, almost every church, even the small ones, had a foreign missions program. Today, many large churches of 10 and 20,000 members have no foreign missions programs; their concern is limited to the people who live in their own geographical area. They may sponsor a pancake breakfast in a low income neighbourhood, or the launch of a new church campus in another part of town, as their “missions program”. The fact that billions of people live in areas of the earth where there is virtually no chance that they will hear the gospel is of little concern.
Why have we put world evangelism outside the local church budget, as something extra?
The Money Issue
Some church leaders suggest that 10%, a tithe, of the member’s income belongs to the local church, but that this does not include world evangelism; world missions should only depend on extra offerings. This concept does not have a shred of evidence from Scripture. Maybe salaries for pastors and staff should only be paid by extra offerings? Or, building costs, since the church is not the building, should only be paid from extra offerings? Why have we put world evangelism outside the local church budget, as something extra? It is a devilish misconception! The reality is that the cause of missions is the supreme task of the local church.
Why it is important to see God’s vision? Because without a vision people perish and may never discover God’s unconditional love for them. Without a vision among believers, billions of non-believers are relegated to climb a religious ladder of good works in order to please a supposed angry deity, only to fall back, and then try to climb back up again. Without a vision, billions will continue to live in fear, rejection and condemnation, not having their eyes opened to the reality that their sin, shame and guilt have been put away by Christ.
Knowing the human tendency to procrastinate, Jesus said: Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest?’
In the late 1980’s many said that by the year 2000 we would really have done something great for world missions. Then in 2000, I heard church leaders say that by 2020 we will have finished the Great Commission. Now 2020 is here, and some are talking about 2030 or 2040. Jesus’ words are more applicable than ever:
Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!, John 4:35. God’s time is now!
God lays claim to the world, because the Earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof, and all the people that dwell in it.
The “Next Town”
Jesus had great success in Capernaum, everyone gathered to hear him, and many were healed. This was a great opportunity and Jesus could’ve stayed in Capernaum for a long time. However, early the next morning Jesus left the town, and the disciples searched for him, and when they found him, they said; Everyone is looking for You. Jesus responded, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth”, Mark 1:37- 38.
That’s Jesus, always thinking about the next person, the next town and the next people group. And Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
We Demand Justice
Twice we read about Jesus feeding the multitudes. The disciples distributed the bread, and on each occasion all the people were fed, every single one. Imagine if the disciples had only given the bread and the fish to those seated in the first row. After they had finished serving one row, they would come back to the first person to give a second portion, again and again. There would’ve been a cry for justice from the 2nd row, the 3rd, the 10th and the 50th row; “this is unrighteous, we do not have crumb of bread.”
Sunday after Sunday, tens of thousands of pastors and preachers prepare beautiful sermons, delivered with great oratorical skills. We give the bread of life to the front row church crowd, again and again, often never considering those who have nothing.
The Unreached on Our Doorstep
This temptation to not see as God sees is very real in the Western world – with large churches. Week after week the congregation enjoys praise and worship, and well prepared teachings. Yet in those same cities, there are large people groups, who have migrated during the last few decades, and they go about their own lives, and never hear the gospel.
There is spiritual impotence. It is as if we only have strength to look at our own needs. The thought of the world, and the Great Commission seems far from the minds of many. Even church planting has been reduced to a pursuit of market share of those already born again. What better way to start a church then to attract people, who are already trained to give offerings and attend Sunday services. Like the rich man, we often do not notice the spiritual beggar at our doorstep.
The Unreached We Never Meet
The temptation to ignore those who have never heard the gospel is even stronger when it comes to those who live beyond our geographical areas.
Jesus was moved with compassion, because the people were like sheep without a shepherd, wounded and bruised. He said to his disciples: The harvest is great, but the labourers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest that he will send labourers into his harvest, Matthew 9:35 – 38.
Here is the crux of the problem; the labourers are few.
Paul, the apostle, echoed the same sentiments: 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 are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! Romans 10:14 – 15.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit empowers believers for God’s vision. Jesus said: You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me.
Every time Jesus spoke about the evangelization of the world, he also promised that the Holy Spirit would empower believers. The Greek word for “power” is dunamis, where we get the word dynamite.
Dynamite is dangerous, and the spiritual dynamite of the Holy Spirit is dangerous for religious institutionalism, for lethargy and indifference. This dynamite will blast you out of a boring, humdrum religious existence into fruitfulness. On the day of Pentecost, they spoke in tongues and magnified the Lord, but this was only the first sign that the Holy Spirit had come. The great sign was that their hearts had been filled with love, compelling them to take the gospel to the world.
Dead Sea vs Sea of Galilee
Unless we become involved with the gospel our experience of the Holy Spirit will soon stagnate.
In Israel, the Sea of Galilee is full of life while the Dead Sea is reduced year by year. What’s the difference? The Sea of Galilee has both the inflow and outflow, while the Dead Sea only has inflow. It loses its water through condensation, and becomes bitter and salty. That’s a picture of the Christian life when we only have inflow of God’s life, but no outflow of giving what we have to others; we become sidetracked, bitter and unhappy.
Take a moment to meditate on these statements:
• The baptism of the Holy Spirit, without the Great Commission, is at best self-focused, and at worst a ticket to membership in a bless me club.
• The Great Commission, without the baptism in the Spirit, is a cruel assignment, where believers are destined for failure.
• The baptism of the Holy Spirit with a vision to fulfill the Great Commission is the key to impacting the world.
A Call to Every Believer
In 2020 I call on believers to say “yes” to God’s vision.
Isaiah said; Lord, here am I, send me. Paul said; I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.
If you’re retired or in the middle of life raising children, a young person, if you are single or married –everyone is needed in the Great Commission. I’m not suggesting that everyone should travel into a different culture. I am saying that every believer can make a difference. There are four key words: Look! Pray! Go! Send!
We can all lift our eyes and see the harvest. We can all pray. Many can go, and those who cannot go can send someone.
We have the greatest assignment, and it starts with seeing the world like God sees it.
We give the bread of life to the front row church crowd, again and again, often never considering those who have nothing.