In today’s guest post, professor and author LE Maxwell writes that we (every believer) are called to be missionaries to the world – locally and globally. Sure, there will be those whom God calls specifically to a lifetime of mission work, but every believer IS a missionary. The question becomes, “Why has it taken you so long to tell me?” as is often heard across the mission field.
I [NRJohnson] want to begin by a quote Maxwell uses later in the chapter from a gifted and noted unbeliever (AS Ormsby in Alone with God). I have replaced the word “religionist/religion” with “Christian/Jesus” to add greater understanding and focus. Afterwards, Maxwell gives several short stories of missionaries who, when presenting the Gospel, was asked “Why did you not come sooner?”
Were I a Christian, did I truly, firmly, consistently believe, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and the practice of Jesus in this life influences destiny in another, the Spirit of truth be my witness, Jesus should be to me everything. I would cast aside earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as less than vanity. Jesus should be my first waking thought, and my last image when sleep sunk me in unconsciousness. I would labour in His cause alone. I would not labour for the meat that perisheth, nor for the treasure on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and thieves break through and steal; but only for a crown of glory in heavenly regions, where treasure and happiness are alike beyond the reach of time or chance. I would take thought for the morrow of eternity alone. I would esteem one soul gained to heaven worth a life of suffering. There should be neither worldly prudence nor calculating circumspection in my engrossing zeal. Earthly consequence should never stay my hand nor seal my lips. I would speak to the imagination, awaken the feelings, stir up the passions, arouse the fancy. Earth, its joys and its griefs, should occupy no moments of my thoughts; for these are but the affairs of a portion of eternity so small that no language can express its comparatively infinite littleness. I would strive to look but on eternity, and on the immortal souls around me, soon to be everlastingly miserable or everlastingly happy. I would deem all who thought only of this world, merely seeking to increase temporal happiness, and labouring to obtain temporal goods, pure madmen. I would go forth to the world, and preach to it, in season and out of season; and my text should be, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
There comes that inevitable and embarassing moment, that moment of shame and pain, when native Christians begin to question the missionary after the manner of an old Mohammedan woman in Bengal: “How long is it since Jesus died for sinful people? Look at me; I am old; I have prayed, given alms, gone to the holy shrines, become as dust from fasting, and all this is useless. Where have you been all this time?”
The same cry was echoed from the icy shores of the farthest Northwest Territory (Canada). An old Eskimo said to the Bishop of Selkirk, “You have been many moons in this land. Did you know this good news then? Since you were a boy? And your father knew? Then why did you not come sooner?”
Again the snowy heights of the Andes a Peruvian asked, “How is it that during all the years of my life I have never before heard that Jesus Christ spoke those precious words?”
It was repeated int he white streets of Casablanca, North Africa. “Why have you not everywhere with this Book?” said a Moor to a Bible seller. “Why do so many of my people not know of the Jesus whom it proclaims? Why have you hoarded it to yourselves? Shame on you!”
A missionary in Egypt was telling a woman the story of the love of Jesus, and at the close she said, “It is a wonderful story. Do the women in your country believe it?” “Yes!” said the missionary. After a moment’s reflection the woman replied, “I don’t think they can believe it, or they would not have been so long in coming to tell us.”
A noble pioneer, LL Legters, was once preaching the gospel to a group of Latin-American Indians from one of the many totally unevangelized tribes. As he told of how the Son of God died on a cross of His own free will that they and all others might escape eternal punishment, one man, who had listened with intense interest, interrupted him: “Senor, when did this One die for us of whom we have never heard? Was it as long as twenty-five years ago?” he stepped back in blank amazement when the answer came, “It was two thousand years ago.”
On another occasion as Mr. Legters was talking to an old Indian chief in South America, the latter said, “White man, how long since you knew this Jesus way?” “Chief, it has been a long time.” “How long since your father knew this way?” “Oh, it was a long time.” “How long since his father knew this way?” Mr. Legters could only reply, “Oh, it was long ago.” Finally the old chief, folding his blanket about him, doubtingly concluded, “White man, you wait too long, you wait too long.” The old Indian’s reasoning was good. “How do you expect us to believe this news, so good beyond all reckoning, when you have waited ‘too long’?”
Taken from the chapter “Sin Finding Us Out” in Crowded to Christ by LE Maxwell.