The recent death of Christian Missionary John Allen Chau at the hands of the Sentinelese brought missions to the forefront of both secular and evangelical news outlets.
Rather than adding to the chorus of articles calling into question his motives, dissecting his methods, or diagnosing what went wrong, this reflection on two sections of Scripture seeks to ask, “Are our hearts willing to proclaim God’s Word whenever or wherever he may lead?”
When God revealed Himself to Isaiah and asked who would proclaim His word to Israel (see Isaiah 6), he raised his hand and said, “Here I am. Send me.”
Even after God showed him the message he was to preach to the Israelites was more of condemnation for the Israelites (Isaiah 6:9-13), he still willingly went and faithfully proclaimed God’s message to the hard-hearted people.
Though he was a little hesitant after God told him what message he was to preach (“How long, O Lord?”), his willingness to follow God’s command to preach his message to defiant Israel is evident throughout the book. Thankfully, God did inspire Isaiah also to write one of the most, if not the most, Christo-centric chapter of the Old Testament in Isaiah 53.
God called Jonah to proclaim a message of repentance to the wicked city of Nineveh. Unlike Isaiah, Jonah was unwilling to follow God’s command. He knew God would cause the Ninevites to repent en masse and he wanted none of it (Jonah 1:3).
Jonah attempted to run in the opposite direction where God called him. So God brought the fish to swallow him up and spit him on Nineveh’s shores. From there, he begrudgingly proclaimed God’s message and God granted the people repentance. Even after God used him to preach, Jonah complained that God chose to save that people.
An interesting detour: Jonah took a ship from Joppa to flee when God called him to take his message of repentance to Gentiles, the same city where Peter received the vision from God to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Amazing how God works throughout history.
Both stories emphasize God’s sovereign power over his creation. He has the power to use a willing participant to proclaim a message of hardening to the hearers at home, and the same power to use an unwilling participant to proclaim a message of repentance to people abroad. Willing or not, God will use his people as he sees fit.
“God is King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). God is the Sovereign Creator over all (John 1:3). God is in the heavens and does all that he pleases (Psalm 115:3). Knowing those truths, meditate on Paul’s reminder that “you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) should make us more than willing to go when and where he calls. And another reminder from Paul a few chapters later: “For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.” (1 Corinthians 9:17).”
Because the knowledge of God’s sovereignty over the hearts of men is cause for great joy in the hearts of believers, there should be no Jonah’s on the mission field. If God calls one of his own to spread his kingdom here or abroad, why not be willing to joyfully proclaim, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven”?
Missionaries across time and around the globe have followed Christ’s command to preach the gospel to all tribes, tongues, and nations—and willingly laid down their lives to that aim. Christ calls us to count the cost of following him (Luke 14:28) and to understand that the joy found in worshipping him as Lord is far greater worth than the fleeting pleasures the world has to offer (Matthew 13:44).
There is much peace to be found in joyful obedience to God’s word.
Whether God calls us to faithfully spread the gospel over a long life here, or die young—or old—proclaiming his name at a far corner of the earth, may our hearts sing and pray without reservation:
Let goods and kindred go
This mortal life also
The body they may kill
God’s truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever.