Chapter 3

God’s Mission – Joining the Adventure

God is on a mission. And he invites us to join him. He invites us just as he invited Adam and Eve, Father Abraham, and the nation of Israel. The invitation is for everyone and the mission is to everyone. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).

But how does God use us in his mission? Can he overcome our reluctance and weakness and make us effective participants in his mission?

He can because he has done it before.

You may think of the apostles as bold and powerful witnesses, willing to face kings and governors without flinching, but they were country fishermen and tax–compliance officers at one point. They would not have been voted “most likely to turn the world upside down.” But that’s what they did. How?

Fifty days after Jesus’s death and resurrection, the disciples are gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem praying. “Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit …” (Acts 2:2–4). This fulfilled a promise Jesus had made to empower them as his witnesses. He had told them he would be with them. Through the Holy Spirit, he was not only with them but within them.

The immediate result is transformation. The disciples leave their house and start telling everyone gathered at the Pentecost feast about Jesus and his resurrection. Luke, the author of Acts, is careful to note there were people from every corner of the known world, “Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians” (2:11). Miraculously, every person is hearing the message in their own language! These disciples, most of whom spoke Aramaic,, for your accent betrays you” (Matthew 26:73). All the disciples were from Galilee, except for Judas Iscariot.”] probably with a country accent, are heard in Phrygian, Egyptian, Greek, Latin, and more. The message is going out in the mother tongues of the nations.

There is a tremendous response. About three thousand receive the message and are baptized. They meet daily together in the temple to hear the apostles teaching. They open their homes to one another. They share what they have. And every day people are added to their number. The family of God, the church, is expanding.

The religious leaders in Jerusalem are not fond of this growing community. They threaten Peter and John. They arrest and beat them. But Jesus’s followers will not stop telling what their master has done. So, the religious leaders decide to increase the persecution. They kill Stephen. They start going house to house to drag Jesus’s followers to prison. The church is scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

What the opponents of the church do not understand, however, is that God’s mission is unstoppable. In fact, persecution only makes the church expand faster. God’s people are like dandelions. They may be pulled up, cut down, or scattered, but those very actions spread the gospel seed to new locations.

Philip was one of the disciples who is forced to flee Jerusalem. He goes north to Samaria and many people believe the good news and are baptized. The Samaritans were outsiders to the Jewish community. They were “half–Jews” who sided with the Greeks two centuries before Jesus’s birth. Most devout Jews avoided them altogether. But in God’s mission, they are included in the family.

Next, Philip goes south of Jerusalem on a road that leads to Gaza. An angel had told Philip to take this road but did not explain why. Perhaps Philip is wondering why God wanted him walking a deserted stretch of road, when the Holy Spirit turns his attention to a chariot traveling ahead of him. Philip approaches the chariot and finds an Ethiopian court official reading aloud from the prophet Isaiah.

Philip must have been flooded with questions:

What was a wealthy Ethiopian doing in Jerusalem?

Why is he reading Isaiah?

Why did God bring me here?

When you join God’s mission, you will have moments like these, moments when you know God is doing something but aren’t sure what. Remember, Philip left Jerusalem because he was fleeing violence. But God turns Philip’s flight into a missional opportunity. And so, Philip is standing before an open door for spiritual conversation with a person from a country he had never visited.

Philip asks the Ethiopian if he understands what he is reading in Isaiah. He responds, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:31). The Ethiopian invites Philip into his chariot and “then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture, he told him the good news about Jesus” (8:35). Next thing, Philip is baptizing the Ethiopian in some water alongside the road (vv. 36–37).

It is happening! In the first eight chapters of Acts, people from every nation are joining the family of God. Jesus’s disciples are making disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit and guided by God’s hand. Those who oppose God’s mission try to stop the momentum, but only multiply the impact.

Are you reluctant to join God’s mission because of deficiencies you see in yourself? Do you wonder, “Who am I to make disciples? Who am I to participate in God’s global plan?” Here’s who you are, if you are a follower of Jesus: You are a “sent–one,” empowered by the Holy Spirit, guided by God’s plan, to bring transformation wherever you go. Do you believe it?

The End of the Storyeeh

Knowing the end of a story might spoil a good movie, but when it comes to God’s Mission, knowing the end brings comfort to our difficult days. Perhaps that is why God allowed the apostle John to peek at the last chapter.

John, the only disciple not killed for his faith, was exiled in his old age on the Island of Patmos. While there, God revealed to him a vision of heaven and the age to come. He wrote down what he saw and sent it to the churches. We have it today in the book of Revelation.

There is one section that can encourage us as we consider how to join in God’s Mission. John writes, “I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Rev 7:9,10) Hopefully you hear in this vision echoes of God’s mandate to Adam and Eve, his calling to Abraham, and Jesus’ last words to his disciples. John sees before God’s throne what God promised from the beginning. Blessing for all the families of the earth.

John sees the success of God’s mission. In fact, the whole of Revelation strikes this note. Later in the vision, a great evil dragon tries to consume a child, but the dragon loses. Then, all the kings of the earth align against a Lamb and the Lamb wins. And in the final chapters, the great city of the Lord descends from above and God dwells with his people forever. Life. Joy. Blessing. Wholeness. Glory. God’s mission succeeds.

This vision should give us confidence to throw our whole life into this mission. How many missions can you pursue that are guaranteed to succeed? I don’t know of any other.

So, what are some practical steps you can take to join in God’s mission?

1. Do your day job as a response to God’s Genesis 1 command. Work is one of the primary ways you love you neighbor and extend the goodness of the garden to every corner of the earth. Do not underestimate the positive impact of a banker, lawyer, teacher, or civil servant who views their work as part of God’s mission.

2. Start in your neighborhood. It is often easier to pray for a missionary in a different time zone than for your neighbor across the street. But God has brought the nations to our neighborhood. Get to know your neighbors. Ask them their stories. Share your own.

3. Talk with your church’s mission committee. Find out what missionaries they support around the world. Get on their newsletter lists. Read their updates. Pray for them. Give towards their work. Perhaps even go visit them.

4. Read missionary biographies. Be inspired by the faith of Hudson Taylor, Brother Yun, Any Carmichael, George Liele, Elisabeth Elliot and other brothers and sisters through history. When you finish a biography, write down one characteristic from their life you want to see more of in your own.

5. Finally, be open to God’s calling on your own life. Throughout the Bible God redirects the lives of men and women—Abraham, Moses, David, Esther, Peter, Mary, Paul, to name a few. Could he be redirecting your life as well? If God is calling, answer.

For the past two thousand years, countless men and women have found a thrilling life of purpose by aligning their stories with God’s story in the world. They surround us like a great cloud of witnesses. And they say: Will you join us?