December 2, 2012

Lo, I am with you Always

Today marks the beginning of our annual Missions Week at Pleasant Ridge. 

It is always one of the highlights of the year for me … and I hope for our congregation, too! And the emphasis is always exactly the same – namely, that the message of Jesus is too good to keep to ourselves! Therefore the Christian church must be about spreading that good news to the farthest corners of the planet. And we, in our little congregation, must be about that business – all of us by praying for and giving to those who go and preach; and some of us by going to do the preaching ourselves – from pulpits, under mango trees, beside hospital beds, in orphanages, in Bible clubs, as English teachers, and so on.  The same can be said of each of you who read these words electronically (and of your church).

I’ll say it again. Though our church is small (and maybe yours is, too), surely some of our number must go – short term or long; near or far. There are simply too many villages, and campuses, and mega-cities, and islands where God is not receiving the glory due His name; too many people and places still walking in darkness for us to keep our gospel candles hidden under a basket. So I hope that someone reading these few lines will hear the call to go … and will answer!

And, when (not if!) you “go … and make disciples of all nations” – here is the best encouragement I can give to you – the Lord Jesus Himself promises to go “with you” (Matthew 28.19-20) … even to the remotest parts of the earth! “Lo, I am with you always” He says! Isn’t that grand? Jesus will be with us in Greenland, or Indonesia, or Congo, or Over-the-Rhine!

Now, of course, many of us know the attributes of God. We know that He is omnipresent; that He is everywhere at once; that there is nowhere that we can go in the world where God is not already there. David said, if I can paraphrase Psalm 139, that if he could go to the Mariana Trench, nearly seven miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, he would find that God was there! Or if he could ascend with the astronauts, and push out in to the reaches of the solar system, God would also be there. Even in the grave, David said, he could not escape God’s presence! God is everywhere! And so, ‘of course,’ we might tell ourselves, ‘He will be with us, no matter to which mission field we may go.’ And that is a true and wonderful thought!

But Jesus is speaking about something even more than God’s omnipresence in Matthew 28. Yes, God is everywhere present, around and among all people everywhere. But He is not “with” all people in exactly the way He promises to be “with” those who bear the light of the gospel to dark lands. This is a unique promise! Jesus is not simply saying: ‘When you get to Greenland, or Indonesia, or Congo, you will find that I am present there just like I am in Cincinnati.’ That’s true … and wonderful! But Matthew 28.20 promises even more than that. Jesus won’t just be in Greenland when you get there, He will go “with you” every step along the way, like the pillars of fire and cloud in days of old! And when you finally arrive, He will not simply be “with you” in His omnipresence, but as a companion, a helper, and a friend! He will be “with you”, not simply as a great eye in the sky, looking down and watching all that you undertake, but as a co-laborer, a counselor, a friend in time of need!

Now, of course, our Jesus is with all of His believing people in that way; and in every circumstance – whether we are raking our leaves, or wrapping our Christmas presents, or clocking in at work, or lying in bed asleep. He is with all of His people. And He is with all of us always. But in Matthew 28, He promises special blessing, comfort, fellowship, and help when we are going to make disciples! And what more could we ask?

Do you fear answering His call to take the good news to the remotest part of the earth – or perhaps just to the co-worker in the next cubicle? Jesus will walk “with you” around the corner and to her desk. He’ll fly “with you” across the sea, too. He’ll help you and prompt you as to what to say. He’ll be there when things don’t go as you planned. He’ll meet your needs, and calm your fears. He’ll go “with you”! And now you must simply decide to go with Him – to Greenland, or Indonesia, or Congo, or Over-the-Rhine, or to the next cubicle, apartment, or house – sharing news that is too good to keep to yourself!

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