WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Those whom God uses to reach the world with the Gospel have an eternal perspective and a willingness to follow God even if it demands their death, said Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board.
Rankin, who preached at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary as part of its Feb. 21-23 Global Missions Week, reminded students that “God is moving in unprecedented ways in providence and power to fulfill our missionary task.”
Global Missions Week is Southeastern’s effort to inform students about, and connect them with, that movement of God around the world. Featuring chapel messages from IMB speakers, Global Missions Week also brings several missionaries to advise and counsel students at the Wake Forest, N.C., campus who are interested in giving their lives to missions.
Bruce Ashford, director of Southeastern’s Center for Great Commission Studies, said, “The God-given task of world mission has never been more challenging or more necessary than it is today as we face the dawn of a new century. Scripture teaches us that salvation comes through Christ alone, and present experience makes us aware that no group of Christians in history has been as uniquely capable of spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth as are Southern Baptists.
“Both opportunity and opposition abound on all sides,” Ashford said, “but there can be no doubt about the ultimate triumph of the Gospel among the nations.”
Rankin spoke of those who are not living “for this present life and what they could gain and accomplish in this life.” An eternal mindset, he said in a sermon from Hebrews 11, outweighs the allure of wealth and comfort that can dull Christians to the reality of lostness in the world today.
“There’s something else worth living for -– that eternal difference we can make in this world,” said Rankin, who served for 23 years as a missionary in Asia.
Christians must be willing to go wherever the Lord sends, even if that means forsaking the comforts that they presently enjoy in life, Rankin continued.
“How tragic that we could consider as optional being deployed whenever our Commander and Lord, Jesus Christ, sends us,” Rankin said. “The bottom line is obedience.”
If necessary, Christians must even be willing to die for their faith, Rankin said, adding that “until you discover there’s something worth dying for, you haven’t put your life into something worth living.”
“You see,” he said, “God is not primarily concerned about our safety, health and security. God is primarily concerned about His glory among the nations.”
Gordon Fort, IMB vice president for overseas operations, reminding students in a message from Psalms 46 that in the difficult times a missionary will face, there is “one constant theme, one presupposition, one foundational stone. It is this stone that sustains us in time of tribulation, and it is this word -– ‘God is our refuge and strength.’
“He’s a refuge in time of need, friends,” Fort said. “The reason you can leave this place … and go [to the mission field] is because God is an ever-present help in time of need.”
Fort reminded the seminarians of the grim reality that the 2004 tsunami swept 250,000 people “into eternity without faith” in Christ.
“After that storm cleared, do you know how many Baptist churches were destroyed or damaged?” Fort asked. “Not one because there was no witness there, no one to stand up and say, ‘God is an ever-present help in time of need.’
“Where will He have you take up your cross? May He stir up in your heart such a thirst and a hunger that you can do nothing else than what He tells you to do.”
Wade Akins, IMB global church planting trainer, told the seminarians that in order to be used by God, they must follow Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23 where He commands His followers to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him.
Akins has served as a missionary to Vietnam and Brazil and traveled to 48 nations teaching a pioneer evangelism strategy which seeks to win the lost and start and build churches in areas where no one has preached the Gospel.
“I believe all of you here want to be used of God,” Akins said. “I believe in order to be used of God, you’ve got to get your mission totally lined up and focused with God’s mission.
“I ask you a question today: Have you given up all that you know of yourself to all that you know of Him? … You must be willing to die -– die to your dreams, die to your desires, die to your passions and say, ‘Not my will, God, but Your will be done,’ and I think that means you must be willing to give up your life physically.”
Ben and Pam Wolf, Southern Baptist workers in the Philippines for nearly 20 years, were on hand for Global Missions Week, counseling with students interested in going to the mission field, especially the Pacific Rim region where they serve.
The Wolfs said the week was a refreshing time for them as well as for the seminarians with whom they spoke, some of whom had served as missionaries before and some who were sensing God’s call to missions for the first time.
“I think it’s good on both sides -– us coming and those that are here,” Pam Wolf said. “Part of it, it gives them contact [with missions]. You can see the students -– they want to talk about this. Those that are already in the process … this is a time of reenergizing…. And for those that we talked with that have no idea where to begin, this is that initial contact for them.
“For us coming, it is a refreshing time … to see the excitement and to hear their stories and hear how God is working in their lives,” she said.