“Until He Comes”

Leighton Ford 28 May 2018

There is a popular movie in America called Field of Dreams. It is about a young farmer and his family who are going through hard times.

One evening as the farmer walks through his cornfield, he hears a voice saying, “If you build it—he will come.” He looks around, but no one is there. The voice keeps repeating, “If you build it—he will come,” but the farmer has no idea what it means.

The young man’s father had died some years before. They had never been close. His father had been bitter and had grown old before his time. He had been a professional baseball player and had become bitter partly because one of his great heroes had been accused of a scandal and had been thrown out of baseball.

The young farmer becomes convinced that the voice is telling him that if he will build a baseball diamond out in his cornfield, then this great athlete and his father might come back to play ball on it. His family and friends think he’s crazy, but he goes ahead and builds it. Only his four-year-old daughter believes with him that something will happen.

Then one night, out of the corn walks the figure of the great baseball star from the past. But only the young farmer and his daughter can see him.

On another night, a figure that the farmer recognizes as his father—young and handsome, strong and without bitterness—walks out of the corn. They talk together; they play catch together. At one point, the father looks around and says, “Is this heaven?”

His son replies, “No, this is Iowa. But heaven is the place where dreams become reality.”

The story is a wonderful fantasy. But in Christ, heaven is more than a dream; it is reality that is already begun. The young farmer in the story heard a voice that said, “If you build it—he will come.” God has given us a similar dream. Will you build? He is coming!

God Has Given a Dream

God calls this dream his kingdom. He put the dream in the hearts of the great prophets. They dreamed of a day when the hearts of the fathers would turn to the children. They dreamed of a day when there would be no war. They dreamed of a day when each family would have their own house and enjoy the fruit of their labors. They dreamed of a day when swords would be turned into plowshares. They dreamed of a day when there would be a new heaven and a new earth, with peace and righteousness. This was the dream God put in their hearts!

Then Jesus came and said, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” God’s dream is now.

He said, “Your kingdom come on earth.” God’s dream is here. The kingdom of heaven—God’s dream—was not just in heaven. It was down here. It was an invasion of earth by heaven.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came and called his people, died and rose again, sent forth his Spirit and told his people to proclaim this dream until he returned.

As Caesar Molebatsi reminded us, we are to pray, “Thy kingdom come—on earth— our proclamation among the oppressed is the proclamation of a new king.” Andas Ulrich Parzany reminded us, “We must put up signs of hope by working for justice and peace— until Christ comes.”

A Crossroad for Christ

In Manila, God has given us a “field of dreams” also. Lausanne II has been a crossroad for Christ. We have seen the King and seen his dream again. As a layman said yesterday:

The heart of this Congress has not been in the people-to-people meetings. Let’s take away not the differences and not the debates, but what we have seen in Christ and each other. The impact of Lausanne II will be through Christ lifted up in each of us.

A young leader said, “We younger men and women don’t have to be convinced about world evangelization. We want to know how to link together and where do we go from here?”

Many have asked: “What is the future? What are the plans for the Lausanne Movement? Will there be another Congress? How does the movement go on?”

There will be follow-up plans and ideas. Whether there will be another Congress, we do not know. But as Tom Houston has said, “You and I are Lausanne.” If the dream and task of world evangelization is not earned on through you and me, through our churches and ministries, through our national groups, and through the networks formed here, it will not happen.

Lausanne is an enabling and facilitating movement. Lausanne II has been a time to hear God’s voice. That young farmer heard a voice say, “If you build it—he will come.” God’s voice is saying, “Will you build? He is coming!”

Lawrence wrote, “All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to find it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men that they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.”

God is calling us to be his “dreamers of the day.” He told us that his dream had started, but it would not be fulfilled until he came again. He promised this “gospel of the kingdom” would be proclaimed to all the nations and then the end would come. What are we, as God’s “dreamers,” called to be in the light of Christ’s return?

God’s Dreamers Take Risks

God has given to his people the greatest enterprise in the world and he is asking whether we will have faith that dares to risk in his enterprise. In the parable of the talents, a rich man went away on a long journey and left each of his servants talents to invest. Each talent was probably worth several hundred thousand pesos. One servant got ten talents, another two, and another one.

Two of the servants invested and doubled their money. But the other was afraid—afraid to risk—and buried his talent. When the owner came back, he asked for an accounting. The two who had risked were rewarded. The one who had buried it lost everything.

God is like the owner. He has entrusted us to be stewards of the earth itself. God expects us to take care of this beautiful planet, not to waste its natural resources. We are entrusted, and we who follow the King should be concerned about the acid rain which is threatening this magnificent world, killing the great forests.

He has also entrusted to us the great task of world evangelization. He has given each of us a gift to use, and he has gone away and left us. He could have used angels, but he has given us the task because he wants us to grow as we risk.

Like the owner in the parable, Jesus is coming back. And we will have to give an account as to what we have done (2 Corinthians 5; 10). Will you risk? He is coming.

Which servants do we identify with: the ones who were productive, entrepreneurial, and faithful; or the one who was unproductive, lazy, and fearful? The answer will probably depend on how we see our Lord. Do we see him as someone who has entrusted us? Or do we see him as someone who is hard and that we have to fear?

At a Congress like this, it would be very easy to leave feeling burdened and guilty. There are so many needs. There are so many to reach. It’s been a billion minutes since Jesus was born and in the next ten years, a billion and a half babies will be born. All of us may leave here with a sense that we have not done enough, have not given enough, have not sacrificed enough. Michael Cassidy told of the time he was discouraged and ready to give up in South Africa, and the Lord said to him, “Michael, you are the only kind of material I have ever had to work with.”

Thank God tonight that he has entrusted you and me. “Men ought to regard us as the servants of Christ entrusted,” wrote Paul. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” We are common clay pots, but we have the treasure God has given us. He’s entrusted us. He’s given us the task. Will we risk? He’s coming back!

Three words have reverberated throughout this Congress: urgency, sacrifice, and cooperation. Repeatedly, we have heard that world evangelization will not take place without urgency, sacrifice, and cooperation. Each of these demands faith willing to risk.

Urgency—the reaching of the poor, the youth, the cities, the unreached—calls us to say, “My time is not my own. I’m not going to hold back. Where you are calling me to act, I will.”

George Otis reminded us of the hidden cost of saying, “No,” and that God would judge us, not on the basis of what we have done, but perhaps on what we could have done.

Sacrifice calls us to say, “My life is not my own. My life is at risk.” Someone has said that there are no comfort zones on the cross. And there are few comfort zones in world evangelization.

A Chinese youth stood in front of the tanks on Tiananmen Square in Beijing and dared them to move. As he stood there and put his life on the line, I wondered, “Would I put my life on the line like that for Christ? Would I be like Epaphroditus of whom Paul wrote, ‘Welcome Epaphroditus in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life’ (Philippians 2:29-30)?”

Perhaps the risk we need to take is simple—the risk of letting Christ be exposed through his Word and through our lives. It is a risk to stand with Christ in the marketplace of ideas—to let the world see and hear him.

Martin Alphonse told about the Round Tables in India where Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists were exposed not to Christianity but to Christ. And as Stanley Jones said, when Christianity was defined in terms of the person of Christ, “There was not a single situation where before the close of the conference Christ was not in moral and spiritual command of the situation.” We need to take the risk of proclaiming Christ so his uniqueness, his sufficiency, and his attractiveness can be seen as the only hope for all peoples.

Cooperation means that we say, “Lord, our resources are not our own. We are willing to risk sharing those resources—whatever ideas, gifts, finances, and personnel God has given—for the sake of the greater task.”

As we go back as leaders from this Congress, the primary job will not be to dispense information. It will be to point people to new frontiers. It will be to make people deal with questions that they won’t face if left to themselves. It is the call to turn other followers into leaders who will bring change. If that does not happen, the world will not be evangelized.

Leaders take chances. They take chances on people. Will we take chances on younger leaders, on women, on men, on laypeople? Ford Madison, our lay associate, asked early in the Congress, “Brothers and sisters, will you trust Christ in me as a layman?” Leaders take chances in ideas. Will we be flexible enough to make changes that have to be made?

Jesus ended his story of the talents with a riddle, “He who has, to him it will be given. He who has not, even what he has will be taken away!” That sounds unfair. It sound mysterious. How can you take away something from someone who doesn’t have anything? Jesus was revealing a law of spiritual life in a riddle. If we have the opportunity and the faith to act, we will receive more. If we have the opportunity, but not the faith to risk, we will lose that opportunity.

The next ten years may be the greatest opportunity we have ever had for world evangelization. God may open doors that have never been opened—or, if the doors are closed, reveal a window to crawl through.

At the close of Lausanne II, we are poised at a tremendously crucial point. The question is: “Will we as leaders risk taking advantage of it, or will we go back to business as usual and bury our talent in the ground?”

Will you risk? He is coming! Let us proclaim Christ with a faith that risks—until he comes.

God’s Dreamers Are Those Who Last

Will you last? He is coming!

One of the great marks of God’s “dreamers of the day” is the ability to endure. We have heard tremendous stories of great opportunity, but we have also heard stories of great difficulty. Who can forget Lucien Accad telling of the bombs in Lebanon; or Joseph Bonderanko, the brother from China, of being in prison; or Joni Eareckson Tada of working with the disabled and saying, “If all the blind and deaf in the world were in one nation, it would be the largest nation in the world”?

Many of us will go back to places of great difficulty. God’s dream calls us to proclaim Christ with a faith that looks forward in hope—like Moses, who endured the wrath of the king because he saw the one who was invisible; like our Lord Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross and despised the shame.

Jesus also put the call for enduring hope in the form of another story about his plan to return—the story of the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13:24—42). God is pictured as a farmer who sows the seed in his field. It reveals God’s dream for the salvation of the world.

Jesus is the sower and he calls us to be seed-sowers—the proclaimers of his Word.

He said good seeds are the “sons of the kingdom”—righteous children who belong to the father and will shine like the sun.

God’s dream is to produce people like himself. World evangelization is not a program, a plan, or a strategy. It is God the Father reproducing God the Son, through God the Spirit, in his people. As Peter Kuzmic said, “Evangelism is a life before it is a task. It is a call for being before it is an agenda for doing.”

But Jesus said there are dreams and there are schemes. The Devil wants to spoil God’s dream. He is the Enemy who sows the weeds in the field. He hates what God wants to do with a passion.

As Screwtape, the senior devil, wrote to Wormwood, the junior devil, in C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, “He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of little loathsome replicas of himself.” But Satan wants people like himself—people filled with dissension and rivalry, consumed by the lust for money, sex, and power. But Jesus said his angels will “weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil” (Matthew 13:41).

There is a conflict being played out in this world. God’s dream is against Satan’s scheme. For every action of God there is a counter-action of Satan. The “lawless one” described in 2 Thessalonians 2 is setting himself up against God’s plan.

Jesus taught that God’s dream would come in two stages. There would be a time of sowing and growing and a time of conflict. During the growing time he told his servants not to pull up the weeds because they might uproot the wheat. But he also told them that harvest time would come at the end of the world. Then the wheat would be gathered and the weeds destroyed.

We are evangelizing in the “between times.” And as his “dreamers of the day,” we are called to live by hope. Are we getting discouraged by what we see in the world? In the church? In the struggle between flesh and spirit in our own lives?

The Lord of the harvest says: “I want you to know I am at work. You won’t always see it, but I know what I am doing. I sowed the seed. I brought the first fruits. One day the harvest will come swiftly and we will have a harvest home. Until then, I want you to endure with hope and to last.”

To endure with hope does not mean to be passive. Augustine said that hope has two daughters: anger that things are as they are and courage to change them. The return of Christ is not an excuse for indifference—whether in evangelism or social justice—it is a spur to obedience.

Sam Escobar taught a class in Peru. He wrote on the blackboard the words of Jesus, “The poor you will always have with you.” He asked what the words meant. There was silence. Then an old woman in a black shawl spoke up slowly and firmly, “It means that there will always be inhuman exploiters in this world—until Jesus returns.” Hallelujahs and amens greeted her statement.

Many people say, “Because of sin, we can’t overcome poverty. The best we can do is evangelize lost souls.” But for that old woman in Peru, the return of Christ is a call, not to make a perfect world, but to obey Jesus until he comes.

It is the same way with our evangelistic task. Our hope is not that the whole world will be converted. Our hope is in his coming, and our call is to proclaim Christ and make disciples of all nations until he comes.

“My dear brothers,” wrote Paul, “stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). That is why he wrote to the Philippians, “We eagerly await a Savior from there [heaven], the Lord Jesus Christ… Therefore, my brothers,… that is how you should stand firm in the Lord” (Philippians 3:20-4:1).

John Stott taught about rejoicing in the hope of glory and in our suffering (Romans 5). He said, “Jesus Christ is coming again in the glorious Father and the earth will be suffused with his presence. So we can face evil and suffering even with defiance! His love will never let us go.”

God gave Ken Medema a song after our brother from China told of working in the cesspool and of singing:

Here come the bombs and here come the shells,

And here come the cesspools, straight out of hell,

But stand in that garden and don’t you dare be moved,

For we’re going to meet this war with love.

Will you last? He is coming! Proclaim Christ until he comes—with enduring hope.

God’s Dreamers Are Those Who Burn

Will you burn? He is coming!

Jesus told another story that compared his coming to a wedding. There were ten young women carrying torches which they were supposed to have ready to lead a colorful torch dance and to light the path of the bridal party.

When the bridegroom was delayed, the young women fell asleep. At midnight, the cry rang out, “The bridegroom is coming, come out to meet him! ” Only five had enough oil left to keep their lamps burning. The other five had to go to look for oil. When they came back it was too late. “

This is a story of life’s greatest opportunity—to come out to meet the Bridegroom. Jesus, the Bridegroom, is coming to fill our lives. One of the loneliest moments in life is when we experience what we think will bring ultimate fulfillment and it lets us down. Even in our modem world, Os Guinness told of the “cultural rebounds,” the empty offers of the secular world, and people whom God is preparing to meet Jesus Christ.

Jesus is also coming to fulfill history. History will not end with a capitalist dream. History will not end with a communist utopia. It will not end with a mushroom cloud or the whimper of a dying baby. It will end with the cry, “Here is the bridegroom,” for Jesus Christ is the omega of all history. In spite of trouble and war, famine and upheaval, the gospel will be preached in all the world and the end will come. “The Son of Man will come like the lightning which flashes across the whole sky” (Matthew 24:27, TEV).

But this wedding parable is also a story of life’s greatest tragedy—an opportunity missed, a door shut, a final word, “I don’t know you.”

The heart of heaven is “to be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). But the hellishness of hell is to be “punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). As we proclaim Christ, may we bear in our hearts the glorious hope of heaven, as well as the terrible reality of hell.

This is also the story of life’s greatest challenge—to keep the lamp of faith and love burning. God’s “dreamers of the day” should wait and watch until the Bridegroom comes, and keep the lamp of faith and love burning through the long night.

Rolf Scheffbuch was visiting missionaries in Nigeria during the civil war. One night they were flying into the city of Kano. Because of the war, the lights on the landing strip could not be left on—they blinked on and off, just enough for the pilot to see the runway. They made what Rolf describes as, “My fastest landing ever!”

Rolf told this story to the Lausanne committee and said, “Brothers and sisters, we are in a world at war. We can’t always see the full light of the kingdom burning, but there are signals that blink on and off and tell us to hurry down and to be about our task.”

Jesus said, “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning,” (Luke 1.2:35, RSV). Is there fire in our hearts, in our heads, and on our lips? As we return to our homes, our lamps will sometimes burn brightly and sometimes they will burn low. But by God’s grace, may our lamps burn on.

The burning lamp is the lamp of love. The greatest motive for evangelism is love for Jesus Christ. “For Christ’s love compels us,” wrote Paul, “because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” (2 Corinthians 5:14).

What will keep the lamp of world evangelism burning? Not just the need of the world, or the urgency of the task; at the heart of evangelistic motivation must be a burning jealousy for the name of Christ, and gratitude that springs from the love of Christ.

Lucien Accad testified from the heart of Beirut, “Christianity is not a matter of activities or a set of programs. It is a growing relationship of the believer with his Lord and other believers.”

May God help us, and may God keep alive in us our love for the Bridegroom and for his coming! May he help us live in the reality of 1 John 3:1, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” And out of that love may there be a passion for holiness to be like Jesus. “We know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3.).

God’s dream for world evangelization comes to us as challenges. Will you risk? He is coming! Will we proclaim Christ until he comes with faith willing to risk? Will you last? He is coming! Will we proclaim Christ with enduring hope until he comes? Will you burn? He is coming! Will we keep our lamps burning with love for our Lord and for spreading the gospel?

May God, by his grace and power, enable us to risk, to last, to burn, to proclaim Christ with passion until he comes.

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