Filling Up What Is Lacking in Christ's Afflictions

High Pointe Baptist Church | Austin

One of the things you do when you have lots to say that you can’t pack into the text is to have several introductions. And I have three. I have three introductions to this message because of things I want to say that are piled on top of what I want to say.

The Purpose-Driven Death

The first one is that David Sitton said he got emails about the name of this conference — The Purpose-Driven Death — and some people were bent out of shape about that. And I just want to say, “Stick it.” What in the world? Bent out of shape? It’s a magnificent title. I just think it’s awesome because it should, for every Christian, call biblical texts to mind. Remember, this is just an introduction. I’m just ticked.

One of my favorites is the ending of the Gospel of John, where Jesus is talking to Peter and the exchange goes, “Do you love me?” “I love you.” “Do you love me?” “I love you.” “Do you love me?” “I love you.” And then Jesus says:

​​Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go (John 21:18).

And then John comments:

This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God (John 21:19).

What do people think about texts like that? That’s a purpose-driven death — “by what kind of death he was to glorify God.” This is not Sitton’s idea; this is God’s idea. Of course, there’s a purpose-driven life. Of course, there’s a purpose-driven church. And of course, there’s a purpose-driven death. Why wouldn’t everybody read that and say, “Praise God, I’m going. I’m dying. I’m signing.” That’s introduction number one.

A Testimony to All Nations

Second, I’m not mad at anybody here, except the devil. This comes from Matthew 24, and it defines part of the way I think about my own part in going to conferences like this to speak. This is an answer to the question, “Why am I here? What am I doing here?” Matthew 24:14 is a very familiar verse but we don’t usually read it in its painful context. It says:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

I love the absoluteness of that promise. Don’t you? “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a testimony to all the nations, then the end will come.” This is just a sovereign prediction. It’s going to happen. Join up or miss out. That’s going to happen. However, Matthew 24:9–13 says:

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

And then comes the promise we already read. That’s a pretty bleak description of the future. He says lawlessness will be increased and the love of many, some in this room, will grow cold. Now, here’s the link. Cold people don’t finish the Great Commission. It will be finished. Therefore, my eschatology is that I’m an optimistic pre-millennialist. I hope that doesn’t alienate too many people. It makes me a few friends, and maybe it’s totally unintelligible to the rest of you. Basically, what it means is things are going to get bad, but those who endure to the end will be saved. They’re going to finish it.

So I have a picture in my mind. I don’t know about Minneapolis, and I don’t know about Austin. A glacier at the end of the age is coming over the world. The love of many will grow cold — many. The love of many will go cold. A glacier starts to spread over the world. It just comes over. This is a spiritual glacier that is coming over the world, the opposite of global warming. It’s coming over the world.

Pockets of Fire

Now, there is nothing in my eschatology, however, that says Minneapolis has to freeze, or Austin has to freeze, or this church has to be among that number — or that mission or my church or you individually. Nothing in the Bible says you have to be among the number of the cold or that you have to be frozen in the glacier. No way.

There are going to be pockets of fire all over the place, and some of us are taking in our hands the Bible and trying to torch the glacier. That’s a picture of how I live. I’m torching the glacier, like this, and I’m making holes in it so the glory of God can shine down through the glacier.

So I don’t know. I hope this church is going to torch the glacier as it comes over Austin and here, maybe pockets all over. Maybe the city will be set on fire contrary to all expectations in Austin, and everybody will see the glory of God shining through the glacier.

That’s my second introduction. My self-conception as I come among you is that I’ve got a little torch — it’s not mine, it’s the book — and I’m going to try my best to stick it in your cold face and up into the glacier so that a hole is made up to heaven and the glory of God will shine through and there will be a red-hot, warm, bright spot here and in the mission.

This is big enough for more than 10 people for goodness’ sakes, David. Look at all these folks. Maybe 10 will go to the prayer room where when we’re done and say, “Just pray with me that God would confirm what I think he’s doing.” So he’ll do it. It’s risky to ask for prayers like that.

As the Father Has Sent Me

This is the third introduction, and then I’ll begin the message. I won’t go longer than I was told to go. But you don’t know how long I was told to go, and I’m not going to tell you either.

This is more experiential, personal, and immediate. I was in England a few weeks ago talking to the UCCF (Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship). It’s the intervarsity of Britain. And I did a mini missions evening with about 700 students, and they assigned me the text, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you” (John 20:21).

I spoke in the first half then we did a big missions thing in the middle and second half. I first talked about what “As the Father has sent me” involves, and then I spoke about “so I am sending you.” And God showed up in a most remarkable way. I had no idea what he would do among the students in terms of those who gave themselves to go.

Then I began about two weeks ago preaching on the Gospel of John. I’ll be here till Jesus comes, probably, or till I die because it’s a long book. I got to John 1:6 and it says, “There was a man sent from God…” He was sent, which reminded me of “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” So you have the sending at the beginning. It continues:

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light (John 1:6–8).

A Burning and Shining Lamp

I was more moved in preparation for that message than I have been moved in preparing sermons for many years. It was as though at my desk the Holy Spirit came, and he — what shall I say? He warmed my heart to the word sending. I felt it burning inside of me. So in my sermon, two days later, I paused in the middle of the sermon and I said that to the people. I said, “I think the reason the burning was there is because he means to do it now at this moment in this sermon.” And then I prayed before I continued.

Now I’m only in three of our whatever number of services we have, eight I think. So I was there in three of those sessions live, and after each of them three couples came forward and said, “We’re out of here. That was us.”

And who was it this morning? Somebody prayed upstairs or down here about husbands getting on board with wives and wives getting on board with husbands. Do you know what happens in missions conferences like this? Sitting there as a couple, you talked once upon a time about maybe you do something radical with your lives, but you’ve never quite been on the same page. She’s way out ahead, or he’s way out ahead. And one of the things God does in a conference like this is to get you on the same page, then that’s what was happening mainly in that service.

And so if you came like that, maybe God will change it here. I’m not saying she or he just to be egalitarian. I’ve watched it both ways. I’ve seen the wife be so radical. She wants to go to Bangkok so bad and her husband is a businessman and he’s not on board yet. And I’ve seen him get on board and they are over there now. And I’ve seen it exactly the other way around. The guy is just sold out and she’s nervous about the kids and all that stuff, and then she gets on fire and works. Well, it doesn’t often happen that nicely where each is moved at exactly the same pace, and we need to be patient with each other.

That’s my third introduction. Maybe one of those three is for you, and now I have a message to preach.

Choosing to Suffer

You mentioned Josef Tson, David. There is another Romanian that we all are aware of, Richard Wurmbrand. He’s gone to be with the Lord now. He started Voice of the Martyrs.

I’ve met him twice, and he’s one of my heroes. I want to get on my knees and bow down when I’m around him. He came to speak to a group of pastors and 18 of us showed up. Can you imagine such a little teeny turnout for somebody like that? It was in a room about half the size of this one, so it was a big room, and he took off his shoes as he always did, and he sat because of the torture that he underwent in his feet and the things that made him need to sit. He was an old man already, and he sat and just spoke to us. There were only 18 people.

We were sitting in the first three pews in this big room and he asked questions like, “Will you choose to suffer?” I’m not as squeamish as you are, David, about talking about that kamikaze because he said things like this. He said, “If you knew that God had appointed for your neighbor or you to have a child who’s disabled, profoundly disabled, would you choose it instead of your neighbor? Would you embrace that for them and for the child? You’re Christian, maybe they’re not, so you have the resources emotionally and they don’t and doing it for them might move them?”

He went through a whole list of questions like that. I just sat there thinking, “Nobody’s ever asked me questions like this.” Would you do this? Would you do this? Would you do this? Would you embrace the suffering if it were offered to you as a gift (Philippians 1:29)? Would you receive the gift? Or is your whole American mindset just to pursue comfort and avoid trouble? It’s just a total reorientation. That’s what Richard Wurmbrand was for me.

Of All People Most to Be Pitied

He told the story in one of his books that leads me to the message. He said there was a Cistercian Abbot, which is a Roman Catholic order that doesn’t talk all their life except when they sing together and when they confess their sins to one another. They never talk. They live in a monastery and it’s a vow of silence.

An Italian television newscaster interviewed the abbot and asked him this question. “What if you were to realize at the end of your life that atheism is true, that there is no God? Tell me. What if that were true?” And here’s what the abbot said. He said, “Holiness, silence, and sacrifice are beautiful in themselves. Even without the promise of reward, I still will have used my life well.” Be careful. I’m not going to make you raise your hand, but what do you think of that? It sounds noble, beautiful, and self-effacing, right? Here’s what Paul said when he was asked that question: “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

Now, here’s my question. Why did the abbot say, “If I found at the end that it’s all a joke, it’s all a hoax, and there was no truth in what I believed and gave my life to, it will have proved to be a beautiful life of sacrifice anyway”? That was his answer. And Paul says, “If Christ is not raised, I have wasted my life. What a fool I have been. I should be pitied. This has been asinine and foolish to spend my life the way I have.” Here’s my question: Why did Paul answer it that way and the other fellow not?

Well, I don’t know about him. Leave that aside. That’s gone. I think I do know why Paul answered the way he did. It was because his life was a life of consciously-embraced suffering — that’s why.

Suffering as an Apostle of Christ

You might want to turn your Bible with me to 2 Corinthians 11:23. This is not my text, but I have to read it to you so that you feel the force of what I just said. You’ve probably read it many times. I can hardly read it each time without a sense of wonder and awe at this man’s devotion. Maybe start in the middle of verse 23, as he’s beginning to list what I mean by saying a life of consciously-embraced suffering. He is talking like a madman here, meaning he’s listing off his accomplishments because he’s being accused of being such a self-serving person, and here are the accomplishments he’s talking about:

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one — I am talking like a madman — with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.

He couldn’t count his beatings. I’ll tell you if I had been beaten for Jesus it would go in my journal. I’d number them and I’d blog to get some attention for goodness’ sake.

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one (2 Corinthians 11:24).

Pause. Let it sink in. Imagine thirty-nine lashes on your back with a trained executioner with leather straps. Maybe or maybe not with little pieces of shell in the straps — it doesn’t really matter. It’s a Passion of Jesus Christ type scene.

At the end of 39 lashes, your back is open. It’s open. It’s laid bare, it’s cut, it’s lacerated. There are no antibiotics. Nobody knows anything about germs 2,000 years ago. When they’re done, they throw you on the ground, and you hit the dirt, and then covered with dirt your back gets infected. There would be big pustules for weeks on end. It heals after months, but it heals all wrong. You can hardly move your back because the scar tissue is all knotted up, and then it happens again. And again. And again. And again. Inconceivable.

There is a whole chapter in one of Walter Wangerin’s novels on the Apostle Paul called The Back. As the chapter begins, he describes Paul as an old man in Rome, and he’s being awakened by a young woman who’s rubbing oil into his back just so he can get out of bed because he can barely move his back. It would be something like that. Second Corinthians 11:25–26 continues:

Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers …

Constant Danger

In other words, he was never out of danger. Every night he went to bed wondering whether the turning of the latch would be a mob. I’ve had my life threatened one time by a phone call. It was Easter Sunday morning in 1983. They said, “I’m taking you out today.” It was probably a crank call. It never happened. But the emotional framework of that Easter was very different than all the others.

What if I lived like that every day and I knew it wasn’t crank call? Don’t you love this man? Don’t you love the Apostle Paul? I’m a Christian very largely because of the Apostle Paul. A lot of people use the C.S. Lewis statement, “Either Jesus was a liar or a lunatic or Lord.” Well, I say, “Either Paul was a liar or a lunatic or a faithful apostle.”

I’ve got a lot more writings of Paul than I do of Jesus. Jesus didn’t write anything. I know this man. I’m banking my life he was not crazy. I don’t know if he has that effect on you. But one of the reasons I’m a Christian is because of the Apostle Paul. Second Corinthians 11:27 continues:

In toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

So that’s what I mean. When I say, Paul, if told at the end of his life, “There is no resurrection. It’s just a grave. Worms. It’s over.” Paul would not have said, “It’s been a beautiful life.” Would you? Would you? That’s a really disturbing question for Americans, mainly me. It’s a really disturbing question.

I think most of us here define the benefits of Christianity in terms of how it makes life better now — your best life now. There are psychological benefits, relational benefits, etc. Wouldn’t anybody want to be a Christian whether it’s true or not? It may be true; it’s just groovy.

Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ

So Paul embraced suffering and the question is, why? There are a lot of answers to that. But I’m only going to deal with one, and it’s the text that was read to you. So I invite you to go back there. This is Colossians 1:24. It says:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church …

So Paul suffers, and in his suffering, he says that he fills up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Now, what does that mean? It almost sounds heretical, doesn’t it? What does it mean to fill up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions? Or complete what is missing in Christ’s afflictions? What is missing in Christ’s afflictions?

Nothing is missing in Christ’s afflictions in their atoning worth. Paul can’t add anything to the atoning value of Jesus Christ. The beauty, the wonder, the value, the worth, and the merit of Christ crucified to cover sins is infinite. You can’t add anything to it. There’s nothing missing from it. There’s no lack in it.

Paul taught us that. He knows that. So what does he mean when he says, “I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”? That’s the question. Now, the answer to that, I think, is what I’m about to say, and then I’ll sum up the answer and I will give you the text that is the basis for my summary. The summary goes like this: What’s missing in Christ’s afflictions is the presentation of those afflictions to the people for whom he died — the personal, touchable, visible, seeable presentation of his afflictions to those for whom he died.

Those for Whom Christ Died

There are people all over the world in all the people groups of the world as well as some in this city who have never seen the afflictions of Jesus Christ. And Paul says, “I’m going to fill up that lack not by adding anything to their merit but by making a presentation of them to others in my own suffering. My suffering will become the visible reenactment of the suffering of Christ for others so that when they see me suffering to reach them, to touch them, to love them, they will have a visual enactment of Christ’s love for them.”

Now, where do I get that idea? I get it from Philippians 2:27–30, and I’ll just say this for you. You can look it up if you want to, but here’s the situation in Philippians. There was a man named Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus was the emissary of the Philippian Church over in the northern part of Greece — the Macedonians — and he took some gifts, love gifts, from the people of Philippi to Rome where Paul was in prison. And he brought them to Paul and he risked his life doing it and almost died.

Now Paul writes a letter back to the Philippians, perhaps he sends it with Epaphroditus, at least he tells them, “This man you should receive is an amazing man.” And he tells them why. And it’s the wording that he uses that relates to Colossians 1:24 about filling up, or completing, what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ. Philippians 2:30 says:

for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete (same word) what was lacking (same word) in your service to me.

That’s unusual, that combining of those two words — fill up or complete, and what is lacking or what is missing. However you translate it into Greek, it’s the same words. When those two come together, just like they came together down in Colossians 1:24, I say, “That’s going to be helpful.”

A Presentation of Love

What does it mean here in Philippians? Because it probably means the same thing over here in Colossians. What does it mean when he says, “Epaphroditus risked his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me?” What was lacking?

Well, what was lacking was there was some distance between them. Here they are over in Philippi, and they love Paul. Oh, how this church loved the apostle. They loved him, they wanted to serve him, and they wanted to bless him. That’s like Jesus dying for sinners at a place and at a time in history. It’s him saying, “I love you, sinners. I died for you, sinners. I want you to be saved, sinners.” And then there are these big gaps of time and distance between him and them, just like there’s a big distance between Philippi and Rome where Paul is, and they want him to be the beneficiary of their love and all their gifts and the books and the clothing and whatever they wanted to give him, sent by Epaphroditus.

And so, they chose a representative, Epaphroditus, and they sent him so that their longings for Paul’s blessing could be filled up so that the love that was felt and expressed in Phillipi for the apostle could be complete through the person of Epaphroditus to Paul in Rome. I think that’s what it means.

In fact, I’ll read you another commentator, lest you take my word for it only. I think it’s obvious from the text. But it sometimes helps to have several people point to it. Let me read you what the commentator from over a century ago, Marvin Vincent, said about the Philippians text. Here’s what he said, and he didn’t even have Colossians 1:24 in his mind. It’s not even in his commentary.

The gift to Paul was a gift of the church as a body. It was a sacrificial offering of love (notice the sacrificial offering like Jesus). What was lacking was the church’s presentation of this offering in person. This was impossible, and Paul represents Epaphroditus as supplying this lack by his affectionate, zealous ministry.

Messsengers of Christ’s Suffering

I think that’s exactly what Colossians 1:24 means. Let’s read again:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church …

So here’s Christ being afflicted in Gethsemane and on Good Friday and dying. There it is. And Paul says, “I’m going to fill up what’s lacking there just like Epaphroditus filled up what was lacking in Philippi.” And what was lacking? Christ did this for someone. He means to save people and bless people and have people from all the tribes of the world with him in heaven someday because of these afflictions.

And just like David Sitton said, he could have appointed angels to complete what was lacking and they could have gone everywhere with photographs and videos and DVDs or proclamations or flannelgraph boards or whatever. They could have gone everywhere, but he didn’t do it that way.

In fact, he chose to come into the world before there were DVDs or tapes or internet, and appoint people like Paul to fill up what is lacking, namely, to take the sufferings of Christ to the world, to take the afflictions to the world. The afflictions are there for someone but they don’t know it, and he means for them to be completed by being taken somewhere.

The Purpose in Our Pain

Now, here’s the purpose-driven death and the purpose-driven suffering piece. Paul says, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and in my flesh, my suffering flesh, I’m filling up…” So this is more than John Piper coming to Austin saying, “Christ suffered for you.” That’s a good thing for me to do. Gospel preachers should say that to everybody they can say it. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Nobody gets saved by just seeing. We’re saved by hearing and the interpretation of what we see.

But oh, to see a lover die for you, that’s what he was doing. He was adding that, saying, “I fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” Therefore, I infer, I conclude — and this is simply a footnote to David Sitton’s talk because I totally affirm his thesis at the first session this morning that persecutions are increasing in the world, and they are by design of God a strategy for the completion of the Great Commission.

Suffering is not an accident. Suffering is not a mere result of faithfulness to the Great Commission. Suffering is a strategy of God to complete the Great Commission because Paul said, “In my sufferings for your sake, I am filling up, I am completing, I am spreading, I am taking, I am bringing the sufferings of Christ to you.” So, yes, and amen.

David Sitton, Rod, Brett, and I, and whoever else has spoken here, are not looking to make it easy for anybody to volunteer. When Jesus bids a man follow him, he bids him come and die. Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it that way, and then he was hanged 1945 as an engaged lover of Maria. We have plenty of time in eternity to enjoy the benefits for our bodies.

Momentary Marriage

Think about marriage. This comes to mind. It’s not in my notes. I just wrote a book on marriage called This Momentary Marriage. I’ve been married 40 years this December. I named it This Momentary Marriage just because Jesus said, “In the resurrection, there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage” (Matthew 22:29–30). You get a little window here and it’s all about a parable of something more permanent, which means that singleness, by the way, can have a massive significance in its witness to that later marriage, rather than absolutizing the one that we can enjoy here for a moment.

This is a momentary marriage, which means if you risk one of you dying, you have an occasion like Graham Staines’s wife and his 13-year-old daughter, Esther. After he and his two sons, one six and one ten, were burned alive in the back of their SUV in India, his wife was asked, “Are you going to go home now to Australia after 30 years working with lepers in India?” And she said, “Why would we go home? We’ve given our life here. We love India. We hold no grudges.”

And then they turned to the 13-year-old daughter and asked something similar. Some of you are 13, so heads up 13-year-olds. Your dad has just been burned alive. Your two brothers have just been killed. What do you think about your dad’s murder? I don’t think these are her exact words, so I will have to paraphrase. But it went something like this: “It is an honor that my dad was counted worthy to die for Jesus.” Something like that. She was 13 years old.

These are heroes. They will rejoin him very quickly. It will be as nothing. The marriage is over, forever. It’s just going to be better in the age to come. Do you think marriage is good? Do you think sex is good? It is. It’s a parable of what is really good. So every time it happens or you just dream of it happening as a single person, remember, it’s all about something else. Something else a thousand times better than sexual intercourse is coming.

This little window here where we had these tiny little earthly pleasures of eating and drinking and sex and all that stuff, we’ll look back and say, “How could we have gotten so excited about this? How could we have overeaten so much? And how could we have committed fornication? And adultery? How could we have made gods out of those pitiful little pleasures knowing what we know now?”

Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing

Speaking of pleasure. Did you notice the word in Colossians 1:24? It says, “Now, I rejoice in my sufferings.” Oh, I don’t take that lightly. There is a 17-year-old girl in our church who is in a coma after being broadsided by an SUV two weeks ago. Will she come out? She is beautiful, young, and has everything in front of her, and she has been unconscious for two weeks. I don’t lightly say to her parents, “Rejoice, in your suffering.” I’ll preach it. I’ll talk about the kind of joy it can be and it is for them. But you don’t blather away about praise-God-anyhow kind of theology.

Paul has this beautiful phrase in 2 Corinthians 6:10 that we say over and over again at our church — “sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” In this world, that’s the way it will be — always. If it’s not that way for you always, you’re not connected to enough people. You’re in little cocoon of pain or cocoon of pleasure; it’s both always. We weep with those who weep and we rejoice with those who rejoice, and there are always people weeping and there are always people rejoicing so Christians have this miraculous life of crying all the time and being happy all the time.

It’s a miracle. Unbelievers can’t understand it. They don’t get it. They don’t know. That’s just mumbo jumbo to them because they don’t know what it is to weep as those who have hope.

Walking the Calvary Road

So Paul says he’s rejoicing in his sufferings as he completes this work. And therefore, I simply want to say that when we call you at this conference to the Calvary road, to use Roy Hession’s book title — The Calvary Road — we’re not calling you to a joyless road. Painful? Absolutely. You can’t escape that anyway. Have a kid. Let him grow up. You can’t escape it, so why not make it meaningful?

We’re not calling you to the Calvary road that is joyless. For the joy that was set before him, Christ endured the cross (Hebrews 12:1–2). It was joy in Gethsemane as he was sweating blood. It was joy at the bottom that carried him through. The joy of the future was streaming into the present.

There’s a miracle there. Yes, it’s way out there, but it’s not pie in the sky. It’s just over the horizon. It is infinite and growing and lasting and better than anything you’ve ever known here, and it comes over like the dawn into your pain-filled heart and holds you. It’s present joy streaming from the future fullness. So please don’t hear us beckoning you to anything other than the deepest, longest satisfaction the world has ever known.

Every missionary in this room will testify to the pain, and they’ll testify that when they put their head down on the pillow after a long, faithful day with no fruit yet they sleep well. How do you sleep after the stock market and your vaunted securities?

Never Stop Serving Jesus

Here is one illustration to close this and try to put meat on it. David Sitton can put the real meat on it. I just tell stories.

Sometime around 1990, I went and spent a little month-long writing leave at Trinity Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois, and I was hidden away in an apartment. I wanted to be by myself to write for a month. I would sneak over to the library and sneak back. Nobody knew I was there. That’s the way I wanted it to be. And I got word that J. Oswald Sanders was going to be in the chapel. J. Oswald Sanders was the head of OMS (Overseas Missionary Fellowship) for years and years. He was a longtime missionary statesman, an old man pushing 90. He has died since, but I snuck in the back of the chapel just wanted to be exposed to missionary glory. Oh, I love faithfulness. I love people who hold on to the end. I love this 83-year-old guy who has learned his fifth language in Ukraine. Crazy people like that are my kind of people.

So I snuck in the back just to hear it, and he gave one of those cases about himself and one, that he told the story of that he knew, and I’ll tell you both of it and we’ll be done.

He was 89 at the time, and the illustration about himself was that he said, “Since I was 70, I have written a book a year.” Cool. Just wait until you’re 70. Collect all of life and then start writing it down for 19 years. A book a year. Unbelievable. Do you know what most people are doing at 70? Crossword puzzles. Golf and crossword puzzles. Other people tell them what to write.

That’s the first illustration. I just sat there saying, “God, please, please…” I’m 62. I get these things in the mail from the IRS that tell me if I quit now what I make for all this social security I have paid in over the years. Those are horrible documents. I say, “Ugh. Get behind me, Satan.” Retire at 62, retire at 64, or retire at 66. I don’t want to think about it. Get out of here. Really, it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous.

Everybody and their brother is telling you to think like that. Almost nobody is saying, “Never, never, never, never, never stop serving Jesus. Pour yourself out for him.”

Beautiful Feet

Here’s the other illustration he told, and this one illustrates Colossians 1:24. He told the story of an indigenous missionary who walked barefoot from village to village preaching the gospel in India. His hardships were many. After a long day of many miles and much discouragement, he came to a certain village and tried to speak the gospel but was driven out of town and rejected. So he went to the edge of the village dejected, laid down under a tree, and slept from exhaustion.

When he awoke, people were hovering over him and the whole town was gathered around to hear him speak. The headman of the village explained that they came to look him over while he was sleeping and when they saw the blistered feet — I would have added the beautiful, blistered feet — they concluded that he must be a holy man and that they had been evil to reject him, and they were sorry and wanted to hear the message that he was willing to suffer so much to bring them. And so, the evangelist filled up, in his feet, the afflictions of Christ.

So I’m done and I’m just going to talk to the 10 of you for just 30 seconds. God is here. The martyrs of 30 years from now are made today. They’re made in a room like this. This room doesn’t look dangerous. It looks comfortable. It is comfortable. We’re all dressed nicely. Nobody is horrible to look at with a slit throat or anything like that — like Bonnie Witherall was. There was a picture of her on the internet after her murder. That seems so far away. It’s not. It’s just as far away as a commitment. So we who have loved doing this conference invite you to pray for us that we wouldn’t waste it, that the older I get I wouldn’t fall more and more in love with comfort and need more and more security, and that you would join us in that and lay your life down for Jesus.

I think the best way to make a connection to Every Tribe Ministries would be sometime after we’re done here in a few minutes to make your way to that prayer room and just say, “I would just like to pray here about what might be going on in my life.” And then the 100 of you who are martyr senders, that means some pretty radical new choices about lifestyle. You don’t need a lot of the stuff you’re spending money on, so give some thought this afternoon as couples and as singles to what you might do to multiply your giving to send out those 10.