Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:9–13)
As a kid, I had an evening ritual while going to bed. I would see the poster on my wall with the Lord’s Prayer on it and pray it. I’d do my thing, “Our Father, who art in heaven . . . ,” and then I’d wait for blessing. I had done my duty — my incantation to the divine — and now I thought he owed me. Definitely gonna win my ice hockey game tomorrow. Just waiting for that college acceptance letter. The divine had been put on notice!
The Lord’s Prayer is perhaps the most beautiful prayer ever prayed, but it is so often just rambled through instead of understood and embraced and truly prayed and truly lived. And as we ramble through the prayer, we miss out on the opportunity to understand not just prayer but the Lord’s teaching on the purpose of life.
So allow me to pose to you a foundational question: What is the purpose of your life? What makes life worth living? One way to look at this question of what the purpose of life is and should be for the Christian is to see what Jesus taught us in how to pray. Jesus’s foundational prayer reflects the foundational, essential Christian life. Let me say this again: in Jesus’s foundational, model prayer, we can find tremendous insight—perhaps even call it a summary of Jesus’s teaching on the foundational, essential Christian life and purpose.
There is a basic biblical principle that we can see a little later in Matthew 6: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (verse 21). And similarly, what you pray about and for, there your heart is also. Your prayers are a reflection of your heart. So if we want to understand the Lord’s heart, the Lord’s treasure, we can find it in the Lord’s Prayer.
“The Lord’s Prayer is perhaps the most beautiful prayer ever prayed.”
It’s commonly understood that there are two parts to the Lord’s Prayer, the first half being the first three petitions, and the second half being the second three petitions. I agree with the structure, but I want to make a suggestion that the two parts relate to each other — and I want to make a suggestion as to how the two parts relate to each other. More on that below.
So let’s dig into the text.
“OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN”
First, this is a shockingly direct and personal addressing of God in prayer — as Father. And then, second, Jesus shockingly incorporates us into his sonship.
If there was anyone who could claim exclusive right to address God as “My Father,” it was Jesus. In teaching us to pray to God as “Our Father,” Jesus invites us into corporate familial identity. And our Father will be addressed as my Father by children of God from every tribe, language, people, and nation on earth.
Here we see that there is an overwhelming, undeniable otherness to God — God in heaven. We see that God has perspective — heavenly perspective — that we do not share. He has unbelievable reach. He has grand exaltation. He has heavenly authority.
And to this God, we, the church, the global church, are taught to pray. We can see in the first three petitions, this first half, prayers for worship, kingdom, and obedience:
- “hallowed be your name”: worship
- “your kingdom come”: kingdom
- “your will be done”: obedience
These are three distinct, but also very much related, petitions.
“HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME”
First, worship: “Hallowed be your name.” So here, purpose is now revealed. The first petition that Jesus teaches us to pray is toward the glory and worship of our heavenly Father — Hallowed be your name! It’s the New Testament flipside of the third commandment — May your name not be taken in vain, but instead be treated as holy! It is the heartfelt prayer that God will be worshiped and adored. It is the prayer that our affection for God would be rivaled by no other affection. We are to pray starting on the individual level for a holy, stark, evident, undeniable contrast between the hallowing of God in our lives and the worship, adoration, or affection toward anyone or anything else.
If I could say just one word, one perfectly appropriate and fitting and glorious word of worship to my Lord for eternity — one single word to capture this worship petition — I think it might be the word worthy.
Though the Sanhedrin declared that Jesus was “worthy of death,” each follower of Christ will one day join with the angels, ten thousand times ten thousand, in the loud and eternal song of praise: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).
So individually we are to pray and live out “Hallowed be your name.” But personal doxology is not enough. God’s purposes are global. And God’s people should have a holy dissatisfaction with the worshiplessness of the world, a holy dissatisfaction that more than two billion people in the world have little or no access to the gospel of Jesus — and those two billion do not worship or hallow the blessed and worthy name of the God who created them.
And may our passion for God’s global glory be not merely in song. Today we have some praise songs that focus wonderfully on God’s global glory. But if our lives don’t reflect that God is worthy of global glory and worthy of our purpose and passion, we sing empty words.
Hallowed be your name — not just in song, but in life. Not just personal, but global. And not just doxological, but petitional. This is not just a doxological statement — “Hallowed be your name” — it is a petition. It is a cry to God to mobilize, to work in power to bring about the worship of his name.
“YOUR KINGDOM COME”
“Your kingdom come” is very much related to the first petition. As each individual hallows and worships God, the kingdom grows. As each family hallows and worships God, the kingdom grows. As each nation hallows and worships God, the kingdom grows. Your kingdom come! Do it, Lord! We can’t! Help us! That is our cry. Jesus teaches us to pray kingdom-ushering, kingdom-calling prayers.
So, how far have we come toward the building of the kingdom of God? We’ve seen tremendous advances toward the global expansion of the kingdom of God. Christianity today is a more global faith than at any time in history. There are Christians literally in every nation on earth. There has been tremendous kingdom growth in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Christianity is today stronger in the Southern Hemisphere than in the Northern, and stronger in the East than in the West.
“Your prayers are a reflection of your heart.”
This growth is part of a very important message — that Christianity is not an American religion, and missions is not West to East. It is from everywhere to everywhere, reflecting both the reality of the global church and the global goal of our faith.
In the Lord’s Prayer, and in the whole of the Bible, we see that God’s purpose for his people, the purpose for every single Christian from every single nation, is to pray toward and pursue his global glory through the global spread and enjoyment of the gospel.
From every nation to every nation. Every nation a mission-sending nation. Every nation a part of God’s global and eternal purposes. Every church and *every* Christian a part of God’s global and eternal purposes.
Today nearly 70 percent of the world’s missions force is from the majority or non-Western world (Jason Mandryk, State of the World address, Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering, 2006). The gospel is going forth from everywhere to everywhere. Through this global mission force, evangelical Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world today.
Christians throughout the world are reaching the lost in their own nations (which is evangelism) and reaching the unreached in other nations (which is missions).
Kingdom Come in South America and Brazil
In South America, there has been phenomenal growth of the church and passion for global missions. Brazilians are reaching their own — many of whom have not traditionally been the object of the church’s love.
I have a friend in Brazil who has an outreach to transvestites in his city. I’ll admit that it’s quite a nontraditional outreach. They actually hold beauty pageants to gather and connect with these transvestites. And the prize for the winner is . . . a Bible! And they’ve seen the power of the gospel transform the lives of former transvestites.
Brazilian churches are also reaching the nations by sending out more than two thousand missionaries to reach the unreached. Brazilian churches, the first that I had heard of, were investing 75 percent of their church budgets in global missions.
Thank you, my Brazilian brothers and sisters, for your passion for the kingdom of God.
Kingdom Come in Asia
God is doing amazing things in and through Asians—reaching their own and reaching the world.
In 1951, when Communists took over China, the largest InterVarsity-related student ministry in the world was in China — one in every eighteen students was involved in Chinese InterVarsity groups. Despite the takeover, the Communists allowed the Christian groups to continue for two years after the political changes, but they placed spies in many of the groups.
The fellowship in Shanghai was particularly large, so the government made sure to place a spy to observe and report on the group. Within one year, that spy became a follower of Jesus. Everyone knew he was a spy during that time, but they loved him. So when he was asked, “What contributed to your conversion experience?” he said, “You loved me too much, even though you knew I was a spy. I found your love irresistible!” (Related to me by Lindsay Brown of IFES)
Conservatively, there are today seventy-five million Christians in China.
There were less than twenty thousand Christians in Korea 110 years ago. Today South Korea has sent out more than 21,500 missionaries to 175 nations. South Korea today is very likely the primary mission-sending nation in the world. To my Korean brothers and sisters, I do have one word of challenge, however. Be careful of any pride in your hearts.
“God’s people should have a holy dissatisfaction with the worshiplessness of the world.”
I think if John the Baptist had been Korean, he would have made Jesus call him “Hyung Nim,” or “honored older brother.” So, Korean churches, keep sending out missionaries. But may God grant power and grace that Korean missionaries would one day have the reputation of being the most humble servants in the world.
Kingdom Come in the Middle East
How about God’s work in the Middle East?
A missionary traveled to Saudi Arabia, where she stayed with some Muslim friends. The lady of the house asked the missionary if she would come downstairs to see a new room she had decorated. Out of courtesy, she followed the lady downstairs where about eighty people had been waiting. The lady then asked the missionary to share with them about Isa (Jesus).
“But isn’t that illegal in Saudi Arabia? Why do you want me to share with these people?”
The lady responded that they were all close family members or friends. And all were interested in the person of Jesus.
“How has this come about?” the missionary asked.
The lady replied, “You know that I have a Filipino housemaid. She sings all the time and looks so joyful. I asked her what she was singing about, and she explained she was singing songs of praise and thanksgiving to God for Jesus. I asked her to tell me more about him. Through her witness I became a Christian, then my husband; then we shared the gospel with these family members and friends. Some have come to faith; others are seeking. That’s why I want you to share with them about Jesus and the Bible” (Ibid.). All this because of a Filipino maid singing praise to Jesus in a Muslim household in Saudi Arabia.
Kingdom Come in Africa
And from Africa to Africa, and Africa to the world.
A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from a dear friend in Nigeria. I had asked him about his safety, as I knew that because of his outreach to Muslims he receives death threats two or three times each week. He replied to me, “As a matter of fact, last night I was told to come out of my house because Muslims were coming to attack me in the house where I live. But I stayed and prayed, and this is now morning and I am alive! Praise the Lord!”
I don’t think my friend needs coffee to perk him up in the morning. “I’m alive! Praise the Lord!” — that will suffice.
In ten years their ministry has seen more than five thousand Islamic scholars turn to Christ. Seventy-eight have become missionaries. An Islamic court judge became a follower of Christ through this ministry. Through this judge alone, more than sixty Islamic clerics now worship Jesus. As we speak, however, the judge is recovering from injuries from being attacked by Muslim fundamentalists.
Just last month a few miles from my friend’s house, a pastor and his six children were killed by Muslim fundamentalists. Pray for God’s mercy in Nigeria!
But there is much work to be done toward the building of God’s kingdom. According to the Joshua Project, there are more than 6,500 unreached people groups in the world that represent more than 2.5 billion people. My mission field, Japan, is the largest unreached nation in the world.
Lord, may your kingdom come among the 6,500 unreached people groups in the world. Lord, mobilize your church toward that end. And for the building of God’s kingdom — for the hallowing of God’s name — we pray.
“YOUR WILL BE DONE”
“Your will be done” is the prayer for God’s revealed will to be done, and an essential way that God’s will is done and honored is when God’s people obey — when we live out the purposes of God in our lives, when we live for God, in every aspect of our lives, with love for God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
“Christianity today is a more global faith than at any time in history.”
Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done — worship, kingdom, and obedience. So, from the first three petitions we see that the purpose of life for every Christian from every nation is as follows.
1) Passionately pray for and pursue the global and eternal worship of and living for God.
Global and eternal worship starts on the individual level and also includes family and the church and culminates globally. As Christ’s purpose for life is lived out by every Christian in every land, the gospel will flow naturally, powerfully, and passionately from every land to every land.
Hallowed be your name! Your kingdom come! Your will be done! What is this but the passionate prayer and pursuit of global and eternal worship of and living for God?
Now let’s move on to the second part of the Lord’s Prayer, which has been described by some commentators as focusing on personal needs. But, as I alluded to before, I believe that these two sections in the Lord’s Prayer are much more than just two sections with two different themes; rather, the two sections are very much related. Commentators, good commentators, suggest that the first three petitions focus on the preeminence of God while the final three focus on personal needs, but there is more than just that.
In the first half, Jesus teaches us to cry to God to accomplish through our prayers and lives God’s purpose for global and eternal worship, and the second part is not just a prayer for personal needs, but it is a provision of all that is needed for such purpose of life as laid out in the first section.
2) Passionately pray for provision of all that is needed for such purpose of life as laid out in the first section.
Let me say this again: the second half of the Lord’s Prayer is for provision of all that is needed for the purpose of life, which is to passionately pray for and pursue the global and eternal worship of and living for God (as expressed in the first half of the Lord’s Prayer).
The second half of the prayer is intimately related to the first half — not just that the first half is the big picture and the second is the little picture, or that the first half is the spiritual side and the second the earthly, or that the first half is corporate and the second half individual. The second half is prayer for the provision of all that is needed for the purposes expressed in the first half.
“GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD”
The second half starts off, “Give us this day our daily bread” — a prayer for our basic needs. Toward the life that passionately prays for and pursues the global and eternal worship of and living for God, we have basic needs, such as bread. The standard is not luxury but sustenance.
We live in a country where we have to deliberately limit our food intake and the caloric content of our food. Has the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” become meaningless in our society and churches? And if not, then what could God be teaching you? Would you pray and ask the Lord about this? “Lord, why should I even pray this prayer? I don’t need to!” “I have two cars. I have a retirement fund. I have disposable income.” Why would the Lord have you pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”?
Only America could have invented such a term — disposable income. Essentially disposable income means that everything beyond daily bread, everything beyond sustenance, is one’s own. Everything beyond daily bread is discretionary funds. Perhaps then the reason why Jesus teaches us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” is that we are to view every gift, every dollar, and every resource not as a personal slush fund but as provision to pursue passionately Christ’s purpose for life — for the global and eternal worship of and living for God, and that our passionate living and generous giving toward such global purpose might even “foolishly” require us to tangibly need God’s help for our daily bread.
“FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE HAVE FORGIVEN OUR DEBTORS”
Next comes the prayer for forgiveness and the power to forgive. This is a reminder of our most basic spiritual need — forgiveness. It’s a reminder of our sinfulness and also of God’s mercy. It’s a reminder of the gospel, the very foundation of the purpose of God emphasized in the first half of the Lord’s Prayer. The gospel is to be received and also extended to others.
Some of you perhaps know the story of the gospel in my life. One hundred years ago the gospel began to take root in Korea. The gospel reached my family through Presbyterian missionaries. It was faith that helped them endure one of the darkest periods of Korean history, the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945.
As many as thirty million Asians lost their lives at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army. This was perhaps the greatest loss of human life in the history of mankind. My own great aunt was married off as a young teenager to avoid becoming one of the more than 150,000 Korean women and girls as young as twelve years old who were forced to be sex slaves of the Japanese army and endured rape dozens of times each day.
In the strange and beautiful providence of God, he saw fit to eventually send my father to America, only to have him later say good-bye to his son who was going back to Asia to bring the gospel to the land of his former enemy.
From every land to every land. Even from Korea to Japan. Glorious gospel design.
Forgiveness of the Japanese has been a complicated journey for me personally. Do you know how sometimes you can forgive someone for something, only to learn later much more about what actually happened? That was the situation for me. During my initial call to and service in Japan, I didn’t even quite understand what it meant that for me, as a Korean, Japan was my enemy. It was actually during the years I was earning various graduate degrees and doing research that I learned more of the dark truths of that period of history.
God’s will is done when his people live for him.
But more than really just learning to forgive and love the Japanese over these years, I think what I’ve really learned the most about has been the gospel. I’ve learned about my own sinfulness and self-righteousness and about the stunning mercy that God would love someone like me.
So over the past nine years, it has been a privilege to serve God’s gospel purposes in Japan, to live and serve alongside the Japanese, and to love and be loved by Japanese Christians. As I’ve said to many friends in the past, I’m the worst missionary in Japan. It’s an evidence of God’s grace that Japanese Christians would accept someone like me to serve among them. Thank you, brothers and sisters in Japan.
I lead a ministry called CBI Japan, which includes a graduate theological seminary called Christ Bible Seminary, church planting through All Nations Fellowship, and various outreaches in the city, including Heart and Soul and the soon-to-be-launched Heart and Soul Cafe.
About six years ago, the Lord gave us a vision to shine the light of Christ in the heart of the city of Nagoya. But with real estate infamously expensive, honestly there were times when I wondered why God would call us to pray for something that seemed almost impossible. During the real estate bubble (which burst in Japan about twenty years ago), a tiny 5-foot-by-7-foot slice of land in downtown Nagoya cost about $100,000.
Two years ago the Lord showed us an amazing property just three train stops away from Nagoya station (valued during the bubble at $8 million) with a sale price of $1.3 million. It was a huge bargain but still about $1.2 million more than I had ever raised.
We called for ninety days of prayer — and thanks to the many of you who prayed with us. Missionaries around the world donated $50,000, including missionaries serving in China, Latin America, and Afghanistan. They emptied their two mites into the offering plate.
By day eighty-two God had provided $1.3 million. (Before you get too excited, let me add that a few years ago a Newark mosque had a special meeting to announce their hopes to buy a Methodist church building that had closed a few blocks down the road. It was up for sale for $1.5 million. They told their congregation that the purpose for buying it was to advance the kingdom of Allah. The next Friday they had $1.6 million.)
So the Lord provided for our new campus, but a few days later the property was seized by the courts after the business went bankrupt. And we were left wondering what in the world God was doing. John Piper said something, though, that has stuck in my mind and has been a great challenge to our team: “God cares more about how you react if you lose the property than about the property itself.” So we continued to treasure God more than any treasure and to believe in the glory of God’s plan (even though it seemed like plan B to us) and to wait upon him.
Then the Lord showed us an even more amazing property — 2.5 times the land size, a larger building, and not three stops from Nagoya station with a five-minute walk.
We thought for sure it would cost at least $5 million to $6 million.
But I’m happy to share with you that this property officially became ours in March for $1.2 million.
We want to shine the light of Christ in the heart of the city where so many of the greatest social ills and hurting populations are. Studies show that as many as 9 percent of high school girls have participated in enjo kosai, a form of teenage prostitution. Even as many as 4 percent of middle school girls report having participated. With such practices and even the possession of child pornography being legal, Japan is not a safe place for young people. With bullying and some of the highest suicide rates in the world, Japan is not a safe place for young people.
So the Lord gave us a vision to establish in our new building the Heart and Soul Cafe, which will be a “safe space” ministry — a place where young people can be physically, relationally, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually safe, where they can find true safety in the gospel. We’d appreciate your prayers for our ministry and for the gospel to flourish in the largest unreached nation on earth, and we thank you for your prayers for Japan, especially since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear radiation crisis. We mourn the twenty thousand lives lost, most of whom didn’t know Christ. But we believe that God is both sovereign over such tragedies and has gracious gospel purposes that will be revealed.
I believe that it is very likely that over the past two or three years more people have heard about and prayed for the Japanese people and the gospel work among the Japanese than at any other time in history. And I believe that so often God moves his people to pray prayers that he desires to answer.
So please pray for Japan.
“LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION”
Temptation. This seems key. Between our individual salvation and the pursuit of global eternal worship of God lies temptation. What is this?
Perhaps for some, that temptation is the worshiping of, the hallowing of, God’s very provision — daily bread, hoarded like the Israelites hoarding manna in the wilderness. Perhaps the temptation includes the idolizing of God’s spiritual blessings as well, the idolizing of a kind of spiritual comfort.
This idolatry of Christian comfort is something that I can understand. It’s the comfort of God’s grace and love; the comfort of my own salvation; the comfort of a marvelous, guaranteed future. But rather than looking at our own blessed circumstances and then the unfortunate circumstances of others who are without Christ and saying, “Thank God I’m not them,” we need to recognize that our circumstances are by the grace of God alone — and pray for mercy that we avoid the temptations of our blessed circumstances.
Have you in the West ever considered for a moment the absolute mercy and blessedness of being born into your circumstances? You could just as easily have been born in the slums of Bangladesh or as the son of a Shinto priest. Mercy and grace. If you had been born in the slums of Bangladesh or as the son of a Shinto priest, how would you want the Christians of North America to respond?
The temptation of spiritual hermitage. The temptation of self-kingdom building. The temptation of self-hallowing. The temptation of my will be done.
These are the essences not of the Christian life but of hell.
As George MacDonald wrote, “The one principle of hell is ‘I am my own.’”
In temptation there is not only the option of compromise but also the glory of “I choose you.” In each episode of temptation, there is not merely the possibility of sin but also the opportunity to bring glory to God, as we say no to the temptation and yes to God — as we say, “Lord, in this temptation I choose you.”
With every dollar, with every decision, with every opportunity, with every temptation — “Lord, I choose you!”
The prayer for daily bread is not for luxury but for sustenance.
It’s so easy for Christians to pray for and live for these verses in the second half of the prayer while skipping the first section that lays out the very purposes of God for our lives and God’s purposes in his world. Too many Christians have made the second half, the provision of God, their purpose.
We live for material blessing. We enjoy our salvation. We pursue Christian living. We desire protection from evil.
But these are not to be seen in isolation. They are all to be in support of, and in service toward, the fulfilling of the purposes of God revealed in the first section of the prayer.
It’s like there’s a war raging, but we are all staying far away from the battlefield where we’ve dug out our bunkers. We’re hoarding all the food, provisions, tools, resources, and weapons, enjoying each other’s company. We’re putting up barbed wire and setting out sandbags and land mines on the perimeter while a war is being waged way out there.
Those blankets, those food rations, those tools, those weapons, those soldiers, that barbed wire, and those sandbags were designed as provision for war. Those provisions are prayed for and are provided to serve God’s purposes for this world and for our lives. They are for the global and eternal worship of and living for God. God provides those resources not as the purpose of life but toward the pursuit of his agenda.
“DELIVER US FROM EVIL”
There is severe and deadly persecution of the church in many nations around the world, especially in the 10/40 Window. The most severely persecuted church in the world is in North Korea. In North Korea, the greatest human challenges of the world are all combined: severe poverty, oppressive Communism, global isolation, no political freedom, no religious freedom, no gospel.
But the North Koreans, the Koreans who live in the north, are a wonderful, precious people. And they need our prayers.
In the amazing providence of God, just around the corner from our new building in downtown Nagoya is a North Korean elementary and secondary school. Just two weeks ago, I was able to meet the principal and take a tour of the school and greet many of the children.
From every nation to every nation. Even from Japan, even within Japan, to North Koreans.
Around North Korea, you can see signs with these words: “We have nothing to envy.” Now, of course, this is ridiculous in a nation with so little food and no freedom or hope. But it wasn’t always so. In the early 1900s the city of Pyong Yang was known as “the Jerusalem of the East.” In 1907, the year of the Great Pyong Yang Revival, fifty thousand Koreans came to Christ.
But since 1995 more than four million North Koreans have died of starvation. According to one source more than five hundred thousand have fled to China for survival, mostly women, and 80 percent of them have been raped and sexually trafficked. As many as one million have been killed in concentration camps with cruel brutality.
Nowhere in the world is Christian persecution so fierce as in North Korea. Owning a Bible could get you killed or sent to a harsh labor camp. Despite the risks, the church is growing. There are an estimated four hundred thousand believers. North Korean Christians, who have nothing of worldly value, understand that, in Christ, they have nothing to envy.
In temptation there is not only the option of compromise but also the glory of saying to God, “I choose you.”
But we Christians in America, we who seem to have everything — so much food, so much freedom, so many resources, and most of all, the gospel — we envy. We envy as we see the people around us and as we watch TV. We envy their house, their car, their position, their education, their looks, their family, their girlfriend, their boyfriend, and their spouse.
Christian, you have nothing to envy. You have everything. You have Jesus!
Can we not learn that important lesson that the North Korean government would teach us? We have nothing to envy.
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
So where do we go from here? Let me suggest a few things.
1) Revisit the gospel. Refocus on the gospel. Some have taught, about financial giving, to think about the gospel and then give in response to the gospel. It’s the same for the whole of our lives. Rehearse the gospel, and live your life as an echo to the gospel.
Look at your life. Honestly, what does your life say about your purpose or goal in how you use your time, in how you spend money, in what drives you, in your passions, in what you pray about, and in how you view the world? Is your life a gospel-centered, gospel-focused, gospel-empowered, gospel-adoring, and gospel-advocating life? To answer “I think so” is to answer no. So we need that gospel even more.
2) Repent. Let’s not just talk casually and say, “Yeah, in this and that way my life is out of line with the purposes of God.” May Christians not take any sin lightly. Our response to sin must not be resignation or “Oh, well,” but, “Oh, Lord, have mercy! Change me. Turn me away from sin. Turn me toward yourself and your purposes.”
3) Pray. Pray the Lord’s Prayer. Pray the prayers of Scripture back to God. Pray God’s purposes back to him. Make God’s agenda your agenda and God’s passions your passions.
Pray for the world. Hallowed be your name in Japan! Your kingdom come in North Africa! Your will be done in Vietnam! In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus is teaching us and empowering us for prayer ministry for the world.
4) Finally, live it out. Live out the passions and purposes of God. How? Invest in God’s purposes with the whole of your life.
It starts with the basic question, how are we to enjoy life properly? This is so basic but so easy to forget. Every gift of God is to be enjoyed as from God and not like it’s a god. Everything that is enjoyed and captures our affection must be enjoyed theistically, and christocentrically. Every blessing must be recognized as a blessing from God and every resource mobilized toward his purposes.
Music is an example. I have a wonderful friend named David, who is the concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He is an amazing musician. And he is a Christian. Now, music can be enjoyed atheistically or secularly or without reference to God. It can be received and enjoyed idolatrously — worshiped, in a sense, like a god. Or it can be employed doxologically, to the glory of God. It can be received and employed as a gift from God, for his glory, rather than worshiped like a god, stealing glory from the one, true God.
David gave an amazing performance during a benefit concert he did for our ministry back in 2003, and at the end, he had tears in his eyes — which brought tears to his wife, Jane’s, eyes as well, as she said to my wife and me that she had never seen David cry before at a concert. I think that, in some sense, David understood the eternal purpose in his music at that benefit concert — what it means to enjoy and employ music doxologically, both for his personal doxology of God and also for the cause of global doxology.
The same can be said for law, business, sports, sales, and more.
If you are a doctor, enjoy and practice medicine doxologically, worshiping God with amazement for the healing power that he placed in the human body. Practice soberly, remembering that a healed or healthy sinner is still lost without Jesus. And practice medicine contextually, remembering the spiritually tragic global context of the unreached peoples of the world and finding ways to exercise the gifts and resources that God has given you to impact the eternal context of global gospel ministry.
I have seen God powerfully use medicine, music, architecture, sports, technology, and arts in missions.
Everyone reading this chapter has gifts that can be mobilized for global impact in missions. For example, do you speak English? God can use that. English teaching is the most common mission work in Japan.
“Christian, you have nothing to envy.”
So what I’m advocating is the stewardship of life with all things serving God’s purposes and passions, and every gift and talent enjoyed and employed for God and his purposes. The easiest, clearest, most impacting, and at the same time the hardest way is with money.
THE HARDEST THING: MONEY
I know times are hard, and many are struggling. But in good times and bad Jesus’s teaching remains the same: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Money is often the best indicator of your heart passions and priorities — and thus perhaps the best place to start.
What is the value of $6,300?
I recently had the opportunity to meet a young teacher who was in Cape Town as a volunteer for the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. He probably makes about $40,000 per year. What is the value of $6,300 for him? This young man told me he had previously been at a conference where I had challenged listeners to commit to investing 20 percent of their salaries in the future — 10 percent for the church and 10 percent for missions. So he e-mailed me wanting to make a donation of $6,300 to bless global younger leaders at Lausanne III. What was the value of $6,300 for him and for the kingdom of God?
I was able to purchase laptops and iPods and flash drives filled with Christian resources and sermons and books. Fifteen flash drives went into places such as Serbia, India, China, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. iPods with audio recording and video capabilities went into Latin America, one to Eastern Europe, another to Nigeria, and another to Egypt.
One laptop went into China, another to Eastern Europe, and another to an African leader who had been praying for a laptop. Five hundred dollars went into Africa, $500 into Mongolia, $500 into Latin America, $500 into the Middle East and North Africa, and $500 into Eastern Europe.
The value of money is amazing when it is invested in God’s kingdom. The returns are eternal. What is the value of $6,300? It is priceless. It is stunning how God can use even the simplest of giving such as that of a young man with a small salary determining to give just 10 percent of it for global missions.
What of the resources that God has given you could be used for such glorious global eternal impact? Even if you are just a young teacher with a modest salary, you can make significant global, eternal impact.
Imagine what God could do if you would invest just a portion of what he has given to you for his purposes, for his kingdom, and for his glory. If you make $25,000 per year, you are among the richest 10 percent of the world. You are über-rich. In fact, if you make $2,500 per year, you are among the richest 15 percent of the world. And if you make $50,000 per year, you are among the richest 1 percent of the world.
One of the seminars at a conference I was at recently was titled, “How to Become a Billionaire.” Unfortunately, I was giving a seminar at the same time, so I couldn’t go. So, I’m sorry, I have no good tips for you. But I do want to talk about how you can become a millionaire.
There are many sites online with “millionaire calculators.” You can figure out how long it will be until you become a millionaire, depending on how much you have and how much you save and assuming some percentage return on your savings such as 7 or 8 percent. So, if right now you have no money at all, but you’re determined to become a millionaire, let me try to help you out. This is illuminating.
If you set aside only $5,000 per year, at 8 percent return, you’ll become a millionaire in thirty-six years and ten months. The point: the target is in sight! It’s doable.
Or let’s say you invest $5,000 per year in global kingdom building. In thirty-six years and ten months, you will have been able to invest the equivalent of about $1 million in Jesus’s name-hallowing, kingdom-building, eternity-altering, global mission work. The point: the target is in sight! It’s doable.
I guarantee you that in heaven the return on all the funds invested in God’s kingdom will yield you much more than 8 percent. What wonderful discipleship to be able to tell your kids and your grandkids that you invested $1 million in global missions!
As a general guideline on giving, if you want my opinion, you could consider for a salary of up to $50,000 an appropriate giving budget of 10 percent for the church and 5 percent for global missions. Even at this salary level, you should be able to get to the $1 million mark if you start early.
For salaries of $50,000 to $150,000, give 10 percent to the church and 10 percent to global missions.
For salaries of $150,000 to $500,000, give 10 percent or more to the church and 20 percent to global missions.
For salaries of $500,000 and upwards, give 10 percent or more to the church and 40 percent or more to global missions.
This world will be transformed if God gives you all the grace and the guts to do this.
A month ago I was pretty excited because I heard about a potential $1 million gift to our ministry. We were, and still are, about $100,000 short for paying for the earthquake reinforcement beams that we had to put on our new building. So a $1 million gift would have made a huge impact on our ministry.
But then I heard that the businessman decided to give the $1 million to the Red Cross instead. Now, I have nothing against the Red Cross. I’ve donated blood to the Red Cross a few times. But I didn’t donate my blood to the Red Cross instead of, for example, Dave Sitton’s ministry To Every Tribe. I don’t think Dave wants you to send your blood donation — at least not that kind of blood donation.
“Everything that is enjoyed and captures our affections must be enjoyed theistically.”
Please, please, invest wisely and eternally — certainly in Christian ministries, and especially for global mission. Please! That $1 million donation to the Red Cross will go toward paying for a yearly advertising/promotions budget of $130 million.
So please make investments that will make eternal impact, and find missions organizations and missionaries where your $6,300, your 10 percent, or your $1 million is going to make the greatest kingdom impact, the greatest name-hallowing impact. There are so many really worthy, small, struggling missions groups that are praying for donors like you.
GIVING AS A FAMILY
Perhaps some reading this chapter would, by faith, like to commit to trying such giving today. I know you will not regret it. If you want to commit your efforts to some level of this type of giving — whether a certain percentage or everything beyond a certain amount — would you right now, in the quietness of your own heart, let God know?
I want to encourage you to make these kinds of decisions as a family. There is generally reluctance among parents to discuss finances with their children. They want them neither to share in the burdens nor to get spoiled by the abundances. But transparency in finances with your children allows for amazing opportunity for their discipleship.
It’s clear from Jesus’s emphasis on teaching about money and the content of that teaching that it’s one of the most telling factors about your faith and priorities, and, if so, it will be one of the most important lessons you can teach your children.
A few years ago my daughter asked me, “Papa, are we poor?” That was when I realized, “We need to talk more openly with our kids about finances and biblical stewardship.” I mean, what do you say to such a question from your daughter?
So my wife, Pearl, and I decided to talk about our finances as a family every Thanksgiving, to budget together our church and missions giving, and to decide together as a family how to invest those God-given resources. We tell the kids, “This is how much money God has provided for our family each month, this is how much we spend on various things, and this is how much we would like to set aside for global missions.” And then we talk about different missionaries and mission groups that each of our kids would like to support.
It’s not a huge amount, but it’s a percentage along the lines that I encouraged you to consider. It will eventually allow our family the privilege and joy to be able to invest for God’s global glory the equivalent of more than $1 million. If God could do that through a missionary family of seven, what could he do through your family?
The basic principle is that with the more you earn, you have increased ability to invest in God’s kingdom building, not merely in absolute dollar amounts but in increased percentage of your giving. As Randy Alcorn says, “God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving” (Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving [Multnomah, 2001]).
NOT AFRAID TO BLEED
For the Great Commission, and for the accomplishing of the Lord’s purpose in life, great sacrifices are needed. We need sacrifice by those who will go, laying aside comfort, family, and the American dream. And we need sacrifice by those who will send.
A Pakistani Christian was riding in a New York City taxi driven by a Pakistani Muslim and asked curiously, “How is kingdom umma going?” “Great,” the taxi driver replied. “Americans are so afraid of us. They are so afraid to bleed.” No doubt there are many Christians in America who are afraid to bleed, afraid of sacrifice, and afraid to lose their comforts. But I also do believe that there are American Christians and Christians around the world who are not afraid to bleed and sacrifice for Jesus.
KILLED FOR NORTH KOREA
In South Africa at the 2010 Third Lausanne Congress, a high school girl from North Korea shared her story. She was born into a wealthy family, her father an assistant to the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Eventually her father’s political fortunes shifted, and after being politically persecuted by the North Korean government, he, his wife, and his daughter escaped to China.
In China, a relative brought them to church where her parents came to know Christ. A few months later, however, her pregnant mother died from leukemia. Her father started to study the Bible with missionaries, and eventually the Lord gave him a strong desire to become a missionary to North Korea. But in 2001 he was reported as a Christian, arrested by the Chinese police, and returned to North Korea. Forced to leave his daughter behind in China, he spent three years in prison.
Eventually he was able to return to China where he was briefly reunited with his daughter. Soon after, however, he gathered Bibles, having resolved to return to North Korea to share Christ among that hopeless people. In 2006 he was discovered by the North Korean government and arrested. There has since been no word from him. In all probability, he has been shot to death publicly for treason.
INVESTING OUR EVERYTHING
There are those around the world who have risked or given their very lives for the purpose of God — for the hallowing of God’s name. Some of you reading this chapter may be feeling a distinct, undeniable passion to go into the world as a missionary — the cry of your heart, the conviction of your life, is to invest your everything for God’s global glory. Your heart prays, “Lord, hallowed be your name among the unreached of the world,” and your heart conviction compels you to go and invest your life to see that hallowing happen.
If so, I invite you to talk with your family, your friends, and the leadership of the church. Ask for their prayers and counsel. And pursue God’s calling with prayer and passion. You will not regret it.
UNLESS SOMEONE STOPS YOU
My advice? Unless someone biblically stops you, go. Unless or until your mission board or your church leaders stop you and tell you that you’re not fit for missionary service, I don’t believe that you would be doing wrong to pursue missions overseas or to pursue simply being a Christian among an unreached people as a tentmaker.
If God stops you, accept it humbly, and try to be the best sender your church has ever known. But if you go, I urge you to consider the unreached, to consider the hardest of mission fields (such as the Muslims or the Japanese) and to go while you are young. Expect things to be hard. Expect opposition. But persevere.
We have friends ministering among the precious Hyugur people in China; apparently on average it takes about forty exposures to the gospel before a Hyugur Muslim believes. Forty!
As you share the gospel with those near and far, with family members and strangers, persevere. How many could be won to Christ if we would persevere through forty gospel sharings?
THE GLOBAL FLOW OF THE GOSPEL
In 2007 the North Korean girl, who at the time was not a Christian, was given the opportunity to go to South Korea. While still in China waiting at the Korean consulate in Beijing to go to South Korea, she saw Jesus in a dream. Jesus, with tears in his eyes, called her by name and said, How much longer are you going to keep me waiting? Walk with me. Yes, you lost your earthly father, but my Father is your heavenly Father and whatever has happened to you is because I love you.
She knelt and prayed to God for the first time and realized, “God my Father loves and cares for me so very much that he sent his Son Jesus to die for me.” She prayed, “God, here I am. I lay down everything and give you my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength. Please use me as you will.”
Now God has given her a great love for North Korea. She shares, “Just as my father was used there for God’s kingdom, I now desire to be obedient to God. I want to bring the love of Jesus to North Korea.”
What a fool! If you escape hell on earth, you don’t go back. What a fool for Christ. But this is the path and global flow of the gospel — from everywhere to everywhere — even North Korea, even hell on earth.
How many of us so easily choose the path of comfort and safety — the path that is our answer to the question, what is best for me? We seek the provisions of God but neglect his purposes. And in holding on to those provisions, we halt the advance of his kingdom, which Jesus teaches us to pray for and to pursue.
So many of those whom God has used to make some of the greatest kingdom impact have not made decisions based on “What is best for me?” or “My will be done.” Rather, they made decisions based on an undeniable, unshakable, “illogical,” “foolish” passion for Jesus Christ and for the building of his global kingdom.
For this girl’s father, there was a “safe” path before him. The door was open for him to go to South Korea, where there was political and religious freedom, where his family could have been safe, where there was daily bread and much, much more.
He could have come to the United States and pursued the American dream and enjoyed worshiping God at a great church, freedom, and a weeknight Bible study. No prison, no persecution, no pain. Instead, he chose the path of danger that led him, Bibles in hand, back to North Korea.
Now his daughter has determined to follow that same path — both father and daughter, passionately praying for and pursuing the worship of God among the North Koreans so that the global gospel flow might not end simply with them lifting their hands in a comfortable pew in a comfortable place enjoying the gospel while North Koreans go to hell without Christ.
Hallowed be your name, O Lord, in North Korea! Hallowed be your name, O Lord, in all the earth!
May God grant us the grace to serve with undeniable, unshakable, illogical, and foolish passion for the hallowing of God’s name and the building of his global kingdom.