The following is a lightly edited transcript.
Let’s begin where we left off last night. My goal was to put ballast in your boat, so that as you lift of the mast of purpose, spread out the sails of faith, are filled with the wind of the Spirit, and start moving swiftly across the sea of your life, you won’t be tipped over easily by the crosswinds that are going to come in your life. The ballast that I wanted to put in your boat was that God’s greatest passion is his passion for his own name, his passion for his glory. He calls you to share in that passion and define your greatest joy in the greatness of his glory. He calls you to display that for the peoples of the world.
The reason that can be good news for them, and this is the heart of what we saw, is that Christ died for sinners in such a way that God is exalted and sinners are forgiven without the righteousness of God being compromised. Christ died for us in such a way as to uphold the worth of the glory of God, while God passes over glory-trampling sinners like us. This is what sin is, and we do it every day with our minds, our hearts, and our actions. We belittle the glory of God. God is passionately concerned that his glory not be belittled.
If God is going to save sinners — millions and millions of sinners who collectively trample his glory every day — something awesome had to happen. What happened was the death of his Son to absorb all the justice and all the wrath that was destined for us God-belittling people, so that the implications for missions is that the command of God, “Go declare my glory among the nations,” and, “go preach the gospel” are the same command.
Our God-Given Charge and Calling
There wouldn’t be any gospel if there were no glory. The glory would not be gospel if there were no cross. What we’re charged to take to the world is a message concerning Christ crucified and risen in the place of sinners in such a way that we make crystal clear that the holiness of God, the justice of God, the righteousness of God, and the glory of God are upheld. The infinite worth of them is upheld in Christ’s saving sinners this way.
Now, what I want to do here is to get more specific with regard to your particular calling in life. If the grand design of your life and my life is to join God in a passion for his glory, how do you come to recognize the specific ambitions that should drive you in particular? Because you’re all so different, God has a distinct calling for each one of you. I want to talk about that. I invite you to go with me to Romans 15:18–24. What I want you to be looking for as we immerse ourselves in Scripture is God’s gripping you for your holy ambition. You’re going to see the word “ambition” in this text. That’s where we’re going to focus all of our thinking.
My prayer is that in this, God would awaken at least the seeds of a holy ambition for your life. Paul says:
I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ. And thus, I make it my ambition to preach the gospel not where Christ has already been named lest I should build on someone else’s foundation. But as it is written, those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand. This is the reason why I have so often been hindered in coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you as I go to Spain and to be helped on my journey there by you once I have enjoyed your company for a little while. (Romans 15:18–24)
They’re not going to go with him. Everybody doesn’t have the same ambition or calling. They stay in Rome. Paul’s going, and there’s that much diversity out here but each has a calling.
Notice Romans 15:20, “And thus, I make it my ambition to preach the gospel not where Christ has already been named lest I build on someone else’s foundation.” Now, Paul was controlled by this ambition. He says, “I make it my ambition.” He was controlled by it, governed by it. Why do I say he was controlled by it? Because in Romans 15:22, he says, “This is the reason why I have so often been hindered in coming to you.” He’s often wanted to go to Rome. He wants to meet the saints in Rome, he’s been hindered, and says, “This is the reason why, because I’m not done from Jerusalem to Illyricum. I’m not done yet. That’s why I’ve been so hindered. I have this ambition to plant churches and evangelize the areas where Christ has not been named.”
Look at Romans 15:23, “I have longed for many years to come to you.” But he didn’t come. Why? He was controlled. He was governed. He was hemmed in by an ambition that wasn’t done yet for that place where God had put him. When you long to do something, like go to Rome, and you long for it for years and don’t do it, something is controlling you. An ambition was controlling him. Continuing in Romans 15:23–24, the amazing words, he’s done: “I no longer have any room for work in these regions. . . . I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain.”
For a while, he had wanted to go, and wanted to go, and wanted to go, and he couldn’t go because he was constrained by this ambition from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, and now he’s going to Rome and on to Spain because he was finished with his ambition in that region. He’s free now for that ambition to take him to a new place. So the first thing I want to persuade you of, and I hope you see it already is that is a good thing to be controlled by an ambition.
A Holy Ambition
I know the word “ambition” in America has egocentric connotations. Well, I’m chucking those. I’m pulling it right in on the biblical framework here. I will not let this word go. I won’t sacrifice this word to the world and all of its self-exalting connotations for ambition. There is a holy ambition. I’m putting the word holy on it here to distinguish it from all the other kinds. I call it holy because the aim is holy. He wants to preach the gospel where Christ has never been named. Why? So that they might believe; so that their sins might be forgiven; so that they might have eternal life; so that Jesus Christ might be exalted.
I call it holy because it comes from God. We’re going to see this very clearly in just a moment. This calling, this ambition that Paul has came from God and God’s holy word. It’s the same way it’s going to come to you, and I’m praying that it will happen, at least in seed form, if it hasn’t already, now and then be clarified throughout the coming months and years.
We don’t all have the same calling. You will not all have the same specific ambition under the overarching calling of joining God in glorifying his name. One plants, another waters. “Each has his own gift,” Paul says. Each stands or falls before his own master. There are as many ambitions and callings in this room as there are people when it comes down to the specificity of it.
A Unique Generation
Your generation has a special problem with this, at least as I’m calling you to it. You are not growing up very fast. Books are being written about you, about six that I know of, in the last five years. These books are describing a phenomenon in our culture, concerning the postponement of adulthood to the thirties. Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at Notre Dame, wrote a review of six of these books. Let me read you a little historical background, so you can know something about the categories with which we simply take for granted, growing up in the twenty-first century.
Most of you assume that the concept of teenager and the concept of adolescent has always been there. Well, it hasn’t. It’s very modern. It’s only about a one hundred years old. There wasn’t any such thing as a teenager before one hundred years ago, let alone an adolescent. Kids were pulling their weight by the time they were sixteen, big time.
Here’s the quote:
Teenager and adolescent, as representing a distinct stage of life, were very much a twentieth century invention brought into being by changes in mass education, child labor laws, urbanization, suburbanization, mass consumerism, and the media. Similarly, a new, distinct, and important stage in life, situated between teenage years and full-fledged adulthood has emerged in our culture. In recent decades, reshaping the meaning of self, youth, relationships, and life commitments, as well as a variety of behaviors and dispositions among the young. What has emerged from this new situation has been variously called extended adolescence, youth-hood, adultolescence, young adulthood, twenty-somethings, and emerging adulthood. One way of describing this group is to highlight the tendency to delay adulthood, stay in youth mindset longer than we used to.
You get characteristics like this. Looking to Smith again:
Identity exploration, instability, focus on self, feeling in limbo, in transition, in between, sense of possibilities, opportunities, and unparalleled hope. These of course, also often accompanied by big doses of transience, confusion, anxiety, self-obsession, melodrama, conflict, and disappointment.
Now, one of my aims in being with you tonight is to wave a flag over the front end of that experience for you. It’s where most of you are I presume — the front end of the twenty-somethings. To wave a flag over the front end of that and say, “Grow up!” Don’t insist on playing 8-year-old games at 28, only with sophisticated videos. Grow up!
I’m calling you to this before you get into that. Assume that you don’t have to follow the culture in being boys and girls for another ten years. You don’t. There are stunning things God is calling you to do. Amazing responsibilities he’s calling you to take. Holy ambitions he’s calling you to take a hold of. I’m pleading with you; I’m challenging you: Don’t join your culture in adultolescence.
Don’t Wait to Grow Up
Get a grip on this. You can be different. Christ reigns over your life, and he doesn’t like adulthood starting at thirty. Most little girls love to play with dolls. I had four sons, and then finally a daughter. She came to us when I was fifty, and she was eight weeks old. Now, she’s fourteen, and I have begun to raise a girl. I didn’t know how to do this. It was so different. None of my boys ever wanted to do the things she has wanted to do.
I have had to retool play-time totally over the last fourteen years. It’s been wonderful. It is good for 7-year-old girls to want to play with American Girl dolls. It’s really good. It is so right. We can make so much of those play times in learning, growing, enjoying, and having relationships, instead of dropping bombs.
I tried to teach my daughter to play chess, and it became a wedding. Little pieces got married, which is wonderful. I’m so glad she wants to be married someday. However, you don’t want to be playing with dolls when you’re eighteen. I don’t care how sophisticated they are. It’s been sweet to watch her at eleven and twelve desperately want to work in the nursery with real babies, and to be trusted, and to be valued, and to be good at it.
Someday, I dream that you and she will then graduate into leading ministries. I’m talking to the women. Leading ministries, where thousands of babies, orphan babies, AIDS babies, abused babies, disfigured babies are loved all over the world, gathered in, cared for. God is calling you to get done with the dolls and get a vision, a holy ambition, for your life.
Little boys, I was one of those, so I know them better. They didn’t want dolls. They wanted a ball, a truck, and a gun, and somebody to play with and knock over. I never had a real gun. I still don’t have a gun. I had a pellet rifle once, but I shot a lot of bad guys with my Matt Dillon pistol. I could draw that thing so fast you couldn’t see it. They were dead. Bad guys were dead, and my Lucas McCain circle-handled rifle, you spin that thing — incredible. You don’t even know what I’m talking about. We’re talking sixties, serious Westerns.
There were balls, trucks, and guns. Now, you grow up, you wield the sword of the Spirit mightily, you get a truck-load of stuff for the needy, you drive it through land mines if you have to, and you kick Satan’s rear end in the name of Jesus. Little boys grow up. They don’t have to wait until thirty to grow up and get an ambition for their lives to make something out of their little time. You don’t know if you have until thirty. Some of you don’t.
Where Do We Get a Holy Ambition?
My question now is this: “Yes, if it is right, if it is good to get a holy ambition, then where do you get it?” Here, I’m down at the more ground level, not at the level of “God exists for his glory, and we join him in that passion.” Yes, that’s true for everybody all the time, God willing. But, what about down here on the ground, the holy ambition that guides us? Paul, I think gives us a clue in the link between verses 20 and 21 of where he got it, and where you get it.
Go with me to Romans 15:20–21. “Thus, I make it my ambition to preach the gospel not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.” Now see this: “But as it is written,” he quotes Isaiah 52:15, “those who have never been told of him, will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” Now, this is amazing to me, and it holds a key. I believe it’s a key that unlocks the understanding of how I got my calling, which I’ll tell you about soon, and how I believe you could get yours today, or in the coming year.
Here’s the amazing thing: Paul, according to Acts 9, Acts 22, Acts 26, had been called and commissioned by the risen Christ to go and preach to the Gentiles who had not been reached. Instead of documenting his call that way, instead of saying, “I have a holy ambition to preach the gospel where Christ has not been preached, because I met Jesus on the Damascus Road. He knocked me off my horse. He blinded me, and he told me what to do.” He doesn’t say that.
I think one of the reasons why, in Romans 15, he didn’t say that, even though it was true, is to help you follow him in his way. You can’t say that. Almost nobody’s going to get called the way Paul was called. It was too spectacular. He was an apostle. He saw the risen Christ. He was blinded. There was a light. He was being called into something utterly unique. He was one of the foundation apostles. We’re not. We can’t expect that, so Paul doesn’t make that the basis here of his ambition, because he wants you to come with him.
What does he do? He says, “I have this ambition. That is, I’m controlled by this passion to preach the gospel where it hasn’t been preached, because Isaiah 52:15 says, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who’ve never heard will understand.’” What do you make of that? This is tremendously encouraging and helpful to me.
Here’s what I make of it: I assume that what Paul is doing is saying, “When I got personally encountered by the living Christ,” — remember, he was a blasphemer and a murderer, and he met the living Christ and was being converted profoundly — “When that happened to me,” he said, “I went straight to my Bible. I immersed myself for three years in Arabia in my Bible. I had to re-read everything. I had to get so into that book that that book became part of me. What happened in the Bible is that Isaiah 52:15 took me! It became a confirmation. It became a hold on me. It was Christ’s hold. He had called me. He did tell me what to do, but the grip that he used was the Bible.” That’s the way I think it’s going to happen for you.
Immerse Yourself in the Bible
My method for you to move toward your holy ambition is to plead with you to immerse yourself in the Bible, now and the rest of your life. Where does your holy ambition come from? It comes from the living Christ. He’s just as alive today as he was then. He reaches down into your mind and into your heart and into your experience, and he does something perhaps less spectacular than the Damascus Road, but something, and he takes you for himself, so that you can’t run from him anymore.
Then, what he wants you to do at that moment with your mind, is go to his written, inspired word. He’s not going to whisper things in your ear like, “Go to China.” He’s not going to whisper that in your ear. But he’s going to get you there or wherever, and he’s going to do it by getting your head and your heart into the word. While you’re reading Isaiah or Romans or 2 Peter, something’s going to simply take you. It may be a phrase, a verse, a chapter, or a concept. It will simply master you, and that will become your holy ambition. There will be very many of them.
In September 1966, I had the worst case of mono that I ever seen or seen since. I had tonsils as big as and the same color as lemons. When the doctor put his hand on me while I was lying in the hospital, and said, “Take a breath,” it went “bloop,” because my spleen was so swollen. I was in the medical center at Wheaton College for three weeks. I’m lying there as a pre-med student, having my life undone, because I was missing three weeks of organic chemistry. It was impossible to miss three weeks of organic chemistry and not a year of your life. Then, I turned on the radio, WETN, and Harold John Ockenga, about two hundred yards to the West, in the chapel was preaching the spiritual emphasis week, and I was listening to the way he handled the Bible and everything changed. Everything changed.
Four days later, my girlfriend who I was madly in love with and now I have been married to for 41 years, came in, and I said, “You fell in love with a doctor. Guess what? There isn’t going to be one. I’m not going to go to medical school. I have been called by God to the word of God, and I’m going to go to seminary.” I bless God for mono, and I bless God for Harold John Ockenga, whom I never met. He never knew that I would be standing here saying that. Talk about unknown significances of your life, words you say, things you do, that in this life you would never hear about. God is always doing more than what you think with your life.
Gripped by God’s Word
I was teaching college in the Bible department at Bethel College from 1974–1979 and into the spring of 1980. I got a sabbatical in the end of 1979 and in the beginning of 1980, and I spent all my time working on a book on Romans 9. One of the hardest and most God-exalting passages in the Bible, and God did it again. I found myself day after day, in this chapter, trying to analyze and explain and write what in the world this massive view of God meant then and now.
Day after day, God was just gripping me. “I will not be merely analyzed and explained.” This God, this very God of Romans 9, will be proclaimed. He will be heralded, and I was done. I called my dean, my department chairman, my best friends for counsel, and I said, “I’m finished. I have to go preach somewhere, somehow, I have to be done with just this calling.” I had a shift. First it was to the word in 1966, and then in 1980, it became the preaching of the word of God in a setting where I could see this majestic view of God take root in a people. From the smallest to the oldest, and in every socioeconomic level, would it work? God, would you be great in their lives? That happened not by a Damascus Road experience. It happened because God took me in his word. The word can get flesh on it and simply take you for a specific thing.
That’s what I’m illustrating. When Paul said, “I have an ambition to preach where Christ is no longer being proclaimed,” and he quotes Isaiah 52:15, that’s what happens to you. It won’t be for you perhaps, Isaiah 52:15. It will be something totally unexpected. Let me just illustrate how this keeps going.
Before that, between those two events 1966 and 1980, there was 1968 and 1969 where there is a whole vision of God, who loves his glory and that’s not bad news, because God is most glorified in me, when I’m most satisfied in him. That took me out of his book. It just took me in 1968 and 1969. It’s never left me. I have tried in my life to move out from that center, doing other things, saying other things. I do. There is lot more in the Bible than that. I try to be faithful to the Bible, but over and over and over again, I am drawn like a magnet back to that truth.
I tried to write a poem for my wife on our anniversary, and it becomes that. I tried to write a birthday poem for Talitha at age fourteen, and it becomes that. I tried to write a book on justification, and it becomes all about the glory of Christ because if he didn’t provide an imputation righteousness, half of his glory is cut off. This is what happens. I’m illustrating how it works. How finding your particular ambition in life, it doesn’t happen by closing the Bible and going to the woods and saying, “Speak, Lord! Speak!” It doesn’t happen that way. It happens when you are totally immersed in the Bible, crying to God, “Speak, speak, speak! Grip me. Take me. Shape me. Guide me. Control me. I want to not waste my life. Show me my way, my calling, my holy ambition.” This is where it’s going to come from, and that’s what I’m illustrating.
A Holy Ambition Leads to Acts of Love
Now, listen to Paul be more specific with his own situation. God does not lead us to ambitions that are pointless. He doesn’t lead us into life ambitions that are going to leave us with regret at the end of our life. There’s a lot of things you can do that will leave you with regret at the end of your life; this isn’t one of them. A holy ambition, by definition, does not leave you with regret at the end of your life that you gave yourself to it. It is always a form of love. It is not self-exaltation, although self-exaltation is threatening you all the time, like right now, for me and you, in your own mind.
How can I find a holy ambition that will make me famous? We never ever escape the horrific temptation of pride and self-exaltation, but a holy ambition has built into it explosive devices that go off every time that emerges, they go off. They can really hurt sometimes when they go off, so we’re not talking about finding a holy ambition that enables you to exalt yourself. Holy ambitions are always acts of love. They’re always meeting people’s needs, especially the greatest needs. There is an immeasurable need that Paul refers to here that he was up to meeting. Romans 15:20, “Thus, I make it my ambition to preach the gospel not where Christ has already been named.” Paul set his face like flit to preach the gospel where there was no church, and they’ve never heard of Christ. They didn’t even know his name.
Are All Accountable?
Now, that raises a question for us. Well, if they don’t know his name, they don’t know anything about him. Why are you so eager to reach them because surely they’re not responsible to believe in Jesus if they’ve never heard of him? What’s with this ambition? This is a huge issue. It’s very relevant for me right now. I’m a part of a wider Christian movement that’s wrestling with this very question. If people have never heard the gospel, what will they be held accountable for at the last judgment? Will they be held accountable for what they don’t know? Will they be judged and sentenced to hell for not believing something they never heard?
Paul, what do you believe about this? You have this passionate ambition from God to get to Spain because they’ve never heard of Jesus. Why? Let’s look at Romans 1 for an answer. Romans 1:18–23. His answer is pretty clear. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness, suppress the truth.” It sounds like they have some truth to suppress, and they’re all suppressing it. Romans 1:19, “For what can be known about God is plain to them.” This is talking about all the people in Spain for a century and everyone else everywhere that is outside the hearing of the gospel.
“For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them.” Romans 1:20, “For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made.” In other words, creation is revealing God, “so that they are without excuse.” This is Paul answering my question. They are without excuse. What? Without excuse on the judgment? Yes, without excuse on the judgment day; without excuse, under the wrath of God. Paul, why?
Romans 1:21 says, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images, resembling mortal men, birds, and animals, and reptiles.”
The reason all people, everywhere, outside the gospel are without excuse on the judgment day is because they all suppress the truth available to them. Nobody will be condemned for suppressing a truth that they never had. They will be condemned for suppressing, resisting, rebelling, and exchanging the truth that they had, and they all do it.
This is huge. You have to come to terms with whether you believe that or not. Thousands of evangelicals don’t believe that anymore. It’s gutting many things among us. I commend it to you for your very serious consideration. Romans 2:12, “All who have sinned without the law will perish without the law. All who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.” You hear the principle? We will be judged by what we know, and we all know enough to be judged.
The Remedy for Truth-Suppression
We all suppress what we know until the gospel comes, and God has appointed that when the gospel comes, the Holy Spirit comes. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. How do people get born again? 1 Peter 1:23, 25, “We are born again not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God . . . and this word is the good news that was preached to you.” I don’t think that could be clearer. Jesus said, “Nobody will see the kingdom of God unless they’re born again.” Peter says, “People are born again through the living and abiding word,” and then he explicitly defines it, “This word is the good news which was preached to you.”
That’s why Paul had this holy ambition. They will be lost if I don’t go, if somebody doesn’t take the gospel. They are suppressing the truth, and what causes them to awaken from the deadly suppression is the gospel of Jesus. Then, Paul moves from this immeasurable need that the world has to an amazing strategy. I just want you to see this strategy briefly. If you’re newer to the concept of global missions or world evangelization, there are some categories and some titles or names that you may not be familiar with, and this verse, this passage here, is very helpful in getting some things sorted out.
Look at the middle of Romans 15:19. “From Jerusalem” — so picture that on your map in the Middle East there — “all the way around to Illyricum.” Now, follow him up. This is up through Lebanon, up through Syria, through Turkey, over into Greece down to Athens, and Corinth up the west coast to Illyricum, just northern Italy up there. All that, that’s a lot of space: “From Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum, I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ.”
Then he says in Romans 15:23, “I no longer have any room for work in these regions.” That is simply off the charts outlandish. What does he mean he has no room for work? Ephesus is smack-dab in the middle of that place where he has no room for work. We know something about Ephesus. Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to pass through the church.
Paul Types and Timothy Types
Then, he wrote it with a couple of letters. Do you know what he said in the letters? He said, “Timothy, do the work of an evangelist.” What does that mean? That means there are lost people everywhere in Ephesus, and Paul’s finished. Now, here’s the category that introduces that there are Timothy types, and some of you are that. There are Paul types, and some of you are that. And there are others. The Timothy type is this: “I’m putting you in a place to stay there and evangelize the city. Don’t leave. Don’t go anywhere.” The church is firmly planted. Stay there. “That’s not me,” Paul says. “I don’t have that ambition, I don’t have that calling. I’ve been taken by another text.”
Well, you can picture Timothy. He might have been taken by the text of Jesus is the Good Shepherd; he knows his sheep by name. He leads them in green pastures and takes them by streams of water. That’s where I want to be. I want a people. I want a flock. I want to love a people. I want to love children, teenagers, and old people. I want to marry them, bury them, and care for them. I just want a flock.
You’re just gripped by this beautiful, biblical image of shepherding, and I say, “Amen, amen, amen!” But some of you are going to hear that and say, “Not me, not me. That text didn’t take me. Paul’s took me,” or something else. Paul said, “I have no room here,” which means there’s this category of missionary. Or maybe we should call him frontier missionary or pioneer missionary.
It doesn’t matter what the words are. What matters is that in all of your student groups, in all of your churches, you should be praying, “Oh God, raise up among us some with the Paul passion, with the Paul ambition, because there are so many unreached peoples left where the church hasn’t been planted, and the name isn’t known.”
I don’t want to make anybody guilty if you don’t sense that calling, because most of you shouldn’t. I say that with some hesitation because I’d love to see two thousand people do that, but if I could get one hundred or two hundred, who say, “Yes, all the other callings are good, but I am taken by this ambition that Paul had. I will spend my life. I will give my life to preach the gospel where nobody has gone before.”
Missions Are Not Done
Let me close this way. My wife got an email and shared it with me. It’s from a young man, I would guess mid to late twenties, and you’ll be able to figure out where he is. He doesn’t hide it. In fact, he’s in western China, and he’s been there. I don’t know him personally. His name is Eugene, and his website — he obviously doesn’t care if I say so since he has one — is china.myadventures.org. It’s part of a larger My Adventures ministry.
I want to read you what he wrote in closing. One of the reasons for reading this is to let you hear the voice of somebody who’s maybe seven or eight years ahead of you, and really grew up fast evidently and decided, “I’m just not going to play video games when I’m 28! I’m going to be in a hard place doing a hard thing for the glory of Jesus, because it’s more blessed to give than to receive, and I’m all about being blessed!”
The other reason, besides letting one who’s just a little ahead of you speak to you as I close, is that he illustrates another point. Namely, the day of Western missionaries is not over, and he makes a point of that because of a specific situation he’s in. The church has so exploded in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that Westerners are starting to think, “Oh, let’s just send money and not bodies.” Like, “Let them die! We’ll just pay.” That’s my cynical way of talking about that attitude. I hate it.
“Let them put their blood on the line. We’re rich. We live in the Disneyland of the world. We’ll fund it. Cool!” Here’s the quote from Eugene to you. I believe he’s writing this to you. You’ll see why I think he’s writing this to you.
After spending the first three years as a Christian in the States, involved in tons of personal evangelism, and now, after having spent nearly seven years living in some of the most gospel-deprived regions in the world, I am very frustrated by the amount of gospel preaching that takes place in the West compared to the complete ignorance of the gospel that exists all around me over here.
Let me explain myself a little better. Although it seems that the laborers are so few, even in America, it is impossible to even compare the amount of gospel knowledge available to the average American with the utter lack of the gospel found in certain areas around the world. I happen to live in one of those places. In brief, within a few hundred miles of where I’m sitting, right now, there are millions of Tibetan Buddhists and Chinese Muslims scattered throughout tens of thousands of towns and villages. The vast majority of these people have never heard anything true about Christianity. With the exception of just a handful, the villages have never, in the history of mankind, been graced by the presence of a minister of the gospel. The lack of the gospel in these places is overwhelming, and I truly believe that God will call more people out into these far-flung corners of the world, if only they have the chance to hear about the need and are shown how they can do something about it. I simply want to encourage the Western church to wake up and realize that dozens of regions around the world are still completely devoid of the gospel. Most of these places are difficult places for even the so-called native missionaries to work. It is going to take people like you and me, that is, Western cross-cultural missionaries, to be sent and go, and learn these languages, and share the gospel with these people.
For instance, the large number of Christians in China is primarily located in the eastern half of the country. Their culture is radically different from the Tibetans and the Chinese Muslims. Much of the time, Western missionaries do a better job of reaching out to these minorities than do the Chinese, especially with the racism that exists in China and the recent wars. The minorities have often fought against the ruling Chinese. I hope I have explained my burden clearly enough. Please let me know if anybody has any thoughts, comments, or questions. For God’s glory, we want to see more laborers raised up to reach the millions, these millions, with the gospel.
I do not quote Eugene to try to make all of you into Eugenes. I quote him because there is one response. He has a holy ambition. Yours won’t be the same. I’m just pleading with you as I close. Get one. My main point, as far as how you get it, has been this: immerse yourself in the Bible. This is God’s inspired word. Oh how the risen Christ makes it mighty in your personal life. Stay in the Bible. My closing word, prayer, exhortation, goes like this, and this is what I would pray if I were you: “Lord, I will not let you go until you give me a holy ambition.”
Then it clarifies as you go on, “Lord, I won’t let you go until you give me a holy ambition. Forbid that I would waste my life. Even in these student days, don’t let me waste it, Lord. Show me your glory. Show me your passion for your glory. Draw me into it, oh God. I don’t care about being famous.” I hope you can say that. “I don’t care about being famous. I want to be faithful. I just feel so insignificant. As insignificant and small as I feel, oh God, I want my life to count.” He’s got his eyes right on you. “I want my life to count. My little way that nobody else can do, except my holy ambition. I want my life to count. Show and grant me, oh God, a holy ambition.”