Recently, I heard a statement from Ed Stetzer that I can’t get out of my head. He said:
I could not agree more.
There’s no doubt that this is a difficult moment. The ongoing pandemic, the racial tensions, the economic uncertainty, and the political divisiveness in our nation have all presented significant challenges for the church. It’s not hard to understand why many churches have been tempted to pause the mission until the moment passes.
However, God’s people have faced many difficult moments in the past, but they kept moving forward in spite of their circumstances. Consider just a few brief examples below.
Moses’ Moment & His Mission
During his burning bush encounter in Exodus 3, Moses received his mission from the Lord, “Therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). While he was reluctant at first, Moses eventually returned to Egypt to accomplish his mission.
Throughout the next several chapters, there were many challenging moments for Moses. Many times, he could have allowed the moment to pause the mission. When he first appealed to Pharaoh to let his people go, the king refused and imposed heavier work on the Israelites. During that moment, Moses could have simply given up and abandoned the mission. Each successive time that Pharaoh refused, Moses could have given up. When the Egyptians trapped the people in front of the Red Sea, that would have been a time when most would have abandoned the mission. When the Israelites bickered and complained about Moses time after time, he could have thrown in the towel.
But he never did so. Moses did not allow his moment to pause his mission.
Nehemiah’s Moment & His Mission
When Nehemiah heard that the walls around Jerusalem were still rubble, he sensed God’s call to lead the rebuilding effort. After presenting his request to King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah recounts, “The king granted my requests, for the gracious hand of my God was on me” (Nehemiah 2:8).
However, soon after his arrival in Jerusalem, Nehemiah experienced moments that could have caused him to pause his mission. Before the work even started, he was falsely accused of rebelling against the king. After the work began, Nehemiah and the workers were mocked, threatened, and discouraged. In addition to the outside threats, there were conflicts and complaints between the workers as well.
Nehemiah could have allowed any of these difficult circumstances to slow or halt the work. But he didn’t do so. Despite the challenges, the walls were rebuilt in record time. Nehemiah did not allow his moment to pause his mission.
Jesus’ Moment & His Mission
We learn about Jesus’ mission in the first chapter of the New Testament. When the Lord’s angel visited Joseph, he announced, “(Mary) will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). And that’s exactly what happened!
However, Jesus had many moments when he could have paused or aborted the mission altogether. During the wilderness temptations, he could have taken the easy way out. When he faced persecution, he could have simply returned to his carpentry work. When Peter tried to talk him out of the cross, he could have listened to him. When he was arrested, he could have recanted everything he had been teaching and preaching. When he hung on the cross, he could have come down on his own and ended His suffering any time he wished. If anyone ever had a moment when it would have been tempting to pause or abandon the mission, it was Jesus.
But Jesus did not allow those difficult moments to cause him to take His eyes off what God had called him to do. That’s why He could triumphantly declare on the cross, “It is finished.” The reason that you and I have the eternal hope that we have today is because Jesus did not allow His moment to pause His mission.
The Early Church’s Moment & Their Mission
After Jesus accomplished His mission through His death, burial, and resurrection, He passed on the mission to the early church through the Great Commission. He commanded them to make disciples (Matthew 28:19), and He promised that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them in order to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). As you read through the book of Acts, that’s exactly what happens.
But, it didn’t happen without some challenging moments that may have tempted the church to pause the mission. When Peter and John were arrested in Acts 4 and warned not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, they could have done so. But they chose not to abandon the mission. When Stephen was martyred and persecution broke out against the church, it would have been easy to pause the mission. But the gospel continued to be proclaimed. When James was executed and Peter placed in prison again, the church could have put the brakes on the mission then. When Paul was flogged and thrown into prison, he could have aborted the mission. Instead, he and a few others turned the world upside down.
Over and over again in the book of Acts, the early church encountered difficult moments. Each moment could have brought the mission to a screeching halt. But the church persevered. The church pressed on. The early church did not allow the moment they were in to pause the mission they were on.
Our Moment & Our Mission
We did not choose this moment, but in God’s sovereignty, this is our moment, nonetheless. Although it is tempting to pause or abort our mission until circumstances improve, God has called each of us to serve for such a time as this.
Because of our current moment, the methods may need to change to accomplish the mission. But the mission never changes. I believe that the Lord will use this moment for His glory and the advancement of His gospel in unimaginable ways if we will remain faithful to His mission.
Photo by Kate Trifo on Unsplash