The Bible indicates that many good and godly people, including the prophets of old, desired to see the kind of things we are now witnessing. What a great day to be a serious follower of Jesus Christ and involved in building His kingdom. Think of it—millions who loved the Lord lived and died longing to see a moment like this one.
There is a great mystery—why us? It seems God, for His own sovereign reasons that are known to Him alone, has chosen us to live at the most amazing time. Unprecedented events are now occurring like exploding fireworks.
God is at work in an extraordinary way, so that He moves behind the scenes, but He also moves all the scenes which He is behind! Doors are being opened, and hearts are being made receptive. And the results—the growth of the Christian faith today is mindboggling.
But some would protest—“All is not positive. We see evil in our world—what about that?” And, of course, what comes to mind is the rise of militant Islam with terrorism, an aggressive kind of atheism, and other pockets of resistance toward the God we love. — “What about that?” people ask. For my answer I would call the theologian Graham Machen. He said, “Even the wicked actions of men serve God’s purposes [too!] … wicked men may not think they are serving God’s purposes; but they are … even by the most wicked of their acts.” A study of God’s work across the ages reveals how so often He has suddenly “turned the tables” by managing the affairs of men and nations, bringing glory to Himself. Is He not doing that now? — Yes, I think so!
God is in control not only in spite of human and satanic opposition, but by means of it! In the midst of it all, remember God can never be outwitted, taken by surprise, or caught off guard. God’s plan will continue on God’s schedule. Dr. J. I. Packer, like a spiritual father said, “Once and for all, let us rid our minds of the idea that things are as they are because God cannot help it.” We believe God always has the last word, and He will write the last chapter of human history. He is now involved in human events to bring glorious good out of evil. The times are in His hands, and He cannot be frustrated in His ultimate purpose.
And within that great sovereignty of God we need to realize we are living in a period of history that the Bible describes as “the last days.” When Peter quoted the prophet Joel, he said, “When the last days come, I will give my Spirit to everyone. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will have dreams. In those days I will give my Spirit …” (Acts 2:17-18, CEV)
So in God’s sovereign plan, in the last days God’s people would be endued with power and be the chosen instrument for the evangelization of the world. These messengers would go to “the ends of the earth.”
As we think of Peter’s words related to “the last days,” these were not just a reference to the days of the apostles. The “last days” was a designation of all that was to occur from that moment at Pentecost until Jesus returned. In other words, it includes all of history of the church to follow. In that framework the phrase “you shall receive power” means that God would in that period of history be our enabler. The promise is this: We live in a time when God has promised to enable us to be all He intended us to be and to do what He intended us to do. We need to openly affirm that with our minds and mouths. May God help us get a better grasp of the nature and the extent of His enabling and how it relates to us individually and to the work of His worldwide witness.
Let me use three powerful quotes to make the point more clearly—one from the most respected evangelist of our day, one from an internationally respected Christian mission specialist, and another from a wonderful British songwriter.
“Harvest time is always the ever-present now! … Throughout the teaching of our Lord is this note of urgency concerning evangelism. The evangelistic harvest is always urgent. The destiny of men and of nations is always being decided. Every generation is crucial; every generation is strategic … We have been given greater and sharper instruments to gather in a great harvest than any generation in history. Our Lord warned: ‘To whom much is given of him will much be required’ (Luke 12:48). We must not fail to meet the challenge of this hour.” Billy Graham
“From all indications this is the chosen time toward which all history has been relentlessly moving and by which our generation will be forevermore defined.” David Shibley
“Many believe that God is appointing this present hour as a unique … hour of opportunity for the completion of world evangelization … To meet the moment, it’s going to require every family within God’s people to pray for every person in every place.” Graham Kendrick
So today—take heart; we are moving with a divine tide! We are not depending on our own petty resources. Let us be fully conscious of the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit; we have been empowered!
Added to that, we see a great surge of divine activity. Step back and look and see it—the fact is that the strong winds of God began to blow across the world as the twentieth century dawned. It was evident in the Welsh revival that occurred in 1904 and onward. Throughout all that century with all its horrors, the moving of God’s Spirit never died down, and as a matter of fact it constantly increased its intensity.
Historians such as Dr. J. Edwin Orr, who was a specialist on spiritual awakenings, called what happened in Wales “the worldwide awakening,” and it created an evangelistic missionary momentum that has never abated. Even with two horrible world wars—the truth went forth. Even with the rise of communism in places like China, Russia, and Eastern Europe. And onward it spread—the truth has marched on. Relentlessly, powerfully, and amazingly! There were all these political and economic problems in the southern third of Africa—but the awakening continued. As we see the big picture, let us all celebrate the move of God!
As the twenty-first century began, worldwide the number of people turning to Christ was the highest in the history of Christianity and could be measured only in the millions. Now, more progress has been made to evangelize the world and fulfill the challenge of the Great Commission than in all previous Christian history!
If we fail to realize this and do not take an active part of it, we become like the legendary Rip Van Winkle, who slept through one of history’s upheavals, the American Revolution. Even he did not make a blunder as great as ours!
Should we be challenged to sum up in a single brief sentence the long-drawn-out historical progress going on in history, it would be difficult to find a better one than this explanation: As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, the kingdom of God is on its relentless way, so all those who know Christ should have an active part in making that a glorious reality.
That’s precisely where we come in—we, with each song, sermon, and gospel witness, are cooperating with the grand purpose of God. It’s a great day to be serving God. There are before us open doors to countries once closed. And the Holy Spirit, in a remarkable way, has opened hearts making millions receptive to the gospel of Christ as never before.
We clearly see the hand of God in all this. World evangelization is now possible, it is doable, and it is finishable! Give Him glory!
We see the Holy Spirit at work in ways that cause us to applaud, to weep, and to burn with readiness. How can our hearts not now be fully captured? What a day! — We see the unexplainable moving of the Holy Spirit in places no one would expect. It remains to be asked, “Will each of us move in concert with Him and be a truly empowered servant of the most high God?”
And here then is the awesome challenge—we must never allow ourselves to be simply casual observers. All of us should desire to be a part of making it happen; there is a place for each of us. Some are to be those that go, and others, those that give. For that to be true, there must be openness and availability to the Lord Himself. We must allow Him to empower and enable us. He must be allowed to sweep over us and overshadow us.
David Bryant, one of our greatest men of vision related to world evangelization, said, “This is God’s hour … I see nothing less than a true spiritual awakening to Christ accelerating His mission for the twenty-first century.” What a day, and we are included!
These words are meant to be a clarion call to action. None of us can enter a plea of ignorance or naivety. Now! Now, we must channel our labors, our finances, and our resources immediately to the most important activities—outreach, missions, evangelism. We have to prioritize our lives, putting first things first. What an hour—we are on the threshold of the greatest spiritual awakening in history.
Take a deep breath—the Holy Spirit like a strong armed harvester is ready to thrust in the sickle one last time to reap history’s greatest harvest. What we are seeing is the beginning stage, the firstfruits of the move of God before the end of the age. God is showing us what He wants done—He is opening doors. We must be obedient and respond immediately and wholeheartedly.
It seems to me that it is outrageous for Christians to squander their evangelistic resources in overly Christianized countries instead of places that are under-evangelized and so open. To me God is thundering from heaven, “Lift up your eyes, the fields are white unto harvest!”
Most of us are not aware that occasionally from the Catholic church Gospel preaching evangelists emerge. Such a person was Francis Xavier, who lived in the 1500’s. He wrote back a statement to the people of Europe saying these striking words of challenge: “Tell the [people God is calling] to give up their small ambitions and come … to preach to the gospel of Christ.” Let me repeat with emphasis, “give up,” my friend, “small ambitions”!