It is important at the present moment to maintain in our souls a distinct sense of the largeness of God. Especially so if our feet, in the goodness of God, have been guided into the narrow path of obedience. There is a small political party today who are opposed to all expansion of the British Empire. They have been dubbed by their opponents “Little Englanders.” Let us beware of the “Little Englander” spirit in divine things. Separation from evil must be our watchword if we are to walk in line with the thoughts of God; and hard facts compel the admission, however humiliating, that it is but “a day of small things.” Yet God is neither small nor narrow, His greatness shines in every page of Scripture, and is expressed in all His designs and actions. Every gospel labourer should earnestly bear this truth in mind, for nowhere is it more conspicuous than in the gospel itself. Three things will suffice to demonstrate it.
1. The Great Blessings of the Gospel
As to the future, the gospel, or rather the One of whom the gospel speaks, will finally bring us to heaven. Picked up, as we have been, out of a ruined world, from sin, degradation, and misery, we shall be taken to a world of bliss where everything is according to God. We shall enter not as slaves, but as sons, accepted in the Beloved, and associated with Christ, the “Captain of our salvation.” This is something surpassing great, beyond the highest thoughts of mortal man.
As to the present, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. For the believer there is salvation instead of sin; peace instead of trouble; favour instead of fearfulness; and deliverance instead of bondage. When fully known the gospel completely emancipates a man, so that now he shouts in triumph in the very scene where once he groaned in misery.
2. The Great Scope of the Gospel
The original commission is found in Luke 24:46-47, and I am not aware of anything which has either repealed or even modified those soul-stirring words. On the contrary, Paul’s commission, subsequently given, though of the very highest character, ran on exactly the same lines (Col. 1:23). Expansion is the order of the day, and if Jerusalem was for the time being the centre of the gospel circle, “all nations” describes the circumference of it, and that is as large as heart could wish.
It is fully granted that the present state of ruin in which the Church is found, and our own spiritual weakness, has greatly altered the way in which we set about things and frequently hampers us. Still nothing less than “all nations” will satisfy the heart of God. Nothing less is our responsibility, and nothing else will do.
3. The Great Results of the Gospel
The early chapters of Acts record these in a remarkable way. The results of the gospel are great, both outwardly and inwardly. The outward are seen in chapter 2, when three thousand souls were converted at one time; the inward in chapter 9, when Saul of Tarsus, the bitterest opponent of Jesus, was by it subdued, and the chief of sinners saved. In other words, Acts 2 is quantity, and Acts 9 is quality.
I do not think we shall be going too far if we say that God has very distinct results in view in the sending forth of the gospel: as to the future, the accomplishment of His great designs of grace; and as to the present, the establishment of testimony to Christ in the very spot of His rejection. Those who preach should be characterised by the same thing. Scripture bears abundant witness to the fact that God does not call and commission servants for the accomplishment of nothing. The greatest of them has said, “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air” (1 Cor. 9:26).
To be dependent on results as a motive-spring of action and service is a great snare. The fact is we ought to find sufficient attractiveness in Christ alone to enable us to preach for fifty years without seeing a convert—if this were the will of God. On the other hand, since God does send forth His servants with definite results in view, absence of results should be a matter of gravest concern and exercise. It is perfectly true that what Christ values is not success, but faithfulness. “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21, 23). At the same time, be it remembered that the faithful servants were also the succesful ones. Faithfulness and success in the parable go hand in hand.
Philip’s history in Acts 8 illustrates this. Faithfulness demanded his leaving a scene of fruitful labour for the barren desert. To the critical eye it must have appeared a wild-goose chase. In reality it was a brilliant success, and a man was caught who must in the very nature of things have become an ardent missionary in distant and untrodden fields.
Brethren, let us take fresh heart in the work of the Lord. The present weakness is great, our God is greater, and He remains immutably the same. Let us take fresh cheer and do today what David did, of whom it is said, “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”
Simple Testimony 1900, p. 19