I Will Go: Would It Make a Difference?

Introduction

Abram left his homeland and traveled to an unknown destination; The prophet Isaiah answered, … "Here am I. Send me!" Peter, John, and James left behind their boat and nets to become fishers of men; the former demon-possessed went to share his testimony in 10 cities. Many have in their own time and own ways partnered with God. You, too, have responded or are considering responding to God's appeal. But an important question remains. Does it make a difference for us humans to partner in God's mission? Or is it the same as a toddler who helps his father carry the heavy log of wood? I'm sure that you have observed such a situation. A willing heart, an unforgettable boning experience, but not really helping! How relevant is it to partner in the mission of a God who is omnipotent (He Has All Power), omnipresent (He is Everywhere), and omniscient (He Has All Knowledge)? And beyond that, He declares Himself to be the Owner of everything (Psalm 24:1-2). Would “I Will Go” make a Difference?

Luke 8:1–3 can help us to understand the value of partnering in God’s mission: I invite you to follow the reading of this Bible text “After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” Here, Luke reports that Jesus associated himself with the 12 and with some women. Then he mentions the role played by these women:  “These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”  Is he saying that these women provided the resources needed by Jesus and the disciples? This would mean that Jesus, the all-powerful God, depended on a handful of women for the execution of His mission. What could these women really bring to Jesus? What could we really bring to God's mission?

Prayer:

The Contributions of the Women

We read again Luke 8:3b, These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” There are two key expressions: “helping to support” and “own means."

The word “diekonoun” translated as "helping to support" or "ministering," can have a double meaning. It refers to service rendered and to financial patronage. The context can accommodate both meanings. An itinerant preacher with twelve disciples definitely had some essential needs: the washing and mending of clothes, food preparation, and so on. Also, Jesus left His carpentry shop. His followers left their boats and nets, and one of them his tax collector's booth. Financial support was needed for them to survive. According to Luke, these women provided for these needs.

The other expression, “Uparchonton” translated as "own means," can also have a double meaning. First, it refers to one's abilities. When these women were providing services, it was according to their abilities, both simple and complex. One was probably a great cook (preparing the favorite dish of Jesus). Another one was good at providing care whenever someone suffered from colic or stomachache. Another one had golden fingers to repair patches in their clothes. Each one contributed, according to her abilities. The expression "own means" also refers to financial means. It could have been some pocket money or savings. It is even possible that these women sold some of their valuables to assist Jesus. 

The use of our "own means" (talents, gifts, time, and resources) in God's mission is something designed by God himself: "He has placed in the hands of his servants the means wherewith to carry forward his work in the home and foreign mission."[1] The association between the divine and humans, is a striking feature of God's mission. Now that we have talked about the nature of the partnership and how it is expected by God Himself, we can go back to our core question: What difference does that make when humans accept the call to partner in God's mission?

An Expansion in Mission 

Our text, Luke 8:1–3, is an introduction to Jesus' mission in Galilee before he journeyed to Jerusalem to be arrested and put to death. From what is reported in the Gospels, this phase of His ministry, supported by these women, was notably rich in teaching, demonstrating power, and new missionary initiatives.

During His travel in Galilee, Jesus started to use parables to make His teachings clearer to his followers. He spoke plainly about his death and resurrection. Another peak experience was the transfiguration, through which He gave to 3 of his disciples a glimpse of His second coming in glory. The good news was proclaimed with great clarity. According to Luke, all this was made possible because these women provided the needed support. 

Let's talk about the demonstration of power. During this missionary tour, He controlled the elements by calming the storm and walking on water. He demonstrated his healing power by healing the woman who had a flow of blood for 12 years, and his life-giving power by resurrecting the daughter of Jairus. He fed a crowd of 5,000 men, plus women and children. He impacted and transformed many lives because these women answered the call of partnership.

This period was also marked by a significant expansion in new mission initiatives. Jesus visited the Gentile regions outside the borders of Israel. He visited places such as Tyre, Sidon, Bethsaida, and Decapolis. Outside Tyre, he repeated the miracle of the multiplication of bread by feeding 4 000 men, presenting himself as the Bread of Life for all nations. How did He manage to accomplish that much in such a short period? You know the answer already. The women provided the logistics. 

Dear friends, Luke leads his readers to understand the value of material and financial supports. These so-called “mundane things” are the wheels of mission. Human's participation in God's mission is not a mere pretense as it is the case for the toddler carrying the heavy log. It does make a difference. Our participation and support contribute to the progress of God's final mission: “He does not design that his work shall be crippled for wants of means.[2] There is a clear correlation between believers answering, “I Will Go/I Will Give” and progress in God’s mission.  

Nonetheless, in many situations, we don't see the immediate effect of our partnership with God. As humans, we are motivated by the results of our actions, and not seeing the result can be challenging. Some of us get discouraged. Others withdraw from partnering, and some resolve to support only local projects rather than to support a worldwide mission worldwide far from our eyes. Apostle Paul had a similar experience. Some people in Corinth were questioning the pertinence of his mission. Let us listen to Paul's conviction in 1 Corinthians 15:58 “My dear brothers and sisters, stay firmly planted—be unshakable— do many good works in the name of God, and know that all your labor is not for nothing when it is for God.” "your labor is not for nothing" In other words, the value of our partnership through invisible today is a sure reality, and its significance will be revealed. In the meantime, let us remember that God's mission is global, what we see and what we cannot see "to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people" (Rev. 14:7). He requires a global mindset from his chosen partners. 

There is a bonus for us. Today, we can already gain some glimpses of the outcome of our partnership in God’s mission. Let me share one example with you. Every quarter, God’s Church from all over the world pulls funds together to support one specific region through what we called the 13th Sabbath Project. In 2016, a portion of our offerings was invested in establishing a floating church (The Amazon of Hope) on the Amazon River in Brazil. Do you know that after the first 12 full months of the boat church operation, 286 were baptized, and three churches were planted in 2017? Listen to the testimony of Pastor Reno and his wife Nathalia, who served on the church boat, the Amazon of Hope: "The boat church is God’s way of saving people who have been forgotten by political, economic, and health systems,” “Villagers are waiting for missionaries and waiting to know Jesus.”  If you want to know more about how your support to mission is making a difference, I invite you to visit the Adventist Mission website. You will be pleased.

The First Blessing

Before we end, let us talk about another result, probably the most important one, that our support to mission is making. Their partnership impacts the very lives of those participating and supporting the mission. This can be observed through the experience of these women of Luke 8:1-3. The next occasion on which we meet these same women from Galilee is at the foot of the cross (Luke 23: 49) and the burial of Jesus (Luke 23: 55). During this testing time, they did not deny their Jesus or ran away. Later, they became the first witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus (Luke 24:1-9). Faithfulness in supporting God’s mission has prepared them for faithfulness in time of crisis. Ultimately, they were the ones who benefited the most from partnering with Jesus.  Ellen White, in the book Desire of Ages, writes about God's foremost purpose in enrolling us as partners: “God could have reached His object in saving sinners without our aid; but for us to develop a character like Christ's, we must share in His work. To enter into His joy—the joy of seeing souls redeemed by His sacrifice—we must participate in His labors for their redemption." (The Desire of Ages, 142). Developing a Christlike character and experiencing true joy are God’s gifts to those who enter in partnership with Him. And this is real. Brothers and sisters, our sincere involvement today in God’s mission will help us to remain standing during the final crisis.

You remember the toddler who is helping to carry the heavy log. Through this activity, he enjoys his dad's presence; he builds sweet memories, has fun, and bonds with his hero. This same experience is promised to those who partner in God’s mission. At the end of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus calls his disciples to "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations …" (Matthew 28:19).  He ends the next verse (verse 20) by mentioning the unique experience of those who answer to this call "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The blessings and the joy of His presence is given to those who go. Is that not our daily prayer? It is fulfilled when we participate in His mission.

Conclusion

Jesus, the One who owns everything, the One has the power to multiply bread, is clearly indicating that the Divine has chosen to associate with human partners in the work of proclaiming the good news of His kingdom. He calls both the twelve and the women. His invitation “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” is addressed to each one of us today. He wants His mission to go forward, stronger, and faster. He wants you and I to enjoy His presence here and now. How do we respond?

Prayer

 

Aniel Barbe

 

[1] Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Dec. 23, 1890

[2] Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol.9, p.247