Our subject this morning is, the Source of Power for Christian Missions, and, in a word, power belongeth unto God.
The strength of a chain is limited to that of its weakest link. If, therefore, we are connected with the source of power by a chain, the weakest link will be the limit to which we can avail ourselves of it. But if our connection is direct and immediate, there is no hindrance to the exercise of the mighty power of God.
"The power of the living God is available power. We may call upon Him in the name of Christ, with the assurance that if we are taught by the Spirit in our prayers, those prayers will be answered."
God Himself is the great source of power. It is His possession. “Power belongeth unto God.” And He manifests it according to His sovereign will; yet not in an erratic or arbitrary manner, but according to His declared purposes and promises.
Further, God tells us by His prophet Daniel that the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits; and they that understand among the people shall instruct many. If it be ordinarily true that knowledge is power, it is supremely true in the case of the knowledge of God; those who know their God do not attempt to do exploits, but do them. We shall search the Scriptures in vain, from Genesis to Revelation, for any command to attempt to do anything. God's commands are always, “Do this.” His prohibitions are always, “Do not do this.” If we believe the command to be from God, our only course is to obey, and the issue must always be success.
Further, God's power is available power. We are a supernatural people, born again by a supernatural birth, kept by a supernatural power, sustained on supernatural food, taught by a supernatural Teacher, from a supernatural Book. We are led by a supernatural Captain in right paths to assured victories. The risen Saviour, ere He ascended on high, said “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, Go ye therefore“—disciple, baptize, teach all nations. “And, Lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world.” And again, “Ye shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” Not many days after this, in answer to united and continued prayer, the Holy Ghost did come upon them and they were all filled. Praise God, He remains with us still. The power given is not a gift from the Holy Ghost. He, Himself, is the Power. To-day He is as truly available and as mighty in power as He was on the day of Pentecost. But has the whole Church ever, since the days before Pentecost, put aside every other work and waited for Him for ten days, that that power might be manifested? Has there not been a source of failure here? We have given too much attention to methods, and to machinery, and to resources, and too little to the Source of Power; the filling with the Holy Ghost. This, I think you will agree with me, is the great weakness, has been the great weakness of our service in the past, and unless remedied will be the great weakness in the future. We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. If we are not filled we are living in disobedience and sin, and the cause of our sin is the cause of Israel's sin of old, is the sin of unbelief.
It is not lost time to wait upon God. May I refer to a small gathering of about a dozen men in which I was permitted to take part, some years ago, in November, 1886; we, in the China Inland Mission, were feeling greatly the need of Divine guidance in the matter of organization in the field, and in the matter of re-enforcement, and we came together before our Conference to spend eight days in united waiting upon God—four alternate days being days of fasting as well as prayer. This was November, 1886, when we gathered together; we were led to pray for 100 missionaries, to be sent out by our English Board in the year 1887, from January to December. And, further than this, our income had not been elastic for some years; it had been about £22,000, and we were led in connection with that forward movement, to ask God for £10,000, say $50,000, in addition to the income of the previous year. More than this, we were guided to pray that this might be given in large sums, so that the force of our staff might not be unduly occupied in the acknowledgment of contributions. What was the result? God sent us offers of service from over 600 men and women during the following year, and those who were deemed to be ready and suitable were accepted, and were sent out to China; and it proved that at the end of the year exactly 100 had gone. What about the income? God did not give us exactly the £10,000 we asked for, but He gave us £11,000, and that £11,000 came in eleven contributions; the smallest was £500, say $2,500, the largest was $12,500 or £2,500. We had a thanksgiving for the men and the money that were coming in November, 1886; but they were all received and sent out before the end of December, 1887.
The power of the living God is available power. We may call upon Him in the name of Christ, with the assurance that if we are taught by the Spirit in our prayers, those prayers will be answered.
God is the ultimate source of power; and faith is the hand which lays hold on God. And how important is that hand! If the contact of faith with the living God be to any extent broken, may it not again be true, as in the days of His flesh, when He could not do many mighty works because of their unbelief? How important is faith, and what is this so essential faith? Is it not simply the recognition of and reliance upon God's faithfulness? Is it not simply reliance on the fact that faithful is He who promised, who also will do it? With this faith in lively exercise, God may manifest Himself as He never has done. We are living in days of wonderful missionary successes, but we may see far more wonderful things in days to come.
Another important thought, a source of power—the Church. It is not an isolated number of units, but an organized body. I can, by no possibility, get my hand four feet in front of my body. If my hand is to rescue a drowning man, the whole body must cooperate. Individuals have through the ages, and are at present doing all that is in their power, but the Church, as a whole, must rise to its dignity and realize its responsibility to go forward. We must all go into all the world, and not confine our sympathies and interests to this sphere or that sphere of labor. Not only must the missionaries suffer in going forth from loving and beloved homes, and their parents and friends in giving them up, but the Church must go forward in self-denial to the point of suffering. Redemptive work, soul-saving work, can not be carried out without suffering. If we are simply to pray to the extent of a simple pleasant and enjoyable exercise, and know nothing of watching in prayer, and of weariness in prayer, we shall not draw down the blessing that we may. We shall not sustain our missionaries who are overwhelmed with the appalling darkness of heathenism; we shall not even sufficiently maintain the spiritual life of our own souls. We must serve God even to the point of suffering, and each one ask himself in what degree, in what point, am I extending, by personal suffering, by personal self-denial to the point of pain, the kingdom of Christ? The whole Church must realize this. The hand alone cannot save dying humanity; the hand can not alone deliver man; the body must co-operate with the hand if the hand is to rescue the perishing.
"There is another power, a power far too little appreciated and sought after, the power of self-emptying and unresisting suffering. We have tried to do, many of us, as much good as we felt we could easily do or conveniently do, but there is a wonderful power when the love of God in the heart raises us to this point that we are ready to suffer, and with Paul we desire to know Him in the power of His resurrection (which implies the death of self), and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death. It is ever true that what costs little is worth little. Then how little some of our service has been worth."
Beloved, you whose duty it is to remain at home, are equally sharers with those who go into the mission fields in this work; yours the responsibility; yours equally to share in the reward when Christ is glorified and His kingdom is everywhere made known.
It is a very important fact for us all to bear in mind that, as we have already been reminded, the command was not given to a limited class; it was given to the whole Church, and we all have our share of the responsibility. Let us then, practically contemplate for a few moments, briefly, the secure basis of Christian missions, and the sources, and the channels of their power.
First, we have already had brought before us in eloquent language, the Divine assurance and commission, “All power is given unto me, in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and lo, I am with you alway.” Or, as in Mark, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” This implies the duty of evangelizing each generation in its own generation. The only time when men can be evangelized is the time of their life. But, in view of this, how solemn the position of the world, and how solemn our responsibility. To-day the Chinese are passing away at the rate of a million a month—dying without God to-day, as truly as when those lines were written thirty years ago: “Dying without God!” Oh, what does this mean? Those only know who know the darkness of a heathen deathbed, those only who know something of the terrors of a heathen heart looking forward to the next life, the horrors of which they faintly depict to themselves, and expect them to be far worse than their most terrible imaginings. The darkness of heathenism, the suffering of the heathen, with the full knowledge that they are sinners—there is no question about that in the heathen mind—they know they are sinners, and they know that sin brings with it inevitable consequences. The Chinese proverb is that evil brings the evil reward, and good brings the good reward. If the reward has not come, it is because the time has not come. Come it will most surely; and when we imagine how these people have not only a fearful anticipation of judgment to come—they know it is coming—something has taught them this, every man knows it in his own heart, but they are, as Paul says, “without hope and without God in the world.” Even unconverted people are not hopeless in Christian lands. They know there is a Saviour; they have some hope that He may accept them; they have some belief that if not earlier even in their last moments they will have an opportunity of repentance and acceptance. But the heathen are without hope. They know no God who can pardon sin; they know no power that can deliver from the penal consequences of sin, any more than they know how to be delivered from its love and power without hope in the world.
"It is a serious and a difficult problem very frequently, to know how far we should look to and accept the protection of our Governments, or their vindication, in case of riot and difficulty. I have seen both plans tried. I have never seen the plan in the long run successful, of demanding help and vindication from man. Wherever I have traced the result, in the long run there has been more harm done than good, and I have never seen the willingness to suffer and leave God to vindicate His own cause, His own people and their rights, where the result has not been very beneficial, if there has been rest and faith in Him."
We have then the power of a Divine command. And there is another power, a power far too little appreciated and sought after, the power of self-emptying and unresisting suffering. We have tried to do, many of us, as much good as we felt we could easily do or conveniently do, but there is a wonderful power when the love of God in the heart raises us to this point that we are ready to suffer, and with Paul we desire to know Him in the power of His resurrection (which implies the death of self), and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death. It is ever true that what costs little is worth little. Then how little some of our service has been worth. If it is true in anything, it is especially true of divine things, that what costs little is worth little. It is a serious and a difficult problem very frequently, to know how far we should look to and accept the protection of our Governments, or their vindication, in case of riot and difficulty. I have seen both plans tried. I have never seen the plan in the long run successful, of demanding help and vindication from man. Wherever I have traced the result, in the long run there has been more harm done than good, and I have never seen the willingness to suffer and leave God to vindicate His own cause, His own people and their rights, where the result has not been very beneficial, if there has been rest and faith in Him; and praise God, I have known a number of such instances in the mission field. I have known of riots that have never been reported, never been published in any papers anywhere, have not been known by many, even of those who are connected with the same mission, and wherever the course has been taken of just leaving God to vindicate, and leaving God to restrain, and leaving God to help, the issue has been marvelously successful, and it has led to great joy and great helpfulness. This is a power which God has given us, which sometimes we may leave out of account.
One other power is the gospel itself. The gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Now, there are different ways of preaching the gospel. There is the plan of preaching the gospel and looking forward to the gradual enlightenment of the people, to their being saved as it were by a process of gradual instruction and preaching. And there is another method of preaching the gospel; believing it to be the power of God unto salvation; preaching it in the expectation that He who first brought light out of darkness can and will at once and instantaneously take the darkest heathen heart and create light within. That is the method that is successful. It has been my privilege to know many Christians—I am speaking within bounds when I say a hundred—who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour the first time they ever heard of Him. The gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation.
There are many other powers which time forbids our referring to, but God has not left us without power for our enterprise; there is the power of sympathy, of love, the power of adaptability, and, most of all, the wonderful power of prayer, which might well be the subject for a whole paper. Is not the power of prayer very much the gauge of our power to do God's work successfully, anywhere and under any circumstances? This power, this marvelous power, would bear much more attention than we have ever given it. We may well thank God that He has not left us a difficult service without providing us abundant power, adequate power and resources for its discharge for all time, even to the end of the world. Amen.
Given by J. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, in Carnegie Hall, NYC, April 23, 1900