Praying for the nations

It started with a world prayer map. I laid it out on my floor and researched the countries listed for that day with the Joshua Project resources. All the statistics started to blur together, so I began writing them out. Mali: 17.4 million unreached peoples, Mauritania: 4.5 million unreached peoples, Morocco: 36.1 million unreached peoples, Algeria: 41.9 million unreached peoples.

Writing down these facts was too big to comprehend and too devastating to grasp. I didn’t know how to feel, but I knew who to run to. Operation World showed me these countries’ needs, and I began crying out to the Lord to bring revival in many aspects of these hurting and persecuted countries.

The relevancy of Jesus’ words

A few days later, I was reading in Mark 10 and came across Jesus telling his disciples:  “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:29-31).

I was reading these verses out loud, and before I even knew what was happening, my eyes were filled with tears. I was gripped with the radical nature of what Jesus was saying, how much I needed to hear these words, and how much churches in America need to feel the weight of them.

What do we desire?

These verses in Mark come right after the rich young man comes up to Jesus and asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life. The young man seems fine by the world’s standards: following the commandments to not commit murder, adultery, theft, fraud, and he even honors his father and mother. But, Jesus knows his heart and points out his weak spot: he was not willing to give up his earthly possessions to fully follow Jesus (Mark 10:17-22). He was more willing to hang on to his “great possessions” rather than the greatest possession: Christ Jesus.

If we looked at the way we spend our money, time, and energy, what would it say of our lives? Are we following commandments rather than Christ? Are we more joyful about our possessions than the great God who has given them all? The main question I am concerned with is this: would we be more willing to go, send, or give to the unreached nations if it didn’t sacrifice more of our comforts and worldly pursuits? Is our unwillingness because our desires are the same as the rich young man?

The orientation of our hearts as Christians in America is often: “I will stay here unless I am called there.” But, what if we changed that perspective to: “I will go there unless I am called to stay here,” and “if I stay here, it will be because I can send or give in a way that makes a bigger impact there.” Let us first examine closely the desires of our hearts and see if we might then have a more accurate picture of who we are truly following: the gifts of God or the giver Himself.

The need is great

When we read in the Bible of the persecutions Christians were facing and the reassurance they were given, we might lose the weight of the encouragement when we think this is far from anything we will have to endure. We have brothers and sisters in Christ for whom these verses are a daily reality rather than a cute verse to decorate the luxuries around us. This is harsh, but true. We must awake to the reality and urgency required of us for the sake of the Gospel and Christ’s name among the nations.

Our time is short

James calls our life “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14), David says “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow” (Psalm 144:4), Job tells us “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not” (Job 14:1-2), Isaiah says, “The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass” (Isaiah 40:7).

With needs so great and time so short, we must not wait for other days and years to seek how we might make an impact for the great commission Jesus has commanded us to fulfill.

For the sake of Jesus and the Gospel

I want to challenge you and myself with these things because I feel Jesus did nothing less. The sooner we awake to the true affections of our hearts, the sooner we can humble ourselves in prayer that our desires might be conformed to the Word rather than the world. The sooner we realize how great the need is, the sooner we will sprint into action.

Let us be Christians who radically pursue Christ in the way he tells us to. We must be willing to leave comforts, Jesus tells us, “for my sake and for the gospel.” Persecutions are promised, difficulty is ensured, but Jesus promises us “a hundredfold now in this time” and “in the age to come eternal life” for a faith like this.

“Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”

Only One Life, Twill Soon Be Past – Poem by C.T Studd

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