Missions is one of the great privileges of the Christian church. We get to go out, either ourselves or our representatives, and tell others the good news that Jesus Christ has conquered sin, Satan, and death. The elders have been evaluating our mission efforts in order to provide a solid vision to our congregation for the coming years. As part of this effort I have been reading various books on missions and church planting. One of the first books I picked up was John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad. So far it has been excellent. His chapter on prayer was convicting in many ways as Piper reminds us that when we understand we are in war and that God is sufficient we will pray. In this chapter he writes four wonderful paragraphs on how Jesus often works in the dark. Here are those four paragraphs. All punctuation, emphases, and Scripture are his.
It will often look as though Christ is defeated. That’s the way it looked on Good Friday. He let himself be libeled and harassed and scorned and shoved around and killed. But in it all he was in control, “No one takes [my life] from me” (John 10:18). So it will always be. If China was closed for forty years to Western missionaries, it was not as though Jesus accidentally slipped and fell into the tomb. He stepped in. And when it was sealed over, he saved fifty million Chinese from the inside-without Western missionaries. And when it was time, he pushed the stone away so we could see what he had done.
When it looks as those he is buried for good, Jesus is doing something awesome in dark. “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how” (Mark 4:26-27). The world thinks Jesus is done-out of the way. They think his Word is buried and his plans have failed.
But Jesus is at work in the dark places: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). He lets himself be buried, and he comes out in power when and where he pleases. And his hands are full of fruit made in the dark. “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). Jesus goes about his invincible missionary plan “by the power of an indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:16).
For twenty centuries, the world has given it their best shot to hold him in. They can’t bury him. They can’t hold him. They can’t silence or limit him. Jesus is alive and utterly free to go and come wherever he pleases. All authority in heaven is his. All things were made through him and for him, and he is absolutely supreme over all other powers (Col. 1:16-17). “He upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). And the preaching of his Word is the work of missions that cannot fail.
I love these paragraphs. They made my blood pump faster and my heart rejoice. My favorite line is the first line of the second paragraph. “When it looks as those he is buried for good, Jesus is doing something awesome in dark.” We need this reminder. Our soft, comfortable, middle class American hearts are so easily discouraged. Times get dark. Our lives get dark. And we lose faith. But our Lord reigns supreme. He has promised that his Word will not return void. Missions is built on the power of the risen Christ to subdue the nations through his preached Word. The nations will be His (Psalm 2:8-9, Psalm 22:27-29, Matthew 28:18-20). This is why despite all his historic pre-millennial language John Piper at heart might just be post-millennial.