Dear Christian, As you know, I love to share the gospel. There is nothing more exhilarating than persuading from the Scriptures and engaging in spiritual warfare for the winning of souls for Jesus. Each time I open my mouth to preach the gospel, I know that the Lord is able to perform a miracle of regeneration and salvation. How tantalizing close it always is! I yearn to see Him do it!
Some of my highest joys are when I'm proclaiming Jesus Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins. Together we have tasted the blessings of this great work. How good our Lord is! As long as our bodies have breath let us continue to speak of our crucified and risen Savior!
But, as you know too well, evangelism also causes much of my deepest despairs. When unrepentant sinners refuse to believe, even after we plead with them to be reconciled to God, what else can we do but lament? They reject our Lord, the only Sovereign and Blessed One! In those sad times, there aren't many places to go for solace. The Lord and His Word are all we have.
My brother and friend, let me encourage you with the same truths that the Lord has used to encouraged me. I hope that it will serve as a fountain of hope and comfort, never failing and always refreshing as you evangelize.
John 12:27-28 [Jesus said,] “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
Just before this passage, Jesus Christ the Son of God, again foretells His death (Jn 12:23-26). It is less than a week before His crucifixion. Indeed, He came to earth for this very hour — the hour of His death, by which He would fulfill the Father's plans to display Himself as the Just and the Justifier of sinners (Ro 3:26).
Jesus is very straightforward; His soul became troubled as He thought about His impending death. He is no stoic. He does not deny His own emotions. But, amazingly, even amidst the undeniable trouble in His soul, He prays not for comfort, not for deliverance, not for ease. Rather, He prays, "Father, glorify Your name." This was His desire above all else, even the preservation of His own life!
And, by the grace of God, it is our prayer too. The deepest cry of our heart is, "Father, glorify Thy name!" We echo our Savior's prayer! Our eyes of faith behold our Savior and by [supernatural] impulse want the Father's glory above all else. How deep the prayer for Him to be glorified in our lives! We want all that we do — whether something as glorious as evangelism and missions or something as mundane as eating and drinking (1 Cor 10:31) — to bring Him honor and glory. To see Him glorified is our only satisfaction, the very heartbeat of regenerated creatures. Praise the Lord, for He has renewed our hearts be like His, and teaches us through His Spirit to be like Him!
But perhaps even more amazing than the Savior's prayer is the Father's answer: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." The Father, our Father, thunders out of the heavens His own commitment to glorifying His name. A literal translation is gives a greater emphasis: "I have glorified and again will glorify."
By this statement, our Father promises that just as in the past He glorified His name, He will glorify His name in the cross. How did God glorify His name in the past? Marvelously. Clearly. Miraculously. Undeneniably. And how will God glorify Himself in the cross? In an even more glorious way, by defeating sin and death and Satan through the cross. It is a rock-solid promise, a divine declaration, a sure statement, that the Lord will glorify Himself.
This promise is still true. Although the Father thundered that sentence out of heaven two thousands years ago, His commitment to His own glory has not changed. In the church He glorifies and will glorify His name, in the world He glorifies and will glorify His name, and in the new heavens and new earth He will glorify His name. The Lord will glorify Himself. It is no trouble to say it again. As sure as God Himself is, He will glorify Himself.
Nothing can stop Him from fulfilling this promise. Nothing, not Satan, not demons, not powers, not principalities, nor spiritual forces of darkness. Not Islam, not Buddhism, not Hinduism, not Daoism, not environmentalism, not post-modernism, not relativism, not materialism, nor any other false ideology. Not the idolatry of human academic achievement, not the slavery of dead, dumb, deaf idols, nor the traditions of Taiwanese ancestor worship. Not the hardened hearts of sinners, not the trickery of the cults, nor the hypocrisy of false Christians. Nothing can stop God from glorifying Himself. Nothing. The Lord said, “I am the LORD, that is My name; / I will not give My glory to another, / Nor My praise to graven images" (Is 42:8). It was true then. It is true now. It will always be true. Our God will not let them stop Him from glorifying His own name.
Just as the Lord will glorify His name despite His enemies, He will also glorify His name despite us. Too often we look at our failings, our sin, our infirmities, our inadequacies, our failures, our shortcomings, our rebellion, our immaturity. Too often we look at ourselves and ask: 'Did we say the right thing? Did we press them hard enough? Did we press too much? Did we speak with boldness, courage, zeal, love, compassion, gentleness, kindness, and reverence? Did we talk enough about hell? Too much about hell? Enough about the love of God? Too much about the love of God? Did we probe with the right questions? Did we offend them?' By focusing on ourselves, we lose sight of God.
Before we lose ourselves in despair, here's a better question: Is God's glory dependent on my evangelism? Answer: No. Never. Yes, the Lord has defined a standard for biblical evangelism, and we must strive according to His might to do exactly as He says. Yes, we have the responsibility of being faithful to His commands to evangelize, and we should be very much concerned to fulfill all facets of His commands. Yes, the Church is the only thing that God has chosen to preach the gospel to all the earth, and we have the horrific capacity to hinder God's work in the world. But the fact still stands: God's glory is not dependent on my evangelism. Thus, we should not think, even for a moment, that the Lord will fail to glorify Himself because of us.
Remember that evangelism and missions originated with God. We did not think of the idea; He did. He loved the world and desired all to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9) first, not us. The Father chose His elect before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4-5), not us. Jesus is the One seeking and saving that which is lost (Lk 19:10), not us. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who will bring His sheep into His fold (Jn 10:16), not us. It was His idea to send out laborers into His harvest (Lk 10:2), not ours. Missions unto all the nations was His initiative (Mt 28:20), not ours. The future worship of Jesus Christ by every tribe, tongue, people, and nation has already been written (Rev 5:9). You of little faith, will He not fulfill His own purposes?
My brother, we must never think that God needs us. He needs nothing outside of Himself. He is fully sufficient in Himself to glorify Himself and to save by Himself for Himself. And at the same time, we must remember that He wants us. Yet, amazingly, He has adopted us as His own children through the blood of Christ so that we will work for His glory.
So, yes, we labor for the kingdom and seek to glorify His name. It is our highest desire, just as it was our Lord's. It is a great privilege to lay our lives down in sacrifice on His altar (and our perfect sacrifice comes through Christ and not our works!), but God being glorified does not rest on our shoulders. We must always hold this to be true: the Lord can glorify Himself without us. When we work for His kingdom, we merely join Him in His own self-glorification.
In closing, despair not, blessed and beloved of the Lord. Though the nation were a thousand times harder, the people a thousand times more apathetic, and the enemy a thousand times more ferocious, the Lord will glorify Himself. Rest in that truth, and remind yourself often of it. The Lord wins. May our Lord's faithfulness to His own promises bring you comfort. May this truth be a light in the darkness and an anchor amidst the seas and winds of spiritual warfare.
And, finally, may this promise spur you on to greater zeal. If we work for God's glory, we cannot lose. So let us obey our call as evangelists. The nations must hear the gospel of salvation! The great commission must be fulfilled! And the Lord must be glorified!
For His glory, Keith
[Originally written for an email to the WN2013 Taiwan missions team in 2013.01, and then expanded upon in 2013.06 ]