“For we are not overextending ourselves…” (2 Corinthians 10:15).
You would be hard pressed to find another Lutheran synod that has the outreach overseas based on per capita stateside that the CLC has. We need to thank our Lord that He has given us—who are so few—so very much to do beyond the national borders of our country.
A nagging thought can arise, “Are we overextending ourselves?” And in celebration of the momentous Lutheran Reformation [first written during Reformation season 2013—ed.] let us continue to extend ourselves.
When our Lord walked upon the Earth, He decidedly extended Himself in His endeavors to do all things according to the Father’s will and to fulfill all Scripture and the laws of God and man. He is our chief example. But someone might say, “Yes, but He was God also and can therefore far surpass our humble efforts.” That, though, is really a cop-out for not focusing all our efforts on the one thing needful and delivering it to the peoples of the world.
“Come follow Me, the Savior spake All in My way abiding. Deny yourselves, the world forsake….” A good review of that Bible-based hymn #421 in The Lutheran Hymnal would belie any idea of “but He was God and we can hardly….” The little five-year-old follows his Daddy’s example regardless of differences in age, strength, or wisdom. And do the limitations even enter his mind? He loves his Daddy and emulates him. Remember the poignant scene of the little child placed in the midst of the apostles (See Matthew 18:1-6).
I hope you get the idea of how this pertains to our outreach.
Another old saying is never trite; it cannot be worn out. “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Its enduring vividness is due to its reflection of Scripture. As another hymn (TLH #425) puts it, “Many spend their lives in fretting Over trifles and in getting Things that have no solid ground…”.
We have found the treasure in the field. It loses no luster with age. The pearl of great price retains its white brilliance. The exposure of this pearl to others captivates them by its divine power. Darkness is dispelled. The light is passed on from human breast to human breast.
That what’s done for Christ becomes an all-consuming passion is well-attested to by the apostles. And then there is that apostle whose thirteen epistles have their Spirit-wrought words beckoning us to extend ourselves again and again. Luke’s record on Paul in Acts does not even tell us all about how this “untimely-born” man extended himself really beyond comprehension.
What did Paul do during those years after his conversion until Barnabas brought him to Antioch? What did he do after he was released from his second Roman imprisonment, let alone what did he all do after release from his first Roman imprisonment? Did he get to Spain as he sought to speak in a clime unfamiliar with the gospel showers of grace? What did he do in those early years in Arabia? While we know he got to Illyricum [modern Bosnia/Herzegovina], we don’t know what he did there. His recorded performance was proof of what he accomplished, and this man’s words ring true, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls…” (2 Corinthians 12:15).
The question for us today is, “What will we spend?” The example of Paul is not an unattainable one; he was not a God/man but in his own estimation he was foremost of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15)—and in this way, upon personal introspection, he was remarkably like you and me. Does anyone detect even a whisper of a fear of overextending in the book of Acts, which is the record of extension?
As the rubber meets the road, here in India as elsewhere the opportunities beckon. As we look over what He has done through us, we may become quite breathless trying to catch up to a Lord who is always ahead of us. Just through the Mission Board we work with over 60,000 souls in twelve countries. And then there are the opportunities that our local congregations and individuals have taken in hand [Holy Cross of Phoenix working in Moi’s Bridge, Kenya; or Immanuel of Mankato working in Peru, etc. – editor]!
As it is with the athlete, ‘Ohne Fleiss, kein Preis,’ [No pain, no gain] so let us learn from Paul, “reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”