In 1839 James Harris and John Williams from the London Mission Society in 1839 were killed and eaten by the Cannibals in the South Pacific islands. We may not be familiar with their names but they paved the way for John G. Paton. He would later write, “Thus the New Hebrides baptized with the blood of martyrs; and Christ thereby told the whole Christian world that he claimed these islands as his own.”
John G. Paton at the age of 33 landed on the island of Tann in 1858 just shy of 20 years from the death of James and John. John was called the South Pacific and could not shake that there were lost souls in need of the gospel.
John left a fruitful ministry in the city of Glasgow, Scotland knowing God was leading him to the mission field of Vanuatu. He was confronted by an older gentlemen, Mr. Dickson, that was part of this ministry and was wondering why he would leave such a ministry and take such a risk.
Mr. Dickson exploded out loud to John, “The cannibals, you will be eaten by cannibals!”
John responded to Mr. Dickson,
You are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms.
200 years after the death of John Paton 92% of the people of Vanuatu identify as Christian.
God Uses All Circumstances for His Glory
James Harris and John Williams were used to stir something in John Paton whom God used in the South Pacific. They gave their lives for the sake of the gospel which was also used to influence John and others.
In a similar way the Apostle Paul was in prison and in chains yet he wrote to the Philippian church that all that he was going through was for the advancement of the gospel (Phil 1:12). Though he was chained he saw God use his imprisonment for God’s glory. Paul writes, And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (1:14 ESV).
The brothers were not afraid though Paul was imprisoned for his faith, instead they were emboldened. Paul had an understanding that God uses all circumstances for his glory.
This is the gospel going out. It is almost like multiplication. Some may be pioneers in a certain area of gospel ministry but their influence impacts many.
Who Do you Influence?
A couple of times Paul encouraged the church to imitate him (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1). This was not in boasting of his character. He was pointing to the one who influences him, Jesus. Jesus is the one he strived to imitate after and so the church would do the same.
We may not know the impact we have in the life of others. We may not know who is watching us. May we live in such a way that points people to Jesus.
John Williams and James Harris influenced Paton and others by their life of counting the cost and giving of their lives for the gospel. They were not alive to see the fruit of their ministry well at least this side of eternity.
May we all live faithfully and trust the Lord in what he is doing!
Everything is green in Washington, granted their annual rainfall is almost 35 inches! Coming from Southern California it is almost like seeing things for the first time. Things are green and grow in plenty. One of those plants that grows in plenty is the blackberry. It is more of a nuisance than anything because it is everywhere and It grows like a weed here.
In the back of our property there are some blackberry bushes that have crept in and before we moved in were taken care of. They were cut down and even sprayed. As I went around the property they have grown back and if not taken care of will again become overbearing.
Though I am painting the negative of blackberries, I am wanting to highlight in the positive how this is connected to love. The Apostle Paul prayed for the church in Philippi that their love would would abound more and more (Phil 1:9).
Our Love Grows
Like blackberries which can grow quite crazy as a believer we should desire for our love grow as well. How does this happen? First, Pau’s prayer was that the church’s love would grow more for Jesus and others.
In another letter to a different church he prays, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19 ESV).
Paul’s prayer was that was one contemplates and experiences the love of Christ which we can never fully fathom yet we would grow in it. To put it another way, the more I bask in the love of Christ the more I grow in the love of Christ. I will never fully comprehend on this side of eternity but I can grow in understanding day by day.
As our love grows in reflection of Jesus Christ’s love we then can grow in our love towards others. Pastor and author Steven Lawsons said, “The greatest petition we can bring before God on behalf of other Christians is that they would deepen in their love for him and for others…Where the love of the brethren grows, the church is most like heaven and becomes attractive to the world.”
Full But Never Full
I am filled with the love of Christ as that was poured out through his perfect and sinless life, his sacrificial death, and his glorious resurrection. Though I am filled I am never full because I am daily being filled and filled again of his love.
Paul was pointing out to this fact as he prayed for the church’s love to abound more and more. They are filled but never full as they experience and know Christ’s love each day. As blackberries grow and it seems like nothing can stop them, may our love which is founded in Christ continue to grow despite opposition or hardships.
Where does joy come from? Joy is different than happiness. Joy is supernatural. Happiness is temporal. Joy isn’t dependent on circumstances but happiness is.
Our middle son had some money that he saved ready to buy a particular toy. So the day came and I took him to Toys R Us (R.I.P.). It was some ball that he saw on T.V. that he just had to get. I reminded him of our dog at the time which ate everything. This dog ate my leather shoes, part of my leather Bible, our sprinklers, a plethora of toys, you name it! But my son persisted and said I will watch him. I relented (as this was going to be a teaching moment for both of us) and he was so happy on our ride home. He couldn’t wait to play with this ball.
I am sure you can guess what happened. No more than five minutes goes by and I hear, Daddy! The dog ate his new toy. That happiness he had quickly turned to anger and sadness.
Can you relate? How often have we been happy just to turn around and be sad. Maybe you were happy your team got a touchdown but sad because they lost the game. Happy you received some good news but then sad because something else happened. We are fickle creatures.
Joy is deeper and a gift that is given to the believer.
The Book of Philippians is About Joy
15 different references to joy is found in this book. 9 of those 15 references we find the verb “rejoice.” 4 of the 15 the noun “joy” and 2 references to “rejoice with.”
Commentator Steven Lawson defines joy as Steven Lawson defines joy as, “A spiritual grace that we all need to experience in our Christian lives. We live in a world of stress and anxiety that all too easily and subtly can steal the peace of God from our hearts.”
I am reminded that Paul was in chains when he wrote this letter to the church in Philippi (1:12-18). If he didn’t mention his Roman imprisonment we would not have known based on the focus of this letter being one of joy.
Paul was able to have joy because he understood that joy was something that resulted from salvation. It is from the Holy Spirit as the believer is being transformed, we have fruit of that work.
Joy is a Spiritual Fruit
The fruit of the Spirit is described as, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).
This means that the Holy Spirit who is doing a work in and through the believer is working joy in the believer’s life.
Paul was able to have joy even when he was being persecuted for his faith because knew nothing can rob him from the everlasting love that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:35-39).
Joy and Salvation are Connected
In King David’s song of repentance and restoration he asks the Lord to restore unto him the “joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:12). The prophet Habakkuk declares, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:18). The Apostle Paul understood that God is the one who saves, it is by his grace alone (Eph. 2:8-9).
No matter what happens in this life, for the believer he has eternity to look forward to. No one and nothing can rob the believer of what Jesus has done. The believer thinks about this and understands that they can have joy in what Jesus has done- conquered sin and death, the only way sin can be forgiven, the wrath of God has been absorbed by him, and it is not based on anything we have done. In fact, if it were we would be so far from God because of our sin. So joy stems from an understanding of God’s great grace and how serious our sin is. Joy comes from salvation because the believer understands that this life may be hard and we will suffer at times but their name is written in the Lamb’s book of Life (Luke 11:20).