The last words in Matthew’s gospel are usually referred to as the Great Commission by Christians. At the end of His earthly ministry before His Ascension, Jesus passed the baton to His disciples, commanding them: “…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20 NIV]. This command continues to apply to every Christian today. We are to spread the gospel throughout the world making disciples of Jesus Christ in every nation and tribe.
This week, the Christian world lost two giants of the Faith in Ravi Zacharias and David Pawson. Both men were prolific authors, itinerant speakers and wonderful proponents of the gospel across the globe. They had different ministries. Ravi was an apologist with a ministry spanning almost five decades. His mission was to help the believer think and the thinker believe by bridging the gap between the head and the heart. He sought to present the Christian worldview in a logically coherent manner and would hold audiences spell-bound as he provided thoughtful answers to difficult questions.
David Pawson was an extraordinary bible teacher who taught for seven decades. The day I stumbled on his Unlocking the Bible series was pivotal in my Christian life. Many who attempt to read through the Bible usually get stuck at Leviticus. So did I until I listened to David teach on the context of Leviticus. Studying Leviticus and Hebrews in succession is one of the best ways to better understand the depth of what Jesus did for us especially when it comes to worship. David’s teaching on both books was instrumental and I remain grateful to him. I’m generally cautious about Bible teachers [1 John 4:1]. I evaluate them on their integrity as well as their consistency and longevity. David excelled on all fronts.
Ravi and David are great examples of Christians who took the Great Commission seriously. Sadly, some Christians are happy to go to church once a week and listen to someone speak for 30 minutes to an hour or so, then go home and never open their Bibles. Such Christians rarely grow. They remain infants needing to be fed milk for sustenance [Hebrews 5:12-13, 1 Corinthians 3:2]. It is difficult for them to fulfil the Great Commission because a person must first know what Jesus taught and be convinced that it is true before they can confidently share it. Does this describe you?
On the other hand, many have recognised that attending church once a week isn’t enough. They understand that it’s necessary to make time to study the word of God. Ideally, you want to get to a point where you are feeding yourself and not reliant on someone else to spoon-feed you God’s word. For such Christians, ministers like Ravi, David and many others have been instrumental in their growth. They have poured out their lives like a libation in service to others to build their faith [Philippians 2:17]. Rather than just offering fish, they taught many how to fish. Today, millions around the world, who they never met, are celebrating their lives and legacies. I too am indebted to Ravi and David for drawing me closer to Jesus.
I must say I am challenged by their lives. I know Jesus hasn’t called all of us to have international ministries but He has called every one of us to preach the gospel and make disciples. Therefore, we are to study to ensure that we correctly handle God’s word [2 Timothy 2:15, 2 Timothy 4:2] and defend the faith [1 Peter 3:15] when the occasion arises. Ravi and David demonstrated this so well. They lived to teach, share and defend the gospel. They studied to show themselves approved and then laboured in the Lord’s vineyard to make disciples. Even in death, their lives pose a serious question to us. Are you also studying to show yourself approved to handle God’s word correctly? Are you labouring in the Lord’s vineyard as He commanded? How are you doing with fulfilling your commission? How am I? Are we making disciples of Jesus Christ?
These are the last days, so it’s all the more urgent to prioritise our Lord’s business. If you truly believe Jesus is coming back, how are you preparing for His return? Jesus was very clear about what we ought to be doing in His absence. The question is, are we doing it? It is easy to admire ministers like Ravi and David but Jesus has given each of us a ministry too and He will expect to see results when He returns [Luke 19:11-27]. Both Ravi and David have run their races, they have fought the good fight and they now belong in the cloud of witnesses urging us to carry on the work of the gospel [Hebrews 12:1]. Millions across the globe desperately need the truth of the gospel and Jesus has commanded each of us to take that message to them. Is this a priority for you or do you have other priorities?
I believe both Ravi and David have already heard “well done good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Master” [Matthew 25:21]. Having faithfully completed their race, they have received their imperishable crowns of glory [1 Corinthians 9:25-27]. I wonder, are we running our races to receive that same imperishable crown or are we pursuing the perishable things of this world? What will the Master say to you when you meet Him?