Let the Nations Be Glad!
Eric Lui shares the salient points he picked up from reading John Piper's Let the Nations Be Glad!
This book by John Piper was written in 1993, with revisions in 2003 and 2010. The main theme of the book is about making God supreme in missions. Missions, the author said, is not the ultimate goal of the church, worship is. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. The reason for missions is to bring all nations to worship God as their most desirable and most supreme treasure. Quoting the author, "Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak. Churches that are not centered on the exaltation of the majesty and beauty of God will scarcely kindle a fervent desire to 'declare his glory among the nations' (Psalm 96:3)."
If the end goal of missions is to declare His glory among the nations, how does the author define the meaning of worship? Worship, to the author, is not just the outward form of corporate worship in a specific building, but an inward form of right affections in the heart. This inward form of worship should also well up into right actions. He quoted Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father, who is in heaven.” So, worship is seeing,
savouring and showing the glory of all that God is for us in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the ultimate goal of missions is that this form of worship happens among all the nations in the world!
Three things stood out for me when reading the book:
1. Love and compassion for the dying
In the chapter where the author focuses on the Great Commission (Matt 28:18–20), he gave a hypothetical example of two sinking ocean liners to challenge us to think about love and compassion for the dying. The story reminds me of an episode in Hudson Taylor’s life when he was so troubled by an atheist patient dying of gangrene in a hospital where he worked as an assistant to a surgeon. The patient was upset whenever Taylor wanted to share the gospel with him. One day, Taylor could not contain himself any longer and burst into tears, exclaiming: “My friend, whether you will hear or whether you will forbear, I must deliver my soul. How I wish you would allow me to pray for you.” The man was completely taken aback and stammered, “W-well, if it will relief of you, then do.” Immediately Taylor fell on his knees and poured out his soul to God on behalf of the dying man. He not only had a passion for the Lord to give his life as a missionary to China, but he also had compassion for the unsaved, for those going to hell. A missionary cannot be a cool, detached observer of perishing people while pursuing the Great Commission to have God’s glory declared in all the nations of the world.
2. Why is suffering necessary in missions?
The author's answer is that suffering in itself is nothing, but "suffering accepted because of the 'surpassing worth of knowing Christ' and losses embraced in order to 'gain Christ' (Phil. 3:8) prove that Christ is supremely valuable...The extent of our sacrifice, coupled with the depth of our joy, display the worth we put on the reward of God."
3. The importance of prayer in the mission field
The author emphasises that God is absolutely supreme in missions. It is by the strength that He supplies that missions are sustained. Prayer, according to the author, is likened to a walkie-talkie in a war-time scenario, where the field commander radios back to headquarters for help and reinforcement. The purpose of prayer is to make clear to all the participants in missions that the victory belongs to the Lord.