READ: Joshua 1-3, Psalm 65, Luke 21, 2 Corinthians 5
In this last phase of the last days, the powers of the heavens are being shaken (Luke 21:26) and God’s witnesses will increasingly face suffering and death, which is a great opportunity for witness (vs. 13-15). What is known is that as the gospel advances into the very heart of Islam, fear will grow in the ranks of the wicked, and fear will lead them to dreadful, horrific acts. What is not known is how we will react to the increase of violence and martyrdom. Will the Church advance despite (or because of) the loss of our loved ones? Or will tragedy make us fear and flee?
God preaches a simple and profound funeral message to Joshua: “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people” (Joshua 1:2). As missionaries increasingly die for Jesus, incredible pressure will mount on our sending bases and organizations. Family, media, internal pressure, blame, lawsuits, grief, anger, and fear will all collude to scream: “Pull back, exercise caution, do not deploy to war zones, do not send young families in harm’s way, wait, delay, the cost is too great to press on.” We must understand the cost is too great to not press on. The death of missionaries is intended by God to be a rallying call for more to go where they have died. The funerals of our friends serve to remind us of their passions and to awake in us the longing to share their obedient joy.
Joshua is told to be strong and courageous. He is told this in context to obedience to God’s word and call. “Moses is dead, Joshua, so now it is time to cross Jordan, advance, run to the battle. His death is your call to action, your call to press on, your call to take the ground Moses only saw.” To not press on past the death of our pioneers is to insult their lives and to waste their death. To pull back when our pioneers fall is to trample their memory and dishonor their sacrifice. There can only be one response at missionary funerals: A challenge to wake up and run to the frontier.
Moses is dead. Abraham is dead. Ezra is dead. John is dead. Peter is dead. Paul is dead. Augustine is dead. Aquinas is dead. Francis is dead. Luther is dead. Lull is dead. Carey is dead. Taylor is dead. Livingstone is dead. Studd is dead. Zwemer is dead. Eliot is dead. McGavran is dead. Winter is dead. Hogan is dead. It’s time to rise and cross the Jordan they have led us to. Our pioneer missionaries are going to die. Let us determine now (pre-decide, pre-obey) that when they fall, our response is to commission a dozen more in their place. May the funerals to come be our mobilization booths.
When our heroes die, we won’t send flowers. We will commemorate their lives and deaths with the only gift they really want – sending our sons and daughters to press on in their place.