Sermon delivered May 3, 2008 by Bob Folkenberg

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Trumpeting The Mighty Militia

Romans 10:13-15

(RealAudio Version available)

It happened again and again and again. The British, extremely confident of their strength, of their discipline and of course their experience, took little notice of what to them seemed just a tattered old collection of farmers and tradesmen armed against them on the field of battle. They paid little attention to what the colonials called the militia. After all, they were the greatest power on earth. They were the most trained and well-financed army on the face of the earth. Who were these men with field muskets and pitchforks? They also discovered that time and time again, these citizens together with a common purpose, empowered by a passion for their country, could fight very hard and at times even win the day. It happened at Concord and Lexington, if you read our American history. It happened at Kings Mountain, not too far from here, the battle of Cow Pens. You see, it was this army of farmers, of herdsmen, of craftsmen, of ragtag frontiersmen that stood up to the greatest and best trained army in the world and in the course of that changed history.

Brothers and sisters, this morning I'd like to say that defending and expanding the kingdom of God is not only the responsibility of His professional army. Jesus, when He spoke the words of the great commission, who did He speak those words to? Who did He look out upon when He said, "Go ye therefore and teach all nations." Who did He say that to? Was it a nicely uniformed group of freshly graduated MDiv students from Andrews University?

No, it was a group of fishermen, farmers, businessmen, women, and it was them that He looked right in the eye and said, "Listen. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations", and when we today, as God's remnant church forget, when we forget that we today have been given this same command, and we assume that the job of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ falls only upon those who are in the professional ranks of the Church. The church, I would like to suggest to you, suffers, and in essence, God’s body suffers, the kingdom suffers.

Let me share with you, review with you, a well-known story. Take your Bibles please and turn to the book of Numbers. This story, I think, highlights perfectly what we're trying to say this morning. There in Numbers, chapter 13, if you will turn there. Numbers, chapter 13. You will see the story of the children of Israel who are standing there at the promised land, but let me put a little background to this painting. Remember that the children of Israel did not leave Egypt in the normal way. They did not go down and apply for a travel visa and were easily accepted. No, they had a difficult time of it. In fact, God had to intervene with 10 mighty plagues. You remember the story. Finally when they left, they were faced with a sea before them and the Egyptian army behind and God took care of both of them. And then they ran out of food and then they ran out of water and what did God do? Time and time again God baked bread in the bakeries of heaven and handed it to them and secondly He would provide water from the rock. Not only that, but it was interesting, they would walk all day and their clothes would not grow old and their shoes would not wear out. I'd like to know the key to that, I have three growing kids. Amazing, when you look at that story.

And then they get to Mount Sinai and at Mount Sinai God speaks audibly and the people of Israel tremble in their boots and they finally come to Moses, and they say, could you please tell God to be quiet. We cannot handle His power and His majesty, and so Moses became intermediary between God and the children of Israel. Think about that. If you were a part of that great multitude, wouldn't your faith have been strengthened?

But just a few months later, we pick up the story in Numbers, chapter 13. And here we see the story of how 12 tribes are sent in to scout out the land of Israel, and they come back in verse 26 of Numbers 13, They departed as Moses and Aaron said and then it says so they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. Are you there with me? Do you have your Bibles open? Numbers 13. They went, they came back, and they had evidence of what God had promised and I can almost imagine the people, they're going “Amen! Hallelujah!” We’ve been slaves for four hundred years, now we get our own plot of land and look at how well it grows the fruit. Verse 27. Then they told Moses and said we went to the land where you sent us and it truly flows with milk and honey. A Dairy Queen at every corner. There is everything is beautiful, wonderful, and everybody cheered. Then it goes on to say, verse 28, nevertheless. That's a scary word, you know. “But!” “I'd like to do something more, but.” Nevertheless. That's the more sophisticated way of saying it. Nevertheless. I tell my children to do something they say yes, but nevertheless. That's basically what they're saying. Yes, that sounds good, “but”. Then the 10 spies say, the people who dwell in the land are strong and the cities are fortified and very large and moreover we saw the descendents of who? Anak there. Everybody knew about Anak in that part of the world. The descendents of Anak were what? Giants. And they go on to say how the Amakelites live there, verse 29, the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Canaanites. I mean all these ‘ites’ are swarming around. And it's impossible is what they were saying. It cannot be done, and the cheers turned into mourning. And into anger. Poor Caleb and Joshua, they stood up and said, “but God is with us.” “Oh be quiet, you optimistic people. It's impossible.” In fact, they finish this narrative in verse 33, look at it with me. There we saw the giants, and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight. And so we were in their sight.

How tragic that story is and you know the rest of it. The Bible says that they turned around after grumbling and complaining, after saying it's impossible to conquer these well-trained armies in fortified cities. This entire group of people, this million people made a gigantic U-turn in the desert and wandered in the desert until the last person who thought they were a grasshopper died. That's what it says.

And they came again back to the land of Israel, the promised land and what happened then? They sent out spies again but this time they conquered the land. Question for us this morning. How was that possible? Why did they conquer the second time and not conquer the first time? Could it be, could it be that all the Anakites had intermarried with the pygmies of Africa, and now they were no longer there? Could it be that the budgets were very low in the fortified cities, and they did not do proper maintenance on the city walls? Could it be that while they were out in the desert they built bazookas and M-16s and all this? Is that what happened? What was the difference folks? It was faith. If you agree with me say amen. Was it faith?

Did they train a professional army, while they were out in the desert for 40 years? Did they march every morning at 8 o’clock, from 8 to 10? Did they do drills? Did they practice building battering rams and how to scale walls? Is that what they did? So when they came back to the land of Canaan they had a professionally well-trained army. Is that what they did? No. It came down to faith. God used the same ragtag group of people. In fact, probably a little hungrier, a little more worn-out than before, He used those same band of people to conquer Canaan. Not a professional army.

I think the lesson is obvious for us, the point is clear. The great commission will not be accomplished by the perceived might of men. It will not be accomplished by the, you could say, the intellectual dexterity of a few professional evangelists. It will be accomplished by the dedicated service of Christ's body. His church. His McDonald Road Church. And lest you think I'm talking about this fine structure, I'm not. I'm talking about you and me. We are part of God's body. We all have a role in trusting the power of God to live in us to empower us to march against the kingdom of darkness.

He did not send professionals against the Canaanites and against the Hittites and against the Jebusites. He empowered the untrained masses of Israel to move against Jericho and then later against the vast armies of Palestine. But yet so often, so often, I come face-to-face with Seventh-day Adventists who throw their hands up in the air and say, “It's impossible. Evangelism does not work today because you have the postmodernites and you have the materialites and you have the other ‘ites’. It’s impossible.” What was the difference? Faith. To step out into the unknown on Christ’s side.

Let me share you with you something that Sister White wrote that I think really speaks to us today like never before. She says, “To everyone who becomes a partaker of His grace.” I think that's everyone here, I hope. “To everyone who becomes a partaker of His grace the Lord appoints a work. Individually we are to stand in our lot and place saying, ‘Here I am, send me.’ Upon the minister of the word, the missionary nurse, the Christian physican, the individual Christian, whether he be merchant or farmer, professional man or mechanic, the responsibility rests up on all. It is our work to reveal to men the gospel of their salvation. Every enterprise in which we are engaged should be a means to this end.” I was hoping to have at least one ‘amen’ right there. Every enterprise! Whatever we do becomes a means to an end to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I'm not saying we stand at the corner of Shallowford and I-75 with a big preaching. That's not what we’re saying. We’re saying whether you are at Erlanger or whether you are a mechanic or whether you are working grounds, God will place you in circumstances and situations where you can let your light shine. That's what we're talking about. In the ninth volume of the Testimonies she says “The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers.” Amen? I want to go home. I want to go home, and we have clear message here that we can't go home until His church rallies.

I love the story of Abraham Larue. Abraham was an unusual man in that he seemed to have a wanderlust. He was born in New Jersey and then when the Gold Rush took place in the mid-1800s he traveled from New Jersey all the way to California and history tells us that he made a great amount of money in gold prospecting. But then he also lost that money and ended up penniless in central California and found work as a shepherd of sheep in the mountains of central California, and it was while he was a shepherd that a man by the name of John Loughborough, have you heard of him, who was a missionary, who also was by the way a construction worker, went out there and met Abraham and started giving him Bible studies. Abraham Larue accepted Christ as his personal Savior. Accepted this message, was baptized and immediately sensed that God was calling him to preach this message. To share this message with others. And so he wrote a very earnest letter to the General Conference, which at that time maybe was made up of five men that lived somewhere in the Battle Creek area, and he said, “Listen. Would you please give me a little money so that I can travel to China to preach this message?” The brethren wrote back and said, “Thank you brother Larue for your interest, but you are too old to go to China.” He was 61 years of age. I didn't write that. “You are too old to go to China.”

Brother Larue said, “Well I guess I am going to have to fulfill God's calling for my life a different way”, so he bought himself a bunch of books, and he became a self-supporting missionary. He got on a boat and headed towards China. Made it halfway and spent three years as a missionary in Hawaii. All those in favor. Yes. Not a single Adventist in sight there. No church. Spent three years selling literature, giving Bible studies. Then he wrote another heartfelt letter to the California conference, who I think by that time John Loughborough was the president of that conference. He wrote a letter and said, “Could you please send a pastor over here to baptize the new 16 members of the Adventist church in Hawaii?” And so they did. After three years they sent a man over there, Pastor Haley, and he established the work and brother Larue said, “Okay, I can continue with my journey.”

By this time, if you're doing the math, he’s 64. He buys himself some more books, and he heads to China. He lands in Victoria, Hong Kong in 1888. And he spends the next 14 years of his life preaching the three angel’s message all across Guangdong province, Macau, Hong Kong. He never returns to Jersey or to California. He dies in Hong Kong, and he's buried very near the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital.

He was not a seminary graduate. He was not even an educated man. He was not a theologian, but he was, as one commentator states, a man of tireless energy. One who loved to share his religious experience. I would like to say that he was a Christian, because there is no such thing as a non-witnessing Christian. It's an oxymoron. He was a Christian. Was he successful? Was he successful folks? In the entire 14 years of his ministry in Hong Kong and China, he only brought six people to baptism. Only six! For 14 years. Was he successful, yes or no?? Absolutely. Because he was in the harvest. He had said, “Lord, here I am, send me.” The minute he said that he was successful in my book, amen?

I mean, after all, how many of you here have the power to convict someone of sin? Who has the power in this church to convict somebody to come to repentance and be baptized? Not a single one of us, but we do have that responsibility to say, “Lord, here I am.” After all, didn't Jesus’ prayer say, “Lord of the harvest, please send forth” what? Do you remember that? Workers into the harvest. He didn't call for more fertilizer. He did not call for more fruit or bigger baskets to gather the fruit. He says I need men and women. I need workers in the harvest.

Folks, the great gospel commission, if there is ever a time in Earth's history that it is glaringly clear for us to heed, it is now. Jesus is coming soon, and as a Seventh-day Adventist church, He has given us a specific mission to warn the world that Jesus is coming and He needs the church. The Church which is the body of Christ seated here this morning to stand up collectively and say, “Lord, here we are send me. Let me be bold. Let me be, let me be full of faith as I stepped forward and maybe risk sharing my love for Christ with somebody else.”

Not only does God's kingdom need us to share the good news of Christ. But we need it as well. Do you understand me? Think about it. If you go back to the end of Christ's ministry, I could think of many different ways in which Christ’s entire ministry and the fruit thereof and the importance of sharing the death of Christ and His resurrection, that news, I could've thought of much better ways to communicate that truth to the whole world than 12 and a group of ragtag fishermen. He could have commissioned skywriter's. I mean, He could've helped people invent the satellite program a lot earlier. But no, He said He entrusted the great commission to you and to me. Why is that? I believe with all my heart the reason for that is you and I need to share our faith for our own spiritual well-being. When I share my faith with others I find my faith stronger than ever before.

I was talking with my son Robby, who's back for this weekend, and he was sharing with me something he read in the book Christian Service, by Sister White and I tell you, I grabbed on to it. I said, “That's exactly what I believe.” In Christian Service, Ellen White says, “It is in working for others that they will keep their own souls alive.” Do you believe that? I mean seriously. It is in working for others that we will keep our own souls alive. “If they will become co-laborers with Jesus,” she says, “we shall see the light in our churches steadily burning brighter and brighter, sending forth its rays to penetrate the darkness beyond their own borders.” It is by what? It is by sharing our faith with others that our faith is strengthened.

You feel that you and Christ in your relationship is not as close as it used to be. Do you sense that it seems that Christ is walking 10 paces in front of you? He's not by your side. Do you sense that your commitment to God is waning? Share your faith!

I want to take you to Matthew, chapter 24 to close, because this promise must be read in the context of this message. Matthew, chapter 24, verse 14. Jesus Himself says this. Matthew, chapter 24, verse 14, Jesus says, And this gospel of the kingdom. Are you there with me? I hope this one’s underlined. And this gospel of the kingdom might be depending on, no, will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations and then the end will what? Will come. Folks look at this text. First of all Jesus has a gospel. Second of all Jesus has a kingdom, amen? We don't have to create the kingdom, we are just called to share the good news of the kingdom. Thirdly, the gospel will be preached to the world. Don't wonder about that. Don't sit and do the statistical comparison. “Well we’re only this big and they’re…” Don’t worry, the gospel will be preached to the world, and finally, the gospel is a witness of what? The love of God. And you know what? When the job is done, this verse tells us, He will come back. When the job is done, He will come back.

Folks, I want to, I want to see Jesus, don't you? I want to see Jesus and I want to have a faith that is strengthened. I want to have a faith that is cutting edge. I want to be thick with Christ. And right here in Scripture, we see that He is counting on each one of us to exercise our faith by sharing Christ. I'm wondering, are you willing to take that step. There are so many ways that you and I can share our faith. So many venues, so many people that we come in contact with. I encourage you, like Isaiah, to just stand every day when you get out of bed, your feet touch the floor. Just say “Lord, here I am today. Send me.” And prepare yourself for the greatest spiritual adventure of your life. Amen.

Hymn of Praise: #221, Rejoice, the Lord is King
Scripture: Romans 10:13-15
Hymn of Response: #368, Watchman, Blow the Gospel Trumpet

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Sermon at McDonald Road transcribed by Steve Foster 5/15/08