David Livingstone was born on March 19, 1813 in Blantyre, Scotland. His family was extremely poor, but they were passionately dedicated to Jesus Christ. David’s father, Neil, was a traveling tea salesman and Sunday school teacher who passed out Bible tracts as he sold tea. Neil would read the Bible to his children as well as the stories of great missionaries. One story that left a lasting mark on young David was the story of the Dutch missionary, Karl Gutzlaff. After hearing the story, David told his father, “You know, daddy, one day I’ll be a man like that. I want to be a missionary. I want to be a doctor. I want to serve God.”
At the age of 21, David Livingstone read Gutzlaff’s, “Appeal to the Churches of Britain and America on behalf of China.” David was convinced that he needed to answer the call. Before he would head to the mission field, David wanted to be prepared so he began saving money so that he could get the training he needed. In 1836 David entered Anderson’s College in Glasgow where he began his medical training and attended Greek and theology lectures at the University of Glasgow.
In 1840, David continued his medical studies in London. While he was in London he met the famous missionary Robert Moffat who was on leave from Kuruman, in South Africa. Moffat shared his work with David as well as his vision for expanding the mission work northwards. Moffat’s words gripped David Livingstone. The two spent a lot of time together while Moffat was on leave and Moffat told David about the area of the plains north of Bechuanaland, where, as Moffat said, “I have seen, at different times, the smoke of a thousand villages – villages whose people are without Christ, without God, and without hope in this world.” Robert Moffat told David that no missionary had ever been to those villages, but he believed David was the right man to go.
When David Livingstone was just 28 years old he set sail for Africa. He arrived at Moffat’s mission in July of 1841. For the next thirty-two years David Livingstone would give his life to sharing the Gospel where no missionary had gone before. Livingstone’s idea of missionary work was movement, not finding a village and spending the rest of his life in that one village. During his missionary work, David Livingstone walked some 29,000 miles through the central and southern part of Africa and added approximately one million square miles to our map of Africa. Before Dr. Livingstone began mapping out Africa, European maps of the continent were largely blank.
On January 2, 1845, David married Robert Moffat’s daughter, Mary. Mary was born in Scotland, but she had lived in Africa since she was four years old. Mary traveled with her husband early on, even while she was pregnant with their first child, a daughter they would name Agnes. Mary was an important part of her husband’s work, but his travels were too difficult and dangerous for his family, so in 1849, David sent Mary, Agnes, and their two little boys back to Robert’s mission in Kuruman. Mary and the kids would periodically join David on the mission trail, but there were long stretches of time where they were apart.
At one point in David’s life someone stole all of his medications which were more precious than gold to David. He got down on his knees and prayed, urging God to provide him with the medicine he needed. Shortly thereafter, David heard someone approaching. When David looked up he saw a white man, an unfamiliar sight. That is when David heard the words that have long outlived him, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
Henry M. Stanley was a reporter who had been recruited to find Dr. Livingstone. He arrived in Africa in March of 1871. Thousands of miles and nine months later, he found him. As the two met, Henry Stanley said,
Mr. Livingstone, I’m a press reporter, I’ve been consigned to do a story on your life. I want you to know two things about me. Number one, I’m the biggest swaggering atheist on the face of the earth. Please don’t try to convert me. Number two, somebody sent some medication for you.
The swaggering atheist was an answer to David’s prayers. He had brought the medicines that Dr. Livingstone had prayed for. Stanley began traveling with David. Four months later, Henry Stanley knelt on the African soil and prayed to receive Jesus as Lord of his life. Henry Stanley would later write the two volume biography of David Livingstone’s life called, “Livingstone in Africa.” Henry M. Stanley wrote these words,
For months after we met I found myself wondering at the old man carrying out all that was said in the Bible – ‘Leave all things and follow Me.’ But little by little his sympathy for others became contagious; my sympathy was aroused; seeing his piety, his gentleness, his zeal, his earnestness, and how he went about his business, I was converted by him, although he had not tried to do it.
Dr. David Livingstone heard the call of God to go where others had never been. He had a passion to share the Gospel, to abolish the slave the trade, and give his life in service to God. On May 1, 1873, at sixty years of age and more than thirty years trekking 29,000 miles through the uncharted land of Africa, Dr. Livingstone’s men found that he had died—not in a retirement village enjoying his final years in comfort, but knelling by his bedside in prayer, spent for the cause of Christ. What a life!
In our Scripture for today we are going to learn about another missionary, a predecessor of Dr. Livingstone, who spent his life for the cause of Christ as well. Let’s read Romans 15:14-21.
14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done– 19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21 Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” (Romans 15:14-21 NIV)
As I have mentioned to you the last couple of weeks, Paul is wrapping up his letter to the church in Rome. They are a strong church, but he has reminded them of the important truths of the faith that all of us need to hear on a regular basis. It is important that we be reminded isn’t it? When we offer Bible studies on certain books of the Bible, I have heard people say, “I’ve already done a study of that book before.” That is good, but let’s do it again and again and again. We can never fully understand and then implement God’s Word into our lives. We must be reminded of the truths of God’s Word again and again and again.
I’m not suggesting this because we suffer from amnesia or because we are slow in learning, but because we are reminded throughout God’s Word of how important it is for us to be reminded. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he reminded them. Read along with me from 1 Corinthians 15:1.
1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. (1 Corinthians 15:1 NIV)
Paul reminded the followers of Jesus, scattered throughout all of the cities, of many important truths. We just read where he reminded the people of Corinth about the truths of the Gospel. In Titus, Paul wrote a letter to a young leader who was called upon to provide leadership for an unruly group of new converts on the island of Crete. Paul knew how rough things would be for Titus on the island of Crete. In the opening of his letter to Titus he writes,
12 Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. (Titus 1:12-14 NIV)
Those of us who are like the folks of Crete easily forget the call of God to live a life of surrender and holiness and we need to be reminded. Paul writes, in Titus 3:1-2,
1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. (Titus 3:1-2 NIV)
Paul reminded the people of the important truths of the Gospel and specific teachings like justification by faith, submitting to our rulers, living for God’s glory etc. He also reminded Timothy to “get with it,” to “fan into flame the gift of God.” Paul wrote, in 2 Timothy 1:5-9,
5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God… (2 Timothy 1:5-8 NIV)
Timothy is a great example of why we need to be reminded. Timothy had a “sincere faith,” he was a young leader of God’s people, but evidently he was prone to timidity. Paul had to “coach” Timothy. He had to kick him in the behind and urge him to “fan into flame the gift of God” because it had become a flickering ember. Doesn’t that sound a lot like you and me? How many of us gave our lives to Christ and since that day we have been sold out for the cause of Christ? There have been ups and downs haven’t there been? There have been times when you and I were so excited and committed and there have been other times when we have been lazy and uncommitted. We need to be reminded and we need to be reminded often.
Paul wasn’t the only one who was reminding God’s people of these important lessons for living. Peter wrote to the people and said,
12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. (2 Peter 1:12-15 NIV)
Why were Paul and Peter so insistent on going over the same things over and over again? Why? Because these are the most important lessons you can ever learn in your life. They are the most important lessons I can devote my life to. Jesus told His followers that when He left the Father would send the Holy Spirit. Why would He send the Holy Spirit? Let’s read John 14:26 and find out,
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 NIV)
The Holy Spirit is given to teach you and me and to “remind us,” oh, there is that word again. He will remind us of everything that Jesus has said.
Paul was not only reminding the folks in Rome of the important doctrinal truths that we have covered during our study of Romans, but he was reminding them of God’s call on His life, and God’s power that had enabled him to accomplish everything he had accomplished. Let’s read together from Romans 15:16-18.
16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—(Romans 15:16-18 NIV)
Paul had been called to go to the Gentiles. Gentiles? Who would ever want to go to the Gentiles? The Jews, of whom Paul belonged, had the lowest regard for Gentiles. The Gentiles were not human; they were beasts and were called, “dogs,” by the Jews. That was the belief of the Jews, but it certainly wasn’t the way God looked at the Gentiles. Paul was chosen to take the Good News to the Gentiles “so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” It was God’s will to take those who were regarded as nothing and set them apart for His glory, to be used for His purposes, and to make them His very own. In 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, Paul wrote.
26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NIV)
Paul had faithfully reached out to those that nobody else wanted to reach out to. Paul had given his life to preaching the Good News in places he had never gone, places that he would have never thought of going if it weren’t for God’s call to “Go!” Yet, Paul knew that all that he had done wouldn’t earn him a nomination for the “Missionary of the Year” award. Paul knew that all that he had done was accomplished through the empowering move of God in His life. Paul said, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done.”
This is such an important lesson for each of us to remember. Our work is truly His work. We could not do what we do if it were not for God equipping us to do what we do. Do you realize that? I’m speaking about what we do individually, in everyday life, and what we do corporately, as the Body of Christ here at Britton Christian Church. If you are a plumber, teacher, bottle washer, construction worker, stay at home mom, or anything else—you have been given gifts and abilities by God. As a church, God has provided us with gifts, abilities, and minds to be able to use all that He has given to bless others and bring glory to God. Our work is truly His work. If we ever forget that then we run the risk of God withdrawing all that He has given.
There is one more section of Scripture that I want us to look at this morning before we get out of here. In Romans 15:19 Paul talks about how God used powerful “signs” and “miracles,” or some Bibles translate the word, “wonders.” God did amazing things through Paul’s life to validate his call. It is the second half of verse 19 that I want us to pay special attention to. Let me read it to you.
19 …So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. (Romans 15:19b NIV)
Paul said that he had been from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum preaching and teaching the Gospel. The word that Paul uses for “all the way around,” is the Greek word, “κύκλῳ” (kuklo) which means, “in a circle, around, round about, or on all sides.” During Paul’s lifetime he went, for the most part, where the Gospel had not been heard in order to share the Good News with those who had not believed. He writes in Romans 15:19, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known.”
Paul had seen many victories, but he had also seen more than his share of trials and tribulation. He had been beaten by those he had upset, he had been shipwrecked trying to reach his destination, he had been run out of town on more than one occasion, he had been put in jail, and in a few years he would be killed for the cause of Christ.
Don’t ever let anyone convince you that serving Jesus is easy. Don’t ever let anyone try to convince you that serving Jesus won’t cost you anything. It will cost you everything. Jesus gave His life for us so that we might offer our lives in service to Him.
I want you to think about something before we leave here this morning. Paul went to those places where others had never been to reach those who many didn’t even consider worth reaching. God called Paul to uncharted territory to share the Good News. What uncharted territory is God calling you to set your sights on this morning? I don’t necessarily mean a nation, a call to pull up stakes and become a missionary like Paul or Dr. David Livingstone, although that is certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
I can remember like yesterday working at First Christian Church in Duncan, OK. soon after Connie and I were married. I had shared with the pastor, Dr. James Smith, about the possibility of going to Seminary and he asked me, “Where will you minister?” I didn’t really understand the question at the time and I guess he could tell. Dr. Smith said, “Will you go down the street where everything is wonderful and everybody wants to be part of what you are doing or will you go where there are problems and nobody wants to be there and let God use you?” Dr. Smith and Paul would have gotten along really well!
Will you and I find out where everyone is going and join the masses or will we go where no one is going and be faithful to share the Good News in that place? Will we reach out to those that everyone would love to have in their congregation or will we reach out to those that most wouldn’t even want sitting in their pews on Sunday morning? I want to go where Jesus would have me go. I want to do only what He would have me do. I’m not concerned if the masses come as much as I’m concerned with being found faithful when He comes.
The ministry that God has given us in this community is not an easy ministry. We’ve certainly not encountered the problems that Paul had to deal with, but it is not an easy ministry. There is overwhelming need on a daily basis, but there are also an abundance of opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus and seek to be a blessing where few desire to minister.
I want to invite those of you who are not involved to get involved. Knowing that it won’t be easy and that it will cost you greatly, I want to invite you to get involved in letting God use you to share the Good News and make a difference in this community for the glory of God.
Let me share a story from David Livingstone’s life with you before we leave here today. When Dr. David Livingstone was working in Africa, a group of friends wrote him. They said, “We would like to send other men to you. Have you found a good road into your area yet?” According to a member of his family, Dr. Livingstone sent this message in reply: “If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.”
You want to know why we still tell stories of people like Dr. David Livingstone, Mother Theresa, Hudson Taylor, and many others who gave their lives for the cause of Christ? It is because they weren’t looking for comfort as much as they were looking for opportunities to share Jesus with others. It is because they had no regard for the cost, even if it cost them their lives. Hudson Taylor once said, “God isn’t looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him.” The great missionary, Jim Elliot, who was killed by the very people in Ecuador he sought to reach, wrote in his journal, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” We have been left a great legacy by those who heard the call of God and responded. Will we respond to the call of God to go?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
May 23, 2010