One thing that always struck me about Billy Graham’s weekly radio program, Hour of Decision, was the sense of urgency he conveyed. He pled with listeners to embrace Christ's salvation without delay, because Judgement Day could be right around the corner and they would be out of time. With this thought in mind, today I would like to expand upon the fourth installment of the message God is sending to His Church today: Urgency!
The word “urgency” is comprised of two concepts: time, and the gravity of a situation. The dictionary defines it as "importance requiring swift action.” God’s loving concern for humankind’s sinful situation has a sense of urgency which He makes clear in the Bible:
Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, As in the day of trial in the wilderness.” (Hebrews 3:7, 8 NASB)
For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2 NASB)
The above-mentioned definition and Scripture verses make it clear that there is no time to waste since all of us at some point—whether through death or the Second Coming of Christ—are quickly approaching an immovable deadline. That deadline revolves around the most important questions of one's life: do I believe that only Jesus can save me from the deserved penalty for my sins? And, if I believe this, what must I do to be saved? These questions make clear the gravity of the situation for every human being alive today.
What if a person procrastinates and doesn’t surrender their life to Christ before the end arrives? Scripture speaks to this as well:
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36 NASB)
…for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:28, 29 NKJV)
What I have just written is not intended to be a salvation message to the saved. I fully realize that most people reading this message are believers in Christ and have heard these truths preached in church for years. With our intellect we recognize that a born-again believer is saved from the penalty of sin (hell for eternity.) But what I aim to do in this letter is to speak to our hearts and explain to believers that one of the signs of a vibrant Christian life is concern for the lost that reaches to the depths of our beings and dictates our very lifestyle and decisions.
When a person is born again, the Lord plants within her or him a seed that when watered by the Holy Spirit grows into a powerful, motivating force in their lives. The strongest, most motivated believers on the planet today are filled with Spirit-inspired urgency. Let me be clear: it is not frantic spiritual activity or religious emotionalism, but rather a believer's profound realization that of the tens of millions of people who die each year around the world, those who do not know Christ personally are heading to a God-less existence in hell. In response to this conviction, these believers’ heartfelt cry to God is to use them in some way to rescue the lost. When this happens on a larger scale—within a certain people group or in a geographic area—a spiritual outpouring of the Holy Spirit or a revival occurs.
It should not surprise us that a Spirit-inspired sense of urgency will come under assault from Satan. In an attempt to combat fervency for evangelism, he attacks believers with these types of thoughts:
"Calm down. There’s lots of time. This isn’t even a problem—God won't send anyone to hell.
So just relax and take it easy!"
But laziness is the opposite of urgency. And whether we like to admit it or not, spiritual idleness is present in the Church today among believers from all backgrounds and with all callings on their lives. They are no longer gripped by the lostness of mankind described by the Scriptures, and do not hear the voice of the Holy Spirit calling them to action. Rather, they have become sidetracked by the distractions and pleasures of everyday life.
When I was a young pastor-in-training in Bible School, the Holy Spirit revealed to me in graphic detail the plight of the spiritually lost. It was then I determined that at all cost I wanted to make a difference in saving souls for eternity. I therefore adopted this goal for my life: I want to arrive in heaven tired. I remember reading the following verse written by the Apostle Paul which confirmed that my intentions were on the right track:
But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24 NASB)
Over the years, I have had the great privilege of meeting hundreds of national workers who have a similar, deep-seated concern for the lost, and an unparalleled energy to preach the Gospel. These brothers and sisters in Christ have become my “heroes of the faith” in their pursuit after God and souls. None have impressed me more than a 25-year-old pastor in Vietnam who I met in 1995. During lunch together, I observed an energy and depth within him that could only have been produced by a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. Immediately following our meeting, he planned to return to his village as quickly as possible, get a little sleep that night, then wake before dawn and begin walking through the jungle to a village that had never before heard the Gospel. He told me that he would read portions of the Bible to the villagers, preach the Gospel, pray for the sick to be healed, lead dozens of people to Christ and then start a church—all in one morning. I asked him, "Why are you in such a hurry to go to this village?" His answer revealed what was in his heart: "Because they have never heard the Gospel and will die without knowing Jesus. I cannot let that happen!"
This is the heartbeat of the national pastors and church planters with which Empower partners, and one reason for the massive moving of God around the world today. In a revival, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit or a spiritual awakening, urgency grips the Body of Christ. There is no time to waste because lives are at stake. People need to make a critical decision immediately: accept Christ as Saviour today or reject Him and be lost for eternity.
Even though the vast majority of those reading this message will never travel to the countries in which Empower works where so many people are turning to Christ through the national Church, you are still a vital part of what God is doing. Many of you are sensing the same urgency in your hearts as that of national workers overseas. The Spirit of God is spurring you on to pray, encourage others around you and share your faith in Christ at every opportunity. Many of you also continue to give financially, as you are able, to support the highly motivated and hardworking national workers who use every minute of every day to reach the lost.
Finally, during these tumultuous times, please remember this: there is no crisis management in heaven. God is completely in control and all is going according to His plan. Every prophecy in the Bible will be fulfilled. That is why I state so emphatically to everyone I meet in my travels:
There is no panic in heaven! ... but on earth, let us have a Spirit-inspired urgency for the lost.
Urgency! That is what is driving our national church partners today, and the results are evident as large numbers of people are turning to Jesus as Saviour. God bless you and thank you for your support.
I’ll address the final point in this series next time: an insatiable hunger for God’s Word.