3 John 1:5-8 Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, 6 who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.
The aim of this sermon, at the end of missions week, is to help you see the indispensable, vital role all of us play in supporting workers of the truth in other places of the world. If you are lacking in a desire and in an effort for the gospel to spread to Asia, North Africa, Thailand, Guatemala, Panama, Germany, Haiti; our missionaries will be lacking in their ability to effectively get that gospel to those who need it. You play an indispensable part in supporting fellow workers of truth. I hope that desire burns in your heart, and if it doesn’t, may God use his Word this morning to fan a spark that would ignite fire in your soul to be a faithful sender and supporter here at Grace Church.
As a cop, I respond to all kinds of emergencies. Whether it is a car crash, an assault, or a medical; we go where things are the most urgent and serious. In that moment when I am at that scene, providing help to the injured, sick or victims of a crime, how many people have helped me get to that very moment to render aid?
There are the people on the assembly line that put together my Ford Interceptor SUV. If I didn’t have an engine, tires, a steering wheel, brakes, and a gas pedal, I couldn’t even get to the scene to help. There are the people that put together my computer in my squad, the light bar on top of my squad and the siren box inside my grill so I can get to the scene fast. There are people who made my clothes as I am standing there in uniform. There are people who machined my Glock pistol and made my handcuffs and created all the other equipment I carry on my belt. There are people who designed and built the roads that I can drive on to get to the call. And finally, let’s not forget the tax payers who are forced to pay my salary to do the job in the first place.
Very quickly we can see that there are hundreds, if not thousands of people, who are supporting me in that very moment I get to an emergency call. They are indispensable to the work of law enforcement. If they don’t do their jobs, I can’t do my job as well or even at all.
Grace Church, we are an indispensable support to fellow workers of the truth; to our missionaries. The emergency they respond to is a lack of access to the gospel. The greatest emergency we have as human beings. We send our missionaries out to translate the Bible so people can hear it in their heart language. We send them out to create businesses so they can be in countries that are hostile to the gospel. We send them out to islands where it is hard to just live. We send them out because the emergency is eternal. People are heading to hell and they need to hear about the good news that saves from sin and brings them into right standing before God. If we are lacking in that support, our missionaries will be lacking in their ability to meet this urgent need.
The epistle of 3 John is a brief, situation-specific letter to a man named Gaius, that helps us see the importance of supporting these types of workers. I pray and hope you would get this. Guilt-driven missionary support is a waste of time. I am not imploring you to feel bad about any past failures you may have in your lack of missionary support. Gaius, and his local church, supported these workers because they loved them and had a desire for the church to be strengthen and the gospel to spread. That is the mark of people who will do the hard, faithful, effort-filled, generous and worthwhile work of supporting fellow workers in the truth for decades.
What we see in this very brief letter written by the Apostle John, is that he is writing to a man named Gaius, after having received a report from people he knew, and had sent out do gospel work. Verse three says, “For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth.” So these men John knew, brought back a good report of their support.
We don’t know exactly what type of work these brothers had been sent out to do. Based on verses 9 and 10, one reason was probably that they had been sent to Gaius’ church to find out if the church had fallen into heresy. A man named Diotrephes was refusing to welcome them and was talking wicked nonsense against them. They could have also been doing missionary outreach as well, bringing the gospel out so that it might expand in the early days of the church.
We know that whatever they were doing, the mission was for the gospel to expand and the church to be strengthened. These verses give us a framework for how we ought to support those we send out for the expansion and strengthening of the gospel in the world. We can see from these verses that these workers were united in a relationship together through Jesus, they had been sent out on a journey with a mission to guard and expand the gospel, they were to accept no financial help from unbelievers, and their senders were faithfully supporting them because they were doing true gospel work. Now, with that backdrop, lets look at verses 5 through 8 specifically.
The affectionate and familial bond of the gospel.
Paul refers to Gaius and his church as beloved in verse 5. They are dear to his heart, and as he is writing this letter he feels a love welling up in his heart for them. He longs to see them face to face (v. 14), so there is this yearning in his heart as he is putting ink to paper. And he talks about the brothers that had been sent to them for the sake of gospel work in their church. He uses words like my children (v. 4) and says beloved three times in this short letter.
The affection bond that John has towards those that were sent out and towards those he is writing to does not come because of a relationship by ancestry or bloodlines. What is is that unites them? What is the source of this deep love that John has? “The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth (v. 1).”
The truth is what unites them. The truth of what? The truth of the gospel is what makes them brothers and sisters in Jesus. The truth is what is welling up an affection in John’s soul toward his beloved. He loves them because they all love Jesus. They are united not by a bloodline, but by the shed blood of Jesus.
At the very bottom of our motivation for sending out missionaries into the world ought to be a shared love for Jesus and the truth of the gospel. People are going to hell if they don’t hear the gospel. God uses people to get the message out so that as the gospel is shared, hearts are awakened to their sin and God grants them a new desire to love him.
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but through him. May Grace Church have a deep longing for the gospel to be brought to places where right now, people don’t have the ability or means to hear it. May you desire to see the gospel be strengthened in the hearts of pastors who don’t have much access to training. Pray and ask God to grant to you an awareness and longing for people you don’t know to hear the gospel and hope in Jesus.
We ought to think about our missionaries in the same way as John is thinking about Gaius and his church. They are on his mind deeply. He feels a love for them deeply. He wants to come and see them deeply. Our missionaries ought to be on our mind as we go throughout our weeks. Send them an email or Facebook message. Encourage them with a note of affection and tell them about the love you have for them in the truth. In 2019, it has never been easier in human history to keep in touch with people that are on the other side of the world.
God, may you grant to us an ever increasing affection for our missionaries through the bond we have with them in the gospel.
The mission is gospel expansion.
If the bond they share is in the gospel, the mission they are after is gospel expansion. The brothers John is referring to had been sent out to expand and strengthen the gospel in other places. The truth is what unites them (v. 8) They were not sent out to primarily meet physical needs, but spiritual ones.
We do not send out our missionaries with the end goal of giving out medicine to villages, putting roofs over people’s heads, or playing soccer with a group of kids. We do not send them out with humanitarian relief as the mission. That is not why these brothers were sent out as we see in these verses.
We send out missionaries because people need to hear about Jesus and they are going to hell if they don’t turn from sin and hope in Jesus. Our missionaries certainly use physical needs as a spring board into meeting spiritual needs, but meeting physical needs is never the end goal. We don’t send people out into the world to merely relieve physical suffering so that people can be more comfortable on their way to hell.
So whether we are sending out missionaries for two decades of gospel work, or sending out a short term team for two weeks of gospel work, the mission is always for gospel expansion. How does the work they are doing help people know and love Jesus? We are united in truth, therefore all our work is for the truth to get out to people who need to hear it.
Support that is fitting of the message
Our support of missionaries is rooted in the affectionate and familial bond we share in Jesus Christ which comes through the message of the gospel, which we want to see expanded throughout the entire world. That’s the mission. Now, what does this kind of support look like for our missionaries?
We see in verse five that it is a faithful kind of support. “Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts.” The kind of support that we give to our missionaries does not last for a year, or even five years. The kind of support that we give is not short-sighted. We are not talking years. We are talking decades. A lifetime. Your financial giving, your prayers, your energy and your affection for missionaries is to be faithful over decades. Do this until you die or until Jesus returns.
I have been on the missions team here at Grace Church for nine years now. As a team, we’ve tried to create a trellis for the vine of missionary support to grow well. We have thought and strategized for ways to make it easy for you to get to know and support your missionaries.
I can think back on these past nine years and see times of highs and lows. Times where I was excited and encouraged for the work we were doing and the work our missionaries were doing. I can think of a couple times where I was discouraged and even weeping, wondering if my efforts were making any difference and if I was even the right person to be doing this.
We are only getting started. Whether I remain on the missions team as the leader, or someone replaces me at some point, we all have a delightful duty of faithfully supporting those we send out from this place. Give money to them. Write to them. Pray for them. Spend time with them when they are back on home assignment. Do these things for decades and see what God does through your efforts of faithful support.
Not only is it a faithful kind of support, it is a support that requires effort. It is a struggle and it requires work on your behalf. John gives a big reason as to why it can be difficult to have faithful, effort-filled work in supporting missionaries. Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are (v. 5).
We send out missionaries for 2-3 years at a time and do not see them face to face. If we are not careful and intentional about our support, they will drift from our mind. You have jobs and children and problems of your own that can naturally and easily eat up your time and attention.
Yet supporting our missionaries in a manner that is worthy of God requires vigorous effort to not let that happen. That is why we have created the structure we have in our discipleship groups of assigning each of our missionaries to a group so that you can focus on praying for them and writing them and getting to know them, so that they are not strangers to you.
Grace, the more you get to know specific missionaries, the greater the affection you will have for them. But that takes effort. It takes reading their newsletters slowly and prayerfully. It means having them over for a meal when they are home. It means giving money to them regularly. It means getting to know the country and people they are working with. This isn’t easy, but what joy awaits in these efforts now and in the future.
Third, we support in a manner that is worthy of God. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God (v. 6). If your love for God and your desire to see his glory shine among the nations is in its rightful place, you will want to send people out in manner worthy of God.
What type of God is this? Just how worthy is he? This God comes in might. This God tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers his lambs in his arms. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span? Who has carefully measured the sky or carefully weighed the soil of the earth or weighed the mountains in a balance? This God! From whom does God receive direction? Who teaches him the correct way to do things or gives him knowledge or instructs him in skillful design? No one!
The nations are like a drop in a bucket to him. He takes up the coastlands as if they were dust. To whom can you compare God? Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told to you from the very beginning? Have you not understood from the time the earth’s foundations were made? He is the one who sits on the earth’s horizon. He is the one who reduces rulers to nothing. He makes the earth’s leaders insignificant. You cannot compare the Holy One to anything else in the universe. He created the heavenly lights. He calls the stars by name. The Lord is an eternal God, the creator of the whole earth. He does not get tired or weary; there is no limit to his wisdom. He gives strength to those who are tired, to those who lack power, he gives renewed energy (Isaiah 40).
This is our God. There is no other! You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, since you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created! (Revelation 4:11) In the New Earth there will be no need for a sun or moon because the glory of God will light it up (Revelation 21:23).
Do you want people to know this God? Do you want people to hear about his glory and power and majesty? I hope so. If your love for God and your desire to see his glory shine among the nations is in its rightful place, you will want to send people out in manner worthy of him, for indeed he is worthy.
We have sent out people to leave their home, family, familiar culture and comforts for the sake of Jesus Christ. We hope to send more people out in the future that we dearly love for the sake of Jesus Christ. It will hurt. It will cost us. But we do not send out in a begrudging way, in a joyless way, or in an indifferent way. If the glory of God is rightly placed in your heart, our missionaries will not be out of sight and out of mind for you. They will be out of sight and front and center in your mind as you go throughout your week.
We do this for the sake of the name of Jesus. We send people out to tell of Jesus, because Jesus was sent by the Father. He emptied himself and took the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men. He took on human form. He was obedient to the point of death on a cross. Then, God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name. And at this name, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God.
We send out now, so that people may bow their knee and confess with their tongue that Jesus is Lord. We do this now so that they will not bow their knee and confess with their tongue before being sent to hell. When Jesus returns, missions will be no more. Until Jesus returns, we send out for the sake of the name that is above every name so that people may hear, and confess, and be saved. Let us do this in a faithful, effort-filled way in a manner worthy of God, the Holy One.
Finally, we support generously. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth (vs. 7-8). These brothers didn’t charge money of the Gentiles (that is the unbelievers; those who are pagan and opposed to God) in order for them to be recipients of the gospel. We give generously to missionaries, who then labor in the work of the gospel, and we receive everlasting rewards in heaven for our giving (Philippians 4:17).
This is a laying up of treasures in heaven in such a way that it is marked by joyful, generous giving of our money. How much money should you give to missionaries? CS Lewis has a most helpful way to think about how much we ought to give. He said, “I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. If our giving habits do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we want to do but cannot do because our giving expenditures exclude them.”
Is your lifestyle hampered by your giving? Are there vacations you can’t go on, nicer vehicles you can’t buy, and a savings account that has less money in it because you are giving to the church and to missionaries? If the glory of God is rightly placed in your heart, and you rightly see Jesus as the name above all names, you will give in this way with a joyful heart. And if you do not have this heart, soak your mind in this text, and plead with God to give you this kind of heart.
Therefore, because of everything John has said, support people that will take the gospel to the nations. You are fellow workers with them, in the truth. The missionaries are not the only ones doing the work. We come alongside them and hold the ropes as we send them out. We labor side by side with them in the faith of the gospel.
I want to share the structure that we as a missions team have worked to setup over the years to make this command in the Bible as accessible as possible. This is the trellis by which we want to see the vine of missionary support grow on.
Here are some practical ways to support your missionaries in a faithful, effort-filled, generous way that is worthy of God for the sake of the name of Jesus:
- Get to know your adopted missionaries that are in your Discipleship Group.
- Support missionaries with your money, beyond your regular giving to Grace Church.
- Go on a short term trip to visit and support our long term missionaries.
- Go to a weekend at Engage Global to learn and experience what other religions believe and practice. This will help engage your heart more in the need for the gospel to be brought to them.
- Stay up to date on what is happening in the countries where our missionaries are working by downloading the BBC app and subscribing to WORLD Magazine. This will shape your prayers more specifically.
- Read through our missions handbook and get to know what is in there
- Download the Joshua Project App. Set an alarm to pray for the people group of that day. Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Luke 10:2).
We ought to support our missionaries in a faithful, effort-filled, generous way that is worthy of God for the sake of the name of Jesus. There should be no Christians at Grace Church that are sitting on the bleachers watching missions happen here. That is disobedience to God. You can be on the sidelines holding the water bottles for the players, in the locker room getting the towels ready, driving the bus for the team to get to the next game, or even putting on the helmet and pads and getting into the game, but you cannot be on the sidelines spectating! Get in the game- the greatest game to be played in this life. The need is great. The workers are few. The stakes are eternal. When you die, and go to heaven, that is when you get to spectate. Until than, let us be at it as a church supporting and sending in faithful ways. Jesus is worth it.