On the 26th May 1887, the 21st anniversary meeting of the China Inland Mission was held in the UK, with Hudson Taylor, it’s founder, presenting a fresh challenge to see 100 new missionaries sent to China that year. In that speech, Taylor famously remarked,
“I do want you, dear friends, to realize this principle of working with God and asking Him for everything. If the work is at the command of God, then we can go to Him in full confidence for workers; and when God gives the workers, we can go to Him for means to supply their needs…The Lord will provide in the meanwhile, and the money will be wired to China in time to supply his wants. Let us see to it that we keep God before our eyes; that we walk in His ways, and seek to please and glorify Him in everything, great and small. Depend upon it, God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supplies.”
That wonderful phrase, “God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supplies” has been used to encourage countless numbers of God’s people to step out in faith, against all odds and attempt great things for the Kingdom of God.
As I was preparing a sermon from Mark 6:6-13, Taylor’s words kept coming to mind. In this text Jesus is sending his disciples out to continue and expand his ministry. I see a foreshadowing of the Great Commission in this passage and it is rich in instruction for disciples who are seeking to understand the nature of effective ministry. You will see all three elements of Taylor’s famous claim present in Mark 6.
First, it is God’s work. Jesus summoned the disciples and told them exactly what he wanted them to do (Mark 6:7). This seems so elementary but we often get it backwards in the modern church. This ministry originated with Jesus and His will. The disciples didn’t approach Jesus with their plans and ask him to bless them. They didn’t hear his plan and suggest ways to do it better. Jesus knew exactly what he wanted them to do and how they were to do it.
How many times do we come to the Lord after our brainstorming and strategy sessions with what we think is best and then ask him to get on board with our plans. I am not against strategy and vision, in fact, I think they are really important, but I fear that they are often used as a substitute for the really hard work of prayer, repentance, humility and fasting that go along with seeking God’s will. Before we seek “God’s supply” let’s make certain that we’re actually doing “God’s work.”
We also see that the disciples did it “God’s way.” They were to go out in pairs. Someone may have thought that it made more sense to split up and cover more territory, but this is not the way Jesus sent them. He knew they would need support and companionship so he sent them out in teams. They were also to go out in dependence upon the hospitality of strangers (Mark 6:8-9). They were to travel light as they preached the gospel, trusting that God would supply their every need. Jesus knew exactly what he wanted his disciples to learn from this exercise and I don’t believe that they would have been successful without being obedient. The principle is clear. Jesus expects us to do his work, his way. It may not always make sense to us, but he always knows what he is doing in us and through us.
We also see that the disciples, going out under the authority of Jesus, never lacked God’s supply. While they never carried extra supplies, it seems God gave them everything they needed to accomplish the mission. Taylor was on firm ground when he made his bold claim, “God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supplies.” We can walk in that same confidence today but I believe it begins by returning to the feet of Jesus, listening to the master, and first making sure we are indeed doing God’s work, in God’s way.