In Matthew 24:14, Jesus said, “This gospel must first be preached throughout the world and then shall the end come.” Since Christ charged His disciples with the Great Commission, He has decreed ways to perpetuate the message of redemption throughout the world. Charles Spurgeon said, “The keys of providence swing from the girdle of Christ.” And His wisdom is displayed in the ways He exposes the world to the gospel.
When one considers how the Lord of the Harvest promotes the gospel message they might think of Him sending His servants to remote parts of the world. This is what many exclusively conclude when pondering how He fulfills His mission of global evangelization. But this is only one of His pre-determined ways.
Besides commissioning individuals to go into the world and preach the gospel, the Lord also displays His wisdom in carrying out His mission by the printed page. What more adequate illustration of the old axiom, the pen is mightier than the sword, than that literature that has introduced past generations to the cross – work of Jesus. How often has God chosen to redeem sinners through gospel literature? But God’s providence is still not limited to a gospel call or a ready pen.
Another divinely orchestrated way is exposing mankind to the gospel through technology. Could anyone question the impact social media has made as an effectual means of evangelizing unreached people in this hour? With incalculable swiftness, social media has taken the world by storm. And one of the unique ways providence has enabled our generation to understand the message of salvation is through the modern film industry. Accounts have been confirmed of not a few young people who have learned the English language, which ultimately led to a saving comprehension of the gospel, by watching American movies.
Still another noteworthy method God has chosen for kingdom advancing purposes is martyrdom. Tertullian’s statement, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” has rung true in a world that hates Christ. Persecution coupled with death, witnesses to the sacrifice of Christ before a watching world. And there are few ways that are more powerfully used to extend the gospel than the killing of His people for righteousness sake.
One cannot ponder Christ’s sovereign acts, which have promoted gospel mission, without citing revival and spiritual awakenings. Church history is replete with accounts of how the Lord of the Church did not leave “Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17) During those times, the saving knowledge of the good news has triumphed in the salvation of men and women. Furthermore, it has been during seasons of the gravest spiritual darkness when God gave His people times of refreshing as a means of restoring their testimony before lost humanity. Interestingly, many spiritual awakenings were catalysts for some of the greatest mission movements in world history. The outcome was abounding conversions, large numbers of believers being called to the mission field, the birth of biblical training institutions and the incessant publishing of gospel literature.
Every way of our Sovereign Lord for dispensing the gospel throughout the world is a tribute to His omnipotence and wisdom. By sustaining every providential means by the word of His power, He will assuredly fulfill His mission. And this would also include the method of war.
It is quite amazing to hear and read how God has orchestrated global conflicts for the furtherance of the gospel. To behold such narratives through the lens of providence moves one to respond with resounding enthusiasm with the Apostle Paul, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” Considering the apostle’s theological astuteness and how experientially acquainted he was with God, it is surprising how he is at a loss of words to describe the sheer splendor of providence. It is significant that he uses the word depth to speak of the vastness of God’s riches in His wisdom and knowledge to carry out His plan.
While in Milan, Italy, a few years ago, a missionary told me the story of how God used allied soldiers who were Christians, while stationed in Sicily during World War I, to share the gospel with the residents. The outcome was the conversion of an undisclosed number of Sicilians and the birth of evangelical churches. Upon inquiring for more details on the account of this marvelous working of providence during the war, the missionary recently wrote, “It’s truly inspiring to meditate on the way God’s providence works itself out in the context of war. No setbacks, no surprises, no chance … every detail perfectly scripted to bring glory to Almighty God through Christ.”
In the biography of Dr. Martyn Lloyd – Jones, author Ian Murray, provided the minister’s perspective on war:
“War, said the preacher, was not to be viewed as the interruption of personal convenience and of enjoyments of life. Something far more serious was involved. War is divine judgement upon the very lives which men pursue; it is permitted ‘in order that men may see through it, more clearly than they have ever done before, what sin really is’ and thus be led back to God.”
Sovereign God is committed to divulging His Son’s redemptive work to the world. And He ordains times of war to do it. When Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 3 there is a time for war, the text presupposes that it is God Who appoints times to disperse the good news amid conflict.
Another example of the propagation of the gospel in war is a story that emerged out of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 7, 1941, Captain Mitsuo Fuchida led the infamous assault that triggered a world war between the United States and Japan. The years following the aftermath of the war, Captain Fuchida retired from the military and began to farm in his native land. During his time as a farmer, he would almost daily experience a foreboding sense of death. His own words from his book, From Pearl Harbor to Calvary, reveal the plaguing thoughts that tormented his mind,
“Whenever I thought of my past, I could not help but think of the mystery of my survival. Why was I still alive, when men all around me had died like flies in the four years of conflict? I was gradually led to think in terms of a Creator – God, I came to feel ashamed of my former godless idea that man’s own power and ability were his own trustworthy guides.
In the process of considering a way of making Japan a peaceful nation, Captain Fuchida desired to warn people in a book he considered writing entitled No More Pearl Harbor. But in his preparation, he said, “there must be an assurance among men of the transforming of the power of hatred to the power of true brotherly love.” The former Japanese commander concluded that the problem could only be resolved around a person, which led him to ask himself the question, “Who … could accomplish the task of banishing suspicion and war? My mind turned toward God, the Creator of all things.”
Amazingly, God opened Mitsuo Fuchida’s heart through a series of providential events that led to his conversion to Christianity. By a glorious stroke of divine providence he would inquire from a friend, who was a former Japanese lieutenant, how his American captors had treated him while being detained in a prisoner of war camp. He reported that it was fairly good, but added the most encouraging story:
“Something happened at the camp where I was interned which has made it possible for us who were in that camp to forego all our resentment and hatred, and to return with a forgiving spirit … After the end of the war there came to the camp a certain American girl. Her age, I would judge, was about twenty. She began to minister to the Japanese war prisoners with her whole heart and strength. As she went about the camp, she said to us, ‘If there is any discomfort or any need that you have, let me know. If it is at all possible to help in any way, I would like to do so.’ She looked after our sick with such tender and loving and conscientious care that all our hearts were touched. About three weeks after the girl first came to the camp, one of the prisoners asked her, ‘Why are you so kind to us?’ Her unexpected reply was, ‘because my parents were killed by the Japanese Army.’ We were amazed. The moral code that we had been taught was that the murderer of one’s parents becomes a sworn and irreconcilable enemy! We could not understand how anyone could return kindness for that!”
The girl’s story had a significant impact on the Japanese prisoners in the POW camp. And the lieutenant’s account was a contributing factor in the conversion of Mitsuo Fuchida.
When we consider the ways the Lord of the Harvest composes to circulate the gospel throughout the world, we must not overlook any of His providential acts. There are various agents He employs to perpetuate gospel mission, and war is often one of them. Whether it’s a foreboding sense of eternity while engaged in the conflict, the verbal witness of allied soldiers on the field, or the demonstration of gospel forgiveness in a POW camp, global warfare is often divinely decreed to promote the message of Christ and Him crucified throughout the world. And in the aftermath of war God is notorious for making enemies, emissaries; derelicts, delegates; and adversaries, advocates for the truth of the gospel.