3. Faithfulness before Fruitfulness
Positively responding to God’s call after being cleansed by His grace is only the entry point of missions. It is not an easy road to take and there is a cost in getting the Gospel to the lost. Isaiah, like many of God’s messengers, faces a crisis—not of faith, but over his “missionary call” (Isa. 6:11-13). God warns His servant that his own people will not want to hear his message! They will see, but not perceive; hear, but never understand. In short, they won’t get it or want it! They will harden their hearts to the extent of provoking God’s utter destruction upon them.
The truth of God’s Word shines like the sun on our hearts. Our hearts’ response to the light is either to flow into usefulness like a block of melting ice, or harden like a lump of clay until we realize our need to be broken and remade by the Potter. The privileged majority who hear God’s Word will reject it and experience utter destruction. But Isaiah is to keep proclaiming truth anyways! Does his mission look like revival? Would you call it a “successful” ministry? A farmer sows seeds in order to reap a greater harvest, but what do you do when you never see any results? Isaiah must have felt like a failure. Exasperated by continuous disappointments, he cries out, “How long Lord?” (6:11). There had been an urgency to his call to go, but now there is a despondency while fulfilling it!
“Insanity” may be defined as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. If Isaiah was a businessman, he may have considered changing his method to make it more seeker-friendly or culture-sensitive. Or he could have compromised the hard truth a bit to be seen as more “tolerant.” He must have been tempted to water down his message slightly to make it more palatable to his apathetic target audience. It certainly was not an attraction model to write a book about. The call to preach repentance from sin and coming judgment is not a popular theme you see on any TV show. Yet in spite of the outcome, God’s servants are called to be faithful and sent to make His Word available, whether or not they are accepted.
Was there any hope for this generation that did not and could not believe (which God allowed) because with hardened hearts they decided not to believe? No wonder Isaiah sealed up this message for another generation who would, could, and did (8:16-18)! But where could Isaiah find comfort and purpose to be faithful? God, as sovereign King, has never left Himself without a witness. His people’s cities and fields would all be totally destroyed, the people sent into captivity and utterly forsaken. Though a tenth remain, they too would be laid waste (1:13).
But, thank God, from the stub left over, a “holy seed” would stem up. From this remnant, purified and empowered through suffering, the Messiah would come. He would be that “light of the world” to all, both Jews and Gentiles! It still remains our responsibility to appropriate this light, though. Jesus Messiah is God’s righteous salvation and He will open the eyes of the blind and set captives free (42:7). Whoever comes to Him, the Living Word, will have the light of life (Jn. 8:12).
Conclusion: Keep Looking Upward, Inward, & Outward!
Several truths stand out in examining Isaiah’s call regarding the way God empowers us for missions. Our holy God desires to send us with His Word to sinful people lost in darkness. Whoever God calls, He equips and qualifies for His service. But first, He must purify His servants who speak His Word. He does so by showing us a glimpse of His holiness, which exposes our own sinfulness. He then graciously provides redemption through a sacrifice for our atonement.
There is wonder-working power in God’s gracious call and cleansing blood. A chosen and clean vessel is a powerful weapon in God’s hand for missions. We can expect to be despised by people who do not want to hear God’s message of repentance and judgment. But rejection is not failure, and there are rewards if we refuse to grow weary in well-doing. Reaping is not guaranteed to the faithful sower, and failure is the back door of success. God emboldens us with the glorious hope of salvation in the Messiah’s coming!
God always has a faithful remnant as His witnesses to the nations. So let us endure hardships to the end, until Jesus comes. His Word requires long obedience in the same direction. One day we will hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
- How does a person know that God has called them to be a missionary and in what way will this deep sense of being “called” sustain and propel you when ministry gets tough?
- Why is it crucial especially for those serving Christ to remain pure and above reproach?
- Describe a time in your life when you struggled because you weren’t seeing any results. What did you do? How would you respond differently if you were to relive that struggle?