Blog by Ganna Posviata_image

Blog by Ganna Posviata

Journalist, copywriter, at religion organizations since 2012 

Who will suffer for the Gospel? John Piper's plea in his new book

29 May, 12:40
Adoniram Judson - фото 1
Adoniram Judson
In his book The Seed that Bears Much Fruit (2024), the author, using the biography of missionary A. Judson, begs today Christians to reconsider their attitude to the Great Commission and to realize Christ's words about “the seed that falls into the ground must die to bear fruit” aren`t metaphor.

The topic of fulfilling the Great Commission or missionary work is not very popular in churches today, but it is not that it is not spoken about from the pulpit at all.

The Gospel today is comforting, not transformative. Evangelism is the lite version - staying close to home, not moving to an unfamiliar country, sometimes dangerous, to live with people far from your native culture for the salvation of their souls.

Although there are examples of people in modern missionary work who have left their comfort for the sake of a life-saving sermon.

The true, though painful, message about the inevitability of suffering for those who preach the Gospel is not sufficiently revealed, but at the same time, missionaries and ministers for the teachings of Christ are still being killed by religious fanatics in Muslim countries today.

John Piper's new book, "The Seed that Bears Much Fruit" (published in 2024 (originally "Adoniram Judson" - ed.)), on the one hand, returns to a sober view: the words of Jesus Christ that the grain, falling into the ground, must die in order to bring forth much fruit (John 12:24), are not a metaphor, but "God's strategy for spreading the Gospel to all nations."

On the other hand, it is the author's plea to modern Christians to reconsider their role in fulfilling Christ's Great Commission.

For both so-called directions, the author used a powerful biography of the first American missionary of the 19th century who served in Burma, Adoniram Judson (1788-1850).

"More and more I am persuaded from Scripture and from the history of missions that God’s design for the evangelization of the world and the consummation of his purposes includes the suffering of his ministers and missionaries. To put it more plainly and specifically, God designs that the suffering of his ministers and missionaries is one essential means in the joyful, triumphant spread of the gospel among all the peoples of the world. I plead for you to be a part of what Judson and Christ died for," the author says in his book.

Burma, modern Myanmar, where Piper's protagonist ministered, was a completely unreachable country in Southeast Asia in the 19th century: anarchic despotism, a bitter war with Siam, enemy raids, rebellions, and a lack of religious tolerance. Judson's predecessor missionaries died or were forced to leave.

A famous missionary contemporary of Adoniram's, William Carey, who served in India, advised his colleague not to go there.

Instead, Judson and his 23-year-old wife arrived in Burma in 1813, two weeks after their marriage...

He worked there for 38 years, returning home to England only once.

The premature deaths of his two wives, his father and brother, seven of his 13 children, and the deaths of his co-workers one by one from tropical diseases. Severe depression, unjust accusation and imprisonment for four years with torture.

This is the list of sufferings Adoniram Judson endured when he decided to evangelize:

"If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings."

Today, nearly 200 years after Judson completed his missionary journey, the Baptist Convention of Myanmar has 3,700 congregations with 618,000 members and nearly two million worshipers, and a completed translation of the Bible into Burmese is in the works - the very fruit Adoniram Judson bore in his death, paying a great price for the spiritual awakening of Burma at that time.

In his book, John Piper raised the topic of suffering for preaching the Gospel, which will surely befall anyone who voluntarily leaves "comfortable" Christianity for the sake of the Great Commission.

The author believes that suffering is one of Christ's strategies for the success of His mission.

"Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16).

Jesus knew that this would be the fate of His missionaries who would go against the darkness, advancing the mission and planting churches.

"Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword" (Romans 8:35) - the apostle Paul expected the same, because Jesus promised it.

"Our suffering does not atone for anyone’s sins, but it is a deeper way of doing missions than we often realize.," the author notes.

John Piper's direct questions to the readers: "How many of you would go to suffering and death to tell about God's grace and salvation? Are you sure that God wants you to continue your life in this comparatively church-saturated land?

Or might he be calling you to fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, to fall like a grain of wheat into some distant ground and die, to hate your life in this world and so to keep it forever and bear much fruit?" These questions will strike the brain lulled by the Gospel of prosperity, but an honest one will be forced to return to the essence of Christ's words about His commission and can form the basis of prayer for missionary service and its further fulfillment.

The author used the biography of only one missionary of the past, whose example, in his opinion, best illustrates the theme of "a grain that fell into the ground and died and bore fruit". But this is rather a subjective view, a specific approach of the author, and perhaps his favorite example of a missionary.

Instead, a discerning reader and thinker will always consult several sources, examples, in our case, biographies of missionaries, in order to make a truly balanced and long-term decision: is it worth suffering for the Gospel?

To make such a radical decision, of course, biographies, no matter how many are read, are not enough. The key remains the personal experience of a person who builds a relationship with God as a person and gradually opens his heart to follow him voluntarily, even at the cost of suffering and his own life.

Obviously, this book can lead to a search for a greater awareness of one's mission, in order to finally answer the question: why am I on this earth, for what am I willing to give my life?

For the ministry Christ is the answer (CITA).

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