THE AMBULANCE CORPS
I am indebted to “Springs in the Valley” by Mrs Charles E. Cowman for both extracts from the daily reading (reworded in parts) and accompanying poem for providing the inspiration for this message.
“They Shall Go Hindmost With Their Standards
What though the hindmost place is thine,
And thou art in the rear?
This need not cause they heart a pang,
Nor cost thine eye a tear.
The post of duty is the place
Where oft the Captain shows His face.
All cannot charge or lead the van,
All can be brave and true;
And where the Captain’s standards wave
There’s work for all to do;
And work from which thou may’st not flee,
Which must be done, and done by thee.
Among the stragglers, faint and few,
Thou dost thy march pursue;
This need not make they heart to droop,
The weak may yet be true;
Through many a dark and stormy day
The Captain thus holds on His way.
We are all called to be part of God’s great commission to reach the lost. Even if we have not been called to go and serve as full time missionaries in another country, we can still be a very important part of what God is doing to reach out with the precious love of His dear Son Jesus.
Our role may be to support and encourage others in prayer, with finances, to share our homes with those on furlough (I well remember one occasion having such a full house there was no room left for my wife Julie to stay ~ she ended up have to sleep elsewhere!).
We may have an opportunity to visit mission projects short term or take part in one off evangelistic outreaches in our communities; and having had the opportunity to do both I can fully recommend the impact that small teams of committed people can make even for relatively short periods of time.
A Blind Step Of Faith
I have to say though that my first mission trip was a blind step of faith! Whenever we go out on the Lord’s business we often go with a set aim ~ our mission! This was, I believe my first mistake. God has already set out our mission in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 28:16 ~20, but to achieve it we try to draw up our own set of rules. I suppose we like to think that in some way we are still in control.
Going to the country of Albania during the Kosovo war in 1999 I went to convert as many people as possible and extend the Kingdom of God. Sounds pretty good I suppose, to be given this opportunity to help along the Christian message and make disciples of men. However to my amazement God had other plans for me: “I want you to put up shelves, wash the dishes and any other little tasks I can find for you to do.” “But Lord” I cried out “ You have anointed me to preach good news, what is going on? I was given this word in Church, I’ve come to preach great sermons and be hypersensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. But OK, if that’s what You want I will put up shelves and wash the dishes for You.”
Little did I know then about the practical ways in which God works but Jesus is our example and in many ways He shows us that we are sharing the Gospel even when we work in these seemingly small ways. All too often I think we are programmed into thinking that we are doing the things of God by the number of times we attend Church or even by how much we give to support worthy causes. But lets be open to whatever God is calling us to do for Him, even if it’s out of our normal comfort zone and seems to be a little scary! And especially if it seems small and unimportant. For however small our role seems to be it will make a difference to someone.
2. The Ambulance Corps
It has been said “There are three classes in the Christian life:
· The men of the wing
· The men of the couch,
· And the men of the road.
The first are those who fly before; they are the pioneers of progress; they are in advance of the rest.
The second are those who stand still, or rather lie still; they come not to minister, but to be minister unto.
The third are those who follow; they are the ambulance corps ~ they follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These are the sacrificial souls that come on behind. They are lovely in their obscurity; they do not wish to lead, choosing rather to be in the rear; they come forward only when others are driven backward. They want no glory from the battle, no wreath for the victory, no honourable mention among the heroes. They seek the wounded, the dying, the dead; they anoint for life’s burial; they bring spices for the crucified; they give the cup of cold water, they wash the soiled feet. They break the fall of Mary Magdalene. They take in Saul of Tarsus after he becomes blind. They are attracted by defects; every form of helplessness lures them.
Maybe others will lead. We can serve the Lord in the background. Maybe we cannot fight all His battles, but we can nurse His wounded. We may not repel the enemy, but we can repair the fortress. We may not conduct the marches, but we can help those who have fainted by the way. Lets write our names amongst those who follow the Lamb in His Ambulance Corps.
3. We Get To Share The Spoils
It is a spiritual principle that nobody gets left out in God’s Kingdom ~ everyone is to have a share from the spoils. The Lord told Moses to “Divide the spoils between the soldiers who took part in the battle and the rest of the community (Numbers 31:27).
Similarly David insisted on sharing the plunder retrieved from the Amalekites with two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him and who were left behind. (See 1 Samuel 30:24).
By God’s grace we all get to share the spoils of the battle together. In God’s Kingdom no one misses out.
A message prepared by a dear saint of God before he died was on the theme “Helps” ~ talking about those who support the Ministry. Roy Holmes wrote: “For the most part they are unknown and do not seek recognition, but the Lord recognises them, they stand out like jewels on a barren rock”.
Perhaps you can identify with this, your ministry for the Lord may be behind the scenes, hidden from public gaze. Its only when your seemingly unimportant part doesn’t get done that anyone seems to notice. Be assured that what you do matters ~ it matters to the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
If your work seems to be unknown and unrewarded be reminded that Jesus spent years away from the public limelight carrying out the humble tasks of a carpenter. For our Heavenly Father will reward us for what He sees is done in secret, and at least we won’t have to worry that our “acts of righteousness” are being carried out proudly before men!
5. One Body ~ Many Parts
We all need each other to play the part God had chosen for us. Our dependency on each other is underlined in the passage from 1 Corinthians 12:12 ~ 27, talking about the body of Christ being one body but many parts. Interestingly it says that those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.
Watchman Nee said that a real problem in the church was the “one talent” Christians not playing their part to the full. Let’s not bury the gifts God has given us because they may seem less significant or important compared to ministries others have been given. Let’s give it our all knowing that God can bless our few loaves of bread and fishes and multiply them to feed the multitudes. The usual rules of mathematics do not always apply ~ for nothing is wasted when it is given to God.
6. The Little Things
We may consider the work we have been given to do is too small to matter. But God says, “Who despises the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10). We need to understand that the little things matter ~ they can make a real difference. Let me share with you Henri Nouwen’s “Small steps of love”:
“We choose love by taking small steps of love every time there is an opportunity. A smile, a handshake, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a card, an embrace, a kind greeting, a gesture of support, a moment of attention, a helping hand, a present, a financial contribution, a visit ~ all these are little steps toward love”. He goes on to say, “Each step is like a candle burning in the night.”
Surely together we can take these seemingly little steps of love and make a difference in the dark world around us.
7. Do You Need An Ambulance? ~ The Gospel
Perhaps you feel in need of someone to come and rescue you today. Jesus makes an invitation to each one of us to come to Him:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28~30.
This invitation is open to all ~ no one is excluded. Its also interesting to note we still have a yoke to wear! There is work for us to do. But with the Lord we will find His yoke is easy and He promises His burden is light.
Please feel reassured that our part is no less important just because we are the ones who get to stay behind. In fact those out on the Mission field depend on us to play our part to the full. We are all a vital part of what God wants to do in this broken hurting and suffering world. We may not all be pioneers called to go ahead of others, but we can all be part of the Lord’s Ambulance Corps.