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GIVE OF YOUR BEST TO THE MASTER

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, November 30, 2008
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles


Please stand and turn with me to Luke, chapter 9, verse 23.

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” (Luke 9:23-25).

You may be seated.

Dr. John R., Rice commented on these verses in his book, What it Costs to be a Good Christian (Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1952). Dr. Rice said,

God requires no less than the complete surrender of all control over your own life. It is only when you have taken up your cross to follow Jesus…that you are fit to come and “follow me,” as Jesus said in Luke 9:23. And remember that He said this is to be done [daily] every day!...
      God may want to change your plans completely as He changed mine when He called me from being a college teacher to be a preacher of the gospel…God may call you from being loved and respected, to be an outcast among your friends and thought a fool by your family…No one can really serve the Lord Jesus adequately, completely, until he can lay everything on the altar and say, “Not my will, but Thine be done,” as the Saviour Himself said. Actually God demands…complete surrender. He wants all that you have and all that you are (John R. Rice, D.D., What it Costs to be a Good Christian, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1952, p. 29).

God wants all that you have and all that you are! I agree with Dr. John R. Rice.

In our service a week ago, we saw the classic missionary film, “Through Gates of Splendor.” We saw how Jim Elliot went as a missionary to an unreached tribe of Indians in Ecuador. We saw how he was martyred for Christ at the age of 28, not much older than many of you. We read what he wrote down in his diary before he was murdered, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” My, how that echoes our text:

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

Jim Elliot had already surrendered his whole life to the will of God before he ever went to the mission field while he was still a college student. He already agreed completely with what Dr. Rice said,

God requires no less than the complete surrender of all control over your own life…He wants all that you have and all that you are.

Jim Elliot probably heard the very sermon I quoted from just now, when Dr. Rice preached several times at the Christian college Jim Elliot attended.

After hearing many sermons like that one from Dr. Rice, that young college student Jim Elliot surrendered his whole life and soul to Jesus Christ. He became a martyr on the mission field in Ecuador before he ever got to witness to those Indians. Was Jim Elliot a failure? His wife Elizabeth said that he was not a failure, but a success, because “success is doing the will of God.” Jim Elliot was successful because he died doing the will of God!

You saw that Iranian preacher last week, Rev. Haik Hovsepian, a man who was honored by being made the leader of all the Protestant churches in Iran. But during a time of terrible persecution by the Muslims, he was taken from his church and brutally murdered for his faith in Christ. Was he a failure? No! Not in any sense. Brother Haik was a great success as a Christian – because he had the same commitment Jim Elliot had, and I am sure he was aware of Jim Elliot’s famous motto, and believed it himself, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot and that Iranian preacher gave what they could not keep (their very lives) to gain what they could not lose (a crown of life in God’s eternal Kingdom).

John and Betty Stam went from America to China as missionaries shortly before the Communist takeover of China. He and his wife and daughter went deep into the interior of China to preach the Gospel to those who had never heard of Christ. Soon Communist bandits came and attacked the town where John Stam was preaching. Those bandits took John and Betty Stam and cut off their heads. Only their baby survived and was sent back to America to live with relatives.

Many people thought it was a tragedy that these young people were brutally killed for preaching the Gospel. Some people thought they would not have gone to China if they had known that it would cost them their lives, and leave their little girl to be raised by family members in the United States.

But a man Dr. Rice knew showed him something Betty Stam had written in college. It was a solemn vow she wrote before she and her husband ever reached the shores of China. Betty Stam wrote in her diary,

Lord, I give up my own purposes and plans, and all my desires and hopes and ambitions…and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, to Thee…

And then she quoted the Apostle Paul in that entry in her diary,

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”
       (Philippians 1:21).

Her husband John had also surrendered his life to Christ as well, as he said, “Whether by life or by death.” God granted them the privilege to die for the Gospel of Christ. How high an honor! How great their reward in the Kingdom of God! When Dr. Rice wrote of John and Betty Stam, he said, “I do not know what God’s will is for you. But I know that today you ought to lay your life, your family, your career, your time [and] your money – all you are and can be – on the altar for Jesus Christ” (John R. Rice., ibid., pp. 34-35). For as Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” [in God’s eternal Kingdom].

And I know that the Iranian pastor we saw in the film last Sunday, Rev. Haik Hovsepian, who was killed by Muslim extremists for preaching the Gospel, would have totally agreed with Jim Elliot – and with John and Betty Stam, who were killed by bandits, martyred for Christ in China. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

What stirring words and thoughts from young men and women not much older than most of you. Will you follow their example and completely surrender your life to Jesus Christ, willing to do and be whatever God wants you to do and be? Will you?

Today a tremendous revival is taking place in China. Thousands are coming to Christ. But that great revival only came because of the tremendous sacrifice of earlier missionaries like Robert Morrison (1782-1834) who went from Scotland to China in 1807, and translated the entire Bible into Chinese. He continued his work in China for 27 years, until his death in 1834, laying the foundation for many future missionary endeavors among the Chinese.

James Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) was raised in a deeply religious Methodist family in England. At the age of five he said that he would some day like to be a missionary in China, but he was not converted until he was seventeen. At that time he surrendered his life to Christ and His service. He studied at a medical school and learned Chinese. He went by ship to China in 1853. He adopted Chinese dress and founded the China Inland Mission. His wife died in a cholera epidemic along with his fifth son. But Hudson Taylor went on and his pioneering work for Christ spread throughout the whole interior of China, he and his associates going where no Westerners had ever gone – with the Gospel of Christ. By the end of the nineteenth century, half of the Protestant missionaries in China came from the China Inland Mission. James Hudson Taylor died in Changsha in 1905.

The following biographical sketches are adapted from, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power, by David Aikman, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2003, pp. 47-67.

Wang Mingdao (1900-1991) became one of the most outstanding Chinese Christians of the twentieth century. Western missionaries were expelled from China after the Communists took over in 1949. Wang Mingdao continued to pastor a large church in Beijing. Because of his refusal to join the Communist-run “Three Self” church, he was put in prison for twenty-two years in a labor camp. His courage amid suffering in that concentration camp served to inspire other Christian leaders in China. James Hudson Taylor III, Hudson Taylor’s grandson, said of Wang Mingdao, “No Christian leader in the twentieth century has more clearly articulated the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or more poignantly experienced what the Apostle Paul described as ‘the fellowship of sharing’ in Christ’s sufferings.”

Allen Yuan also spent twenty-two years of hard labor in a prison camp for refusing to join the Communist-backed church and continuing to preach the full message of the Gospel, which was forbidden by the Communist government. After his release from prison, Allen Yuan continued to preach the Gospel, baptizing hundreds of converts in Beijing each year, until his death in 2005, at the age of ninety-one.

Samuel Lamb’s story is very similar to that of Wang Mingdao and Allen Yuan. He was arrested in 1958 and began a twenty-year prison term. The Communists charged him with being a counterrevolutionary, partly because he met with Wang Mingdao. Samuel Lamb is known throughout China for his resistance to Communist control, his fiery preaching of the Gospel, and for his joy and serenity in spite of years of ordeal in a labor camp, and the loss of several members of his family. He is a patriarch of the Chinese Christians, who survived great suffering, but came out of it full of energy to evangelize the lost.

Moses Xie (pronounced ‘Shay”) was born in 1918. He spent twenty-four years in prison. In many ways, he experienced even greater suffering than Wang Mingdao, Allen Yuan or Samuel Lamb. After his first arrest in 1956, his wrists were handcuffed continuously for a period of 133 days. The handcuffs were so tight that they cut directly through his skin into the bone. Guards pulled his hair, kicked him with their boots, and tried day after day to force him to give up his faith in Christ. During his time of torture he nearly gave up, but then one night he seemed to hear Christ say three times, “My grace is sufficient for thee” (II Corinthians 12:9). After that, Moses Xie said, “God’s grace was really strong. When I was beaten after this, I didn’t feel the pain.” His sentence was extended two more years because someone overheard him explaining the Gospel to another prisoner. He spent twenty-four years in prison, tortured for Christ.

It is men like Wang Mingdao, Allen Yuan, Samuel Lamb, and Moses Xie who have inspired the Christians in China, and paved the way for the great revival that is now occurring in that part of the world. These are men who took seriously what Jesus said in our text,

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” (Luke 9:23-25).

These are men who took seriously the thought Dr. John R. Rice expressed, “God requires no less than full surrender of all control over your own life…He wants all that you have and all that you are.” These are men who completely agreed with what Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” And remember that these men dedicated themselves fully to Christ when they were young, long before Christ called them to suffer in those concentration camps.

I am calling on you this morning to surrender your life to Jesus Christ, now while you are young, as these brave men did when they were young, long before they were tortured for Christ. That includes surrendering Christmas Sunday and New Year’s to be in church. That includes surrendering your tithe to the Lord each week in your local church. That includes surrendering time to go to evangelism each week to win souls for Christ. For, as Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Give of your best to the Master;
   Give of the strength of your youth.
Clad in salvation's full armor,  
   Join in the battle for truth.
(“Give of Your Best to the Master” by Howard B. Grose, 1851-1939). 

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 8:34-38.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Give of Your Best to the Master” (by Howard B. Grose, 1851-1939).