Circumstances, tragic events, and world-wide catastrophies in recent times have caused most of us to stop and ponder our lives, our ministries, and the future of our world. We are reminded in II Timothy Chapter 3 that as we live out the last days “perilous times shall come”. This world in which we live is filled with peril. Peril is defined as “dangerous and full of risk.” The only things that are certain in this world are the truths that we find in the pages of God’s holy and perfect book, His Word. In times of peril, God’s Word is our source of hope. In a perilous world, the Bible is the only source of true hope and comfort that can be found.
In these perilous times, we have front-line soldiers of hope carrying the Word of God around the world. I’m not suggesting that we are doing all we should, or that we are having the impact that would be sufficient to meet every need. However, as I’ve pondered recent events, I’ve been thankful for the efforts being made by our front-line soldiers that we call missionaries. Preachers of the gospel carrying the message of hope to a world in peril.
A few years ago, in the midst of the Iraq War, we had men who took the message of hope to Baghdad (perilous to say the least). At least one preacher lost his life while trying to start a church in that perilous city. Just recently we had a young missionary family in our missions conference who is preparing to go with another family into Iraq to take the message of hope. A few months ago a devastating earthquake ravaged hundreds of thousands of Haitians. They have since endured hurricanes, floods, and disease. I’ve read reports of missionaries there winning multitudes to the Lord, offering them hope.
Recently, a terrible earthquake brought much destruction to the central region of Chile. Again, we have missionaries there who have started churches and planted the seeds of hope. Reports have come back that national Chileans are digging out, rebuilding churches, and trusting the Lord while sharing the message of hope. Then another disaster struck Chile, this time in the northern region. Some 33 miners were trapped beneath the earth , reminding hundreds of family members and an anxious nation of the perilous times in which we live. Then came the reports that we have missionaries in that region. Even before the miners were rescued, family members were being ministered to, hope was being offered, and some were receiving Christ.
Then last week it became much more up close and personal. A tragedy of staggering proportions in Phnom Phenh. And yet, again, we have missionaries there – very close to the situation. No, not just missionaries, but family – loved ones- actively involved in the events that brought on the headlines. Loved ones close enough to witness, describe, and take pictures of some of the heartache and anguish. This made it all more personal. The lesson was hard to miss.
This is why our front-line soldiers (our missionaries) are there. They are on station, on duty if you will, because the world is lost and they need the gospel. This, of course, is true. But we live in perilous times. Perilous times come to America as well, but we have the gospel, we have multitudes of churches, we have available to us the hope of Jesus Christ. Many foreign lands and people do not have this hope. They haven’t even heard of such a hope as we take for granted.
Although we are far from fulfilling the great commission, we do have missionaries around the world offering the hope of Jesus Christ in a very perilous and dangerous world. That’s why we give to missions. That’s why we send missionaries. That’s why missionaries go. That’s why they do what they do and preach what they preach and serve the way they serve. I know that our son, Stephen, was greatly moved and burdened as he saw the aftermath of the recent tragedy. But, I would simply say - that’s why you are there. To offer the hope of the gospel to a needy people living in a perilous world. Notice the rest of this passage in II Timothy 3. It gives specifics of the perilous times mentioned in verses 2 through 7, then beginning in verse 10 Paul indicates that he too has stopped to ponder his life and his ministry in perilous times and has come to the following conclusions:
"But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;"
Paul says we must continue to live, preach, and minister to this needy world because we live in perilous times. People need to hear the gospel, hear the message of hope, and know that there is someone who cares and someone who can offer that hope.
Note: This article was written by my father and our sending pastor, Robert Benefield. Pastor Benefield has pastored the Sequoia Baptist Church of Visalia, California for the past 33 years. He and his wife, Kathy, have 4 children and 17 grandchildren.