It is clear from what we saw about money that the battle cry of Christian Hedonism is world missions—sacrificing the comforts and securities of home for the unreached peoples of the world. Paradoxically, here where the sacrifices are greatest, the joys are deepest. And the pursuit of these joys is the driving engine of world evangelization.

After Jesus told His disciples that it would be hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:23), Peter said, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You” (verse 28). Evidently Jesus heard a trace of self-pity. What He said to Peter has caused a thousand missionaries to lay down everything at home to follow Christ to the hardest places of the world. Jesus said:

“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29–30)

This does not mean you get materially rich by becoming a missionary. If you volunteer for mission service with such a notion, the Lord will confront you with these words: “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58).

Instead, the point is that if you are deprived of your earthly family in the service of Christ, it will be made up a hundredfold in your spiritual family, the church. Yes, but what about the solitary missionaries who labor for years without being surrounded by hundreds of sisters and brothers and mothers and children in the faith? Is the promise true for them?

Yes it is. Surely what Christ means is that He Himself makes up for every sacrifice. If you give up a mother’s nearby affection and concern, you get it back one hundred times in the affection and concern from the ever-present Christ. If you give up the warm comradeship of a brother, you get back one hundred times the warmth and comradeship of Christ. If you give up the sense of at-homeness you had in your house, you get back one hundred times the comfort and security of knowing that your Lord owns all the houses and lands and streams and trees on earth. To prospective missionaries, Jesus says, I promise to be with you (Matthew 28:20). I will work for you and be for you so much that you will not be able to speak of having sacrificed anything.

In essence, Jesus says that when you “deny yourself” for His sake and the gospel, you are denying yourself a lesser good for a greater good. In other words, Jesus wants us to think about sacrifice in a way that rules out all self-pity. This is, in fact, just what the texts on self-denial teach.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34–35)

Jesus does not ask us to be indifferent to whether we are destroyed. On the contrary, He assumes that the longing for true life will move us to deny ourselves all the lesser pleasures and comforts of life. The measure of our longing for life is the amount of comfort we are willing to give up to get it. The gift of eternal life in God’s presence is glorified if we are willing to hate our lives in this world in order to lay hold of it (John 12:25). Therein lies the God-centered value of self-denial.

This is why so many missionaries have said, after lives of great sacrifice, “I never made a sacrifice.” On December 4, 1857, David Livingstone, the great pioneer missionary to Africa, made a stirring appeal to the students of Cambridge University, showing that he had learned through years of experience what Jesus was trying to teach Peter:

People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa…. Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us [Romans 8:18]. I never made a sacrifice.

The great incentive for throwing our lives into the cause of missions is the 10,000-percent return on the investment. Missionaries have borne witness to this from the beginning—since the apostle Paul.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ … that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. (Philippians 3:7–8, 10)

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. (2 Corinthians 4:17; see Romans 8:18)

It is simply amazing how consistent are the testimonies of missionaries who have suffered for the gospel. Virtually all of them bear witness to the abundant joy and overriding compensations.25

Missions is the automatic outflow and overflow of love for Christ. We delight to enlarge our joy in Him by extending it to others. As Lottie Moon said, “Surely there can be no greater joy than that of saving souls.”

Piper, John. 2001. The Dangerous Duty of Delight. Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers.

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