By Michael E. Brooks
“Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:25-27 NKJV).
As I looked through pictures of some of my mission trips recently, I began to list the various means of travel that I have used. Air travel obviously enables me to quickly and comfortably reach distant places.
Once in the field, however, many other transportation methods become necessary. These have included modern cars and vans, four wheel drive vehicles, commercial buses, trucks (riding in the bed), tractors, motorcycles, motorized rickshaws, “people haulers” and “tuk-tuks,” pony, donkey, or ox carts, bicycle rickshaws and rickshaw “vans” bicycles, boats, ferries, plus a considerable amount of plain old walking.
I have walked through rice fields, bamboo thickets, rhododendron and hemlock forests, rocky hills, high mountain passes, and over innumerable foot logs, not to mention many miles on city streets and muddy rural roads.
It is often stated that in the great commission, Jesus commands “Go,” but he does not specify how. A biography of the late evangelist Marshall Keeble is entitled, “From Mule Back to Super Jet with the Gospel.”
Not every place on earth may be reached by four lane highways. Sometimes we must be more inventive or daring in order to reach “every creature.”
Probably no one has embraced this necessity more willingly or effectively than the apostle Paul. In the enumeration of his experiences partially quoted above, he includes “in journeys often,” then goes on to mention many perils associated with those journeys.
As one visualizes the circumstances of those perils he realizes that Paul traveled by land and by boat, suffering from every common danger of each — fatigue, exposure, robbery, thirst, shipwreck, storm – and perhaps many others. None of these stopped him from his traveling on behalf of lost souls and the glorification of God.
Though we are not always told how he traveled on land, some common methods are mentioned in the New Testament, including horseback (Acts 23:24), chariot (Acts 9:28), and walking (Acts 20:13).
Paul simply went wherever he could, and by whatever means was available. Little, save the Holy Spirit himself, hindered or limited his efforts (Acts 16:6-10).
Today there are many individuals who have physical, family, or other restrictions which limit their ability to travel or the means by which they travel. Thankfully, the Spirit makes it plain that there are many avenues by which we may serve God, and not every person may or must use each avenue. Some can go and preach, others can send (Romans 10:13-15).
Let us be careful however that we do not ignore opportunities and abilities to go, using the difficulty of travel as our excuse (2 Corinthians 5:10).
I am not sure how God is going to receive our “I don’t like to fly” explanation of why we did not do more to reach the lost billions of souls in Asia, Africa and elsewhere (actually I am pretty sure that such excuses will sound pretty lame even to us at that time).
I suspect that after three shipwrecks, Paul may not have been too fond of boats. But he continued to use them because his desire to preach the gospel was greater than his fear.
The New Testament is not overly concerned with Christians’ physical comfort and safety. It is greatly concerned with the souls of the lost.
The great commission is still Jesus’ parting command to believers. We must emulate Paul and other great evangelists of the past, quit complaining about our inconvenience, and just Go!