The British missionaries who led my family to Christ made all the cultural mistakes in the book. I remember as a little boy sitting in the front row, watching this poor man. It was hot as blazes in the summer. Being a proper Britisher, he not only wore a tweed suit but a vest and thick socks. He would stand there sweating and sweating. I remember looking at the poor fellow and saying, "Why doesn't he take his coat off?" But a proper Britisher in those days kept his coat on and toughed it out. He massacred the Spanish language and had strange foreign habits. But because of that fellow, my father went to heaven.
I thank God that the missionaries who led me to the Lord Jesus Christ have planted churches all over the world. And I thank him because now there are missionaries from all nations to all nations. Hispanics minister with the Muslims. Asians, so proper and so correct, come to Latin America. The contrast is amazing. Thank God for missionaries.
What intrigues me is how God uses individuals. God even uses unbelievers to accomplish his purposes. Our great thought this morning is that the purposes of God around the world will be fulfilled. No man can frustrate the purposes of God. But God delights to use us, his people, to accomplish his purposes.
In Isaiah 49:6 God says, "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."
The year 1992 marked 500 years since Columbus touched the shores of the Americas. When Columbus took off to look for what he thought was India, his objective was the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is documented. He deviated, apparently, and that's what people are remembering now.
This verse in Isaiah guided Columbus as he left the shores of Spain and Italy, where he was born. In Italian his name, Christophero, actually means "a banner bearer for the cross." He felt that God had even inspired his mother to give him that name because he was to take the banner of the cross to other nations. It's exciting to me that God spoke to Christopher Columbus with this verse.
I'm not here to defend Columbus. He can take care of himself when he gets to the judgment seat of Christ. I am here to tell you that we should all take this verse to heart.
Psalm 96:2-3 reads, "Proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples."
Christians are called to declare the character of God.
I see three things that the Holy Spirit is saying to us today.
First, we are to declare the character of God.
The glory of God is multi-faceted. We go to other nations to declare the great character of God—that God is powerful, holy, good, and forgiving.
What a privilege if God even takes you on vacation to other countries. When you meet with the fellow who serves the table in that place, you can say, "I am here even on vacation to declare the glory of God." What a privilege! Wherever we go, our first duty is to speak well of God so that his glory is seen by other people.
When it says, "Declare his glory among the people," there's authority. All of us who know the Lord Jesus Christ have authority to speak about God—not with arrogance, not overwhelming people, not offending their religions, not pointing to their weaknesses, but lifting up the name of our living God.
My family and team have gone to over 60 countries declaring the glory of God. When I first went to the Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist majority nations, I trembled to do the right thing for the glory of God. I talked to a Hindu guru years ago, and he said, "Luis, don't ever use the Western style of arguing, trying to show your religion is better than my religion or your Savior is superior. Just simply tell who Jesus is. Tell of his character. Tell what he's like. Let people do the comparing for themselves." That was great advice.
When you minister to people of other religions, there's no need to put down anything they do. Simply speak well of Jesus Christ, and the comparison will be done by the Holy Spirit. It's amazing how attractive the character of Jesus is. It's amazing how appealing he is for those who have a heart for God.
Christians are called to declare the great works of God.
The second thing to declare is the great works of God.
People around the world are fascinated with what Jesus Christ has done. If you argue Christianity versus Hinduism, you are in hot water. But there is power in telling how Jesus Christ liberated people, raised the dead, healed the sick, fed the multitudes, and rose from the dead.
When I went to the Soviet Union the first time, as I was preparing to speak in St. Petersburg, I prayed, "Lord, what shall I emphasize?"
The Lord seemed to say to me, "What do you think St. Paul would do?"
I said, "He'd preach on the cross." So I took three main points: the cross reconciles, the cross regenerates, the cross redeems. Then I explained all those heavy terms by telling about the cross. You could feel the gripping power of the cross of Jesus Christ. When we talk about Jesus, there is authority and power.
Christians are called to declare God, "among all peoples."
Thirdly, the scope of God's strategy is to "tell of his marvelous deeds among all peoples." It's amazing to see how God has opened nations. You find the hand of God working through men and women who obey the Holy Spirit.
Jim Montgomery is a missionary. He once taught high school in San Jose, California. I remember when the Lord called him. After he was in the Philippines, he got this tremendous vision for a plan called D.A.W.N., Discipling A Whole Nation. The basic idea was to establish a Bible-preaching church within walking distance of every person in the Philippines.
His grand plan sounded idealistic, but it was burning in his soul. He couldn't get anybody to support him because it sounded too big. I thought, Jim's going crazy. He'd write prayer letters but his account never went up.
Finally he came back to California, sold his home, and funded the beginning of the D.A.W.N. program. The house was sort of his security back in the U.S.A. When I heard what he had done, I thought, The Lord's going to honor Jim one way or another. Boy, has the Lord honored Jim. D.A.W.N. has since gone to other nations: Africa, Guatemala, and Eastern European countries. Jim started out sacrificing quietly for the cause of the Lord, and the Lord used him. There is power in Jim's life.
You may be here today with a burning fire in your heart to win people to Jesus Christ. When the Holy Spirit whispers to you, check with your spouse; check with the elders of your church. Be sure you're not losing your mind. But if the Lord is really speaking to you, obey the Holy Spirit.
The Virgin Mary preached only one sermon, but it was powerful. She said, "Whatever he tells you to do, do it." Nike stole that idea from her: "Just do it!" Whatever the Holy Spirit tells you to do, just do it.
Many of us sit here with dreams that God has given us for years. But we never get on to do it. We drool when we hear these stories, but it never happens to us. Part of the reason may be that we simply haven't tried to do it.
Examples of people who obeyed the Spirit.
Another illustration is about former Secretary of State James Baker. James Baker has become a truly committed servant of Jesus Christ. He's a lawyer from Houston, Texas, and an Episcopalian with a good tradition of Bible in his background.
At a presidential breakfast several years ago, he testified of his faith in Jesus Christ to heads of state and all sorts of people. He said he never really paid much attention to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Then his first wife came down with cancer, and he really began to think about death and eternity and God. Why was he being left alone with all these children? He still couldn't find the key to eternal life.
His second wife, Susan, came to know the Lord Jesus. She began to teach community Bible studies and pray for Jim. Soon, some of the Senators who know Jesus Christ began to pray for him. And then one day he said he understood. All his life he had thought he had to earn the love of God. He said, "I realized I could never earn the love of God. God loved me before I was even formed in my mother's womb. God loved me when Christ died on the cross." And James Baker bowed the knee to Jesus Christ and opened his heart to the Savior.
The immediate result was this: As Secretary of State, he was dealing with the foreign secretary of the USSR, Eduard Shevardnadze. Baker liked Shevardnadze. As soon as he became a believer, the first thing that crossed Jim Baker's mind was "I've got to win Shevardnadze to Jesus Christ."
Baker has a ranch in Wyoming, and after a diplomatic event in 1989, he invited Shevardnadze to his ranch. At dinner, Baker presented his guest with a pair of Western cowboy boots. Then Shevardnadze presented Baker with a surprising gift: an enameled picture of Jesus washing the disciples' feet. Then Shevardnadze said to Baker, "You see, Mr. Secretary, even we Communists are changing our minds about spiritual things."
Later, when the two went fishing, Baker began to share his faith. It wasn't long before Shevardnadze opened his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. In diplomatic circles, you're not supposed to meddle in personal religion, but when you're filled with the love of Christ, you want other people to come to faith in him.
Some of you are thinking that Baker's an important man. He can afford to throw his weight around. On the contrary, the more powerful you become politically, the more difficult it is. It's not diplomatically kosher to do those things, you know. You're not supposed to meddle politics with the spiritual life. But when you know Christ, God opens doors.
As President of the United States, Jimmy Carter shared his faith wherever he went.
I once attended a presidential dinner in Colombia, South America, put on by evangelical Christians to pray for the nation and share the Good News. For the first time in history, the president of the republic, his cabinet members, and members of the senate came to a dinner put on by evangelical Christians.
At one point, the president of Colombia turned to me and said, "You know, Palau, that president of yours, Jimmy Carter, is something else. The reason I'm here tonight is because of him."
I said, "What do you mean, Mr. President?"
He said, "All the leaders of Latin America gathered for the signing of the Panama Canal treaty. Some were dictators; some were left; some were right. On Friday, Jimmy Carter said, 'Gentlemen, tomorrow morning I invite you all to the White House for a Bible study.' You know, Palau, we Latin men don't do those things, but if the president of the U.S. invites you, you go.
"Mr. Carter said that when we arrived on Saturday morning, he would have coffee and rolls for us. So we got there, and there was a circle of chairs. (Carter's a Baptist, and that's what Baptists do in Sunday school, you know.) On each chair there was a Bible.
"We sat down and Carter said, 'Let's look up Matthew something or other.' None of us knew where Matthew was, so he told us the page. It turned out to be Matthew 24. He made us read one verse each." (Sunday school again! Most of these presidents of Latin America had never read the Bible in their lives.)
"Carter explained to us what he thought it meant when it spoke of wars and rumors of wars, pestilence, and darkness on the face of the earth. When he finished explaining it, he said, 'Gentlemen, let's all pray.'
"Palau, you know, we Latin men never pray. We don't even know what to say. One of Carter's aides said, 'Mr. President, why don't you just pray.' Carter said 'Fine.' So he prayed."
Then the president of Colombia said to me, "I was truly impressed that Carter cared that much for us. It isn't diplomatic to do this. But I realized that Carter really liked us and wanted us to know Jesus Christ."
Recently I was in San Antonio, Texas, and the chairman of the crusade said to me, "Would you like to talk to Jimmy Carter?" I never thought I would have such an opportunity, but he connected me on the phone. I told Mr. Carter this story.
"Do you remember, Mr. President?"
He said, "Oh, thank you for reminding me. I didn't know the effects of what I did that day. I was a little nervous about doing it. Thank you for telling me what happened in Colombia."
Here is a man who happens to be president, an important man, but he obeys the Holy Spirit. He risks his reputation. He didn't know that it had opened tremendous doors in South America when he obeyed the Holy Spirit of God. If the Spirit prompts you, obey the Spirit.
We all get nervous about witnessing. But when we obey the Holy Spirit, the Lord uses us. Because we declare his glory, his marvelous deeds, and speak well of his Son, the Lord will honor those who honor Him. 1 Samuel 2:30 says, "Those who honor me, I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained." When you speak in obedience to the promptings of the Spirit, the Lord opens the doors.
I went to Budapest, Hungary, for the first public rally the Marxists allowed. The Lord blessed us tremendously. Afterward, one of my team members and I got on the Hungarian airline to go back to London. As we sat there, we overheard a woman in front of us talking to her neighbor. She was obviously talking about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Suddenly the woman turns around and says to me, "Do you know if Luis Palau is on this plane?"
I said, "I'm Luis Palau."
"I figured you'd be on this plane. I've been talking to this woman about the Lord. But I haven't been able to close the deal. Could you help me to get her into the kingdom of God?"
"Why did you come to Hungary?" I asked this Christian woman.
She said, "I heard in England that you were having the first public rally since the Communists took over, and I just came to pray. I flew over, and I walked around the streets praying for the young people. Because I wasn't young, they didn't let me into the auditorium. So, I just stood outside praying all through the service. My prayer group in England is praying for this rally."
I said, "Well, sister, you finish the job. Lead your friend to Christ."
She said, "What do I say?"
I said, "Revelation 3." And I said, "You lead her to Christ, and I'll stand by you."
I stood up, greeted the Hungarian business woman and said, "Your friend here explained to you the way of salvation in Jesus Christ. Now she's going to open the door and help you to get into the kingdom of God."
She said, "Fine, I'd like that."
They bowed their heads right on that airplane, and the woman gave her life to Jesus Christ. Here's a sister in a prayer group in southern England who hears there's going to be a rally in Hungary. She jumps on a plane—very un-British—all by herself, goes over and walks the streets praying. They wouldn't even let her into the coliseum. But she finally caps it off by leading a business woman to the feet of Jesus Christ.
Witnessing isn't only for the people who are famous. It's also for ordinary believers who obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
As the Lord lays on your heart, listen carefully. When we were praying in the side room, before I began to speak, Marilyn Olsen was praying. She said, "Help us to hear the tiniest whisper of the Holy Spirit." That's a good phrase: "the tiniest whisper of the Holy Spirit." If the Lord is speaking to you, say, "Lord, shall I really do this thing you're laying on my heart?"