“A (Jewish) man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by bandits who robbed him of his clothes and money. They beat him up and left him half-dead by the side of the road.”
Wow! A friend of mine from Nigeria had almost an identical experience, this is happening even today, so this is relevant. “By chance a (Jewish) priest came along and when he saw the man lying there he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.” This seems incredible doesn’t it? How can a man just pass by someone who is beaten up and lying on the side of the road? “Then the temple assistant came along and also passed by on the other side of the road.” What a sad and pathetic situation! “Then a despised Samaritan came along and when he saw the man he felt deep pity for him. Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan helped him.”
Samaritans were considered enemies of the Jews and were considered to be like scum. They were the people down the road with whom the Jews had no dealings with, like a Dalit or an “Untouchable” in India. So this despised Samaritan comes along, kneels down, bandages the man and puts him on his donkey and takes him to an Inn where he could be taken care of. The next day he gives the innkeeper two pieces of silver and tells him to take care of him. The innkeeper is assured, if the bill runs higher, then he will be paid the difference next time he passes through. What a powerful and revolutionary story! The story of the Good Samaritan is a favorite story of children. As adults, we sometimes just gloss over and read the story.
When I first launched into ministry I was not that concerned about peoples’ physical needs in terms of my own ministry. I prayed for people often if they were ill and was concerned in my heart, but I made the mistake of thinking that other organizations like World Vision or Tear Fund, medical missionaries, agencies like the Salvation Army and later on people like Mother Theresa—they answered the Good Samaritan call and it was their ministry. My ministry was literature evangelism, winning people to Christ, training people, planting churches and leadership. We were overwhelmed with what we were attempting to do, much less take on other tasks in terms of peoples’ physical needs. That was 61 a great mistake on our part. It took people from the two-thirds of the world and people like Tony Campolo and Samuel Escobar, men and women from many different countries, a deeper study of the Word of God and a re-look at stories like the Good Samaritan to completely change me in regard to this great challenge. There are many people today lying by the side of the road. We cannot pass them by, nor can we just give them a tract or a Bible and say, “See you later.” We must somehow respond to the challenge of Jesus concerning peoples’ physical situation. If you are already overcommitted, this message needs to be contextualized into your situation; I am not wanting you to just take on more in terms of deeds and action, but I want you to take this message into your heart and your spiritual DNA and share it with others who may not be overcommitted, and not yet even be saved. This aspect of our kingdom message appeals to non-Christians. Many non-Christians are the pace setters in some of the things I am going to talk about. When we, maybe not even fully understanding it, at least sympathize with them and have some discernment (Christians often lack discernment in these areas) we are going to find them more open to talk about Jesus.
Britain is one of the most humanitarian nations that has existed in history. It is part of the culture and DNA of the nation. Even as the nation has tended to part and leave the basics of the Christian faith, the challenge of giving has remained within the culture. All different charities are trying to raise money. You and I, if we want to make an impact in post-modern Britain, have to learn to affirm people who as yet don’t know Jesus, but are doing good things rather than constantly come across negative about anyone who is not a Christian. The amount of prejudice against Christians today is greater than it had been before, for many reasons, rather than get very upset and blame this person or that person, especially those in government, we need the Holy Ghost’s discernment to understand the new culture in which we live.
There are innumerable global scourges around us, but let me list here just seven. What I am talking about here is not about individuals, but clusters of people.
1. Children at Risk The first person lying by the side of the road is a little child—millions of little children. One billion children are at risk, about one-sixth of the earth’s population. Many of them are dying. Many groups in the world are responding to “children at risk,” but research by Viva Network and Patrick McDonald has shown that there is an awful lot of work yet to be done. We are speaking of children who are sold into factory slavery, and thousands of children in the age of 11 or 12 who are sold into sexual slavery. We are talking about street children in places like Brazil, where sometimes even the police pull the trigger and murder them. We are talking about millions of AIDS orphans in Africa and other countries. Th ere are new books coming out about children, some of them are living right down the street, sometimes abused by their own parents. If you do not think that is an issue then you are living in a cloud and you need to come down to earth. If you don’t think that happens to those who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, then you obviously have not been involved in much personal ministry with people. “Children at risk” is overwhelming and it is time for the church to speak out and to reach out and do what the Good Samaritan did in Luke 10.
2. Abused Women The second person lying by the side of the road is a woman, an abused woman, a woman at risk. True Grit by Debbie Meroff , I believe, is probably the most significant book that we have ever published by Authentic Media. Th is is a book about women and what they are suffering. We have reprinted this book many times over by now. It is unbelievable to know what is going on in Europe in the area of sex trafficking; even President Bush has been speaking out about this, as well as other global leaders. We need to have a more biblical, revolutionary view of women and their suffering. The abuse of women under certain religious systems is unbelievable. What went on in Afghanistan during the Taliban rule? Very few Christians spoke out about it.
The Feminist Movement, though having many positive and negative points, were the first to speak out on the suffering of women in Afghanistan. In God’s mercy the Taliban was removed. What about female circumcision? Have you ever read anything about that or do you prefer not to read things that are unpleasant? Friend, let me tell you something, if you do not want to read things that are unpleasant, then whatever you do, don’t read the Bible. Some of the most unpleasant stories I have ever read, including rape, are written in the Bible. I believe one of the marks of authenticity of the Word of God is that it does not gloss over sin even when it is committed by a great leader like David, a man after God’s own heart, who was guilty of murder and adultery. You and I need to speak out about things like female circumcision. I think the Danish Government was the first to want to get a law against this. I can read pretty heavy stuff without getting ill, but I have never been able to finish what I have attempted to read about female circumcision, it is so sickening. It is so disturbing that women could be so abused and it is growing and still going on. Hundreds of thousands of women are going through this unbelievable ordeal.
3. The Extreme Poor
The third person lying by the side of the road is, what we call, the extreme poor. There are many poor people, and it is sad that many Christians with just one cliché write the whole thing off , even misquoting from the New Testament. If we study the Bible and listen to men and women of God down through the years going right back to William Booth, we know that God has a bias towards the poor. Some of you come from a poor background, and you should never ever be ashamed of that. You should never feel inferior in this society that it is still a class and racist and “caste”ist society even though we do not like to admit it. Some of the greatest people in the world came from the poorest background and some are still poor. What about the Dalits of India known as the Untouchables? There are 250 million of them which is more than three times the population of the British Isles. In the past few years the Dalits have started to move, they are leaving Hinduism by the thousands. Many have become Buddhists while others are knocking at the door of the church. In OM alone we have planted over two thousand churches in the last couple of years mainly for Dalits and many are experiencing the reality of the Holy Spirit. In India we have decided to be involved with the extreme disenfranchised and poor under the leadership of Joseph D’souza (he has written a book about the Dalits). We decided to involve in human rights, not in every aspect because it is such a huge area and one can easily get beyond their boundaries. A new movement (All India Christian Council) was born with Joseph D’souza, the leader of OM India, who was made the head of the Board. It is separate from OM, with all different agencies and churches, mainly Bible-believing people, to speak out in connection with the persecution of Christians in India, (especially after Graham Staines and his two sons were murdered) and the cause of the Dalits. Human rights: concern for human rights and defense of human rights are a part of God’s kingdom. Guess what? Most Christians who are not involved with human rights still believe in it, because they get really upset when one of their neighbors does something that is a breech of their human rights. I am amazed at what upsets 65 the average person. It is usually trivial, but often is connected with human rights without us realizing it. We all believe in justice and human rights. It took me years to grasp this, but we are not just called to evangelize the world; we are also called to build the kingdom everywhere. Th at is overwhelming and you have to find your place and get guidance. If you can capture the whole vision in your heart, that will enable you to respond better to your particular part of the vision, no matter how small that may be. The global poor should be a priority and there is much that we can do. Th e church, more than ever before in history, is responding to this challenge. Th e story of Tear Fund is one of the greatest Christian stories in the British Isles as is the story of Bob Pearce founding World Vision and then Samaritan’s Purse and hundreds of other less known agencies around the globe.
4. People with HIV/AIDS
The fourth person lying by the side of the road is the person with HIV/AIDs. Forty million have been infected and 20 million have died. Millions of children have been orphaned and whole societies are burgeoning under the weight of so many dying so young. Rather than standing by and judging, let us respond in love and action. (Many have HIV and don’t know it.) Let us also take advantage of this opportunity to share the gospel. We have found that, because death is so imminent, AIDS patients are very open to the gospel. I would urge you to read Aids and You by Patrick Dixon. It is being supplied free around the globe. I took Patrick to meet with 50 Africans and others in Uganda who were concerned about this huge pandemic and it is overwhelming when we think of the task. Th e church is on the move but there is a lack of finance in this battle. In the western world you can get expensive medical cocktails, so people can live another five or ten years, but so many in India and Africa do not have access to these medications and medicines. We know Seven Global Scourges 66 Drops from a Leaking Tap of a few cases where God has intervened and healed people. I don’t believe that we should limit our response to that huge problem only through prayer, though prayer has got to be a part of it. God sometimes does unusual things. We must mobilize the entire church for prevention. In Africa almost every church has people with HIV/ AIDS in their congregation. You don’t die of AIDS, AIDS runs your body down so that any one of 50 different illnesses takes you in the end—many die very young.
5. People without Clean Water
The fifth person lying by the side of the road is the thirsty person. Water is becoming increasingly scarce. Thirty percent of the world has no access to clean water. Many have to walk miles to get clean water, and so often the ones who do it are children whose bodies are not designed for such back-breaking work. Big cities are running out of water and are shipping it in at great cost, while in other parts of the world the dysfunctional water systems are breeding grounds for disease. May each of us be part of the effort to see more people getting clean water, as we seek to preserve the precious water at our disposal. My concern is for the people in poverty-stricken areas of the world where there is drought and other difficulties leading to no access to pure water. They drink impure water from the river and many of them will be dead within the year. You and I can do something about it. Christian agencies are being raised up that primarily work to make available pure water. Non-Christians are doing it as well. Would you pray for these people? Would you pray for the release of money because it takes money to drill wells, and to make a water-purifying-machine from very basic components. It is incredible what can be done when we exercise a little sanctified imagination. Th at has always been one of my prayers for God’s chosen people. If you are one of the unenthusiastic types let me tell you there is still hope for you, don’t give up. Even if you are my age, there is still hope that a fire would be lit in your heart. Let us serve the thirsty people, the sick people, with simple pure water.
6. The Environment
The sixth person lying by the side of the road, this is going to really surprise you, is the planet earth, the environment. I was reading sitting in a train, and a man sitting behind me asked, “Are you George Verwer?” We talked and I discovered he was a Christian from Sunderland. He had heard me preach in Dublin in the seventies and somehow it struck a cord in his heart. He shared how his work is in connection with the environment and I was able to tell him that I now preach about that. I preach about the environment and the need to be concerned about the Rain Forest, the air we breathe. Asthma is getting out of control in the British Isles and this is linked with the environment. God is concerned about all these things and we can do something about them. It is a shame that so many evangelical Christians not only have little concern for the environment, but are sometimes known as antienvironmental. How can this be when our Creator God has asked us to care for his creation? Pollution of the earth is totally unacceptable. Th is is an issue that our young people care about, and if we don’t connect with them on valid issues such as preservation of the environment, how then can we expect them to listen to us at all? Why do so many people throw rubbish all over the place? Have you ever taken a walk and seen all the rubbish? Sometimes my wife and I go for a walk and I take a bag and pick up rubbish as I go. Little things count with God! Th e Bible says if you give someone a glass of water you will get a reward. Are you out of the box enough to think that picking up a discarded bottle/can that could hurt someone, a child as they could cut or injure themselves, might get you some kind of reward? Hey, are you willing to think out of the box? Do you know what that means, those of you who are older? Out of the Seven Global Scourges 68 Drops from a Leaking Tap box is a young expression. It means that you are not just conforming to the same old ways; it means that you are willing to be different. Brothers and Sisters, let us start thinking about the environment, because that is also going to enable us to talk to many young people who have made this a big thing, maybe they have made this too big of a thing. If they don’t know Jesus and are only concerned about animals and the environment then they are making a big mistake, as they will never get to heaven through doing these good works. But by talking and listening to them, sympathizing where you can, you may see them come to know Jesus. It is so worth reaching out of your own comfort zone even to people who do not understand. I am a pilgrim; I am a struggler. I fail and I constantly have to crawl back to the cross and re-read books like Calvary Road and be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit.
7. The Lukewarm Christian
It has been many years since I started to share on the 7 Global Scourges and eventually I based the message on the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. I started to add “lukewarmness” about which I have been preaching for 53 years in a different message. In some messages Number 6 is “The Unborn” and Number 7 is “Th e Environment.” These are listed on the back of my business card that I distribute and this is the list on my website; www.georgeverwer.com. (I hope you can take a look at it!) I have always believed that abortion is wrong. Mrs Payne, who was in OM spoke on this 30 years ago. I went on a Pro-Life March back in the eighties in Omaha, Nebraska with a local church. When my good friend Dr. Francis Schaeffer went into this in a major way towards the end of his life, I wondered about this, especially as I was living outside the USA, where people generally are more liberal in their thinking and often react to what they feel is “American pro-life extremism.” I made a big mistake in my failure to speak out about 69 abortion and I thank the Lord that a few years ago after reading, praying and seeing our whole Movement become more holistic that I took the step to become more pro-active in this important area. Abortion is a horrendous thing. Have you seen photos of a fetus after a few weeks? No one has the right to take the life of that little child. I highly esteem women and I know that there are very complex situations at times, but they do not have the right to take a life. Most men and women of God are in agreement on this, yet, often we are silent. I then linked up with Randy Alcorn who has helped us fl ood his book, Why Pro-Life around the world. We are helping to translate this into languages, some of which almost have nothing on this subject. I would be happy to send it free to anyone who asks for it. Th is book is very down-to-earth and does not just hit people with Scripture verses as that doesn’t always mean much to those who are not believers. I would urge every one of you to become more committed and active in this area of challenge and that you will be able to read this book. However, it is true that lukewarmness among the Lord’s people is probably the greatest single global crisis in the body of Christ. It is not an either–or situation, but both. So, the seventh person lying by the side of the road is the lukewarm Christian. I believe that lukewarmness in the church is greater than all of the other problems. There is a danger in thinking that somehow all the problems are out there. In reality, often the problems are here. Lukewarmness is a scourge. I had been in meetings where a high percentage of people in the meeting acknowledged that they were lukewarm. Th ey stood up to repent, ask for forgiveness and pray the verses in Acts 4:31 “to go forth and speak the Word of the Holy Spirit” with boldness. Don’t confuse basic lukewarmness with battling lukewarmness. We all at times battle lukewarmness. I have to battle lukewarmness just as I have to battle with wrong attitudes and impatience. Don’t Seven Global Scourges 70 Drops from a Leaking Tap succumb and give in. Don’t stop studying the Bible because it is boring. Perhaps the one exception to this is the person suffering from chronic medical depression, a very unique kind of illness. Those people need unique, special attention, concern, and prayer; but most of us do not fall in that category. However if it is a matter of struggle may you get the care that you need. It is not an easy road and many godly people have gone through that. My own wife went through depression for a year and by his mercy she came out of it. I am talking more about spiritual depression which comes about in neglecting the Word, prayer, getting discouraged or allowing bitterness to come in. My wife and I have had many disappointments in our lives, but we know that disappointment can be God’s appointment to do better things for his kingdom. Many of the things that keep us from lukewarmness are not necessarily positive things. Negative things can really keep us on our toes. So we learn from our pilgrimage how to respond to the environment and circumstances. Until we keep our spiritual temperature at a place where it is not dependent on the weather, spiritually-speaking, we will never be God’s marathon runners. Spiritually the weather does change, doesn’t it? For us as God’s people to mainly think about ourselves or even our own family and not reach out to the lonely, confused and bereaved is a great mistake and a breach of the teaching of Luke 10. May God enable us to receive his Word. May he keep us from feeling totally overwhelmed and enable us to understand that even the smallest thing we do for any of these people lying by the road side will be honored in the kingdom. Many of you have already been doing this for years and pouring funds into global missions. May God bless you. Th e new ship, Logos Hope will be more involved in the HIV/AIDS crisis, global poverty and in proclaiming this message that I have shared. Can you imagine the multiplication impact through prayer as we share these concerns? I don’t remember who said, “It is easier to cool down a fanatic than to wake up a corpse.” So let’s not worry about becoming too enthusiastic for the global poor, too enthusiastic regarding HIV/AIDS, too enthusiastic concerning the problems of the environment. I don’t think that too much enthusiasm is going to be our biggest problem. Let’s take God’s Word with all of our struggles, weaknesses and vulnerability; let’s respond, making sure we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Let’s not let lukewarmness get a hold of some areas of our lives so that we in turn can minister to all these groups of people we have spoken about. A new generation of young people is here. Instead of condemning them, because they would rather play a video game than hear a boring sermon in the local church, we should try to understand video games and the huge impact that they have both for good and evil on our culture. This generation of children generally are more interactive. They don’t just only want to listen, they want to get involved in the action. If they would be saved, they could be the generation that finishes the task of world evangelism, because they are willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved. As I meet young people, I tell you, God is working in this post-modern generation. Do not become one more old-age wet blanket just because they don’t want to sing the same hymns that you were singing when you went to Sunday school in 1908 or whenever it was. Let us pray:
Our God and Father you have brought this Word to my heart. I have shared it and I cannot run away from it even though (maybe) I have tried. Lord, I believe that you are going to raise up those who will pray more concerning all these things, those who will help release more finance, those who will help release more workers. Lord of the harvest we pray as we are taught in Luke and Matthew let us send forth workers into the harvest field.