The Adventist Church has devised several effective community programs to help people reduce the risk of coronary heart disease—stop-smoking clinics, weight-control classes, stress-control clinics, et cetera. However, among Seventh-day Adventists we need more heart attacks like the one Jesus suffered: "But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd" (Matt. 9:36).
When Jesus saw the multitudes, He suffered a "compassion coronary." His great heart of love was moved with pity and concern that so many, in such great need, could be helped by so few. This intense love for helpless, and apparently hopeless, human beings led Him to Calvary to sacrifice His life on their behalf.
How do we, as Seventh-day Adventists, view the multitudes of earth today? As an obstacle to be overcome in achieving the objective of carrying the gospel to all the world? Or as a vast potential to be won for the kingdom of Christ and His eternal glory! If Jesus was "moved with compassion" at the scattered multitudes who had no shepherd, what should we feel as we look at the world today?
Present world population is about 4.5 billion; by the year 2,000 there will be an estimated 6.2 billion. Ninety percent of this growth will occur in the lesser developed countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Demographers project that by the turn of the century India will have 1.4 billion people; Brazil 275 million; Bangladesh 245 million; and Mexico 175 million.
Annual per capita income ranges from more than $15,455 in Switzerland to only $85 in Bangladesh. On July 7, 1973, the Indian Express reported that one million children in India were dying every year because they didn't get enough to eat. The Indian Health Ministry reported in February, 1973, that one fifth of the babies being born in that country would not live beyond the age of 5.
Governments in most of these less-developed countries are putting forth Herculean efforts to improve the health, education, and economic well-being of their peoples. Many are endeavoring to accomplish in a few decades the industrialization that took Europe several hundred years to achieve. This effort is usually accompanied by heavy migration from the rural countryside to huge metropolitan areas. The technological society in which these people are thrust seriously strains centuries-old ethical traditions and religious beliefs. The close family ties that provide stability in rural societies are broken without being replaced by other stabilizing structures.
The refugee problem created by wars and revolutions has achieved gigantic proportions as well. On the continent of Africa alone, there are presently more refugees than have ever existed before at any given time in history.
The Lord's description of the multitudes as sheep without shepherds aptly suits most of the world's population in the 1980s.
What should be our response? The response of Jesus was compassion. Divine compassion must move God's people as it moved their Saviour. The principle of love must motivate them to alleviate suffering and provide hope of a better life in a better world. Programs that do not consider the eternal destiny of these people do not reflect the compassion of Jesus. The most serious situation facing the multitudes in the developing countries is that most of them have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, and will not unless the church arouses to fulfill its divine commission.
When Jesus saw human society in such a state of crisis that the people were as sheep without shepherds, He instructed His disciples to expect a high degree of readiness to receive the gospel. "The harvest truly is plenteous" (verse 37). This responsiveness is especially apparent today in the developing countries. While the adversary works in society, causing such difficulties that people lose all hope and faith, God is at work amid these same problems, preparing a harvest for His kingdom. The Holy Spirit is at work creating conditions in which whole peoples and tribes are becoming responsive to the gospel. In India today there may be more than 200 million people who could be led to follow Jesus Christ, if the funding, organization, and personnel were available for the task. Christians in Canada and the United States possess 80 percent of the wealth held by evangelical believers in the world, while 80 to 90 percent of the people who are giving their hearts to Christ for the first time live in the developing countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
But this receptivity is a two-edged sword. The conditions that make people receptive to eternal truth make them also receptive to other systems of religious and political thought.
What is the response of Seventh-day Adventists? We are now engaged in a program to win one million men and women to Jesus Christ, to lead them to keep His commandments and prepare for His return. We don't look upon this Thousand Days of Reaping as an end, but as a beginning of a great evangelistic outreach that will lead us to experience the time when thousands will be converted in a day as at Pentecost. Such an outpouring of the Spirit of God and evangelistic successes will be accompanied by deep spiritual commitment as was seen among the disciples at Pentecost. Many of the believers in the apostolic church were not only willing to give of their income for the advancement of God's cause but willing to deplete their capital as well.
As our work nears its great and glorious triumph under the power of God, we will see people giving not less for world missions, but increasingly more. Plans must be made in every church on every continent so that more and more of our giving may be apportioned for the advancement of the gospel in all the world.
A present opportunity to make a sacrifice for world evangelism is before us. On October 30, 1982, the annual Week of Sacrifice offering will be received in all Seventh-day Adventist churches, to assist in financing the church's world mission. The committee responsible for planning this offering has set an objective of $3 million. What do you plan to sacrifice for this offering? What plan do you have to encourage your people to sacrifice?
There is great enthusiasm for the Thou sand Days of Reaping in the developing countries. Adventists there know that this is a day of great opportunity for the gathering of souls. Some of the most sacrificial supporters of world evangelism live in absolute poverty. Many in the developing countries will give more than they are able. Let us not do less for God than they.
"For the love of Christ leaves us no choice" (2 Cor. 5:14, N.E.B.).*
* From The New English Bible. © The Delegates
of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of
the Cambridge University Press 1961, 1970.
Reprinted by permission.