I am told that B.H. Pearson, or Uncle Ben to those who knew him, was an extraordinary man of God. Wildly successful in ministry, he never slept more than four hours at a time and never went a day without taking a two-hour nap. The key to his success was this, “Find a team of people you can work with and stick with them.” He served as a Free Methodist pastor and missionary in the USA, Mexico and Colombia.
But If It Dies is a poetic biography of the life of Charles Cowman. More than a biography of Cowman, it is a look at the life Christ lived in Cowman as he spread the gospel seed throughout Japan.
A man’s life is more than a span of time or a chronicle of experience. Many a biographer has meticulously provided the data of a life without discovering its genius.
Here is a profile which pays more attention to the source of the stream than to its flow – to the Seed more than the fruit. We may go even deeper. This is really a profile of Christ seeing in Charles Cowman the “travail of his soul” and being profoundly satisfied. – (from the preface) Dr. William A. Gillam, Vice-President of The Oriental Mission Society
Our God is a God who works through death and resurrection. Jesus told his disciples, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it will bear much fruit.” But If It Dies is a look at what happens when one is willing to sown into the work of the kingdom without regard for anything other than dying and producing fruit.
So ended the husks of fact. But facts are less than truth. Truth is life. The life is in the seed, not in the husks. The future of the seed is the life within. Every man is a seed. Some seed produces wheat, some produces thistles. Only what the seed is can multiply. A seed is known by what it produces after it dies . . . after it dies . . . Death issues in fruitfulness. That is the miracle of a seed. (ch. 1)
Herein lies the difference between a Christ-centered life and a personality-centered life. The personality-centered life is found in the husks and will disappear when the husks wither and die. The Christ-centered life is found in the seed and continues to produce a harvest, especially after it dies – perhaps only after it dies.
You have to give God time if you want an oak. An acorn matures slowly … frozen in winter, burned in summer, lashed by hurricanes. Its toughened maturity at last seems to defy decay.
… Hidden in God’s will. He would know as he moved forward in obedience. He would know as he let go of his all to take God’s all.
… A paradox? Yes! A seed that clings to life forfeits its life. A seed that fears to die insures its death. “If it dies, it bears much fruit.” “Much fruit!”
… Seeds produce new things – mutations – things never seen before. It is true of roses, dahlias, oranges, avocados. It is also true of missions.
… Give God a chance. If you are seed, let Him sow you! (ch. 5)
Being obedient to the will of God is the sum of Jesus final command to his disciples. It is a “long obedience in the same direction,” as Eugene Peterson (and Nietzsche) put it. One learns the will of God by doing the will of God. It takes time – time and time again of being obedient, of letting God sow you. Seeking to preserve things as they are is the first step in the wrong direction – it is the first step toward death that bears no fruit.
The students were thrust forth into the streets to find the lost. They learned how to win souls by winning souls. They became personal evangelists by doing personal evangelism. They preached what they learned. They learned what they preached. The divine fire got into their bones. Upon them was, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:16) (ch. 6)
The answer is in the room. We have enough to begin. Jesus selected 12 disciples to be with him. But he also selected them to be sent out into the towns and villages to cast out demons, heal the sick and preach the good news. Their training was hands on – they learned in the doing. They produced fruit by being sown into the field.
How often Christians’ words or actions libel their Lord. “God is not big enough –” “Christ is not strong enough –” “Calvary is not sufficient –” “We are not able …”
… Charles E. Cowman and his companions knew that when a vine stops growing it dies. When a mission ceases expanding it ceases.
… The treasury is empty – whose treasury? Empty treasuries produce full hearts. Great needs make great pray-ers. The less we have the more we need God’s fullness. Desperate situations drive us to God. We trust in God when we cannot trust in money. When we see the bottom of the barrel we seek the face of the Lord. When the last dollar goes, the way of faith appears. Christians then cash Heaven’s checks. (ch. 7)
The command is to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded. When we cease doing any part of this then the great commission ceases among us. It is not about money, resources, personnel, methods, programs – it is about obedience. Let us fall to our knees and pray to the Lord of the harvest.
The Great Commission was given to eleven men in the “no income” bracket. Jesus left the Early Church neither gold, funds, nor properties. He told men apparently without resources to evangelize a hostile world civilization. He did promise them Life – His abundant Life! He promised them the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit He gave them “His Word” – the Flaming Seed. That was all Christ gave them to evangelize every man on earth. He gave them nothing? He gave them all the world – if they would evangelize it. No wealth? He gave them the wealth of every man if they brought that man to Christ. (ch. 8)
It has never been about location. It has always been about locomotion. We cannot worship a God who constantly on the move by remaining in a stationary building.
Get at the work and do it, that’s the thing. We act as if we had a lifetime in which to evangelize the world. We just leisurely take our time to it, when – “The work that centuries might have done, must crowd the hours of setting sun.” (ch. 9)
God’s “shall-be-dones” are heaven’s “have-been-dones!” Earth is where God waits for men to catch up with him!
… “Greater works than these!” Could it be? It should be – will be! Jesus said it. A seed must fall into the ground and die. Then it produces …. …. after it dies …. (ch. 11)
Evangelize everyone in every house of every nation. It costs less than war. It gains more than conquest. It enriches Time and Eternity.
… Know the joy of seeing dead raised, demons cast out; of healing for soul and body, of fellowship with those of alien blood reaped by the Lord’s sharp sickle of the Spirit. … Until He comes … “GO ON WITH THE UNFINISHED TASK!”
If we are waiting for permission, we already have it. If we are waiting for resources, they are already ours. If we are waiting for power, it has already been given. If we are waiting then we will certainly die with know harvest. But if we are willing even now to be sown into the ground – and die – then we will produce a harvest for the kingdom. Amen.