A Finished Work—The Challenge

Nothing should fill our hearts with greater joy, expectation, and zeal than thinking of the work that needs to be done—not just the work that needs to be done, but the climax and the finishing of this work.

Romans 9:27, 28 says, “Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut [it] short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.” It is not going to take a large number of people to finish God’s work. This passage says that although the children of Israel will only be a remnant, they will be saved, for the Lord will quickly finish the work upon the earth. This is a promise for which we should be glad, because God has said that He is going to finish the work.

How can we be a part of the finishing of God’s work? I believe that God, in His Word, has given us the battle plan for how the work will be finished in this day and age. This battle plan was given thousands of years ago, but it was not finished. There is a significant difference between the times in which we are living and the days of Israel. We must succeed where our forefathers failed in the finishing of this work.

Conquest of Canaan

Let us look at the finished work as typified in the conquest of Canaan. The Book of Numbers contains stories that are very familiar to us, but I believe they are stories that teach us what our position and duty are today. We find there the children of Israel journeying to that land of promise. We can imagine the joy and the expectation that filled their hearts as they came closer and closer to that land that had been promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob and to which all of their fathers had looked forward.

We pick up the story at the point when they had been traveling for about a year. Often, when we have been traveling for a period of time, our greatest desire is to return home! I have never traveled for a year, but I have been away from home for about three months at a time, and when I am able to return home, I am very, very happy. I can imagine that the children of Israel were longing for a permanent home, not continuing their journey in the wilderness and dwelling in tents.

They decided to send spies into the land. We can only imagine them waiting for the spies to return, waiting for the messages they would bring. Twenty days go by; then thirty days go by. Every day they are studying the horizon to see if the spies are returning with a message that they soon can enter this land of promise.

The Spies’ Report

Thirty-nine days passed, and then, on the fortieth day, the news began to spread throughout the camp—“The spies are here! They are going to give their report to Moses!” I am sure quite a crowd gathered rapidly, as they anticipated the report of the spies.

In Numbers 13:27, we read, “And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this [is] the fruit of it.” Oh, they reported, “The land is flowing with milk and honey,” and then they showed a cluster of grapes so large that it took two individuals to carry it. The grapes were the size of grapefruits. Those grapes must have looked quite enticing to the wilderness wanderers! As they looked and as they listened, their joy rose even higher, until the spies continued, “Nevertheless the people [be] strong that dwell in the land, and the cities [are] walled, [and] very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.” Verses 28, 29. Suddenly the hopes, the joy, and the expectations of the entire congregation deflated like a balloon. They thought, “Here is this good land, but it is so strongly guarded, so strongly fortified, we cannot take it.”

Effect of Discouraging Words

Even though Caleb urged that they go forward and possess the land, the other spies repeated how terrible it was, how strong the people were, how walled the cities were, and how large the giants were. The description became even more discouraging. (Verses 30–33.) The effect of these few discouraging words brought the death of hundreds of thousands of men and women. We never know what the effect of just a few discouraging words might be.

Have you ever noticed how, when you think about your trials or you repeat them, the giants seem to grow? This is what happened here. The giants grew. That is why we should never speak a discouraging word.

As a result of this unfaithful report brought back by the spies, the children of Israel, the Bible says, wept all night, and in the morning, they decided that the only safe recourse would be to return to Egypt. They saw only the difficulties. Were they real, legitimate difficulties? Yes, they were. There really were large giants in the land of promise. There really were strong tribes. The cities were strongly walled. Those were legitimate difficulties and challenges, but they allowed the difficulties to lead them to forget God’s power. Their response revealed the rebellion and the unbelief in their hearts, because when God told them to go up, they said, “No.” But when God commanded them to return back to the wilderness, they said, “Let us go up!” Because the difficulties and the obstacles in the way hindered them, they wandered in the wilderness for 39 additional years.

What is ironic about this is that the work got even harder while they were wandering. They went up to battle, but because God was not with them, they were unable to conquer the Canaanites. They were totally defeated before their enemies. The Canaanites, who had been afraid to attack the Israelites because of what they heard had happened in Egypt and because of what they heard had occurred at the Red Sea, decided these were just false rumors. They decided it would not be so difficult to resist the Israelites, and as the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, and it appeared that they were going nowhere and doing nothing, the Canaanites became emboldened. Because the children of Israel were hindered and discouraged by the difficulties and the obstacles in the way, the work was made much more difficult by their delay and by their wandering in the wilderness.

Giants in the Land

As we look at the work to be done today, are there giants in the land? Yes, there are giants in the land. Before our gaze today lies an unconquered Canaan, and God has commissioned us with a work to do—a work to warn the world, to bring His Word and His message to a complete and quick fulfillment. This is God’s calling to us. It is why we are here, but as we look about us, the people appear to be strong. They are hardened in sin. The cities are walled about on every side. There is television. There are movies. People seem to have everything they need; there are strong walls about them. There are giants in the land.

There are false doctrines that intoxicate the world such as, once you are saved, you are always saved, and the rapture theory that suggests you do not need to worry about the prophecies, because you are going to be raptured away. Yes, there are giants in the land. And there are the Jebusites and the Amorites and the Canaanites; there are already strong religions inhabiting the land. But God has called us to conquer Canaan. He has called us to fight the giants in the land. He has called us to take this message to anyone and everyone who will hear, but like the ancient Israelites, when we see the challenges and the difficulties, when we see the giants in the land, we want to go the other way. The challenges are formidable. No one is going to deny that, but the power of God is stronger than the formidable challenges in the world.

Work More Difficult

We have been wandering. Over a hundred years ago, we were told that if the church had done its appointed work, Christ would have come ere this. (Review and Herald, October 6, 1896.) We have wandered, and as we have wandered, the work has become more difficult, as we have been told it would. Ellen White wrote, “The time is coming when we shall not be able to travel over the country as freely and easily, or get access to the people as readily as we do now.” The General Conference Bulletin, April 5, 1901.

Is that time here? It is here. All we have to do to realize this is to go knocking on doors. People are afraid to open their doors. I visited a man one time who had been attending a seminar I was conducting. I knocked on his door—a solid door that you could not see through. I told him my name and why I was there. When I identified myself, he opened the door and said, “I know who you are and why you are here; that is why I did not shoot you,” and he took the gun he was holding from behind his back and put it on the desk.

People are afraid; it is harder to get access to the people, but this must not keep us from doing the work that God has given us to do.

In the book Evangelism, 31, Mrs. White wrote, in 1903, that the favorable time to enter the cities has passed. But then, in 1909, she said that we must enter the cities and do all we can while we still can. The favorable time is past, but that does not mean we can recline in ease. We must enter the cities and do all that we can now. When we look at Seventh-day Adventist evangelism, we realize that that statement is very true. During the time these words were penned, all that was needed was to set up a tent. The tent alone was enough advertisement to bring hundreds of people there to hear the message, but from that time the work has gotten progressively harder. It has become more difficult, because we have wandered in the wilderness.

“We have warnings now which we may give, a work now which we may do; but soon it will be more difficult than we can imagine.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 22. I believe the time referred to in this quote is here. When we think of Joseph Bates going into a town and in two or three days raising up a church, it is definitely more difficult now than what they could have imagined. The giants have grown taller through our unbelief and rebellion in the wilderness, and the work has become harder simply because of the sheer fact of the population increase.

A World to Warn

During the apostolic era, when the gospel went to the entire world, that was indeed a miracle of God. It is estimated that there were about 300 million people in the world at that time. During the time period that these Ellen White statements were written, around 1900, there were approximately 1.65 billion people in the world. Today, the estimate as of July 1, 2005, is that there are 6.45 billion people in the world and the number increases by 70 million a year. That is 6 million a month, almost 200,000 a day. Every second the world population increases by two people!

There is a world to warn. There is a work to do. God has admonished us to not be intimidated by the giants in the land. There is another side to the issue of giants in the land. The longer we delay doing the work God has given us to do, the taller the giants will become.

We are told, on page 33 of Evangelism, that the time is soon coming when laws will be framed that will close the now open doors. The longer we delay, the harder the work will become. In Testimonies, vol. 6, 22, we are warned that the passage from place to place will, before long, be hedged about with many dangers, and Mrs. White puts that in direct correlation with the finishing of the work.

Then, the familiar quotation of warning we perhaps all have heard, from Testimonies, vol. 5, 463: “The work which the church has failed to do in a time of peace and prosperity she will have to do in a terrible crisis under most discouraging, forbidding circumstances. The warnings that worldly conformity has silenced or withheld must be given under the fiercest opposition from enemies of the faith.” God is calling us to look the giants in the eyes and to advance as rapidly and aggressively as possible to conquer them.

A Prophet’s Burden

The burden on Mrs. White’s heart in her latter years—her last will and testament to the church—was the work in the cities. She said, “Not one thousandth part of what should be done is being done by those who understand the plan of salvation.” The Watchman, January 15, 1907. The church, during her time, thought they were doing all that they could. They held meetings, and Elder Daniells, who was then the General Conference President, wrote to Ellen White, reporting that the church leaders were heeding the counsels that she had given and had allocated $11,000 to the city work. This was a very large sum of money at that time.

Later, Elder Daniells went to counsel with Ellen White about this, but she refused to see him, because she said that he was not doing the work that God had called him to do.

She wrote to him instead, saying that when the president is converted, then he will know what to do with the message that God is sending him. She further stated that he was not converted, because he was not working the cities as God’s messenger had told him to do. (See Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White: The Later Elmshaven Years 1905–1915, vol. 6, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington D.C., 1986, 219–227.)

That is a strong statement! What if we would receive a letter like it? As I see the work that we are doing, I am led to ask, Are we converted? Are we heeding the messages that God has given to us?

What are we doing with Mrs. White’s last will and testament to the church? Are we taking it up? Are we doing all that we can? I am glad for what is being done, but we need to do more. I am glad for what the little church I attend has been able to do, but we need to do more. There are 3.5 million people in its metropolitan area. I have talked to some of the members who said that they passed out literature but nobody seemed interested, so they guessed that was that. Praise the Lord that the literature got placed into people’s hands, but there is more that needs to be done.

An Army of Calebs

We are not to stop the work until the work is finished. We need the spirit of Caleb in our midst today, because when the spies presented that unfaithful report, Caleb said, “Let us go up and possess it, for we are well able to possess it.” There are giants in the land today. The giants have become taller through our delay and through our wandering in the wilderness, but let us go up and possess it, for we are well able with God’s power.

My favorite part of the story about Caleb comes when the Promised Land was being divided. Caleb went to Joshua and reminded him of how they had spied out the land and reported to Moses their findings. Caleb made one request: that he be given the mountain where the sons of Anak dwelled. He wanted the most difficult place—where the giants were dwelling. This was an 85-year-old man, yet he was asking to subdue the most difficult portion of the land, because he knew God was just as able to conquer it at this time as He was 40 years before.

We need an army of Calebs today, even 80-year-olds! We need Calebs to go door-to-door, to become involved in conducting citywide evangelistic campaigns. Whatever the work may be, we need Calebs to go out to conquer the giants in the land. May each one of us be a part of the army of Calebs who will finish the work.

Cody Francis is currently engaged in public evangelism for Mission Projects International. He also pastors the Remnant Church of Seventh-day Adventist Believers in Renton, Washington. He may be contacted by e-mail at: cody@missionspro.org.