Portrait of a Pioneer

When I was invited to go to Nigeria several years ago, I prepared myself by reading the story of an early missionary to Africa, Andrew Stirrett. I would like to share some impressions from the book Stirrett of the Sudan, by Douglas C. Perry.

Andrew Stirrett

As an unmarried man, Andrew Stirrett was a successful businessman in Toronto. He was a pharmacist who owned two drugstores, real estate, and stocks and bonds. He was studying medicine at the University of Toronto. He became burdened to go to Africa through reading a pamphlet by Roland Bingham, “The Burden of the Sudan.”

He believed the Lord was calling him to be a missionary. He finalized his commitment by selling his businesses, property, and stocks and giving the proceeds to the Sudan Interior Mission. He traveled to Liverpool in England to study tropical medicine.

At the age of 38, he went to the Sudan in 1902, travelling at his own expense, without having been officially accepted by any mission board. In Africa he lived simply. Wherever he travelled everything he owned could fit into one trunk which could be carried on the head of a native porter.

“The little man was clinging to his call with every fibre of his slight being and his giant faith,” wrote Perry. “God would use the seemingly weak things of the world to confound the mighty.”

He spent years in language study eventually becoming fluent in the Hausa language. The British colonial government restricted missionary access to the Hausa speaking territories in the north for political reasons, So Stirrett opened a mission station on a trade route that gave access to thousands of traders heading north and south, in and out of the restricted area.

His “campfire talks would long be discussed and remembered, passed from mouth to mouth, unknowingly being used of God to spread his word. He had found an open door into the north that no man could shut.” Perry told the story of one woman who had heard about the white doctor at the Wushishi camp. She travelled 650 miles on foot to hear the message of God’s salvation. She became a Christian. When she disappeared it was believed that she was martyred for her faith.

Stirrett  went out on long treks, often outwalking younger men. He went from village to village, preaching the gospel. His regular practice was to rise at 3:45 am for prayer. He usually prayed out loud. He said he never wanted to see the sunrise until he had had two hours with his Master. He scheduled definite days for fasting and prayer.

An online article says, “He never missed an opportunity to give out the gospel. For many years at his headquarters in Jos, Nigeria, he would go daily to the large marketplace, stand upon a rock so that he could better be seen, hold up a large picture of Jesus and preach Christ to those who would give him audience.”

He was one of the translators of the Bible into the Hausa language. He said the crowning joy of his life was  when the British and Foreign Bible Society sent the first shipments of the newly-published Hausa BIble in November 1932. He also wrote Hausa hymns and a Bible concordance.

Dr. Andrew P. Stirrett died in July 1948, having served faithfully in Nigeria for almost 47 years. It was said that “his stature was short, but his shadow of influence over the work of the Lord in Nigeria is profound.” He is buried in Jos, Nigeria.

Pastor Randy Faulkner



The Attraction of Heaven

When you and I feel discouraged or overwhelmed, it is useful to do what Paul the apostle did when he needed encouragement because of his sufferings. Instead of giving up, he focused on God and the great future God had for him in heaven. There was a time when God had allowed Paul to have a vision of Paradise which gave him confident hope and carried him through a lot of hard times.

The Lord led Paul to write about it for us in his second letter to the Corinthians so we could have that same confident hope to carry us through our difficulties. Reading about Paul’s experience leads to some conclusions about heaven.

There is a real place called “Paradise.”

In cryptic language Paul describes his own personal encounter with heaven in 2 Corinthians 12: 1-7. He does not know whether this was an out of the body experience, but he refers to it in terms of “visions and revelations from the Lord.” He says he was “caught up to Paradise.” In Jewish theology Paradise  was the place where the righteous went when they died, a synonym for heaven.

Paul called it “the third heaven,” presumably  beyond the earth’s atmosphere, and beyond the interplanetary heavens, the abode of God. The New Testament teaches that Jesus “passed through the heavens” when he ascended back to the Father (Hebrews 4:14).

This is not wishful thinking or escapism. Paul is writing about something he experienced. He writes about Paradise because there really is such a place. He went there. Of this he is certain. In fact, after having had such a momentous experience he said it was necessary for him to be humbled by a physical affliction he called his “thorn in the flesh.”

Modesty kept him from boasting about the experience, so he referred to himself indirectly as “a man in Christ,” implying that those who are in Christ will be admitted there. Jesus promised the criminal who was being crucified next to him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). This teaches us that any humble sinner who believes in Jesus will go  to be with Jesus when he/she dies.

Paradise is indescribable.

Paul had had many revelations from the Lord. For example, his teaching of the gospel was not something he had made up, nor did he receive it from another person; “rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12).

The revelation of Paradise was etched in his memory as having been given to him fourteen years before the writing of 2 Corinthians. Philip E. Hughes said, “This was probably the most intimate and sacred of all Paul’s religious experiences as a Christian.” Possibly he had not written or spoken of this experience for all those years.

He said he heard “inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.” Did he see Jesus in his glory? Did the Lord speak to him directly? He does not say. Was the Lord vindicating and honoring Paul’s ministry? Was he revealing more truths to him? Warren Wiersbe said that “He overheard divine secrets that are shared only in heaven.”

Later on, the apostle John was permitted to tell us more about Paradise (Revelation 2:7,  22:1-5).

Paradise is a desirable place.

A Sunday School boy was asked if he wanted to go to heaven. He replied, “I don’t think so. Grandpa will be there and he will just say ‘run along boys and be quiet!'” Heaven will not be a grumpy, boring, or unhappy place. In fact our Lord explicitly said that children will be comfortable there. “Let the children come. . . . The kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14-15).

Paul had been there and he knew. He described the magnificence of his experience as “surpassingly great revelations,” too wonderful for words. Paul was ready to go back there whenever the Lord was ready to take him. He wrote, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).

To the Philippian Christians he wrote, “to die is gain” and “to go and be with Christ is better by far” (Philippians 1:21-23). Why would he say that? Because he knew from experience that it is true.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

What About Judas?

We are familiar with Judas. He was one of Jesus’ disciples. He has gone down in history as the embodiment of treachery because he betrayed the Lord Jesus.

Some have tried to rehabilitate his reputation by implying that Judas had a noble motive. He wanted to force Jesus’ hand, to apply the ultimate pressure so that Jesus would have to exercise his power for political purposes and impose his kingdom. But Judas was no hero. Nor was he a helpless victim. Neither was he a true believer who lost his salvation.

Jesus knew Judas’ real intentions and motives. He had said to his disciples, “You are clean, though not every one of you.” The apostle John explained this statement by saying that Jesus knew in advance who was going to betray him (John 13:11).

If we compare scripture with scripture we come to the conclusion that Judas had never been a believer. Jesus said, “‘The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him” (John 6:64). John’s observation is based on his close relationship with Jesus and his close observation of the character of Judas.

The New Testament portrait of Judas is that of a liar, a thief, and an imposter among the disciples. He was not a helpless victim. He was responsible for his actions which flowed from his greedy, evil nature. He craved the power and wealth that he thought would come to him when Jesus installed his kingdom. He rejected completely the spiritual teachings of the Lord Jesus and his emphasis on eternal life. Judas wanted a political kingdom immediately.

Jesus had called Judas a “devil”(John 6:70). This was because he knowingly gave himself over to the power of Satan. During the Last Supper in the upper room, the devil prompted Judas to betray Jesus (John 13:2). During the meal Jesus had told the disciples that one of them would betray him. when they asked who it was, Jesus gave them a sign.

“Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. ‘What you are about to do, do quickly,’ Jesus told him” (John 13:26-27). Luke’s gospel agrees with John the apostle that Satan entered Judas and prompted him to betray Jesus to those who wanted to kill him (Luke 22:3).

Judas did not resist the devil. He surrendered to him. Jesus called him “the one doomed to destruction” (John 17:12). He said, “Woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24).

We ask ourselves, why would the Lord have allowed such a man to infiltrate the disciples and get as close to Jesus as he did? This is a hard question that defies an easy explanation. One possible answer is found in John 17:12, “so that scripture might be fulfilled.” Judas was part of carrying out what scripture had prophesied would happen to Jesus.

John  does not tell us which scripture it was. Judas was not predestined by this to be lost forever. He rather passed a point of no return in his stubborn unbelief. He willed himself to perdition.

Another possible explanation is that Judas is a reminder to the church of the subtle power of Satan. One of his strategies is infiltration. Peter and Jude, in their epistles, warn against false teachers who try to insinuate themselves into Christian assemblies and introduce erroneous teachings. Satan is behind this. He is the father of lies and the author of confusion.

Also, Judas is a warning to every individual about how close someone can be to the truth of salvation, and still be hardened in unbelief. Think of it! Judas heard Jesus’ teachings, observed his miracles, witnessed his love and compassion for people, yet he still went out into eternity lost.

This is one reason why we are told to pray, “Deliver us from evil.”

Pastor Randy Faulkner

The Christian and the World

I have been thinking about the Lord Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17 and what it represents. This is the longest recorded prayer of Jesus in the New Testament. Yet it is not very long, only 26 verses that can be read aloud in six minutes. But it is profound and rich in significance for us.

You see, when Jesus prayed, his prayer included all who would believe in him in the future (John 17:20). That means his prayer included people today who believe in him. His concern is for his disciples’ lives in this world. His prayer in John 17 mentions “the world” 18 times. This indicates that he intends for his disciples to live in this world without being shaped by the world’s distorted values.

The “world,” as Jesus used the term, is not the world of nature, or the general population of people, We know that God loves people. The term instead refers to society organized without God and against God. “In this world you will have trouble,” he told them in John 16:33. “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In John 15:19-20 our Lord set his disciples apart with these words, “If you belonged in the world, the world would love its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. . . . If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”

In the world

When Jesus prayed for his men, he prayed specifically about their relationship to the world. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world” (John 17:15). He did not want them to stand aloof from their neighbors like Pharisees, or to withdraw  from contact like monastics of the Middle Ages. He wanted them to love their neighbors as they loved themselves. This was how they would bear witness in his name.

Jesus offered them, and us, some benefits that will enable us to bear witness effectively. One is his joy. A joyful Christian is a contagious witness. He prays “that they may have the full measure of my joy within them” (John 17:13). Jesus had already told his disciples, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). Joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24).

Another benefit is God’s word. “I have given them your word,” he prays in John 17:14. The world rejects the word of God and substitutes human wisdom. People of the world cannot understand the word of God apart from the convincing ministry of the Holy Spirit. Believers, on the other hand, aspire to live lives that are regulated by God’s word. They look at life through the lens of scripture. The disciples of Jesus had accepted the word of God and this set them apart from the world (John 17: 6-8).

Not conformed to the world

Jesus said, “They are not of the world any more than I am of the world” (John 17:16). This means that our attitude toward the world should be the same as that of our Lord. It has been said that the closer we are to Christ, the less attractive the world will be.

So Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). To “sanctify” in this context means to dedicate, or to set aside for a special purpose. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “I sanctify myself” (John 17:18). He was dedicated to the special purpose for which the Father in heaven had sent him into the world: to provide eternal life to those whom the Father had given him. Likewise, his disciples are set apart for a special purpose.

Sent into the world

The Lord’s people are being sent into the world on a mission. The word “mission” comes from the Latin word “to send” or “to dispatch.”  “As you sent me into the world,” Jesus prayed, “I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).

Jesus prayed for the disciples that they would remain in the world and be as he was — at the same time “a friend of sinners” (Matthew 11:19), and “separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). We are not to adopt an attitude of withdrawal from the world, but neither are we to adopt an attitude of conformity. Rather our attitude should be one of mission: loving service and witness.

James Boice summed it up nicely: “What does it mean to be sent into the world as Christians? It does not mean to be like the world; the marks of the church are to make the church different. It does not mean that we are to abandon  Christian fellowship. . . . All it means is that  we are to know non-Christians, befriend them, and enter their lives in such a way that we begin to infect them with the gospel.”

Just as Jesus was sent into the world, so we have been sent into the world to represent him with compassion and love. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).

Pastor Randy Faulkner