In 1854, there was an earthquake that startled the villagers of the Japanese seashore town of Hirogawa. Used to earthquakes, they soon went back to their activities. But high on a plain, farmer Goryo Hamaguchi was watching, and he noticed something strange with the sea: it moved away from the land. He knew if he didn’t act soon and drastically, hundreds would be lost.
The farmer had a large crop of rice piled in stacks, ready for the market. They were his income for the entire year. He took a torch and set the stacks on fire. In a moment the dry stacks were blazing, and the big bell pealed from the Shinto temple below: Fire!
Villagers from every hut hurried away from the beach, up the steep side of the cliff, to try to save the crops of their neighbor. As they approached, the old farmer told them to look to the sea, now a high wall of water fast approaching the village. The great swell struck the shore, again and again, tearing homes to matchsticks. No one spoke. Now they realized the old farmer lost it all to save them all. (See Larson, Illustrations for Preaching, 201, and https://news.un.org/en/story/2016/11/544422-feature-feudal-era-japanese-village-leader-stands-beacon-tsunami-education).
No worthy mission is ever accomplished without personal sacrifice. Jesus was the biggest example of this. He left His throne and risked it all to become a vulnerable baby and live in a world of sin, all in order to save us.
At East Ridge, we have embarked into a noble and ambitious work: that of offering salvation to as many neighbors and friends as money and effort would allow this year. But like the old farmer, the sacrifice required is commensurate to the number of souls that could be saved. Many in our church have pledged to help and support and do what is possible to reach the lost. But, in the words of Jesus, more laborers are needed for the harvest (Luke 10:2).
This world is dying. And we can’t wait a year or two before we do something about it. Everywhere we look it’s a mess. The economy, deep intolerance for one another, mindless killings, partisan politics. We have lost our way as human beings, and we can only be restored by knowing Jesus and having Him dwell in our hearts. Isn’t it imperative that we share Him with others? Shouldn’t we warn others now about what’s coming, even at considerable personal sacrifice? If a Shinto farmer did it, shouldn’t a follower of Jesus? The world is ripe now to hear about the Savior.
Let’s look to Jesus as our example. He gave all. We can give at least some. This is a call to service for the sake of those who actually need what we already have in abundance. And just like the old farmer lost all his income to save 400 neighbors, we may win a few by setting our schedules on fire. It’s only a few weeks, but what a difference that will make to those who will be found (Luke 15:1-7)!