It had been three years since the nation of Israel had any rain. It was a time of severe drought. There was no water, no plantations, and the cattle and livestock were dying. A time of great famine had come to Israel.
It was during the reign of the evil King Ahad. He did more evil in the eyes of Jehovah God than his predecessors. Sin and idolatry were rampant throughout the nation. It was indeed a time of spiritual fall-away, much like the world today.
Throughout history, in times of human disobedience and spiritual fall-away, God always raises up human agencies, a person or a group of persons, who put their trust and obedience in God and are willing to pay a price to be His faithful mouthpiece. They are not afraid to declare to a rebellious world: "Thus saith the Lord...." And such a man was Elijah, chosen by God to stand in the gap during that dark and evil era of Israel, calling the whole generation of people to repent and to return to Jehovah God.
O how we need Elijahs of today. Where are the John the Baptists of today? That they would stand in today's multiple gaps_spiritual gaps, moral gaps, ethical gaps, national gaps, racial gaps... and declare God's word!
You know how the story went. The people of Israel and Baal's prophets were gathered at Mt. Carmel. The Lord God vindicated His servant by sending fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice. Here we see God in action. Whenever the world is in deep serious trouble, God will intervene! That was a historical moment. And we are facing our historical moment now. The world today simply must be told, "If Jehovah is God, follow Him. If Baal is god, follow him."
When the Israelites saw the great act of God, they fell to their faces and cried out, "Jehovah, He is God; Jehovah, He is God!" Here we see how one man's obedience and courage recovered the faith of a generation!
After this great event, Elijah, by faith heard the sound of abundant rain! There were not any visible signs yet. The land was still dry and parched. The sun was still hot. Yet in his ears he already heard the sound of abundant rain!
Do we hear the abundant rain today? Do we? Yes, there is sin, corruption, darkness, war and rumors of war. But Jesus has promised that "the gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached to all nations, as a witness to all peoples." He has promised us the latter rain! He has already given us a blank check with His signature on it. He said, "Seek, ye shall find; ask, it shall be given to you; knowck, it shall be opened for you." By faith we claim His promise. His check never bounces.
And then we see Elijah went to the top of Mt. Carmel where there is a full view of the Mediterranean Sea. He put himself in the humblest posture possible_indeed, a most humble attitude. To do a great deed for God is difficult. To do a great deed and keep oneself humble is more difficult.
Now he was ready to claim God's promise. He put his head between his knees and sent his servant to look out to the sea. His servant came back and said there was nothing. He said go and look again. There was nothing. Go, for the third time. Nothing. The fourth, fifth, and sixth times, still nothing. If it were you and I, we would have become cold-footed or cold-nerved. But Elijah persevered. He wrestled with God through prayer, like Jacob who said to God, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
On the seventh time the servant reported seeing "a cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea." Hallelujah! A small cloud_the sign of God's abundant blessings toward His promise!
Do we see that little cloud rising before us today? Do we see God in action? In some countries, the Christian growth surpasses population growth. Here we see the little cloud rising. In the wonderful church-planting movement in many countries we see the little cloud. In the amazing growth of global missions among third-world churches, in Asia, Africa and Latin America, we see the little cloud. And we see the little cloud in the glorious prayer movements of today, the great prayer life right here in Korea, the Prayer Through the Window, a Day to Change the World, Concerts of Prayer, Prayer Summits and many other prayer movements around the world.
Indeed we see God's action in the calling forth of the AD 2000 Movement from its humble beginning six years ago when I was serving with the Lausanne Movement. It was during the intense preparation time for the second Lausanne Congress in Manila that one night I could not sleep. I got up, walking around the room and praying, "Dear God, what do you want to say to me?" The Lord impressed upon my heart about the number of world evangelization movements of today, each of them taking the year 2000 as their target year_such as Bold Mission Thrust of the Southern Baptists, New Life 2000 of Campus Crusade for Christ, a Church for Every People by the Year 2000 by the U.S. Center for World Mission, etc.
I was awe-struck! I sat down and wrote an article: "By the Year 2000_What is God Trying to Tell Us?" and published it in the Lausanne Magazine. Within two months, responses came from over forty countries. The overriding message was that the time has come that we not only talk about world evangelization, (We've been talking about it for almost 2,000 years!), but we must talk about it with a time target! The time target will motivate us to double and redouble our evangelistic and missionary efforts to fulfill our Lord's Great Commission.
Greater things are coming! The little cloud is now turning into a great rain, a mighty downpour (Ps. 65:9)! The next five years perhaps may prove to be the most crucial years in all of church history. What all of us have been doing until now is but a prelude, a groundwork for the preparation of the final dash toward the goal. Our International Director, brother Luis Bush, and our colleagues are working out a global work plan for the next five years until the year 2000. It is our hope that every church, mission and para-church will be involved and keep extremely busy in the next five years to bring the gospel of Christ to your own people and to other peoples in the world.
By the grace of God, and through the conjoined efforts of all God's people, we look forward to seeing that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. It is entirely possible that "a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000" will be achieved. To this cause we have committed ourselves. We give all glory to God! Hallelujah!