I invite you to open your Bible to Romans 10:14-15.
George Scott, a one-legged school teacher from Scotland, came to J. Hudson Taylor to offer himself for service in China. Taylor asked him, “Why do you think of going as a missionary? You’ve only got one leg.”
And Scott replied, “I do not see those with two legs going.”
He was accepted.
A few years ago, Bill Hybels wrote a book on evangelism called Just Walk Across the Room. I love that title—especially the first two words: just walk. We could hang that title on our text. Hear the word of the Lord through the Apostle Paul …
How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.
Or, in the case of George Scott, “How beautiful is the foot of those who bring good news!” Foot, feet, whatever. Just walk.
Paul is quoting Isaiah here. He has pulled his quote from Isaiah 52—Isaiah’s prophecy to a people under siege. Isaiah sees the image of a runner making his way from the battle to a war-weary people. He is coming with news. And the news is good: “Peace! Good tidings! Salvation! Your God reigns!” And Isaiah says that the feet that bring news like that are some kind of beautiful.
Paul agrees. The folks who bring good news—the news that Jesus died for our sins, that He was raised from the dead, and that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved—the folks who bring that news have the prettiest feet you’ve ever seen. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Isn’t that a strange image? I can’t hear that verse without thinking of my first foreign mission trip. I went to Jamaica in 1986 with a group of preachers. Our task was to work in churches and schools in the Blue Mountains. Being a newbie to foreign trips, I tried to follow Jesus’ admonition to eat what’s put in front of me. Jesus obviously didn’t have an American palate. And I didn’t have a Jamaican stomach. I was sick from day one. And one night, after eating yet another meal of curry goat, unidentified vegetables, and washing it down with some kind of fruit juice cocktail loaded with ginger. My stomach went into full scale rebellion. It announced in the ways stomachs do, that it wasn’t going to take it anymore. I was in the pit of misery. But I had to preach. I stretched out on a pew in the church, wishing I could either go home or die. But when the bell rings, a preacher has to answer. The music ended and the bell rang.
It was my time. I stepped into the pulpit, read my Scripture, and had just begun the introduction to my sermon when it hit—a storm surge of nausea. “Excuse me,” I said. I put my hand to my mouth, raced to the nearest exit, and gave Jamaica back a good measure of what it had given me. So I was out there retching from my toes like a drunk with the dry heaves, but there was nothing dry about these heaves. And what made it worse, the whole church followed me outside. Now I’m a person that prefers to be sick alone. That wasn’t going to happen in Jamaica. One of the ladies stood right up next to me and put her arm around me while I was letting it fly. Neither she nor I were left unstained from the encounter. Vomit splattered on my shoes and on hers. When it appeared the worse was behind me, she said, “Are you quite finished?” I shook my head, whispering “I don’t know what could be left.”
Then the church took me inside and performed a healing service on me. They put me in a chair, circled me, and then a lady put oil on her fingers and started dancing around me making Twilight Zone noises brushing my head with her oily fingers with swipes as quick as a snake. I sat there with my head down, thinking, “I can’t believe this is happening to me, and they’re never going to believe this back home.” And that’s when I noticed my shoes. Yuk! I was there to bring the good news, but trust me, there was nothing beautiful about my feet.
See what I mean? “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” It’s a strange image.
I’ve been at the beach. I’ve visited swimming pools. I’ve been in plenty of athletic locker rooms. I can’t count the number of hospital rooms and nursing homes I’ve been in across the years. Trust me, I’ve seen more than my share of feet, and I’m not sure that the word beautiful ever crossed my mind when I saw them. “Beautiful feet” is a strange image.
Years ago as we were preparing for our first experience with West Africans, our missionary said, “When you’re in the presence of West Africans, don’t show the bottom of your feet.” It’s an insult of some sort in their culture—so no crossing the leg when we sit in a chair and no extending the legs when we sit on the floor. Don’t show the bottom of your feet. So if the idea of beautiful feet is strange to us, it must be especially strange to our West African friends.
Most of us don’t see a lot of feet anyway. Even though flip-flops and sandals are pretty common these days, we are still a people that tend to cover our feet—socks, crocs, slippers, shoes, boots. We cover them up—and even with sandals we cover the bottom of the feet.
And can I just go on record right now as being for that? No doubt there are some beautiful feet out there; but there are a lot of ugly ones too—bunions and corns and hammer toes; flat feet, fallen arches, and feet with bad circulation; dirty feet, scaly feet, and cooties between the toes; thick yellow toenails, broken toenails, missing toenails, and in-grown toenails; not to mention trench foot, fungus-covered athletes foot, dry rot, and feet that stink to high-heaven. Who would call those feet beautiful? So this just strikes me as an odd image: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Do you think maybe Isaiah and Paul aren’t talking about the look of the feet but the use of the feet? Do you think maybe they’re saying that the beauty of a witness’s feet is not because they’re good for viewing, but because they’re good for walking? So just walk. Walk across rooms and offices and cafeterias and streets and cities and states and countries and continents. Just walk to those who need the good news, and share it. You’re already walking from here to there for some reason or another, why don’t you take the good news with you as you go?
It doesn’t sound all that hard, does it? And yet many keep the good news to themselves. Do they have foot problems?
Maybe, to play with Paul’s image, their feet hurt—maybe they’ve got corns and bunions, fungus and cooties on their souls. They are nursing some grief. They are harboring some grudge. They are angry at God for letting them down. They’re angry at the church for breaking their heart. They’re hurt. And they don’t want to walk. They’d rather sit and sulk, rather feel sorry for themselves than walk to someone who needs the good news and share it. In their hurt they’ve forgotten that the news is good. They’ve forgotten that Jesus loves and Jesus saves and Jesus heals the heart. But they don’t walk because they’re hurt.
Maybe they don’t walk because instead of in-grown toenails they have in-grown souls. They’ve got the good news and that’s good enough for them. Who cares if their neighbors haven’t heard? Who cares if people in the county jail or the trailer park or the projects haven’t heard? Who cares if people in Chicago or Honduras or India or Ukraine haven’t heard? They’ve got feet; let them walk. Let them walk to the nearest church if there is one and hear the good news for themselves. And who cares if Muslims with their hard ways or Hindus with their many gods haven’t heard? They probably deserve hell anyway, right? Plenty of people think this way. And they don’t walk because they have me-first, keep-me-safe, keep-me-comfortable, and to-hell-with-everybody-else souls. They have in-grown souls—whole churches do—so they don’t walk.
And maybe others don’t walk because they have stinky feet. They have some sin in their life they feel disqualifies them from sharing the good news of Jesus with others. “But I’ve had an abortion. But I’m divorced. But I’ve got a criminal record. But I struggle with pornography. But I’m an alcoholic. I wrestle with same-sex attraction. But I’ve got too many skeletons in my closet.” Some don’t walk because they believe their souls stink and no one would believe them. If this is the way you feel, have you forgotten that the news is good? Have you forgotten the shady lady of Sychar? In spite of five divorces and shacking up with man #6, she met Jesus at a well, gulped down some of His living water, experienced grace greater than her sin, walked back to town, and invited people who didn’t think much of her in the first place to, “Come meet a man who told me everything I ever did.” In other words, “Come meet a man who has forgiven my sin. Come meet a man who doesn’t hold my past against me. Come meet a man who has replaced the stench of my sin with the fragrance of His grace. Come meet a man who saved me and changed me and can do the same for you.” And when the townspeople heard her, they said, “If this man can help her, He can help me,” and they went to see Jesus for themselves. Your sin does not disqualify you from sharing the good news; it just may open doors your best righteousness couldn’t begin to budge. Still, some won’t walk because they have stinky feet.
And maybe others don’t walk because they have cold feet. They’re afraid—afraid to take a risk, afraid to walk where they have never walked before, afraid of rejection or ridicule or failure, afraid of cultures they’ve never experienced and languages they don’t understand, afraid of the stranger. They have cold feet, and they’d rather keep them by the cozy fire of safety and comfort than to walk to someone outside their culture or their comfort zone who needs good news. I understand cold feet. Most Christ-followers struggle with this foot problem to some degree or another. And the only way to cure it is to get up and walk—get the circulation back in the feet again. Look at that cozy fire of comfort and safety—those are paper flames. If you want to warm your feet, walk them to some lost soul. God loves lost people with such burning passion that your interaction with them will warm your feet and your heart and everything else. Don’t be afraid, just walk.
Several years ago, we sent a team of young men to our village in Africa. The little clinic we use there has more cracks in it than an old man’s face. They were going to help do some repair work on it. One of the young men really struggled with his decision to go. He balked. He decided to go. He balked again. But after praying even more he was sure the Lord said, “Go.” And once there, in spite of the fact that it was 120 degrees in the shade, did he ever get cold feet! His fears kicked in big-time. It’s not easy to be one of six white faces in a desert of black faces. It’s not easy to be an English-speaker in a village where everyone else speaks Wolof. It’s not easy to be one of six Christians in a village of Muslims. It got so bad for him that he was afraid to get out of his tent. He just wanted to go home—which you just can’t pull off from the middle of nowhere. So his teammates encouraged him. A few of us back home prayed for him. And somewhere in there Jesus snuck into his tent and began rubbing those cold, cold feet until He got the circulation back in them again. The young man finally got up and out of the tent and got walking again. It was quite an experience. In fact, he sent me a long note when he returned telling me how God used that experience to bring about some breakthroughs in other areas of his life.
Some don’t walk because of cold feet. But when they overcome their fear and walk, man, God grows their faith by leaps and bounds. Cold feet.
And some won’t walk because of old feet. “I’m just too old to make a trip like that. I’m just too old to worry myself with the lost. I’m just too old to deal with people who aren’t like me and don’t speak my language. I’m just too old.”
I’m grateful the folks in this church refuse to use age as an excuse to sit on the bench in missions and evangelism. It’s mostly older folks that use English as a Second Language to smuggle in the gospel to the transient Hispanics who work on the backside of the track. Several retired folks work the ESL program on Thursday nights here at the church. It’s mostly retired folks who knit scarves and stocking hats our mission teams have distributed all over the world as a reminder of the warmth of Christ’s love. It’s a retired men’s class that works so faithfully at Samaritan Ministries. Several more work with Garage Church. And many have gone many times on overseas trips—including the venerable Brandon Jones who has logged more miles in the Honduran mountains with a backpack full of rice and beans than any of our young people have logged. I could go on. I still remember something Garnett Smith told me during a mission trip to Council Bluffs, Iowa, back in the summer of ’96: “I’m 76-years-old and never been on a mission trip. I’m so glad I’m on one now.” Don’t let old feet keep you from walking. You bring gravitas to the work whether it’s here in town or on the other side of the earth.
An aging Christian once objected to John Paton’s plan to go as a missionary to the South Sea Islands. He said to Paton, “You’ll be eaten by cannibals!” Paton responded:
Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.
That’s a great hope. But some still won’t walk because of old feet.
There are plenty of reasons why people won’t walk, but we can do better than that. And don’t you want to do better than that? Then set aside your excuses. Set aside your self-centeredness and your fear, and just walk. There are plenty of opportunities. A shoe salesman was sent to Africa. He emailed the company two weeks later saying, “Send money to come home. No one wears shoes here.” Another salesman was sent. Two weeks later he sent an email which said, “Send all the shoes you have. I have never seen so many prospects.” When you make a decision to just walk you’ll find you’re always crossing paths with people who need the Lord, and you’ll find that God has plenty of divine appointments in His calendar for you. Just walk.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that the early church in Acts was first called “the way” (Acts 9:2), which could be also be translated “the road”? From Abraham to the present, God’s people have been on the move. Jesus’ call to “Follow me” implies movement. Even our text has movement:
- People can’t call on someone they haven’t believed in.
- They can’t believe unless they hear.
- They can’t hear unless someone preaches to them.
- And preachers can’t preach unless they’re sent.
Do you feel the motion in the text? No wonder Paul declares, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” He didn’t say, “How beautiful are the mouths of those who bring good news.” We usually have to burn a little shoe leather before we can flap our jaws. So no matter where you go or to whom you go, mission starts with the feet before it gets to the mouth.
It’s got some motion to it. And that motion didn’t start on earth; it started in heaven.
- Didn’t God take the first step when, as Paul Scherer put it, He tiptoed down the backstairs of Bethlehem with a baby in His arms?
- When Jesus was 12 and in Jerusalem with His parents, didn’t He step away from his parents and declare to the big shots at the temple, “I must be about my Father’s business”?
- A few years later didn’t the Father’s business take Jesus’ feet down to the Jordan River to be baptized by John?
- Didn’t He hike up into the desert to be tempted by the devil and to say no to the devil and yes to the mission His Father sent Him to accomplish?
- Didn’t He hoof it all over Galilee and even make some hiking trips into Gentile land where He taught truth and healed the sick and cast out demons?
- Didn’t He skip across the water to bring the good news to His disciples that He is Lord and that even a raging creation is subject to Him?
- After Jesus slid off the donkey that had carried Him into Jerusalem, didn’t He stomp up to the temple where He ran the merchants and the money-changers out of the Court of the Gentiles, declaring, “Get out of here, you pack of thieves; my house shall be a house of prayer for all nations!”?
- Didn’t He wrap a towel around His waist, grab a bowl of water, and walk to each disciple in that upper room, stooping low to wash the feet that would soon carry the good news to Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth?
- Didn’t He stumble out of the city gate and up Skull Hill with a cross on His back—the cross to which His beautiful, beautiful feet were nailed for the forgiveness of our sins?
- And didn’t those feet once again feel the earth on resurrection morning and later take Him into a room where He told His disciples: “As the Father has sent me, so send I you. And you can count on this: I’ll walk with you every step of the way.”
Just walk. Jesus did it. We’re just following in His footsteps.
And whether you can walk a lot or can’t walk much, there are still things you can do.
You can pray—which is like walking on your knees. Missionaries consistently tell us how important our prayers are for their ministry. We can’t overemphasize it. I pray for our mission partnerships every time they come into my mind. And I focus on praying for them every Saturday. Are you praying for missions? Prayer softens hearts. Prayer chases away the devil. Prayer encourages frontline missionaries. Prayer takes down the principalities and powers of evil in high places. Prayer declares that we take this seriously, that we can’t accomplish anything without the direct activity of God, and that we want God to move in extraordinary ways. Walk a lot, walk a little—you can still walk on your knees in prayer.
And you can give. You can walk to the offering plate or to our online giving app. It’s time once again for our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. A man new to Baptist life once asked his pastor, “Are we ever going to get Lottie Moon paid off?” Yes. When Jesus comes again. Until then, we give. We give sacrificially. We give because God wills it. We give because it is a privilege to be part of something larger than ourselves and something that lasts forever. Dayna and I make it our most expensive Christmas gift. We give for the glory of God and to make the nations glad. We give so that missionaries can be sent and resourced. We give because precious souls are at stake and heaven and hell are in the balance. We give the Lottie Moon offering at Christmas because Jesus is the birthday boy, and there’s no better gift to give him, no gift he’d like more than to have more people at his forever party. Our church goal this year is $110,000. Let’s do this.
When we do critical kingdom work is done: the good news gets to places it’s never been, the poor are helped, the sick are healed, the lost are saved, doors to the gospel are flung open, fledgling believers are discipled, disciples in hard places are emboldened, churches are planted, God is glorified, and one day a lot more feet from every nation, tribe, and tongue will kick up their heels and dance around the throne in heaven singing praise to God. If I wasn’t so darn Baptist, I might shout about now.
We all can do some walking: some can walk a lot. Some can walk a little. But all of us can pray and all of us can give. Your prayers and your money can do some walking for you. Start putting one foot in front of the other in going, in giving, in praying. The time is now to take the good news to the world: “Peace! Good tidings! Salvation! Your God reigns! How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”
So just walk. There’s an old Peanuts cartoon where Linus says to a toddler who is trying to take his first steps: “Don’t be in such a hurry, kid. Once you start walking, you’re committed for life.”
You were a toddler once. You started walking one day, and I bet you’ve never regretted it. Since you’re walking anyway, take the good news with you as you go. You won’t regret that either. In fact, you’ll probably be saying something like this: “Just walking is the most adventurous thing that’s happened to my Christian life since I was saved. I only wish I hadn’t waited so long to do it.” And regardless of what your feet look like, when those feet take you to someplace and someone with the good news of the gospel, the folks you bless in your going will say something too: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Preached: November 26, 2017
First Baptist Church, Hot Springs, AR
John Scott McCallum II