I’m thankful for dear friends who have a passion for foreign missions, but have continued to minister to their fellow employees until God sends them out. Both WV and ________ when they get there, will be better off because of them. And I am too.
I just read this morning about Paul’s thorn in the flesh from II Corinthians 12. Would love to know what that “thorn” was, but nevertheless realize that information is actually quite immaterial. That’s why he boasts in “weaknesses, insults, persecutions, difficulties.” A number of things could fall into those categories.
One of my thorns is my house in FL. Can’t sell it. Can’t refinance it because I’m too far under-water on it. And every so often, I get news that something is broken that is NOT under the home warranty. I’ve pleaded with God to take it away from me, but its just not happening now.
At the beginning of missions week, I got notification that the garage door which I had already spent a few hundred dollars to get fixed in January is broken again. Not under warranty, again.
On the way to the missions prayer meeting, it was WHAT I was thinking about. As I walked into the church it was WHAT I was thinking about. But I asked God to change my heart, because I wasn’t able to change it, and as usual, He did. To Him be the glory!
Here are some things I learned from last night’s missions prayer meeting. Ultimately, what I learned was how God’s Kingdom advancement can be so incredibly helpful, practical, and personally devotional.
1.) A Concern for missions (God being glorified by people who do not yet know Him in places where they haven’t heard or responded) keeps you from focusing on your own problems. God receiving the glory due His name where He’s not-as opposed to limiting the focus to the needs of others-is the fuel for missions. But a very helpful side affect is that we end up losing ourselves-and our problems-in that passion. The most self-satisfying thing you can do is to take your focus off yourself and onto God. The idea of “I need to first take care of myself,” then I can take care of others might be from Oprah but not Jesus. I still have to find someone to fix my garage door in FL. Again. Yet God’s developing a greater passion for missions in us increases our joy in His Kingdom coming down even when my garage door won’t go up. There is joy to be claimed and experienced if we look not inside, but outside of ourselves, at God’s active work in the world-of which he allows us to play a part-today.
2.) Need for community. I can’t develop a passion for missions or a passion for God by myself. I really do need others. When I prayed that God would change my heart, He decided to use His people to play an integral part. A woman at the group was a Voice of the Martyrs representative in our area. She let us know that the Northern part of Nigeria is now one of the persecution “hotspots.” She let us know that it appears nearly 5,000 Christians lost their lives over Easter. Wow. I needed to know that. And I needed someone else to tell me that WHEN she told me that. Never forsake your own need for community; and let that need drive you to community even if you don’t feel like it or have other things to do.
If you’re connected to Redeemer, come on out to the rest of the Missions Week as we have a dinner Wed and Friday night at 6 pm. Bring dessert or salad on Wed and dessert or chips on Friday.
When these fears or “controls” come up, consider your brothers and sisters in the faith whose kids have NO Christian friends. God is good. He is faithful to us and to our children. He can make up for our lack of faithfulness as parents as well as our kids’ lack of Christian friends.
It is necessary to pay attention to the Spirit’s confirmation in missions (as well as many other life-changing decisions) THROUGH others in the church. It sounds less spiritual, but that probably comes from viewing the Spirit’s work from a lens heavily tainted with individualism and existentialism. While some may interpret the external call as “outsourcing” the Spirit’s work to the church, discerning the external call actually relies more deeply on the Spirit. For each call and major decision, we desire to seek the Spirit’s work in more than just one person.
Had a fantastic 33rd birthday yesterday, watching the Rays take down the Yankees, cooking up some burgers, and hanging out with some good friends.
Anyhow, I was a little bummed in church yesterday at hearing of two of Redeemer’s short term missionaries getting so sick in South Africa. When a church supports missionaries, we support them to do the work of ministry. But if they’re sick, they really can’t do too much; not only that but they in turn need to be ministered to. And how hard it must be for them who raised money to do ministry THERE, but can’t.
How should we think about this? Is this proof God isn’t there or doesn’t care? Is there any biblical precedent for what to do in this situation?
The first thought I have to continually beat out of my head is that this type of thing is NOT a good apologetic AGAINST God being there, caring, or whether missions is even worth it. I mean, if you’re just going to go and possibly get sick, what’s the point? That’s what pops into my heart. So I need something in my head to drive that stuff out.
Sickness, death, and suffering DOES NOT mean God doesn’t care. It would seem to be so, but the bible time and time again reminds us that this isn’t true. In fact it just means that God doesn’t lie. This is the stuff he said would happen to us in this world.
We just heard a great sermon on Revelation 6, which summarized to us what we would see BEFORE Jesus returns: Conquest, Wars, Scarcity, Famine, Pestilence, Death. Missionaries, and Christians for that matter, are not immune to this. I wish we were. I wish at least missionaries would be immune to this stuff because they are giving up the comfort of a known culture to go to an unknown culture and land. But God never consulted with me on this, and as my old seminary professor Steve Brown always said, “We don’t get a vote.”
So the next question then becomes, is this sickness the work of Satan persecuting Jesus’ church and it moving forward? Or is it directly, as opposed to indirectly, (although I recognize this is really impossible to figure out!) from the hand of God for some unforeseen better outcome? I think Satan can make people get sick; he made Job get a bunch of sores on his skin. Nevertheless he was only allowed to go so far, and couldn’t take his life. So I guess sickness could be a form of Satanic persecution.
In II Corinthians 12, Paul tells us of a messenger of Satan sent to him by God to keep him from being too proud of his crazy visions. So I guess sickness can also come directly from God to make us more dependent upon Him.
So whether God has a direct hand or indirect hand in missionaries getting sick (and its really a waste of time to figure out which is which), He’s still sovereign over all. All we can know is that He’s got a plan and it is coming together.
I just have to remember this when missionaries get sick. But at least someone on this team is doing better because she took this picture of some children running!
I’ll deal with another question tomorrow: is there any biblical precedent for missionary sickness happening in the bible?