The Lord has taught me so much through my brief times in the mission field. Lessons that I have been learning my whole life and that I know I’m not done learning. Humility, grace, sacrifice, and working not for the approval of man but for God are just a few of them. I definitely don’t claim to have it all together or to be any kind of expert. I just felt like sharing some of what God has been doing in my heart and life over the years. I have shared bits of this before in previous posts and in different conversations, but it honestly helps me when I write things out, so I thought I’d share.
I have had the opportunity to go to many different counrties to share the love of Jesus. I am humbled to have been given the opportunity to travel to these different places for different lengths of time from weeks to months. I’m grateful that He would use me in spite of my weaknesses and many faults! I am just like any other human being. I am prideful, selfish, and just plain mean in my flesh! Thankfully the Lord is gracious and works through me so that anything good that comes out of me is really Him!
I used to think of myself as a pretty humble person, but as I grow closer to the Lord, the more I see how full of pride I really am. I read this book a few years ago called Freedom of Self Forgetfulness, by Tim KeIler. It really convicted me. In this book, he describes humbleness in a way that opened my eyes to my own pride. He said that humbleness is not thinking less of your self or having a low opinion of yourself. lt is simply not even thinking of your self, or in others words, thinking of yourself less. Even if you are constantly thinking of how you are a terrible person or how you are less then someone else. You are still focused on your self and your thoughts are not centered on the Lord or others. It makes you miserable, and it is still a form of pride. He gave the example of getting your feelings hurt. He says that is really our ego being hurt. If we are truly not thinking of ourselves and thinking of others more, our feelings will not be hurt. We wouldn’t be upset because we would be more concerned for the other person. (Now there is righteous anger but that is a whole other subject) That really stuck out to me and changed they way I thought about humbleness. It was actually really freeing like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I definitely still struggle in this area but I just feel a lightness in my heart that is so amazing and it’s only from the Lord. And as soon as I am in my flesh, the heaviness returns, but as soon as I humble myself and get my focus back where it needs to be, on the Lord, that weight is lifted again. If your like me, then you are thinking, “It is too hard to be humble. I can’t do it.” And you would be right! We can’t do it on our own.
Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
When we are yoked with Jesus He is the stronger ox who carries the burden and we get the light end of the deal. When we surrender to Him and stop fighting it actually becomes easy and not hard at all.
When I was younger I always thought that a missionary was someone with an amazing relationship with God that was on a higher level than the average Joe. I quickly learned that a missionary is no one extraordinary. No, in fact, missionaries are quite ordinary with an extraordinary God. A life of missions isn’t something unattainable. In fact we are all called to be missionaries. Ambassadors of Christ to the world, and being a missionary in a foreign country is simply just living your life in a different country. You should be living with the same heart and values in your home country as you would on the mission field. You don’t have to be a missionary in a different country, a pastor, or a famous Christian leader to please God. You simply need to be obedient to what He has told you to do whether that is working as unto the Lord at your job, loving your husband or wife, being a parent, or a student. It’s the little choices in life that add up to make the majority of where your life goes. I feel like sometimes we Americans, myself included, get so busy chasing the “America dream” or wanting to be insta famous that we miss out on the most important things. We want to do big things and see big results immediately, but all God wants from us is obedience. He will take care of the results, and his thoughts on time are definitely different then ours. We love to appear as if we are sacrificing so much so others can see how great we are, but God says he desires obedience over sacrifice.
I have found this to be true especially in short term missions. A short term team that is self-consumed and ethnocentric can actually end up doing a lot more harm then good. We think we have sacrificed so much by coming from far away to help those less fortunate than us. We have to be wary of the savior complex, and beware of trying to make Americans rather then disciples of Jesus. I know I’m guilty of both of those in my ignorance. On another note, we aren’t always more fortunate then some of these people. Yes, we may have materially more then them, but if we are shallow and dry, spiritually, then we may actually be the less fortunate ones.
We have to remember that our goal is to bring the love of Jesus for it is His love that compels us to go in the first place. His love crosses cultural barriers and is relevant to every culture. We should strive to meet people where they are at. Build churches that can be realistically self-sufficient and come along side the existing church (if there is one) to serve. Not come in with a whirlwind of activity and leave the people of the church exhausted and with no real fruit to show for it. Real fruit takes time and patience to cultivate. Just as it takes a lot of hard work and patience for a farmer to get a harvest. (Hence the analogy of fruit) It is really hard to do that on a short trip. That’s why it is important to come along side the people that live there and are patiently laboring. Don’t get me wrong I love short term missions, and have been on plenty. I just feel like they should be done in wisdom and humility and the knowledge that our actions will potentially have a lasting affect on the area whether it be a positive or negative one.
I don’t know what God has for all of you, but I know you can trust Him! I know He is faithful and He loves you. He will show us the way to go as we listen to Him! Even though we mess up and worry and fret at times he still loves us and forgives us! How incredible is that! That the God of the universe wants to use us to do his work! That is grace! Following Jesus full heartedly sometimes feels like it will be a boring life of dos and don’ts, and that you will have to sacrifice too much. In reality it’s a life of adventure, not that it doesn’t have its moments of monotony. It certainly does, but even times where life is slow are times for growth and learning. Sacrifice is involved in this life, but I find when I sacrifice I really feel like I get so much more in return for the little I have given up. Sometimes we feel like it’s just too much to let go of control of our lives, but when we do our life actually becomes easier and less stressful. For as it says it Matthew, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
In Hebrews, the writer says,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2
This is my goal! I pray that this would be your goal also. I would encourage you to lay aside the things in your life that may be keeping you from walking strong. Lay aside things that are keeping you from fully surrendering to the Lord. It may be a struggle and seem like a huge sacrifice, but it is worth it. Think about it, if you really believe that God loves you, then you need to walk in that love. What does that look like practically? It looks like trust. You will be able to trust him wherever he takes you. You will know that his love is a redeeming love and a love that wants what is best for you. It is a love that surpasses knowledge and with it comes perfect peace and sweet contentment no matter where you are or what your situation is. This, my friends,is worth more than all the money in the world. Personally, I find that these life lessons I am learning might not change much just the situations in which I am learning them. Be encouraged to continue to seek His face daily; let him teach you. Be a good student and soak up all that God has for you. Though it is not always easy, the reward is Christ!
I will end with a reminder from Ephesians
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, – Ephesians 6:10-18
This life is a battle, and it’s easy to get comfortable in the day to day life.
But don’t forget to put on the armor of God that way you will be able to stand against Satan. Satan has many tactics and can even use ministry to get us distracted. We can get so caught up in working for the Lord that we neglect the most important thing, Sitting at his feet. It’s a battle everyday to keep priorities straight and keep Jesus on the throne. But it’s worth it to be able to say with the apostle Paul.
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:7-8
If you made it to the end, then thanks for listening to my rambling thoughts! Hope you were encouraged.