If you spend your years on behalf of a people hungry for the gospel, if you waste the prime of your life in a place where people are cut off from the good news, then this promise applies to you:
“The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
When we pour out our lives in difficult, dark places, God pours out his love and goodness on us.
When we hear the word of the Lord, when Christ pushes us forward to a person, to a people, to a place, something happens… When we know we’re setting our steps to be working with him, in exactly the time and space that he wants to be with us, we come alive.
It’s something like how the children felt when the Beaver from Narnia mentioned that Aslan was on the move.
“At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in his inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”
There’s a childlike excitement and drive that propels us forward in knowing Christ, in prayer, in cross-cultural work, language learning, and talking to the lost. It sometimes is very trying and difficult, it often requires perseverance and resolve, but it shouldn’t always feel like a dry straining.
“To many Christians the thought of a life wholly abiding in Christ is one of strain and painful effort. They cannot see that the strain and effort only come, as long as we do not yield ourselves unreservedly to the life of Christ in us.” (Andrew Murray)
Yielding ourselves unreservedly to the life of Christ in us… I think this is the kind of surrender and yielding that Paul described his own “work” as. He was propelled ever forward by the desires of the Spirit inside of him.
“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” Col 1:29
It’s not trying to work up a bunch of motivation and work hard with that. It’s about emptying ourselves and receiving his ambition. It’s not about working up the courage to go do something scary, it’s letting go and trusting that he’ll be with you in that scary place. It’s about yielding ourselves to the life and passions of Christ, wherever they may be. They could be among flocks of Muslim families in a park during Ramadan, or in another more difficult country that he’s calling us to, or in sweet communion with the Father in a prayer closet.
The lion of Judah is roaring and charging forward inside of us. We’re just trying to keep up.
Make sure you’re knowing him, knowing his voice, and don’t settle for anything less. Get on your knees, and get his heart for the people. Get his heart for whoever he wants you to go to.
As we follow Him and live for the Gospel, we turn away from a more ‘normal’ path of life. And so we can face difficulties and discouragements that might push us to despair.
There are times when a worker for Christ can be tempted to feel cut off from everything good and life-giving.
But the key is finding strength in God, and not in our circumstances. Then we can joyfully overcome whatever craziness is thrown our way and keep running forward into the good works prepared for us.
David did this when he faced an incredibly brutal situation:
“And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6)
And at other times a friend came alongside him to help direct him towards God’s strength:
“And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16)
We need to be people who believe and take hold of that strength, so that we can walk with him wherever, whenever.
“that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 3:16)
These are the simple terms that the apostles used to describe what today we call “missions.” They were witnesses of Christ, messengers of Christ, servants and ambassadors of Christ. They were minister’s of God’s reconciliation in Christ.
The work, the salvation, and the church is his. He won’t give his glory to another.
The work of Christ: it’s a precious spiritual commodity that he gives out to us. We can’t package it, methodize it, or pay people to do it. We can’t reproduce it with human strength, resources, or ingenuity.
We can only get it from him, and we can only do it with him.
He is the vision, he is the fuel, and his glory is the result.
It’s simply, “the work of Christ.”
The challenge in this thing we call missions, is to remember that.
“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:28)