I have been thinking about Johann Dober and David Nitschmann who were so determined to minister to the slaves in St Thomas and St Croix that they were willing to sell themselves as slaves. I don’t think they ended having to do this, but they were willing to go the distance. I have also been thinking about Gladys Aylward who was so determined to get to China to be part of the ministry there that she worked for years as a maid to pay her own way. She was willing to go the distance. When I think missions, I think a lot of things, and one of those things is that we must be willing to go the distance. We must be willing to do whatever it takes (biblically) to reach the people we so desire to serve. What cost is too high?
Paul says 1 Corinthians 9:22 I have become all things to all people so that some might be saved. Yes, this means we take interest in the things that interest other people and yes it means we give up things so not to as offend but it also means we are willing to go the distance and be uncomfortable. In Acts 18:3 it says Paul was a tentmaker in Italy because the people he was with were tentmakers (he was also a tentmaker). In 2 Corinthians 11:7-15 Paul says he did not take money from the Corinthians because he did not want to offend or burden. Paul was willing to go the distance.
I don’t exactly know what it means for me to go the distance and I more certainly don’t know what it means for you to go the distance in missions. But I do know we must be willing to do it. We must be willing to sacrifice and live a life that gives preference to the call of God. It can be hard, and it can be tough, but it will always be worth it.
When we serve God when we are willing to take up our cross when we are willing to go the distance people and things change. Yes, the people around us see Christ and find hope and healing but we also change. We become filled with less of us and more of Him. We pour out our lives as a drink offering and in return, God fills us with more of Him.
So as Dober and Nitschmann said as they left for the West Indies “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering”
Just a thought,
Daniel 3:16-18 The Message (MSG)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
One of the amazing things about the Bible is that there is more there than is at first visible. This is one of the reasons we can read the Bible so many times and find something new each time. One of my favorite quotes about this comes from Augustine who said, “The Bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.” What that means is there are layers of depth in the Word of God. It has surface meanings and deeper meanings. It has what was said to the original audience and then it has things that can be applied to our situation today. It stands the test of time and breaths live into every new generation.
I was rereading the verses above recently and it struck me that there is a larger principle at work. For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego they made a choice to follow God regardless of the consequences. They said no matter what the cost we will not bow down and serve false gods. But the larger principle is that when you are doing what you know is right and what God would have you do there are obstacles. This is partly because life just has obstacles.
Life is just hard sometimes. Sometimes life is hard because we are dumb and make dumb choices. We sin, we make mistakes, we get it wrong. Sometimes life is hard because we make it hard. Other times life is hard because we live in a broken and fallen world. As Christians, we believe that the kingdom of God has come but we live in this tension of the now and not yet reality of the kingdom. We live in a tension of belonging to the kingdom of God and being Christ’s ambassadors but being here on earth. That is hard and causes tension.
This is also partly because sometimes doing God’s will is hard. Doing God’s will is hard sometimes because we might not like it. We find that Paul’s words ring true when he says, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” So sometimes the difficulty comes in obeying despite ourselves. We like to blame the devil but sometimes we are own worst enemy. However, there is a real enemy and he has many servants. So sometimes life is hard because there is opposition to serving God. Whether it be people or spiritual forces there are things that come against us. We must understand this, and we must acknowledge that this a reality.
In the end, we have options in the face of that adversity. We can shrink back and surrender, or we can stand and say, “my God will rescue me, but even if He doesn’t, I will still serve Him.” Our faith must be strong enough to say I will serve God and He will rescue me. I trust completely God in this situation to come to my aide and deliver me. We must look past the circumstance and the situation and move forward in faith when we know we are obeying God’s will. We also have to be willing to admit that we are not God and if He does not come in the way we want, we have to be secure enough in Him to still serve. Service to God cannot be about the reward or the deliverance. Yes, He is a God who rewards and delivers but God told Abraham that He (God) was Abrahams great and mighty reward. God, Himself is the ultimate reward and goal. In the end, this means our service and faith must be grounded in God Himself and not our desires or wants.
Just a thought,