Today's post is a reprint from the recent prayer letter a missionary friend sent. He and his family serve in a restricted area of Central Asia. Be encouraged by his words!
Enthralled With “Missions” or with Jesus?
Up through my junior year in college, I felt “called to missions” – and then I took a course on World Religions. I realized that most people in the world don’t care what I’m doing in missions. The Muslims, Buddhists, Secularists and Zoroastrians, etc. have their way figured out already. They are content (even in their discontent) to continue on living in their cultural, traditional ideologies. Just because I believe that Jesus saves, doesn’t mean that they’re going to see things the way I do. Just because I’m on a mission to tell them about Jesus, doesn’t mean that they are going to come on board with that.
All of a sudden, “missions” as a life pursuit was looking more and more depressing and untenable to me, because my understanding of the missions endeavor included witnessing at least some life-transformation in others. If "missions" means success as a Christian, how is it that so many people continue UN-transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ?
As I processed all of this, I realized two things:
- I personally have been shown grace and mercy by God in Jesus Christ (I was lost and now, through no merit of my own, I’m found!!). The other world religions can’t hold a candle to the reality of that flame!
- In John 6, Jesus questions His disciples, “Are you going to go away as well?” Reading that, I realized in my heart that if I was to “do missions” it could only be as a response to what God has done for me personally. It had to flow out of a continual drawing near to God in worship and living out of that overflow.
Fast forward a couple of years to my one-year internship in Central Asia, living with a local family. After a particularly depressing point where I shared my testimony with my family’s aunt and got a very different response from what I was hoping, the next morning I half-heartedly prayed to God saying, “How are these people ever going to be saved?!”
As I read Matthew 9 at that time, God gave me a choice:
“You can return here to Central Asia to tell the people about me and be miserable and anxious when they don’t respond in faith as you work hard at being a missionary,” or
“You can come be a worker in my harvest field, where my Spirit alone can bring about heart/life transformation, and leave the timing and results up to me.”
Equating “missions” with "success" (thereby effectively deifying it in our lives) is a sure way to becoming depressed, guilt-ridden, legalistic and apathetic about life and our relationship with God. Pursuing Jesus as our first love, on the other hand, frees us to live in His grace with joy and opens our eyes to the things He’s already doing in the world and in the people around us, whether that is doing cross-cultural ministry in some other country or walking with Him in faith and obedience within our own culture.
Missions is important. But when all is said and done, I do not live for missions (or any other version of success I might come up with) but for Jesus, my merciful and loving Savior.