“How I would love to drift away into the ocean and spill out on an island filled with unreached, uncivilized people. Then I’ll build myself a wooden home, learn their language, spear a fish, climb a coconut tree, and ultimately preach the gospel to those unsaved people and teach them about the Lord” I stared at the ocean in front of me, imagining the scene in my mind. The desire and zeal for reaching out to those who haven’t heard the gospel yet have been stirring within me.
Just over 2 years before this event the words ‘permanent missionary’ was a sour tasting word in my mouth. Why on earth would you leave all of this behind? Life is too good and pleasant here, people sweet, conversation lovely, the future bright, sure and very comfortable to look upon. To go to a strange place and leave this behind is mere folly… or so it seemed in my unregenerate heart.
But salvation does not leave a man unchanged! As Jim Eliot so accurately said – “He is no fool, who gives up what he can’t keep, to gain what he can’t loose” All of these pretty little things the world has to offer grew dimmer as the current and future REALITY of the souls around me and afar grew brighter. Especially in the light of Paul’s accusation to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 15:34, which ‘haunted’ me as a young Christian… “Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not keep on sinning. For some has no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame” Paul is here calling them to reality, awakening them from their ‘near unconscious state’ (stupor) – for He states that the dead WILL be raised and they have to earnestly realize this, and stop dwelling in the fog, and start living in the light of the truth and share it. In verse 32 Paul says, they shouldn’t be clothed with the ‘let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die’ attitude and just lean back and relax – for resurrection is sure to happen. It is their shame if they continued to live nonchalantly, in self-indulgence and sin, while people are perishing around them (John 3:16-18)
How I ought to be ashamed if I keep this delightful grace to myself. I guess this simple parable captures it so well – Christians are like those who found the only source of water in the desert, and we need to call others to this source of water to come and drink from it. How evil a thing if we find it and just sit and drink from this endless fountain knowing there’s wonderers about us.
I was elated over every opportunity I grabbed to share the gospel, to show them where the water is, and lamented over many opportunities I didn’t embrace. When sitting in a conversation I would practice looking in their eyes and imagine this person weeping and gnashing on their teeth, burning for all eternity, being in a restless place, separated from the goodness of God. I told myself: if I don’t speak now, my silence would yell out my hatred of them! My mind was informed and I grasped and believed that souls are immortal and judgment for all is to come. I had to respond, EVERY TIME, by obediently evangelizing. For when we change our thinking through Scripture it is so that we can know how to better love the Lord through knowing His will and DOING it.
The obligation to show my care and compassion in speaking the truth became apparent through the conviction of Scripture. As Charles H. Spurgeon says “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over out dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees. If hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for”
There was a terrible reality in my mind… there are whole tribes, tongues, peoples and nations abroad who are unwarned. They need to hear the gospel, for ‘whoever does not believe is condemned already’ (John 3:18)!!! And the grace of believing in the Lord can only follow once they heard about the Lord. Rom 10:13-15 – “For anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed, and how will they believe unless they have heard, and how will they hear unless someone preaches, and how will they preach unless they are sent? As it is written ‘how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’
I wondered how it must be not to know where to search for truth? My heart was moved as I watched a documentary of missionaries who started preaching through Genesis to the Taliabo people, and one of the ladies said “When I heard that God made me, I was so happy” So simplistic, yet so profound!!! I thought about those who do not know where to begin to search for truth, who spend their lives entertaining their imaginations with myths and philosophies of how life began and may marvel at its complexity, who looks at the stars like its magical, who wonders what our purpose in life is, how is life given, how is it removed? How we can be good enough people, what is the standard, who must we please in life, why is there wickedness and evil in this world, why doesn’t it feel like relationships is as it ought to be? What happens to us when we die, how can we escape death and pain and suffering, how can we find eternal life? Is there more to life than living, they may marvel at the idea of satisfaction and they do not know what to find delight in. Who knows where to find perfection, and where does wisdom come from, what is a good, well spent life anyway? What a joy must it be to share with them the truths of the Scripture, God’s spoken truths.
I continued to read books and watch documentaries about missionaries. Yes, I was earnestly considering becoming one of those previously dreaded ‘permanent missionaries!’ I read about the people they reached, their believes, their strange habits and culture, the challenges, the adaption, the joys, the blessings, the power of God, the dependence upon Him, the wisdom needed, the suffering endured, the refining fire… all for the salvation of the people who received the good news for what it is – GOOD NEWS INDEED!
I knew I wanted to work towards the same goal, as John 11:52 puts it – “And he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for this nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” The goal to GO and seek out these scattered children, those scattered like confetti over the floor of the earth.
Oh, they will be scattered indeed! You will find them in every tribe, language, people and nations (Rev 5:9, Rev 7:9-11) And it is the church of Christ’s duty to make him known to the ends of the earth, because of His desire to be made known and the command (2 Cor 5:18-20, Luke 24:47, Psalm 96:2-4, Psalm 67) As John Piper said in the light of Matt 28:19-20 – ‘you get the goers, you get the senders and you get the disobedient’ The question is not why missionary, but why NOT missionary?
I no longer thought it so be folly, but the sufferings, sacrifices and persecutions which awaits frightened me some days. I couldn’t understand how Paul went to village after village while he knew he would suffer. How did He continue to relentlessly in his work? One day I came across Acts 20:23-24 – “The Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and affliction await me. But I do not account my own life as being of any value, nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify of the gospel of the grace of God”
How was Paul able to do this? By ‘denying himself, taking up his cross and following Him’ which is exactly what I have to do every single day in order to do my work heartily. Gracious and constant is His help towards me to grow towards this – He has held my will and my desires so gently in His hands and lead my heart to where He wants me to be. He guided me when I wondered how I a missionary ought to be? How do I know if I’m supposed to go? How do I take that ‘leap of faith’ to commit myself to go? Maybe I should first go study at the university? Maybe I should use my talents otherwise? Do I have my motives set straight? How will it ever happen?… He lead me and leads me and will lead me through all uncertainties, follies, joys, ambitions, faithlessness, zealousness and weaknesses – because He is FAITHFUL! And what a joy the promise of Matt 28:19-20 is “…and behold I will be with you always, until the end of the age”
This is the God I want with me and who I want to proclaim to them. For among them there is none who knows one completely faithful, all sovereign, trustworthy, all wise, just, merciful, good, righteous, loving, gracious, powerful, compassionate, slow to anger, all-knowing, omnipresent… one perfectly holy.’ They don’t know a god who is both a righteous god and a savior, for there is only ONE! (Isaiah 45:21) And what a joy to make our God known, to make Jesus Christ the God-man our Savior known. John 17:3 – “And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” Oh, that I may tell them about my God!
Mark 10:29-31 – “Jesus said: ‘truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father of mother or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” The joy of heaven lies before me, with my God dwelling with me and me with Him! While here on earth I know that I will only be moving from one sin-cursed place to another. This sacrifice is so very, very, VERY small when compared to my Lord Jesus Christ! Christ, the ultimate example for us to follow, He who made the greatest sacrifice one can imagine, who came from HEAVEN to EARTH to die for sinners, unworthy people like myself on the cross, and thus showing His love. Phil 2:4-11 – “…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross…”
- One of the greatest helping tools in making this decision was a booklet I read about biblical decision making. I can really recommend this for all who look upon decisions like upon a great and steep mountain. You can download the booklet for free at http://www.gracefellowship.co.za/resources/booklets