photo credits: meeee for once
It's always good to get out of your corner, see how others are labouring for God in their own ways and means, get some perspective on what would otherwise be an increasingly narrow mindset. You come away feeling humbled--sobered, to reassess your privileges, challenges, strengths, weaknesses--and excuses. To see more clearly, and appreciate better.
The last thing that struck me from that trip was the courage that comes from selflessness.
There are so many excuses when it comes to sharing the gospel, to ministering, to what boils down to the messy work of loving imperfect people. As someone who doesn't like conflict, I'm a genius at thinking up all the possible bad outcomes and ways something could be misunderstood and taken as offensive. Down to language barriers, cultural barriers, age, conversational skills, natural personality bents... But I'm not a theologian, what if they ask me a question that I can't give a pat answer to? But I'm not good at keeping conversations going, there's going to be awkward pauses for sure. But I don't know if she'll get angry at me or think I'm weird. But what if my mistake makes him think badly about all Christians in general?
This trip, as I watched ministry in action, I couldn't help but marvel at how simple, and yet how incredibly difficult it was. Like Jesus dying on the cross, a straightforward action that nevertheless is mind-boggling to comprehend. Difficult people. Difficult situations. And yet, despite all that, the answer isn't making sure that you're well schooled in theology, or have memorized bunches of key passages from the Bible, or being naturally super patient and kind, or innately skilled at interacting with people and building relationships or just "really godly"--all advantages that definitely help but are nevertheless not the answer.
This ties in to Piper's perspective on missions, that it's not something only the holiest and strongest of Christians are worthy enough to be called to (though the confusion on this area is probably due to the fact that at the same time, the process of that ministry often transforms you in spiritual maturity, creating more opportunities for you to grow in closeness and reliance on God.) Piper defines missions in two categories, evangelism (spreading the gospel wherever God has placed you, in your own people group, to the people around you in your everyday life) which is some thing all Christians should have incorporated in their lives--and missions, which he defines as spreading the gospel to a different people group, often requiring you to overcome lingual or cultural barriers, with the aim of establishing a church.
In other words, missionaries are not a rare, superior class of Christians that you and I can comfortably and modestly claim not to belong to.
There's a lot of food for thought in this chapter on missions in Desiring God, (and he develops this starting point in much more depth than I can here) but I'll stick with just this one small point for now, in the context of this post.
I remember the paralyzing sense of helplessness that gripped me when I stood there looking on dumbly, wanting so much to somehow help, yet acutely conscious of feeling unworthy, of feeling inadequate. I felt so horribly out of place. What could you say, to someone who was dying, who was in great pain, without much hope of being healed of it? What could you say without feeling hopelessly inept, without fearing that you would come across as insensitive? It seemed much safer to just be quiet and uncomfortable. Whether in English or Chinese I felt useless, though I argued that if I had been able to use English I might have done better.
What I witnessed, however, was people overcoming their limitations--whether of language abilities, of navigating difficult situations or answering tough questions--with a courage born of selflessness, where sincere, genuine selfless love leaves no room for self-consciousness or fears. A true reliance on God to the extent that their own abilities are no longer the issue, but they rise to the challenge with faith that God will use them. A practical application of the seemingly paradoxical, yet perfect tension between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility.
To conclude--perhaps the next time I shouldn't be blaming my own limitations and lack of abilities, shouldn't be obsessing over how likely I am to make a mistake, to mess this up. To be brutally honest, it's simply self-centered fear masquerading as humility. True love for others would make your desire to help, to bless, stronger than your fear--just as true faith, or true humility, would base your actions on the knowledge that God equips and God empowers, that no act of service we do for God is wholly defined by your effort and your abilities.
Again, God's sovereignty and man's responsibility; we don't serve God because He needs us to. Our ministry and our labours are all within His power and plan, taking away any opportunity for human pride, for the little pats on the back of self-righteousnessness and the martyred air of self-pity. God does not delight in a "self-pitying spirit of sacrifice," to borrow another phrase from Desiring God. Rather, to see it from the perspective behind Jim Elliot's famous quote:
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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