Conventional wisdom, expert advice and common sense all seem to indicate that, to achieve success and a favourable outcome on any mission, an individual or group ought to take the path of least resistance. Doing so inspires confidence, ensures security and offers the greatest opportunity for success.
To the adventurous spirit, this strategy will likely go against ‘every fibre of their being’, much preferring the words of J.J.R Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, “not all those who wander are lost”. When there is no path, simply create a trail and evoke a journey of discovery. Such an expedition certainly offers the potential for excitement, adrenaline and amazing memories, but it may also be doomed if embarked upon with overconfidence, ignorance and a desire for personal fame (self-gratification).
Any Christian entering the mission field must guard against these latter desires and thoughts. A missionary’s heart should not be set on fame or fortune but rather grounded in humility and obedience, a deep yearning to know God and willingness to sacrifice the things of this world for an entirely different inheritance.
“Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is — where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge.” ― Robert C. Shannon, missionary to the former Soviet Union
A missionary expedition may be wrought with danger and uncertainty, as individuals are compelled by an inward compulsion to follow the leading of something deep within their heart and inner being. A conviction and knowledge that prompts unanticipated decisions and direction from a heavenly compass to lead them into a divine will and purpose. A confidence derived from above that guides through dangerous situations and perilous encounters.
“God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” ― James Hudson Taylor, missionary to China
Many know the final destination, whilst some only know which ‘departure lounge’ to disembark from, piecing together each part of the puzzle one piece at a time until the bigger picture is revealed. The journey to reach the final summit is often full of surprises, with tests of faith to overcome and trials to conquer, all of which fuel the mission and God-given assignment that is to come. It is often not until we are stripped of ourselves and our own confidence, independence and pride that the true value of our faith is demonstrated, our understanding deepens and our convictions become firmly rooted in Christ.
“The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.” ― Henry Martyn, missionary to India
The conviction for mission is one born out of love. It cannot be manufactured or assembled as it is forged out of deep relationship with God, a longing and passion for the things of the Lord and for His will to be accomplished. There is no fast track, no shortcut, no instruction manual or recipe book.
The true missionary has built their foundation on their knees in the prayer closet, reinforced their hearts with countless hours wrestling with God, refined by fire in the trials of life and circumstance. And yet, they have set their “face like a flint”, as it says in Isaiah 50:7, with their focus unaffected by popular opinion or circumstance.
“The history of missions is the history of answered prayer.” ― Samuel Zwemer, missionary to Arabia and North Africa
Leonard Ravenhill preached, “No man is greater than his prayer life”. True surrender begins in prayer, ‘not my will but thy will’. True obedience begins in prayer, ‘My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek” ’ (Psalm 27:8b). True intimacy comes from time spent in communion with God and true courage comes from trusting the faithfulness of the One you have believed in, giving a missionary the ability to endure.
The journey of a missionary is an expectant one, not in the sense of knowing everything that will happen, but rather conscious to expect the unexpected. The missionary call is not one to a glamorous or prosperous life, but instead is a sacrificial invitation to make the ultimate choice to forgo fame, fortune, reputation and earthly desires in pursuit of a kingdom not of this world.
Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 16:24-26, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
“If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honour, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?” ― David Livingstone, missionary to Africa
There are times when the missionary journey will result with the ultimate sacrifice, death. Death comes to us all but martyrdom befalls those who are chosen to pay the greatest price. There are places where you will be asked to go and paths you will be asked to tread where Christ simply is not welcome. You may encounter opposition, persecution, threats, spiritual warfare, and eventually, death. This should not come as a surprise when we read the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 3:12, "All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
“…..remember that God also buried his Son on the mission field.” ― Charles White, missionary to China
In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus speaks of the narrow and wide gates, “… For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
In conclusion, the compulsion to the mission field must be heavenly sent and earthly earned. That cliché runs true, “God doesn't call the equipped. God equips the called.” The Lord uses the trials of life to forge the missionary, like a blacksmith shaping iron in a furnace, into an instrument of His choosing. Obedience and sacrifice governs the effectiveness of that instrument.
Leonard Ravenhill asked the question, “Is what you are living for, worth Christ dying for?” Our answer to that question will determine our usefulness for God and how He uses us for His Kingdom.