In between large mugs of fresh mint tea and a positive Rona test, I have been reading the meaty goodness of Ravenhill and Elliot and letting their old, simple wisdom convict and refresh my perceptions. One thing is clear, our missionary endeavors have drastically changed as technology has advanced and we’ve been able to board a plane and go. Short term trips have become a normal occasion, and the idea of a “calling” to foreign missions can be as simple as working from home and taking periodic trips to a destination we are emotionally invested in.
When David Livingstone left for Africa, or when Amy Carmichael settled in India they had already overcome significant fleshly hurdles like surrendering family and friends, and living among people they didn’t understand. Snail mail is a lot different than the Face-Time I can do with my little sister while I’m cooking in my Athens kitchen. They knew when they boarded the ship and set sail for a foreign land that they were giving their lives for the gospel, and some packed their supplies into coffins. We read the narrative of their lives and are fascinated at how God used them, and many times have no idea how far we are from complete surrender to the call of God.
I have a feeling the books we read about the Elliots and Carmichaels don’t necessarily represent the average day they lived or the very practical ways they followed Jesus. We tend to observe them from afar as heroes instead of joining them in obedience. It was simple acts of faithfulness that led Jim Elliot to his death, and Amy Carmichael to give her life for temple slaves. They were not extraordinary people but they obeyed an extraordinary God who gave them remarkable opportunities because they followed Him. It’s a little like Saul and David in the Bible who were out looking for donkeys and herding sheep when the anointing of the Lord showed up. David was just taking food to his soldier brothers when He met Goliath. Because he had been faithful in his sheep herding, He knew the faithfulness of God with the lion and the bear and was unafraid when the Goliath challenge came.
God can’t trust us with a Goliath opportunity when we’ve never been willing to herd the sheep, bring the food, and go search for the missing donkeys.
Often we find ourselves waiting for God to show up and “call” us to something we have a desire to do and begging for open doors in the exact mission opportunity we feel “led” to be involved in. We tend to think we’re the next best asset to a ministry because we know our strengths or understand our gifts and personality types when we can actually become a detriment because we haven’t learned how to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
Until we learn to be faithful with every opportunity God brings us in our daily lives, we won’t be of much use for Him elsewhere. I remember pacing restlessly at home waiting for my life to happen and really struggling to love the ones around me well. Little did I know that it was the mercy of God to teach me faithfulness before He let me loose into a world groaning for faithful women.
The purpose of life is not a grand calling, an elite mission, or a platform of influence but to faithfully bring the beauty of Jesus to the ones around us. Some days that may be your mother or a church member you struggle with. Making our calling practical is of utmost importance to our success because 99.9% of life has to do with scrubbing the last pot no one wants to scrub, cleaning a toilet no one wants to clean, and facing a conflict no one wants to face. The other 0.01% is perhaps the “highs” of life in ministry when we are leading someone to Christ and seeing tangibly the transformative work of the gospel.
We will never be truly fulfilled if we don’t learn the absolute joy of faithful service. It will destroy your perfect schedule, wrench away your rights, and leave you breathless on your knees some days but it is the only way to truly live. You will find yourself bent over mountains of dishes, splattered toilets, and angry faces but you will literally meet the kingdom of God coming to earth through the seemingly insignificant “yes” you say to Jesus.
Many time our preconceived ideas of what ministry is keep us from experiencing the absolute joy of what ministry actually is. If you have not learned to say the faithful yes in your daily life you will never be fruitful in a different place. Many times we are so full of boundaries and self-talk that the small requests from God just get a shrug or no from us. How can He trust us to win exploits for Him when He cannot trust us to love the person beside us?
The paradox of the gospel is that it is in dying that we live, in surrendering we find joy, and in service that we lead. If our boundaries are keeping us from selflessness and our “learning to say no” is hindering us from experiencing the power of God then it’s time to seriously re-evaluate what it means to be a Christian. We have often been conditioned to accept our “brokenness” by accepting our weeping and complaining and never get over ourselves enough to see Him properly. Instead of seeing ourselves in relation to His crucifixion, we demand others to accept us as we are.
In an age that garners respect from degrees and position from titles and bios, it is paramount that we always return to the voice of God. The voice of culture will give you every excuse to live small and tuneless lives always waiting for the call to happen. The voice of self will distract you with emotion and confuse you with desires. The voice of others will either promote you on a tipsy platform of performance, or leave you howling in a pit of despair.
But the voice of God calls gently, persistently, and always leads us to clarity and fulfillment. It may not wake you up in the night and tell you to embark a plane to India, but it will gently nudge you to love in the face of hatred, be patient in affliction, and overcome evil with good. If He calls us to a foreign destination we will have practiced tuning in to His voice and faithfully responding. It’s like Jim Elliot said, “So many missionaries, intent on doing something forget that His main work is to make something of them.”
The purpose of women of faith is not to understand each other or to find our identity in a spiritual gift or specific calling but to bring the kingdom of heaven to the chaos around us through faithful acts of obedience.
Called to what?
That’s the question many of us face as we restlessly lift our faces to Jesus, waiting for Him to fulfill our desires. When He answers by giving us a challenge or trial we may turn away because we don’t want to be called to that, never recognizing that the small opportunities are really the grand calling after all. His is a call to surrender, worship, and faithfulness. When we surrender everything we are to His purposes and raise our voice in worship for who He is, we cannot help but faithfully do what He tells us to do regardless of the outcomes. It’s a little like Peter and John, just fishing along and suddenly leaving their nets and following Jesus knowing very little about what they would do and where they would go.
His call leads us to crucifixion and in that death we really begin to live.
Maybe today you feel a little lost looking for donkeys like Saul did, or alone out in the hills herding sheep like David was, but remember it was in their faithful obscurity that the anointing of the Lord showed up. When we move our feet and respond to His nudging, God absolutely shows up to make His plan clear.
Called to what? Called to being nobodies so the person of Jesus can be exalted. Called to surrender our own desires so we can make His plans our own. Called to worship Him in our “smallness” so the greatness of His glory can shine! Called to faithful obedience through thousands of beautiful little acts that bring His kingdom to a shattered earth.
Called to that.
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