One of the great gifts of social media is the ability to gain access to great preachers and teachers from across the world.
Two particular leaders/teachers that I follow are Dr David Sills (the President of Reaching and Teaching Ministries and Professor of Mission at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) and Dr John Piper (the Chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary and Founder/Teacher at Desiring God).
In the past two weeks, both of these man posted about two missionaries respectively, Adoniram Judson and Jim Elliot, and I just wanted to briefly summarise some of the principles of what they shared and explain why this has really been hitting home for me.
In both of Sills’ image post and Piper’s blog, three things in particular stand out.
i) Both Judson and Elliot knew what they were in for.
Judson knew what overseas mission work entailed and instead of hiding the truths, he came out completely honest with his future father-in-law. One would say that Judson drove a pretty hard sell to ask Hasseltine for his daughter’s hand in marriage, but it is clear that Judson was not under some illusion that his future married and ministry would be easy.
Similarly, Elliot knew what he was in for. Word on the street is that missionaries of the past would pack their belongings in a coffin for a one-way mission trip because they knew that whether they live or die, this was their calling. I’m not sure if Elliot led his family in a similar practice, but the truth about the group that he was reaching was not hidden.
ii) Despite the realities of the future difficulties, both Judson and Elliot were unashamed and confident in the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here is the kicker. Not many run towards danger. In fact, it is quite counterintuitive to run towards danger. Yet this is exactly the direction that these men led their families towards.
This is crazy because this runs against the grain of the narrative that we’re being sold in a world driven by materialism which says that your comfort and my comfort is king. Comfort and security is instinctive for most of us because that is the place we find our worth, stability, and value. But this is especially so for those who have grown up in Asian backgrounds where comfort and security is the ultimate dream! In fact, it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to say that it is our common idol.
Yet, it is clear that Judson and Elliot thought of these things too worthless and little compared to the immeasurable riches and richness of God’s glory and His mission.
We all like to quote Elliot saying ‘he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what we cannot lose’ but not many of us like living it. Not many of us like to give what we cannot keep because we think it cannot be lost.
But you see, for them, it wasn’t that material possessions weren’t valuable. It was just that God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is infinitely more valuable. And as such, He is worth everything that we’ve got because it is because of God that this world has meaning and because of the Gospel that we have life.
iii) They could face the truth with courage because they knew their end goal
They say knowing the ending to a book or movie changes the way you read or watch that movie because you begin to pay attention to things that are important and ignore things that are peripheral.
In a similar way, I believe that Judson and Elliot had the courage to face the truths and realities of their hardships because they knew the end to their story and God’s story. Sure, Judson didn’t know that the approximated 100 churches and 8000 believers that he left in Burma after his death would expand exponentially and Elliot didn’t know that the very people who murdered him would undergo an incredible life transformation or that his story would continue inspire hundreds and thousands believers and missionaries after him.
But the one thing they knew and had confidence in was that God was in control and that because of Christ’s ultimate victory on the cross, victory was their end.
Imagine running a race knowing with certainty that you will win as long as you run well. That means that every step that you make, every puddle that you jump through (or into), every cramp that you try to shake off, and every fall that you stumble into is just another step forward towards victory. There is no fear that none of this is worth it. In fact, it just makes that future taste of victory even greater.
So here is the reminder for me. This is me talking to myself and you’re welcome to listen in.
i) The life of discipleship is not easy
There is a reason Bonhoeffer called his book ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ because he knew that following Christ would be costly (and man, did Bonhoeffer know that).
Sure, the ‘cost’ looks different in varied contexts and circumstances. But in a world that continues to value material comfort and security, saying ‘no’ to them for the sake of Gospel centred values will cost. It is not that being Gospel centred means a sort of poverty theology. But let’s be honest, our standards of comfort today is far beyond what is necessary.
It will cost you your pride, it will cost you your stability, it will cost you your relationships.
But if the ultimate cost of sin has already been paid, then nothing for God (who is concerned for our joy and sanctification) is really costly then is it?
ii) The Gospel is worth it
I am often asked a question to this effect ‘why have you given up your prospects for a great job and life for a life of ministry instead?’
On my bad days, I’ll ask myself the same question. I’ll genuinely wonder if I’d be doing other things that I’m also passionate about while continuing to faithfully serve God with what I have. Because let’s face it, that is a great life. To be able to have an occupation from Monday to Friday and serve God throughout without being a financial burden to the church is a great thing. That is a great calling and is something that all Christians are called to do.
But on my better days, I am reminded of the world’s desperate need for the Gospel and the church’s need for pastoral leadership, and subsequently, the need for good and godly pastors. On my better days, I am reminded that the Gospel is worth it and is the only power that saves, and I am reminded that it needs to continue to go forth through ‘every Christians’ who have been trained by pastors to take this truth from the corners of their offices to the ends of the earth. So on my better days, I am reminded that for me, the pastorate is the greatest ‘job’ in the world and that I haven’t given up anything at all.
iii) My future is secured
I am competitive. Which means that I will sometimes avoid a competition if I know that I will lose. It is the same reason why I’ve never arm wrestled my fiance because I’d rather not know the outcome.
But here is a race that I’m willing to run – a race that I know ends in victory, a race that ends with Christ returning to renew the entire creation where all who have placed their trust, hope, and obedience in Christ will be raised to live in eternity with God forever.
So Christian, if our future is secure, then what do we have that we cannot give to our God almighty? If our future is secure and we know that our Heavenly Father loves us in every season and situation of our lives, shouldn’t we be unafraid and unashamed to give all to Him who has given us His all?