Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Strength for the journey

Short-term missionaries wonder what in the world they're doing on their spiritual journey. What is it? Can we prepare for it by what we pack, both materially and spiritually? Once we’re on the road, where do we turn or stop? Is there a goal or place, or is the journey itself the “destination?” Can we even read the road signs correctly? Does the missionary journey begin with a plane ticket, or is it an experience we can have in our everyday lives? What does God want me to do? How will He change me? How can the Creator of the universe use little ole me to stimulate eternal change in the lives of others?

One evangelism speaker was a little disappointed because he expected more visitors (non-church members) to turn out for the evening meetings. What he didn’t see from the stage, was the faithful “church ladies” in the first three rows, eagerly soaking up every word, enrapt at the gospel of grace they may have forgotten or never seen in that light. Those ladies have been changed by God’s work in that man.

There is absolutely nothing like the knowledge that at this moment, in this place, God is using you. He has a way of making it very intimate and personal, as if you were the only one among the countless trillions of life forms He’s creating and sustaining, on whom He’s lavishing His love and grace.

During personal devotions, I listened through earphones to “His Strength is Perfect,” by Steven Curtis Chapman. When we’re feeling worn out by the long days and short nights of the missionary journey, this 20-year-old song reminds us that

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect.

The lyrics are based on scripture: “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13 NIV.

God is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20 NIV.

If anyone knew about missionary journeys, it was the apostle Paul. He was even on a mission to kill Christians when God called him, stopped him, and turned him onto a different road. And then, when Paul was physically restrained from travel, he wrote long letters of teaching and encouragement to his flock. No one can estimate the millions of people since who have heard God’s compassion, mercy, grace, and peace through Paul’s writings. In fact, in Paul’s weakness, infirmities, discomfort, grief, and confinement, God created strength, health and vitality, comfort, joy, and freedom for Paul’s soul and ours.

Not only does God “fix” what is broken, He creates anew. He restores us to the perfect condition for which we were created. In God’s eyes, we are already perfect because He has given us His perfection when we accepted Him. He emptied heaven’s vaults to make us rich with His love.

So where does that leave those missionaries on the journey? None of us knows the answers to all those questions at the top, except God. We are all held firmly and safely in God’s hand.

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