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It’s easy to look at the ‘Greats’ of the Bible and see their feats, their faith and God working through them. We can read stories from our missionaries in the same way, seeing the influence they’re having for the gospel. Both our biblical heroes and missionaries are people who struggle, who can feel overwhelmed and out of their depth. But they are choosing to follow God’s calling to ‘make disciples of all nations’ wherever that leads them, because he is worth the cost.
W* lives in a creative access country and recently shared a recurrent conversation he has with himself:
“It’s a tough language to learn with a completely different, unfamiliar script. When it comes to learning a new language, people over 50 can’t really do it – old dogs can’t learn new tricks. Even if you learn it, how will you be able to talk about the things that matter most to people with any depth or fluency? Why would you attempt such madness?
“Why would you even attempt any of this? Because he is the God of the impossible.”
You’ve never done business before in your home country, and you expect to set up and run a business successfully in a foreign country in a foreign language. There are mountains of red-tape to negotiate and you must resist the temptation to take any shortcuts. As you run the business, you will have to allow time and space to build relationships with local people. It’s difficult enough in your home culture, but you expect that you will somehow manage to do it in another one? Sheer madness.
Whilst doing all this, you are also going to take a group of new people under your wing and mentor them into a lifetime of cross-cultural service. You will have to find, fix and furnish accommodation for them. They will write papers you will have to read. You will hold them accountable for learning language and culture. You will need to walk them through the complicated visa process. They may even struggle to get on with one another – and with you. Madness upon madness.
Accepting the cost
Living in the UK, perhaps many of us are insulated from the very real persecution happening across our world to those who choose to follow Jesus. Would you be prepared to face that cost?
From the top of a file of certificates of various training he had received, he handed me the certificate of which he was most proud – a certificate of release from prison. In a country which punishes anyone who ‘disturbs the faith of a Muslim’ with criminal penalties, it was hardly surprising. Robert does that every day of his life at enormous personal cost. It’s not just imprisonment. He finds it hard to get work because he is known as a follower of the Messiah in a place where most people think you have to be mentally imbalanced to do that. He is ostracised in his community. His children are discriminated against at school. But in all that he continues in cheerful boldness to declare the glories of his Saviour. That’s because he knows the blessedness of following in his Saviour’s footsteps. And to such belongs the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).
Somehow in the midst of all of this you will have to maintain a healthy family life. You will try to share the love of Christ indiscriminately, and you will have to communicate carefully because you will be under the ever-watchful eye of the security services. But you will also have to communicate clearly and boldly, because peoples’ eternal destiny depends on your doing so. Those same people won’t usually want to change their eternal destiny. In fact, the religious system which holds them in a vice-like grip expends enormous effort to inoculate them against your message. Impossible madness.
Why would you even attempt any of this? Because he is the God of the impossible. Because he has loved us. And we love him and he is infinitely worthy of great risks. Because he sent his only son to die that we might live, and he wants others to hear this from us. And, somehow, very imperfectly, often faltering and falling, we have begun doing these things – yet not us but him who works in us to accomplish his purposes.
Attempt great things for God; expect great things from him.