“In missionary work the great danger is that God’s call will be replaced by the needs of the people, to the point that human sympathy for those needs will absolutely overwhelm the meaning of being sent by Jesus. The needs are so enormous, and the conditions so difficult, that every power of the mind falters and fails. We tend to forget that the one great reason underneath all missionary work is not primarily the elevation of the people, their education, nor their needs, but is first and foremost the command of Jesus Christ— ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . .'”
~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
There is no doubt that the physical needs of the poor are very great, and in many places life threatening, but these needs should never supersede the preaching of the Gospel. There are plenty of NGOs that can dig wells and deliver bags of rice… and I’m not denying that Christians can and should do that as well… but what the NGOs can’t do is to save the soul from eternal death.
Yes, we should be “giving a cup of cold water in my name” and expressing our faith through our actions, but it should never be without the message of God’s forgiveness which brings spiritual hope and eternal life to dead souls. It is not a one or the other proposal, but indeed one is more necessary than the other. One is more vitally important, in the Grand Scheme of things. One has eternal significance, the other temporal. We should never forget that the message of the Cross IS a spring of living water welling up inside of all who receive Jesus’s words. Come to Jesus, all who hunger and thirst! Come and be filled, forever.
“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ” Revelation 7:17
Taken from Oswald Chamber’s “My Utmost for His Highest”. Emphasis mine.
We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself… What people call preparation, God calls the goal.
Process is not something that anyone really enjoys, most of the time. We are very often so focused on the destination, that we forget to stop and smell the roses along the way… or roll in the poison ivy along the way of some routes. God has a purpose for us along the way. It involves the death of our own ideas about how things should be done or what the end result will look like. For me, language school was the first intense dying to myself process that I had ever really experienced. Before, I could control most of what happened in my life. But once I was put into a new culture with a new language, I had no handles to steer with. I had to take my hands off the wheel and let God do the steering.
Stripping of pride, laying down of conveniences, forgetting my own identity, and adjusting my values were just a small part of the process that happened as I learned to conjugate Spanish verbs. When I nearly had a panic attack at the thought of ordering pizza over the phone, I hit an all-time low. What is God doing with THIS kind of process? Crushing, refining, purifying, kneading and reforming are all words that come to mind.
Probably many of you have heard this illustration before… but it’s worth sharing again.
As a butterfly struggles to push out of its cocoon, it squeezes itself through a tiny opening at the bottom of the confining sack. It pushes and struggles and takes a long time. Its body bloated with transforming fluids, it presses through the little hole and this forces the fluids into the wings. The fluids help the wet, crumpled new wings to spread and dry straight and strong.
If some compassionate person were to come along and see this great struggle, they might be tempted to free the butterfly from its confinement and thus bypass the work and struggle of emerging from the cocoon. But if that happens, the wings will never fill and spread. The fat, bloated body will never fly with purposeful grace. That act of compassion would be seen as cruelty. The butterfly MUST go through a process in order to live and thrive. It can not take short cuts. Struggle and pain are part of the plan, part of the process.
It is this way with us. God has a plan for us and sometimes it involves suffering for a “moment”. Think of the Children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. They learned through that process that they could trust God to take care of them, to fight for them, to lead them, to heal them, to provide for them, and to speak to them. What if they had taken the short cut and gone straight to the Promised Land. They would have never had their terrifying and glorious Red Sea experience. They would have remained butterflies with crippled, crumpled spiritual wings. They would have never thrived in Trusting the Lord.
What process are you pushing through right now? Embrace the slow and painful growth. Focus less on the end result and more on the path you are on. Process is the purpose.
“For some people their apprehension about stepping out in faith is really a fear of failure. They do not do what God has called them to because they are afraid they may not succeed. Listen carefully. When God calls you to something, He is not always calling you to succeed, He’s calling you to obey! The success of the calling is up to Him; the obedience is up to you.” ~David Wilkerson
The Kingdom of God has been rightfully called “The Upside-Down Kingdom”. It’s like stepping through Alice’s Looking Glass into a place where the first are last, and the meek inherit the land, and to be the greatest you must be the servant. Everything we know in the world is turned on its head… including the standard of Success.
Would it shock you to learn that God is not at all interested in your personal success? Joel Osteen has it all wrong. In this Upside-Down place, God is more interested in the Process of making you who he wants you to be than in making you a successful person. He’s more interested in crushing and squeezing you to make you into sweet wine. He may call you to do something which will look like failure in the eyes of the world. He sent Joseph to Egypt as a slave. He sent Paul to Rome in chains. He banished John to a remote island. Why? Because He had a purpose which required this kind of process.
Joseph was to be the source of rescue for his family years later when a drought ravaged the land. Paul was chained to a Roman guard so he would settle down and write the letters of the New Testament. And John was sitting quietly in a cave when the Revelation was given to him. All of these men had to accept what looked like failure in order to achieve the calling.
“[The call of God] has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but with being made broken bread and poured-out wine. Yet God can never make us into wine if we object to the fingers He chooses to use to crush us. We say, ‘If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way, then I wouldn’t object!’ But when He uses someone we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, to crush us, then we object. Yet we must never try to choose the place of our own martyrdom. If we are ever going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed—you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.” ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.