If you wanted to be a missionary, what country would you choose to serve in? Would you choose a new church plant or a support role? How would your spouse and your children influence those decisions? Would your decision be swayed at all by the success stories you have heard or by the fact that this might be an easier place to serve?
Missions is exciting. Hearing the stories of missionaries who have served overseas can sound fun and adventurous. Sometimes they are a bit shocking, but these stories are thrilling nonetheless.
We recently welcomed a new class of students who are eagerly anticipating their year and a half of training. They are excited about missions and the work that God is doing around the world. Though the classroom was filled with students ready to embark on this journey, instead of a thrilling session on the joys of what missions entails, we listened to the reality that suffering is normal.
As believers in Jesus Christ, we have signed up for anything but an easy life. The reality is that when we decide to follow Jesus, we now follow a different Master and our adversary the Devil will do all he can to discourage us and distract us from this way of life. And what better way than causing us as believers to suffer? Suffering is normal. It is to be expected. Yet we are not to become discouraged and lose heart.
Over the summer, I have pondered the commitment of the disciples to spread the good news of Jesus no matter what the cost. Listen to what Jesus told His disciples:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me…I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.“
-John 15:18-21, 16:33 (NIV)
Jesus told His disciples that they would be hated because they no longer belong to the world. They belong to God. Indeed, later on we see that “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41) Through all these hardships, they never stopped preaching that Jesus was the Christ.
Throughout our time in training, our teachers never mince the reality that this missionary life we have chosen is difficult. It will be challenging. Jesus promised suffering. Yet the apostles give example after example of the ways they pressed on through torture, hunger, loneliness, imprisonments, and death for the sake of the gospel. As Paul states:
“Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.“
-Philippians 3:7-8 (NIV)
Ethnos too has a history full of men and women who have recognized that Christ is indeed worth suffering for.
“The record of the early history of NTM was of men and women that sensed the urgency & the mindset of: ‘whatever it takes’ we must go now. An outstanding quality of the early builders of NTM was the fire in their hearts for the lost. As we lose the spirit of urgency, we become more concerned about our reputation, our abilities and in being safe and comfortable in doing the job.”
These missionaries sensed the urgency and went no matter what pain was involved. May we too, take up the torch, embrace suffering as normal and commit our lives to see the gospel go forth.