Visionary missionary …?
I have a diary from when I was 17-18; it is a notebook of my hopes and dreams as a young Christian. There is one entry that sounds particularly sentimental, introspective and somewhat pompous.
We had just had a visiting speaker at our school’s Christian Union who spoke about his travels in Africa setting up mission stations, running Sunday schools, and converting villagers to Christianity. He was a charismatic speaker and my young heart thumped with excitement at the possibility of being God’s servant in far-flung corners of the world. That night I wrote, at the end of a very long and smug summing-up of my good points: “I will pursue the vision of being a missionary, as I feel that it is God’s calling for me …”
For all my well-intentioned daydreaming, it wasn’t long before I became discouraged. I soon found out that my “holier than thou” approach to evangelising needed a lot more depth than mere good intentions. I knew a lot of scripture (I had studied Religious Knowledge at A level) – I could quote the synoptic gospels, and I could explain the promises that had been fulfilled from the major and minor prophets in the Old Testament – and yet I was powerless to stop losing my temper, feeling sorry for myself, getting upset, and harbouring resentful thoughts. I knew that living this way didn’t reflect what I read in Acts and the rest of the New Testament. Despite all the knowledge that I had, I felt like a wretch, and had no clear idea of what God actually needed from me.
Close to home
Although I was a superficial spiritual know-it-all, God gradually drew me into a closer relationship with Him that was based on me listening to Him and humbling myself. Even so, I still spent some time daydreaming; I could think of several roles I could perform competently within my own, and enjoy doing.
The point I was so slow to understand was this: Theneeds willing workers, but it’s not up to me how God will use me – I can’t decide to be a hand when God needs me as a foot. I will not be of any use if I struggle to be something that God has not shaped me to be.
“But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” 1 Corinthians 12:18.
In the end, I found my mission field to be closer to home, and having responsibility for children humbled me because I soon discovered how quickly my nature could come up. But the important thing was that the pathway God had planned for me was in order to shape me – theand disappointments and anguish that I faced taught me about my own life, and about God’s goodness.
It’s God who decides
God doesn’t need people that can see themselves as missionaries, or evangelists, or teachers. These roles come out of a life that God Himself has shaped into something that He requires. What God requires is that we live our lives in the light and that we judge ourselves and resist. If we are in this process, then we become the sort of material that He can use – not before.
And when we live in this process of beingthen something wonderful happens, even without us noticing. We get shaped into something useful; we become His tools – willing to be picked up and used, but just as willing to be left quietly on the shelf if there is no immediate use for us.
One thing is for sure: whatever God’s intention for us is, as Christians who judge ourselves and keep our hearts pure, we are a constant immeasurable force for good within the body of Christ wherever we are, whatever we are.
“A sound heart brings life to the body …” Proverbs 14:30.
You may be interested in reading more about being a missionary right where you are on our topic page about Representing Christianity, or in the articles below. If you enjoyed this commentary, you may also like these other articles written by Maggie Pope.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.