For years missionaries seemed to me to belong to a supernatural realm. Lower than the angels, and yet far above the average human being. If Christian believers were the children of God, then surely that breed called missionaries must be the favourite children of the Father. I devoured missionary biographies in grade school, feasting on the miraculous stories of Taylor and Carmichael, gripped by the tragedy of Carey and Elliot. I was enamoured, but I was not inspired. I enjoyed their stories, and through them my faith grew, but I never aspired to attain their position in the supposed hierarchy of God's children. Never was it assumed that I could choose to take on such a task, such a level of spiritual superiority. Then I was called.
The unbelievable happened. The Lord clearly called me to serve him in the capacity of a missionary. I had been called to join the ranks of the larger-than-life individuals whose stories I had consumed as a child. Nevertheless, while I accepted the call I was still of the mindset that it was only through divine appointment that one might be included in the group of saints wearing the missionary badge of honour. I was blessed, and blown away, to be considered worthy to join them on mission for the whole of my life. Over the past several weeks, though, I have come to realize that I, and they, are not nearly as special as I had made us out to be.
Eight weeks ago I began taking a missions class with my Mom. Being "called" as I was, I was looking forward to what I would read and learn, but I was not near ready for the things the Lord wold begin to reveal to me. This week, we were assigned an article by Samuel Zwemer that laid out a challenge to continue what former missionaries have begun, and to reach those with the Gospel who have never before heard. Toward the middle of the article I read the following, and a whole new world was instantly opened to me.
Is there a more heroic test for the powers of manhood than pioneer work in the mission field? Here is opportunity for those who at home may never find elbow-room for their latent capacities, who may never find adequate scope elsewhere for all the powers of their minds and their souls. There are hundreds of Christian college men who expect to spend life in practicing law or in some trade for a livelihood, yet who have strength and talent enough to enter these unoccupied [mission] fields. There are young doctors who might gather around them in some new mission station thousands of those who "suffer the horrors of heathenism and Islam," and lift their burden of pain, but who now confine their efforts to some "pent-up Utica" where the healing art is subject to the law of competition and is measured too often merely in terms of a cash-book and ledger. They are making a living; they might be making a life.
Zwemer uses the example of young doctors, but any example could be used. Put your occupation, or potential occupation, into his example. Perhaps you are a computer programmer, a journalist, or an architect. Perhaps you are an aspiring engineer, singer, or nurse. Are you using the gifts and talents God has given you to simply make a living, or will you surrender your talents to Him and allow Him to help you make a life? The missionary call is not for a select few who have proven themselves of a higher spiritual substance than the rest of God's children. For followers of Jesus Christ the missionary call is a universal call. When Christ said to his followers, "Go, and make disciples of all nations," he did not include any limitations. No qualifier was used to supplement his command, He simply said to go, and he would be with us.
Bishop Phillips Brooks said,
Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men (and women). Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.
God has given us a task, the task of evangelizing the world in preparation for His return. The glory of our God is at stake! Will we rob Him of glory by making a living? Or with His righteous right hand upholding us will we follow him to the ends of the earth in order to make a life? The task has been set forth, the command given, the call extended to every true follower of Christ. The choice is yours: selfless obedience, or selfish disobedience.
Lord, my prayer is that all who have been called by your name and included in your household of faith will respond in faithful obedience to this call. May we all employ the talents you have blessed us with in the making of a life, a life that brings you ultimate glory. We are called to be set apart from a world whose foremost task is the making of a living, the making of themselves. May your kingdom come with rapidity as we put aside ourselves in reckless pursuit of you. Amen.
I hope to expound on this idea in the future, as I continue my prayer and research. May it be shown that only in mission can our God-given potential be full realized.