Since arriving here, we are becoming increasingly aware of the tremendous spiritual and physical needs that surround us. The task of physically reaching the unreached, and contextualizing the Gospel in a cultural appropriate way, is simply monumental. The darkness is getting darker, and more difficult to penetrate, as the enemy is becoming more aggressive and more brazen in his tactics. Using all manner of strategies—terrorism, radicalism, hatred, materialism, greed, and isolation, the devil is successfully creating confusion, fear, and apathy among the lost and the redeemed alike. The prince of this age is doubling down in his efforts and tightening his grip on his territory. You don’t have to be a missionary and live in Africa to sense this. Regardless of where you may live, and what you may do, you can sense the increasing friction that I am speaking about. There is a battle that is being fought now between spiritual kingdoms, but a greater conflict is coming, and I believe it is coming soon! Like two great tectonic plates, beginning ever so slightly to shift below the earth’s crust, these subtle, spiritual tremors, that are being felt now all around the world, are simply a prelude to another massive earthquake that will rock the very foundation upon which we have built our lives. In Romans, Paul speaks of this and describes it in this way:
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Romans 8:19-22)
In light of this present reality, what should the appropriate response be for the Christ follower? What are we to do, and how are we to do it? These are the questions that we should be asking as individuals and as communities of believers. The kinds of questions that we need to be talking about over our grande, skinny-vanilla lattes, among our small groups, and discussing with our children over the dinner table. As the end of this physical world draws near, whether the end is tomorrow or 1000 years from now, the end of my life and yours, is just around the corner. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) This harsh reality, combined with the global and spiritual situation that we find ourselves in, should not create fear or resignation for the believer, but a rather a sense of urgency and great purpose. The kind of urgency and passion that filled the bellies of Joshua and Caleb when they reported of the promise land: “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it! (Numbers 13:30)
I know we are weary of hearing it, but we are engaged in a battle. In fact one of Satan’s greatest tactics is to deceive and distract us from this reality. For if we’re not aware, then we won’t properly prepare. If we don’t prepare, then we won’t be ready for what lies ahead. And if we’re not ready for what lies ahead, we will be easily overwhelmed and destroyed when the battle is no longer just on the other side of the world, but rather when it is being waged in our own backyards.
There comes a time in everybody’s life when they are confronted with some difficult personal questions. Questions of purpose and priority. Questions about life, love, and worth. For most of us, these questions are constantly being asked and the answers regularly being re-evaluated. I know I haven’t always gotten things right. In fact, if I am being honest with myself, most of the time I get the answers wrong, or I simply don’t have the personal resolve and self discipline to live out the right answers consistently. Perhaps I’m not alone? Maybe you struggle with these things too.
As a pilot, I am unfortunately familiar with aviation accident reports. As tragic and heartless as it may seem, a great deal can be learned from objectively evaluating an accident—looking at the who, what, why, and how questions at play when things go terribly wrong. Often the NTSB likes to describe events that happen as a “chain of events” with each small action, variable, or decision, as a small, but critically important “link” in the chain. Most of the time, the difference between an accident, and just another day at the airport, boils down to just one or two variables. Seemingly insignificant, and isolated from the whole, these individual links connect a chain of events together and lead to an accident. In an accident investigation, each link in the “chain of events” is given the highest priority, scrutinized, and evaluated. Each link is incredibly valuable.
Another way, and perhaps, a much simpler way of communicating the point, is that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Cheesy and over used, I know, but an incredibly important truth none the less. A long chain with just a few weak links isn’t going to be very effective, whether your trying anchor a ship or pull tractor out of a mud hole. Weak links equal broken chains, and broken chains aren’t good for any real work.
God is moving. He’s at work in the world. Using His church and His people to implement His strategy for reconciliation. He doesn't have to use us, but that’s how He has chosen to do it. He is working for His glory and our blessing at the same time. That’s an unbelievable statement and yet entirely correct! As overwhelming as the task can seem to us and as intimidating as the enemy may appear, our God is more than able in this present struggle. And as much as it’s not about us, I believe that it’s entirely up to us (His church, His bride, His body) to do what He as asked us to do.
“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:21-25)
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”—Jesus (John 14:23-24)
“So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17)
Now I don’t want to make all by Reformed Baptist friends to start squirming in their seats, but rather I want to encourage us to take a long hard look at ourselves in light of these scriptures. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will be held accountable for for our actions, decisions, and yes, for how we choose to live our short lives here on earth. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) I have said before, that we are tools in God’s hands—that He can use us to accomplish His will on earth. And while I still believe that lives surrendered to God are tools for Him to use, I think I may have overstated our significance. As individuals we are not single tools, we are simply “links” in the chain. To the right and to the left, we are joined with others in this fight. Each link is incredibly significant. Each link has tremendous value, and each link entirely necessary to get the job done!
I guess that’s ultimately the point of all this. I started out by expressing how aware we have become personally of the tremendous spiritual and physical needs surrounding us. Each day we are confronted with another threat, another evacuation, extreme poverty, and the spiritual darkness of those living without Christ—specifically those living under the deception of Islam. I came over here thinking my role was really important, and although I still believe that it is, I am increasingly aware of how important every role is in God’s Kingdom. We are here because others have sent us here. Individuals and families who have sacrificially given from their own resources so that we can serve in missions full-time. That’s humbling and inspiring and convicting all at the same time. We are here to serve others. To provide a safe and reliable service to those living in some of the harshest, war ravaged corners of the world. Providing them with valuable resources: tools essential to their ministry, but also with lemons and lettuce to help keep them thriving and refreshed.
As we live life here in Africa, and serve in this role as “missionary”, we can look in both directions and see others standing and serving with us. Yet for everybody that we can see, there are countless others that we will never know, or ever interact with who are standing too. Both past, present, and future, Christ-followers fighting this battle one day at a time just as we are. It’s an awesome privilege to be in such company. A company not of heroes, but a company of the heroically faithful.
So let’s get going. Let’s keep going. Let’s get the job done, together!
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)