WHAT IS A MISSIONARY?
"I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light" — John Keith Falconer
The word implies a person with a mission. Of course every follower of Jesus should be on His mission, but in the generally accepted definition a missionary is a person whose full time job is evangelism on some level. And usually we mean someone who has gone to another country to bring the gospel to people in need. They might include those who preach as well as a long list of support people who might help with their children, help with their finances, help with certain governmental issues, or even people who help with language issues. The missionary network is filled with people working together to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.
Many of these believers sacrifice a chance at lucrative careers as they surrender to a call of the Spirit which sometimes sends them to far flung corners of the world and sometimes dangerous places as well. They selflessly train and raise support and are questioned by some missionary organization. Many times their own families are confused and speak against such a fanciful adventure. You see even the preparation for going is a great challenge. But if you truly believe you have heard the Spirit’s call then you must go. And they do.
"To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map." — William Carey, pioneer missionary to India
Being a missionary is not like holding a great outdoor crusade and enjoying the affirmation of great crowds and many converts. In fact many missionaries do not embrace such methods since it seems they are used for fund raising and lining the pockets of American preachers. No one is filming their labors and then using that film to elicit funds. They have seen the pictures of black children shown on television screens and then the dollars come pouring in. Most missionaries want no part of that kind of “mission” efforts.
But in the pantheon of missionaries throughout the church age there are well known stories of sacrifice and courage and yet there are tens of thousands of stories that only God knows. There is Jim Elliot and the five missionaries who left everything in order to reach a lost tribe in South America and in so doing five men lost their lives. There was David Livingston who gave his heart to central Africa and died praying on his knees. There is Hudson Taylor who lost his wife to illness but who opened the door to China. There are many, many more stories.
"Sympathy is no substitute for action." — David Livingstone, missionary to Africa
Just recently we have seen where a missionary in Libya was murdered. He and his family had gone to bring Jesus to that mostly Muslim country and God had imparted a love for those people. He was murdered while riding his bicycle and we watched as his widow offered forgiveness and a prayer for redemption for his killers. And then we watched as a family who had sold everything went to southern Sudan to bring Jesus to them. They had fallen in love and were ministering to ten orphans (there are millions of orphans in Africa) but civil unrest sprung up again and they were forced to leave. They were heartbroken as they left the orphans at a UN camp and were forced to leave.
There are many stories of supreme faithfulness and even martyrdom all across the world. I knew a missionary couple from my home church at the time who were called to Pakistan and share Jesus in a very dangerous country. On one Sunday morning they were in a church service singing praises to our Lord when terrorists threw a few hand grenades right into the congregation. Some people were killed, and the mother was seriously wounded and their 8 year old boy was critically wounded. His life was in the balance for months but eventually he lived. The mother will walk with a noticeable limp for the rest of her life.
"Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell." — C. T. Studd
During a missionary conference the father stood up with his family and thanked everyone for their prayers and love and support. And he once again proclaimed the mighty grace of God. He asked for future prayers because they were returning to the mission field. Can you imagine such a thing? What kind of illogical nonsense is this? This, my friends, is not nonsense. This is the love of God in action. As Jim Elliot once wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
I have been saddened by some of the responses I have read concerning the plight of missionaries. Some have suggested they should have more wisdom before going into dangerous places, and some have suggested they think about what they have here in America before giving it all up. But you see, those do not know just how sacred are these men and women of God who have the same feet of clay as do all of us but who have left comforts in order to serve Christ and His gospel.
Matt.19: 29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
I hold missionaries in a special place in my heart. And I believe if we could see just how attached we are to comfortable living and just how glorious our Savior is, then we would have a missionary’s heart. God bless all true and faithful missionaries who have not only left the easy way in order to spread the Word, but who have placed their own lives in jeopardy in order to serve the Risen Christ and reach those for whom Christ died.
"We talk of the Second Coming; half the world has never heard of the first." — Oswald J. Smith