Now, perhaps you are wondering how can I become more obedient and faithful when I just cannot see the road ahead? Perhaps, you have tried hard in our motivations or support development or your service on the mission field and feel frustrated? Perhaps you may have given up; perhaps, you may need to see how your spiritual and prayer life is going? Remember, it is easier to watch a three-hour football game than read the Scripture for five minutes. Perhaps, you can hang with friends all day, but never show the character of a Christian or open your mouth to tell them about the Lord. Now you are wondering if I can do this overseas? Perhaps, you are confused and frustrated and do not know where to begin. Perhaps, you are doing well in the areas of being bold and having courage; you love the Lord, but you just cannot seem to witness. You are wondering, what do I do? Is there a plan for me to overcome my fear? Yes, there is!
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." Mark 16:15
Basically, the plan for overcoming fear is both simple, and yet, difficult. What God has for us is easy. He even says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). In addition, God will never send you where He will not equip and call you too, and even give you a desire and a joy for the peoples you will reach! This is simple in theory yet difficult in practice. The problem comes when we add to it our fears, bad experiences, feelings that we cannot compete with others, or we just get too comfortable to move from that comfort zone. These fears imprison us like an old, iron, animal trap, to the point that some Christians would rather chew their ankle off than dare to witness. They only see the trap and its pain; they do not see His plan, the lever that removes it from us. We can remove the fear! The plan, in one word, is commitment, which builds our confidence. When we are committed, the rest is easy!
There is one quintessential aspect of what makes a person a good witness and missionary. And, that is, confidence in your faith! It has been my experience and observation that people who are good missionaries are confident in their faith. They know they have the Good News. They know that they are in Him. They know Jesus, not just as a Savior, but also as LORD! He is everything to them. Is He Lord of your life? This means He is your confidence, which produces your self-confidence and self-assurance to proclaim Him. This realization of the supremacy of Christ and His love for us impacts and fuels us to proclaim Jesus to others. Because they know His power and impact, these witnesses of the Lord show it to others. In my life, my effectiveness is directly correlated to my walk and my prayer life. That is why building our faith is paramount before you venture out for the faith. We cannot reach out until we have something to reach with, and that something is our faith. The extent of our trust and obedience to Him becomes the power that helps sway others. Telling someone about Christ is not like selling toasters. Telling others the promise of life everlasting is the real and imperative stuff of the Christian life. If He is your Lord and Love, and the most important entity in your life, are you showing it to others where you are now? If you get a new job, you tell all of your friends. Is not Christ so much more influential and valuable than the greatest job you could ever wish for? Then, what is stopping your life from being His display?
See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 1 John 2:24
God's purpose and plan is to make us His children. He is the good parent who guides His children and protects them. At the same time, He does not over- protect them so they lose out on life's opportunities to please Him to the ultimate good. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to be our Advocate before the Father. He is to make every experience work for the glory and purpose of God, no matter what we face in pain, suffering, and/or hardships, He will lead us. The big picture is that we are destined for eternity and not for this world. While we are here temporarily, we are looking to the hope we have now and to come. Christ will see us through if we trust Him and obey His way. When we understand this in a deep way, we are able to trust in our Lord through all things. We can grow through our perseverance, becoming stronger and more mature in the faith. Just think how your life would be transformed merely by changing your perceptions from what you see in front of you to seeing Christ in front of you!
Hope and Guidance
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 2 Corinthians 11: 24
Even in the mist of dire circumstances, as with Paul in 2 Corinthians 11: 23-29, we can have hope beyond hope. We can have God Himself directing our path. This life is only a small wrinkle in time, a mere rehearsal of what is to come in the vastness of eternity. We are made for Heaven and our life here is a classroom experience to learn and grow closer to God and those around us, and to be our best for His glory. What we have or do not have, what we gain or what we give up is of no comparison to what is to come in eternity. Our hope is not here in this world; it is still to come. We have not yet experienced our true life; it is still to come. Thus, we should not get frustrated or lose faith. God is our hope, so we can still persevere in and through all things. God has given us His Spirit to be our Comforter and Guide. In doing so, He enables us to have greater trust and perseverance through good times and bad-as long as our eyes are upon Him!
So, What Can I Do?
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29
Never lose sight of who you are in Christ, and the magnitude and wonder of the gift of your salvation, a gift we display to others too. Never forget the promises of God and the realization that He is God and you are not. God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, that is, all- knowing, all present, and all-powerful. This means His incredible greatness is in control, not you. This applies to us in that no matter what we are going through, God is there-through the valleys, on the mountaintops, and on all the roads in between. When we have a healthy grasp of God's power and authority, we can maintain a correct confidence to persevere through barriers, battles, and difficulties, as well as stay firm in Him when things are going great. God is our strength, our heartbeat, and our vision for life, regardless of our understanding. This all translates into our testimony and how we yield to Him.
God has impacted us! As a mature, growing, Spirit-filled Christian, we must always know His incredible impact. We have it, and non-Christians need it. This impact of our faith is our "personal evidence." This is what most jurors consider as the main swaying power in their decisions. What Paul used in his epistles is what God uses in our lives. Testimonies are the proof text to God's power working in people. We tend to want to give up, but God does not give up. God always has His remnant. When you go through distressing times, whether of your own wrong choices or not, God is there. Our greatest comfort is that God does not reject us even when we reject Him.
Do Not Allow Fear to Hold You Captive!
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness.'" Matthew 25: 21
Have you ever known someone who was extremely talented but never used his or her talent? How did you feel for and about them for that? I have a cousin who is an incredibly talented chef. He could work at any of the top five-star restaurants, but instead, he chooses to roam the streets attached to a bottle. He has the talent, but not the willingness to use it, or to overcome the barriers preventing him from using it. How do you think God feels when we do not put to use what He gives us? Missions takes "spunk;" it is the willingness to take a risk and go beyond our experiences, our reservations, and ourselves, and take hold of the knowledge of what Christ has called us to do, both here and overseas. The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 tells us that the servants were each given opportunities to serve their master, and each was given the ability and responsibility to lead. Each of the servants did well and received praise from his Master. However, one servant decided to play it safe. He responded to his responsibility with a sense of protection; he hid the talents so no one else could steal them. He refused to take a risk to do what his Master required and expected. On the surface, this may not seem so bad, since, in a bad decision, he could have lost it all. But, the master would not have been upset if the servant had lost the talents in an investment or had failed his task, as long as he had tried his best. The intense anger was directed at the inactivity of the gifts and abilities that he received. The servant was given all he needed for success, or at least to serve at his best, but he preferred to bury his abilities in the ground where they would be of no use, and the result was no growth. There was not any growth in his personal experience, and there was not any nurture or growth in the fruits of his work, because he did nothing. Even if he had failed and lost all of the talents, or even if we fail and do not meet the expectations of our overseer, we will, at least, grow in the nurture of the faith as long as we try our best with the gifts given to us. The praise was directed at the effort and willingness of the servants who decided to take the risk. The questions are, are we taking the necessary risks without being reckless? Are we doing our best with the abilities God has entrusted to our care? We are responsible to obey His call; we are not responsible for the results because that is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Missions is witnessing to others in a different cultural context, as in investing in others what God has given to us. The Parable of the Talents tells us about the importance of being prudent and being prepared, as the parable about the virgins (Matthew 25: 1- 14). This parable is not about money management, although the principles do apply. Rather, it was given to admonish us to be productive when we invest what He gives us. This passage shows us how fear destroys opportunity. Fear was the principle factor that caused the wicked servant to bury the talent. Even though the servant thought he did the right thing, Jesus has some harsh words for those who let fear rule their lives. Yes, He is compassionate and gives us Grace; but, when we allow fear to take over, it becomes wicked as it blocks His work from dwelling within us and causes us to forsake our opportunities and responsibilities. Instead of being faithful in our witness as we are called to be, we become the "pew sitter" who is of no use. We are called to overcome fear; He gives us the Spirit and other tools with which to do so. This takes "spunk" and the willingness to take a risk and go beyond our experiences, our knowledge, and ourselves to what is best for the body of Christ.
The talents Jesus gives us are the abilities and opportunities that come from Him. They are to help us stretch and grow beyond what we think we can do. How we use them is up to us; we can use them to benefit us, use them in the lives of others, use them for Him, or we can do what is foolish. However, when we are in Christ, do we waste what He gives? Take comfort; God only gives us the opportunities that match the abilities He has given us. Thus, the work in front of us is not too tough, and it is OK not to be successful; it is only when we refuse to follow and be used that it is considered wicked.
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2
We are given the resources and opportunities when we venture out in missions. It is not the fundraising and motivation or even the training that is so important; it is knowing Christ more that is so essential. It is learning and having a Christian experience worth sharing. When we put our spiritual growth back into the Kingdom, we are investing for a guaranteed dividend and investment growth in what is far more precious and valuable than any earthly stock market. "His own servants" refers to a picture of a very wealthy landowner who often delegated control to trusted employees and accountants as corporations do today. This was a good and honorable position.
Even the small portion was an extraordinary sum of money. We need to see that God trusts us with His goods and people. These goods and people are extraordinarily valuable; hence the reason Jesus uses such language to describe vast wealth. The real wealth in life is not in money, but rather in relationships and obedience. God trusts us with His vast wealth. The question is, what do we do with that trust? In Jesus' time, only the most dependable and trusted servant would get such an opportunity to invest in his master's behalf. When these talents are functioning as they are given to us, we become Christ's hands and feet in the world. God trusts us to do this!
The key characteristics for the servant are trustworthiness, dependability, and honesty, just as they are for a missionary. The same ones are required for serving Him properly and honorably in any Christian position. Perhaps you are wondering, I know people who are so much better at witnessing and obeying than I, so why should I go do it when others are so much better? Because, we are called to just obey. We are not called to get results. God is not comparing you with others. He just wants to entrust His valuables to you and for you to be faithful with them. The measuring stick that God uses does not measure us against one another or according to what someone else has done; rather, it is according to our capabilities. He measures us against ourselves! So, never worry what others are doing; only seek what you can do better. Do not misjudge yourself; seek Him and let your confidence be who you are in Him, not how others respond to you!
Missions is an aspect of stewardship. What we are given is not for us to hoard, but to use. We are in training for a much larger service to come. What we learn here on earth helps develop the skills and integrity to serve Him even more in eternity. We need to see our lives as "boot camp," as training for what is to come. When we negate our training, we will be unprepared and ill equipped to do much of anything. Our standing in the Kingdom is determined by our faithfulness here with what Christ has given, and the people and places for which we can use those talents. Obeying is faithfulness. Obeying is not about education, intelligence, or skill; rather, it is taking what He gives and doing. It is taking what He has given and replicating, increasing, and using it for the benefit of others as well as for our growth and His glory.
If fear captives you, you will not be able to take risks, and without risks, you have no potential of return. It would be like buying a car and never using it because you do not want to get it dirty, or, like hiding money in a mattress and never using it to better your life or serve God. It is like not using our gifts and opportunities because we are fearful. Obedience provides integrity! Perhaps you are thinking, I do not have the gift of evangelism so I can't be a missionary. But, remember, we are all called to evangelize. Those who have the "gift" may be better at it; but, mostly, they will possess the extra ability to encourage, motivate, equip, and train others for the task at hand. You use the gifts God has given, and do it the best you can do, no gift or position is greater than another.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
God gives us opportunities that match our abilities and resources as well as our connections. The amount of talents given to us is irrelevant, as one is as great as ten; it is how we use them that matters. The person who receives more is of no more value or worth to God than the one who receives one. When we refuse to use what God gives, take heed; this is wickedness. We have to be careful that we do not sell ourselves short. He gives us the ability and the opportunity; we must reach out and take the risk as well as the reward. To not be prepared, to not take a risk is to negate opportunities and that will only lead to loneliness and bitterness. We will experience a life wasted, not a life fulfilled. We cannot "blame-shift;" we have to take our responsibility seriously
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30
Some passages to consider: Ecclesiastes 11:4; Psalm 110; Matthew 11:28-30; 25: 14-30; Romans 11:1-10; 1 Corinthians 4:2
© 2006 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/