Safety And Suffering In Missions

A quick search of the Internet produces a dozen missions organizations advertising “safe” mission trips. This is nothing they can guarantee nor do they have the biblical authority to do so. While these organizations make promises they cannot keep, the Apostle Paul was more honest with Christians when he said, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12). Suffering is an expected element in Christian living and should not be hidden from the faithful.

It is sad how in recent years the words sacrifice, martyr and submission have become less popular and considered more extreme in evangelical churches. It is prevalent in our modern churches to teach believers to avoid pain and suffering, even if it means avoiding Christian service. Hudson Taylor, the 19th century pioneer missionary, did not believe this. Taylor said, “For our Master’s sake, may he make us willing to do or suffer all his will.” Jesus himself told us, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Matthew 5:11) In the next verse Christ said we should “rejoice and be glad” when we are persecuted. We were never promised a lack of pain or suffering, only the unwavering knowledge that the Creator of the Universe loves us.

Your Body Is Not Yours

In no way should this article be considered a call to place ourselves in harms way. Christians should not be foolish, dangerous or cavalier. Missionaries and all Christians should neither crave danger nor seek martyrdom. But, never forget, this body we covet and try to protect was not intended for our use, but God’s glory.

Our modern church culture seeks false safety at the cost of service to God. What we are doing is making an idol of our control at the expense of God’s sovereignty. If God is sovereign, and he controls all, there can be no tragedy or mistake, only the divinely orchestrated rolling out of his perfect will. Paul told the Philippians, “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:20) If we were less focused on our comfort in this life and more focused on the kingdom of God, our idol of safety would not infest our decision to serve. In John Piper’s Desiring God he tells us, “This is God’s universal purpose for all Christian suffering: more contentment in God and less satisfaction in the world.”

God created us, breathed life into us and he has purposed us for his glory. The grace and mercy he gave warrants our love and obedience. Jesus Christ endured an inconceivable persecution and death to pay for our sins. Our response can only be the bold proclamation of his greatness.

Missions Is Sacrifice

Missions is a form of sacrifice in the name of Jesus. However, not only missionaries are called to sacrifice. Sacrifice is the calling of every Christian. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who gave his life for Christ during World War II, said, “A Christian is someone who shares the sufferings of God in the world.” God’s love for us is deeper than any love we have known. The comfort and joy this provides should defeat all our fears and worry. Paul declares, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)

The Bible never says missions is safe. In Isaiah 40:9 we are instructed in a single verse to both “herald the good news” and “fear not.” Evangelism and suffering are again joined when Paul says, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5). We are called to make a sacrifice in our lives to facilitate the expansion of the gospel into the world.

Truly submitting to the gospel of Jesus can only result in a heart turned towards saving the lost, feeding the hungry and healing the sick. Charles Spurgeon, 19th century British Pastor alleged, “A man is not far from the gates of heaven when he is fully submissive to the Lord’s will.” Sacrifice in the name of missions is not seeking martyrdom it is submitting to whatever the Lord wills in our lives.

Christ Is Worth The Cost

Martin Luther said, “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.” When we can acknowledge our perceived security is false and safety is an illusion we can begin to risk everything and accomplish great things for God’s glory.

If you can manage your own life you’ve not sold out for Jesus. The life he wants for you is full of risk, peril & requires reliance on him. C.S. Lewis stated, “God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.” We are to trust God’s sufficiency and serve him completely, no matter the cost.

Our life on this earth is only a blip in time. It should not be false safety and fabricated security we seek. Glorifying God should be our purpose. Life should be lived so that in the end we are worthy of hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21)

2 thoughts on “Safety And Suffering In Missions”

  1. Thanks for such a great perspective. We have recently started our joined to Nicaragua with MTW, your story in Honduras is a great encouragement.

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