Free songs
24
Apr

Pastors and Spouses on the Move

Nearly 60 percent of all ministers’ wives are in the work force. But what happens to their careers when their husbands are called to ministries in other cities, states or time zones? What happens when they have to move?

Three women candidly discuss their experiences with the sudden setbacks and unexpected rewards of relocating.

East Coast Calling

For Mary Clark, the upheaval of relocation is all too fresh. Just last spring, she and her husband, Jay, then pastor of a large United Methodist church in the Washington, D.C., area, and were called to Onancock, a small town on the Virginia shore. Their move in June was their fourth in 19 years.

It was also the fourth time for Mary to redirect her nursing career. Admittedly, the change came at their request. The new congregation was much smaller than the church Jay was serving, and the lifestyle of the friendly, coastal peninsula appealed to the couple.

“It was a quality-of-life move,” Mary says, one that offered a more wholesome and relaxed environment in which to raise their three children, ages 15 to 9.

But even though they sought this change, the stress on the Clarks was intense, especially as Jay’s paycheck shrank by 30 percent. Mary’s income also declined —a reality she has encountered more than once.

Resume

Peppered with different job experiences, Mary’s resume reflects part-time and full-time teaching positions and even a stint as a public-health nurse. “I have always wanted —always needed —to work,” she says. “The hardest thing about moving is not being able to find a job at the same salary. We continually have financial problems.”

To overcome her repeated loss of income, Mary takes advantage of educational opportunities in her new locations. She is currently completing a family nurse practitioner program at Marymount University in Arlington, Va. Her third degree, it will provide job flexibility in both rural and metropolitan areas. “It will greatly increase my marketability,” she explains.

Although pastors and their working wives face many of the same challenges as other two-career couples, Mary thinks those in the ministry have an advantage.

“In some ways it’s easier for us because we walk into a faith community,” she says. “We’re pulled into a group of people that’s already committed to us.”

Midwest Ministry

Faith is the glue that has held Ruth and Stephen Boardman of West Chester, Ohio, together during their ministry-related moves within the Wesleyan denomination. Ruth, who lived in the same house for 18 years before going to college, has always clung to Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.‘” That promise has given her the strength to move four times in 24 years of marriage.

Like Mary, Ruth is a registered nurse. Yet unlike Mary, Ruth has been able to enjoy a flexible work schedule through the years, one that allowed her to stay home with her children when they were infants. Though these times were intertwined with part-time nursing, Ruth’s income today is more important than ever, now that 20-year-old Phillip is in college and 15-year-old Stephanie is a few years away from high school graduation. Their most recent move, however, had a big impact on Ruth’s career.

They were living in Bryant, Ind., where Stephen served a medium-sized church for 14 years. Ruth managed an Alzheimer’s unit at a nearby Christian nursing home, a job she loved.

“It was ministry,” she says. “The church was involved, and many times my kids would play games with the residents. It was like a big family.”

Ministry Move

Then in 1996 the Boardmans were called to West Chester, just north of Cincinnati. Ruth was excited, but grieved leaving her job. Their savings freed her from having to work right away, and she was able to help her daughter adjust to a larger school. “I wanted to be there for her,” she says. It helped lessen Ruth’s loss.

As the fall progressed, however, Ruth began a series of jobs that left her unfulfilled. Job-hopping was not her style. But that’s exactly what she did.

“I’d take a job and find that there were things I just couldn’t work with. I was frustrated, but I wouldn’t lower my standards,” she says.

Three jobs later, Ruth now works part time at what she calls “a very nice Christian facility.” She also occasionally fills in as a school nurse and runs a home-based business. It is a balance she finds rewarding.

But how does she feel about making career compromises because she is a minister’s wife?

“Some pastors’ wives feel called into the ministry with their husbands,” Ruth says, “I can’t say that.

“When I married my husband, I promised to stand with him and help him. God placed us together. I love him, and I do all I can to support him in the ministry.”

The Transition of a Move

For Diane Torriani Greer and her husband, Thomas, life has not been filled with ministry moves. In fact, they only recently entered the pastorate.

In 1990, less than a year after they married and blended their families, Thomas, then a chief financial officer for a large manufacturing company, was called to Saddleback Valley Community Church in Mission Viejo, Calif., as the pastor of administration. Diane continued her lucrative position in the acquisitions department of an international oil company.

“Working hard, building my career and helping our teens adapt to our new life as a family made the ‘pastor’s wife transition’ far less important,” Diane explains. Yet that transition didn’t totally go unnoticed.

“I was the only pastor’s wife at Saddleback working outside the home. I remember receiving comments about my (business) clothes. Although the remarks were complimentary, I didn’t want to stand out. I wanted to fit in.”

Then two years ago, Diane received what she describes as “the offer of (her) career.” She was to begin as project manager at a telecommunications corporation Nov. 1, 1996. But Diane never sat behind that desk. Instead, her husband was called to the staff of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. “I let the job go,” Diane says.

Thomas started his new position the same day Diane would have started hers. After staying behind to sell the house and finalize details, she and her then 16-year-old son, Paul, flew to Texas. It was the day after Christmas. The two older children stayed behind; Jeana, then 18, followed later.

Emotions Surrounding a Move

“The emotional letdown after the holidays —combined with relocation, ice storms and my lack of transportation —made the move an emotional bomb,” Diane remembers. “It was six weeks before I had a car and our neighborhood was still under construction, empty. I lived in my pajamas! Abandonment, loneliness, loss, anxiety, self-doubt, insecurity — I faced it all.”

That desperate time became a journey of faith and spiritual growth for Diane. “Rather than focusing on putting down roots in Dallas, I decided to establish my home in Christ by minimizing myself, maximizing God and simplifying life,” she explains. “It worked beautifully. God replaced the emptiness with hope, freedom, newness of experience, a sense of adventure and security.”

By July 1997, after seeing her family through the initial transition of relocation, Diane went back to work. Contract paralegal work helped familiarize her with the Dallas marketplace. It also helped build confidence.

“I worked at corporations and law firms on various assignments and tasks, making friends along the way,” she says. After nine months, Diane accepted a full-time position for a real-estate development company.

Through Diane may not have been able to see it at first, there is light on the other side of relocation.

“God continues to confirm our move,” she says. Her husband is seeing the fruit of his labor; her daughter is succeeding in college and is actively involved in ministry to urban children; and her son recently graduated from high school.

Encouragement?

What encouragement does Diane offer other women facing relocation?

“Assess your need to work immediately following a move. I found that it takes approximately six months to make an initial adjustment,” she says. “If you have children, factor in six months for them, too.”

Her experience even promoted her to start Women in Transition and Wisdom, or W.I.T. and Wisdom, a ministry at her church to help women face change in a godly manner.

“All our talents, skills and capabilities are God’s. It is our job to use them wisely.”

This article originally titled “Pastors on the Move,” was written by Laura Winter and was featured a past issue of Pastor’s Family Magazine. As a freelance journalist, singles pastor, mother of three and wife to Mark, Laura Winter has written for the Fort Worth Star Telegram and the Arlington Citizen Journal.

24
Apr

Your Pastors Marriage – Marriage Message

Have you shown your pastor and his or her spouse how much you appreciate them? Have you ever considered how difficult it must be for them to nurture and care for the health of their marriage relationship when there are so many demands upon their time?

October in the United States was designated as Pastor Appreciation Month. At this time, we want to spot light your pastor’s marriage because not only do we care about their marriages, but so should you, because God cares VERY MUCH about this. And because we live in covenant with God, whatever concerns Him, should concern us.

For your reference, for the remainder of this message, we will be referring to your pastor as a “he” because most pastors are men, and it will make it easier to communicate this message if we don’t have to keep referring to “he or she.” But the same principles would apply if it was a Pastor and her husband.

As a representative of Christ, your pastor is in the spotlight quite a bit as a light and shepherd in the community he is placed. He has people who often call at all hours of the day and night asking for help with various problems they’re encountering. This has GOT to put a strain upon the private time he has with his wife. And just like anything else that is alive and vital, you have to put some quality time into maintaining it for it to keep running as it should. Their marriage relationship —just like ours, is no exception.

The pastor may have a special anointing upon his ministry, but that doesn’t mean that he and his wife are any less human in needing their human needs to be met. Many people forget that fact, or ignore it. And that shouldn’t be. To the best of our abilities we really should try to encourage them and help them because there will be other people who will do the opposite —whether out of necessity or selfishness.

And there will be times when WE will need their help, as well. God created us to need each other and to work together to meet each other’s needs. That’s why it would be good if you can try to be as helpful as you can when you can (without straining your own marriage) to lighten their load a bit.

We think you would be shocked by the amount of emails and comments we receive regularly from pastors wives who are depressed, are extremely lonely —feeling neglected by their husband. Many are ready to leave their spouse because of various demands upon their husband’s time and/or because their pastor husband either can’t make the time or won’t make the time to nurture his marriage and family. There are other pressures also.

Your pastor is a human being and has human needs just like you. He can be discouraged when he’s up against antagonistic people, and can succumb to temptations just like any other human being when someone approaches him in a sexual way. There are many pastors who are addicted to various substances and images because of their weaknesses and because of the temptation to numb their pain.

Because their family is under such close observation and scrutiny by so many people, there is an added strain. Many people and churches look at the behavior of the pastor’s children as a “report card” for what type of parent and pastor they are —neglecting the fact that even our Heavenly Father has prodigals that rebel (remember Adam and Eve?) and don’t do as they should when they should. We want others to give us grace in not judging us when our children make sinful choices, but the pastor and his wife are often not given the same grace.

Yes, they are held up to higher standards as the Bible talks about when you are a teacher or an overseer of some type, but perhaps if we offered to help and/or pray for them, their children might go through a shorter period of rebellion as mercy and grace is displayed to them. All of this puts an added strain upon the marriage of your pastor if it is occurring.

Some pastors can fall into having a “savior complex” because of the position they are put in at times. And some pastors and their wives can even fall into doing things they shouldn’t, or saying things they shouldn’t, or having attitudes they shouldn’t at times. Again, they are human just like you, so keep in mind that you don’t always do or say everything right or hold back bad attitudes at times.

As sisters and brothers, we are called to help and encourage each other, and forgive and be gracious to each other. When someone sins we should “help them up” as the Bible tells us to “gently restore them.”

We’ve come across so many devastated pastors and their wives. They’ve been deeply hurt by those they have tried to care for and serve. And when the pastor hurts, so does his wife. When you hurt a pastor’s wife, you also hurt your pastor. They are to be “one” because of their marriage.

So, at this time, we ask you to pray and ask the Lord to reveal to you how you can encourage your pastor and his wife —not only right now, but in the future. What is it that you can do to make their lives a little easier and encourage their marriage in some way? Is the pastor working too many hours? Encourage him to work less so he can have more time to nurture his marriage and family relationship.

Don’t make so many demands upon his time and energy. And allow his wife to be her own person —a woman of God who doesn’t have to fit into the role that YOU have decided for her, but rather the role that GOD has shown her she is to fulfill, even if it doesn’t make as much sense to you.

Give both of them time together, grace, and space to spend time outside of church duties. As a church make sure they are paid well enough so they can aren’t so deprived. And make sure they take vacation time and recreation time. They need to laugh together and date each other and nurture their relationship. Encourage them to do so. In fact, if they have young children, volunteer to baby sit them so your pastor and his wife actually can have some time alone.

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his live, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” (Philippians 2:1-2)

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:9-10)

We hope you will take this message to heart and encourage your pastor and his wife and work together to make your marriages the best they can be to the glory of God. And just so you know —we have an entire topic on our web site devoted to pastors and their wives. Encourage them to visit our site to receive further help, which is specific for their marriage.

By Cindy and Steve Wright

24
Apr

Your Wife Needs a Pastoral Call

Sometimes we can read the signs; other times we might need to be more subtle. When our daughter and her husband were expecting their first tiny treasure, they had a wall hanging with movable figures of man, woman, child, dog, and a coop. One only had to glance at it to see who, if anyone, was in the doghouse. Sometimes it was the baby!

Using a soft approach is the better part of wisdom. Areas that might cause dissension can be amicably discussed, and this is best done with a sense of humor. We ask the Lord for a measure of common sense and a sense of humor, and if we lack wisdom we ask God and He provides it.

When we were a young family in a new place of ministry, my husband, being a very goal-oriented person, was gone day and night getting acquainted with people, the church, and the town. It seemed he would wear himself down, and it was lonely for the children and me.

I wanted to tell him that if he did himself in, the church could get another pastor, but his family would be in big trouble! Instead, I put a sign on the refrigerator that said, “Your wife needs a pastoral call.” The Lord, no doubt, inspired that action —He used it to change Charles’s approach to pastoral minitry, and it encouraged him to always block out time for us.

It seemed reasonable that if we chose to spend the rest of our lives together, we should become best friends and enjoy all the perks that exist in such a relationship. Over the years, we discovered that best friends love and support each other and build each other up. The best resource we have is prayer—if change is needed, God can change situations and He can change us. We have experienced God’s “awesome deeds” of healing and even sparing of life in answers to prayer. He is a miracle-working God!

I marvel at the way God has directed our lives. I love how He once planted the thought in each of us, separately, that He would be leading us from one pastorate to a new place. The whole process was so orchestrated by the Lord that we both had complete peace and confirmation in the decision.

In our early years, the Lord impressed upon me that in the pulpit, this man was my pastor and it was always so. Besides being my pastor, he has been my inspiration to read, study, and love the Word of God.

It was important to our family for home to be a sanctuary. We did plenty of entertaining and the children’s friends came and went, but there was this place, home, where the family was free to be comfortable. I love the Psalm that says, “I will walk in my house with blameless heart.” That is my continuing desire. My great yardstick for all relationships is given by One who knows: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.”

And, by His grace, that is my plan. My journey with Charles has brought me more joy than I can possibly say.

A special note written by Nancy Cobb:

“When the topic ‘The best thing I ever did for my marriage’ came up, Ruth’s first inclination was to say, ‘I stayed.’ But instead she shares lessons the Lord has given her along the way.

My first encounter with a godly woman was with Ruth. She is gentle, loving, and very funny. I can say with all my heart that the best thing Charles ever did for his marriage was to marry such a Christlike woman, and the same is true for Ruth. It was their example that prodded me to know Jesus personally.”

QUESTION: Does your example prod others to want to know more of Jesus?

The above article was part of a chapter titled, “Your Wife Needs a Pastoral Call!” written by Ruth Denhart. It comes from the inspiring book, The Best Thing I Ever Did for My Marriage: 50 Real Life Stories, compiled by Nancy Cobb and Connie Grigsby, published by Multnomah Publishers. This book contains 50 eye-opening, often humorous true stories contributed by different women. The book is founded on the principles: “Sometimes the smallest thing can turn a marriage around. God’s best for your marriage may be one small decision away!”

— ALSO —

Please click on the Focus on the Family – Canada Clergy Care  link below to read a related article titled:

HELLO … ANYBODY HOME?

The ministry of Preach It Teach It offers this article for you to read on this subject:

WHAT EVERY PASTOR SHOULD UNDERSTAND ABOUT HIS WIFE

If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

24
Apr

Emotionally Abandoning Spouse For Ministry

Some people protest that God alone meets all our needs. They believe that the Lord doesn’t need to involve a spouse to remove our aloneness. Philippians 4:13 is often quoted, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” They sing hymns such as, “Jesus Is All I Need” that celebrate God’s total sufficiency. They firmly insist, “I have God, and God meets all my needs. As a result, many are emotionally abandoning their spouse for the sake of ministry figuring God is all they need.

God IS the Source For Meeting Our Needs

Teresa and I wholeheartedly believe that God is the ultimate source for meeting all our needs. We understand both biblically and experientially our deep need for God. Nothing else —not possessions, not position, not success, not another person —can fill the God-shaped vacuum within each of us. God alone brings peace and order to the human heart. Yet God revealed a wondrous mystery in the Garden. In his unsearchable wisdom, he has chosen to partner with us to remove the “not good” of aloneness in our spouses. He is still the source for taking away the “not good” of being alone in our marriages, but he desires to enlist us as his colleagues in the process.

How About the Single Person?

What about people who are not married? Is God’s design for removing aloneness thwarted in those who are single? Absolutely not. God’s wonderful plan for removing human aloneness is fulfilled in three divinely appointed relationships. For those who are married, the marriage relationship is God’s primary means for removing aloneness. But some people do not marry, and some marriages do not continue. In such cases, loving family —parents, children, grandparents, and siblings —is a divinely provided relationship.

…And for those who for some reason are without close family, God’s “safety net” for removing human aloneness is his body, the church. Jesus declared, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another“ (John 13:35). God has graciously provided marriage, family, and the body of Christ so that no one should suffer the “not good” of being alone.

God Changes Our Heart

At age twenty-one, I was fully aware of my personal need for God and that is when I trusted him as my Savior and when his Spirit began rapid changes in my heart and life. As I began to grow as a Christian, I generally accepted the idea that I needed other people somehow. But I firmly believed that my only real need was for God. And I assumed that if others —including Teresa —would just become more spiritual, they would not need me!

This view skewed my understanding of God’s design for involving me in removing Teresa’s aloneness. And I certainly didn’t understand God’s desire to remove my aloneness through Teresa. Since God had not found in me a colleague to care for Teresa, the oneness she and I sought was elusive, and the blessing God desired and deserved from our relationship was limited.

The Pursuits of Spiritual Pursuits

As growing Christians eager to do God’s work, Teresa and I poured ourselves into spiritual pursuits. I memorized large portions of Scripture. I became deeply involved in ministry to students, and I led discipleship groups. Teresa became deeply involved in her own ministry, which reached thousands of women each year. Eventually Teresa and I conducted marriage seminars together. In our efforts to please God and serve others, our primary focus and priority was on ministry. I left Teresa alone. By placing our children and our ministry before our marriage, Teresa left me alone. Although our church viewed us as the ideal ministry couple, we continued to silently endure our relationship. We were very active and very busy, but very alone.

Focused on Ministry

In those years I was so focused on my spiritual life and ministry that I had little time or attention for my family. Teresa was left with the responsibility of caring for our two daughters, Terri and Robin, and our young son, Eric. Occasionally she would lament to me her desire for a more loving husband and a more devoted father for our children. But my attitude said, “Teresa, you don’t need more of me to have a fulfilling life; you need more of God.”

It is true that a relationship with God is to be primary in each of our lives. We are to trust Christ as Savior, yield to his Spirit, and obey his words: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment“ (Matthew 22:37-38, NLT).

Our Neighbors are Important

Had Jesus stopped there, we might conclude that all we need is a relationship with God. But Jesus went on: “A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments“(Matthew 22:39-40, NLT). In Jesus’ eyes, relationship with our neighbors —literally our “near ones” —is as important as relationship with God.

As we set our hearts on loving God completely, He desires to enlist us as His colleagues to remove the aloneness of our near ones, beginning with our spouses. Teresa and I often call this the Great Commandment marriage —loving God with all your heart and loving your spouse —your nearest near one —as yourself (also see Ephesians 5:28).

You Are to Be God’s Colleague

Removing aloneness is fundamental purpose of marriage. Are you showing yourself to be God’s colleague, actively involved in the process of removing your spouse’s aloneness? Is your spouse less alone today than he or she has ever been? This is an important biblical measure of a successful marriage relationship.

It is clear throughout Scripture that God, for reasons known only to Him, has opted to fill our longings for oneness through love relationships with both Himself and other human beings. God is totally sufficient in his provision. Yet He has chosen to share some of His love through the three relationships He has ordained: marriage, family, and the church. If we are not fulfilling the Great Commandment in our marriages, our families, or in our churches, the result is not good.

Misunderstanding God’s Design

…My skewed perspective of God, human needs, and relationships convinced me that I needed only God in my life to have a successful marriage and fruitful ministry. My misunderstanding of God’s design to remove my aloneness through him and Teresa fostered an unhealthy and unbiblical self-reliance that robbed our marriage of intimacy.

Furthermore, my attitude heaped condemnation on Teresa, communicating to her, “Ministry is my top priority, and it should be yours too. When are you going to grow up so you don’t need so much of my personal time and attention?” One day, in my frustration to pressure Teresa to become as intense as I was about my ministry, I confronted her in the kitchen with an ultimatum. I said, “Teresa, if you don’t come along with me in serving God, I’m going on without you.” Then I walked away.

Teresa’s View

Teresa explains her reaction to my statement.

“David’s pointed words pierced me like a lance. He left me standing in the middle of the kitchen wondering exactly wheat he meant. Was he talking about leaving me physically through separation or divorce? Was he talking about giving up on me spiritually and emotionally? He could not have known the terrible pain those words caused me. And it only got worse.

“As David continued to lose himself in ministry, he did leave me every way except physically. I was alone and floundering while my husband filled his life with his top priority: the ministry. As a result, I became increasingly aloof and independent I tried to play the ‘ministry wife’ role, but the more he pulled away into his work, the more I buried myself in activities at home with our children.”

Self Doubt

Teresa suffered tremendous self-doubt induced by the painful messages of my self-reliance. She often thought, “Maybe if I were more spiritual or sensed a deeper call to ministry, I wouldn’t need David’s love, acceptance, comfort, and encouragement so much. If I just had more of God, I wouldn’t miss him so much when he is away doing ministry.”

I expected Teresa to deal with her needs in a self-reliant manner just as I did. I chided her for not being spiritually independent. The more involved I became in the ministry, the more uncomfortable she became living in the fishbowl of congregational scrutiny.

Teresa Explains:

“As a fairly new Christian, I was still deciding what I believed. I was battling false with guilt and self-condemnation over how insecure I felt in the ministry. Someone once made the thoughtless remark, ‘I would never have believed you were David’s wife. You don’t seem to be as spiritual as he is.’ By this time I had developed a bubble of self-protection against the pain in my marriage and other relationships. I became extremely self-reliant in my own world. It was important to me to shut out the pain I experienced in my relationship with David and other Christians. I had mastered the skill of not feeling, not hurting.”

False Self Reliance

We had falsely equated self-reliance with spiritual maturity and emotional strength. As a result, our love for each other grew increasingly cold. We needed to change our twisted view of God’s design for marriage. But more than a renewed mind, we needed a humble heart.

The solution to self-reliance is humility. It is humbling for us to admit that we have needs we cannot meet on our own. And it is equally humbling to acknowledge that we are helpless to remove our aloneness apart from depending on God to minister to us. It is also humbling to involve other people in our lives, as he desires. Hunkering down in a foxhole of self-reliance and just waiting to become more mature will not remove our aloneness. Maturity and strength in our relationships come only as we humbly depend on God to minister his grace to us. This often comes through our spouse.

This article comes from the book, “Never Alone” by David and Teresa Ferguson, published by Tyndale House Publishers. It’s unfortunate, but this book is no longer being published. You can obtain it through used book resource centers. We hope you are able to do so because this is an excellent book!

24
Apr

Depressed and Sometimes Burned Out Missionaries

“Missionaries and Christian workers don’t get depressed.” True? No. Even though many people think that they wouldn’t be, couldn’t be, or shouldn’t be… the fact is that there are many who experience depression just like any other person.

And the reason is because they’re human, not super-human. They are vulnerable to experience the same emotions as any other person, and might be more vulnerable to depression because of the enormous amount of pressure they are under as Cross-cultural workers.

The following is an article, which might explain more about missionary depression. And then following this article, we provide links to other web site articles so you can read more helpful information concerning this issue.

Depressed Saints
-by Grantley Morris (Permission granted to copy)

William Carey’s relentless succession of achievements in the face of oppression suggests he was no more deterred by tragedies than a locomotive by butterflies. I was stunned to learn that this amazing missionary pioneer sometimes suffered what one biographer called ‘sheer black depression’.

C. H. Spurgeon, revered as last century’s greatest Baptist preacher, was so plagued by discouragement, depression, fatigue and illness that he tendered his resignation thirty-two times in thirty-nine years. Interestingly, he gradually discovered that such lows always seemed to precede new times of empowering for ministry.

A modern preacher, world-famous for his emphasis on possibility thinking, sat dejected on a building site and pronounced the death-sentence on his pet project. ‘You can’t give up,’ gasped his advisers, ‘the whole world is looking at you!’

‘If only I could have a good old-fashioned heart attack and fail with dignity,’ was his pathetic reply.

Such grim anecdotes charge me with hope. If past heroes and modern champions of positive thinking can have such bouts, I need not let the Accuser belittle me just because I am appallingly negative at times. For twenty-four-year-old David Brainerd, thrilling experiences in God’s presence were regularly interspersed with deep bouts of melancholy in which he despaired of ever achieving anything in God’s service. Three years later, an unprecedented outpouring of the Spirit upon American Indians erupted after his preaching. This move coincided with a time when the clammy clouds of dejection were so thick that he was seriously contemplating ending his missionary endeavors.

A. B. Simpson —that highly respected missionary statesman, exceptional preacher, and founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance —was yet another great achiever who ‘was always susceptible to periods of despair.’ Though his highs soared to supernatural visions, they did not prevent his lows.

I don’t make excuses. Having the disposition of a professional prune taster is nothing to boast about. Depression usually marks lost faith in the One with whom I have entrusted my future. It dishonors the One who floods my life with endless love and manipulates for good everything that touches me. When I’m low, however, the last thing I need is despondency about my despondency. Though we slide on a downer, that does not make us losers. A horde of spiritual giants have been on the slide before us and lived to excel.

Limp faith might be all you need. Take heart from the man exalted as Scripture’s prime example of faith (Romans 4; Galatians 3:6-9; Hebrews 11:8-19; James 2:21-23). In an early chapter of Genesis, God tells Abraham on two separate occasions that he will give him the land and descendants (Genesis 12:2,7). Just four verses later we find Abraham humiliating Sarah, denying that she is his wife. In cowardly deceit, he stands dumbly by as Pharaoh marries Sarah and takes her into his harem (Genesis 12:10-16).

Next chapter, God yet again details the promise of land and descendants (Genesis 13:14-17). Nevertheless, two chapters on, we find Abraham expecting to die childless. For a fourth time God insists he will give Abraham descendants. At last the old fossil believes. The Lord, thrilled with Abraham’s refound faith, repeats his vow to give him the land. In disbelief, Abraham asks for a sign. (Genesis 15:2-8) With divine patience God dramatically shows the mighty man of faith not only his future descendants, but what will happen to them.

In the next chapter we find our faith model throwing away any hope of a miracle from God. He resorts to dubious natural means to forcibly accomplish what God seems unwilling to do. He bypasses his wife and turns to her maid for a baby (Genesis 16:1-3).

Years later, the Lord yet again reaffirms his promise to Abraham and declares that Sarah would conceive. Abraham laughs. He is sure his wife has more potential as an Egyptian mummy than as a Hebrew one. ‘She’s too old. Just bless Ishmael,’ is the crux of his reply (Genesis 17:17-18). Yet the Lord persists. One more time our hero gropes for that slippery fish called faith.

Before long, he is again passing off Sarah as his sister, showing more faith in his powers of deception than in God’s integrity. This time it is King Abimelech who almost has a go at impregnating Sarah (Genesis 20:2-3). Just weeks later, (assuming Genesis 18:10 – Genesis 21:2 are in chronological order) she conceived Abraham’s baby.

Faith is not a non-stop flight above reality; it’s a fight. What distinguishes people of faith is not how rarely they hit the dirt, but how often they get up again. To be perpetually positive is impossible. The mere attempt embroils us in prayer battles and Abrahamic effort. The enemy often flees to his corner, only to prepare for the next round. You might even have climbed out of the ring, but the reward for getting back in exceeds anything anyone could offer.

More precious than gold. ‘Lord, increase our faith,’ pleaded the disciples.

‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed…’ came the reply. (Luke 17:5-6)

Perhaps our greatest need is not huge faith, but to fully use our small faith. Perhaps we miss out because we devalue our faith, not using it to the fullest because we wrongly imagine that tiny faith is too insignificant to move the hand of God. If faith is more valuable than gold (1 Peter 1:7), the merest speck is too precious to despise. Do not let feelings of inadequacy strangle your faith. Just keep pressing on. Past greats achieved much with floundering faith. So can you.

Like everyone, my faith levels fluctuate. Usually I am aware that a few moments dwelling on faith-building truths or squashing negative thoughts would boost my faith a little, but I foolishly let myself remain at a lower faith level than I know I am capable of. I have failed to take faith as seriously as Scripture does. If it is as valuable as Scripture affirms, then only a fool would pass up an opportunity to slightly increase it. If our Lord valued faith at a dollar, then a one percent increase is not worth bothering about. What can you do with a cent? If common faith is of immense value, however, everything changes. On a million dollars, one percent is $10,000 —well worth a little effort!

The thrill of faith. Among the lessons to be learnt through Abraham becoming a father is not that we should do nothing and leave it all to God. Had this been Abraham’s attitude, the miracle would never have happened. The key lay not in doing nothing, but in doing the right thing — trying yet again to fill a barren womb.

We can be so paranoid about conceiving an Ishmael, that we fail to produce an Isaac. To stop trying for a child through Sarah would have been just as devoid of faith as using her maid.

Faith is leaving the security of inactivity and deliberately exposing ourselves to the painful possibility of defeat. It is Jonathan and his armor-bearer going out to meet the enemy; not his comrades hiding in holes hoping for a miracle (1 Samuel 14:1-15). It’s Peter saying, ‘If that’s you, Lord, bid me come…’ and then stepping out of the boat (Matthew 14:28-29). It’s that same fisherman saying, ‘Lord, we’ve toiled all night and caught nothing. Nevertheless, at your word…’ (Luke 5:5). It is Paul, once again facing a hostile crowd. It is you, trying one more time.

Faith is fundamental to all Christian service (Mark 11:24; John 14:12; Galatians 3:2-3; Hebrews 4:2; Hebrews 11:6; James 1:6-7; 1 John 5:4). Like a seedling, it should constantly grow (2 Corinthians 10:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:3). It is easier on ourselves if we start exercising faith now, in minor things, than to expect to pluck out of the air mountain-moving faith when it is critically needed in ministry. A delay either quickens your faith to rise to the challenge, or it’s a dead wait.

How to boost faith. I can easily believe the atom-holding, earth-spinning, galaxy-sustaining, life-giving Source of everything wonderful can do whatever he likes. Even the devil believes it. My difficulty is believing that his special love for me makes him long to use that power on my behalf.

Few of us doubt that God can do amazing things. The weak link in our faith is believing that he would do such things for ordinary, inconsequential you and me. We suspect that in the Almighty’s eyes we are not sufficiently special to warrant such attention. Oh yes, ‘God loves everyone,’ but we have a hunch that by the time that love reaches us it has spread pretty thin. I’m just one of millions. Why would God want to focus his omnipotence on me?

If we could grasp the enormity of God’s love for us, our faith would sky-rocket. Pray for a revelation. (The necessity of divine revelation is highlighted by Paul’s prayer that the Ephesians ‘comprehend…  and know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge’ [Ephesians 3:18-19].)

Awareness of how much we are loved is forever slipping from our consciousness. Partially in sight for a few days, it begins to fade again. The following suggestions might help.

When we let God down —even if we really foul things up —picture the proudest father the world has seen. The baby screams, dribbles and soils itself, yet Dad still glows with pride. God is like that.

When you feel like a tiny blob in the seething mass of humanity, see the shepherd of a hundred sheep frantically searching for one. If he can be personally concerned for one, the omnipotent Shepherd of our souls can love all humanity and still be devoted to you. In the beautiful words of Isaiah, ‘As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you’ (Isaiah 62:5).

When you feel you can do nothing right, picture a child, paintbrush in hand, gleaming with excitement. Enveloping her hand is the gentle hand of the world’s greatest artist. ‘And what shall we put in this corner?’ asks the man, as his skill and the girl’s imagination merge into one. See the artist’s smile and the child’s delight as together they create stunning beauty. Under God’s guiding hand, your possibilities are mind-boggling.

No matter how you feel, you are the focus of God’s attention; doted on as though you are the only friend God has. If ever a man wanted to shower his bride with love, or his son with gifts, God longs to lavish you with his extravagance. Expect great things from God. Anything less is an insult to your almighty Savior. With your Lord impossibilities are playthings.

Let faith mushroom by seizing the fact that the Omnipotent Lord is powerful enough to use you —over-riding your every inadequacy —and loving enough to want to. And believe that though he may lovingly delay your mission, his timing is perfect. Everything God touches is destined for glory. Even now, you are God’s ‘filthy rags to heavenly riches’ success story.

The Kingdom needs prayer warriors, not prayer worriers. No matter how much you cry, beg, and wish, you have not moved from superstition to authentic Christian prayer until you can thank God for the answer, knowing it is yours before you hold it in your hand. Faith is not thinking that God can; it is knowing that he will (Mark 11:24; James 1:5-8).

You will see it when you believe it.

To help you further, if you are battling with depression, the following are web site links to articles posted on MissionaryCare.com that we encourage you to read:

WHAT MISSIONARIES OUGHT TO KNOW ABOUT DEPRESSION

WHAT MISSIONARIES OUGHT TO KNOW ABOUT BURN-OUT

If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

24
Apr

When Pastor Husband is Ensnared by Pornography

Sometimes it’s a shock; sometimes it’s not. Sometimes a wife just knows that something is wrong and yet doesn’t know what to do about it. And what’s especially disturbing is when the “someone” that is viewing images of women that he shouldn’t, is your pastor husband. What can you do about this “secret” sin and yet not totally destroy your lives and ministry?

The best advice we can give here at Marriage Missions is to point you to other wives and ministries that can best answer that question.

It’s true that you have a unique problem because there aren’t a lot of “safe” places where you can get the help that is needed, and yet you also can’t allow the wrong behavior to continue because sooner or later, that which is hidden in darkness will be revealed by the Light of Christ. And the longer the sin is allowed to fester in the darkness, the worse the consequences can become, for those involved and also for others who will witness this as well.

So, to help you with this dilemma, we will provide several links to articles and resources posted on other web sites.

We believe the “mission” that God has given to this ministry is to point others to the best help that is available for their particular problem, as God provides. That is why we will point you to others who know more about this than we do.

The first article is written by a Pastor’s wife who thought she was doing her Pastor husband a favor, when he was away from his desk, by “cleaning up” his computer that he complained to her was reacting slow and appeared to be bogged down with too much data. Sadly, she found that the cleaning that needed to be done was more about the subject of the data than the amount.

Please click onto the Pureintimacy.org link to read:

AFTER THE SHOCK

From the ministry of Clergy Recovery Network, they have an article posted that gives additional information you may find helpful. As they noted,

“One pastor hooked on porn told CRN, ‘I am the darling in my denomination and if anyone ever finds out about my pornography use I will be tossed to the curb.’ He went on to say, ‘I have always been the pure one, the one with the answers, the one who could be trusted but this stuff on the Internet has taken charge of my life in less than six months.’ His telling the truth was the beginning of lasting change but his rapid descent into darkness and his fear of discovery is as common as communion in churches today.”

To learn more, please click onto the link below to read:

INTERNET PROBLEMS?

From the Covenant Eyes Ministry, the following is a link to an interview with Jeff and Marsha Fisher:

“Jeff was a pastor and a church planter who was secretly ensnared in pornography addiction and eventually lost his job as a result.” In this “portion of the interview Jeff will briefly share about the day his sins came to light.

“His wife, Marsha, will talk about how Jeff’s addiction had been affecting their marriage up to that point, and how she felt the day Jeff lost his job.”

And then afterward, there are links to Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of the interview so you can listen to the entire story. Please click onto the link below to listen to:

FROM PORN TO PURITY —One Married Couple Shares Their Story

“Problems with, or addiction to online pornography is one of the fastest growing problems in the lives of North American pastors today. Unfortunately, by its very nature, the obsession with pornography on the web by a pastor is often unnoticed by those around them. Even wives can be kept in the dark about where their husband’s internet journey has taken them.

“It has become such a common problem, that groups have formed which only exist to help ministers out of the entangled lives they find themselves living.”

And that’s what the ministry of PastorsWives.org gives on their web site —a list of resources “on the web for those ensnared in online pornography.” To see what they offer, please click onto the link below to view:

PASTORS’ WIVES RESOURCE DIRECTORY

The ministry of Pure Intimacy, also has a resource list. It not only contains resources for pornography problems but for other problems as well, that you may encounter. To see what they offer, please click onto the link below to view:

CARE FOR MINISTRY FAMILIES

This article was written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.

We hope this article has been helpful for you. If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage and ministry, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

20
Apr

5 new things I learned about Billy Graham

As a reporter who covers religion for the Observer, I’ve been writing about the Rev. Billy Graham since at least 1996.

But I learned some new things Thursday night when Wake Forest University’s Charlotte Center hosted Grant Wacker, author of “America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation.”

Here are five things I didn’t know until the event, during which Charlotte evangelist Leighton Ford interviewed Wacker before a classroom full of people.

1 President Lyndon Johnson (1963-69), a Democrat and fellow Southerner, may have been Graham’s closest friend in the world, outside of the evangelist’s immediate associates.

That’s Wacker’s assessment after reading their letters to each other. “They’re just beautiful,” Wacker told the audience. “And they bespeak a profound male friendship. And you wouldn’t expect that because Lyndon Johnson was a rough character.”

2 Graham’s friendship with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., forged in the late 1950s, broke apart in the 1960s over the war in Vietnam.

King had tried and failed to dissuade Graham from inviting Texas Gov. Price Daniel – “a flagrant racist,” Wacker said – to give the invocation at a 1958 crusade in San Antonio.

By 1959, their friendship healed, Wacker said, when Graham and King found themselves in the same hotel in Jamaica. “They spent the evening swimming together and praying together,” Wacker said.

But then came the Vietnam War, which escalated during the Johnson administration.

“King came to oppose the war,” Wacker said. “Graham was ambivalent about the war, but he particularly attacked King for ‘disrespecting the Negro soldiers who had so bravely fought,’” in Graham’s words.

3 Graham’s looks – “Hollywood handsome,” one writer called them – were always considered an element of his success with the media and the public.

Wacker said he’d read hundreds of the thousands of newspaper articles written about Graham. “I would say nearly all began with a reference to his looks,” Wacker said. “‘Blonde-haired,’ ‘blue-eyed,’ ‘tall,’ ‘lean,’ ‘trim.’”

Graham’s team appeared to understand, Wacker said, that his handsomeness was particularly an asset when he preached on TV.

Wacker said a reporter once asked a Graham associate: “What if the Lord had made Billy short, fat and scrappy of hair?”

Wilson’s response: “But the Lord didn’t.”

When the reporter pressed the associate, he added: “Being handsome reduces resistance.”

4 Graham, 96, has a suggestion for those planning to speak at his funeral.

Leighton Ford told this story Thursday: He and wife Jean Ford, Graham’s sister, were visiting the Charlotte-born evangelist at his Montreat home several years ago.

“I said, ‘When it comes time for the Lord to call you home, would you like your sister to say something?’”

There was a pause, then Graham said, “I would be very honored.”

“I said, ‘What would you like her to say?’”

Graham said: “He tried to do what he thought he should.”

“And what was that?” Leighton Ford asked him.

After a pause, Graham answered: “Preach the Gospel.”

5 The elderly Graham didn’t hear anything said at the 2007 dedication of the Billy Graham Library.

At least that’s what he told his sister, who recounted the story to me.

The dedication brought three former U.S. presidents to Charlotte, Graham’s hometown. After the laudatory speeches by Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Ford said she told brother Billy: “I hope you don’t have a big head.”

His response: “I didn’t hear a word. The dogs ate my hearing aids yesterday.”

Funk: 704-358-5703

19
Apr

Why Did God Allow Me to Get Sick?

Q:

I am devastated, because the doctor just told us I have an incurable disease that slowly but surely is going to make it more and more difficult for me to get around. This is really hard to accept, because I’ve just retired and we’ve always looked forward to lots of travel. Why is God doing this to us?


A:

I don’t know all the reasons why God has allowed this to happen to you—but I do know this: God knows all about your situation, and He has not abandoned you. Nor will He abandon you in the future! God’s promise is true: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you” (Isaiah 46:4).

How, then, should you deal with this challenge? First, deal with it with faith—faith that God loves you, faith that He will be with you, faith that even as your strength fades, He’ll help you face each day with peace. Then deal with it with hope—hope that someday all the limitations of this life will be over, and you will be with Christ in Heaven forever.

In addition, deal with this challenge with thankfulness—thankfulness for your family, thankfulness for each day God gives you, thankfulness that you still have a measure of health. I often think of the Apostle Paul’s words: “Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).

How can faith and hope and thankfulness become real to you? They’ll become real as you turn to Christ, asking Him to come into your life and cleanse you from all your sins. They’ll become real too as you pray, and read God’s Word, and gain strength from other believers. If you have never asked Jesus Christ to come into your life, do so today.

Have you lost hope? Find it in Christ today.

7
Apr

Education Is a Privilege, Not a Burden

If only we could have college without the homework. The real problem with school, you see, is all the classes — the lectures, the assignments, the papers, and the exams. The whole experience has so much potential if it weren’t weighed down with the burdens of learning.

It’s the familiar lament of most students, the dirge rising up from desks on campuses all across the nation. We all know it’s not really justified or even serious, but it doesn’t keep anyone from grumbling.

But before you let yourself complain again about the suffering of schoolwork, think about how empowering learning can be. This new two-minute video (the second in a series on school) helps the Christian student see studying for what it really is, a rare and awesome privilege.

Matt Reagan is an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, and a veteran campus minister. He serves as campus director for Campus Outreach Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota.

“It’s a privilege to learn as much as you can about as much as you can.”

More for college students from Desiring God:

Thumb marshall segal msgpla6y Article by Marshall Segal, Staff writer, desiringGod.org

5
Apr

Doing Missions When Dying Is Gain

                                               Wheaton College | Wheaton, Illinois

                                                                          vvvMessage by John Piper: Topic: World Missions

My mission statement in life — and the mission statement of the church I’ve served since 1980 — is this: we exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.

I love that mission statement for several reasons. One is because I know it cannot fail. I know it cannot fail because it’s a promise from Jesus. “This gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). “Nations” in that verse does not refer to political states. It refers to something like what we call “people groups,” ethnolinguistic groupings, and we may be absolutely certain that every one of them will be penetrated by the gospel to the degree that you can say that a witness, an understandable self-propagating witness, will be among them and gathered with God’s global people in the new heavens and new earth.

Let me give you some reasons why we can bank on that.

The Promise Is Sure

 The promise is sure for several reasons.

1. Jesus never lies. It was Jesus who said in Matthew 24:14, “Heaven and earth may pass away, but my word will never pass away.” So this mission, called world evangelization, is going to be completed. It’s going to be done, and you can either get on board and enjoy the triumph or you can cop-out and waste your life. You have only those two choices, because there is no middle option like, “Maybe it won’t succeed, and I can be on the best side by not jumping on board.” That won’t happen.

2. The ransom has already been paid for God’s people among all the nations.According to Revelation 5:9-10, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” They’re paid for, and God will not go back on his Son’s payment.

I love the story of the Moravians. In northern Germany, two of them were getting on a boat, ready to sell themselves into slavery in the West Indies, if necessary, never to come back again. And as the boat drifts out into the harbor they lift their hands and say, “May the Lamb receive the reward of his suffering.” What they meant was that Christ had already bought those people. And they were going to find them. They would preach the gospel to everyone they could and trust God to call the ransomed to himself.

So we know God’s global mission can’t abort, because the debt has been paid for each of God’s people everywhere in the world — those lost sheep, as Jesus called them, that are scattered throughout the world will come in as the Father calls them through the preaching of the gospel (John 11:51–52).

3. The glory of God is at stake. “Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:8–9). The whole purpose of the Incarnation was to bring glory to the Father through the manifestation of his mercy to the nations. The glory of God is at stake in the Great Commission. Back in 1983 at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Tom Steller — my partner in ministry for 33 years at the church — and I were both met by God in amazing ways. Tom, in the middle of the night, couldn’t sleep, so he got up, put on a John Michael Talbot album, laid down on the couch, and he heard our theology translated into missions. We had been a glory-of-God-oriented leadership, but we had not yet made sense of missions like we ought. John Michael Talbot was singing about the glory of God filling the earth the way the waters cover the sea, and Tom wept for an hour.

At the same time, God was moving on my wife, Noël, and me to ask, “What can we do to make our church a launching pad for missions?” Everything came together to make an electric moment in the life of our church, and it all flowed from a passion for the glory of God.

4. God is sovereign. In the late 1990s, as I was preaching sequentially through Hebrews, we arrived at Hebrews 6. This is a very difficult text about whether these people are Christians or not when they fall away. And in verses 1–3 there is this amazing statement (which is just a tiny piece of the massive biblical evidence for why I’m a Calvinist) that says, “Let us press on to maturity, leaving behind the former things . . . and this we will do, if God permits.” When we looked at this together, there fell across my congregation the most amazing silence. They we heard the implications of the words “if God permits.” Naturally they asked, “You mean God might not permit a body of believers to press on to maturity?”

God is sovereign. He is sovereign in the church, and he is sovereign among the nations. One testimony to this is in that memorable article in Christianity Today years ago retelling of the story of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Pete Flemming, Roger Youderian, and Ed McCully. Steve Saint, Nate’s son, tells the story of his dad getting speared by Waorani Indians in Ecuador. He tells it after having learned new details of intrigue in the Waorani tribe that were responsible for this killing. These new details implied that the killings were very unlikely. They simply should not have happened. It made no sense. Yet it did happen. And having discovered the intrigue, he wrote this article. There was one sentence that absolutely blew me out of my living room chair. He said, “As [the natives] described their recollections, it occurred to me how incredibly unlikely it was that the palm beach killing took place at all. It is an anomaly that I cannot explain outside of divine intervention.”

Don’t miss that. He says, “I can only explain the spearing of my dad by virtue of divine intervention.” Do you hear what this son is saying? “God killed my dad.” He believes that, and I believe that. According to Revelation 6:11, when you have a glimpse of the throne room and the martyrs who shed their blood for the gospel saying, “How long O Lord? How long till you vindicate our blood?” The answer comes back, “Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete who were to be killed as they themselves had been” (Revelation 6:11). God says, “Rest until the number that I have appointed is complete.” He has in mind a certain number of martyrs. When it is complete then the end will come. God is sovereign over the best and worst that happens in world missions. Therefore, the mission cannot fail.

The Price Is Suffering

 The price of God’s global mission is suffering, and the volatility in the world today against the church is not decreasing. It is increasing, especially among the groups that need the gospel. There is no such thing as a “closed country.” That notion has no root or warrant in the Bible, and it would have been unintelligible to the apostle Paul who laid down his life in every city he visited.

I remember one Sunday when our church was focusing on the suffering church, and many across the nation were involved. We saw videos or heard stories about places like Sudan where the Muslim regime was systematically ostracizing, positioning, and starving Christians so that there were about give hundred martyrs a day in Sudan. In light of this, I got very tired of candidates for staff positions in our inner city church asking, “Will our children be safe?” I’ve grown tired of such American priorities infecting the mission of the church. Whoever said that your children will be safe in the call of God?

YWAM (Youth With A Mission) is a wild-eyed radical group that I love. I got an email from them some years ago saying,

One hundred and fifty men armed with machetes surrounded the premises occupied by the YWAM team in India. The mob had been incited by other religious groups in an effort to chase them off. As the mob pressed in someone in a key moment spoke up on the team’s behalf and they decided to give them 30 days to leave. The team feels they should not leave and that their ministry work in the city is at stake. Much fruit has been seen in a previously unreached region and there is great potential for more. In the past when violence has broken out between rival religious groups people have lost their lives. Please pray for them to have wisdom.

Now this is exactly the opposite of what I hear mainly in America as people decide where to live, for example. I don’t hear people saying, “I don’t want to leave, because this is where I’m called to and this is where there’s need.” Oh that we might see a reversal of our self-centered priorities? They seem to be woven into the very fabric of our consumer culture: Move toward comfort, toward security, toward ease, toward safety, away from stress, away from trouble, and away from danger. It ought to be exactly the opposite. It was Jesus himself who said, “He who would come after me let him take up his cross and die” (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23).

It’s the absorption of a consumer, comfort, ease culture in the church. And it creates weak ministries and churches in which safe, secure, nice things are done for each other. And safe excursions are made to help save some others. But oh we won’t live there, and we won’t stay there, not even in America, not to mention Saudi Arabia.

I was in Amsterdam once talking to another wild-eyed wonderful missions group, Frontiers, founded by one of another one of my heroes, Greg Livingstone. What a great group — five hundred people sitting in front of me who risk their lives every day among Muslim peoples. And to listen to them! What a privilege. During the conference they were getting emails, which they would stand up and read, saying, “Please pray for X. He was stabbed in the chest three times yesterday, and the worst thing is his children were watching him. He’s in the hospital in critical condition.”

Then they would say, “This is a missionary in the Muslim world, let’s pray for him,” and we would go to prayer. Next day another email comes, and this time six Christian brothers in Morocco have been arrested. “Let’s pray for them,” so we did. And so it was throughout the conference. And at the end of it, the missionaries were ready to go back. Am I going to come back to America and be the same? Will I stand up in front of my church and say, “Let’s have nice, comfortable, easy services. Let’s just be comfortable and secure”?

Golgotha is not a suburb of Jerusalem. Let us go with him outside the gate and suffer with him and bear reproach (Hebrews 13:13).

Suffering Is Also the Means

 But in saying that there will be martyrs and there must be suffering I haven’t yet said the main thing about the price of getting the job done. That’s because not just the price of missions but also the means. Here’s what I have in my mind: Consider Colossians 1:24.

“Now I rejoice,” Paul says, “in my sufferings.” He was a very strange person. “I rejoice in my sufferings” is very counter-cultural, very un-American, indeed, very counter-human. “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of his body [that is, the ingathering of God’s elect] in filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.”

Now that’s on the brink of blasphemy. What does he mean by “filling up what is lacking” in the afflictions of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ? How could his afflictions be lacking? Paul does not mean that in his own sufferings he improves upon the merit and the atoning worth of Jesus’ blood. That’s not what he means. Well then, what does he mean?

There is a remarkable parallel to Colossians 1:24 in Philippians 2:30. What makes it a parallel is the coming together of the same two words, one for “fill up” (or “complete”) and the other for “what is lacking.” Paul says that Epaphroditus “came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.”

The situation is that Epaphroditus was sent from the Philippian church over to Paul in Rome. He risked his life to get there, and Paul extols him for risking his life. He tells the Philippians that they should receive such a one with honor, because he was sick unto death and risked his neck to complete their ministry to him.

I opened up my one-hundred-year-old Vincent’s commentary on Philippians and read an explanation of that verse which I think is a perfect interpretation of Colossians 1:24. Vincent says,

The gift to Paul from the Philippians was a gift of the church as a body. It was a sacrificial offering of love. What was lacking was the church’s presentation of this offering in person. This was impossible, and Paul represents Epaphroditus as supplying this lack by his affectionate, zealous ministry.

So the picture is of a church that wants to communicate love, in the form of money, to Paul in Rome, and they can’t do it. There’s too many of them to go and show their love as group. And it’s too far away. So they say, in essence, “Epaphroditus, represent us and complete what is lacking in our love. There’s nothing lacking in our love except the expression of our love in person there. Take it and communicate it to Paul.” Now that’s exactly what I think Colossians 1:24 means. Jesus dies and he suffers for people all over the world in every nation. Then he is buried and, according to the Scriptures, raised on the third day. Then he ascends into heaven where he reigns over the world. And he leaves a work to be done.

Paul’s self-understanding of his mission is that there is one thing lacking in the sufferings of Jesus: the love offering of Christ is to be presented in person through missionaries to the peoples for whom he died. And Paul says he does this in his sufferings. “In my sufferings I complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” Which means that Christ intends for the Great Commission to be a presentation to the nations of the sufferings of his cross through the sufferings of his people. That’s the way it will be finished. If you sign up for the Great Commission, that’s what you sign up for.

In the early nineties, when I was working on the book, Let the Nations Be Glad, and I hid away at Trinity Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois, on a writing leave. Then I got word that J. Oswald Sanders was going to be in chapel. 89-year-old, veteran missions leader. I wanted to hear him, so I snuck into the back of chapel and listened to him. And this 89-year-old man stood up there, and I was just oozing with admiration and desire to be like this when I’m 89. He told a story that embodies Colossians 1:24.

He said there was once an evangelist in India who trudged on foot to various villages preaching the gospel. He was a simple man with no education, who loved Jesus with all his heart, and was ready to lay down his life. He came to a village that didn’t have the gospel. It was late in the day and he was very tired. But he went into the village and lifted his voice and shared the gospel with those gathered in the square. They mocked him, derided him, and drove him out of town. And he was so tired — with no emotional resources left — that he lay down under a tree, utterly discouraged. He went to sleep not knowing if he would ever wake up. They might come kill him, for all he knows.

Suddenly, just after dusk, he is startled and woke up. The whole town seemed to be around him looking at him. He thought he would probably die. One of the big men in the village said, “We came out to see what kind of man you are, and when we saw your blistered feet we knew you were a holy man. We want you to tell us why you were willing to get blistered feet to come talk to us.” So he preached the gospel and, according to J. Oswald Sanders, the whole village believed. I think that’s what Paul means by “I complete in my sufferings what is lacking in the afflictions of Jesus.”

I have one other small parenthesis about J. Oswald Sanders. At 89 years old, he said, “I’ve written a book a year since I was seventy.” Eighteen books after seventy! There are people in my church and all over America abandoning productive life at sixty-five and dying on the golf course, when they ought to be laying their lives down among the Muslims like Raymond Lull, who was a twelfth-century Oriental scholar and Muslim missionary. As he grew old he thought, “What am I doing? I’m going to die here in Italy. Why not die in Algeria across the Mediterranean preaching the gospel?” And so, knowing that’s what it would cost him to preach publicly, he got on a boat at eighty-something years of age and crossed the Mediterranean. He stayed underground a while encouraging the church, and then he decided it was as good a time as any. So he stood up and preached, and they killed him. What a way to go!

My father, who died in 2007, was bursting with ministry in his late seventies and early eighties. I can remember twenty-five years before that, when my mother was killed, and he was almost killed, in a bus accident in Israel. I picked him up at the Atlanta airport along with my mother’s body ten days after the accident. In the ambulance, all the way home from Atlanta to Greenville, South Carolina, he lay there with his back completely lacerated, and he kept saying, “God must have a purpose for me, God must have a purpose for me!” He could not fathom that his wife of 36 years was gone and God had spared him. And indeed God did have a purpose for him. It wasn’t long before his life exploded with new ministry, especially globally. He was working harder in his seventies for the nations than ever before. He prepared lessons from Easley, South Carolina, including some tapes, and they were in sixty nations with about ten thousand people believing in Jesus every year, because God spared my dad and caused him not to believe in retirement.

The Prize Is Satisfying

 How do you love like that? Where are you going to get this kind of courage and motivation? Are you feeling ready for this? Do you think you have it within you to be able to endure this?

Read Stephen Neill’s A History of Christian Missions. He describes what happened in Japan when the gospel came there in the 1500s. The Emperor began to believe that the incursion of the Christian faith into their religious sphere was so threatening that they must end it. And he did ended it with absolutely incredible brutality. It was over for the church in Japan. And I don’t doubt that the hardness and difficulty of Japan today is largely owing to the massive (though short-term) triumph of the devil in the early 1600s.

Twenty-seven Jesuits, fifteen friars, and five secular clergy did manage to evade the order of banishment. It was not until April 1617 that the first martyrdoms of Europeans took place, a Jesuit and a Franciscan being beheaded at Omura at that time, and a Dominican and an Augustinian a little later in the same area. Every kind of cruelty was practiced on the pitiable victims of the persecution. Crucifixion was the method usually employed in the case of Japanese Christians. On one occasion 70 Japanese at Yedo were crucified upside down at low water and were drowned as the tide came in.

I cried when I first read that, because I have a good enough imagination to picture the lapping water with your wife on one side and your sixteen-year-old on the other.

Are you ready? Do you think you’ve got that within you? You don’t. No way does anybody have that kind of resourcefulness within him. Where are we going to get it? That’s what I want to close with.

We’re going to get it by believing the promises of God. Hebrews 10:32–34 is my favorite text about where we get the resources to live like this.

Recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction and sometimes being partners with those so treated.

Now let me stop there and give you the situation. In the early days of the church, persecution arose. Some of them suffered outright and publicly, and others had compassion on them. You’ll see in the next verse that some of them were imprisoned and some of them went to visit them. So they were forced into a decision. Those who were in prison in those days probably depended on others for food and water and any kind of physical care that they would need.

But that meant that their friends and neighbors had to go public and identify with them. That’s risky business when someone’s been put in jail because they’re a Christian. So those who were still free went underground for a few hours (I’m imagining this) and asked, “What are we going to do?” And somebody said “Psalm 63:3 says, “‘The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life.’ It’s better than life. Let’s go!” And if Martin Luther would have been there he would have said, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever. Let’s go!” And that’s exactly what they did.

Here’s the rest of the text (Hebrews 10:34): “You had compassion on the prisoners and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property.” Now here’s what happened. It doesn’t take any imagination. I don’t know all the details precisely, but here’s what happened: they had compassion on the prisoners, which means they went to them. And their property — house, chariot, horses, mules, carpentry tools, chairs, whatever — was set on fire by mob or maybe just ransacked and thrown to the streets by people with machetes. And when they looked over their shoulder to see what was happening back there, they rejoiced.

Now if you’re not like these Christians — when somebody bashes your computer while you’re trying to minister to them, or when you drive downtown to serve the poor, and they smash your windshield, get your radio, or slash your tires — if you’re not like these radical Christians in Hebrews 10:34, you’re probably not going to be a very good candidate for martyrdom either. So the question is, “How are we going to be like this?” I want to be like this. That’s why I love this text!

I make no claim to be a perfect embodiment of this; but I want to be like this, so that when a rock comes sailing through my kitchen window — like it has done multiple times over the years — and smashes the glass and my wife and children hit the floor not knowing if it’s a bullet or a grenade, I want to be able to say, “Isn’t this a great neighborhood to live in?” This is where the needs are. You see those five teenage kids that just rode by? They need Jesus. If I move out of here, who’s going to tell them about Jesus?

When your little boy gets pushed off his bicycle and they take it and run, I want to be able to take him by the neck while he’s crying and say “Son, this is like being a missionary. It’s like getting ready for the mission field! This is great!”

Now I haven’t gotten to the main point of the text yet. How did they have the wherewithal to rejoice at the plundering of their property and the risking of their lives? Here’s the answer: “Since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” Their love and their courage came from knowing they had a great reward beyond the grave. It was that real. If you are a Christian, God is holding out to you indescribably wonderful promises. “‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ Therefore, you can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5–6). What can man do to you? Well, actually, man can kill you. But that is no final defeat, because we know what Romans 8:35–39 says,

As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Therefore, nothing ultimately can harm you.

Remember what Jesus said in Luke 21:12–19? “Some of you they will kill and some of you they will throw into prison . . . Yet not a hair of your head will perish.” What does that mean? Some of you they will kill . . . yet not a hair of your head will perish. It’s Romans 8:28. Everything, including death, works together for your good. When you die, you don’t perish. To die is gain. Doing missions when death is gain is the greatest life in the world.