Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Laura Miles* is a missionary on hold. At least, she feels that way sometimes. She spent two terms overseas with her husband, in places where the people she served are experiencing hard times and the threat of worse. It tears her up inside to watch them suffer from a distance. But for now she’s back home, where she and her husband minister to young adults in a local church.
“We really felt like it was a lifetime calling,” Miles says of the first stint abroad. “We went over and just loved the people, loved the ministry. We have a definite heart for Muslims. We felt like we really connected, but about halfway through the Lord was telling us we needed to go back and [prepare] for long-term career ministry.”
They thought God would lead them back to the same place, “but it wasn’t long after leaving that we felt that door kind of shut,” Miles says. “We prayed and prayed. We were very impatient with the Lord. We wanted to know where and what was next. We realized we weren’t trusting in Him, so we committed to resting in serving where we were until He revealed the next location.”
When the time was right, they went to a different country and ministered there for three years. “We left everything, sold everything, and we thought it was going to be long-term,” she recalls.
Once again, however, they sensed the Lord drawing them home — this time to reach out to American Millennials searching for God’s purpose for their lives. Young women who look to Miles for guidance and inspiration confirm that she’s doing a pretty good job.
Still, a hurting world in darkness calls to her.
“Honestly, my heart is on the field somewhere,” she admits. “So I’m trying to seek out, ‘Lord, who do You want me to be right now while I’m here? Whenever You want to send me back somewhere, I’m ready.’ But until then, it’s about trying to be faithful where you’re at, with whom you’re given.”
The missionary call of God is as clear as glass. He called Abraham to leave his home for a place yet to be revealed (Genesis 12). Abraham obeyed, setting in motion a divine plan that would bless all nations. Jesus called His followers to make disciples among all peoples (Matthew 28:19-20), a command to His church that still stands. The New Testament refers to “calling” 195 times.
But His specific calling to individuals is more mysterious. It arrives in His time, not ours. It might be dramatic or quiet. It might come gradually or in a single, powerful moment. It is personal, tailored to one’s gifts and experiences. It might involve traditional avenues of mission service, or using your professional skills to share the Gospel in the secular marketplace. (Explore God’s call in your life at www.going.imb.org. Learn more about being a marketplace professional for Christ at marketplaceadvance.com).
“God’s call involves a personal response to the witness of the Holy Spirit within us,” says “Exploring your Personal Call,” an IMB document shared with potential missionary candidates. “In this sense, the call of God is inward, personal and even secret. People accurately say, ‘God has laid this on my heart.’ There is a sense of ‘oughtness’ or divine compulsion toward a task or occupation. This kind of conviction led Isaiah to utter the memorable words, ‘Here am I. Send me!’ (Isaiah 6:8).
“This inward call can come in a variety of ways: through reading Scripture, through concentrated prayer, through special events or a special person, or through life’s experiences. However this personal call comes, it must be followed by a commitment to do that which God intends.”
Obedience, then, is the key. God calls us first to Him, not to a place or a people. Location comes later, and it may change. Abraham didn’t know where he was going; he only knew the One who was calling.
“No one, in other words, has a call to a particular place,” writes author and speaker Joan Chittister. “The call of God is to the will of God.”
Day by day, Laura Miles is learning that truth. What about you?
* Name changed
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
I saw my friend James at a church supper after being out of touch for several years. It was like we’d never been apart.
We talked, laughed, hugged, sang and prayed together. I met his wife for the first time and celebrated with them over the way God had healed wounds in their marriage and family. It was a great evening; we didn’t want it to end. We said goodnight, promising each other we’d meet again soon.
A few weeks later, James was dead. Chronic illness caught up with him. He hung on for days in the hospital, but his body was worn out.
This life seems so strong and sure for a season — and then it’s over. We try to escape death, delay it, appease it, fight it, deny it. “Do not go gentle into that good night,” the poet Dylan Thomas advised. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Rage all you want; death will come for you one day. But darkness, its close companion, is a choice.
“There was the true Light, which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. … But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,” the Apostle John declared of Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh who dwelt among us (John 1:9-12, NASB).
Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus Himself said, “This is the judgment, that the Light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19, NASB).
Men love the darkness, but God sent His Son, the Light of the world, to rescue us from eternal darkness. By His resurrection, Christ put darkness to death. Two millennia later, however, not everyone knows it. That’s why missionaries and other servants of God go to places of darkness, no matter the potential cost. They bring the Light of the Gospel not only through their words and actions, but by their presence.
“There have been several attacks recently,” wrote a worker who lives in one such place. “Often the gunfire and explosions would cease, and I would think it must be over, but it would start again. I was sharply reminded that we are here to pray.” To pray, to be, to love, to speak, to lift up the flaming torch of Christ amid great darkness.
On a recent plane trip, IMB President Tom Elliff struck up a conversation with a fellow passenger who asked him, “What do you do [for a living]?”
“I chase darkness,” Elliff replied.
Bewildered, the passenger inquired, “Are you in lighting?”
“In a way,” Elliff told the man.
Reflecting on the encounter, the IMB leader said: “We are indeed ‘chasers after darkness,’ looking for the black holes of sin in our world and thrusting into that darkness the Light of the glorious Gospel of Christ.”
My friend James experienced darkness in his life, but when Christ filled his soul with light and salvation, he became one of the most joyful witnesses I’ve ever known. This Easter, I know James is celebrating the resurrection in the presence of the Risen One.