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Copyright © 2001
M. S. Thirumalai
ISSUES IN MISSIONARY TRAINING - AS THE FATHER HAS SENT ME
WHY IS IT DANGEROUS TO HAVE MISSIONARY TRAINING?
There is a real danger, I believe, in having a missionary Training Center, a place where there is a great deal of emphasis on missions. There is also danger in having Missionary Conferences. The danger, I think, is that as we become aware of needs and opportunities in the world, we develop a sense of responsibility that may become the primary reason for our being involved in missions. You may find that a strange thing for someone to say who is involved in missions every day of his life. However, I didn't say that the problem or the danger is our concern for missions but in our becoming primarily involved out of a sense of responsibility.
A LESSON FROM THE STORY OF PRODIGAL SON
I find the story of the Prodigal Son to be one of the most enlightening stories in the Scriptures. Among other things, it gives us insight into what happens when a sense of responsibility is the primary motivating force in a person's life.
When the younger son returned from his period of rebellion against his father, the elder brother would not join in the celebration. His father, going out to the field to meet him, said, " Son, why won't you come in?" to which the elder brother replied, "I have served you faithfully year after year and you have never given me a feast. You have never killed a fatted calf for me or given me a robe or a ring." And the father said, "Son, everything that I have is yours." Here was one who labored day after day under a burden of responsibility with no joy or satisfaction in what he was doing because he was doing it for the wrong reasons.
WHAT IS PRIMARY IN OUR LIFE?
It is important for us to emphasize what must be primary in our lives if we are to become effective servants of Jesus Christ. Jesus made this clear in John 20 shortly before He returned to His Father. He transferred His commission to His disciples when He said, "As the Father hath sent Me, even so, send I you."
THE THREE FACTORS IN JESUS' FULFILLING HIS COMMISSION
As we study the life of Jesus we see three factors in His fulfilling the commission that God gave to Him.
- The first, and most important, was His relationship to His Father.
- The second was the responsibility He received from His Father: He came to serve His Father by doing His will.
- The third factor was the resources that were given to Jesus by His Father. "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power…" (Acts 10:38).
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FATHER AND SON
The relationship Jesus had to the Father as His Son motivated Him in everything He did. He did not come into the world primarily because of the love He had for His Father. In John 17 He said to His Father, "thou hast sent me … and loved me" and in John 16:27 He said to the disciples, "for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came from the Father." Everything Jesus did was dependent upon and determined by His relationship to His Father. "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power…" (Acts 10:38).
The relationship Jesus had to the Father as His son motivated Him in everything He did. He did not come into the world primarily because He loved us but because of the love He had for His Father. In John 17 He said to His Father, "Thou hast sent me … and loved me" and in John 16:27 He said to the disciples, "for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came from the Father." Everything Jesus did was dependent upon and determined by His relationship to His Father.
THE CALL OF GOD
In his book, So Send I You, Oswald Chambers says this: "Profoundly speaking there is no call to service for God. It is my own actual 'bit,' the overflow of super abounding devotion to God. God does not have to come and tell me what I must do for Him. He brings me into a relationship with Himself wherein I hear His call and understand what He wants me to do, and I do it out of sheer love to Him. To serve God is the deliberate love gift of a nature that has heard the call of God."
Whatever we do for God must come out of our relationship to Him. Statistics and the needs of the world may move us for a time by creating a sense of guilt or responsibility, but they will not carry us very far in our service for God.
OPPOSTION AND DIFFICULTIES
Any time we attempt to serve God there will be opposition, difficulties, challenges, and problems. If our motivation is simply the responsibility we feel because there are people who need to hear the message we have been given, we can easily become discouraged when those people do not respond. Or when we find that people with whom God has called us to work don't live up to our expectations (they are not as pleasant, understanding, or supportive as we anticipated), we then find reasons why we should no longer serve God in that particular place or with those particular people.
In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says,
No enthusiasm will ever stand the strain that Jesus Christ will put upon His worker, only one thing will, and that is a personal relationship to Himself which has gone through the mill of His spring-cleaning until there is only one purpose left-I am here for God to send me where He will. Every other thing may get fogged, but this relationship to Jesus Christ must never be.
THE REASONS FOR LEAVING THE MISSION FIELD
In the years that I have been part of Bethany Fellowship, I have never met anyone who left the mission field because there was a lack of opportunity to serve God. No one has come back saying, "I didn't see any reason to stay because everything that needed doing was done." Most missionaries who come back, other then for health or other necessary reasons, do so because of some difficulty with someone or with a situation. Ultimately, what that means is that they went for some reason other than love for God.
Again, Oswald Chambers says,
The private relationship of worshipping God is the great essential of fitness. The time comes when … it is out into the open, out into the glare and into the work, and you will find yourself of no value there if you have not been worshipping as occasion serves you in your home. Worship aright in your private relationships, then when God sets you free you will be ready, because in the unseen life which no one saw but god you have become perfectly fit, and when the strain comes you can be relied upon by God.
'I can't be expected to live the sanctified life in the circumstances I am in; I have no time for Bible reading, my opportunity hasn't come yet; when it does, of course I shall be all right.' No, you will not. If you have not been worshipping as occasion serves, when you get into work you will not only be useless yourself, but a tremendous hindrance to those who are associated with you.
ONE REASON ALONE
Our reason for going anywhere and doing anything should be one alone: we love God and we will serve Him however and wherever he asks us to, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, whether fellow missionaries are nice or not, and whether they understand or don't understand us. Because we love Him we are glad to do what He asks us to do, go wherever He tells us to go and stay as long as He tells us to stay.
You never find Jesus expressing bitterness, disappointment or discouragement because of the people God gave Him to work with. They didn't seem to be prime candidates for the founding of the Church.
Two suggested calling down fire on a village that didn't respond to Jesus! When he was on the way to Jerusalem to die, rather than encouraging and supporting Jesus, they discuss who is going to be the greatest. When he is about to be crucified, they abandon Him and deny ever knowing Him, but still He has no words of recrimination for them. No saying to the Father, "Having given me t his responsibility, you could have at least given me people to work with who could have helped and supported me when I needed them most." There was no bitterness toward his fellow workers even when they betrayed Him.
THE ONLY MOTIVATION THAT CAN SUSTAIN US
Love for God is the only motivation that can sustain us. People will disappoint us and let us down. But when we understand that we are not living primarily for other people but for God, we are sustained by His faithfulness, knowing He never leaves or forsakes us. This was what motivated and sustained Jesus.
OUR PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY IN MISSIONARY TRAINING
The second thing we see in the life of Jesus is the responsibility that came out of His relationship to His Father. We must never get the order reversed. We may be tempted to feel that our primary responsibility in training is to impart a missionary vision. It is our primary responsibility in training: to impart a missionary vision. It is our primary responsibility to get people to love God. If we can share something of the greatness of God, and if people can come to know and love Him, nothing will keep them from doing His will.
It was said of Mary Slessor,
She was naïve enough to pay the writers of the New Testament the compliment of thinking that they meant what they wrote and from this she developed another conviction: that the worship for which Jesus was looking was the worship of active love of God and Man, that Christianity demanded a life of service. This too was a conviction that never left her. It helped her to develop her own individual attitude to Christianity, which one day a Chief Justice of Nigeria would describe as being 'above religion,' and which would cause her to write to a friend: 'No! No! ... Creeds and books and ministers are all good enough but look you to Jesus.'
When we find our satisfaction in God, we don't need other relationships to satisfy us. They are simply opportunities for us to express the love of God to others. But when our responsibility given by the Father is put before our relationship to the Father, we tend to look for satisfaction in fulfilling our responsibilities and also for positions of importance related to the responsibilities.
It constantly amazes me how often Christians make the same mistake as non-Christians in thinking that one's importance is determined by his position-that somehow if you are a dean or director or pastor, that makes you significant. Our significance is never derived from our responsibility but from our relationship to the Father. That is why it is so important to be sure that you are in the right relationship to God because then it doesn't matter what you do. If you get to the mission field and you are asked to sweep sidewalks and you know that God call you there, then you gladly sweep sidewalks for Him.
It is amazing that we who follow the Lord Jesus have so often lost sight of what His life taught us. I am sure that Jesus swept the carpenter shop day after day and carried wood for Joseph. Somehow we have the sense that if God has called us, then it must be the dramatic things that we do that are significant. But the Creator of the universe was willing to sweep the shavings from the carpenter's floor out of love for and obedience to His Father. I suggest that until we understand something of God and who we are in relationship to Him, we are not ready to move out in service for Him.
Again, Oswald Chambers reminds us,
the things that Jesus did were of the most menial and commonplace order, and this is an indication that it takes all God's power in me to do the most commonplace things in His way. Can I use a towel as He did? Towels and dishes and sandals, all the ordinary sordid things of our lives, reveal more quickly than anything what we are made of. It takes God almighty Incarnate in us to do the meanest duty as it ought to be done.
THE SCENE IN THE UPPER ROOM
The night Jesus was betrayed, He was with His disciples in the Upper Room, and it was customary for the feet of guests to be washed. No one bothered to take a towel or get the water. Perhaps peter was thinking, "Jesus has given me a little more responsibility than the others, so it would be demeaning for me to wash their feet, they may get the wrong idea." Maybe Thomas was thinking, "Bartholomew and Matthew ought to be doing something. Matthew was a tax collector and he ought to be demonstrating some humility now in washing our feet."
Jesus was going to die in a few hours' time. He could have been preoccupied with His own suffering and death and His need for support, but He saw that the disciples' feet were dirty and dusty, so He got a basin, water and a towel and washed them.
When you know the relationship you have to the Father, you can wash feet every day of the week if necessary because that's what the Father would do. And if you are going to the Father, then you had better learn to live the way he lives. And we know the Father washes dirty feet because Jesus said, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9). It is essential to get the relationship right before you start worrying about the responsibility.
TO LIVE FOR THE APPROVAL OF OTHERS?
It is possible to live for the approval, recognition and acceptance of others. If that is what we seek, that is what we may get and nothing more. But when our hearts are set to do the Father's will, and we love Him, whether we wash feet or preach sermons doesn't really matter because the relationship is what counts, and that controls the responsibility. God doesn't love us because we are faithful to our responsibilities; our responsibilities are simply the ordering of God's work but they do not determine whether God loves us or not.
When God gives responsibility He also gives the necessary resources to carry it out. Those resources are not natural but supernatural. For thirty years Jesus developed his relationship with the Father-growing in stature with God and man-and when He was ready to undertake His ministry, God baptized Him with the Holy Spirit.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18,19).
Jesus told His disciples, "You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me." In I Cor. 12:7 Paul tells us that the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each for all. The ministry to which God calls us is not intended to be a means of self-fulfillment or self-satisfaction. It is a call to self-sacrifice, which will present us with many opportunities to lay down our lives for Jesus under the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said, "My meat is to do the will of Him who sent Me." He did not live to please himself but His Father. Paul said, "I don't count my life dear to myself." He simply wanted to fulfill the service that Jesus had given him-"For the love of Christ constrains me, that one died for all that they that live ought not to live for themselves but for Him who loved them and gave Himself for them" (2 Cor. 5:14,15).
WHAT SHALL BE THE MOTIVATING FORCE OF A MISSIONARY MOVEMENT?
The great motivating force of a missionary movement ought not to be the lostness of mankind but the love of God. Every day as we wake up in the morning, the prayer of our heart should be,
Let there be more today who raise their hands to praise you than there were yesterday. And, dear Father, let there be more tomorrow than today. And let the day soon come when the whole earth is filled with people who love you and are praising and worshipping you and there is no one who doesn't know and love you.
It should grieve us to know that there are nations where His Name is not honored and whole peoples who have never heard of Him. Out of our love for Him comes our desire to pray, go, give and do whatever we can so His Name will be hallowed and more people will love and worship Him.
Get to know God and you will want to tell others about Him. You will want everybody to love Him. You won't need a lot of statistics or prodding. Statistics and challenges will be just further reminders that there are still more people who don't know Jesus. And when the challenges, disappointments and difficulties come, you can go back to the Father and say, "It is all right, Father. You sent me here and I am here to stay. I am not here because of what I do. I am here because of who put me here." We can say with C. T. Studd, "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."
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