Glenn and I have been talking about the cost and sacrifice of following a call into full time ministry. Of course there are positions that contain financial security in “traditional” ministry, just as there are jobs outside of ministry that do not hold security. But, for the majority of missionaries, it remains a giant step of faith – trusting God to provide, trusting God with our children’s health, giving up the “extras”, and “counting the cost”.
It seems like a tough call, right? I’ve been lucky not to have to raise much of my support for my time in missions, having worked before each season in the field. But even now we know we are giving up considerable financial security, despite having investments to sustain us, as we re-enter traditional ministry. We also know that we will be giving up a lot of comforts. For one, we live in a beautiful part of the world, in a rural area, in a large house, with plenty of peace and quiet. This suits us both. Giving up our home to return to suburbia is not appealing, but this is a small cost compared to what some people give. There are the missionaries who, with multiple children and a paid off house, sell all their possessions to follow God’s call.
Why do such a crazy thing? And I have been called crazy many times in my life. I’ve also been told to “get a real job” and asked when I’ll return to the “real world” – by people in the church! Gone are the days when missionaries set sail from home with their coffins packed (literally) because they didn’t expect to come home alive! We have become a church that likes security and comfort.
So I return to the question – why? Why live by faith? Why give up financial security? Why put children at risk by going to third world countries? Why is it worth the cost?
I want to phrase it another way. Rather than looking at the cost . . . why don’t we look at the gain? Why not look at the riches we are storing up?
Let’s consider what Christ said:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)
One of my favourite quotes in this season is by Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot gave up his life at the age of twenty eight to go to Ecuador’s Quechua Indians. He knew the cost and the risk, but he also knew the reward. (This quote, whilst in Elliot’s diary, is also attributed to Matthew Henry’s father, Philip: “He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose”.)
You see, we have Christ. We have eternal security. We have eternal riches. We also have life now with the Everlasting Father. What matter to lose our lives for eternal gain?
I know this post has mainly focused on traditional missions, but I firmly believe that every Christian has a part in it. We are all called to make Him known and to lay down our lives for Him. Are you counting the cost as too high? Perhaps it is time to start looking at the reward and stop counting the cost.
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:20-22).
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26).