As I write, many of our missionaries are currently facing some huge challenges. Many are trying to regain support, are facing ministry challenges, or are struggling with health. Many of you are undoubtedly facing challenges in your life as well.
Last week God deeply encouraged me with this passage that I hope encourages your heart also!
Before the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus tested Philip.
“Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.”
Problems reveal our need for God.
When we see how impossible a problem is to overcome, it tests our faith.
Problems are opportunities to trust Him.
The next line is SO powerful: “for he himself knew what he would do.”
Our life is like an empty stream, yet one perfectly designed to channel water to far-off places.
Only when God’s power fills us can we minister in a way that brings about true spiritual change. We must stay connected to the source, the spring and fountain of life. As soon as we are cut off from the source of water, we run dry.
How do we keep from running dry?
Our heart stays filled with God when we stay connected to Him through worship. Unlike other activities, worship fills our soul with joy in God. This joy spills over to others in ministry.
WHY DOES WORSHIP MATTER?
1. Without worship, your ministry is worthless.
Worship matters because it is possible to serve in a way that doesn’t please God!
It’s easy to become like the Pharisees who “honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8, 9). Even if we serve with great zeal and energy, we may not be pleasing to God.
When Jesus returned to heaven, He left us with a task. Make disciples.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
This command is for every believer, not just for pastors and missionaries. We are ALL sent to make disciples.
This involves two parts. First, we must be a disciple, personally following God in holy obedience and faith. In order to teach others “to observe all that I have commanded”, we must model obedience. Second, we must make disciple makers, teaching others to follow God and also equipping them to make more disciples. Every disciple should be a disciple maker.
Here is our central focus:
Be a disciple that makes disciple makers.
Day in and day out, no matter what, this must be our focus. Even if all our other plans fall apart, we must be a disciple that makes disciple makers.
If this is our focus, how can we do it better?
Here are a few thoughts and tips to help us engage in this all-important task.
CONNECTING WITH THE LOST
To have the opportunity to share our hope in the gospel, we need to be intentionally building relationships with unbelievers. We need to reach people where they are. The vast majority of people in post-Christian Europe (and, similarly, more and more in the US) are not going to come to church to hear the gospel.
We need to go to them.
In addition to looking for opportunities to share Christ in your everyday interactions with people, we need to find ways to intentionally stay connected to the lost. For many Christians, their circle of unsaved friends is very small. As we grow closer to Christ, it is true that we will have less in common with unbelievers and won’t be able to participate in some conversations or activities. However, if our Lord was able to be “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34), then so can we.
At the birth of Christ the angels proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)
Christ brought the gift of peace. For those who have trusted him for salvation, he gives peace about our eternity. We don’t have to fear or worry, we can know our salvation is secure.
But Christ also brought the gift of peace about our tomorrow. 2020 has rocked the world. It has made us aware of just how uncertain everything is. What once felt certain has been shaken and as a result, worry and fear is daily trying to gain entrance to our hearts.
Paul tells us to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15). If we make decisions based on fear, then fear is ruling our heart, not peace. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we know who holds tomorrow. This Christmas, receive the gift of peace from your Savior. Just as you trust him for your eternity, trust him for your tomorrow!
Fully receiving the gift of peace this Christmas involves our Heart and our Mind. Both must be at peace:
Be Trusting & Thankful in your Heart:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Set your Mind on God:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)
God does not promise peaceful circumstances in this world, he promises trouble. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) In the midst of trouble, he gives peace that “surpasses all understanding”.
I close with what has been my greatest gift of 2020, a verse that is hidden in my heart and keeps giving peace day by day.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)
Keep your mind on him, and he will keep your mind at peace!
Keep your mind on him, and he will keep your mind at peace!
In times of uncertainty and change, what principles allow us to navigate the unknown?
We all lead in some capacity.
Leadership is about influence, not position.
You may lead in your family, community, church, ministry, job, team or classroom.
God has given us each opportunities to lead in different areas. I hope that some of these thoughts may be helpful as you evaluate your own area(s) of leadership.
I have recently been contemplating this question:
What leadership lessons have I observed, learned, had reinforced, and/or implemented through the COVID-19 crisis?
Here are my top 11 lessons for leading in times of change:
The myth of Achilles teaches a valuable lesson: true strength is not determined by our strongest areas but by our weakest areas. Where are your weakest areas? This post will show you how to identify and strengthen areas of weakness.
As countries begin relaxing quarantine restrictions, we will all face life with a new reality: COVID-19 may be around for a long time. While quarantine may end, returning to life as normal may take some time.
Right now there are no confirmed medications to kill the virus. Depending on our job, ministry role, or travel needs, we could be placed at higher risk for exposure. The question that this blog post addresses is this: other than following the precautions given by health care professionals to limit our risk of exposure, is there anything else we can do?
I believe there is. The one thing we can do is strengthen our immune system. Having a healthy immune system is a huge preventative measure against the virus. Those with compromised immune systems are most vulnerable.
I write this with a heavy heart for our many friends who, as I write, are boarding flights to evacuate Tanzania. I write for the missionaries in Europe and around the world whose ministries and lives have been put on lockdown; for the students whose graduations are canceled; for those whose jobs and income have become impossible because of lockdown; and for the many other thousands of lives that have been shaken.
When troubles come, it is ok to mourn the loss of hopes and dreams. As parents, it is also ok to let our kids be sad over how their lives are changing. Our hearts need to go through the grieving process. The Psalmist regularly laments and cries out to God in grief. “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan” (Ps. 55:1-2) God doesn’t silence our cries or ignore our tears. He bottles them. “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Ps. 56:8) There is a healthy time for lamenting and grief; it is the first step in confronting loss so that we can reach out to God. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Ps. 30:5) Let our mourning turn us towards God, not away from Him.
Like Job, many may be wondering in their heart “Why Lord?”. For Job, God didn’t reveal the reason; He revealed Himself. For many that are struggling with loss, grief, and disappointment while trying to make sense of their world: God may not reveal the answer, but He does promise to reveal himself. “If you seek him, he will be found by you”. (1 Chron. 28:9)
Here are 4 ways that God has revealed Himself in His word that have encouraged me through disappointment and loss. I pray that they will encourage and strengthen your heart as well!
As COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly, how will we respond? Trials test the theology of our heart. While our mind may know that we can completely trust God, our heart is often a few steps behind. The theology in my head hasn’t changed since leaving for the mission field. However, my heart theology of peace and confident trust in God has changed immensely and needs continual growth.
God revealed many fears in my heart as we ministered to AIDS hospice patients in South Africa. At that time, South Africa was the AIDS hotspot of the world. The people we ministered to often had TB or MDR TB (Multiple Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis) which is highly contagious and hard to treat. Our health was constantly at risk. When faced with potential threats to our health, how would I respond?
I have often said that God took me to Africa for 11 years because He needed to teach me patience. I’m sure this wasn’t the only reason, but it was one of the biggest things He did in me. Missions provides ample opportunities for frustration: redundant visa paperwork, laws that randomly change, gridlock traffic, confusing cultural customs, shopping at 5 stores for basic groceries, endless lines, nothing working, etc.
It is easy to begin to think that if life was easier then I wouldn’t get impatient, frustrated or angry. When this happens I begin to long for comfort and lack of problems. But in all of my frustrations, the events aren’t the real problem. The events are simply God’s tool to reveal my heart. Like fire placed under gold to heat it up and refine the impurities when they rise to the surface, God uses difficult circumstances to refine my heart. When I face a difficult situation and become impatient, frustrated or angry, it reveals what is in my heart. It allows me to see that I am not as patient as I imagined!
Here are some perspectives that God has challenged my heart with to help battle frustration. I pray that they will be a help to you as well.
As we serve the Lord in ministry, we are going to face problems. Lots of them. Learning to destress is vital for our quality of life. However, there’s an even greater reason for learning to destress. When we face problems, others are watching. How we deal with stress either makes God look strong …or makes Him look weak.
When problems arise, my natural, emotional response is to worry. My tendency is to stress about how things are going to turn out. But what does this communicate about God? While I may be trusting Him with my eternal salvation, when I worry I am not trusting Him with my daily problems. When I worry and stress, I miss opportunities to glorify God.
Problems are opportunities to respond in faith or fear. Opportunities to worship or worry. If I respond in faith, it shows that God can be trusted because He is bigger than the problem. If I respond in fear or worry, it shows that God can’t be trusted because the problem is outside of God’s control or concern. My head may be trusting God, but when I worry my heart is not.
I have a lot of room for growth in this area, but here are a few things that God has challenged me with. I hope they are a blessing as you seek to become a servant after God’s own heart.