The following blog post is a combination of 3 different posts. The first is titled “A Matter of Obedience”, written on the 27th of April 2015. The second is titled “The Dangers of Comfort”, first written on the 17th of May 2015. The third, “Not without sacrifice” and was written on the 2nd of December 2015, in further reflection on my time in Nepal July last year. As such, this will be quite a long post, so bear with me.
David Platt once posted something on Facebook titled “David Platt’s list of phrases to avoid”. They are as follows:
1. “I’m not called to foreign missions.”
2. “I’d rather give than go.”
3. “We don’t need to go there because there’s so much need here.”
There was once a time where I said and thought these things. There are many Christian people that I hear say these things. There is no doubt a particular Christian calling to mission; but in our humanity we fail to recognize some vital things in this train of thought.
Perhaps God’s not calling us to foreign mission today; but what if tomorrow we wake up and God tells us to get up and leave our comforts? What if God tells us to leave and move to Nepal? Iraq? Syria? Nigeria? Peru? Columbia? Ghana? Egypt? Gaza? Malaysia? Indonesia? What if God sends us to ISIS? Boko Haram? Would we be willing and prepared to surrender our life to God and go?
Its at this point that its not a question of calling but a question of obedience. This is where the “I’m not called to foreign missions” and the “I’d rather give than go” rhetoric falls short. It ignores the fact that God could any day, any moment call us to leave and go and cross cultures to spend our lives for the spread of the gospel.
As I learn more and discover more, the more I am convicted. I am convicted about the 2 billion people who have never even heard the name of Jesus. I am convicted of my incredibly comfortable life on the road to heaven while people are starving and dying on the road to eternal separation from God. 1800 people and rising died in an earthquake in Nepal, and I was sitting here writing a blog post with the gospel in my heart and the majority of them are separated from God, for the likelihood that they live in a Christian-less, gospel-less community. With all of this in mind, for me myself; can I even justify not going?
Of course, this brings us back to the third phrase:
“We don’t need to go there because there’s so much need here.”
I agree; there is need here. However there is a different kind of need here. Australian’s are a reached people. Most Australian’s have access to at least one Christian and therefore have access to the gospel. Australian’s have access to Jesus and access to relationship with God, which means Australian’s have access to heaven.
Many people in Asia, many people in Africa, many people in the Middle East, many people in the little islands dotted around the oceans, many people in South America and its vast jungles and countries. Many of these people have no access to a Christian. Many of these people have no access to the gospel. No access to Jesus and therefore no access to heaven and eternal life.
We live in a world that is more connected then it has ever been, with more ease of travel then there has ever been. How is the great commission not completed yet? How are there still two to three billion unreached people? I believe it’s because of this:
We are part of the 20% richest people in the world and our comfort has made us complacent.
As I go through my thoughts in consideration of the future and all the things that could be in store, the back of my mind has this nagging thought about the comforts of the world. House, car, job, close friends, wife, kids. The ease of access to amenities and food. How great it is to live in this first world country where everything is so readily available.
The Christian life, in reality, is never meant to have been so comfortable. The early church is seen in the Word forsaking their own comforts for the sake of the church and their neighbours. Giving willingly and sacrificially of both their possessions and their lives. Comfort was a foreign notion to many early adherents of Christianity and in fact a foreign notion to many 3rd world Christians today.
I was listening to a sermon by David Platt titled “A Christ Compelled Response to Nepal” and he was talking of a church he went to in Nepal and was asked the following by a Nepali Christian:
“I sometimes get, on TV, worship services from your country. I see everyone dressed in nice clothes and nice buildings and they talk about if you trust God and you can be blessed in all these ways. I come to our churches and most of us are poor, we’re suffering, we’re meeting here at the risk of our lives. Does this mean that God has not blessed us?“
Most contemptible and dangerous of all is this theology the western world has exported that our wealth is a result of God blessing us, not to mention downright discouraging for brothers and sisters in poor countries. In reality, what need do we have of possessions, of a big house, several cars? None of it is coming with us when we die.
In our western world, I believe that we are so blinded to the realities outside of our shores. Australians in particular claim to be generous and even a Christian nation, but we ignore the plight of the refugee coming to our borders. Before reading David Platt in 2013, I had not once been exposed to this idea of unreached peoples in my 3 years of Christianity.
And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
~ Luke 10:2
The harvest is so plentiful. There are many people who haven’t heard the gospel. There are billions who need it. These are human beings who are dying and going into eternal separation from our King. How can the labourers be so few in the face of such need?
I have seen a need which I cannot unsee. In the face of the great commission, the only option I see for my life and for the life of every Christian is obedience – whether we give and send, mobilise others or go ourselves.
My time in Nepal showed me that this is something that I could commit myself to, head knowledge on mission becoming a heart knowledge after seeing serious poverty and deep spiritual darkness for myself for the first time.
Knowing that I could commit myself to mission and the thought that my future could very much hold this, the question I have been asking myself a lot is this: “what is it going to take?”
I’ve been home from my short term trip to Nepal for 11 months now. I’m again very comfortable in my first world Christianity and first world affluence. There are many things on my heart that hold me back from totally committing.
I’m getting closer and closer to pushing past the things holding me back and getting closer and closer, God willing, to putting my life on a trajectory that will change my life forever. My realisation has been this: the more that I think about the needs of the many in this world, the more I am coming to understand that serious personal sacrifice is needed.
Therefore, as you would have noted already, the title of this blog post is “Not without sacrifice“. I have come to understand that if I am intentional about moving to another country with the express purpose of spreading the gospel, it will not be easy. I have come to understand that if we are to really fight poverty in our communities and in our world, it will not be easy. If we are to be intentional about fighting slavery, sex trafficking and forced labour, it will not be easy. Deep, personal sacrifice will not only be involved but will be vital.
What is it going to take?
There are children who are waiting and have been waiting a long time to be sponsored. The first child I sponsored was an 11 year old from Bangladesh (who has since moved out of the program). He was waiting for 500 days. My first question after he left was “Who has been waiting the longest?”. In all honesty, how much of a dent is it going to make in any of our standard of living to use a measly $48 a month to sponsor a child and see their life totally transformed through education, empowerment and the power of Christ? To get out of poverty, get an education, be loved by a generous stranger a thousand miles away who they may never meet. The other day I looked on the Compassion website (which was a seriously bad call..) and felt heart broken. There are kids who have been waiting in excess of 450 days. I wish I had the resources to sponsor them all. Whenever I receive a letter from my sponsor child from India – and oh what incredible joy it is to hear from him, hear his progress, and know, in his own words that “God will always be with me.” He has asked me to “pray that I lead my little family well”. I feel like one of my next stops will need to be India.
There are approximately, as of new recent estimates, about 48 million people trapped in slavery across this world. It is estimated that 14 million of them are located in India. Even worse, it is estimated that about 40% of the slaves in India are girls under the age of 18, oftentimes trapped in sex slavery. What is it going to take to redeem their childhood? What is it going to take to free the captives? I am constantly amazed by the work of the Exodus Road Bravo Team operating in India – the operatives constantly working to find those trapped in slavery (a night of investigations costs an average of $35), working alongside police to make arrests and help rehabilitate those saved from that life.
There are an estimated 2 billion people (some estimate 3 billion) who have not heard the name of Jesus once and therefore their ONLY eternal destiny is eternal damnation. Because not a single Christian has come to them and told them about their only hope of salvation. What is it going to take to see the name of Christ glorified by people in the Himalayas of Nepal, the deepest jungles of the Amazon, the harshest deserts of Africa or the incredibly dangerous wartorn countries of the Middle East? What is it going to take to see Christ named where He has not yet been named?
What is it going to take?
By the grace and the providence of God we have the most unprecedented, unparalleled wealth in all of history, yet we are content to store it up for ourselves, in things that will rust, crumble and eventually fade. This world is more interconnected now then it has been in all of history, with the ability to travel to the other side of the planet within 30 hours, yet people still haven’t heard the name of Jesus.We have the most intricate, detailed justice system in all time, yet people are still caught in slavery, even in our western civilizations.
And more often then not, we in the western world, with all our affluence (we are the 20% of the world with 80% of the wealth) and influence, do nothing in a world where something needs to be done. What is it going to take?
Children will not be sponsored, slaves will not be freed, this world will not be reached, the orphan will not be adopted, refugees remain stranded or sinners will not be won from the clutches of hell without sacrifice. Whether that is a sacrifice of money in sponsoring children, time volunteering overseas for the sake of the gospel or giving everything you have and moving to become a missionary, sacrifice is required.
I have a list written down of exactly what I know it will cost me should I become a missionary. It will cost me a comfortable life in a comfortable country that I love. It will be a struggle to adapt to a culture and learn a second language. I’d be away from my friends and family and church that I love. Dating and marriage and raising children are difficult. I’d be giving up my job, my car, my life in Australia and everything I love and know for the sake of strangers across the world who may not even respond in faith to Christ. I can see no human reason why I would want this. But I am prepared, if it is the will of God, to give it all up for Him.
So then, are we, the children of God with the power of the Holy Spirit, unprepared to sacrifice for Him? Are we unprepared to give generously to see children have an education and a life, and slaves to be freed, or love sacrificially in showing hospitality to refugees, the homeless, the orphan? Are prepared to give everything we have for the sake of this world that doesn’t know Christ?
“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him”.
~ C.T Studd
My sponsor child told me in his letter “I am so lucky, you are lovely sponsor. Thank you for kindly sponsoring” – it makes me wonder how many children still remain unsponsored, some in excess of 450 heartbreaking days without a sponsor of their own. Imagine the joy of those children when they finally have someone commit to sponsoring them. Regardless of the amazing work of Exodus Road, I still wonder how many children, men and women remain hopelessly trapped in slavery. And I constantly shocked with the 2 billion, at this point in time, living and dying without any knowledge of Christ and the many missionaries working to shine the light of Christ.
When we give of ourselves, when we sacrifice, lives are changed. People come to know Christ, kids receive an education and hope for a better life, slaves are freed from horrific, evil places. Christ died for us, the Spirit lives in us – and I think we all know, because of deeply held convictions wholly centered on the cross of Christ, that there is more that we can do.
We know exactly what it is going to cost. The question is “are we really prepared to pay the price?” Because one thing is for certain; sitting idly by cannot be a tolerable option.