Walking though the last twenty-five years of the HeartCry Missionary Society has been a privilege beyond anything I could have ever imagined for my life, and yet, it has not been an easy road. There have been trials and tribulations that I would have never chosen for myself and that I would not want to repeat. Each year leaves my hair more gray, my face more lined with the scars of sleepless nights, and my body more bent. Tiredness and fatigue are now constant enemies that force me to temper my desire to do more.
There is also the traveling. I simply do not like to travel. I miss my wife and children. In fact, I start missing them days before I even leave, and I count the days to when I will return from the moment I walk out the door. My wife Charo can sense that a trip is close at hand merely by the changes in my attitude – I go from glum to glummer to glummest! Sometimes, I even try to figure out ways to calculate the days of my trip so that they will seem to be less than what they really are. Often, when I am driving away from my home, I fear that I will never see my family again. After all, the rest of the staff and I often travel to some very unstable places.
Finally, there is the constant stream of problems common to any ministry. Everything from little problems like the internet being down or the copier not working, to big problems such as a missionary’s life being in danger or a church being on the verge of division because of some false teaching. I would like to say that such things always drive me to prayer, but sometimes they simply make me want to run away to some remote place never to be seen again. I remember traveling years ago through the central Andes in Peru with an old veteran missionary by the name of Homer Crain. He pointed to a remote mountain and said in his gruff voice, “I would like to be a missionary up there.” I replied, “But Homer, there are no people up there.” His response was classic: “Boy, that is exactly why I would like to be a missionary up there!”
Yes, it is true. Although I would not trade my life for anything less than the will of God, I sometimes want to run out the door and leave everything behind for an easier road. However, even in my weakest moments, there are always several things that turn me back; several things that cause me to see through the deception of an easier life; several things that cause me to continue laboring in the field of harvest until Christ returns or He calls me home. In this brief article, I will mention a few of these things with the hope that they might also help you to keep running the endurance race of the Christian life and to keep your hand to the plow in the labor that the Lord has given you.
The first and foremost reason for staying the course in the Christian life and ministry is the worthiness of God and the Lamb. As the myriads around the throne of heaven declare:“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” – Revelation 4:11
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” – Revelation 5:12
We must continue on because He is worthy, infinitely worthy of every beat of our heart, every breath from our lungs, and every fiber of our being. Yes, He is worthy of even the greatest suffering, deprivation, and death.
There are two quotes that are often repeated here at HeartCry. In fact, they serve as something of a rallying point and war cry when we are discouraged. The first is derived from Malachi 1:11; the second is from the Moravian missionary movement:
“Shall not God's Name be great among the nations from the rising of the sun even to its setting?”
“Shall not the Lamb receive the full reward for His suffering?”
The answer, of course, to both of these questions is "Yes!" God and the Lamb are worthy of all that we are and all that we possess. One thousand lives would not be too much to spend upon the glory and honor of God.
A second motivation for continuing on in the Christian life and ministry is God’s kindness toward us. When we compare what we deserve to what we have received, we have no choice but to continue on. What do we deserve? We deserve hell! Yes, even now, after all these years, after all our best works, we still deserve only hell. Our best deeds cannot merit the pardon of lesser deeds, nor can they achieve any right standing before God. When we look in the mirror, we always see a person who has been given the very opposite of what he or she truly deserves.
I do not think that we realize just how gracious God has been, not only to believers, but also to all who have ever walked on this earth. The question is not, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The question is, “Why does anything good ever happen at all?” We are a fallen and rebellious race. There should be no light or beauty or laughter in our world. There should be no green fields, lush forests, or pristine waters. Our world and our individual lives should look like something from a post-apocalyptic film, shrouded in misery and hopelessness. The fact that there is any cause for joy at all speaks of the immeasurable grace and mercy of God!
This grace is even further magnified when we consider the cross of Calvary, where Christ died for the sins of the world. We deserved nothing but eternal condemnation, and Christ deserved nothing but eternal glory. Yet He emptied Himself of divine privilege, took up our sin, and suffered all the condemnation that we deserve. How then can we be anything but content and grateful? How then can we do anything but worship and serve Him? As beneficiaries of His great sacrifice, we can never walk away from Him or turn from our service with a clear conscience. The Apostle Paul said it well:
“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” – II Corinthians 5:14-15
A third reason or motivation for persevering until the end and completing our ministries is the need of a lost and dying world. There are billions who languish without the privilege of hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The harvest is plentiful, and the laborers are few. Therefore, having put our hand to the plow, how can we take it back? Our Lord Jesus looked upon the multitudes, who were like lost sheep without a shepherd, and had compassion upon them. Shall we not enter into the compassion and work of our Master? Can we be content unless every soul has heard and we have exhausted every ounce of strength to bring them to Christ?
A fourth and final motivation for staying the course in the work of missions is the pledge we have made to uphold the men and women who are laboring on the field. Comparing our suffering to theirs is like comparing the mere passing of a small cloud over the face of the sun to a total eclipse. Yet every day they faithfully labor in the foreign field under the most excruciating circumstances. Some live in remote jungles and must bear with the heat, the insects, and the frequent illnesses that are common to such a climate. Some live in chaotic cities filled with crime, poverty, and unrelenting noise. Some live in lands where Christianity is a crime or where warfare is on their very doorstep. Some are simply swallowed up in the loneliness of living among the unreached without Christian companionship or encouragement. They are called to carry a heavier load than most of us, without the resources and comforts that we take for granted. How then can we complain about the narrowness of our road or what it has cost us to walk it? How can we run away? How can we do anything but stay the course and work for their good and care?
There are countless reasons to press on to know the Lord, to walk in His statutes, and to labor for His people. In fact, if we were to list even the tenth part of them, I do not suppose that even the world itself could contain the books that would be written!