If you asked me to describe myself in three words, I guess one of them would have to be ambitious (I’m still trying to figure out the other two). I want to live fearlessly and do great things for God. I want to reach unreached people and save the lost and fix the broken. While that can be a good thing, it can also be dangerous if my passion isn’t governed by godly wisdom and careful thought.
While some people thrive in a lifestyle of routine, structure, and a sense of predictability, those words sound awfully restrictive to me. I like the idea of adventure, risk-taking, and the thrill of new experiences. To me, that sounds far more exciting, and surely the more likely option which will change the world for Jesus, right?
A couple months earlier this year, through a series of events and experiences, I began to feel a burden for the Japanese people. They are the second biggest unreached people group in the world, yet they are one of the most developed, literate, and technically connected nations as well. They have one of the world’s highest suicide rates because the people are without purpose, without peace, and without God in this world. Added to all this, the country’s doors are open to Christian workers coming in, however many of the people’s hearts are shut closed. They need more people who can share the good news in Japan, and I felt like I was one of them. I told this to my church, and soon I was making contact with relevant people, talking about fundraising and looking at the different options for serving there.
A few months passed and planning began to take shape. However, my heart was quickly growing cold. Looking more at the Japanese culture made me realize that perhaps my personality and traits were not the best fit for this people group. I began to feel like a failure in missions. I hadn’t even left my country, yet I felt so isolated and alone. How would I make any difference in the world with feelings which were so self-centred? Didn’t I care that the Japanese people were dying without knowing Christ? Still I did not want to go anymore, and I felt like I had failed God. I considered going regardless, yet my heart was not in it.
And then the Holy Spirit reminded me of some important things which I hope I will never forget:
1) I fail God every day. I didn’t ever not fail Him. This isn’t an excuse not to obey Him or go where He calls, but a reminder that we cannot serve God in terms of merit or from guilt. God doesn’t need me to “work” for Him. The righteousness is ALL His.
2) I can’t change people. The truth is, nowhere does God give me this responsibility or even expect it of me. I can’t even change myself, never mind reach people of a different language and culture to me. Neither can I save the lost, or fix the broken.
3) God is perfectly capable of guiding us. Sometimes we are afraid that we’ll miss what He has for us or don’t trust that He will show us the way forward. The truth is, God knows us better than we know ourselves. He isn’t absent in our decision-making when we seek Him in the process.
4) The value of faithfulness. Faithfulness is what God requires of us, not necessarily extreme exploits. We should be ambitious to serve God, not to change the world or make a name for ourselves.
The Holy Spirit has been teaching me that faithfulness is where lasting change happens. My ambitious, eager spirit loves to see a need or opportunity and start something new, but finds it much harder to see it through. Yet nothing changes overnight with lasting significance.
If you plant a seed, there is a long process of watering and pruning before you will start to see any fruit. And many times we throw in the towel long before we’ve seen that process through, and then wonder why we witness no fruit. However, faithfulness is not something our generation is encouraged to pursue – instead, everyone would fight against it in favour of instant-gratification.
In Galatians 6:9-10 Paul writes, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (NIV).
I believe God has been teaching me the value of being faithful. Over the past year especially, through praying and searching for God’s will for my future, I think many times I overlooked the fact that where I am right now is God’s calling. I’ll not only fully glorify God one day when I’m where He ultimately wants me to be, but He has given me every opportunity to glorify Him fully here and now. The truth is that God doesn’t only use a future version of us, He uses us now, even in our weaknesses, and has placed us uniquely and clearly calls us to serve Him in everything we do.
Whether we think our task in life is worthy, or no matter how mundane, true worship is being faithful to God and giving Him our all. Whether we are placed across the world on the mission field, or we are attending school and serving those around us day in and day out, God looks at the attitude of our hearts and is pleased by faithfulness.
For me, this looked like trusting God in redirecting me from going to Japan, to clearly remaining and furthering my studies in theology. Instead of encountering the changes and challenges of relocating, I needed to be faithful in a much more predictable and stable environment, something that would be as character developing for me, as giving up everything for overseas missions.