At the risk of over-simplifying and over-generalizing, I make this statement: The missionary life is just the normal Christian life lived in a different context. God deals with us just like He deals with all His children – using His Word and His Spirit to bring to light sin in our hearts and to bring us back around to right thinking. And as we open our hearts to this kind of interference, we get to know Him better through life’s journey.
Ellen Halverson said, a couple nights before we took off on the plane for Brazil that first time as a family, that walking with God in Brazil would be the same as walking with God in the States. And I know exactly what she meant. We didn’t know how to live in our new context. But we did know how God wants us to live with Him. “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
And so, at the risk of un-impressing anybody who may have mistakenly been impressed with me, I offer this blog and the next…the true story of God dealing with my heart along the journey. And may God get the glory.
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While we were still in the States, the LORD gave me this warning (and promise) through His Word:
Solomon forgot the LORD his Wisdom, and Samson forgot the LORD his Strength. I will give you both wisdom and strength to accomplish My will for you. But: Do not forget Me.
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (1 Pt. 5:5, Ja. 4:6, Prov. 11:31)
Somewhere the Scripture says that God will turn the sky to bronze above the proud, and the ground to iron under his feet.
Today my heart trembles at these words.
Today I tremble as my own heart asks WHAT IF after coming SO FAR…way out here so far from “home”…I found myself far from God, alone, apart from His help?
What if He opposes me? What if He closes His ears to me? What if He hardens Himself against me, closes His sky above me so no merciful rain will fall on me, and dries up the ground under my feet?
What a terrifying thought!
I ventured out here ONLY on the understanding that He is with me, upholding me by His right hand, sustaining me, comforting me, protecting me from evil, and supplying strength and wisdom in my not-enoughness. Because He said, “I am with you always.” Because He promised, “I will never leave you.”
But He warned me. And God does not make idle threats like a man who bluffs and manipulates his fellow man. Where God advises of danger, there is danger. He is not a man, that He should lie.
He is with me, as He promised. He will not leave me.
But He opposes the proud.
The only thing, that I can think of, worse than being deserted by God, would be to be opposed by Him.
The reason this scares me, is because I have sinned. In my heart I have gloried in my language learning in wrong ways. And I deceived myself like this:
I did not forget that the Lord was my wisdom. I did not take credit for intelligence or understanding. But I did take credit for my “esforço” “I did work hard,” I thought to myself. “I did really stretch myself.” And I began to take pride in that.
You foolish heart! Who gives man strength? Who sustains you day after day? Quem é que renova os seus esforços dia apos dia?
Lord, have mercy on me; I have sinned.
It’s okay – and sometimes profitable – to say, “I worked hard.” Paul said that. But he did not forget the Source of his strength. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Cor. 15:10)
With tears I sought the Lord and asked that He give me this language. And I found mercy in His eyes. Not because of my tears, but because of what they were expressing – the humility of a desperate human soul that recognized it’s own not-enoughness. And because it was His will to use this jar of clay in a capacity that required language ability. Só isso, e mais nada.
And in the faith that God was helping me, I threw myself into the task, laboring, struggling, “with all His energy, which works so powerfully in me.” (Col. 1:28)
“With my God I can scale a wall.” (Ps. 18:29)
Not only was it God who opened my mind and stretched it around another language, but it was also God who renewed my esforços day after day.
And now, why do I feel so doubtful about the idea of learning the indigenous language?
Because I don’t think I can put out that kind of effort again. There are forward thrusts that can be sustained for a length of time – say, a year – but not indefinitely. Not three more years, or however long it takes to learn the next language.
it really makes no difference.
Because the truth that God and I know, is that I didn’t have the strength for the forward thrust of this past year, either.
I just banked on the confidence that if I worked, God was working, that if I expended esforço, God was supplying, that if I ran dry, more would be there the next morning. Sometimes I slowed down because I was spent, but kept moving forward believing that, (as the song says) “strength will rise as we wait upon the LORD, as we wait upon the LORD, as we wait upon the LORD” and (as another song says) “I will serve You while I’m waiting”.
And humble myself before the mighty hand of God.
And as I do, fear melts away.
Love casts out fear.
I love you, O LORD my strength. (Ps. 18:1)
I will trust You in my not-enoughness.