Having been in full-time missions for as long as I have, I end up doing quite a bit of public speaking, usually on missions and the biblical call to service. Invariably, following the talk, someone will ask the question: “How do I find God’s will for my life?” I’m sure my deep and heartfelt response never fails to help, encourage, and inspire: “I have no idea.”
Our salvation through God’s indescribable grace is complete; we can add nothing to it. It is done. As believers, our natural response, flowing from a realization of how powerful this gift of grace is, is to seek God’s will in our lives. This is a good thing. I want to state it again though; nothing we can do adds to our salvation. How we live our lives is a testimony to our belief in the gospel and what God has called us towards. Ultimately, God’s will for our lives is summed up in Micah 6:8: …And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
I honestly believe very few people have a calling into long-term international missions. The mission fields in our homes, our schools, and our workplaces are in desperate need of people to share the gospel in their day-to-day lives. It is a glorious and beautiful thing that we can live out the gospel in both word and deed every day, wherever we are. The US is a hungry and needy missions field. But, what if there is a different calling on our lives? What ARE we called to do? What are we called to sacrifice?
A few years ago my wife and I went on a short-term missions trip to Malawi, a tiny country in the middle of Africa. We had been asked to consult with one of the many orphanages there created in response to the AIDS crisis. Malawi is land-locked in the southern half of the African continent and ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world. Accommodations and travel conditions can be “rustic” even on the best of days. A few days into the trip we were asked to drive to the northern part of the country, into one of the least populated areas, where a group was interested in opening a new orphanage. We saw this as both a chance to help another orphanage and, as a personal perk, we could see more of the country.
Our driver/guide and our team of four climbed into a rickety vehicle for the trek north. The car had obviously been on this road countless time before as it was the only road through the country. The car just naturally seemed to find every one of the thousands of potholes trying to shake the trim off the car, and the fillings out of our teeth. After about eight hours we arrived at our destination. For the last several hours of the trip, I had been finding a balance between silently complaining to myself, and patting myself on the back for making such a “sacrifice” to help. (I’m frequently an idiot)
Once we arrived in the village, we saw that it was nothing more than a random cluster of shortish adobe huts with grass roofs baking in the sun. Before we were done stretching after the long drive, our guide asked us to follow him to the edge of the clearing. With him leading the way, we came to a compact but very well kept cemetery. Now, we were not aware of every “local custom,” so the guide saw the look of confusion on our faces. To help us understand what was going on, he puffed out his chest and said with great pride and enthusiasm “This is where we bury the missionaries!” This did not help. At all. After seeing our even more confused looks, he went on to explain that this is a place of tremendous honor. The people buried here are the first missionaries who brought the Gospel to this area over 100 years ago.
I spent a long time walking through that cemetery. Few events are etched so deeply into my mind as the hours I spent walking from grave to grave reading the names and dates memorialized in that special place. They had died at 22, 26, 30 years of age. There are a few infants buried there who never saw age 2, born in a hut in the middle of Africa. These are people who traveled from Europe for months, through horrible conditions, for the chance to share the gospel with this small tribe of people. They left for the missions field knowing full well they would very likely not be coming home, at least not to their home in this world. These people knew what it was to sacrifice for the gospel.
What are we called to sacrifice for the Gospel? I don’t know. I, like you, am still figuring this out. But we need to be asking this question throughout our lives: What am I called to do? We have received a profound gift. If we believed in the gospel as deeply as we should, what wouldn’t we be willing to sacrifice to bring just one more person into the Kingdom? Whether you realize it or not, you’re dedicating your life to something. Does what you’re working for matter in the bigger picture? Does what you’re working towards matter at all?
To quote Frances Chan: “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
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