Thursday, October 2, 2014

Preaching to the Choir: 8 Common Stumbling Blocks for Missionary Women

Preaching to the choir...
                                  An idiom

It means that you are trying to prove a point to people who already agree with you. So maybe this post is preaching to the choir. Maybe you already have your spiritual superhero cape and merit badge. Or maybe... the choir really needs to be reminded of some of these things. Maybe you are more like me. I can sing in the choir with the best of them, but occasionally I sing a little off key.

This past week, I have been going through Matthew 6. I never really thought of it as a passage for the missionary life. But the more I read it, the more God shows me I am more guilty than I would like to realize. As I read this passage, it was almost as if it were written just for missionaries, though I know it wasn't. But let's take a look...

8 Common Stumbling Blocks for Missionary Women

1. Doing Things For Man's Approval or Praise

Matthew 6:1-6 "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

So, you are thinking to yourself, "Well, I can skip this one. I am definitely not guilty of blowing a trumpet when I put money in the plate or when I give to people or when I pray!" But sometimes our trumpets look a little different. Sometimes our trumpets are a simple post on social media or prayer letters. We make it look spiritual, but really our goal is to get recognized for our accomplishments. We want to make sure we get credit for what we have done. We want people to know we are being good little missionaries.

But isn't our goal at all times supposed to be to glorify God? Isn't He the one who provides for us, paves the way, gives the means to do things, and then makes things happen? So, we lead someone to the Lord... but isn't He the one who softened the heart, gave the understanding, drew them to Him, and helped them have the faith to believe? So, who is it that really did all the work?

Oh, how careful we need to be to give credit to the One who deserves the glory! Pride is what causes us to try to take glory for ourselves.

John 15:5  "... for without me ye can do nothing."

2. Forgetting Intimacy with the Lord

Matthew 6:7-13 "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."

It's so easy in the hustle and bustle of the work to forget what is truly important. The mission field can easily drag us into Martha mode instead of Mary mode. (Oh, I am soooo guilty!) We do and do and do and forget that so much more will be accomplished if we sit at His feet. More lives will be impacted when we have been with our Lord, praying and having intimate fellowship. We will be changed, and when we are changed people will see Christ in us.

3. Holding on to Bitterness

Matthew 6:14-15 "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

Make no mistake, missionaries get hurt on the field. Sometimes it is from the people we minister to. Sometimes it is from fellow missionaries on the field. Sometimes it is from supporting churches. Whichever direction it comes from, it is usually unexpected, hurts deeply, and can easily plant seeds of bitterness.

Forgive. Love your God enough to forgive even the most undeserving offense by people. After all, our offenses have been forgiven... and they were very much undeserving of that forgiveness! Have the heart and mind of Christ. Be merciful and full of compassion even to those who hurt you the most.

Ephesians 4:31-32 "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." 

4. Broadcasting Suffering

Matthew 6:16-18 "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."

I have to admit, it feels good to let people know all the "suffering for Jesus" I am doing. The more suffering I endure, the more spiritual I must be. I have to do without power often. My drive to and from church is a long, painful trip. There isn't a good heating source for the home in the winter. And there is persecution here. And no Krispy Kreme donuts!

I want others to know my pain. And when people pity my suffering??? Wow, what a stroke to the ego! (Doesn't that just reek of pride?)

Let's get one thing straight before I continue... Yes, the mission field is hard at times. There are difficult things to endure. Sometimes missionaries just need to be encouraged. Whenever a hardship is mentioned, it doesn't mean a missionary is fishing for attention or pity. Encourage the missionary! Love on them! Don't judge their motives in sharing their difficulties with you. I would rather have a missionary who is REAL about difficulties than one who pastes on a fake smile!

With all that said, missionaries must learn to keep it real while keeping it positive. In other words, yes, things get tough... but God is good! It isn't a cake walk, but His grace is sufficient! He is ALL we need! And our worst days are still far better than what He suffered for our sakes.

5. Putting Your Tent Pegs Down Too Deep

Matthew 6:19-21 "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

It is easy to get attached to things, a house, a city, people, or a ministry. Sometimes we get too attached. Then when God changes our direction or when our homes are broken in to by thieves (literally,) we have a tough time letting go. We must always hold on to things with an open hand. If God wants them, He can take them. They are His to do with as He pleases. If we hold on to things with a tight grip, we will find ourselves fighting God's will. Keep an eternal focus. This world is not our home.

6. Having a Divided Heart

Matthew 6:22-24 "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."

Wouldn't it be great if we had eyes like chameleons that worked independent of each other? Unfortunately, we don't! Our eyes must be focused together on things in order for them to work properly. And our hearts are the same. If our hearts are divided between two things, it creates an impossible battle. You know what happens when your eyes focus on two different things? You end up with a dominant eye. You end up with headaches and eye strain. When your heart focuses on two things... one of them will win out.

It is so tempting for the missionary to look back at the sending country and be divided... especially when special events happen. The birth of a grandbaby, a wedding, a graduation, holidays...

Keep the eyes of your heart focused on the same thing. Unified.

7. Doubting God's Faithful Provision

Matthew 6:25-33  "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

At the end of every month or the beginning of each month, many missionaries see a deposit into their bank account from supporting churches. Sometimes the amount is what we expected... and sometimes it much lower than we expected. Sometimes we get a notice that a church has had to stop supporting us financially. That's a tough pill to swallow, unless we remember where our provision really comes from. God is the missionary's provider. He uses supporting churches to funnel that support through often, but ultimately He is responsible for meeting our needs.

How tempting it is to focus on people as our provider! And how discouraged we will be when they fail us! But how much better is it... how much more comforting it is to recognize that God, who NEVER fails, has committed Himself to taking care of us!

8. Worrying About the Future

Matthew 6:34 "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

Missionaries are human.

                          Let me say it again...

                                             Missionaries are HUMAN.

We can be tempted with worry, too. Worrying over the unknown future... War breaks out on the field, an epidemic threatens, people threaten persecution, storms loom on the horizon, children get sick and it always happens at the worst times! And we play scenarios through in our heads of how these things will turn out.

Worry... a lack of trust. A lack of faith.

1 Peter 5:7 "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."

He CARES for us! He loves us!

Romans 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

We have quoted that verse so much that we have forgotten to BELIEVE it! God loves us and He has a purpose! We must stop allowing worry into our lives and trust Him completely.


by Charity, Southern Asia


Lou Ann Keiser said...

Thanks for preaching to the choir. Unless there's some angel missionary I don't know about, we all can use all of these reminders. Thank you for applying Matthew 6 in such a practical way. And, God bless you!

Anonymous said...

Wow! This was great!!! Thank you for the awesome reminders! God bless you!- Heather

Amy Meyers said...

Very, very good! I especially related to #3. #4 is a difficult one for me--knowing the balance between being "real" and being too negative. Great job, Charity!