What would it take for you to choose suffering over a life of ease? I don’t mean that you would endure suffering or that you would look for a way to make much of a difficult situation. I mean, would you intentionally choose to walk away from ease and familiarity toward the unknown and suffering? This is an important question for evangelical Christians who believe that the scriptures teach that everyone who does not make a personal decision for Christ is lost and that the All Powerful Jesus commanded his followers to make the gospel available to all peoples. Each semester I talk with young people who feel called and compelled to be on mission. I tell them, “All of the easy places are taken.” Obeying the missionary call requires choosing suffering over ease.
This is not new. One of the original missionary “heroes” was forced to make just such a choice. As a young man, Patrick kidnapped and sold by Irish slave traders. He lived as a slave for over six years and was eventually able to escape and return home to England. One evening he had a vision and heard an Irish voice cry out, “We beseech thee, holy youth, to come and walk with us once more.” Patrick heard the missionary call and knew that to obey meant choosing suffering over ease. It required him to forgive his slave owners and act for their good. He chose to be obedient to the God’s call and for the sake of the gospel, he went back to Ireland.
When Patrick arrived in Ireland there were a few groups of Christians scattered across the Island. The majority of the people were still prisoners of pagan idolatry he worshipped the Sun, the planets and, the elements. However, by the time of Patrick’s death thousands had been baptized as Christians and hundreds of churches had been started. The Island was more Christian because Patrick choose suffering over ease.
How can we make the same decision and live more missionary lives:
1. Refuse to make heaven of this earth. God has been very good to most of us. We have an abundance of food, shelter, and clothing. We never worry about the necessities and instead enjoy extras. If we are not careful, we will forget that this world is not our home. As Christians our priorities and allegiances must be shaped by the eternal. This will free us up to leg go and trust the Lord.
2. Make much of what the Gospel has done in your life. What has God saved you from? What has he done for you? Since you have been forgiven much, shouldn’t you also act graciously toward others? After we have been Christians for many years, we mistakenly believe that we were always this way or that we deserve it more. The Gospels reminds us this is not true.
3. Remember that ease and security are an illusion. There is nothing inherently safe about where you are now. We all know of people in just such a situation as we are who are suffering greatly – illness, rebellious kids, persecution, etc. Don’t let the illusion of ease today lull you into believing it will always be this way. And since suffering will come – isn’t it better to choose it for the gospel?
Scott Hildreth is the director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies. He frequently speaks on issues of missions, spiritual formation, missiology, and theology. Scott also contributes to SEBTS faculty blog www.betweenthetimes.com