04 September, 2014

Considering Hebrews 12:1-3 again in September

It's been three months since I did this. Time has slipped away fast! Back in January I blogged here about a passage that I felt God wanted me to focus on this year. I've been trying write something about the passage at the start of every month.
Heb. 12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NIV)
Cloud of witnesses

After the weekend a "great cloud of witnesses" brings to mind the many who've witnessed
our missionary careers, especially those exmissos and others strongly connected to OMF Australia. What a privilege to have these earthly witnesses.

On the weekend we met with people who've known me since my youth, even childhood. People who've been with us on our journey even before we became missionaries and followed us through the years as we struggled in our early years. And who still pray for us regularly. It was such a joy to see them face to face.

We're very aware that we also have heavenly witnesses who we used to know on earth.
These were two of my youth group leaders
who are heavenly witnesses for me now.
People like Ian Scott who I knew as a child and young person, yet passed away too young, yet who encouraged me when I showed an interest in mission as a university student. Youth group leaders and parents of childhood friends from church, who all encouraged me in my faith. And more lately, people like Mary and Bjorn who visited us in Japan to encourage us in our first term, Neill and Merle who invited us out to lunch last time we were in Brisbane and used to send us weekly emails with summaries of news. All these are now our heavenly cloud of witnesses.

This is something that is on our minds as we see many others who began their missionary service, but have moved on to other things for one reason or another. We're aware that, whether we feel like it or not, we're now "senior missionaries", having served three terms. It is only by God's grace that we're able to continue on, that we have our health and the financial and prayerful support to remain in this work.

We're also aware that staying the course is not a given. The possibility of a change of course is always there. God may call us elsewhere. Our health, or that of someone in our family may fail. And we always need to guard against temptation, against being pulled away from our faith or failing to serve with integrity.

Fix our eyes
There are many distractions. And many of them are very good, eg. friends who want to see us. Of this, we're very aware. In Japan we have considerable blinkers on. In some ways we're sheltered from many distractions. In Australia we see what kind of lifestyle we may have had if we'd remained here and both had professional careers. We've both taken leave of our consuming jobs in Japan and, poking our heads up, we see other things we could be doing with our time. The temptation is there to get distracted from our calling.

And what is our calling? Primarily, to fix our eyes on Jesus. After that, he makes our next steps clear bit by bit. But we mustn't keep our eyes on the world for long or we're sure to make some mis-steps.

Stories of missionaries. We didn't hear too many of them on the weekend, there simply wasn't time. Perhaps if we'd be able to go to other workshops, we may have heard some. But here are some samples:

  • A missionary leader who seemed to constantly have national disasters thrown at him. "Constantly in a state of crisis." were his words. His advice to his successor who's feeling like he's drowning, "Ask God for grace and strength and wisdom for today and today only."
  • A couple coming back from their first term. Whose leaders had to leave the field in their first few months with them, and who had significant health issues.
  • A family who deeply desired to be overseas, but had health issues with their family members (actually this is a common story). They had to stay in Australia to take care of their family, though their hearts were overseas.
Say yes to being a missionary, you say yes to hardship. That's been our observation. You also say yes to many amazing experiences and wonderful privileges. Trusting God in the midst of these challenges, in the midst of long periods of waiting, of financial uncertainty, produces faith that is strong and deep.

Tempted to grow weary and lose heart
My temptation is in weariness at present. Both physical weariness and a temptation to lose heart. When you realise how few Christians care about mission in general and how few church are interested in really praying for the lost other countries, it is easy to lose heart. 

But these verses rally me, keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, who seemed to be on an even lonelier mission when he was on earth. At the end he was abandoned by almost all of his closest friends. Keep looking at Jesus and what He's called me to do.


Sarah said...

Great post, Wendy.
So relevant for us all.

witnessforhim said...

Yes! We need to keep fixing our eyes on Him. He alone has the strength to persevere... Well said, living this life does give us the chance to produce "faith that is strong and deep"