People may go into the Lord’s work for various reasons. Some may feel there is prestige connected with being in full-time Christian work. If one is lazy he might think he could get by while doing very little. Foreign mission work might attract one with its exotic geography and culture. Some might have a benevolent desire to help meet the needs of people, being moved by stories and pictures of the poverty and starvation.
But when one actually gets involved in the Lord’s work, the glamour quickly ebbs away. Experience indicates that the following situations are commonly confronted by those thus engaged. In many countries Christians are not honoured but despised. The work is hard. Few seem to respond to the gospel and discouragement sets in. If one is serving the Lord along faith lines without a salary, at times funds may be very short. Bitterness may set in toward other Christians. Why aren’t they more concerned to give? Those you came to help may not appreciate your efforts and your presence may be resented. You may begin to question your own call. Have I made a mistake in going into full time work at home or abroad?
Dr. Helen Roseveare served the Lord for sixteen years in the Belgian Congo. In 1964 she was captured by rebel soldiers and for five months was raped, beaten and abused. After a two-year furlough she went back for another seven years to serve the Lord there. In an interview she said, ‘Sixteen years ago I talked about the desperate needs in other parts of the world. Now I tell Christians, wherever they are, that they must, re-fall in love with Jesus. The candidates for missionary service were not staying the pace. For all their training they were not even staying the first term, let alone for a lifetime. I had to ask, Why this appalling fallout rate? They are responding with the wrong picture of what mission is all about thinking it to be what they can do to serve others. When they get to the mission fields and are not liked or wanted, people take what they’ve got to give and throw them out. They can’t stand the hurtfulness, so they come home’, Christianity Today, May 12, 1989.
Whether one is in full-time work or not, what should be the motivation for serving the Lord? Jesus questioned Peter by the Sea of Galilee three times, probing his heart. ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter responded, ‘Yes, Lord; You know … that I love you’, John 21. 16. Then the Lord commissioned him to feed His flock. Peter’s qualification for serving was not loving the lost, but a deep love and loyalty to the Lord. Now we should be moved by the terrible lost condition of the world around us. Christ was ‘moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd’, Matt. 9. 36. But when people turn against you and reject you, then you need a deeper love. Then Christ’s love for you and your responding love will sustain you. ‘We love Him because He first loved us’, 1 John 4. 19.
For those leaving their employment to serve the Lord, whether at home or abroad, one needs a profound sense of the call of God to this work. There will come times of crushing testing when you will question whether you should be doing God’s work. It seems too hard, too difficult to bear. It’s then you need a deep conviction of God’s call. Amos was challenged by Amaziah the priest of Bethel and told to stop his preaching. ‘Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah: I was no prophet, Nor was I a son of a prophet, But I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said to me, Go, prophesy to My people, Israel. Now therefore, hear the word of the Lord’, Amos 7. 14-16.
The Lord’s servants need that same conviction today!