"The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, O Lord, endures forever- do not abandon the works of Your hands." -Psalm 138:8
I just finished skimming through a few biographies of great historical Christian figures, and I wish I had time to go over each in detail! Each of these biographies were presented in sermons by John Piper, and they are excellent resources for understanding how to live a genuine and bold life for Christ.
Although my favorite missionary figure, Adoniram Judson, was listed amongst the big people, I was extremely touched and motivated by the life of John Paton- a missionary to cannibals. His sacrificial outlook on life was one that brought me to tears, for I find a lot of my heart lacking the sacrifice and abandonment he portrays. He's not a perfect guy, but he knew what it meant to love Jesus no matter the cost. His courage despite unceasing death threats and continuous loss of loved ones was only held up by his faith in Jesus- and because of it, he had a far greater joy than the kind a lifetime of comforts could provide. In response to people criticizing his lack of "common sense" in attempting to live on an island full of murderers, he spoke these incredibly convicting words:
"Looking up in unceasing prayer to our dear Lord Jesus, I left all in his hands, and felt immortal till my work was done."
If he left all in Jesus' hands, that meant there was nothing left in his own hands. How often do we cling to something, hoping that it'll be kept most safe if we thoroughly watch over it? He did not worry about being killed or losing his family- although threats were there every day and he did lose his family. He knew that the Lord held his entire life in His hands, and would carry the work through Paton to completion. God knew what He was doing, and He spared Paton his life until His purposes were complete. And in that lifestyle of trust, there is wonderful peace and safety knowing He will fulfill His purposes through us in His timing.
I'll let you read the rest of the story to learn the fruit of his ministry. It's long, but definitely worth the read. His life is a testimony to the joys the Lord provides when we desperately seek to glorify Him rather than comforting ourselves, and I'm thankful for it. As I look into my own life, I see a lot of inconsistencies. I desire to live this kind of life, yet my heart intervenes with pleas for what we know to be a "normal" American dream life. Even within the context of foreign missions, I block the hardships out of my mind, pridefully thinking I can go and handle it all easily. But where am I placing my confidence? Is it in Christ, or in my own abilities? If I lived Paton's life, I would have been eaten by cannibals in a second because my motivation would have been godly, but highly sprinkled with pride and hopes for fame. When will we grasp that our life is for God's glory and not our own? He gives us freedom to feel immortal until His work through us is complete- won't we rest in the safety of His will, seeking only to delight in Christ?
So, what then should we do? I think it's pretty obvious- live boldly and dangerously in the center of the palm of His hand, for He will carry His work out to completion through us. No true follower of Christ is exempt. It will look differently for everyone, but I increasingly see myself lured towards ministry to those who have never had the chance to hear the Gospel- especially the hardest to reach (and I say this with as much humility as I can- pride and selfishness creep in so easily). I LOVEEEEE Paton's reasoning for leaving his prospering ministry in the States for a lifetime of overseas ministry:
"I continually heard . . . the wail of the perishing Heathen in the South Seas; and I saw that few were caring for them, while I well knew that many would be ready to take up my work in Calton."
Perhaps the Lord will lead me to a teeny-tiny unknown island, or perhaps He will gently bring me to some kind of ministry right here in the US. All I know is that the cries and wailing heard by Paton clearly ring in my itching ears quite often, and I do not currently see any reason to ignore the wails. I have a few years until I can act upon the burdens, but until then I will attempt to passionately pursue Christ- seeking to rest in the safety of His palm. I've done a terrible job of it in the past, and I'm ready to serve unafraid. What will it take?