The reality of problems on the mission should not surprise us. Satan is active there as well as here and we all carry the greatest liability, our flesh, with us where ever we go.
This short series has highlighted just some of the matters relating to missionary life. There is a fierce battle being waged and the enemy of souls is working overtime to hinder and destroy God’s work. At times all kinds of problems present themselves, from within and from without. A few of these are:
It is easy to become so busy that ones soul grows barren and freshness and real joy in service are lost. A daily and intimate communion with Christ is the only antidote. At other times, loneliness in the work can be a test of personal integrity and “stickability”. Most missionaries are strong-minded (they have to be) and small differences can suddenly and unintentionally become major disagreements. Good interpersonal relationships with colleagues and others have to be continually nurtured. Local believers are just as sensitive to atmosphere as we are and they will quickly discern whether or not brethren and sisters are working in harmony.
Sometimes a wife has not shared her husband’s convictions as to the Lord’s call to missionary service. She may have accompanied him only out of a sense of duty. This can be disastrous and burden the family with an increase in tension and conflict of interest. If the wife sits at home, does not learn the language, and does not become involved in the lives of the local believers, she can easily become isolated and begin feeling resentful. Children, too, sometimes feel isolated in a strange culture and it is a priority that family members have time to talk and be together.
Moral problems can afflict assembly life in countries where the cultural norms militate against holy living. More vexing and even more difficult to deal with are doctrinal problems. These are insidious but devastating to young assemblies. If assembly workers do not agree on the fundamental principles of the work, Satan can mastermind division. Divided workers produce divided assemblies and the Lord is grieved. Also, the mobility of the population in many countries means that it is a slow process to see assemblies established and autonomous.
Developing countries are notoriously unstable and sometimes dangerous. Bribery and corruption in some places are endemic and one could have a measure of sympathy with an armed soldier asking a little “donation” at a check-point when he has not been paid for months. Civil war, grinding poverty and rampant disease scatter and decimate whole populations. Life is a perpetual uphill struggle for many. Strangely, the poor of this world have often had more interest in the gospel than the more prosperous.
These and many other problems sometimes press in upon missionary work. They are not exclusive to foreign lands but seem to be so often accentuated there.
More than counterbalancing the many different problems that missionary service can bring are the precious promises and unchanging realities of which the Scriptures speak.
The Promise of His Victory
“I will build my church” said the Savior, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). His claim has been attested by the finished work on the cross and triumphant resurrection from the tomb. He has ascended as the mighty Conqueror. One day, there will be universal acknowledgment of this: “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.” He shall reign and we will reign with Him, but in the meantime, even as the spiritual battle rages, we can enter into the joy of that victory day by day.
The Comfort of His Presence
In times of loneliness and trial the Savior draws near in a tender and intimate way. At one time, Paul had felt totally forsaken by men, but later he was able to testify, “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me” (2 Tim 4:17). He was neither the first nor the last to whom the Lord has said, “Be not afraid … for I am with thee” (Acts 18:9-10). His realized presence casts out fear and substitutes a perfect peace. it has been well said that “one with God is a majority” and the Lord’s servant can experience a holy boldness when the Master is alongside.
The Assurance of His Harvest
Some brave individuals have been called to labor in Muslim lands where, humanly speaking, the harvest has seemed meager. One soul has been saved here and another there with many years, often, intervening between the times of blessing. God will surely reward the faithfulness of His servants rather than their outward success. Eternity alone will reveal the great harvest. “He will see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied.” Yet, in His lovingkindness, He often allows us to experience times of blessing and encouragement, “for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal 6:9).
The Sufficiency of His Grace
How we rejoice that our God is rich in grace and that He says to us “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor 12:9). We who have started out by grace on the pathway to heaven are those who continue to need His grace every step of the way home: grace when we stumble or fail, grace when the enemy comes in like a flood and God’s work is hindered, grace when we are misunderstood, grace in times of sickness or sadness. And should we start to think more of ourselves than we ought to think, may we ever remember that we are only sinners saved by grade.
The God of all grace is still calling today. What is your answer? May you be able to say as William Borden wrote many years ago: “No reserve! No retreat! No regrets!”