A Divine Call to Missionary Service (Part 1)

This is a challenge to all who desire to serve the Lord in any sphere.

Three fundamental considerations demand a life of service from every believer. Together, they constitute a divine call that all should hear. Service on the mission field is but a special case where it is vitally important that the divine call is clear for the benefit of the individual believer as well as for the confidence of others. These basic considerations are:

1. Love to Christ

This brings into life an emotional factor, a Divine constraint. The servant loves the Savior. His service is governed by a compelling love for Christ.

2. Obedience to Scripture

This brings into life an intelligence factor, a Divine control. The servant learns from Scripture. His service is guided by the clear light of the Word.

3. Guidance by the Holy Spirit

This brings into life a volitional factor, a Divine communion. The servant moves by the control and communion of the Holy Spirit. His service is graced by the communion life of the ungrieved Holy Spirit.

When these three matters are realized in the life of any believer, then service is directed and effective. The missionary call is simply a special case in which the component steps can be more closely scrutinized. While assurance in the pathway and absolute conviction as to the place of service is necessary in each life, this is vitally important in missionary service. When these are missing, nervous breakdowns and compulsory repatriation from the field are the inevitable result. When these are present, the results can be left with God.

1. Love to Christ

(a) The Constraint

As the warmth of saving grace touches the soul, the cry from Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus Road echoes in the heart, “Lord what wilt thou have me to do?” How delightfully scriptural it is when simple obedience leads to baptism and then to fellowship with saints gathering in the Name of the Lord Jesus. It is to be further expected that on-going obedience will be seen in service in the assembly. This love to Christ is the only true motive for service in any sphere. Believers have found the source of true service when they can join with the apostle and say with honesty, “The love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Cor 5:14). Before the Lord reinstated Peter in public service He asked him, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” (John 21:17). Perhaps we need to hear this question repeatedly lest we hear the solemn condemnation of the Lord to the church as Ephesus, “Thou has left thy first love.” Love to Christ motivates service and the missionary must be able to look back in his exercise to the moment as captured by the hymn writer:

“Alone with Thee, 0 Master, where
The light of earthly glory dies,
Misunderstood by all, I dare To do what
Thine own heart will prize.”

This becomes of vital importance when facing the difficulties and discouragement of a lonely mission field. The troubled missionary may well have memories of a commendation meeting when brethren expressed confidence in his exercise and ability, or recall the large company gathered for an emotional farewell meeting, but this affords little help in times of distress. The glamour of missionary enterprise fades with unbelievable rapidity in the harsh realities of service. He needs the reassurance of that love of Christ when the Lord Himself personally commissioned him as expressed to the eleven disciples in the upper room, “As my Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.” He needs to be assured that the same Lord who sent him is the One he can rely upon to be with him in every hour of need. This is the consciousness expressed by the imprisoned apostle when, deserted by men, he could say, “Notwithstanding the Lord stood by me and strengthened me” (2 Tim 4:17).

(b) The Commission

The great commission from the risen Lord has never been abrogated, amended, or altered and must echo still in the consciousness of any believer exercised about the need of sinners and his own particular place in the Lord’s service. In this great commission lies our authority to take the message of the gospel to every nation until the close of the dispensation. Some believers argue that this general command was applicable by extension to every believer in the apostolic heritage, and that nothing further is needed. Some would go so far as to say that what a believer needs now is a personal command to stay at home. This is too simplistic a view and overlooks two scriptural considerations. This is a command from the Lord Himself, and each believer must face its implications, determining the location and sphere of his own particular service. This implies a special personal call. A second point to consider is that the divine record of missionary activity in the Acts of the Apostles makes it clear that God uses particular servants for particular places and particular tasks. Christ Himself is “Lord of the Harvest” (Matt 9:38) and love for Him and obedience to Him will demand an exercise as to the place of service. The servant works where the Master bids him work. The lines are appropriate

“Lord where shall I work today?’
And my love flowed warm and free;
He pointed me out a tiny spot
and said, ‘Tend that for Me’.
I answered quickly ‘Oh no – not there;
why no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done;
not that little place for me!’
And the word He spoke, it was not stern,
He answered me tenderly,
‘Little one-search that heart of thine;
art thou working for them or Me?
Nazareth was only a tiny place,
and so was Galilee’.”

(c) The Call

Personal love to Christ must be the compelling motivation, ever remembering that scriptural love is based not on the emotions but in the will. It can sometimes happen that an emotional appeal is made in a missionary meeting in connection with need of workers. While there is a place for an appeal of this kind and God can use it to the exercise of saints, the need itself does not constitute a call. There is no doubt that the need in the Roman province of Asia was great, yet as Paul and his companions stood on the border they “were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6). The need of the multitudes burdened the Lord so that he was “moved with compassion” (Matt 9:36) yet he did not command the disciples to “go,” but to “pray.” Responsibility lay with them to pray and the prerogative to send lay with the Lord of the harvest. It is to be noted that the disciples who are commanded to pray in chapter 9 are the same men who in chapter 10 are commissioned to go into the harvest. The lesson is plain: while disciples pray, it is the Lord who does the sending. Thus the need leads to exercise and the sending will arise from this exercise. The sent servant will have a personal call from the Lord Himself.

To be continued