The Missionary's Life
by Robert Breaker III
* The following article has been designed to be "printer friendly." So please feel free to print the entire thing and read it through! Otherwise, just read it here online.
The life of a missionary is not an easy one. By the word "missionary," I mean one going to a foreign soil to carry the truth and preach the gospel to a different people. The word missionary literally means "one sent." And, in the Bible the greatest missionary would of course be the Lord Jesus Christ himself. He came further than any other man could ever go, as he passed through the stars and nebulas and came unmeasurable light years to this seemingly infinitesimal little planet to be born of a virgin. He also gave up more than any other man ever would or could, as he left the glories of heaven to come to this sin sick world on a mission for the Father.
Yes, Jesus is the perfect example of what a missionary should be. He was full of compassion, and love for his people, and wanted to see them saved. He healed their sick, and came down to the ones of low degree. He had no place to hang his head, but he never complained or murmured. And, he lived amongst the people, ate what they ate, and talked with them.
But, today many modern day missionaries don't follow the example that Christ has set before them. Most of them when they do get to the field build a big mansion, and use the money that churches give them to buy themselves elaborate meals, and fine clothes. And, instead of going to school to learn the language of their new neighbors, they separate themselves from the people and try to live an American lifestyle in a third world country. Is this how Paul or Jesus would have done it? I trow not. The best way to reach the people is to be with the people.
It is my desire to tell you about the life of a true missionary. Not one that lives like a King, but one that follows Christ's example, and does all he can to reach the people. We have too many pseudo-missionaries, and mission programs today. Some are even trying to make evangelism and church planting a secondary theme, and helping people's physical needs the first. Let me say I am not against helping others with food, clothing, and medicine. When I go to Honduras, it's my desire to do all of this. However, I am against any man or organization that believes this is more important than preaching the gospel, and seeing souls saved. A true missionary should seek first and foremost to win souls. Was not this the very reason that Jesus came? Luke 19:10 says, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." And, this should be the heart's desire of every missionary. He should diligently seek to win as many people in his prospective field to the Lord as he can.
But, missions can't just stop there. It's a missionary's duty to teach his converts the Bible after he wins them. Jesus had twelve "disciples" when he was on this earth, and he trained them so that they could carry on the work after he was gone. Any true Bible believing missionary should seek to follow Christ's example. It is a shame that too many Bible Believing "missionary evangelists" are going to many different countries, and claiming to win thousands, but then leaving them for cults to indoctrinate. We need more Paul's going to the mission field. Paul would take sometimes up to six years in one area training his converts before moving on. And, when he did, he left a local man to be a pastor of the church, and to carry on the work of evangelism. This is where missions ought to be, but in this Laodicean church age, it is far from it.
However apostate the church is today, there still are a few Bible believing missionaries being sent out of their local churches who are preaching the truth, and trying to follow the Biblical examples of those set before them. These missionaries find that the more you try to follow the Bible basis of missions, the harder life gets, but the more rewarding your ministry becomes. Let me give you four things that I've learned from experience about the life of a missionary.
The missionary's life is a life of Surrender. For a missionary to be sent, first he has to be willing to go. But, oh how many Christians are unwilling to give up what they have in America. Many Christians are just happy being a son, and not a servant. In order to be a missionary, one must be willing to give up their earthly possessions and desires, in order to serve God, and his plan for their life. But, oh how hard it is in the Laodicean church period for people to do so. I heard in a missions conference a year or two ago, that 60% of all Bible believing missionaries are over 60 years old. That means if the Lord were to tarry another 10 or 20 years, that most of the missionaries we have on the field doing the work will either die, or be too sick to continue their ministry. Who will go in their place? Oh how true Luke 10:2 is when is says, "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few..." With over 6 billion souls in this world the harvest is certainly tremendous. But, where are the labourers? Too few are willing to surrender to the Lord their belongings, life, family, and most importantly their heart. They are selfish and want what they can get from life, and not what God wants for their life. Are you willing to be used by the Lord if he were to call you to a mission field?
The missionary's life is also a life of Suffering. This is what separates the men from the boys. Jesus suffered outrageous persecution at the hands of the merciless Romans, and the blood thirsty Jews. He suffered it all at Calvary. Why? Because of his love for sinners. Perhaps the greatest reason that men won't surrender to the mission field is because they don't love souls enough to suffer for them. Paul loved his people the Jews enough that he said if it were possible, he would be willing to go to hell for them. Do you find that love in your heart for souls? Then maybe you're not missionary material.
Not only will a missionary suffer persecution for the gospel from the dogmatic religious crowd like Jesus did, but also he will suffer sickness, and the loss of loved ones. Not to mention that he'll lose fellowship with family and other Christians back home. You really ought to read 2 Corinthians 11:21-27 sometime to see what Paul went through. Yes, the missionary's life is a life of suffering, but it's always worthwhile. In Hebrews 12:2 we see what made Jesus go to the cross and take the suffering. The verse says, "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. It was the joy after the suffering that Jesus was looking to. What was that? A people that would trust him as their Saviour, and bring him joy as his sons! And, this is the only way a missionary will get through the suffering. He'll have to look through the suffering to the blessing on the other side (i.e. souls he helped to win), and to Jesus, the author and finisher of his faith.
Not only will the missionary have suffering, but he'll find that he's yielded himself to a life of Sorrow. I've learned from first hand experience that it will cost you something to serve God. When I went to Honduras the first time, the very day I left for the field, my grandfather passed away. I was heart broken. I cried and prayed and asked God how he could allow this. Then, before I came back to America, I received a phone call telling me that my uncle had been shot and murdered in the Dominican Republic. I was devastated. What was God doing? But, the more I talked to other missionaries, the more I learned that they too went through some things as they began their ministries. Some had their house burn down with all their belongings, others had their cars break down or blow up. Still others had problems with getting visas for their prospective countries. Then there are men like Carey and Judson who lost several wives and children while on the field. Why does God allow this? The only thing I can figure is that God wants to make himself a vessel that he could use.
In Proverbs 25:4, we read, "Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer." This is a great illustration. In Bible times, the Metallurgist would heat up a container of silver until it boiled. He did this to purify it. Then, once it was hot enough, all the dirt and imperfections would boil up to the top. This was the dross. Then the refiner would wipe the dross away, and see himself in the silver. This is what the Lord does still. He allows us to go through the fire, and have some sorrow in order to get the sin and imperfections out of our hearts, and then he can see himself in us and use us. Isaiah 53:3, 4 talks about Jesus and says that he's acquainted with our sorrows and griefs, and he bore and carried them. Only he can truly comfort us in sorrow as he knows what we're going through.
Finally, the missionary's life is a life of Surprise. He definitely lives a life of faith, as he enters a new and strange way of life in unfamiliar surroundings. He has no idea where he's going to live or what will happen as he goes to this new land. But, after he's been there for some time, and sees God's unseen hand in his life he can honestly say that God has done exceeding abundantly above all that he thought or asked.
When I started deputation, in 1999, I had been praying for several years for God to let me win a Jew to the Lord. God not only did that, but allowed me to win three of them! Imagine my surprise.
When I went to Honduras the second time in the summer of 2000, the Lord opened the door for me to walk into a village of about 2000 people and lead 11 leaders of the town to the Lord. I never would have expected such a thing to happen, but that's what makes the Christian life so wonderful. You never know what's going to happen! And, when you do get a blessing you see God's hand in it, and you want to glorify him even more!
In conclusion, let me say that the missionary's life is indeed not an easy one. It's a life of surrendering what you have for the sake of others. It's full of sorrow and suffering, but in hindsight, it's definitely worthwhile. How any Christian would not want to be a missionary is simply baffling to me. When I think of all the surprises and blessings God has given to me, I can't help but thank him, and say that it was worth all the suffering and sorrow. What a privilege I count it to be able to serve a risen Saviour! Christian, will you too surrender to serve God? Why don't you join Isaiah in saying to the Lord, "Here am I; send me."