“Facing a task unfinished, we bear the torch that flaming/Fell from the hands of those/
Who gave their lives proclaiming/That Jesus died and rose/
Ours is the same commission/The same glad message ours/
Fired by the same ambition/To Thee we yield our powers.”
—“Facing a Task Unfinished,” words by Frank Houghton
You know, if it weren’t for the Spirit of God, these words would be either extraordinarily silly or, at best, presumptuous. They are lofty words indeed.
A Call to Step Out
But the call to missions is, in fact, a lofty one. It’s something God has been doing ever since the heralding of the Son: raising up men and women who understand that by his sovereign choice, they are not formed for normal life as this world knows it.
You see, those called to missions don’t quite fit in. They don’t have quite the same passion for things some of their peers might have. They find themselves stealing away to be alone with God at the oddest of times. And they have the experience again and again, whether they recognize it or not, of training for a situation that requires courage and fortitude. A situation in which God asks them to step out.
And like working a muscle in a workout session, as they obey God’s call, the courage comes more easily, the stepping out more deliberate. And even though there’s always a certain level of fear, the called are still willing to say, “By the mercy of God, I’m going. Let’s go. Let’s see what happens.”
A Call to Serve
And that’s really the message of Psalm 67: “May God be gracious to us and bless us, and make his face to shine upon us” (Ps. 67:1). The next line explains why we’re asking God to do that: “That your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations” (Ps. 67:2).
And there is nothing in the Scriptures—nothing—to say that the reason God has given us gifts such as well-being, peace in the grace of the gospel, assurance of forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternity is so we can somehow feel better about ourselves.
Instead, God gives us all those things (which are, in fact, part and parcel of what it means to be a Christian) so that when the opportunity comes for us to step out of what we call “normal life,” we’re willing.
Because in the end, it’s not about our well-being at all. It’s about our availability for service and the peace, forgiveness, assurance and healing God does in our lives.
You see, the changes he works in the deepest parts of who we are cause us to see the world from a very different vantage point—even, perhaps, the vantage point we were taught as children. And God begins to move us out the door, to say, in essence, “It’s your turn.”
We are equipped to give. Equipped to serve.
A Call to Change
It really is a profound heresy in the life of a church to say God gives gifts to his people so we can have happy, normal lives. I dare anyone to prove that in the Scriptures. Instead, the Bible defines “happy, fortunate, to be envied” as peacemakers, those who mourn. In other words, people who are willing to step into the lives of other people in a way that invites them to make an eternal difference in their lives. These are commissioned people.
Even in our services, if serving Christ, loving your neighbor as yourself, somehow gets dumbed down to just saying, “My job is to be courteous, or nice or at least not overtly evil,” we miss the point.
God’s call is a call to mission. It’s a call to be available for God to use you.
When God calls someone to mission, we tend to focus on location. But God’s focus is not location, but vocation. Everything else is just a change of venue.
In missions, a twofold plan is at work. One is that God is deeply committed to working within us true conformity to the image of his Son. We are constantly changed, constantly invited to say yes to the process.
But it’s not just an inward one. The second part of God’s plan is that he sends us because he loves the people to whom we are sent as much as he does anybody else, and he wants them to hear the good news of the gospel. That’s the divine appointment he has created, and he says to the called, “Guess what? You get to be a part of it!”
And that is also true for us. Our neighbors, our friends, our enemies, our coworkers, are also people God loves just as much as he loves us. And in the very same way, God is sending us, and in sending us, changing us, and in changing us, making us even more useful for sharing that wonderful, great and glorious good news.
And we do what they can to prepare so that when the opportunity arises to talk about what God is doing in our life, he will give us his words to do it. And we will be willing to step out from a heart of prayer and compassion, one that views evangelism not as a burden but a profound desire, a servant’s heart-desire, to share the most precious thing we know.
Are you called? Will you go? Share this blog and your response on Twitter. Please include my username, @revgregbrewer.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.