In our last staff conference, our theme was “BELIEVE AGAIN” and we were often reminded that though we have not lost faith, we do need to recapture our capacity to dream great things again for the Lord, like when we were younger and were so full of youthful confidence in what God can do through us. The messages were inspiring and thought-provoking, and one of my highlights was listening to fellow missionaries express their hearts’ desires and personal dreams for their lives and ministries.
In this entry, I want to give ‘flesh’ to what was going on in my own heart as I contemplated on what it would mean for me to believe again.
Twelve years ago, as new missionary trainees of Philippine Campus Crusade for Christ, my batch and I were tasked to read “Come Help Change The World” by the late Bill Bright (founder of CCC). I soaked in page after page, fuelled by the real life stories of men and women who exercised exemplary faith during the early years of CCC. I imagined myself being part of that story in my own country and generation. I prayed for the same level of faith in order to experience only the radical, transformational and exemplary.
God’s faith curriculum, however, was totally different from what I pictured it to be. Though there were many moments of success in terms of accomplishing the task, there were just as many moments of discouragement, distress and much dying to self. These latter ‘tests’ did more to stretch my faith. They challenged me to keep believing, in spite of…
-experiencing the death of dreams, like being assigned in a creative access target audience.
-the many ways God showed me the extent and facets of my mostly-hidden, not-so-blatant yet destructive sins and I had to keep going back to Him in repentance (even up to now!).
-being wounded within the community, and doing these exact same things to others knowingly or unknowingly.
-not seeing my personal goals in evangelism and discipleship being fully accomplished, the way I wanted it to (possibly a “messiah complex” which is common to workers). This is the silent pressure that missionaries struggle with, and though much effort has been placed on emphasizing acceptance and being rooted in Christ’s love as we do the work, our own betraying ‘flesh’, the taunts of the world’s view of success and the enemies’ subtle lies keep preventing us from experiencing complete freedom and joy to serve as unto the Lord and not unto men.
-my personal battles with significance, whether it’s physical, emotional or spiritual.
Now how should these ongoing realities influence my desire to believe again, in the sense that I can continue exercising an authentic and biblical faith? Let me share my core passage for my calling, the Scripture that guided me to say ‘yes’ to full-time missionary service:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [Hebrews 11 hall of faith], let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”—Hebrews 12:1-3 TNIV
I love how this passage affirms the reality of struggle, pain, victory in Jesus, and hope. Upto now, it still reminds me to be willing to dream, to risk loss and death, to accept opposition or even weariness, and to be refreshed as well as revitalized in my spirit as I fix my eyes on my dear Savior.
Christ alone is the reason why I need to believe again. He is the sole impetus and enabler. Losing focus on Him will mean a loss of meaning, purpose, power and endurance. But fixing our focus on Him will mean new dreams, renewed strength, and daily sustaining grace, especially through the realities that challenge our faith.
I thank the Lord for the call to believe again, and I accept that call with a careful resolve not to be too mindful of ME (e.g. my dreams, what I want, how I want to be treated, how I can be fully accepted and maximized with my giftings) and to be totally mindful of how to make Christ great, making Him the focus of my life and ministry.