The main purpose of this blog is to let you keep connected with our ministry, not for me to get preachy. However, today I have a few thoughts to share that relate to being a missionary, so excuse my diversion from the usual stories.
When I was growing up I used to think that pastors, missionaries, and the like had some special, spiritual superpowers or something. You know, that there was some special connection that these people in “full-time ministry” had with God that gave them deep spiritual insights that “ordinary Christians” like myself just weren’t good enough to have. I used to even think that I couldn’t share my faith and the gospel with people unless I first learned to live a perfect, sinless life. It’s interesting how even as I grew up and learned Biblical truths like “all have sinned” (Rom 3:23) and that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us…” (1 John 1:9) I still felt a sense of inadequacy about my ability to serve God, questioning whether I was still too much of a sinner to be a servant. Maybe you’ve felt the same way.
Well, guess what, it turns out that that pastors and missionaries don’t have any superpowers! In the words of Levar Burton, “you don’t have to take my word for it.” The opening words of the Peter’s second letter tell us that we “have obtained a faith of equal standing” with the apostles. People in “full-time ministry” are just ordinary people. As Christians we all have equal access to God. That means your pastor, Mother Theresa, the apostles, missionaries, and “ordinary Christians” all have/had the ability to be used by God.
Now, I’m not saying that our sin can’t make us ineffective servants. Today I read Isaiah 1, which makes it pretty clear that sin causes a rift in our relationship with our heavenly father. God’s words through Isaiah to Jerusalem are harsh! Just read through the chapter and look at the words. Phrases like “Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me.” and “How the faithful city has become a whore, she who was full of justice!” are found throughout the passage. It really sounds like God has had enough! However, starting in verse 18 he pleads with the people to come reason with him saying that, though they are stained like scarlet and crimson, he will wash them white as snow. How many times do I gloss over that visual? A dark, red stain…washed white as snow! Think about that.
When we insist that we’re not good enough to be used by God we aren’t making a judgment about our inadequacy, we’re making a judgment about God’s ability. If he can wash the scarlet-stained whore as white as snow and restore it to be a faithful city, he can certainly do the same for you and me. As you read Isaiah 1 you might notice that to experience this cleansing Jerusalem has to make the choice to accept it. God was waiting and desperately wanted his people to come back to him for restoration.
Paul, the Chief of Sinners, had a similar experience. I often think of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus as God actively working in the conversion and Paul passively being converted without a choice in the matter. Reading the account more closely, I see that Paul still had a choice. He was told to “rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” Paul could have said no (though after the experience on the road I’m not surprised he didn’t). He still had to make the choice to let God change him.
Do you have those same feelings of inadequacy I did (and still do at times)? I’ve learned that if I wait until I’m living a “perfect” life, that I will never do anything for God. All I can do is offer myself to him to be used as he sees fit, and let him deal with my shortcomings.