In my last post, I said that I could write an entire post on just this quote alone...
"God will take care of you because you are doing His Work."
I've heard this SO MANY TIMES and have had numerous conversations with other missionaries over the years who have heard the same thing, (I've also had numerous conversations with people just after my last post about this).
Sadly, I have heard (and seen on Facebook) people actually accusing missionaries who go through times of suffering with health issues of having too little faith. Or, that they need to repent of their unbelief in order to be healed. This has never been personally said to me, because God is faithful and He will not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear. I could not "bear" hearing this without arguing that this person would need to repent of habitually taking scripture out of context and condemning people with heretical nonsense. All glory to the WISE God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.*
Just like in the last post, I know people are just trying to be encouraging. And they probably really believe it, because in their hearts they really feel like we "deserve" to be taken care of. They appreciate what we do, sometimes to the point of putting us on a pedestal. And what goes on a pedestal? A statue of some great person who did a great thing. They usually use the very best image of that person to form his or her likeness into that statue. They don't usually choose an image of them old or crippled or missing limbs or covered in some sort of boils or pox. So as they imagine the missionaries on the pedestals they can't possibly have debilitating diseases or crippling deformities. Therefore, God has to protect the missionary in order to protect the perfect image in the mind of the believer.
I feel like this idea is just a product of the prosperity gospel that is becoming more and more prevalent in our culture today. God blesses those who have enough faith or who "claim" whatever it is they want in His name. And who has more faith than the missionaries? The people going into the scary, remote, disease infested, crime ridden places to proclaim the Gospel? So if this belief does not hold up for the missionaries, the so-called most faithful, then the whole system falls apart.
But that's exactly what needs to happen. This whole belief system needs to fall apart. The lie that being a believer brings you health, wealth, and prosperity as long as you "claim" and "believe."
I recently read these words that Paul (the very first missionary) wrote to the Corinthian church about the people "Doing God's Work"
"I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor's parade, condemned to die." 1 Corinthians 4:9
|An image of the infamous Bataan Death March during WWII where most were paraded to their deaths|
This is just one image that Paul uses to describe what it is like to "do God's work."
Not pretty or comfortable. Nothing I'd want to "claim" for myself.
He goes on to say in verse 11-
"Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don't have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home."
Definitely not full of health and wealth.
And in verse 13-
"We are treated like the world's GARBAGE, like EVERYBODY'S TRASH- right up to the present moment."
Nothing about prosperity. Just garbage.
These are just a few of the numerous verses that promise us trials, suffering, and persecution for doing God's work. If we want to "cling to God's promises" we can't just cling to the promises we like. We can't feel the peace and comfort of the rainbow without remembering the horror of the flood.
Peter reminds us "not to be surprised at the FIERY trials you are going through as if something strange were happening to you."
So the difficulties in our lives-
A. Should not surprise us
B. Will be "fiery" not just minor annoyances
C. Are not a strange thing happening to us that we need to figure out the reason for or how to fix (i.e. repent of, rebuke, have more faith in)
Peter says that instead of trying to figure out what we did wrong and how to fix it, we should "be very glad- for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world."
Of course, OF COURSE the Bible is also full of good promises. Full of God's unfailing love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. There are also promises of blessings. Of Good and Perfect gifts. It's not all doom and gloom until we get to Heaven and I don't want it to seem like that is all I am "claiming" here. I've just noticed an alarming trend toward our current Christian culture's idea that if something is difficult, or harmful, or just not super fun then it is not from God.
The truth is that the life of Christian service is a strange combination of joy and suffering walking hand in hand. It is the exact opposite of what the prosperity gospel proclaims. Through suffering Christ will be made known to the world. Not necessarily through specials gifts and blessings and miracles (although there are sure to be some of those along the way). A few of the best verses to explain this phenomenon are in 2 Corinthians 4:8-1.
"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through SUFFERING, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies...
Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies."So please, PLEASE, stop telling people in ministry (especially missionaries) that God will take care of them or heal them or make everything perfect in their lives all the time because they work for Him. That is just simply unbiblical. If you want to encourage missionaries (or all believers) simply tell them that you love them and you are praying for them. You can absolutely pray for their perfect healing and for miracles and blessings. Those prayers are definitely appreciated and are even answered sometimes. Just also remember that you can encourage people when those prayers are not answered in that way. You can pray for strength, endurance, and a strong testimony of faith through those fiery trials. And if you just can't figure out what to say, you can minister to them by maybe showing up with a hug and a smile and a cup of coffee and maybe a chocolate cake.**
**unless the person has pancreatitis then leave the chocolate cake at home