Why is it, I wonder, that people expect glowing reports in missionary letters? Do they see us as super-human? Always strong and victorious. Never any needs. Never down, depressed, or discouraged. Never making mistakes or sinning? And always doing great and mighty things for God.
A list of accomplishments a mile long, churches packed with converts. I mean, otherwise, are we worthy of support? Aren’t we supposed to earn our keep?
I was thinking this morning of the apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians, chapters 10-13, where he speaks of boasting. Maybe this is one of the reasons why we try to downplay what we do here in Italy. When the Lord placed the thorn in Paul’s flesh, it clearly showed him his own weakness. And delivered him from the pride of thinking he could do anything for God. That’s why he says:
But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.2 Corinthians 12:9
I think Paul fully realized that he could do nothing without God’s help. And that any fruit or success he saw, was because of the Lord working through him. That’s one thing the Lord has worked at teaching us through these years.
We like to dream about doing great works for God. When all the while he’s wanting to do great things IN US.
And perhaps that’s why a lot of our experiences here have been of this nature:
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:10
Not that we want to compare ourselves to the apostle — that would be absurd. But the Lord loves us enough that he allow us such experiences.
Because he wants us to see that without him we can do nothing.
As God’s children, we’re here to bring him glory and honor. But if we start thinking that it rests on us, we run the risk of stealing his glory for ourselves. Sure, we work. We pray. We share. We talk to people about Jesus every chance we get. We try to reach out with love, with a helping hand. And we work at encouraging and building up the churches in our care. But the fact remains that without him we can do nothing. We plant. We water. We nourish. We even reap the harvest. But only the Lord can bring that harvest about.
And so he teaches us that we are weak.
Through insults, persecutions, hardships, persecutions, and calamities…and we’ve had our share of them all, he teaches us that he is strong and able to see us through. And it’s often such difficulties that have brought about the greatest fruit, both in us, and in those we serve.
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.2 Corinthians 11:30
We don’t talk a lot about what we’re doing, because we’ve learned that HE is really the One at work.
But we do continually ask for prayer, for we are continually laboring away! Missionaries aren’t perfect or super-human. They’re weak just like you, but they find their strength in the One whose strength is perfect in our weakness!