The Need of Endurance is Yours
Few are the missionaries in Italy who remain faithful to the call. Temptations to forsake the mission of Christ to the Italian people abound. There are numerous reasons why 90% of the long-term missionaries to Italy end up leaving within 4 years. To discuss that would be a separate post on the blog for another day. But one main reason is likely that the amount of fruit from the labor is nothing near what it ought to be and what it is in many other places. It can be extremely discouraging to labor hard and well and smart and yet still see so few responding rightly to the Gospel and living faithfully unto the Lord. Italy blows the mind of the average missionary! It just doesn't make sense, humanly speaking.
Often if a missionary does remain in Italy long-term he runs the risk of either using carnal means to produce results, watering down the gospel to make it more palatable, or of going perhaps to the foreigners of Italy while forsaking the Italians... For the servant of the Lord to faithfully endure it is crucial to remember that the Lord understands this unique form of heartache. It is Jesus Christ who hung alone on the cross, the Just for the unjust. It is our Lord who was abandoned by most of those closest to Him.
The truth we must remember is that God's desire for His servants is that they live by faith and not shrink back. We must recall that one cannot please God without faith (Heb. 11:6). He takes no pleasure in those who shrink back. We are to labor by faith. If we are serving God in His way, obeying His commands, preaching His gospel, and doing it all for His glory by the grace He provides, we can trust He is using us even when we cannot see it.
The author of Hebrews, inspired by God the Holy Spirit speaks these beautiful words to folks like us who live in challenging times.
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. -- Hebrews 10: 32-39
Amid seemingly never-ending complications that can feel much like a migraine headache (paralyzing the rest of the body) on the mission field, my heart was very much stirred by these words recently. As followers of Christ we must help one another to remember that we are now the Lord's property; bought at a price (1 Cor. 6:20). Our lives He purchased and they are precious to Him. In every day He gives us, He has a plan and a purpose to both grow us and sanctify us, and use us for the growth of His Kingdom.
For the servants of the Lord who are bombarded with difficulties and complexities and often see little fruit from much labor, give heed to these words of instruction from Heb. 10:
Remain confident in God (vs. 35) do not throw away your confidence
He is at work causing all things to work together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).
Endure (vs. 36) you have need of endurance
Little of anything that has a lasting impact in the Kingdom of God happens without much endurance. We must endure hardship. It's part of what it means to carry our cross and follow Jesus.
Live by faith (vs. 38) My righteous one shall live by faith
The need for faith never ends. All of life is to be lived unto the Lord by faith. We do walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Much is happening in this world that we cannot see or understand. Yet we know the One who knows and sees all things.
Trust and keep on (vs. 39) those who have faith and preserve their souls
If our eyes are fixed on Christ and we are actively trusting every detail of our lives and ministries to Him, we can keep on joyfully no matter what the Lord calls us to endure (James 1: 2-4). Nothing is in vain when we are in the School of Christ and at the Lord's service. You may not see results today, or for some time, or in some ways not ever, but that's ok. The heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 often didn't see half of what they wanted either. God's plan is far greater than we can imagine or dream!
Don’t shrink back (vs. 39) we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed
The temptation to throw in the towel is real. All missionaries penetrating dark or barren lands felt the genuine weight of the matter as the power of darkness surrounded them. Yet by the grace of God, who commands His angels to care for His servants, they are able not only to endure but to take ground and see the Kingdom advance. Even when they didn't live to see it all happen, because they persevered and endured hardship for Christ, those who came after them did see it all come to fruition. You do well to shrink in self-confidence, but it is a grave mistake to shrink back from fulfilling your calling and from proclaiming the whole council of God because of hardship.
And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. - Acts 20: 18-21
As we press on together living for the honor of Christ Jesus our Lord, let us stir one another to recall that we are to be and remain a living sacrifice to God.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. - Romans 12: 1
Further, let us recall that Christ leads us onward in triumph, one way or another. He is a victorious King! Only as we shrink not back, but live instead full of faith in Him are we a special kind of fragrance in this world. May Christ be praised.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. - 2 Corinthians 2: 14-17
The need for endurance is indeed yours. Also yours is the all-sufficient grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Lift your head, fellow soldier. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Advance. To God alone the glory.
Written by Jesse Schreck | servant of the Lord, founder, director, and missionary church planter with Practical Missions Cohort