Summary: This sermon explains the motivation behind a call to foreign missions.
This year, I have been using a devotional book compiled by Beth Moore entitled, “Voices of the Faithful.” The book is a compilation of devotional testimonies written by foreign missionaries. This book sheds light on some of the trials, blessings and inspiration that goes into the life of a missionary. I reviewed some of the devotionals this week. My review reminded me of the commitment that foreign missionaries make.
One missionary wrote these words. “When our son was born, we were still “green” in this culture, so we didn’t realize the traditions that went with baby hair. Our son was born with long, thick blond hair…I strutted around with my boy as if we had been blessed from on high since he had so much hair…It impressed no one in our new culture. Actually, we were the topic of neighborhood gossip since they think baby hair is dirty and needs to be shaved at 6 weeks of age…So with a beard trimmer, we gave our son his first cut (at 5 months of age)….I cried! I didn’t do a very good job, so I tried to touch it up with the trimmers, only making it worse. His hair now looked like I had taken a lawn mower right down the center. I was horrified! But when my friends saw it later that afternoon, they said, “Oh that looks so good.”
(P. 160. Voices of the Faithful)
Another missionary wrote “Everything was going wrong. Our house was being invaded by rats from the nearby garbage dump; the water tank had leaked overnight, dumping gallons of water into our neighbor’s yard; and our washing machine broke down, leaving me with piles of laundry to be done by hand. And then the unthinkable happened. I went outside to find that the clothesline had snapped, and all the clothes I had scrubbed were now lying in the dirt.” (P. 273. Voiced of the Faithful)
When appointed as missionaries, we knew that we would be striving against sin. We didn’t realize the many small frustrations in our daily lives that would be a part of that struggle…I was reminded of such striving again this week. I went to buy eggs. All the vendors said there were no eggs. A town of 30,000 people, and there were no eggs in the market…All the small frustrations lumped together made it challenging. If only the water was off—okay; if only the electricity was off—okay; if only the phone was off—okay. But if all three were off at the same time, our family would say, “Let’s go home.” (P. 174. Voices of the Faithful)
These stories sound like a lot of fun! Ha! Ha! They are challenging. However, the truth is, many people are glad and even excited about being foreign missionaries. What would motivate a person to desire to live under such conditions? What would motivate a person to leave their family, the comforts of America and live in some strange culture? That is an interesting question. For an answer we turn to Acts 16. In Acts 16 verse 9 we find Paul being called to go as a missionary to Macedonia. We read “a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us.’’ I want to examine Paul’s life and see if we can find some help in understanding the question: why be a missionary?
1. A foreign missionary is a person who has experienced a conversion to faith in Jesus Christ. We find Paul’s conversion in Acts 9. When we first meet him he uses his Hebrew name, “Saul.” “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem… And as he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’’ And he said, "Who are You, Lord?’’ And the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’’ (Acts 9:1-5 NKJV) After his conversion he used the name, Paul. In order to understand Paul, or any other missionary, you must go back to their conversion. There are several things worth noting in this passage. Saul was breathing threats and murder. The Greek word used here means that threatening and slaughter had come to be the very breath that Saul breathed. It was a way of life for him. He was controlled by such anger. He was not just angry. He was angry to the point of murder. Another telling thought is the fact that Saul would kill men or women. It is one thing to kill a man but another to kill a woman. The most brutal dictators of history killed women. When Saul met Jesus there was a conversion. Saul became Paul. The killer became a lover. The destroyer of the church became the defender of the church. Conversion means a change of life. Conversion means a change of character. The reason a missionary is willing to live in a foreign culture is because their way of thinking has been changed. Their values have changed. Their focus has changed.