By: Jenni Walker
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain…” (John 15:16a)
“I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.” (Elisabeth Elliot)
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My husband and I recently got together with one of my old college friends. He, his wife, and their baby were in Tulsa for some college homecoming events. As we sat with our spouses at a local coffee shop, sipping chai teas and catching up on the last several years of our lives, I was struck by how seemingly normal our lives all seemed. (Besides the fact that they travel a LOT – their son has already been on fifty airplane rides in his first six months of life!) We are all adults with spouses, jobs, and loving families.
Yet, my friend’s life has been anything but what many would consider normal. His parents run a missions organization called Harvest Ministry. Though he and his six siblings were technically raised in the United States, they all have multiple stories of traveling with one or both parents to other nations to share the gospel. As a two-year-old, he was a part of a mission to smuggle Bibles into Communist China with his parents! Even the most dedicated of Christians might think that is something other than normal!
No matter what our daily lives are comprised of, we are all called to live each day with an eternal perspective: Seeking to glorify God in all areas of life and intentionally living “on-mission” for Him by “going into all the world to preach the gospel to all creation” (Matthew 28:19). My friend’s mom, on her mission-minded podcast, often refers to our calling as Christians to be “ambassadors” for Christ no matter where we are. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” There is a sense of urgency in this verse: We are called to be representatives of the gospel every day and to be lights in this world! That means that our influence for the kingdom of God will both permeate, and extend beyond the walls of, our own personal lives.
Your life may feel normal or uneventful to you right now. The question is how can you be a part of that one mission that all Christians are called to: Living the great commission? At the Christian college I attended, students were often exhorted in chapel services to “go into every person’s world.” God may not be calling you to smuggle Bibles into hostile nations right now. But is the cry of your heart to glorify God and share the truth and love of the gospel intentionally with a lost and hurting world? How often do you think of your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are being persecuted for sharing their faith with others? Do you frequently obey the command of Jesus to “pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers” (Matthew 9:38)?
I am always struck to my core by a cry of Elisabeth Elliot’s heart early on in her ministry. Her husband, Jim, had recently been martyred trying to share the gospel of Christ with the Auca tribe. She and her daughter, Valerie, who was no more than three years old, were now living in the Ecuadorian jungles with the Auca people to continue the mission Jim and several other men of God had begun: to bring the truth and light of the gospel of Jesus to them. She could have harbored resentment toward them. She could have easily concluded that it was anything but safe to live there with her young daughter. She could have gone back home and resumed a more “normal” life. But there she was in that open tent, with her daughter sleeping on a bed made of bamboo on a dirt floor, and the cry of her heart was “How do I glorify God in such a place?” (Secret of Contentment article from “The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter” – published in March/April 2000)
THAT, wholehearted women of God, is being “on-mission” for kingdom purposes!
What kind of “place” are you in right now? How can YOU glorify God and be on-mission for Him in such a place today – right where you are at? Let’s consider three specific heart attitudes that will help us to wholeheartedly walk out God’s calling on our lives each day with an eternal perspective:
“A living sacrifice” – Living our lives in worship to Him.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1, NIV) In our modern-day society, we may not fully grasp the meaning of being a “living sacrifice” to God. The author of Hebrews explains the purpose of animal sacrifices under the old covenant: “Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.’…And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission [of sins].” (Hebrews 9:19-22, NKJV)
Remission of sins in the Old Testament required death – the shedding of blood – to atone for the sins of the individual or the people collectively. What then is meant by a “living sacrifice”? A sacrifice under the old covenant would have meant something would have to die in order for another to live. But God, in His infinite wisdom and love, sent Jesus to die “once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you [us] to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18) The author of Hebrews contrasts the sacrifices and shedding of blood required under the old covenant with the “new and living way” (9:28) provided once for all by the work of Jesus on the cross where He was offered “to bear the sins of many.” (Hebrews 10:20)
- “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come…can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:1-4)
- “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God…For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified…Therefore, brethren, [we have] boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh.” (Hebrews 10:12, 14,19-20)
Jesus completed the work of redemption. Those of us who have repented of our sins and confessed that He is Lord are now living testaments – living sacrifices! – who live our lives consecrated to God. We are His because of the work Jesus did on the cross, and our response is to view ourselves as such and respond in obedience and gratitude. Does your daily life testify that you have been bought with a price? That you were a sinner saved by grace and now can draw near to God with a true heart? Are you a worshipper of Christ in all that you do? Have you made the conscious surrender to the Lord to say, “Yes, Lord, my whole life is a living sacrifice to YOU.” Do you live with the daily awareness that our holy God has called us to also be holy, and that He made the way through the blood of Jesus for our bodies to now be temples of His Holy Spirit? The temple in the Old Testament was the place where bulls and goats were slain to provide temporary atonement for sins of the Israelites; the Holy of Holies was also there, the place where God’s presence dwelt. And now God has made it that our physical bodies are literally His temple through the work of Jesus once for all!
This is the foundation of a heart for missions. We must understand these things and, in turn, understand that we are called to offer our lives to the Lord. We must remember that our God is a holy God, and we are called to be set apart (Leviticus 10:3). We are called to live our lives in worship to Him! Our response to that is to help others do the same. We will explore practical ways to do that right where you are in our next “Eternal Perspective” article (part 2).
Doing the will of God
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2, NIV)
We as Christians can easily feel uncertain of the will of God for our lives at one time or another. Remember Elisabeth Elliot’s question: “How can I glorify God in such a place?” No matter what your season of life is right now, know that you are called as a follower of Jesus Christ to glorify God in all things. The most essential place to begin is to read God’s Word. It is full of His will. It not only contains concrete commands, but it also “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) – as you read the Word of God with a surrendered heart, the Holy Spirit will help you to respond to it, obey it, and apply it specifically in a way that also testifies to others of the work Jesus has done in you (John 15:26-27)! As you learn to listen to God through His Word, you will also grow in discernment of His specific will through the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit, our Helper and Comforter.
No matter where you are at, we are called to have renewed minds in order that we be able to “test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2b) Do not become overwhelmed with constantly asking yourself, “Am I doing the will of God?” As you grow in your knowledge of God and draw closer to Him through time in His Word and prayer, you will also grow in your assurance (Psalm 19:7-9). Do not put the weight all on your shoulders to be in the perfect will of God! Rather, trust in Him wholeheartedly, delight in the Word of God, and know that He is not a God who is far off but is acquainted with all of our ways. (Psalm 139:3) He will help you to do His will!
Different roles, one mission!
As women of God, we fill many roles at different points in our lives, often simultaneously. Some of them include being:
- A daughter of the King (This is the umbrella which all other roles fall under!)
- A wife
- A mother
- An individual (specific vocation, season of life, calling, etc.)
Each one of these include their own special call to be “on-mission.” One or many of these may apply to you simultaneously! All of them involve ministry, a servant’s heart, a calling, a purpose. Some of them are public, some of them are private, yet all of them are important to God and will bear eternal fruit for His kingdom! In John 15:16a, Jesus says to His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain…”
One of my favorite examples of a woman who lived with an understanding of her calling as a daughter of her Heavenly Father, a wife, a mother, and an individual, is that of Ruth Graham. (Check out our earlier post from this month for more insights about her life, entitled: Who is the Wholehearted Woman, Part 3!) About a year ago, I was shopping at a local Christian bookstore with my husband. We were just browsing, lingering here and there over a particular book of interest, and trying to keep our desire to buy multiple stacks of books at bay!
I had narrowed my selection down to one or two books that I wanted to purchase and was wandering casually through the shelves of books looking for Bryan. As I emerged from one of the aisles, I saw him standing by a clearance shelf browsing over a variety of books marked as “bargain books.” As I joined him, he pointed out a particular book to me called The Legacy of a Couple: Ruth and Billy Graham by Hanspeter Nuesch. The cover contained a charming photo of the loving couple in their early years forehead-to-forehead gazing into each other’s smiling eyes. I was intrigued, but I deliberated because I really wanted us not to break the bank with a ballooning “book budget.” But when Bryan pointed out that this book had a “super bargain” sticker on it, I consented.
This book took me several months to read as I pored over the in-depth first-hand accounts of Ruth and Billy Graham’s lives, commentary, and personal insights. Every couple of pages has a dog-eared corner and multiple paragraphs marked or underlined. In a chapter entitled “Intimacy – Living in God’s Presence,” a neighbor of the Grahams, Betty Frist, is quoted as describing Ruth in the following way:
“Ruth has come as near as anyone I know to fulfilling the command of Christ to ‘pray without ceasing.’ She calls prayer her ‘continuing conversation’ with God. Her impact on Billy, the children, friends, relatives, and the thousands of others whose lives she’s been able to bless is due in great measure to the fact that her whole life is criss-crossed by prayer. From childhood, she has had daily audiences with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who uses earthly thrones as His footstools.” (p. 104-105) Ruth’s entire heart and life belonged to the Lord, and as a result, who she was had a powerful impact on others.
Ruth also never let herself despise the seemingly small or mundane parts of life. In response to being a stay-at-home mom while her husband was preaching to people around the world, she stated, “If it’s God’s will for me here and now to do the washing up, then I want to do this gladly, by honoring the Lord.” (p. 106) Early in Billy’s ministry when he was preaching to over 40,000 people in Columbia, South Carolina, she penned a diary entry that reads: “God is not limited to Columbia. The same God so marvelously working there is in the house with me. I shall have a little revival of my own.”
Statements made by two of Ruth’s daughters nearly always bring me to tears as they describe Ruth’s wholeheartedness in serving her Lord above all else and being “on-mission” for Him in all that she did:
- “[She] took a proactive role as a partner in missions at her husband’s side. On the one hand, she did so by taking care of the children. On the other hand, she actively participated in her husband’s missions by encouraging him on a daily basis during their phone conversations and by praying fervently for his evangelistic ministry. Her daughter Anne describes it as follows: ‘I would go down to my mother’s room late at night. I would see the light on underneath the door and I’d go in, and she would be on her knees in prayer…It was her love for the Lord Jesus, with Whom she walks every day, that made me want to love Him and walk with Him like that.’” (The Legacy of a Couple, p. 107-108)
- “Anne’s older sister, Gigi, was impressed by the fact that their mother never let the children notice the great burdens she had to bear. Ruth made it a habit of bringing all her worries and cares to God. She didn’t want her life to be determined by circumstances but by the Bible’s promises. Her goal was to live on the level of God’s kingdom and place the eternal above the temporal, the invisible above the visible…Ruth also actively kept up her relationship with God, even in her everyday routine. Gigi describes it like this: ‘All these years her immediate reaction has been to throw herself on the Lord and the Scriptures. As a child I can remember her leaving her Bible open in a prominent place, so she could just get a verse every now and then. We found her often by her bed, on her knees. She had her Bible anywhere she was in the house, sometimes even on the ironing board.’” (The Legacy of a Couple, p. 108)
Ruth’s impact on others began with her intimacy with the Lord. From there, she walked out her callings in various roles to the glory of God. What kind of “place” are you in right now? How can YOU glorify God with an eternal perspective and be on-mission for Him in such a place…today? Like Ruth Graham’s example, begin on your knees and never despise the small things. Then be ready, responsive, and obedient to the leading of the Lord. (We will take a look at some practical ways to do this in part 2 of our next post!) The harvest of those in need of the gospel of Jesus Christ is plentiful but the laborers are few. No matter what season or stage of life you are in, live your whole life in worship to Him, doing His will, and being “on-mission” for His kingdom purposes each and every day!
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