The following paragraph is an excerpt from a weekly update that my wife’s sister and her husband sent as missionaries serving in South Asia. Their children are already learning of the offense of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:23) and that those “who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).
“While playing the other day, one of our kids accidently stepped on one of the local kids’ chalk drawing of one of their religion’s gods. The kids apparently tried to tell them that JC was the one true Gd – and that didn’t help! And then their friends got offended, and all of a sudden it seemed to turn into a small free-for-all against the little light-skinned foreigners and their ‘religion.’ Some strong words. One of our kids got slapped. Another one’s arm twisted. After they came in from playing and told Mommy about it, one thing they kept saying was, ‘We were only trying to tell them the truth!’ It was a dose of reality, but still hard for the younger ones to understand why others don’t care about JC.”
I wanted to send my nieces and nephews an e-mail response in view of this recent incident, but that is not always easy to do because of the need to “clean-up” e-mails before they’re sent. So instead I’m using this blog (which hasn’t been used for anything else in almost a year – actually, tomorrow will be a year) to communicate my thoughts to them.
Here is my encouragement to them::
To my much-loved nieces and nephews,
I read this week’s update with a heavy heart but also with great delight. To hear about bruises, scratches, and ouches on those I love naturally concerns me. But your stand for the truth fills my soul with joy to know that you are confessing Jesus before the kids (friends and foes) in your neighborhood. Jesus said, “Everyone who confesses Me before men (or women or children), I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 10:32).
I have been studying and preaching through the gospel of Matthew at our church in Georgia. In Matthew 10, before He sends the apostles out as missionaries, Jesus explains to them what it means to be a disciple of His. He tells them that following Him will not be easy. It will even be very painful at times. Some of those difficulties and costs include: (1) being attacked by people (v. 16-18); (2) being betrayed by family members (v. 21)—I thank God that your mommy and daddy love Jesus too, but as you are no doubt learning, there are some children who are rejected by their parents for following Jesus; (3) being hated because of Jesus’ name (v. 22); (4) being forced to move because of persecution (v. 23); (5) being called names and mocked (v. 25); (6) being hurt and even killed (v. 28).
But Jesus also gives comforting words of encouragement to these missionaries. Every Christian can know and experience these blessings in some measure, but frontier missionaries realize these promises in deeper and fuller ways. These pleasures include: (1) Knowing that you are sent by Jesus (v. 16); being able to give testimony of Christ through your sufferings (v. 17-18); (3) being given the right words by the Holy Spirit when you don’t know what to say (v. 19-20); (4) experiencing God’s fatherly care (v. 20); (5) enjoying heaven at the end of it all (v. 22); (6) seeing firsthand, the gospel spread like wildfire (v. 23a); (7) knowing that you are part of Jesus’ family (v. 25); (8) being assured that the truth will win in the end—that truth that you were so bold to proclaim – “Jesus is the one true God” (v. 26-27); (9) knowing that all people can do is hurt your body—they can’t touch your soul (v. 28); and (10) having confidence that you are valued by God (v. 31).
Even numerically, the pleasures of following Jesus as missionaries beat out the pains (10-6). But this is not a mathematical formula. The blessings don’t just slightly edge out the costs. The joys of following Jesus are immeasurably greater and will last for eternity. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great” (Mat. 5:11-12).
I know this recent incident is rather small in the grand scheme of the gospel’s advance and the persecution of the church, but I pray that God will use it (and others that may come) to make deep impressions on your hearts—that Jesus is more valuable than anything. More than popularity, more than money, more than safety, even more than family; Jesus is worth more than anything. I pray for you kids often. I certainly pray for your safety and protection, but much more than that, I pray that you will be faithful, compassionate, bold, humble, passionate, and Truth-filled lovers, followers, and proclaimers of Jesus. I know there will be times when you are afraid, but when those fears come, cling to Jesus and say, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” (Ps. 56:3-4).
There may be people who think your mommy and daddy are crazy or even cruel for taking you kids out of America and into an “unsafe” place. But I thank God for your parents’ willingness to “go” and their desire to see Jesus’ proclaimed where He is not yet named. They have counted the cost and are faithfully following their Lord and Savior. Their work (and yours) is an honorable one for the sake of the Kingdom.
I hold each of you very close to my heart and I hold you up in prayer to the Father who cares deeply for you. Thank you for encouraging me by standing up for Jesus in your neighborhood. May God use each one of you to “shake the gates of hell” through the progress of the gospel in South Asia!
With much love,
Your Proud Uncle Justin
“Give me one hundred men (or, ‘5 nieces and nephews’) who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God . . . and they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.” (John Wesley)