I’ve been pondering and praying at a deeper level than normal about what God would have me share with missionaries and those who know and love them, as 2017 is on the verge of slipping over the horizon and another new year is just days away from enveloping us.
For me, it’s impossible to think and pray about missionaries that live and serve in almost every country around the world, without also thinking about the political, social, racial, and religious turbulence that many of them navigate life within.
Although I’m not a prophet or the son of a prophet, (and no, I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night), I’m convinced that these two verses contain truths that both goers and senders need to embrace and be ready to put in to practice if things unfold like they could in at least a few different countries.
Eph 6:19-20 …and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
These words come from a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus, while he was imprisoned in Rome. As he concludes his exhortation to them to put on the whole armor of God, he emphasizes that they need to bathe all of their self-equipping efforts in prayer.
PAUL’S DESCRIPTION OF STANDING STRONG…EVEN WHILE IN CHAINS
Having focused their minds on the importance of prayer for their ability to stand strong in the Lord, he transitions over to asking them to pray for him to stand strong in the Lord in the midst of the incarceration he finds himself in. Here’s his description of what standing strong in the Lord looks like for him:
–He wants to be given an opportunity to speak the right words.
–He needs boldness to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel–something that was previously unknown or secret.
–His calling as an ambassador of the Gospel remains even though he is now an ambassador in chains.
–He therefore needs their prayer so he can speak boldly and correctly within the context he now finds himself in.
WHAT MISSIONARIES SHOULD KEEP IN MIND
I believe that missionaries should take note of these truths from this text:
1–Being a missionary is accepting the call of being an ambassador of the Gospel and going to where ever He calls you to go.
2–There is the possibility that God may permit incarceration to be the by-product or fruit of obedience.
3–If He does permit it, they too may become an ambassador in chains.
4–They should understand that being in chains does not justify ceasing to declare the Gospel with boldness.
5–They should follow Paul’s example of asking those that know and love them to pray for them to be able to seize the opportunity to share the Gospel with those they interact with in a bold and clear manner.
WHAT THOSE THAT SEND AND CARE FOR MISSIONARIES SHOULD KNOW
I also believe that those who send and care for missionaries should keep all of the above in mind, along with these specific truths from the text:
1–Standing strong in the Lord requires both putting on everything He makes available to you–praying while doing so.
2–But standing as strong as possible in the Lord also requires praying for those you know that He sends to the ends of the earth as ambassadors of the Gospel.
3–God’s plan for His ambassadors may include permitting a missionary you know to be persecuted in a variety of ways, including being incarcerated for His sake or the sake of the Gospel.
4–By staying in communication with missionaries and praying for them regularly, you can develop a level of trust with them that helps them know they can be vulnerable and transparent with you.
5–Although there is nothing wrong with praying for their release from incarceration or persecution, be prepared for them to imitate Paul–only asking you to pray for opportunity and boldness, not to be removed from their circumstances.
Whether we have ever thought about it or not, our life experience as Christians who have been born and raised in America has left us unprepared for what may be ahead.
Because there has been nothing in our personal or group experience that required us to really study the subject of persecution, we haven’t given much time or thought to what Jesus said about the cost of following Him, how much of the New Testament is a description of what that cost actually looks like, or the place that persecution might play in His bigger plans and in our own lives.
Even though I pray I’m wrong about what may be ahead in 2018, missionaries from America may just be the catalyst that God uses to help the church in this country to take persecution and God-glorifying responses to it more seriously than we ever have.