In the last week a common theme in news stories is gloom. Apparently few news agencies and pundits have confidence in 2016 being a good year. Concern related to the estimated 60 million refugees currently on the move,a worry over escalation of regional conflicts and worry about the outcome the United States presidential election are among the reasons mentioned for the perceived global instability.
More than the tensions, possibilities and fear reported in the news, we take the Lord of the nations seriously. As we look forward into 2016, Shepherd’s Staff as mission organization looks up to Him that called those we serve to be amidst the very predicted and possible hardships. As the missionaries we serve live in this tension, I propose they, and all of us, ask these three questions about the current world dynamic and our role in it.
The answer of why any of us are in a certain location must revolve around bringing glory to God. As the ultimate missionary, Jesus came into a chaotic and volatile world. Amidst the tensions and fears of His day, Luke 4:18 tell us, Jesus came to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, break bondages, minister to the handicapped and give liberty to the oppressed.
In themselves Global tensions never bring glory to God. The tensions often produce fear, which only brings glory to the hater of men’s souls. The glory of God comes as His people preach His gospel to the poor, as brokenhearted people are healed, as bondages are broken, as handicapped people are cared for and liberty given to the oppressed. All of those situations were fulfilled in Jesus, who those we serve get to go proclaim in a chaotic and hostile world still waiting to hear.
That means the missionaries we serve at Shepherd’s Staff are right where God desires. They are amidst the unrest and unsettled specifically because there is great need for God’s people to be among the unrest and unsettled. My prayer is they do not see the gloom, hear the worry and feel the fear. They are in the specific place at this specific time in redemptive history to serve those in great need of Jesus who saves and brings hope. That is as true for the missionaries we serve across the globe, and their churches we serve in the United States, as it is for us here at Shepherd’s Staff.
Shortly before dying Jesus prayed, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4). Jesus knew He had completed the work because He knew the call was to glorify the Father while on earth. Similarly, missionary Paul knew his calling was not to hold his own life dear, but the Lord Jesus gave him a calling to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24). It is only in knowing the One who calls and being assured of the call in which modern missionaries can be at peace.
These things are not said flippantly. When our family experienced violence, hardship and confusion on the mission field we simply asked each other, “Where is God?” We had only one answer, “He is on throne, He has not moved.” All around there could be fear and confusion. At times there was death and destruction. God was always the same. Understanding where God is at and His call had not changed makes the present bearable and the future brighter.
The prophets of doom looking into 2016 and projecting the worst may be right, but to the called of God it does not matter. There will surely be more terrorist’s attacks this year. Israel may attack Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2016. Russia may cause greater instability in Syria before the year ends. The United States may suffer racial conflicts. Ebola may break out, again. So what? It is these exact scenarios in which God’s called people thrive in His work. It may actually be why He called some.
We at Shepherd’s Staff care deeply about 2016 because we have 240 people we love and respect in 240 very hard places doing the most important job in the world. Long before 2016 this was a world which God the Father loved and sent God the Son into. In that perfect love of being sent, Jesus casts out fear. He cast out any fear the prophets of doom may suggest for 2016. In 2016 that love is needed more than ever. We at Shepherd’s Staff look forward to 2016. It will be another year proclaim Love to a hurting world and serve those doing it in hard places.