Eventually many of us come to a place where producing the right words & behavior become quite natural. It is a skill that we have acquired from the time we are born. To produce desired responses from those around us.

It may be that we want others to love & accept us or just want them to think that we are nice.

I want to be a nice guy too.

At this stage in my life, being in pastoral ministry about 20 years, I think I have the discernment most of the time to know what to say & what not to say and produce behavior that is expected of me as a pastor & as a Christian. Much of it has become second nature. Controlling my emotions, for example.

I have prayed & disciplined myself so that I do not lose control of my emotions & be a stumbling block for others. I have a decent hold on what is external & visible.

But what is internal, what takes place in our hearts & minds is a different matter.

I think many of us are content with doing the right things, that is producing the expected behavior, because the immediate responses & rewards are satisfying. It adds to our sense of self worth and it is manageable. And I’m going to add that it’s not too hard, especially for us Asian Americans. I hope that doesn’t sound racist. I am not.

I made that last comment because from the time that we are young, we are conditioned to do the right things academically, musically (how many of us played a classical instrument until we entered college?) & even in our church culture. Many of us, on the surface are spotless, but working with many lives, I know that what you see is not always what you get.

It doesn’t matter where you went to college or what your career is or your achievements, the issues surrounding our lives are not different from the rest of the world because God clearly states, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind (1 Corinthians 10:13).” The only difference is it is much harder to detect it in us because we are not comfortable sharing our imperfections & flaws.

It’s a sad reality because we desire empathy & even sympathy, but others have no way of looking into our hurts, wounds & weaknesses because there’s nothing on the surface to indicate that something’s wrong. Not to mention, we are still producing what is expected so people have no reason to doubt us or think that something is wrong until it’s too late. Even then we hide. So it seems as though no one has really failed, feel depressed, or need help.

Of course this translates to our church culture as well. The church has become a place where those who are blessed & who have it together come to worship & serve God. We all look pretty good as well.

Some time back, when I was doing ministry in a former church, pastors & lay leaders group I belonged to organized a small conference, and invited Pastor David Gibbons of New Song Community Church as the keynote speaker. So as a young pastor, it was such a blessing to eat with him & hear his humble wisdom, and I never forgot his answer to one of the young pastors who was interested in working at New Song. But Gibbons didn’t talk about education, experience or achievements, the only thing that he asked was, “What are your wounds?” He assumed that we all have wounds, and he’s right.

The way I took that question was unless we are aware of our wounds, hurts & weaknesses, we will go through life denying the real issues that taint our perspectives on life, ministry, people & ultimately God. We will be unhealthy. Without such awareness, we will never allow Christ to touch & heal areas that are buried deep within us that only He can restore.

What affects our joy, peace & love are not what we may assume. We assume that they are something external, physical & visible. This is why we are always trying to keep up with the latest whatever, acquire stuff & look good, but the truth is what brings us joy, peace & love is really what’s happening inside us.

Our enemy knows this too well. Therefore he likes to take his fights into our hearts & minds where true battles are gained & lost.

Apostle Paul explains this internal or spiritual battle in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Unless we acknowledge & prepare for this battle underneath, our spiritual walk will be characterized by shallowness of faith, superficial happiness, and self idolatry.

Why am I talking about this? Isn’t my blog supposed to be about just missions & Christ?

Yes.

The reason why I am talking about this today is because as my wife & I are praying & preparing to go to Taiwan this summer, we are realizing more and more that it is more a spiritual battle than anything else.

Our enemy doesn’t want us to go.

He doesn’t want the gospel to be shared.

He desires bondage & not freedom for the lost.

Every aspect of missions is spiritual.

It is not about raising enough financial support to go although we may believe it is. The truth is even with 100% budget pledged prior to our departure, there are no guarantees that funds will come, that they will come in time or continue to come. And some supporters will drop out due to unforeseen situations.

On the surface, it may seem like a financial issue, but it’s really about our faith. I mean this for everyone involved & not just for the missionaries, but also their partners who are praying for them, and even the church that’s sending them out.

Do we trust in who God is?

Do we believe that it is our sovereign God who has begun this process?

And that He is the One who will bring it to completion?

Struggle rages on in our minds & hearts. There is a tug-of-war going on between our faith & doubt, between peace & worry and between love & fear. I have to confess that things are not always calm inside my heart & mind.

But this is a good sign. It reveals that the battle underneath isn’t over, that we haven’t given up or lost because prisoners of war do not need to fight anymore. Our struggle proves that we are still active in this fight.

And guess what? Because of Christ, we have already won!

All we have to do is to persevere & not throw in the towel until the victory that Jesus has won on our behalf is realized in our particular segment of life.

Taiwan…

A place we know not much about, a place God has called us to go & make disciples, and a place where we will be humbled.

But because of Christ, we’re already there.