I have to confess that as long as I can remember I have often made the right decision, produced the right behavior & said what is right for the eyes of men. When I was younger, it was for my parents. In order to win their approval I did what was expected. Then later I conformed to secure my peers’ acceptance & admiration. In adulthood & even in ministry, others’ opinion of me was a major component in self-affirmation.
This pursuit of self-affirmation becomes so rooted in our being that oftentimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it, and when we do recognize it, we may hide it behind some other noble reason. In the song Heart of Worship Matt Redman writes about this inner struggle.
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus
We need to ask ourselves honestly in the quietness of God’s presence these challenging questions.
Why am I pursuing this & for who? The reality is that the answer will be a conglomerate of reasons. We nevertheless must get to the bottom of our hearts because God’s glory is at stake. Maybe the one question that we don’t want to face is Do we really want to find out?
Why is the outcome of the pursuit so important to me? We can turn to many biblical characters to see that their obedience was independent from the outcome. Moses faithfully & prayerfully led the Israelites to the Promised Land knowing early on that he himself wasn’t going to enter it. The eleven of Jesus’ Disciples also had the insight that they would walk the path that Jesus had walked, and yet never deterred from the narrow road they were on. I could say the same thing about Apostle Paul. At the end, he willingly sailed to Rome knowing full well that it will not lead to his own glory.
Here’s one more question.
What if God’s will is different than what I have in mind? Would I be okay with that? This last question is a tricky one because we are natural at tagging the phrase God’s will to what we desire & pursue. And when it doesn’t work out the way we had hoped, we again search for reasons to tag the same phrase to what happened or didn’t happen.
Jeremiah asks (17:9), “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
You may be asking why I am writing about this.
The reason is simple. As we have been striving to obey God’s will in Taiwan, these are the questions that have been pressing my heart & demanding answers.
Let me be real. I’ve been studying Mandarin pretty hard. I go to class every day, study for hours on my own & on top of all that I even use Rosetta Stone. But why? Certainly it is because I want to be able to communicate God’s truth effectively in Mandarin, to lead Taiwanese to Christ. I also desire God’s will to be done in my life. But if I’m honest enough, I know that there’s more. There lies within me a desire to prove myself & to produce what is praise worthy. The same reason applies as I am reaching out & connecting with more & more Taiwanese.
Yes, it is for God’s kingdom, but it is also for me.
But I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that there can’t be “me” in this equation.
God’s glory cannot be shared now or forever. We can only experience & enjoy it.
I believe this is why God takes us to places (usually a lonely place) where we have to search & examine our hearts honestly. We try to avoid those places, but if you are truly blessed, God will lead you there, sometimes by force where you will come to see your foolishness & realize that loving/obeying God & loving men are what satisfy our soul. The truth is what our spirit needs we already have because of Christ. Nothing we do or don’t do can change that. This knowledge is the freedom at its best. It sets us free to love & live as God has intended wherever we may be. What we do isn’t as important as who God is.
God is faithful. He is perfect in wisdom & power, and His will be done always.
For me, missions has been a process of purifying my faith, my words & my heart, and it’s a process that is far from being over.
My prayer has become much more simplified.
It is that I DIE here in Taiwan…