Sometimes I think about all the work to be done in the world and all the souls that need to be saved, and I just feel overwhelmed. How can someone like me, a middle class girl from small-town Oklahoma, ever hope to be someone who can make a difference in this big world?
This is why I’m thankful for those who have come before. For the modern-day heroes of the faith (Heb. 12:1-2), some of whose beginnings are as humble as my own, who lead the way and know what is possible to those willing to work for the Lord. This week, I’ve been blessed (and if ever a word didn’t seem big enough, this is one) to spend time at the annual Pan-American Lectureship with those who have come before me. The men and women here have helped bring about growth in the church, at home and abroad, for the better part of five decades. Intimidating, but encouraging, these are some of the lessons I’ve learned:
God Wants Willing Hearts to Serve Him
Some people are smart. Some are outgoing. Some are compassionate. Some are artistic. Some grew up as the children of preachers and missionaries, and some never darkened the door of a church building while growing up. Some have Doctorates of Theology and others are accountants. But they all have willing hearts. God has used them all. He knows our abilities and can use them for His glory (2 Tim. 2:20-22). In America or Brazil or South Africa or your hallway at school, God can use you. Whether you are great at leading Bible studies or are someone with a compassionate heart who is able to show God’s love to those around you, God can and will use you for Him.
There is No Substitute for the Truth
I’ve met some loving people here. Compassionate people. Those that have worked in third-world countries in the midst of poverty that I can’t even imagine. They’ve witnessed families in heart-breaking situations. Seen health problems that have irrevocably damaged people’s lives. Often, they have had daily opportunities to show love to those in physical need. God wants us to do that. God wants us, expects us to take care of those in need (Prov. 14:31). But that’s not all. They’ve shown love and compassion to those in physical need. But the way they’ve really shown God’s love is by teaching people the Truth. As much as we want to, we’ll never be able to rescue the whole world from all poverty and sickness. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to help, but it’s just not possible. Thankfully, we have a God who promises us an eternal life free from those things, living with Him forever. Sharing that message is how we show true compassion and what God wants from us (Mark 16:15-16). If we feed a thousand people, but don’t save a single soul – we haven’t helped anybody. If you are kind to your friends and help at your local homeless shelter and never cuss or go to parties, but you haven’t ever told anyone how to become a Christian, you haven’t really loved them the way God wants you to. God has shown mercy on you and your responsibility is to give others the same opportunity you’ve had.
Learn from Those Who Have Been There
When I was 17 years old, we had a guest speaker who came and preached about missions and the work he’d been involved in. Afterwards, I went to speak with him about his sermon and he offered me an opportunity that changed me forever – to join the group he was taking to Brazil for a month that summer on a mission trip. He had just met me. There was no reason for him to give me a chance to do something like that. But he did, and it opened up my heart and changed my life in ways that I’m still seeing the results of. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the men here are professors and teachers and Christian colleges and Bible schools around the world. They all had someone help them, and they want to pass along what they received from others. Youth can be arrogant at times. We think those in older generations don’t know, can’t possibly understand, the role of the church and the challenges we face today. They can. They do. They’ve seen and experienced things we can’t even imagine. They have learned wisdom that they can share with us (Job 12:12). And they desperately want the works they’ve been a part of to continue growing. They WANT the opportunity to teach you, mentor you, give you opportunities. Your preachers, elders, deacons, men and women of your church who have served quietly and steadily for years – they want to help you. They love you. Learn from them and allow yourself the opportunity to see what it takes to become a worker in the church (Titus 2:3-8). Learn so that one day you can teach others.