Let us boast
Last night as we sat on the porch with a visiting team from America, one of the visitors asked a simple curious question. He said, “I view you guys as spiritual heroes. What is it that caused you to get where you are and how does it affect the way you see the rest of us Christians that are back home?” My first thought was what a great question. My second thought was how I condense the answer so it will fit in only one encyclopedia volume. We get this question a lot and it will surely be asked multiple times when we go home on furlough in a few weeks.
First and foremost, I am certainly not a spiritual hero. Jesus is the hero in my story. In fact, I reiterate all the time, it is not even “my” story. I was all things undesirable when God chose to give me a new heart, a new spirit, and a new life. Apart from that mercy and grace, I am still best described as all things undesirable. Therefore I owe everything to Him and can boast only in Him. My role in the bush of Northern Uganda is that of a humble servant. Do I selfishly try to make it something else at times? Yes. Does God have to correct me? Yes. You see, the big deal in life is not our calling, our gifting, not our desires, not how many degrees we have, not how many books we’ve read, or for God’s sake, not what religious superstar we strive to be. The big deal is Jesus! We are not to make Him relevant to our lives, but we are to make our lives relevant to Him. He is the author and finisher of our faith. We are created and equipped to worship and glorify Him. Therefore, He is not concerned with our vaporous legacy, but His everlasting glory. Let us serve and praise the hero of heroes. He is the Great I AM. How silly and foolish for me to ever boast of me.
Secondly, what led me here among an unreached people group in Northern Uganda? A desire to know Christ. In Philippians 3:4, Paul begins explaining how he was all-in and fully committed to everything he had ever done. He then goes on to say that, “for the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ, he considered it all rubbish and a loss”. Have you experienced God to the point that you would consider all that has defined you to be rubbish? Well, I did. Some people cling to what they think defines them. In that case, they are their own God. Paul said in verse 13, that he was, “forgetting what was behind and straining toward what is ahead”. Paul was coming off of a conversion experience on the road to Damascus that changed what he thought of himself. Paul said in verse 10 that he wanted to “know Christ”, but didn’t he already know him? I was both jealous and curious by Paul’s comments so I began to pray myself that I too could “know Jesus” the way Paul was trying to know Him. God answered that prayer when I went to Guinea, where I learned what broke the heart of Christ as He looked over the multitude and wept with compassion. It broke mine too and I was able to know Him more. It increased my prayer life and I was able to know Him more. It made me dig deep into the scriptures and I was able to know Him more. That knowledge of God burned in me a desire to be a direct instrument of God among an unreached people group and this is where I am today. I still want to know Him more, but I can’t serve myself or promote myself and know anything but my own foolishness. Every time I see Him transform the life of an Acholi man or woman, I know the power and awesomeness of Christ a little more and I become a better servant in the process. Every time He directs me through an impossible situation, I know Him more. Still learning His power, His forgiveness, His faithfulness and even His suffering. Yes even His suffering. The biggest challenge of being a missionary is sharing in the fellowship of the suffering of Christ. How so? His motives were questioned. His qualifications were questioned. He was hated by those He loved, His family thought He should have spent more time with them, the religious crowd thought He was threat to their security, and He often withdrew to Himself and cried out with tears in His eyes. When you set out to “know Christ” you will share in His sufferings. You may not know the pain of a cross, but you will know the emotional stress that Christ dealt with. He promised us so. However, if we set out to share in those sufferings we will rejoice in them. As Paul said in verse 10, the “fellowship of sharing in His sufferings” is of “surpassing greatness”. I rejoice, not in the pleasure of the suffering, but in the pleasure of knowing Him more.
Lastly, how do we view our brothers and sisters in America? There is no honor to be had in serving here or serving there. There is only honor in serving obediently and that honor belongs to Christ not the servant. There are as many Pharisees in mission organizations, as there are in American churches. Christ came to serve, not to be served and to know Him is to do likewise. The only shame to be had is not in where you choose to serve but in claiming to serve Him while really serving yourself. Our faith is either in our works or His. We are collectively the body of Christ and if we are to press forward, as Paul declared in verse 14, then we are dependent on one another to accomplish His will. He does not have a separate will for Africa than His will for America. In fact, He doesn’t differentiate. The harvest is plentiful. You work there. I will work here. I thank God for our brothers, and sisters in America. You inspire me. If we must boast, let us boast in Him. Let us “press on and take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us” (v12). Let us boast of Him.