Definitions Determine Destiny: Focusing Life & Short-Term Missions
The title is true for YOU, your family, the Church, and short-term missions. How can all those things possibly be related? Significance and success in any of these arenas will be determined by definitions. And seeing that will help you, your family, the Church, and short-term missions!
Your Life, My Life, Their Lives
Let’s start on the personal level. Definitions are everything. I’ll assume readers of this post probably have this first item all in order. So it serves as an easy illustration of my point. Answer/define this question:
What is required to spend eternity with God the Father?
God has given us His answer to that question. And to save space I’ll cite only one part of Scripture with my own emphasis added:
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
So what’s the problem? Many people want another answer. They don’t like the idea of calling themselves sinful, having to confess, or submitting to anyone as Lord. And then they define God’s requirements in terms they think will work:
- Church attendance
- Good deeds more than bad, etc.
Those are good things. But they are the results of confessing and believing. They are not the means of salvation. So redefining God’s answer has eternal consequences. Definitions do determine one’s destiny. But this one is basic and obvious. What about definitions after we believe?
Definitions: Life Roles
God is eternal. Our earthly lives are temporary. That comparison means our lives are short-term missions! The first mission is about belief. Once that mission is accomplished it defines the rest of our lives. And it brings subsequent missions into focus. Let’s use two common roles to answer and define the age-old question of Man:
Who am I?
God created Man and gave us purpose. We innately seek to define ourselves in terms of purpose. Most of us have the role of spouse. For those who are married, or those that might be, this role is our second-tier mission in life. The first-tier mission, disciple, came when we believed and were forgiven. That gave us the life-long role of disciple. A disciple is subject to, and a subject of, the Lord.
The spousal role is second because it comes to believers via the covenant of marriage. And that covenant is between 3: Heavenly Father, Husband, & Wife. The spouses treat each other in accordance with the Father’s commands because each is a disciple. And each spouse is ultimately accountable to the Father for how they fulfill their role as spouse. This relationship should have priority over all others except that of disciple. But do we let other definitions get in the way of this divine design?
This role is often used to answer the Who am I? question. This is a very necessary role but falls short of defining our lives and purpose. Parenting comes to believers as stewardship. Children are God’s gifts to us. And we are to be good stewards of all God’s gifts. If this role is used to define life, then it messes up the spousal relationship. If that relationship is messed up, then it impacts the role of disciple. It only takes one definition being out of line to negatively impact life as a whole.
God decreed that Man would live by the sweat of his brow. Man’s labor is God’s judgment and design. But when one uses work to define who they are then things are out of line. Providing is a good thing. But it cannot be our defining measure because only God is Jehovah Jireh (God Who provides). His disciples (first role) are to trust Him to provide in ways they cannot see or imagine.
And while I’m on the subject… Many well-meaning ministers have let ministry define who they are. I am just one that has been guilty. No matter how noble the work, it is not what defines us. If it does, and our work goes away, then life spirals out of control. One blessing of defining life in terms of being a disciple is that it never changes. I was a disciple, I am a disciple, and I will die as a disciple. There’s great comfort and security in defining life that way. Isn’t God good to us?
Definitions: Short-Term Missions
One Sunday a friend of mine was preaching. After about 25 minutes he said:
That was just the introduction. We can now start on the message!
I feel like that about this post. What is here seems very basic. But it is helpful in at least two ways:
- A reminder that how we define a thing has a great impact on our lives
- An example for discussing our world-wide mission
So how do we define missions? The answer to that question is just as important as the definitions covered above. The consequences of incorrect definitions are even greater. And the definition of mission is probably not what you think it is. Tune in next time…
Soli Deo Gloria!