Ever have the wrong perspective? Have you been through something that seemed all wrong only to learn later that everything was all right? These questions apply to certain aspects of our recent Mission: Hope mission in the Dominican Republic. So this post serves more than one purpose. First, it’s part o of my ongoing update on that mission. Second, it’s a confession of sorts. And third, the mission and the confession provide some valuable insights for successful Christian living!
Wrong Perspective – A Necessary Tension
Let’s start with a bit of the lesson. And then I’ll tell you how the lesson relates to our most recent mission effort.
Perspective determines our view of everything. The cartoon provides a humorous example of that truth. But we have a permanent problem with perspective:
We don’t have the best vantage point to evaluate our lives or the effectiveness of our labors.
That truth is easy to forget because our perspective is all we have. But there are certain tensions that exist in our lives. Some well-known Scriptures reveal these tensions. Philippians 2:13-14 is something I have quoted often. God is at work even in our desires. So if we desire to serve effectively, that is God at work in us. That’s good. But there’s more…
Proverbs 16:9 shows us the tension between our plans (from our perspective) and the fact that God in His sovereignty is at work directing our steps and actions. Why doesn’t our Father just give us the whole picture? If He did that it would certainly relieve many of our frustrations! But our Father isn’t as concerned with our frustrations as He is with our faith. He wants us to trust Him rather than ourselves.
We learn this from the writer of Hebrews. Hebrews 11:6 tells us we cannot please Him without faith. So the tensions we experience are actually divine opportunities to trust! It seems I have to keep relearning that truth. And there’s one more applicable point to this lesson.
Wrong Perspective: The Mission Application
Many of us are task oriented. It doesn’t take long to learn I am one of those people. So planning the work of a mission team is something I embrace. But what if everything is going wrong? That question brings me to the mission and the final truth of the lesson learned.
John 15:5 tells me that no amount of my labor and effort is going to matter unless God is the One behind it. I can do absolutely nothing. The mission isn’t my work, or Mission: Hope work, or the work of the mission volunteers. The mission, if it’s effective, is HIS work!
And don’t just think of this in terms of a mission team. Here are just a few of the ‘missions’ in your life:
- Ambassador for Christ
There are more! But each of those missions is something that the Person, power, and presence of Almighty God must inhabit. And even if that’s happening it can still seem to be going badly from our wrong perspective. That’s how it was when I left with the mission team!
The pastors in Tamayo, Dominican Republic, had asked us in June if we would lead a city-wide evangelistic crusade when we came back in November. That is part of my heart. We have led similar events in many places. That’s God at work in our willingness and in our doing. So we made plans to do that very thing (see Proverbs!).
I should point out that every effort was made to see our plans through. Email was sent. Questions were asked. When responses didn’t come I tried to communicate through others. It was a matter of faith for me to continue on. That was difficult. Events like this usually require some funding. The questions I asked included all the practical matters of time, money, and location. As they say, the heavens were brass! So we got on the plane not knowing how that part of the mission week would take shape. But we believed it would all work out.
What seemed all wrong to me was ALL RIGHT with my Father. On the first day of class I asked the host pastors if they had received my emails. Then everything became very, very clear. (And it’s a praise report!)
Both of them had experienced some setbacks with electronic devices and services. They hadn’t seen my emails. They were as puzzled as I was. However, they felt compelled to go ahead. Our study in June was in the book of Acts. Looking at the evangelistic efforts of the Apostle Paul had led to their original question of doing the area crusade. And not hearing from me (no fault of theirs or of me), they got it together on their own.
What was my reaction? I thought it was awesome. That caused me and our teaching team to rejoice that these pastors acted on the faith they had.
What was the result of their work? According to their report, the churches worked together and worked hard. The crusade services were well attended by the surrounding community AND many people came to faith in Christ. Now, is that mission success or failure?
Wrong Perspective: Mission Model
A healthy mission is one that empowers and equips. It is unhealthy to foster dependence on mission teams. So I took all of that as great encouragement that we are, in fact, investing in people who will be faithful with the Gospel. And that’s made possible by folks like you that go, give, pray, and support. So, thank you!
And there’s a continuing aspect of this story. When they understood that we had done all within our power to keep our plans they were also encouraged. More than one community has been let down by mission folks who do not act as promised. The week of instruction we did in November was a blessing to everyone involved.
And the original plan to use the teaching faculty in an outreach crusade was rescheduled to April, 2018 (planned date for our next mission to Tamayo).
So it really was a matter of perspective. God is at work and He is never surprised or frustrated. That’s a lesson we can, and should, apply to all of life.
Soli Deo Gloria!