For eleven years my husband and I facilitated groups of people on short term mission trips. We took teams to other countries and to needy places in our own country. And there was a phenomena that we saw over and over again, as well as recognizing it in our own lives.
While on mission trips people were peaceful, confident and ready to serve God. They willingly received whatever came their way and with a flexible attitude. We hardly ever had a cranky missionary! “No hot water for a shower for seven days? No problem! Oh, no! The rain has totally wiped out the road to get to our ministry destination. The drama Gospel presentation that you and your team have been planning for six months will have to be cancelled. Okay, let’s move to plan B, it has to be God’s plan A! There is an illness that has spread to the part of the country in which we had planned to minister. We have to change the agenda. The supplies your church collected all of last year will be saved for the next team to hand out. Of course! Could we at least get pictures of the faces of those receiving our gifts? I’m sorry you are feeling sick. You will have to stay back today. I guess God wants me to be still so I can be praying for the team. We were always impressed with the exceptional attitudes of our teams.
So much acceptance. So much believing that God is at work. So much trust that God has a plan, even when it didn’t make sense.
But as soon as the plane lands and the team is ‘back home’…..one by one the team begins to lose it. I will never forget the day we were in JFK airport. We were returning from a mission trip and the team was waiting for our ride that would take us back to our home base. Once back at the church, we would all climb into our cars and go our separate ways. While at the airport, the team decided to get something to eat. Suddenly I hear, “What? No ketchup for my hamburger? This staff is so incompetent. I want my money back. Actually, let me talk to your manager. This is unacceptable.” All flexibility went out the window and the thought of God being at work in that moment and the chance to serve Him was nowhere to be found. Actually, the thought of God in that moment was nonexistent.
Don’t be too quick to judge! I do not know why but this mind and heart shift is real and it happens frequently. Why can I be so flexible “on the mission field” but not under my own roof? Why can I “surrender to God’s will” in the big things that I have no control but not in the little things that I or someone else can influence?
In the book of Genesis, chapter 24, Abraham and his chief servant are doing life with God in mind. Abraham’s written account showcases an example of asking God for guidance and inviting God into the process of seeking a wife for his son Isaac. Then we see a complete contrast with Solomon’s written account in Ecclesiastes which is about his daily living as he works, acquires material objects and becomes great without even acknowledging God.
Scripture tells us that Abraham and his servant experienced peace and confidence. They were also fostering a flexible attitude which is evident as Abraham expresses the option of being released from their desires and expectations if things don’t work out as planned. On the other hand, Solomon experiences hate and despair in his heart. He then comes to the conclusion that life is meaningless, even when his plans are achieved. Wow, what a stark contrast! Life is so rich and full when one puts God into the equation and so empty without Him!
That is quite a reality to ponder: peace, confidence and flexibility with God versus hate, despair and meaninglessness without God. Hmmm….it seems like a no-brainer but the struggle is real!
Because of our experiences with mission trips, God’s fingerprints have been deeply embedded into our everyday life. My husband and I are constantly reminded that we do not need to be on foreign land or in a hard circumstance to invite God into our everyday lives. My husband frequently challenges us and others to be on the lookout for God at the Wawa, Walgreens or Walmart. I want to be aware of His movement and presence in every circumstance of life. Each place I find my feet is a mission field. I am His ambassador. My response in big and small moments possess the opportunity to reflect Him. Like Abraham and his chief servant, this perspective cultivates peace, confidence and flexibility. I pray that I live and respond in a way that will display God’s splendor; if I get ketchup on my hamburger or not!
“The spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
Isaiah 61: 1-4 (NIV)
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