This year, my children and I have embarked on a geography curriculum using missionary biographies as a core component. With a large world map on our wall, our fingers have traced their journeys as they spread the Gospel to the far corners of the earth. We read from “Hero Tales” the stories of Moody, Müller, Elliot, and Carmichael. They are both inspirational and challenging.
When reading the highlight reel of a life, the in-between-the-highlights can be lost. I forget that these “heroes” rolled out of bed each morning, got dressed, and then pressed forward into the day. When Elisabeth Elliot would say “do the next thing” that did not usually mean “convert a tribe of Auca Indians” but perhaps “grind up some roots for lunch.” I forget that earth-shattering occurrences didn’t take place every day, even for them. More often, there were years of service, discipline, and obedience without daily results.
Motherhood and Ministry both present few opportunities for a scheduled result. Unlike a business with a sales goal reached, or the contractor with the house completed, we are not marking our calendar for the Holy Spirit’s work. When time has passed without visible results, I can begin to wonder if what I’m doing has had much effect in the grand plan. My daily life pales so much when I compare it to the lives of these great warriors of the faith. I’m not asking for a hero title or a biography, but maybe just a little encouragement? A small glimpse of what’s going to come of all this?
To want an earthly result is only human, but as Christians, we have a greater goal in sight. God is not glorified through our measurable earthly achievements, but in His working through us as we seek to faithfully be where He has placed us. What I have seen most in these past heroes of the faith is not their ability to achieve, but rather their gift of humble surrender and daily obedience. Sometimes that is selling all earthy possessions and moving to the other side of the globe. But more often, it is making the next meal, or calling the sick church member, or emptying the perpetually overflowing trashcan. It is the opposite of our world’s definition of greatness. This surrender and obedience is a daily task, enabled by the Holy Spirit, but it never guarantees an earthly harvest. What is guaranteed, is bringing glory to God.
I pray now that we would be faithful in whatever daily tasks God has placed before us, not losing heart when answers or results or achievements don’t come in regular occurrence. Not one of these mission biographies started when someone decided they would become a famous missionary. Instead, they sought to bring God glory with each small step forward in a life-race run with endurance.