The missionary nightmare
He reports that he was severely beaten by the nationals. There were many attempts on his life. He was rejected by the people to whom he was ministering and he was even rejected by people from his own country. He was in danger in the city andin remote villages. He was in danger from the so called “Christians.” He had a life of toil and a life of hardship. He spent many nights without sleep. He was often without food and hungry. He was often thirsty. He was often cold and without shelter. And to top all that off, every single day he felt the pressure of ministry in wanting the Gospel to really mature the churches he had planted. He spent years in prison and then…he died.
Being adoptive parents we find ourselves in many adoption circles and thus have heard many “adoption nightmares”. Numerous families want to adopt to help the needy and start the process knowing that God is on their side being that he is the self-proclaimed Father of the orphan. And then everything terrible happens. For instance, one family spent months looking at pictures of a child they desired to adopt, prepared for her arrival, and prayed for her safely only to receive an email one day declaring her sudden death. Some families pursued what they thought was a good adoption agency only to find themselves embroiled in unethical practices, frustrated by lies, and told they would not be able to adopt the children in the end. Some sought to show love to orphans in Africa, and were confronted by racism in their own families. Others found themselves burdened by the enormous expense of adoption. And those families that endured and finally brought their children home, have to deal with the day-in and day-out struggle to serve thankless children.
What God’s Sufficient Grace Is NOT
But I do not think this is biblical. The zealous missionary mentioned above is the apostle Paul and his record of difficulties as listed in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28. Clearly the Lord did not shield him from pain, but instead he experienced increasedsuffering because he followed Christ. Nor did God the Father spare his own Son from pain. God’s grace was no less present in each of these two men and yet they did not experience lives of comfort, but instead lives of suffering.
The sufficiency of God’s grace does not mean success in ministry. It does not mean obedient children. It does not mean an enjoyable life. It does not mean wealth. It is not a promise to shield us from sickness, crime, disease, or natural disaster. Paul experienced all these afflictions…and he was the man who wrote about God’s grace being sufficient. So, then how is God’s grace sufficient?
God’s grace is sufficient to make us abound in every good work even in the midst of serious suffering:
God’s grace does not mean that my baby will sleep through the night, but it does mean that I can love my child and serve him when I am tired. God’s grace does not mean that my spouse will become a believer and encourage me in my faith, but it does mean that I can be faithful in my witness to him/her. God’s grace does not mean that I will not have any conflict but it does mean that I can glorify him and love my enemies when I am in the midst of conflict. God’s grace does not mean that I feel like waking up in the morning for a day of hard work, but it does mean that I can get out of bed and serve people all day. God’s grace does not mean that learning a new language is easy, but it does mean that I can be diligent to study when I would rather do something mindless. God’s grace does not mean that sharing the Gospel will be less awkward but it does mean that I am able to love the lost more then my desire for non-awkwardness.
God’s grace does not mean that I will not weep deeply when someone I love dies, but it does mean I can bow down and worship with Job saying “He gives and he takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” God’s grace does not mean my children will love Jesus and obey me, but it does mean that we can be faithful to raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. God’s grace does not mean raising support to go into missions will go quickly but it does mean I can be faithful in prayer and diligent to raise money so that others can hear the Gospel. God’s grace does not mean that person I work with will no longer be annoying but it does mean that I can become less irritable. God’s grace does not mean that I will like my job more but it does mean I can look right past my difficult boss and work as unto the Lord. God’s grace does not mean that I won’t get cancer but it does mean my heart can remain at perfect peace in the Lord even when my body seems to be falling apart.