SEND U blog

Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Hardship Page 1 of 2

Suffering for the Gospel without Shame

Most people want to avoid suffering. Yet, in this fallen world it is a reality of life. Suffering is a significant theme in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Commentator, William Mounce, writes, “the theme of suffering ties almost all of the epistle together” (Pastoral Epistles, 474). Each chapter of the letter has something to say about suffering. The suffering Paul writes about is suffering for the gospel associated with persecution.

Shame is often associated with suffering, but Paul exhorts Timothy not to be ashamed when suffering for the gospel (2 Tim. 1:8). How is it possible to suffer for the gospel without shame? It is by the power of God. Timothy’s sincere faith (2 Tim. 1:5) together with fanning into flame his spiritual gift (1:6) empowers him to not be ashamed. God has given us “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (1:7). Timothy can suffer for the gospel without shame because God’s power is displayed in the gospel. Paul writes to Timothy:

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Book review: Stubborn Perseverance

Stubborn Perseverance: How to launch multiplying movements of disciples and churches among Muslims and others (a story based on real events) by James Nyman with Robby Butler.

How-to manuals are generally difficult to read, and those who purchase them are not often motivated to read them from start to finish. Stubborn Perseverance is a different sort of how-to manual. Now in a second edition, the book explains a step-by-step process of starting a church planting movement among an unreached Muslim people group. But it is presented as a story, a novel that walks through the experience of a small group of Indonesian believers who work together to start such a movement among their own people group. The story is based on real events.  The characters and their experiences were created by combining various people and their situations, both to protect their identity and to better illustrate a number of principles in one short book.

The author is telling a story that probably reflects his own experiences and the stories of many of his own friends. James Nyman (a pseudonym?), serves as a cross-cultural missionary in Indonesia. He and his wife have been actively seeking to start a church planting movement among an unreached people since 2009, and in the past few years, have been coaching various missionary teams and training workers in the skills and strategy outlined in the novel. So this novel is real-to-life, and its principles have been tried and refined in practice.

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Tanks and training for missions

God can transform the most painful experiences of our childhood into preparation to bless others.  Joseph told his brothers many years after they sold him into slavery, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20).

I just finished listening to a similar story.   In The Tank Man’s Son: A Memoir, Mark Bouman shares his gut-wrenching account of pain and misery, while growing  up in rural Michigan. He was the son of an abusive man who owned a tank, and ran a gun range near his home where military weapons of various kinds were regularly (and illegally) fired.  His memories are terrifying – and at times comical – but always highly unusual. As a young boy, he suffered shrapnel wounds while helping his dad with the shooting range.  He found a huge tree root sticking through the roof of their home when their father used too much dynamite to blow up a stump.  He watched his father and his friends play war games in his backyard at night. His parents’ home was unfinished, marked by holes in the floors and broken fixtures, and situated on 11 acres of garbage and various items crushed by the tank or left to rust.  But above all else, Mark’s childhood was ruled by fear of his father’s totally unpredictable outbursts of anger and regular physical abuse.

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Christ went through the crucible before us

In the preparation of his servants, God uses crucible experiences that test and purify us.   This is no less true of missionaries than of any other servants of God.   In a previous post in this blog, I looked at Scripture verses that speak of crucibles and noted some different types of crucible experiences.   I emphasized that our response to these crucible experiences is critical.  If they are to be transformative, we need to identify and extract from these difficult and often painful experiences that which God has intended that we learn from it.

How do we do that?  How do we mine crucibles? I think we need to begin by learning from Jesus.   He not only went through the crucible in order to purchase our redemption, but he shows us how to persevere and learn from these experiences.

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Crucibles

When God prepares a person to serve him in a leadership or other significant ministry role, he often chooses to use crucibles. Crucibles are small pots used in chemistry labs in which metals or other substances are heated to a very high temperature. In the middle ages, alchemists used crucibles in their various attempts to forge gold out of base metals and various strange ingredients. But Webster also defines a crucible as a difficult test or challenge or a place or situation that forces people to change or make difficult decisions.

The Scriptures speak of the crucible as an instrument for purifying silver, but always in the context of some type of testing for the purpose of refining.

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Don’t Try, Train!

This post comes from Philip Jackson, a colleague and friend of mine from Macedonia. Phil serves as the field leader and church planting team leader in the city of Skopje. Phil also runs marathons, and his enthusiasm for running has inspired me to keep running, maybe not to run marathons but at least to keep physically fit. Phil’s love for God and transparency in his walk with the Lord has encouraged me many times in my pursuit of godliness.

I recently took some time to write down the lessons that God has been teaching and re-teaching me through running and particularly through running marathons.

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