The Cost of Commitment
Missionary Fred Jarvis, fresh from traversing the world in ministry for Christ, was broken in heart by the sharp contrast of a world dying in dire need of Christ and a home church smug in the self-centered activities and abundance. He poured out his heart in the following:
Materialism – The Foe of Missions
"Christ taught us not to please ourselves, but to deny ourselves. The more we deny ourselves, the more we shall obtain from God. We must learn to manage our financial affairs with God's glory in view. A Christian conscience concerning spending and frugality, must not be a virtue of the past. Today everything seems to be geared to the fashionable and luxurious. Far too many Christians have become overindulged and unrestrained in their tastes and mode of living.
"Could we not get along and live comfortably and efficiently without high living and excessive indulgence in the things which gratify our fancy appetites and tastes? Could we not do without all the trinkets and trappings, the fads and the frills?
"It is time that we set our affections upon things above and not things of the earth. It is time we counted the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt (Heb. 11:26).
"Let us cultivate a missionary conscience and save money in order to save souls. We can live on less when we have more to live for. We become rich by what we give, not by what we keep. May the Lord teach us to match His faithfulness with ours. May God give us men that are as generous with Him as He is with us.
"Materialism is the greatest foe to missions. We who have freely received must freely give.
"Giving is a blessing, not a burden. We who have been made alive through Christ owe a great debt to a dying world. Luxury-loving living is a denial of His ownership and our stewardship. In these days of self-seeking and self-indulgence, let us surrender ourselves and substance to help reach a weary world for our Savior.
"How tragic to continue to dam up its flow to the thirsty multitudes! We who love the message of salvation must share it with a lost world. Let us give our time in fasting and prayer, our talents in service, and our treasures to our soon-coming King and count no cost too great to spread His Gospel to every creature."
The Bible tells us it is only our reasonable service to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, and that implies all that we possess as well.
Missionaries Pay the Price in a Unique Way
The cost missionaries pay to take the Gospel into all the world may be greater than we realize. A missionary to China of the past generation, Mabel Williamson, wrote in "Have We No Right?" as follows:
"A group of half a dozen missionaries were gathered together for prayer in a simply furnished living room of a mission house in China. For a few minutes one of the group spoke to us out of his heart, and I shall never forget the gist of what he said.
"'You know,' he began, 'there's a great deal of difference between eating bitterness [Chinese idiom for "suffering hardship"] and eating loss [Chinese idiom for "suffering the infringement of one's rights"]. "Eating bitterness" is easy enough. To go out with the preaching band, walk twenty or thirty miles to the place where you are to work, help set up the tent, placard the town with posters, and spend several weeks in a strenuous campaign of meetings and visitation – why, that's a thrill!
"'Your bed may be made of a couple of planks laid on sawhorses, and you may have to eat boiled rice, greens and bean curd three times a day. But that's just the beauty of it! Why, it's good for anyone to go back to the simple life. A little healthy "bitterness" is good for anybody.
"'When I came to China,' he continued, 'I was all ready to "eat bitterness" and like it. That hasn't troubled me particularly. It takes a little while to get your palate and your digestion used to Chinese food, of course, but that was no harder than I had expected.
"'Another thing, however’ – and he paused significantly – 'another thing that I had never thought about came up to make trouble. I had to "eat loss"! I found that I couldn't stand up for my rights – that I couldn't even have any rights. I found I had to give them up, every one, and that was the hardest thing of all.'
"That missionary was right. On the mission field it is not the enduring of hardships, the lack of comforts, and the roughness of the life that make the missionary cringe and falter. It is something far less romantic and far more real. It is something that will hit you right down where you live. The missionary has to give up having his own way. He has to give up having any rights. He has, in the words of Jesus, to 'deny himself.' He just has to give up himself.
"Paul knew all about this. If you do not believe it, look at First Corinthians 9. 'Have we no right to eat and drink?' he asks. 'Have we not a right to forbear working?.... Nevertheless,' he goes on, 'we did not use this right…though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more' (vv. 4, 6, 12, 19).
"Paul, as a missionary, willingly gave up his rights for the sake of the Gospel. Are we ready to do the same?"
The Gospel is going to the ends of the earth in a wonderful way in this hour. But the formidable strongholds remaining to be reached – the Buddhist, the Hindu, and the Moslem worlds – require a very great cost in manpower, in prayer and in finance. And how about our neighbors – across the street or in the inner-city or in the prison. What are we willing to give in the light of what Christ gave for us?
Christ Had No Rights
No right to a soft bed, and a well-laid table;
No right to a home of His own, a place where His own pleasure might be sought;
No right to choose pleasant, congenial companions, those who could understand Him and sympathize with Him;
No right to shrink away from filth and sin to pull His garments closer round Him and turn aside to walk on cleaner paths;
No right to be understood and appreciated; no, not by those upon whom He had poured out a double portion of His love;
No right even never to be forsaken by His Father, the One who meant more than all to Him.
His only right was silently to endure shame, spitting, blows; to take His place as a sinner at the dock; to bear my sins in anguish on the cross.
Christ Had No Rights. And I?
A right to the "comforts" of life? No, but a right to the love of God for my pillow.
A right to physical safety? No, but a right to the security of being in His will.
A right to love and sympathy from those around me? No, but a right to the friendship of the One who understands me better than I do myself.
A right to be leader among men? No, but the right to be led by the One to whom I have given my all, led as is a little child, with its hand in the hand of its father.
A right to a home, and dear ones? No, not necessarily; but a right to dwell in the heart of God.
A right to myself? No, but, oh, I have a right to Christ.
All that He takes I will give;
All that He gives will I take;
He, my only right!
He, the one right before which all other rights fade into nothingness.
I have full right to Him;
Oh, may He have full right to me!
– From Have We No Right? by Mabel Williamson – pp. 8, 9, 125, 126. Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Moody Press.