As some of you may know, this year I have made the decision to spend Christmas and New Years in the Middle East on the mission field. This will be the first Christmas in my 30 years that I have not been with my mother, my father, my sister, and the rest of my family. The first Christmas Eve that I have experienced without the overwhelming amount of food and laughter shared with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. The first Christmas when I will lay my head down on a pillow that is not my own and in a country that is foreign to me. Many of my acquaintances have asked me this question “Why in the world would you want to give up the holidays for a mission trip? You can do a mission trip anytime but Christmas is only once a year! I bet that was a hard decision for you to make.”
These types of comments do not annoy me. In fact, I appreciate questions like these because they always make me think. Why am I going on this trip? Why don’t I choose another time to go? Was it really hard to answer the call from God to go overseas in a season that I enjoy so much with my own family?
The truth is that the decision to go was not hard. In fact I would say it was quiet easy for me. We as Americans have the tendency to look at our own sacrifices but we don’t see the blessing that is to come. Is opening presents and eating taco salad (yes I know we are weird, we eat taco salad on Christmas!) more important than answering the call that God has placed on my life? No. What am I really giving up by missing a holiday when I will be amongst people who have given up their jobs, wealth, security, and some their entire families and lives to turn from Islam and accept God as their personal savior? Are these people not my very brothers and sisters in Christ? Yes it hurts me so bad to think about my mother being without her daughter on Christmas morning and it rips my heart in two when my niece looks at me with the biggest eyes you have ever seen and says “But sissy please stay for me! Don’t you love me? It won’t be Christmas without you!”
So it is not the decision to go that was hard for me. But the ability to remain the course that I find is the battle. To stay steady when you feel guilty for leaving your family. To push on when everything in your life seems to fall apart at once. You see every time you answer the call of God on your life a spiritual battle begins to rage. In July of this year I went on a trip to the Middle East and the month or so before I left was one of the hardest times in my life. Finances were not coming in for the trip, my health had made a turn for the worse, I was slammed with responsibilities at work, I was in a car wreck that totaled out my car, and my dog died! You talk about a battle! I was beginning to wonder if maybe I had misunderstood God. Now I see the same things beginning to happen in my life as I start to prepare to leave for this mission trip. I feel I am like the old toy Stretch-Arm-Strong being pulled in all different directions. I find myself battling to even have a moment to pray and read the word of God. Distractions have risen from every aspect of my life.
But yet I remember this quote. I don’t know the author of this quote but I know the battle they must have experienced to write it. The quote says:
“If you saw the size of the blessing coming, you would understand the magnitude of the battle you are fighting”
See we are at war. War against the devil and demons of darkness. Battle against the evil of this world. But we are warriors of the most High God. When you make a decision to serve God whether it is on a mission trip or just within your home or work, you are facing a battle. Because the devil does not want you to experience blessing. He doesn’t want the people that you are going to impact in your willingness to show them love to see the image of God. Because ultimately isn’t this what we are called to be? The very hands and feet of Jesus? I am not called to be perfect. Not called to know all things. But I am called to be present. Called to be willing to go. I have learned in my many mission trips that if I will only go then God will take over after that. I know the moment I set my feet on foreign grounds a week from now that it is God within me that will complete the work He has begun. It is not me or my talents and abilities that will do it. But instead it is God. It is God who will provide comfort to my mother and niece on Christmas and God who will bless them for being willing to let me go.
Yes there is a battle but there is also a blessing. A beautiful blessing that is so worth experiencing the battle. My trip in July and August was the most powerful, life changing experience of my life and it was worth every second of the battle I endured to get there. There is an overflowing joy, peace, and comfort in knowing you are exactly where God wants you to be, doing exactly what He called you to do. Look at Joseph in the Bible. He had a dream and calling on his life when he was only a young boy but man did he face a battle to see that dream come true! He was thrown into a pit, sold by his own brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and thrown into prison. But Joseph remained the course. He didn’t retreat in battle. He remained strong with his focus on God. He didn’t dwell on all the circumstances and distractions that he faced to get to his destiny. He continued to live out his calling. I will leave you with some different verses from Romans 8:
“(28) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined….(31) What, then shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? (32) He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?….. (37)No, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him who loved us.”
So remember though there is a battle, you are called by God for a purpose and He has made you more than a conqueror through His love for you. And though there is a battle, there is a greater blessing ahead! Remain on the course and be a world changer! Amen.