“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
Do you ever look back at your work and wonder if it was effective? Did you really accomplish anything? Or was it all in vain?
For those of us older folks, getting closer to retirement, these are valid questions. I’ve spent a lot of time writing articles that quickly vanished. Journalism is ephemeral, in the news today and in the trash tomorrow. Did any of my work matter?
At our church’s missions conference last month, the keynote speaker—Dal Stanton, a missionary who has planted churches in several different countries through Mission to the World—addressed this very subject.
Dal and his wife, Beth, were in Ukraine in the early years of their ministry. They helped launch new churches for the Reformed faith in several cities there before leaving for Spain and Bulgaria. The Stantons were all set to return to Ukraine early last year…until Russia invaded the country.
As Dal spoke about the loss of life, the chaos of destruction, and Ukrainian churches caught in the crosshairs of war, he wondered if he accomplished anything during his earlier work there. So many from the “flocks” were scattered in fleeing the country, leaving few church members behind to continue the work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Was his work all worth it?
Dal said that missionaries today find themselves in the same situation as the first missionary in the Bible—no, not the apostle Paul…Abraham.
When Abraham was still named Abram, God called him to move from what was comfortable and familiar to another place promised as an inheritance. God wanted Abram to experience His presence and fulfill His purposes—as if God was saying, “Here I am, come join Me.” Abraham packed up his family and headed to a foreign land without knowing much about his future there.
“To be living in ‘God’s neighborhood’ is the deepest motive of a missionary’s heart,” Dal said. That neighborhood, he asserted, can be across an ocean, across a border, or across the street.
“God calls His disciples to go past cultural taboos, to push through uncomfortable barriers to meet people in need,” he said, “in order to give them a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name.”
Missionaries also live out their calling with a “great unknown,” as did Abraham. “We know we’re called to a place, but we don’t necessarily see where we’re going,” Dal continued. As Abraham obeyed in faith, God slowly unfolded His purposes in human history—ultimately leading to Abraham’s descendant, Jesus Christ.
“Missionaries live with the ‘great undone,’ too,” he said. “Like Abraham, we look beyond our tents to see God’s promises.”
During the Stantons’ earlier missionary assignment to Ukraine, Dal developed plans for evangelism but, in responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit, had to constantly change them. “While we were in the middle of the forest, looking only at the trees, we didn’t know that what we were doing was critical for God’s purposes now and for eternity. Things we did that seemed so small—as simple as discipling some younger men—God has used to build His kingdom.”
He described the Ukrainian churches now as a “light in the darkness,” offering hope in a place where hope is difficult to find. Several of the churches Dal fostered are still open, ministering to refugees in transit and to those who remained behind. Food, medical care, home supplies, and counseling—all are now essential parts of the churches’ daily life.* Even in places where church doors are temporarily shut, the body of Christ continues to serve.
The Ukraine nationals trained by the Stantons are now the faith leaders. “Our God is the God of lost causes,” Dal said. “He stands defiantly over all that we would call a lost cause, without hope, and He wants us to be part of it. He will build His church, the presence of Christ to a dying world.”
The Stantons hope to return to Ukraine, but they are still waiting.
“We don’t know what kind of adventure of faith God will call us to join or where we will go,” he said. “We don’t know where He is leading us, but He knows.”
Friends, we have the privilege every day of being God’s bricks and mortar to build His church. Our smallest, weakest efforts for His kingdom are never lost…an encouraging word, a simple meal for the hungry, a Bible study with a new believer, a shoulder for someone’s grief, a donation to dig wells in impoverished areas, a letter to a missionary, a hug, a prayer. All of your efforts in the name of Jesus Christ, to bring glory to Him, are valuable now and in eternity.
How will you build His kingdom this week? Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and show you where He is calling you to serve Him. It is so worth every effort you make.
Holy Spirit, You have called me to build Your kingdom here on earth. Help me bring glory to You in unexpected places and for unexpected people. Help me break through barriers and taboos to take Your living water to the thirsty neighbors across the street and around the world. Give me Your grace and compassion, even in the little things, to share with everyone I meet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
#loveofJesus #missionarylife #missions #ukraine #ukraineconflict #ukrainechurches #missiontotheworld #abraham #kingdomwork #ukrainerelief
*If you’d like to support the work of Ukrainian churches in providing aid to the afflicted in this crisis, please go to https://mtw.org/ukraine-crisis to make a donation.
© Copyright 2023 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative (text and photography)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
To learn more about the grace of Jesus Christ, go to this page: https://lightbournecreative.com/good-news-for-you/
2 responses to “The Privileged Life: Are Your Efforts Really Worth It?”
I read this on my lunch break today and it fuels my soul! Thank you for writing these beautiful truths about God and what He has called us to do!
Blessings and love,
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Glad you liked it!! Thanks so much for your encouragement!