The ultimate motivation

 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46)

Over the past several months, throughout the content coordination of this magazine, I have had the privilege of talking candidly with many missionaries and I have noticed a common theme. At some point during their lives, something of a private transaction has been made between God and that person. He has revealed something of His heart to them and drawn them until that burden too became their heart. Missionaries to me are simply ordinary people who acknowledge that their lives are not their own – they have been purchased at a high price. Mission work then becomes gratitude for what happened on the cross.

The general interpretation of the parable of the pearl of great price is that for the joy of finding us, God sent His only son, to endure the cross for our redemption. In the same way, I think the reverse is also true. Only those who lay down the things most valuable to them in this life, for the sake of the kingdom, will receive ultimate spiritual blessing and joy.

“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:34-36)

I recall sitting in the lounge of one missionary in West Kalimantan while he and his wife reminisced on their original call to work with the Dayak Children of Indonesia. While travelling through a rural village many years earlier, he had despised the place in his heart and prayed, “God, please don’t ever send me to a disgusting place like this.” As he solemnly recalled God’s reply to him, it was obvious this was to be his moment of surrender; “God said to me, ‘John, if you love Me, you will go anywhere I send you.’” 20 years later, hundreds of children’s lives have been transformed by his obedience. It was clear they had found immense joy and could think of doing nothing else.

Perhaps much of our disatisfaction and feelings of being unfulfilled come from the dreams, hopes and ‘Isaacs’ we are not willing to lay down for fear of losing them. God will not prise our fingers open, although He may arrange our circumstances to show us that the things we are so easily satisfied with are not so valuable; He simply waits with eager anticipation for our abandon. When we let go with both hands, we are able to fully receive the divine exchange of our lives for His. In that place of freedom from self is an inexplicable and lasting joy. Soul delight is joy at its deepest level.

This doesn’t mean that life will become a floating bliss, free from pain, infact saying yes to go all the way with Jesus will inevitably mean that our path will be marked with much pain if we truly want to know His power, including “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil 3:10). The pursuit of happiness eludes us as we chase and try to secure the moving shadow of an emotion. Joy however, is a fruit of God’s spirit that abides continually, despite the adversity of our circumstances.

When God was speaking to me about leaving my home country to serve in missions He spoke to me through Psalm 107:

Those who go down to the sea in ships, 
who do business on great waters, they see the works of the Lord, 
and His wonders in the deep.

Essentially, it was my choice. I could stay in the safe harbor or I could go and “do business on great waters.” The chapter goes on to speak about the fierce storms and waves, but how God leads them to a desired haven. When we step out in faith, we increase our capacity to know and experience God in a way we never could back in the harbor. He has exciting assignments prepared for us if we are willing!

We can become involved in missions because of overwhelming statistics and moving photographs, obligation and duty or we can be inspired by a revelation of God’s love that will motivate us perpetually. It’s obvious which motivation will produce the best results. God is honored by delight. It’s the ultimate motivation. Delight yourself in the Lord! (Psalm 37:4)

Maybe you feel an insufficiency in your heart and life because you have felt God calling you to do something for Him but haven’t had the strength to do it because of the cost involved, or perhaps you’re not sure what it means to be called.

Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:21,22)

Jesus does not require us to give everything we have to the poor, He is after that one thing that prohibits us from going all the way, and each of us has that one thing. The choice is always before us to play a part in God’s eternal plan, *and it does not mean we are all called to ‘go’. Whether we do or don’t, God will still love us, but at such a point of decision it is always good to remember eternity. Will we be able to say on that day, “I have no regrets!”

We pray that God will give you a revelation of His love and that it will give you the strength to let go and live a life pleasing to Him; that will be fulfilling beyond your wildest dreams.


* For more information on the different ways to play a part in world missions, check out our series What on earth is missions.

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