I just have to give a recent testimony of God’s faithfulness and goodness. Our fourth child was due on December 15th, but my wife was measuring for December 12th. December 12th was the day I was to return from a mission’s trip to Uganda, Africa, with a mission organization called ServeNow. It was a risk to go, knowing there was a possible and good chance I might miss his birth. But I felt God was calling me to go on this trip and both my wife and I had a peace about my going, despite the circumstances.
A couple things have already transpired out of this decision. First of all, going on this trip despite the circumstances, actually played a role (unbeknown to us at the time) in being asked by the president of this mission organization if I would consider joining with ServeNow, which is a decision we have now made that will not only affect our future, but others around the world as well.
Secondly, In regard to my wife’s pregnancy, what ending up happening was that she actually gave birth on November 30th at 3:00 in the morning. What is significant about this is November 30th was not only sixteen days early, but the very day I would be leaving for this mission’s trip! My flight was at six that evening, so it ended up being that I got to be with my wife through the whole process, witness his birth and spend some time with him and family. In between all that, I was even able to water-baptize a whole family at our church, before leaving for Africa!
Some may say that I was “lucky” but what are the “chances” of him being born sixteen days early, on the very day I would be leaving, yet enough time to witness it all? Tell me that is merely “coincidental” or “lucky.” Tell me God’s hand is not in that! Tell me that is not God’s faithfulness and goodness to us?
As a few people stated to me, it’s as if He didn’t want me to worry about that during the trip. I also think it was a little reward or blessing and confirmation about going and for being obedient to go, despite the possible chance of missing his birth. God does call us to make sacrifices for His kingdom’s sake, but He also promises greater reward. Luke 18:29-30 in fact says: “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
We knew many would not understand this decision and would think I was doing the wrong thing (and being a bad husband/father) by going on this trip, even though Jesus made the above promise and also made clear that if we are not willing to put Him before family and our own lives, if we do not love Him even more than family or our own lives, then we are not worthy to be a true disciple of His. He said in Matthew 10:37-39: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Real life is found not in trying to control our lives or map it out the way we find most convenient. It is found in trusting, entrusting, obeying, surrendering and submitting our lives into God’s hands. It’s living life following His leading, under Jesus’ Lordship, even when it calls for sacrifices or doesn’t appear to make sense or be convenient. We all could find a million seemingly “legitimate” reasons or excuses for not doing what God is calling us to do now (see Luke 9:57-62) and “claim” we will do it “down the road.” But as the slogan of the mission organization I am joining puts it: “ServeNow, procrastinate later.” Most of us get that backwards, but as one of the sayings on one of the schools we visited here in Uganda put it: “Don’t put off for tomorrow, what you can do today.” We live like we will always have “tomorrow” but that can be a dangerous illusion (James 4:13-17).
Anyway, also consider this: if there are those who are willing to make great sacrifices (possibly even die) by serving in the military on behalf of their earthly country, does not Jesus, our King, (a king of an eternal kingdom where a true believers real citizenship belongs); does He not deserve our obedience in whatever He may call us to do and whatever sacrifices He asks us to make? There are many who have missed the births of their children and even a good part of their children’s lives due to serving in the military. Others have been killed in war. We honor them for it. If they do it and we honor them for it, why would it be different in regard to God’s kingdom? Is it because we are failing to see the very real spiritual war we are engaged in? Is it because we cannot see beyond our own lives? Much of the world lies in darkness and despair. Many are in bondage to sin, captives of Satan and on the cusp of an eternity in hell without Christ. We are talking not just about earthly realities but eternal realities with eternal consequences!
Also, does a solider tell his commanding officer what he will or will not do…or does He simply obey orders? I didn’t go on this trip just because I “wanted to.” I went because I sensed God was telling me to go and the only proper response is obedience. We are soldiers in His army and He is the commander (Philippians 2:25, 2 Timothy 2:4, Philemon 2).
I think this was a challenge not only to myself but to others. Obedience to God is not a matter of “convenience” in regard to our “schedules” or “lives.” We don’t just “pick and choose” what we want to do and when we want to do it. We don’t “serve God” as we see fit, but as He leads us and calls us. It’s a matter of love for Him and trust in Him.
And though I deserve nothing in return, God working things out the way He did was a little reminder that He rewards the faithfulness of His people who obey Him. Psalm 37:4-6 reminds us: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
I am looking forward to what God will do on this trip, through this trip, out of this trip, after this trip and because of this trip. Please keep us in prayer as we spend time with some of the (around) 3,000 orphans/disadvantaged kids. This is a huge need and problem in Uganda. Wikipedia notes that “Uganda is one of the poorest nations in the world, with 37.7% of the population living on less than $1.25 a day.“ There are around 2 million orphan children in Uganda, half of them orphans because of AIDS, which is also a very big problem in Uganda. God loves children and especially cares (and calls for us to care) for orphans (Matthew 19:14-15, James 1:27). Towards the second half of the trip we will also be speaking at a pastor/leader training conference, an event that is helpful, encouraging and important for these pastors. Pray for a clear mind, strength, wisdom and the grace to be a blessing as we also consider the future. Thanks!