29 October 2014

What Missionaries Can Learn from Moses

He was the leader of the Israelites for 40 years.
He grew up in the house of Pharaoh.
He facilitated the great exodus from Egypt.
He received the law of God at Sinai.
He performed miracles and recorded the Torah.

Moses, the man whose face shone with the glory of God's presence, has a bitter pill of truth for missionaries to swallow.

Passion does not signify readiness.

At the age of 40, having decided to identify with the Hebrews, Moses went to mingle with them and defend them against their Egyptian masters. His choices, however, were rash and prideful. He impulsively murdered an abusive taskmaster and later tried to settle a disagreement between two Israelites. Then, he fled to Midian. 

While his intentions were good, he was not ready to be Israel's great leader. First, God had to take this man and strip him of his royal robes that had draped his heart with independence, entitlement, and power. Even his sympathy was tainted with pride.

Acts 7:25 says,
[Moses] supposed 
that his brothers would understand 
that God was giving them salvation 
by his hand, 
but they did not understand.

He wanted to help his people. He thought he was the right man for the job. He had the passion. But he was not ready to be that leader yet. God saw his heart and led him to Midian for a time of revamping that self-sustaining passion into a drive rooted only in God and exhibited with humility.

I see a lot of myself in the Moses that tried to save Israel on his own strength, based on his own talents and privileges and resources. I see a young Malia charged with the passion to see churches rise up in remote places, fueled with the passion to write life-changing books and articles, motivated with the passion to live amongst the unsaved and shine brightly of Jesus' light.

But behind all that passion, I see Malia . . . and not God. 

So, like Moses, to Midian I went. . .
because God does not share His glory,
and living abroad is more rough than romantic,
and passion does not save souls,
and self-centered ambition--even well intended--does not please God.

What does please God?

These are character traits that Moses learned in Midian. These are what I realized I lacked when I hit the mission field in 2005. Feeling pretty proud of myself, we left our comfortable and euphoric lives in Hawaii to work and live in the Middle East. But instead of becoming a hero, I became a nobody. Like Moses, I thought they would "receive salvation by [my] hand," but that year in the Gulf was not a triumphal Egypt mission but rather like an exile to Midian.

I learned faith and obedience and humility--the hard way.
I learned that missions is not about me.
I learned that I cannot look at a country or a people group or an individual as a project.
I learned that all my equipping and passion is nothing if I'm unstably founded on self-sufficiency, ambition, and pride.
I learned that all my inadequacy and fear is irrelevant when I'm surely founded on faith, obedience, and humility.

I learned that readiness is not willingness. It's dependency.

And I think of other eager missionaries with bags packed for a short stay or flying out with a one-way ticket. I think of how naively I ventured from home, expecting to change the world. I think of Moses and his eager passion to save his people.

And I want to send this encouragement out to any who might be like me:

If you are not ready yet (and only God knows), you may first go to Midian before Egypt.
And that's okay.
In fact, it's good.
You may go expecting to change the world and find that the only thing changed is yourself.
And that's okay . . . even good.
And when you are emptied of yourself and totally reliant on God, then He may call your name, as He did for Moses in Exodus 3, and send you as His instrument with this reassuring promise: "Certainly I will be with you . . .

Abide in Him,

Have you had a similar Midian experience? Or are you depending on passion to carry you through your experiences rather than the only sure hold--God Himself?

Related articles you may also appreciate:
Missionaries Must Come Like Family Not Tourists
The Boastful Pride of (Missions) Life
Faith, Obedience, and the Fruitless Fig Tree
Yes, I'm a Missionary. Aren't You?

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