Today we welcome Stephen Langley, an appointed TEAM missionary to South Africa, to share his thoughts on what motivated him to choose missions as his career.
It may seem presumptuous for a missionary who has not yet left for his assignment to claim to know “the best thing about being a missionary.” But bear with me. I think I’m onto something here, and I invite any of my veteran missionary friends to tell me if I’m wrong.
Last week, I was vacuuming one of the hallways in my church and pondering my family’s future. I had just finished listening to a John Piper sermon on world evangelism. As usual with Piper, I found it at once challenging and inspiring. It got me reflecting on my chosen vocation: missionary.
Being a Missionary is Fail-Proof
The word “missionary” holds so many different meanings for so many different people. For some, it merely means “foreigner.” For others, it means “hero” or “fearless Christian.” Still, others hear the word and think, “colonizing, culture-wrecking, society-meddling, proselytizing dummkopfs.”
For me, “missionary” symbolizes something I’ve always wanted to be and always doubted I could be. Nonetheless, I’ve pursued this career diligently, drawing encouragement from the fact that nearly every missionary I have ever known or read about has likewise doubted his or her ability to serve God in an intercultural context.
“Missionary” means men and women I know personally who have spent decades in another country, giving up every conventional idea of normality and comfort for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It means serving God in a way that forces me to depend upon Him completely, for absolutely everything.
It means going where I think my gifts and passions fit best, knowing it will mean that I never quite fit in anywhere ever again. For many — perhaps someday for those I love and even myself — it means martyrdom.
It means joy, anxiety, passion, fear, excitement, uncertainty and trust.
It means many things. But what struck me on this day with more profundity than ever before is this:
Being a missionary means following God in a vocation in which we cannot possibly fail. That is the best thing about being a missionary.
It is the only job I know of in which you are guaranteed to be absolutely, 100 percent, gloriously successful in your career goals. That is, if your goals are the same as God’s. Herein lies the key: If our goal is God’s goal, then it will be achieved. There is nothing else about which we can be more certain than this resounding scriptural truth: God will accomplish all His purposes!
God’s Goal Can’t Be Missed
In Isaiah 46:9-10 (NIV), God says, “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’”
What are His purposes? Ultimately, He has but one: Nothing less than His own glory, consummated in the receiving of the worship and honor due His name from every tribe, tongue and nation under heaven.
Once again, I have John Piper to thank. It was he who showed me how the Scriptures are absolutely replete with this marvelous truth. He in turn credits C.S. Lewis and Jonathan Edwards for opening his eyes to this core scriptural theme in their monumental works The Weight of Glory and The End for Which God Created the World respectively. I commend their writings, along with Piper’s, to anyone and everyone.
Piper has helpfully compiled a survey of the biblical evidence for this doctrine in this magnificent article. For brevity’s sake, I summarize his work here, and I think you’ll agree: The weight of the Bible’s emphasis on this theme is staggering.
- God chose his people for His glory. (Ephesians 1:4-6, 12, 14)
- God created us for His glory. (Isaiah 43:6-7)
- Jesus sought the glory of His Father in all He did. (John 7:18)
- Jesus told us to do good works so that God gets glory. (Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12)
- Jesus warned that not seeking God’s glory makes faith impossible. (John 5:44)
- Jesus said He answers prayer in order that God would be glorified. (John 14:13)
- Jesus endured the cross for God’s glory. (John 12:27-28)
- God gave His Son to vindicate the glory of His righteousness. (Romans 3:25-26)
- God forgives our sins for His own sake. (Isaiah 43:25, Psalm 25:11)
- Jesus receives us into His fellowship for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)
- The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Son of God. (John 16:14)
- God instructs us to do everything for His glory. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
- Jesus’ aim for us is that we see and enjoy His glory. (John 17:24)
- Everything that happens will result in God’s glory. (Romans 11:36)
- Even God’s wrath serves to make known His glory. (Romans 9:22-23)
- God’s plan is to fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory. (Habakkuk 2:14)
This is what excites me. God has ordained all that was, is and is to come for the purpose of His glory.
Our chosen vocation as missionaries is to tell of the glory of God to all the earth, and God’s intent is to fill all the earth with His glory. And once again, He says, “I will accomplish all my purpose.”
This is job security at its very best. When your goal is God’s goal, you can’t miss it.
This edited post first appeared on the Langley’s ministry blog, A Fire in Our Bones, and can be read here. Since publication, Stephen and his wife Jessica have been serving faithfully with TEAM in southern Africa.
Are you ready to discover if a career in missions is for you? Check out missions opportunities with TEAM today!