“Leggo my ego”

Are you familiar with that slogan from Eggo brand frozen waffles, “Leggo my Eggo”? Well, in recent days I have been asking the Lord to help me “let go my ego.” Let me explain.

The moment I became a follower of Jesus years ago was when I was reading the Bible and I 1) I believed He was God in the flesh and 2) believed that He washed His disciples’ feet on the evening preceding His death.

That was it for me. I realized He was the God and Leader I had been looking for. I remember that part of my thinking was, He is a leader I will follow because He is the ultimate hero but He doesn’t act like a hero. There can be a heroic aspect to martyrdom, something gloriously self-sacrificial in dying on the cross in the place of others. But there is nothing heroic or glorious in performing menial tasks for others. Nontheless the washing of feet, behind closed doors, out of the public eye, was the example He gave to His inner circle. And it was the example He specifically asked them to repeat in their dealings with one another. (Wash, dry, repeat… sounds like laundry instructions more than discipleship, but you get the idea.)

Author Jan Hettinga says in his excellent book The Safe King, which we are getting ready to publish in Cuba:

Jesus is the one safe leader because He has no ego entwined in His love for us . . .
[it’s as though He says to us] “I have your best interest at heart. I will not take advantage
of you because I’m stronger or smarter than you are.”

However, it is truly a challenge to follow this example of our Lord! One would think that after 20 years of missionary service I would be more truly humble in the innermost recesses of my heart, but it seems that my ego has been down there secretly popping steroid pills all this time. To paraphrase Scripture, “The spirit is willing, but the ego is too strong.” Too strong and too desirous of being right, of being thanked, of being recognized.

I was reflecting on these things last month during our ACTION Cuba team retreat. Our family had the privilege of traveling down with Randy Alcorn and his wife, Nanci. We had a great time with them at the retreat and then Randy spoke at a Bible School and at a Purity Rally for about 700 people. I was really paying attention to how Randy interacted with people (at least, when he wasn’t underwater, because during free time each day he would go snorkeling for hours!)

Randy is someone who has authored a million-seller and also a book that sold two million copies. Some of his friends are professional athletes and nationally-known celebrities, and Randy is sort of a celebrity in his own right. But if you didn’t know that you would never guess it.

I was prepared for someone of his stature to be a Bible expert and to teach with authority. And I anticipated that he would be one of the best speakers I had ever taken down to Cuba. But I had not expected him to spend so much quality time with my kids, as though they were NFL quarterbacks and movie stars! Randy was eager to chat with whoever the Lord put in his path and was intentional about reaching out to people.

I am thankful that we not only have the Lord’s example to follow, but that of mature Christians like Randy as well. For those of us who are still trying to “leggo of their ego” it is a helpful challenge for us to be around people who are “someone” but who truly act like “the servant of all.” May the Lord help all of us to reflect His example of ego-less love.

When trouble comes

Nelson Reed and David Gomero - smallThe common phrase is that “trouble comes in threes. “That stands as a warning to us that bad things happen in bunches. But what to do when trouble, due to its contentious nature, refuses to abide by that limit? We are currently experiencing a season like that.

For us it started with our daughter experiencing a dark presence in her room at night that made her afraid. We dealt with that in the power of the name of Jesus. The next Monday, Celia was moving a heavy box and decided to drop it to the floor from about waist height. It bounced off the ground strangely and hit her in the ankle, causing it to swell to the size of a baseball. (It has now been several weeks and even after medical attention she is unable to bear any weight on it without severe pain.)

Four days later our youngest son made an ill-advised left turn and was T-boned. We are grateful that he is okay, though the car was totaled. 48 hours later our other car died as I was driving it on the freeway; the transmission gave out.

I thought at this point we had filled our quota of trouble, but there was more heartbreak coming.

Last Monday I was informed that the founder and leader of our Hope of Life hospital ministry had left Cuba along with his wife, leaving behind their two teenage sons. They planned this secretly and it came as a disheartening betrayal to all of us who had ongoing ministry plans with them.

Then on Wednesday night we received a phone call that split us into pieces. The 29-year-old son of our good friends Nelson and Linda Reed, ACTION’s International Directors, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Stephen was living at home as he pursued business and philanthropic ventures, so was with his parents daily. I can’t imagine the pain the Reeds are going through. I’ve worked alongside Nelson (pictured at the top of this post) almost every day for several years and I love and admire him. The sudden loss of Stephen has brought heartbreak to the whole ACTION family, as he was also the nephew of ACTION’s Founders, Doug and Margi Nichols.

So, as Paul Simon wrote in one of his songs, “What is the point of this story? What information pertains?”These things are certainly not written by me to garner sympathy or to give the impression we have it worse than anyone else. Everyone faces challenging seasons of life. (As the sign in the dentist’s office says: spit happens.) Our observation, though, is that the “trouble comes in threes” is a gross understatement. The Lord teaches us exactly this, and in fact He might rephrase our common saying to “trouble comes in 365’s.”

His precise statement is, “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Every day of life has the potential to degenerate into a pitching machine that sends fastballs at you faster than you can possibly swing your bat.

The key is that although troubles come, we are not to let them trouble us. There is great personal victory and great glory to God when in the midst of it all we do not let our hearts become troubled or fearful (John 14:27). Good luck trying that without Jesus because our human strategies are insufficient for 365 days of trouble — think “coping mechanisms” and such. But with the Lord Jesus we can face the fastballs of life without losing our faith or losing our temper. His peace is real. Celia and I are seeing that reality right now in the lives of Linda and Nelson Reed and we are learning that ourselves.

The Lord is good, but not in the sense that He causes our Christian lives to be trouble-free. That is coming at some point for us, but it’s not how He manifests His goodness today. Rather, He is good because He is with us in the midst of trouble and because His empathy is based on real-life experience. (He might even have a T-shirt in His closet that says: Planet earth — been there, done that.) Jesus knows experientially about spiritual attacks, about physical pain, about betrayal, and about losing someone close to Him. He knows and He cares, and at the right moment, when His overarching purposes have been accomplished, He will cause all trouble to cease.

For now let us take comfort in what the prophet Nahum writes: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.”

May you be blessed in Him today.

Free “Man of Faith” books for your church or group

Man of Faith book stack


Author Lim Kou of Singapore clears up many misconceptions about faith

 

Dear Friends,

It delights the heart of God when His children learn to walk by faith.

But misconceptions abound regarding the nature of true faith and what it means for the believer to live by faith.

What is biblical faith?

Where does faith come from and how does it grow?

How can we exercise faith when we feel spiritually dry and God seems far away?

ACTION ministry partner Lim Kou of Singapore addresses these and other questions in his book “Man of Faith.”

I highly recommend this book to you (you can read my complete review below) and would like to offer it to you for free. Brother Kou is someone whose teaching I trust and I think you will be edified by his approach to the subject of faith. You may even want multiple copies to give out to your church or Bible study group.

You can evaluate it for yourself by downloading the entire book as a PDF file by clicking here.

Then if you would like the book in paperback format, please use the button below to request either one free copy for only $2.60 postage or a box of 80 free copies for only $19 postage. The link will allow you to reimburse me for shipping via credit card or PayPal account.

I can only mail these books to USA addresses. You may also arrange to pick up books from our office in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, at no cost. You are welcome to distribute the book overseas if you are traveling on a missions trip.

I trust this book will be as much of a blessing to you as it has been to me and to thousands of pastors in Cuba.

Yours in Christ,

Brian Stewart
Director, ACTION Cuba


Select number of copies:



Author Lim Kou has made these books available at no charge (except for postage) for careful distribution to those who intend to read them.

Here is my full review of the book:

In the Scriptures the concept of faith seems to be fairly simple and rather straightforward. But in everyday life we Christians tend to complicate the matter by developing man-made definitions of what faith is and then attempting to live our lives by those false standards. Many a believer has found himself sad and disillusioned not because the Lord has failed him in some way, but because the believer had false expectations that were not met. These are hard lessons to learn (I speak from experience!) but they are necessary in order to truly live a life of faith that pleases God.

“Man of Faith” by Lim Kou helps the reader clearly see the false concepts of faith that are common in our churches today. The small section at the beginning of the book on the misconceptions about faith is an expert diagnosis of where many believers have been misguided in their thinking. And the rest of this excellent book teaches us what faith truly is and what the normal outworking of our faith should look like in our daily lives. For this reason, “Man of Faith” is a book worthy of the attention of every believer.

Here is a video of pastors in Cuba receiving free copies of Kou’s books in Spanish:

The poor have the Gospel preached to them

jesu7bI’m sure you are familiar with the phrase “save the best for last.” In any sort of persuasive writing or speech, such as a legal argument, debate, or essay, the best practice is to start with your weakest argument and gradually escalate until you finish with your strongest point at the end of your presentation.

This is common advice given to public speakers and I think of it whenever I read the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 11:4-6 when he answered the disciples of John the Baptist. John had been thrown in prison, and sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He were truly the Expected One.

Jesus’ response to them shows that 1) He never took a public speaking class, and 2) His strongest argument for His calling was likely something that we, in this modern age so eager for demonstrations of power and authority, would be inclined to place at the bottom.

Jesus, of course, was no stranger to turning the tables (literally) so that which was on top would end up on the bottom. Though men would look to His great miracles and how they attest to His identity, in describing His ministry in His own words, Jesus deliberately emphasized the preaching of the Gospel to the poor as the most important sign that He was, indeed, the Expected One.

So, when I read this passage, it sounds to me sort of like this:

Go and report to John what you hear and see:
The blind receive sight and the lame walk.
If that weren’t enough, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear.
And not only that, but even the dead are raised up.
But there’s even more, because the poor have the Gospel preached to them.

One would think that the strongest point, the one to finalize the list, would be that those who were physically dead had been brought back to life through Jesus! How can you top that? Not only are ailments instantly cured, but even death itself wilts away at the Lord’s command. Wow! Surely that would be the most powerful way to remind John of His credentials.

But Jesus knows exactly what He is saying as he deliberately emphasizes the fact that the poor have the good news of eternal life preached to them.

Those from whom nothing can be gained except gratitude and friendship bask in the purposeful attention of our Lord. THIS is the the most amazing thing. A charlatan or a false messiah would have no interest in the poor, because the poor cannot repay with money or influence.

For me at least, when I read this quote from Jesus, I see His true royalty. His best gift is not the restoration of earthly life, but the free gift of eternal life, and with His limited time He prioritized taking the proclamation of that amazing gift to the downcast and the vulnerable.

You and I may never help the blind to see or the lame to walk, but we can join the Lord in this top priority. We have the amazing privilege of being part of His ministry of taking the Gospel to those who are both financially and spiritually poor.

ACTION Cuba has just this month launched a project to evangelize and disciple at least 2500 new believers over the coming months. We currently have 150,000 tracts printed, along with 2500 discipleship manuals and 1000 New Testaments. (We are in the process of raising funds to print more New Testaments.) We are building a team of evangelists, church-planters, and chaplains who are eager to participate.

At the first of our training sessions for this project, held last week in Sancti Spíritus, the attendees went out to the streets and in just one hour used the tracts to strike up conversations with 96 people. Out of those conversations, 10 people received the Lord. They will now be followed up by someone on the team, who will lead them through the discipleship manual, which teaches by having the new believer answer questions by looking up verses in the New Testament.

Please continue to pray for all of us who are involved in this project, which we are attempting to prioritize in the midst of our many other ministries. And, as the Lord leads and you are able, please continue to share your resources with us, that we may take the Gospel to the poor.

Gratefully yours in Christ,

Brian Stewart

Practical words of widsom from pastor Pat Franks

Pat Franks with David GomeroI always enjoy traveling with men who are much more experienced than me in life and in spiritual matters. One of my favorite messages from 43 trips to Cuba was by Dr, Harold Sala entitled “What They Didn’t Teach Me in Seminary.” I appreciated hearing practical wisdom from a man who has ministered 30 years longer than I have!

In May I had the privilege of taking another “retirement-age but not retired” preacher with me to Cuba. Pastor Pat Franks has been sharing the Word with the world for many years. In his last session at the Bible Training Workshop in Las Tunas, he offered what he called “a few opinions developed from observation and experience over the last forty years.”

I want to share his thoughts with you for your encouragement:

1. Be loyal to your leaders. There are few things more despicable than an Absalom spirit. Leaders need people they can count on. Many are nearly worked to death, attacked, misunderstood, and poorly paid!

2. Be kind to subordinates. That is the point Paul makes when he says “Masters, do the same things.” You have a Master in Heaven! Don’t talk down to people. And don’t manipulate people; it is an insult to them.

3. Show respect. Call people Mr. or Mrs. or “brother,” “sister.” Don’t be overly familiar. Even good friends want to be respected. The flip side of that is: don’t to be so insecure that everyone including our best friends have to call us “pastor” when addressing us!

4. Come to the defense of those attacked, whether it is a human or spiritual attacker! You will reap what you sow and will one day need someone to come to your defense.

5. Be a friend. Show concern in times of trial such as death and sickness and show support in times of triumph and celebration such as graduations, weddings, and promotions.

6. Show love to people who have made a mess of things. There are a lot more of them than perfect folks like you!

7. Don’t remove personal responsibility from people by making their decisions for them. They are adults, they have a mind, and they will answer to God. Simply be kind, presenting the Biblical truth in love and remember you are not their judge or their savior!

8. Allow people to be emotional. It is normal to grieve, to express doubt, to be discouraged. Certainly there comes a point where grief or sadness may become inordinate, when we must shake them off and go on with life. But to deny them entirely is not an act of faith, it is foolishness! Be real!

9. Strive to build long-lasting relationships, and make the most important one the relationship with your spouse! No one knows you like your spouse. Also, never make a final judgment of a man, however dynamic and charismatic he may appear, without meeting his wife. If she is distressed, bitter, insecure, there is a reason for that! Don’t be fooled by image.

10. Be supportive of the next generation. They will have different taste in music and clothes, but encourage their Christian faith and commitment. If you have young relatives or young acquaintances that are committed to God and ministry, throw your support behind them! Help them financially. It’s one thing to tell them how proud you are of them and what a wonderful job they are doing and another to get your wallet out and put your money where your mouth is.

11. Be generous. Jesus ascended, and gave gifts. It cost Him His life; He is a giver! Those who have truly tapped into His heart are generous! Don’t think you impress Him with your outward acts of spirituality if your heart is cold and your hand is closed!

12. Be considerate. Give older folks your seat, open the door for the ladies and help them with what they carry. In a worship service, show concern for the temperature and the length of time you keep folks standing up for worship. Take care with the volume of the PA system. Pay attention to the little things.

13. Don’t be dogmatic, except in the cardinal doctrines. You may be wrong! Some things are non-negotiable; determine what they are and don’t make an issue out of every other little thing.

14. Keep your word. Pay your bills.

15. Be very slow to embrace the SENSATIONAL. It distracts from the truth; you don’t need it! The Bible is sufficiently sensational for anyone and it is true. Most of the wild stuff you hear is just wild stuff and will discredit you with your hearers when they find out you got involved.

16. Laugh, easily and often, Come down off your elevated place and have fun! You may feel like the weight of the world is on you, but that is not God’s fault; He said he would bear your burdens. It does not honor Him for you to be always dour and solemn. Laugh. Enjoy the journey; you’re walking with the King!

 

 

 

I was “up a tree” until I met a man up a tree!

treeI woke up this morning thinking about all the things that I need to pack for my Cuba trip. I depart for Miami tomorrow morning. I have been feeling stressed because it appeared I was going to be returning to the children’s cancer ward of the provincial hospital almost empty-handed. I did not have much success in finding any of the items that they had hoped our team would take them. I was even daydreaming that perhaps one of the pastors I am meeting in Miami on Monday would hand me a bag full of medical equipment!

Well, the Lord had an even more amazing provision in store for me.

In the early afternoon I drove to the ACTION office in order to print some full color brochures. The only other car in the parking lot was one I did not recognize, and I did not find anybody inside the building. I went outside and walked around the side of the building and found a good friend of mine up in one of our trees, sawing off limbs.

He said he had been asked to do some volunteer landscaping by one of my office colleagues. I asked him why he decided to do it today, and he responded that originally he was scheduled to participate in a graduation ceremony at a local Christian university. However, his robe was behind a locked door that no one seemed to have a key for. So, since he was one of 400 faculty that were going to partake in the ceremony, he decided he would not be missed and determined he would go to the ACTION office and do the needed tree trimming.

He was aware of my need for medical equipment and asked how I was doing in obtaining things from the hospital’s list. I responded that I had not made much progress. He then asked me if I would still be in the area later in the afternoon. When I said yes, he immediately set out for a local medical supply company and purchased six high quality stethoscopes for me to take to the doctors and nurses.

To make this story more incredible, while he was at that company he began speaking with the manager and she donated 25 sets of scrubs, lightly worn, for me to take down.

I went from being empty-handed to having more than I could actually take in one suitcase. 

What was a locked door for my friend became an open door for me!

May this be an encouragement to you today, that God has ways of providing for you that you could never conceive of in advance.

A miraculous provision all the way from Malaysia

Treasure chest with money spilling outLate into the evening of July 2nd I sent out an urgent prayer request explaining that the next morning I was headed to Miami and then Cuba, but without sufficient resources to reimburse the local churches who had invested their meager savings into the preparations for the four ACTION events we had scheduled. I was in a financial bind like I had never experienced before.

Some of the friends and supporters of this ministry replied right away with words of encouragement, some wrote pledging to help, and in every way the Lord surrounded me and lifted me up through your love and concern.

I then received the following email from a friend in Singapore, that to my mind explains the Lord’s perfect plan in this “delay” in receiving the needed funds. I want to share these words with you so that you can rejoice and be reminded that God is accomplishing things far greater than we can imagine and that His “delays” simply allow a more perfect plan to develop, for His glory and our collective (instead of just individual) encouragement. My friend wrote:

“My husband and I went back to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last week to visit his father, who is 90 years old. I was there to help my father-in-law clear my late mum-in-law’s belongings. To our surprise, she kept quite a large amount of cash in Singapore and Malaysia currency in a locked drawer under her sewing machine. It’s likely that she kept most of the Singapore currency which we gave her over the years.

“My father-in-law gave us the Singapore dollars since we could use them in Singapore. A passing thought came to me, that maybe the Lord wants to use the money for His work. Then a few days later, I received your latest email update. I did a quick calculation and realised that the amount that is lacking for your coming trip to Cuba is about the same amount that we were given in Singapore currency by my father-in-law!

“I was wondering if it’s a coincidence or the Lord’s perfect timing. We know that there is no coincidence and everything happens for a reason. I prayed over this and asked the Lord to show me clearer if it’s His will that we should contribute towards giving to the Cuba ministry with the money that my father-in-law gave us. I prayed that my husband would be agreeable to the contribution should the Lord lead us to give in that direction. If it’s not agreeable to him, I’d take it that it probably wasn’t the Lord’s will for us to give at this time. I forwarded your email to him yesterday morning and shared with him about it. We then discussed and he was agreeable to do so. With his agreement, it seems to me that it’s a confirmation from the Lord. So I would like to let you know that a gift was sent to Action International for the Cuba ministry and for you this morning.”

Thank you, Lord Jesus! I thought I was broke but I couldn’t see that you had a special account established for me in a locked drawer under a sewing machine in Malaysia. How foolish I am, oh Lord, and how great you are.

Friends, may you be encouraged to give thanks to our Father for His perfect planning and perfect care for us.

God’s provision: Give and it shall be given unto you

Give and you shall receiveEdgar* is one of the most valiant Christians I have ever personally met, but I could really care less about the bumpers of the Toyota van he is restoring.

Nonetheless, there I was, seated next to him at Dino’s Pizza in Cuba as he showed me pictures of the front and rear bumpers of the van. “They are not the originals, “ he said. “And don’t they look ugly?”

Then he showed me pictures he had taken of someone else’s van of the same model and year. “These are the original bumpers. See how much nicer they look. But you can’t find these for sale anywhere.”

Because I appreciate Edgar so much I nodded and smiled as he animatedly told me about this and many other details of his van restoration project.

You see, Edgar is someone who can have my attention for anything he wants. Without getting into the details, I will just say that he regularly places himself at risk in order to advance the kingdom of God, and twice in the past several years he has run into serious, possibly life-changing trouble, from which the Lord delivered him.

The bill for the pizza came as we were “talking Toyotas” and I grabbed it. It was 56 CUC, or about US$65. Not bad for a filling meal for 14 people. Edgar reached over and snatched it out of my hand. He refused to let me pay. This was my goodbye dinner for that particular trip and it was his treat.

So why am I taking up your valuable time talking about pizza and car parts? Because what happened next astonished me.

After paying the bill, we walked across the street to where our two cars were parked. Next to us was a  a gas station. Edgar noticed a Toyota van just like the one he is restoring and he decided to walk over to take a look. The owner was very friendly and let him look around.

Edgar told the owner about his restoration project. The man turned out to be a Christian and, yes, he had actually heard of the ministry Edgar works for. And in fact he had an extra set of bumpers for sale.

The divine equation, at least as I perceived it that night, was:

bumpers are needed but are “impossible to find”   +    generous giving of one’s self
=  bumpers brought right to you when you least expect it

What a deal!

Next time I’m going to make sure I pick up the check.

 

(Note: I changed my friend’s name to protect his privacy.)

Being stubborn for God – another personal testimony

I want to follow-up on the small article I wrote in my last prayer letter regarding God’s provision for those who are faithful and stubborn to do His will in spite of very difficult circumstances. I know that many families who receive this prayer letter are suffering financially and are in need of God’s great provision for their lives. I realize that when the income for the Cuba ministry drops it is most likely a reflection of the financial difficulties that are facing those who care about this ministry. And in that context I want to share with you another testimony of God’s miraculous provision, for your encouragement.

Back in 1994 when I had been a Christian for less than two years I found myself unemployed and our family was absolutely broke. At that time I had collected two large boxes of Spanish Bibles and New Testaments that I wanted to ship down to a ministry in Texas. This ministry had an office along the border and if I sent the boxes to their address they would cross them into Mexico, where they would be handed out as part of their Sidewalk Sunday School program in the poorest neighborhoods of Mexico City.

I weighed the two boxes on our bathroom scale and using a United Parcel Service (UPS) rate chart I calculated the cost. The $40 cash that I had left in my wallet would just barely be enough to ship these boxes. Our family was in a financial crisis and this was the only cash that I had available to me but I wanted to keep my commitment of getting the Spanish Bibles into the hands of those who needed them.

I loaded up my boxes and headed for Seattle where there was a UPS office. On the way I had to make a stop downtown and one thing I forgot to figure into my plan was that stopping in downtown Seattle meant I had to spend $7.50 for parking while I did my errand. I returned to my car and realized that now I only had $32.50 left. According to my calculation, that amount was not going to come close to covering the shipping of both boxes.

I thought about going home and doing the shipping on another day, when I would have a little bit more cash available. However, I decided to go to UPS anyway, thinking that perhaps my bathroom scale was inaccurate and that perhaps somehow $32.50 was going to be enough to ship both boxes.

When I arrived at UPS the lady at the counter put the first box on the scale and told me what the shipping charge was. It was $23 and my heart sank. I knew that I was in trouble because the other box was at least as heavy! Even my full $40 would not have been enough for both!

I said to her, “I guess I will just ship that one box because I don’t have enough money for the other one.” She said, “Let’s go ahead and put it on the scale and let’s see.” I put the second box on the scale and it was going to be more than $20. I said to her again, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have enough money to ship that one today. I’ll have to come back.”

Then she looked at me and said, “That’s okay. We’ll just ship this one for free for you.”

She printed out two shipping labels, and put them on the boxes, and put the boxes on the conveyor belt, and charged me $23. The Bibles were on their way and I had money left in my pocket.

My question to you is, when have you ever seen UPS or FedEx or anyone who’s in the business of shipping simply offer to send a box for free? And the answer is, when it is a box full of Bibles headed for Mexico, all things are possible.

Perhaps you are feeling your resources do not match what is needed. Perhaps you are feeling that you do not have enough in your wallet to cover all your commitments, and to do all the things the Lord has asked you to do, and to take steps toward the things you want to be involved with for Jesus’ sake. My advice to you is the same as last month’s: be faithful and be stubborn and to go ahead and try anyway. Because when you try — especially when it looks improbable — you give God an opportunity to do the impossible.

And just maybe you will find yourself in a circumstance like I did, praising God as I walked back to my car, knowing that He’d done a little miracle for me, shipping a box of Bibles for free through UPS.

May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you greatly.

 

Band of (Missionary) Brothers

Last year my oldest son and I spent part of a long weekend watching the excellent series “Band of Brothers.” This eleven-part mini-series based on the book by Stephen E. Ambrose portrays the experiences of E Company in World War II. The drama of each episode is introduced by recorded interviews of some of the surviving members.

In one of those interviews, a veteran told of the horrors of D-Day and how he had been too scared to fight, how in fear he hid in a ditch and did not engage the enemy. He then related that a lieutenant later got a hold of him and instead of reprimanding him gave him some advice that got him through the war. It was the type of advice that we as missionaries also need to hear and I jumped off the sofa to grab paper and pen.

The lieutenant asks him, “You know why you hid in that ditch?”

The soldier replies, “I was scared.”

“We’re all scared. You hid in that ditch because you think there’s still hope. But the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function like a soldier is supposed to function . . . All war depends on it.”

We have our hope in Christ and as missionaries we should not abandon that hope. It is our trust and hope in Him spur us forward. However, we may have unwittingly smaller hopes and desires that are causing us to be timid in the midst of the battle we have been called to.

Are we still hoping the world will honor us for preaching Christ? The world likes Christ as loving example but hates His authority as Lord.

Are we still hoping to be respected and esteemed? The world thinks we are fanatics. Only like-minded fanatics are ever going to “get” us and appreciate what we do.

Are we hopeful that we can still fit in, that we can really just be one of the guys (or gals!)? Then, indeed, we will have to hide our true calling, our true feelings, our true passion if that is our goal.

Stop hiding. You don’t fit in. You are weird by the world’s standards. Your hope for acceptance and reputation and comfort needs to die, so that you can truly live the life you were meant to. Reckon yourself dead to the trivial things the world holds in such high regard so that you can truly “function like a soldier is supposed to function.”

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25, nasb)