The theologian John Piper recently wrote an article about the missionary to the Muslim world in the last century, Samuel Zwenger.
Articles and books written about missionaries are actually hard core and just about scare the pants off a guy like me who gets stressed out in traffic or the prospect of a long month. It makes me uncomfortable to consider the sacrifices that these guys make to present the gospel.
Zwenger handed out Christian literature at Al Azhar university in Cairo and yet lived to tell the tale. Something like this would not even be attempted nowadays, a sure sign that Zwenger had some divine covering in going to the Muslim world.
It has occurred to me that the world is a scary place and not always receptive to the gospel. I think of a painting or lithograph I saw once in an old dusty encyclopaedia of French children embarking on a foolhardy crusade to the Terra Sancta (Holy Land). As it turns out, with a surfeit of enthusiasm, and being convinced by a demonstrably false prophet, a few thousand children followed him to the seaport serving as a point of embarkation for the crusade. Half-baked plan and a heap of presumption led those French children into servitude and death.
However, when God does the calling – as Zwenger must have been convinced of – then whatever happens must be used by Him. From a human point of view, a guy like Joseph, betrayed and sold into slavery, would not seem to follow a path that could be used by God in any way, and yet by the final chapter of Genesis, Jacob’s tribe is rescued and Joseph is second only to the pharaoh. The country of Egypt has fallen a long way down since that time.
Samuel Zwenger faced trials too, losing his young daughters overseas, and later losing his wife. This is hard core stuff, but he endured it. And yes, the pants are still sacred off me in thinking about it.
Would I be willing to hear and obey if God told me as he told Abram?
“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1, NIV)
Would I be willing to offer?
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”” (Isaiah 6:8, NIV)
I remember reading through ‘In the footsteps of Jesus’ by Bruce Marchiano (1997) where the actor Bruce was taking part in a mission play Down Under in Oz, lying on the floor and staring at a hair ball with a dead spider in it and feeling like he didn’t want to be there and yet when God calls, who can resist?
What I was thinking is that God expects our push-back and reticence and knows all along that we’ll end up going where He says, and in the process of disagreeing with Him, we learn wisdom, patience and humility and a bunch of other things. All this thinking from reading an article on www.desriginggod.org.
Now that’s hard core.