“Then Jesus said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self.’” Luke 9:23-25
Jesus used stories to get a point across…I thought a story would give you a good idea of what I’ve been up to lately…
Having been saved through a ministry of a local, large San Diego church, and with a desire to grow in her faith, “V” sought deeper spiritual growth through Impact 195, a local discipleship and ministry school. One morning, very unexpectedly, the direction of her life completely changed. There was a guest speaker in her class at Impact, a mobilizer from AIM who was teaching about the need for proclaimers of the Gospel in Africa, especially in “Creative Access” countries that don’t allow missionaries. He passionately described the way God is raising up people who are using the businesses and gifts they are experts in to go to these places and live among people groups who would otherwise never meet someone who follows Christ. As she sat listening, the nature of her career and life in fitness, Cross Fit, and Olympic lifting began to feel self-focused and seemed to lack the eternal purpose that God was placing on her heart.
In a silent and very personal process with the Lord, she LAID THAT LIFE DOWN. She literally told God that she wanted to serve Him and be used by Him, so in that moment she committed to give up the training and competing that consumed her life if it meant sharing the Gospel with others who had never heard. Even as she did so, the speaker began to describe a team that was being formed who would be opening a gym in East Africa in order to train up people to eventually open gyms in Creative Access countries to share faith through fitness. “V” broke down and couldn’t stop crying. She had surrendered her own plans and taken up God’s command to make disciples and He had chosen to give it back to her and use that very thing to build His kingdom.
“V” is a REAL person I have been working with as she prepares to go serve in Africa. As a Mission Mobilizer (AKA “Rep”) for Africa Inland Mission, I have seen so clearly that THIS position is the most fruitful way God can use my experience, testimony, gifts, and influence to send others to do what I cannot do in this season of life with the responsibilities I have. As a matter of fact, I just returned from AIM headquarters where four of these young women I have been working with were officially appointed as missionaries with AIM. As we finished the week and they received specific assignments to prayerfully consider in Africa, MOST of them have accepted positions on teams that will go into VERY hard to reach places. (This is why their faces aren’t pictured in the photo. “V” is on the far right.)
As you know, years ago in 2008, our family went through that same process of LETTING GO of our lives and futures in America and committing to serve God LONG-TERM in Africa. My own purpose was made even MORE clear even after Chris died and HIS job was done – to use my testimony to PROCLAIM God’s faithfulness AND His heart for bringing those who don’t yet know Him into saving faith AND to be a part of raising up workers who will do the same. While I THOUGHT all of that would happen in Africa, I have seen clearly that THIS is exactly where I need to be. It’s taken me awhile, but I can now honestly say that I am more and more willing to DENY my selfish desires and my own ideas and dreams for my life and TAKE UP my “cross,” the toughest part of my journey, and allow Him to USE IT wherever and however He chooses. This week has been a huge reminder of the peaceful reward that comes with that submission.
It’s no coincidence that Jesus added that word “daily” to this principle. It is my human tendency to want set aside that cross because my selfish and weak self wants comfort and a new season of blissful joy. In order to ABIDE in victorious peace, however, I now see that I have to go through the DAILY process of accessing the power available to me in the Holy Spirit, taking a deep breath, and picking back up the “cross” that has been entrusted to me by the One who knows me best.
Thank you for so faithfully walking WITH me on this journey I never would have written. I’m realizing it’s bigger than I ever dreamed. Please pray for me as I daily trust God with all of the personal details. He’s pretty good at doing more than I could ever ask or imagine. I’d also like to invite you to PRAISE God with me for the way He is redeeming the most broken parts of my life and using it for His glory AND encouraging His people. The picture of the card I received after Connect Week is shared with the permission of the couple who gave it to me. It’s a very special affirmation that God is using YOU too! I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today without your support.