Missionaries Are Willing to Die for the Gospel – part 17

I was fortunate to spend a year with the father of the couple who discipled me as a missionary. He was one of a handful of missionaries sent to Japan after World War II. The U.S. Military picked one missionary chaplain from four different denominations to bring the Christian faith back into the country. They were afraid, as can be expected because the Japanese had tried for centuries to extinguish Christianity there. Once, I asked him what to do if I am about to be martyred, and he said with no hesitation, “Not to worry; God will give you the grace to be bold at that moment, just as he did for Stephen.”

Acts 7:59 As Stephen was being stoned to death, he called out, “Lord Jesus, please welcome me!” 60 He knelt down and shouted, “Lord, don’t blame them for what they have done.” Then he died. 8 1-2 Saul approved the stoning of Stephen. Some faithful followers of the Lord buried Stephen and mourned very much for him.

(New International Version)

Reaching remote unreached people groups is the most urgent and important mission. It is his great commission, and that mission is worth giving our lives for. If you are going to be a missionary to a remote unreached people group, you need to know that there is a good possibility that you might have to give your life. However, as long as God wants you alive, no one and nothing can kill you. Then again, if he wants you in heaven, you’ve got to go. You can’t always be worried about it. You might frequently be in rough situations, but know that God is shielding you from death until your time has come. It is normal to be a bit afraid of going to the mission field. It takes time to get over your fears, but you can do it. I heard a preacher say the only statistic that is 100% is death. Everyone will die. If you have to die, and it is 100% guaranteed that you will die, it might as well be for something important. Only after you have been on the mission field for a while and have experienced the protection of the Lord do your fears diminish. Then, something extraordinary begins to happen. You begin to welcome death. Or should I say that you begin to not care so much about being down here on this material world. You want to go home. I have been in a few situations where I’m sure that God saved me from certain death. There have been others that I don’t know about. The fact is that I am still here.

Missionaries actually welcome death

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (NIV)

When I was a new missionary, I had a vision of heaven. I was in a prayer room with a group of pastors before a morning church service. I had recently received news that a friend from college had an incurable fatal disease. I was deeply disturbed by this, as she was such a vibrant and giving person. I kept thinking to myself, “Why, Lord? Why her? She is such a good person; why would you let this kind of thing happen to her?” During this one-sided argument with God, I was instantly in heaven. I don’t know to this day if it was a dream or a vision or if I was physically there. That’s how real it was to me. I was standing in tall grass up to my waist on hills near the shore. I knew that behind me was an enormous house and that it was my house. I looked to my right and saw my best friend from college at a distance. He was about three hundred meters away and also standing outside his home. I waved to him and he waved back. I saw his house behind him. It was a very large, modern two-story house.

As I stood there I could feel the warmth of the light which I knew was not our sun, but God himself. The breeze was perfect, and the temperature was perfect. I felt complete peace and no pain or sorrow. I was utterly at rest. I looked back toward the shore and saw Jesus walking near the water. I wanted to run to him but couldn’t move. I wanted to say something but couldn’t speak. As he came closer, it felt as though my heart would explode with gratitude. I wanted to tell him how grateful I was that he would allow me to be in that place. He looked at me as though he could hear my thoughts. My eyes were gushing tears of joy and gratitude. After Jesus had passed by, I walked down to the water. I could feel the sand beneath my bare feet. It was perfect sand. I bent down to cup some water in my hand and when I looked closely at it, there was a blue light swirling as though the water was alive. It seemed as though I was gone for hours, and suddenly, I was back in the prayer room with the pastors. The light in the prayer room was much darker as if I had put sunglasses on. Earth was not nearly as bright as heaven. I was in complete agony because I was no longer in heaven. I had never felt so terrible in my life. I was instantly depressed and the agony caused me to weep loudly. Everyone in the room could tell that I had been touched by God. The pastors left me weeping on the floor of the prayer room and went to prepare for the service. I stayed in that room weeping until the service was over and all the people were gone. I then made my way to a secluded storeroom, and I stayed there for a few more hours weeping. When I finally emerged, five hours had gone by.

I walked up to my pastors’ house in a daze and told them about the vision. They cried and were impacted almost much as if they had been in heaven. I looked down at my hand; I could still see the neon blue living water swirling in my hand. My pastors scheduled me to preach in all the churches of the ministry. Everywhere I spoke of the vision, people cried and many Christians were greatly encouraged to know that heaven really exists and that we will all be there soon. Death means nothing to us Christians. A famous minister once said he wished that all Christians could be in hell just for a minute. I wish that all Christians could be in heaven for just one minute. I was, and I have never been the same.

After that experience, few times have I been afraid of death. Many times I have welcomed it. I don’t have a death wish, but you could say that I welcome it. I welcome the death of my physical body. My soul will live on for eternity. Everyone reading this blog who does not know Christ should consider this. Most Christians have no concept of eternal life. Once you have been to a perfect place, the world is second-rate by comparison. This world means little to me. I am a stranger here. This is not my home, and there isn’t anything here that I love more than my father in heaven and his son Jesus. A friend told me that I have flat affect, meaning that I have no emotional response. I don’t have flat affect; I have walked in heaven. There is little in this sinful evil world that moves or impresses me. What impresses me is Jesus and his Spirit working in this world. Needless to say, my outlook changed toward my friend with the incurable disease. If anyone deserved to leave this world early, it was her. When I finally got the news that she has passed away I immediately thought to myself, “That’s great, she finally got to get out of here.” Don’t worry, don’t be afraid; there is real danger, but God will protect you. If he doesn’t, no problem. You get to go home.

Hebrews 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. (NIV)

Missionaries hate this world

If you don’t have a solid hatred for this world system, evil, and sin, you need to get it before becoming a missionary to a remote unreached people group. If you don’t have it, you can develop it.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16  For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.

(NIV 1 John 2:15-16)

You have to develop your hatred for the world. It is developed just like your spiritual mind is developed. It doesn’t come overnight; you have to work at it. The number one key is to constantly be reading the New Testament, especially the Gospels. When I mention the world, I’m not referring to all that is good and beautiful in the physical world God created. I’m referring to what is evil and depraved in this material world, where the devil and his angels are influencing people to give in to the fallen sinful nature.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

(NIV Romans 12:1-2)

The more you renew your mind, the more you will not fit in this world with its wicked patterns and corrupt systems. You begin to understand what is behind those patterns and systems, but they do not conform you anymore. You hate them, and the more you hate them, the more they hate you. You are an outcast, a renegade, a radical, a Jesus freak, or whatever they call you. Even other Christians will say that you are angry, and you are. If you are not angry and indignant about what is happening all around, you need a spiritual checkup. There is a map of the unreached people groups in the world, where thousands of little red dots show the progress of Christian missions. It’s embarrassing and should outrage us. It should make us mad at the devil for deviating the church from her purpose. The world is the devil’s platform, where his systems steal, kill, and destroy God’s children.

All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

(NIV Mark 13:13)

We do not hate the people in this world but the world’s ways and the dark angels that twist people to do immoral things. We hate the wickedness and sin inside people, not the people. There is a fine line that you cannot cross, and it is easy to cross. That line is the difference between the hatred for this temporal life and this fallen material world and the bitterness that would come to us against those who do us wrong. You cannot become bitter. You need joy to be a missionary, and you can’t have joy being a bitter person.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

(NIV Hebrews 1:9)

I have a friend who has been a missionary in unreached people groups for years. They have planted churches and trained other missionaries working in these people groups. Early in their ministry, before they had children, he and his wife lived in a remote village. One day, he was traveling to other villages, and, when he returned home, his wife had been violently raped. I cannot imagine what they had to do in order not to cross the line from hatred of wickedness to bitterness and anger toward those who had done this terrible sin, but God gave them both the grace to carry on. They eventually planted a church in that people group. You might be saying to yourself that you could not forgive something like this if it happened to you, but you can. Forgiveness comes from the Lord, and we have to get it from him. If we don’t, God cannot forgive us. See Matthew 6:14. Sometimes you become weary of the battle. You are constantly pressing forward and the people you are ministering with or the people to whom you are ministering do you wrong. After years of this, if you feel bitterness come in, you will need to rest and get away. God will heal you. God can restore you, but you will need to take a rest. You do not need to go back to your country of origin to get healed and rested. If you go back to your country of origin, doors will close and the people to whom you minister will not understand. Just rest on the mission field and allow God to heal you. Stay away from backbiting brothers and sisters in Christ so that you can to get healed. Bad company corrupts good character, even if the bad company are Christians.

But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

(NIV Revelations 2:6)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

(NIV Romans 12:9)

A guide to develop your hatred for the World

  1. Constantly read your New Testament, especially the Gospels. See: The Bible reading plan
  2. Have no hope in what this world has to offer. Place your hope in Christ and the eternal life you have in him in heaven.
  3. Place no trust in the world systems, governments, institutions, politics, education and the like. Place your trust in God who is the sovereign King and ruler of the universe.
  4. See it for what it is. Look at everything through Christ’s teachings in the New Testament. Do not let one little idea get into your brain without first passing through the filter of Christ’s Spirit, attitude, and teaching.

All these things will develop in you over time. You will need them in order to last in an unreached people. You will know you have a pretty good hatred for the world system when you really don’t care to be here anymore. You stay around because God wants you here, but you could just as well go home as to stay down here. This, after all, is not your real home.

The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

(NIV John 12:25)

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

(NIV 2 Corinthians 4:18)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world..

(NIV 1 Peter 1:1)

Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.

(NIV 1 Peter 1:17)

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

(NIV Hebrews 12:2)

Do missionaries need a kidnapping contingency plan?

Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

(NIV Philippians 1:14)

So many things are done in modern missions that have no Biblical basis. A contingency plan for a kidnapped missionary is one of them. This is especially the case if you are willing to pay the price with your life. Having a contingency plan for kidnapping, imprisonment, etc, creates a perception in the missionary’s mind that brings fear as well as a sense of self-importance. It also creates a huge connection to your people back home. Once kidnapped, they need to be notified. By the time a modern missionary gets to the field with all his degrees, satellite technology, fancy mountaineer clothing, and monthly support, he feels more important than the people to whom he is ministering. We need to stop teaching all these things to the missionary candidates. If we are ever to send out the number of missionaries needed to reach all the unreached people groups in the world, we must change the perceptions we create in the missionaries’ minds. I am talking about the perception the missionary has of himself. We must simplify things. Go, and do all you can to stay on the mission field. If you have money, good for you. If you can get permission or a visa to enter a country, great, but I don’t recommend it. If you get kidnapped or thrown into jail, what happens? You now have a captive audience with your kidnappers or jailers and cellmates. You now have a jail ministry.

One important rule: if you get kidnapped as a missionary, don’t pay a ransom. If you or someone pays your ransom, all the other missionaries will start disappearing. They will all start being kidnapped because someone paid your ransom. I live in an area where the bad guys have threatened that they will do us missionaries harm and kidnap us. It is dangerous, in the eyes of the Christian church, to be a missionary where I live. In my opinion, it is more dangerous to stay in your hometown and do nothing for the Lord. If you worked for a large secular corporation that took you to Pakistan, and all of the sudden you ended up kidnapped, there is not much that they can do about it. They can do a lot of letter writing and talking to diplomats, but in the end, the kidnappers want money. With a lot of money, they might get you out alive, but anymore, even large corporations hesitate to pay the ransom. What is odd is that, if you have to go to Pakistan for your secular job, for your corporation, your family and Church don’t think much about it. On the other hand, if you have to go to Pakistan as a missionary, now it becomes a huge ordeal with major logistics, and suddenly, it becomes dangerous. Your family and Church think you shouldn’t be risking your neck being a missionary in such a dangerous place. Paul mentions his chains about fifteen times in the New Testament. It was normal for the disciples to live persecuted and captive.

Tips to follow when under persecution and suffering.

Don’t be ashamed if you are kidnapped or put in jail

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. I guess this means that others were ashamed.

(NIV Romans 1:16)

I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

(NIV Timothy 1:16)

Know that others might be encouraged that you did not stop evangelizing or discipling because it was against the law

Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

(NIV Philippians 1:14)

Preach to your abductors or imprisoners; they are a captive audience

As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

(NIV Philippians 1:13)

If you get a chance, get out

About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.

(NIV Philippians 1:13)

Since you are probably going to die, you might as well make a statement

The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”

(NIV Acts 16:36-37)

Under no circumstances should you ever denounce Christ

They are probably not going to let you go anyway, and if you do, then you will have weakened the testimony of Christianity.

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. (NIV) Luke 9:26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

(NIV 2 Timothy 1:8-10)

Don’t pay the bribe or the ransom, or many others will end up where you are

Ask for a pen and paper so that you can write; it may be your best work.