This week I've been beset by some slow, rolling cold or sinus or allergy thing that no over-the-counter medicine seems able to cure. I was able to function and operate and plow through most days, but everyday by 3pm, I was exhausted.
As Wednesday night rolled around, I was responsible for teaching on prayer and biblical repentance out of Psalm 51. That morning I arranged things where half the class I was "up front," but the second half of class was a time to break up into small groups and look over Psalm 51 together to reflect on that beautiful, hope-filled passage. It gave us some time to be in the Word more intimately as men and women (groups broke up by gender) as well as kept me from passing out from teaching for over an hour.
As we probed, studied, read, reflected on, and discussed the weight and glory of Psalm 51, my missions mind kicked into overdrive.
For almost four years I never had the opportunity to do what was so accessible to me at that moment. While I was a missionary in Japan, I never got together with another believer who spoke my mother tongue to study and reflect on a passage from the Bible. Our time together on Wednesday night was so rich, and even being just over a year removed from Japan, I was almost acclimated enough to US church life again that I took it for granted.
But that nagging missions bug I have, the one that there is no cure for, the one that has been given to me by God, out-dueled my flesh and won the day.
We don't even know what we don't know. We have no idea how blessed we are that we can go to our church library, or to a computer, and within seconds or a couple of days, have our choice of hundreds of resources to better equip us for whatever we are struggling with. Want to know how to be a better parent? Want to know what the Bible says about raising teens? Want to learn more about the Trinity? Want to figure out how to be a more godly steward of your money? Want to preach better? Want to know how you can fight depression in truth with the power of prayer, the Word, and the Spirit?
All you have to do is spend a few seconds and you can download or purchase resources - books, CD's, mp3's, sermons, journals, go to friends, pastors, trained professionals, experienced believers, and there's a wealth of equipping and insight and resources to help you fight for faith.
Even during my time in Japan, a modern country with high speed internet, getting my hands on a helpful resource in English was extremely costly and usually involved me putting out some family members to get them here. After I received a Kindle as a gift, it did become much easier to get possession of some tools that could help me grow.
But even in a place like that, even with a technological tool like a Kindle, it cannot replace for you what community with the body centered around the Word can do for you. This Wednesday night I was challenged, convicted, encouraged, amazed, saw anew God's glorious character in a refreshing way, and felt the love and camaraderie that only the saints of God share during that 45 or so minutes with my brothers in Christ.
Next time you are having a good day - think of those believers who are minorities in their cultures, think of those missionaries who have voluntarily forsaken those relationships and resources, and pray for them. Next time you're having a bad day, remember those same believers and missionaries, and think what it must be like for them to have a "bad day" and not be able to be surrounded by resources and the body of Christ and corporate worship the way you are.
When you're healthy, think of the advanced medicine and patient care and facilities and technology we have to care for us. And think how scary it would be, even if all those things were in place, to not understand what your doctors were saying to you because you were learning the language. Or you knew a lot of the language but not the medical terms. Think what it would be like if you had both poor medical care, run down facilities, and you did not know the language or understand what was wrong. Pray for missionaries and believers in areas where sickness is a serious life issue, not just a hindrance to their plans for the week.
Next time you're looking for help with something, and you download a resource at the touch of a button, go to your mailbox and hungrily pour over it, benefit from a mature brother or sister's advice to you, or find the answer sitting under the sermon of your faithful pastor, pray for believers across the nations and missionaries among them who are parched for the very gift you just enjoyed.
We're so ignorant that we don't even know what we don't know. Next time it's Wednesday night or Sunday morning or evening, or your small group meets, don't act like that's an optional add-on to your life. Understand what a precious gift it is that you are so surrounded by the Word and God's people to the degree that you have actually come to the point of taking it for granted! What a loving God that He would so saturate your life with spiritual riches that you would think of diamonds as dirt.
If we're not going, the least we could do is give and truly pray for the nations and those serving among them. And if we're staying, the least we could do is live in gratitude at the spiritual treasure of people and resources He has given us to help us grow into maturity.
If you've read this far, now you know what you didn't know before. One way you could do something about it - send a missionary a Kindle or an iPad along with gift certificates from Amazon throughout the year to make sure that they at least have some access to self feed themselves while they're away from church and home. I'm serious. Do it! Because now you know!