July 3, 2017
I love a real log fire. It is a feast for all my senses. The flames dance before my eyes in yellows, reds, blues and purples. The popping and snapping is a never-tiring music and the smell of wood smoke fills the house. A real fire is so nice that I will arise from my warm cushy comfort to go out into the bitter cold to add logs and then stoke the fire. Why? Because if I don't, the fire burns down and ultimately goes out.
The same is true of God's call on your life and my life. If we don't fuel and stoke it, the beauty of His call burns down to only a nice memory and finally flickers out. Oh, we don't mean to let it die, but busyness, study pressures, professionalization and delayed gratification pour quenching water on the flames. We begin thinking, "I deserve a nice car, a big house and a great school for my kids." We are reluctant to give up control of our finances, our safety or our comfort.
We begin to rationalize, but of course as Christians, we do it in the most spiritual terms.
DELAY - I'm not saying no to God. I'll just delay answering His call until I get my school debts paid back or I will go as soon as the kids are older.
- But God says, "When you tell God you'll do something, do it-now. God takes no pleasure in foolish gabble. Vow it, then do it" (Ecclesiastes 5:4, MSG).
BARGAINING - I will go as soon as I find the right spouse. I know God wants me to be married and I will be much more effective if I have a helpmate. Yes, I will go as soon as God gives me what I want and need, a spouse.
- But God says, "'Yes,' said Jesus, 'and you won't regret it. No one who has sacrificed home, spouse, brothers and sisters, parents, children-whatever- will lose out. It will all come back multiplied many times over in your lifetime. And then the bonus of eternal life!'" (Luke 18:29, MSG).
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING - I know God's call is important, but He also wants me to be the best Christian father or mother. I couldn't really take care of my children, as God would want, if I were over there. My duty as a parent is the most important thing.
- But God says, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33, KJV).
OTHER LOVES - It would kill my parents if we went and took their grandchildren thousands of miles away. Doesn't the Bible say I need to honor my parents?
- But God says, "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters - yes, even one's own self!-can't be my disciple" (Luke 14:26, MSG).
Self! Ultimately, that is what smothers our call. We begin to think about our needs, our wants or our dreams, while the fire of God's call is smothered. Let me give you some advice on keeping your fire burning:
- USE DRY WOOD - I love to do wood work, but no matter how careful I am in measuring, cutting and fitting each piece together, I'm going to end up with a pile of junk if the wood is don't properly dried. It contracts, warps and cracks unless it is properly prepared. The same is true of the wood you put on the fire of your call. You have to keep your heart tender and easy to ignite through a close walk with Christ day by day. God's fire won't stay lit if you are spiritually soggy.
Yeah, I know that is hard with the pressures of training, but in the long run, your relationship with God is more important than cramming some other esoteric fact into your cranium. Fight for time to be alone with God. Read His word. Attend church when you can. Get a good missionary biography or other Christian book and read it, even if you only read two or three pages a day.
- ADD AN ACCELERATOR - That is what the fire marshal calls substances used to start an arson fire. They fuel the blaze and make it spread quickly. For Christians, our "accelerator" is prayer. Talk to God throughout the day. Practice His presence in your life. There are hundreds of opportunities each day to talk to Him. Pray for the ability to understand and remember as you study. Pray for wisdom as you make patient care decisions. Pray for strength for nights on call. Pray for your patients' physical and spiritual needs. Live every moment in God's sufficiency and not your own. Pray He will keep the fire of your call blazing, and then also pray for those who are waiting for you to come and tell them the Good News. Get other people-family, friends, pastors, colleagues-to pray for you as well. Prayer accelerates God's grace in your life.
- PILE ON MORE WOOD - I try to get back overseas to lead a mission team every year. Why? Because the physical needs are great? Surely! Because there is great spiritual darkness? Of course! Because it is good to get a change from my daily hectic life? Not really. I know that seeing the physical and spiritual needs and giving of myself unselfishly to help meet them renews my soul and spirit. My battery is recharged. I realign my priorities when I get out of my comfort zone and am totally dependent on Christ.
I urge you to get overseas three times during your training. For medical students, that is once during your first two years on a team outreach, during your fourth year for an eight-week rotation and then during your residency for at least a month. These experiences put new fuel on the fire of your call. If possible, go to places where you are considering serving long-term to renew relationships with missionaries and nationals. Each time you will have a better knowledge of how to prepare and equip yourself for long-term service.
- STOKE THE FIRE - After a while, a fire doesn't burn well unless you sift the logs around to let in more air while still keeping them close enough together. The same is true for you. You need to be spending time with mission-minded fellow believers. The heat of their focus will make your flame burn brighter. Their ideas will infuse fresh oxygen. It is difficult to keep a single stick burning, but if you stack them together they will roar into a bonfire.
Other mission-minded believers hold you accountable to your call, something we all need. Look for friends, family, conferences or serving missionaries with which you can correspond or chat with regularly. Attend mission conferences locally, regionally or nationally. Take a missionary out to eat or have them stay with you in your home or apartment. They will stoke your fire.
There is nothing more beautiful than seeing God's hand on a willing Christian's life. As a future missionary, you will walk in the footprints of giants. C.T. Studd, the Michael Jordan of cricket of his day, was one of them. When it came to keeping his fire brightly burning to carry the light to the ends of the earth he said, "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."
When it comes to keeping the flames of your fire burning bright, I pray you will be a pyromaniac.