In the fall, I have the privilege of, once again, teaching a missions class in the 3rd Year Program at Christ for the Nations. I love teaching this class filled with so many students from all over the world. I’ve been reading their required book for the class. It’s a wonderful little book by David Shibley called Great for God: Missionaries Who Changed the World. The book highlights great missionaries of the past like Hudson Taylor, William Carey, Amy Carmichael, and others. What strikes me most when I read the stories of these great men and women of faith is not their great victories, of which they all have many, but their many trials, tribulations, and discouragements. These people were “sold out for Jesus” and yet suffered personal tragedy after personal tragedy. Just take the example of William Carey. Shibley writes, “Through the years, Carey would face many personal and family hardships. One of his greatest trials occurred in 1812 when his priceless manuscripts were destroyed in a fire. A massive dictionary of several languages, two grammar books, and whole versions of the Bible went up in smoke.” Or take the example of Hudson Taylor, great missionary to China. Shibley writes, “Tragedies multiplied for the Taylors. A young son died. The family went through the pain of the surviving children’s departure for England and school. Another baby was born but lived less than two weeks. A few days after his death, Maria [Taylor’s wife] died at the age of 33.” I can hear the preacher giving the altar call now, “Come to Jesus…a life of tragedy and sacrifice awaits you.”
I was reading 2 Timothy this morning. Paul concludes his letter to Timothy by, among other things, informing him that “[he] left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus (2 Tim. 4:20).” What? How can this be? Why didn’t Paul just lay hands on Trophimus and command him to be healed? I don’t know, and the older I get, the more comfortable I am saying, “I don’t know.” Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe Jesus is the Healer. I believe Jesus is the Provider. I believe He is good, gracious, giving, and all the rest. But bad things do happen to good people. We don’t know why. But be encouraged. We serve a God who knows the end from the beginning. He is working all things together for good (Rom. 8:28). To quote David Shibley again, “You were born on purpose. You were born again on purpose. You were born at this time on purpose.” God has called us to greatness. We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Whatever you may be going through today, good or bad, know that you are in the company of great men and women of faith. May the peace of the Lord be with you.