Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Simple to Understand, Mysterious to Comprehend and Difficult to Practice

Written by: on September 5, 2018

I was listening to a sermon on the radio the other day and the pastor preached on a familiar passage. In his talk he mentioned that the verses were simple to understand, mysterious to comprehend and difficult to put into practice. These words resonated with me as it brought me back to the story of Jackie Pullinger and how she followed God’s calling to Hong Kong despite opposition from naysayers. Common sense tells us we have to dot the i’s and cross our t’s, fill out the proper forms, wait patiently and prayerfully before we can expect a response from the Lord. After all we’re taught that yes, God can do anything, but typically He accomplishes things through normal means, i.e., blessing of the church elders, etc. At least that’s how we’ve been acculturated in the church. I know I have been, and collectively we call this approach wise.

Discerning the Holy Spirit’s promptings is, for me at least, as the preacher said “simple to understand, mysterious to comprehend and difficult to practice.” Jackie knew she wanted to be a missionary growing up and was convinced of that early on—simple to understand. But she experienced roadblocks when the time came for her to go. So that must have seemed mysterious to her and her support group who was convinced she should go. And if that wasn’t enough, the more difficult thing to think about was actually to go. But go where? After all no missions organization she applied to would help her. Nor did she sense any specifics from the Lord.

This is where I’m reminded of Abraham’s story in Genesis 12 and how uncannily similar it is to Jackie’s. It was exhilarating to read the first few chapters of Jackie’s missionary journey and I was on the edge of my seat not knowing how things would turn out for her. There she was, ready, willing and able to do the Lord’s work. But was she going to wait for a green light as the missions agency advised? Was she going to push through on her own strength and make things happen? Was she going to pray more to ask for a definitive sign from God? 

The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) says “…go and make disciplines of all nations…” I’m convinced the most important word there is “go.” Apparently this oft-quoted passage is similar in construction, tone and meaning in the original language as the ones we find in Genesis 1 in which God tells Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” There’s something about the “going” itself; going to different places God wants us to go in order to accomplish His will of restoring fallen creation for His glory.  It appears Jackie was simply desiring and fulfilling the original “cultural mandate” to be part of God’s redeeming work of salvation by going from where she was to a place God would eventually disclose. Not sooner or later, but at God’s perfect timing. 

When Dr. Jason Clark helped and encouraged his cohort of doctoral students the other day to begin writing, I asked a question: What should we write about and what tone, voice, style, etc. are we to use in our writing? He said we ought to focus on one thing that resonated with us in a profound way. Once we figured that out, that was what we ought to write about. That was super helpful because I couldn’t stop marveling at Jackie’s incredible faith, the same incredible faith demonstrated by Abraham, except his seems so distant, so removed from today’s hustle and bustle we call life. How can anyone relate to that today? How can I relate? Is this only for the special believers out there? Then we learn about people like Jackie Pullinger who essentially did the same thing as Abraham did thousands of years ago. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about Jackie. She’s like you and me except that she actually put her faith into action.

When I think about her story (Chasing the Dragon), I’m encouraged and challenged at the same time. Encouraged because I see in modern times that God is the same yesterday, today and forever; and is still committed to redeeming those he has called. Challenged because in many ways I have a long way to go to have the kind of faith. But with practice and discipline, my hope and prayer is that I take steps of obedience and simply go when God says go.

About the Author

Harry Edwards

Harry is married to Minerva and has the privilege of raising two young men. He is the founder and director of Apologetics.com, Inc., an organization dedicated to defending the truth claims of Christianity on the internet, radio and other related activities. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Education and a Masters of Arts degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University where he currently works full time as the Associate Director of the graduate programs in Christian Apologetics and Science & Religion. Harry is currently pursuing a DMin (Leadership & Global Perspectives) from George Fox University. He is an active member at Ocean View Baptist Church where he leads an adult Bible study and plays the drums for the praise and worship band. In his spare time, Harry enjoys doing things with his family, i.e., tennis, camping/backpacking, flying RC planes and mentoring others to realize their full potential in the service of our Lord.

3 responses to “Simple to Understand, Mysterious to Comprehend and Difficult to Practice”

  1. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    I too thought of Abraham’s story throughout my reading of Pullinger’s experiences. I enjoy sitting with missionaries with similar stories who have left all to follow Jesus into an unknown land. Recently I was with eight young adults that left suburban Florida to move to the inner city of Los Angeles with a passionate church planter. In many ways I saw the same kind of faith in their eyes. I am challenged as I meditate on Hebrews 11 and those we have called the heroes of faith. I have been reflecting on verse two which teaches us that it was their faith that caused them to earn a good reputation, to obtain a good report, that which they were commended for. It was not the results of their faith, but the faith itself, simply trusting what God said and obeying. We see that in Pullinger’s story over and again, what about mine?

  2. Jenn Burnett says:

    I appreciate you drawing out the idea of moving on the word ‘go’. So often we long for the details to be fleshed out, the destination clear and the resources plentiful before we are willing to take a step. But Jackie was faithful in that she understood who she was being called to be and so took a step to live out of that identity. When I read through the book of Acts, I love that the Spirit leads the early disciple makers one step at a time. I am encouraged that they sometimes hesitate and that sometimes they seem to plan to go one way and the Spirit stops them. Each time, God grants them enough faith for the next step. This is replicated in Pullinger’s story. She has faith to receive her identity as a missionary, then faith to get on a boat, the faith to go into an unwelcoming city. Each step she takes leads her to the next. I have found this to be often the case in my own experience. God will build in me enough faith for one step of obedience and only once I’ve taken that one step, will their be a refilling for the next.

  3. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Harry, great post, thanks for your clarity and honesty. I love your drawing a parallel with Abraham, Jackie, and the Great Commission. While not over emphasizing “simple”, we certainly can needlessly over complicate God’s command to us, “Go!” Thanks so much for utilizing your skill set to draw this out and draw this to our attention. I am going to need to reflect upon your focus on the word, “Go!” Thanks for sharing.

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