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.