Nothing stays the same! Just one look at your car will confirm this. The tire tread is wearing thin, the muffler is rusting out and the engine will only go so many miles. Our houses have the same tendency. The paint peels off, the roof leaks after a few storms and the tile and carpet don’t seem to stay clean for more than a couple of days. In the kitchen the milk goes sour, the bread molds and the peach that looked so delicious three days ago starts to rot.
Even things we leave completely alone, like the pictures on the wall or the books on the shelf, collect dust, change color and become old. Half our time is spent washing clothes, cleaning house and repairing things that break down. We do this because we know that unless we continually work on maintaining our possessions, we surely will lose them to deterioration.
Exactly the same is true for our spiritual lives. Check it out for yourself by comparing your life and your ambitions with the ones you had when you first understood that Jesus wanted to use you to help win millions of people for His kingdom.
As time has gone by, your once-tender heart is now unmoved by the truth that, today alone, 80,000 souls will plunge into hell because they have died without calling upon the name of Jesus. Your eyes no longer have tears as you look at your world map and see the Muslim nations that are closed to the Gospel. You used to consider it a joy to write a check to support a native missionary, enabling him to reach his own people for Jesus. Today you’re almost sorry that you made that commitment because you would rather spend that money on yourself, like buying the newest CD from your favorite Christian music group.
You remember when you couldn’t wait to attend the prayer meeting for missions or to spend an hour alone in intercession for the lost world. Now you find it difficult to fit the prayer meeting in your busy schedule, and you have to kick yourself to get out of bed for a five-minute prayer.
Believe me, this is the situation for all of us: If our commitment and our call to serve God are left unattended, they will slowly deteriorate and be replaced with excuses and a thousand other things to do. We will then argue for our rights and our freedom and justify our lack of time and interest in the cause. Finally, our other involvements will become more important than the call of God on our lives.
Let me ask you, what caused a man like Adoniram Judson, America’s first foreign missionary, to be so different from us in his level of commitment and the achievement of his goal? What gave him the strength to go through incredible persecution and suffering, burying his first wife and three of their children on the mission field of Burma? Was it because he was a product of a different culture than ours in which the people and circumstances were more stable?
No, I don’t believe so. Each person has his own struggles and problems. I firmly believe Judson was able to bear even the greatest of losses and pay the highest of prices because he had made a lifetime commitment to win the Burmese to Christ or to die trying.
He deliberately kept his focus on his call and purpose, rejecting everything that would distract him from reaching his goal. God saw his heart and gave him the necessary grace to finish the race.
Another model of focused commitment is the life of George Whitefield.
George Whitefield, the great British evangelist, was often falsely accused and maligned. The clergy spoke out against him, artists painted mocking portraits of his meetings, and slanderous tracts were published to attack him. But when his friends urged him to defend himself against the lies he refused. “I am content to wait till the judgment day,” he said, “for the clearing up of my character. When I am dead I desire no epitaph but this, ‘here lies G. W. What kind of man he was the great day will discover.’ ” He had committed himself to the Lord. He was looking beyond this world.
“Though [Whitefield] wrote Journals of his ministry during its first three years, he thereafter refused to take any steps towards making a correct knowledge of his life available. With his eye fixed on his accounting in heaven, he sought no justification of himself on earth” (Arnold Dallimore). What a contrast with the hypocrites who justified themselves in the sight of men—but God knew their hearts (Luke 16:15). And He knows our hearts too.1
Our greatest problem is that we continually lose our focus. We allow ourselves to be sidetracked by the world, by our mixed-up motives and by our lack of discipline. It takes a radical commitment to live for the one goal God has set before us—to win the lost. Whatever part you have in it—be it to go, to intercede, to give, to send—make it the focus of your life. Start measuring everything that comes your way by this question: Will it further the cause God called me to, or will it be an extra weight and additional distraction in running the race? Learn to walk away from things and even people who will take up your time, your emotions and your money and thus hinder you from fulfilling God’s purpose for your life.
Like Judson and Whitefield, we must continually work on keeping our focus to be able to run our race with endurance—and win it.
Wearing out the saints (Daniel 7:25) slowly is the master tactic of the enemy. Don’t let him!
Reflecting His Image © 1998, 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.