TWO ESSENTIAL LESSONS
Pastor Vernon Giesbrecht
Joy and Trust – Two important character qualities reflective of a healthy emotional life. They are also central to a maturing spiritual life. I was reminded of this a number years back via letters from two missionary partners of the church we served. Let me borrow liberally from their experiences. I believe they have essential lessons to teach us in these two areas.
TRUST. Roy and Judy Larsen served with the Urban & Intercultural Ministry for the Eastern District of Evangelical Free Churches, an inner-city mission. Many people were praying for their 21 year old son, Aaron. The grace with which both parents and son endured the anxiety-filled moments of battling cancer was a model for us all. However, it was a lesson they learned in the past.
While serving in Congo, their youngest son, Mathew, contracted a resistant strain of malaria. Several days of high fever and various medications had little effect. With his blood count dropping perilously low and his temperature over 105 degrees, Roy and Judy realized that up until that time they were putting their faith mostly in the medications. When the last one seemed to have little effect, they finally “earnestly put it ALL in God’s hands and felt a real peace”. Over the next several days, the fever started slowly coming down and Matt was healed. It was a lesson in trust – trust in the God from whom true healing comes. In Aaron’s case, it was a lesson they put into practice once again. They knew that, while God has the power to heal, there are many times, in His wisdom, He does not. COVID-19 has made us acutely aware of this. But, because of the hope the Larsens had in the promises of the gospel, their trust did not waver.
“I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2
“You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.” Psalm 115:11
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
JOY. “Are you happy?” This is how Rich and Martha Millhouse, church planters with the Evangelical Free Church Mission in Craiova, Romania, began their letter. They then cited a survey, which the BBC had conducted of people in 65 countries to determine peoples’ general happiness. The country that was the happiest? Not the U.S.A.! Surprisingly, Nigeria topped the list, even with its tragic clashes between Muslims and Christians. Mexico and Venezuela were next, with Americans landing at number 16. What about the least happiest countries? The bottom three were Russia and Armenia, with Romania as dead last! That was around 2005. In 2019, another “Happiness Survey” of 156 countries had Norway and Canada topping the list, with the U.S. at number 23.
The Millhouses were not surprised. Frankly, neither was I, as I had the privilege of visiting Romania a number of times on missions trips. “Living in Romania can be depressing”, they wrote. “Justice, truth, and fairness are scarce. The population is going down – it is expected to drop from 22 million down to 16 million in the next 50 years. The major reason is migration of the population to the West. Everyone wants to get out of here…at almost any cost. Most believe that the solution to their unhappiness is to leave Romania.” Not surprisingly, the Millhouses requested concerted prayer for the believers and themselves, that they would continue to find their true source of joy in God, our Heavenly Father. And, that they would be bright lights in the darkness of this discouraged and depressed country.
During this pandemic, there is a strong tendency to lose our joy because of the circumstances. This, even though many on social media bring a smile to our faces with their antics or a quick turn of phrase. These may bring happiness for a while (to keep us sane, they say), but true joy is still elusive.
“…Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things…” Deuteronomy 28:47 (This was in the context of a listing of Blessings for Obedience and Punishment for Disobedience.)
“Let those who delight in my righteousness shout for joy and be glad and say evermore, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant!” Psalm 35:27
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” Galatians 5:22
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
Two character qualities. Two lessons. One – to fully trust the Almighty God in the anxious and uncertain times of our lives. Two – to realize that true joy and satisfaction can only be found in what we were created for: an intimate, personal relationship with our Creator God. These missionaries have passed on essential truths to be learned by us all.