Taking the First Step

In case you're thinking that you couldn't possibly become a missionary, because missionaries obviously "have it all together" and just "know" the will of God in their lives, allow me to introduce you to two missionaries who -- even after severe persecution for their faith and several years on the "mission field" -- didn't quite have it all figured out.

Acts 16:6-10 Then [Paul and Silas] went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the word in Asia. They went as far as Mysia and tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not let them. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision. A man from Macedonia was standing there and pleading with him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" As soon as he had seen the vision, we immediately looked for a way to go to Macedonia, for we were convinced that God had called us to tell them the good news.

Paul and Silas, who are probably best known for the prison account of Acts 16 where the Philippian jailer was converted, are now considered spiritual giants. The above passage, however, does not paint a picture of men who have every detail planned ahead of time. This dynamic duo sometimes took steps of faith which were not in the correct direction. Sometimes God had to put huge billboards, so to speak, in front of them to get them to adjust their heading.

The Bible doesn't say that these apostles were necessarily doing anything wrong in trying to preach the Word in Asia or Bithynia. We are simply told that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus himself, would not permit it. That door was obviously closed to them. Why? Because apparently God had already made a divine appointment for them with a woman named Lydia and a jailer in Philipi. He didn't want them to be late.

Several years ago, I heard a pastor named Irwin McManus preach on stepping out in faith. The entire sermon was inspired, but the part relevant to this article is his interpretation of Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is fair, whatever is pure, whatever is acceptable, whatever is commendable, if there is anything of excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy-keep thinking about these things.
How many of us have heard sermons and studies on this scripture focusing on the traits of truth, honor, justice, purity, acceptability, commendability, excellence and praise-worthiness? But if we look at that verse from a slightly different angle, we'll notice that the repeated word -- the word used 6 times in the above translation -- is "whatever". Now, this is not an "if it feels good, do it" command! Heaven forbid!

On the contrary, Paul here is saying that if the thought you're having or work you're thinking about doing is true, honorable, just, etc., keep thinking it! Keep making your plans! As Pastor McManus says, "Don't being afraid of doing the wrong good!" Do we think that we'll somehow mess up God's plan for our life? Will God slap His forehead in frustration and say, "NO! I didn't want them to help that poor soul!"?

What, then, is the first step in becoming a missionary? It's the step that gets you moving. Whatever that step is. Spend daily time in fellowship with your Father God. Spend time reading the Word and then "...whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31) Step out to do a good thing, and trust that God will steer you in the right direction.

Don't be so afraid of doing the wrong good that you do no good at all.