Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Seeking the Kingdom First

Some love stories can't wait until Valentine's day! I especially love to share love stories about missionaries - Wonderful people who as a vocation, give selflessly of themselves for years on end, with little or no regard for acclaim, fame, recognition or even personal benefit. The Scripture says that he who finds a wife, finds a good thing and pleases the Lord. Over the last week, I had the pleasure of getting to know some new friends who reminded me of the true beauty of finding a good thing that literally is a blessing for the Kingdom of God and the work He calls His people to do.

Some missionaries choose to remain unmarried because of the difficulties of their assignments or the demands of their work. Others simply find themselves single after years of service due to an intense focus on the mission itself which often seems to preclude forming the type of relationships that might lead one to get married. Whatever the cause or motivation, and whether singleness is chosen or simply their appointed plight, there a numerous missionaries who fore go the benefits of marriage for the sake of the furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have found most of these confirmed "bachelors and bachelorettes 'til the Rapture" full of joy and peace in their singleness not thinking themselves in a particularly difficult place or situation of service as single missionaries. It therefore generally comes as a great surprise to them when these dedicated people who have confirmed themselves in singleness, find themselves "head over heels" in love with another dedicated servant of the Lord who reciprocates their affection and reflects their dedication to a lifetime of service for the Kingdom of God.

My new friends Rob and Dee had both spent years of missionary service in their initial assignments - well over 20 years of service each - confident of the fact that they possessed the gift of singleness, and the Lord could use them better without the blessing of a spouse. Because of their singleness, they were able to throw themselves tirelessly into the work, pouring their lives into the lives of others and gaining a deep satisfaction that whatever difficulties or loneliness they might have experienced there could be no comparison to the benefits they were able to gain in the freedom of their singleness. They met each other after being led to change from their original places of service to an even more challenging missionary assignment. For a few years - yes years - they served together with no thought of anything beyond being coworkers for the Lord, putting their all into seeing people come to faith in Christ and helping new Christians to grow in faith and service. it wasn't until an intense time of ministry together, then some time apart, that they realized the flames of enthusiasm that burned deep within their hearts were not only a shared passion for the Gospel, but a deep and pure love for each other. By the time this revelation had arrived, Rob was approaching 50 and though Dee was a bit younger than Rob she was also a little older than she had been when she began her journey of missionary service. I won't get into the details of their romance, but let me just say, their story is one for the ages, involving an unique and tear-jerking proposal, lots of helpful and excited friends and most of all a confirmation that those who wait on the Lord experience joy and satisfaction that simply eludes those who refuse to wait and try to follow their appetites rather than God's will!

It's all beautifully summarized in Rob's words to Dee, which I will paraphrase, " I have spent my life seeking to collect crowns of service to lay at the feet of Jesus. I am now asking you to allow me to join you and walk at your side to help you in collecting crowns of service for you to lay at Jesus feet." His words caused me to think of a few other special couples who have exemplified this kind of love for the Lord in their marriages as Missionaries: Ruddy and Cristina, Phil and Karen, Craig and Terry, Sid and Marilyn - all couples whose unions not only generated sparks of romance, but ignited great works of faith that have in turn brought countless lives from darkness to light to the glory of God. In seeking the Kingdom of God first, they have had so much added to themselves that it has spilled over to benefit others for the Kingdom of God.

The next time you come into contact with a missionary couple in particular, remember that you are not just seeing the result of a typical love story, but a mighty and holy union that can teach us all just how much we have to gain by waiting patiently for the Lord and putting His Kingdom and the needs of others before our own. Remember, it's never too late for God to surprise us with something special if we're willing to wait on Him! Until next time,