BY Caleb Alford
I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.
This line from the movie Taken began the conversation between another missionary and myself about all the possible jobs that we would be qualified for upon returning from overseas. We would sip our coffee and daydream about how our newly acquired skills of finding and researching people groups, practiced and honed over the past few years, could best serve us later on in life. Thoughts of a bounty hunter or repo-man were some of the better options.
All joking aside, part of our role was to research different people groups and attempt to record how God was working among them and how the gospel was shaping their lives. Some of these groups were so small in population that it was nothing short of a miraculous leading of the Holy Spirit that we were able to find them at all. With nothing except a family name in mind and an open schedule, the pursuit began to find these people so that they too might know and worship the one true God.
Pursuing and Pursued
It was while I was pursuing others for God that I learned one of the impactful things during my time overseas. The pursuit of God for his people does not stop at his possession of them. The pursuit he has for his people—the pursuit he has for you—is in an already-not-yet state. You are already his child, if you have trusted and turned to him. Nothing can take that away from you or change that eternal state. But even after that transaction has taken place, he wants to shape and mold you into his image for your good and His glory (Romans 8). I experienced this as I pursued the lost people groups of South Asia scattered throughout the hidden areas of the Himalayas. God continued to pursue me as I pursued others.
In John’s Gospel we read a beautiful prayer of Jesus. In 17:15-19 we hear him pleading, “I am not praying that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth.” Jesus is praying for his disciples. From this prayer for them, we can learn that we are not only sanctified for his mission, but also through his mission.
No missionary would ever, or should ever, verbally say that they are sanctified enough and spiritually prepared enough to go overseas. Our God is so perfectly holy and generous with the revealing of himself that the opportunities to grow into his likeness abound. The idea that you prepare to serve Christ and stop growing during the service process is a poor and wrong view of being a follower of Christ. Yet, from my own experience and speaking with several others, this idea has crept into the minds of many. I found myself surprised that God still pursued me. God’s continual pursuit of my holiness was unexpected on my end. I thought that it only occurred when I also sought hard after God.
Taste and See
“Read your Bible…pray more…go to church”—this is the trifecta of answers you’ll hear in most churches as the ways to be more like Christ. These are good and correct answers. But oh, the sweet, sweet joys of knowing God are not so limited! I learned about the character of Christ as I pursued him in the reading of the Bible—and also while he pursued my heart in the character-shaping circumstances of serving him.
I could list and recount stories of particular ways in which God shaped me and grew me as I as pursued others. I could tell you the areas of my life that are now forever marked by the power of the gospel. But I feel as if that would be robbing you of the joys of knowing God personally and intimately. The reading of this article would be nothing more than another head knowledge activity. My plea for you is to go chase after God in any and all ways you can imagine. Let him sanctify you for his mission and through his mission. Let us be a people who long to worshipfully know God and to make his glory known to all peoples as we await his return.
After all, he tells us himself, “Behold! I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:12).