A number of you have said on Facebook or have emailed me that the times are certainly troubling you, and your spirits have wilted in discouragement. I always respond that there are two sure-fire ways to stay encouraged. No, three!
1. Pray always. (1 Thessalonians 5:17). What Does it Mean to Pray Without Ceasing?
2. Stay in the word. Open your Bible and taste. Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)
Those two disciplines keep your eyes on the Lord, which is both being obedient to Him and keeps us in His peace.
3. Listen to great sermons from credible Bible expositors. Hearing the word explained and participating in a joyful exposition is a wonderful way to stay encouraged. I recommend:
- John MacArthur
- Phil Johnson
- Steven J. Lawson
- S. Lewis Johnson and Dan Duncan
- Martyn Lloyd Jones
- James Montgomery Boice
I know there are many other preachers and teaches who edify you and me, for example, Alistair Begg, Art Azurdia, and of course my own pastor, who I also recommend, among many others.
I am adding a 4th mechanism to the list. I have been reading missionary biographies and I personally find them extremely encouraging! I hope you do too! For example, John G. Paton’s “Thirty Years Among the South Sea Cannibals” is a tremendous story that shows the difficulty of the spread of the Gospel (only 1 soil in four accepts it), the tribulations of missionaries, their total reliance on Jesus and how their faith increased because of it, their constant heavenward perspective, the beauty and celebration when a soul converts, and much more. Missionary stories humble me, make me grateful, and help me picture heaven
It is the Christ of the Bible which John G. Paton took with him to the New Hebrides Islands in 1858, to witness to the natives among the island group now known as Vanuatu. The book depicts Paton’s mission, a Scottish born man and called to minister to the cannibals of Tanna Island. Landing with his pregnant wife in 1858 he recounts the labors among “painted savages who were enveloped in the superstitions and cruelties of heathenism at its worst.” There’s joy when one native converted, weeping when there is betrayal by tomahawk or war club. Paton’s wife and child died, Paton himself was ill to near death many times from fevers and ague, and most other missionaries were killed outright. His life was threatened daily and the physical work of just staying alive was very trying. Yet Paton persisted lovingly in sharing Jesus’ Gospel with the natives, and also dispensed medicines and education.
Four years later, the natives loving Paton but hating “The Worship and his Jehovah,” caused Island-wide war to break out. He and two remaining missionaries were evacuated off the island. Paton spent some years in Australia and Scotland fundraising for the mission. He returned on the missionary ship Dayspring 4 years later.
There is much more. His personal story does have a happy conclusion. When he and his new wife returned, they re-settled on a different island, and over the course of many years successfully shared the Gospel and the natives were converted.
Here are a few sweet excerpts. Paton’s relationship with his father is beautiful.
that blessed custom of Family Prayer, morning and evening, which my father practised probably with out one single avoidable omission till he lay on his death bed, seventy -seven years of age; when, ever to the last day of his life, a portion of Scripture was read, and his voice was heard softly joining in the Psalm, and his lips breathed the morning and evening Prayer, falling in sweet benediction on the heads of all his children, far away many of them over all the earth, but all meeting him there at the Throne of Grace.
The first of many war scenes, early in the book:
Party after party of armed men going and coming in a state of great excitement, we were informed that war was on foot; but our Aneityumese Teachers were told to assure us that the Harbor people would only act on the defensive, and that no one would molest us at our work. One day two hostile tribes met near our Station ; high words arose, and old feuds were revived. The Inland people withdrew; but the Harbor people, false to their promises, flew to arms and rushed past us in pursuit of their enemies. The discharge of muskets in the adjoining bush, and the horrid yells of the savages, soon informed us that they were engaged in deadly fights. Excitement and terror were on every countenance ; armed men rushed about in every direction, with feathers in their twisted hair, with faces painted red, black, and white, and some, one cheek black, the other red, others, the brow white, the chin blue in fact, any color and on any part, the more grotesque and savage-looking, the higher the art! Some of the women ran with their children to places of safety; but even then we saw other girls and women, on the shore close by, chewing sugar-cane and chaffering and laughing, as if their fathers and brothers had been, engaged in a country dance, instead of a bloody conflict.
The beginning of the end, war breaks out and Paton fled, spending the night high in a tree above marauding cannibals.
Being entirely at the mercy of such doubtful and vacillating friends, I, though perplexed, felt it best to obey. I climbed into the tree, and was left there alone in the bush. The hours I spent there live all before me as if it were but of yesterday. I heard the frequent discharging of muskets, and the yells of the savages. Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among these chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Saviour’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship. If thus thrown back upon your own soul, alone, all, all alone, in the mid night, in the bush, in the very embrace of death itself, have you a Friend that will not fail you then?
I also recommend “Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman“. (1930-1947) I loved this book!!!
With no mission board to support or guide her, and less than ten dollars in her pocket, Gladys Aylward left her home in England to answer God’s call to take the message of the gospel to China. With the Sino-Japanese War waging around her, she struggled to bring the basics of life and the fullness of God to orphaned children. Time after time, God triumphed over impossible situations, and drew people to Himself. The Little Woman tells the story of one woman’s determination to serve God at any cost. With God all things are possible! Gladys lived from (1902-1970).
Through Gates of Splendor Kindle Edition by Elisabeth Elliot, 1956
Through Gates of Splendor is the true story of five young missionaries who were savagely killed while trying to establish communication with the Auca Indians of Ecuador. The story is told through the eyes of Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of one of the young men who was killed.
Find some other missionary stories, there are many lists out there of “10 Missionaries every Christian ought to know” and so on. Annie Jenkins Sallee, Lottie Moon, and many other women and men have gone forth. The more modern stories can be heard or read fromDispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places. I am sure that their stories will inspire you and encourage you. We all need some encouragement in these days. I can’t wait to meet Paton, Nate Saint, Lottie Moon, Gladys, and all the rest in heaven!!
You Will Be Eaten by Cannibals! Lessons from the Life of John G. Paton
Courage in the Cause of Missions