As long as I can remember, I have loved reading missionary stories. Recently, I read (or re-read) three: Bruchko by Bruce Olson, Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger, and The Word Came with Power by Joanne Shetler and Patricia Pervis.
While reading these stories, different things catch my attention and fill my ponderings for the days after, depending on what I am experiencing or thinking about at the time. This time around, I noticed something that was similar in all three of the stories I mentioned.
They all went to the mission field God called them to against the advice of people who were supposed to be their spiritual leaders. Some of the missionaries gained acceptance; but at least initially, they all went despite being told not to go. God prospered their ministries tremendously, after years of love and risk and heart-break went into the places where they were called: Bruce to the Motilone Indians of South America, Jackie to the drug dens and brothels of Hong Kong, and Joanne to the Balangaos in the Philippines.
I am not going to deliver a treatise on disregarding advice. So you can breathe with relief, now. However, this has made me think about how Christians should offer counsel to other people, especially to those who are feeling God’s call. These missionaries that I read about were able to sidestep the faulty advice and obey God’s leading; not everyone would be so confident.
I am assuming that sincere Christians strongly believe in the importance of God’s Word, and I don’t wish to downplay that crucial element in decision-making. Here I am primarily focusing on the difference between human reasoning and the Holy Spirit among people who hold the Bible dear.
Most of us love to deliver our opinions; I definitely do! We also like to see our lives infused with a healthy dose of common sense. No point in making unnecessary mistakes, you know!
But I think if we are going to offer advice that is Christian, we are going to have to move past common sense.
Anybody, Christian or not, can offer common sense. So a common-sense decision is not uniquely Christian, even if it’s made by a group of Christian people. Sure, it will hopefully be governed by Christian principles, although we can lose sight of that, too.
Going into all the world with the Gospel always involves risks. Thus, if we want to offer good advice to someone with a call burning in his heart, we have to carefully listen to the Holy Spirit. And if you have a whole group of people who are willing to listen to the Spirit while laying aside their human reasoning, God can speak powerfully!
God’s ways are mysterious, and He leads His children down mysterious paths, as well.
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
(John 3:8 ESV)
Which do you value most: common sense, or the guidance of the Holy Spirit?