Ordinary People, Extraordinary Faith


One of my favorite things to do is read missionary biographies. I am consistently amazed by what some have attempted—and accomplished—for the furtherance of Christ’s Kingdom. And having recently been given the responsibility to oversee the U.S. C&MA Archives, I have been blessed with unlimited access to one of the world’s richest legacies of pioneer missions.

Yesterday I unlocked the glass doors of the cabinet housing the personal Bible of C&MA pioneer missionary Dr. Robert H. Jaffray, who is widely credited with the establishment of C&MA work in China, Vietnam and Indonesia. In the margin next to Isaiah 33:15–16, Jaffray had penned the words, “feet, hands, heart, ears, eyes.” I tried to imagine what was going through his mind and heart as he scribbled these words. Was he preparing a lesson to disciple new converts? Working through the rigorous translation of Scripture into a native dialect? Or planning an arduous trek into the uncharted interior of cannibalistic New Guinea? My curiosity drove me to reread Let My People Go, a revealing biography of Jaffray written by A. W. Tozer in 1947. If you haven’t read it, you must. If you have, read it again!

However, I have a somewhat schizophrenic response to such biographies. In one sense, I delight in the sacrificial, gritty resolve that drove these men and women to attempt unfathomable things for Christ and His Kingdom. But in my more insecure moments, I wonder why God would choose to create some to be so extraordinary and others more . . . well . . . ordinary—like me. In this vulnerable state, I can always count on the enemy of my soul to point out my shortcomings and failures. Satan’s paralyzing plan aims to keep Christ’s transforming work in me under my radar, and His work through me sufficiently contained.

Does this happen to you? The very things meant to spur you to greater works end up becoming crushing monuments to your own inadequacy? Well, fellow saints, too much is at stake for us to wallow any longer. *Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully devoted disciple* (Matt. 28:19), and Christ has equipped us for the task.

1. Seek first His Kingdom: We’ve all heard it before, but it bears repeating in an age when so many things compete for our loyalty and devotion. As a young man, Robert Jaffray’s life was set. He was heir to the _Toronto Globe_—one of Canada’s leading newspapers. Yet he knew God had something even better for him—so he sought it with his whole heart. One day, young Robert went to listen to Dr. A. B. Simpson preach. After hearing Simpson’s impassioned address, Jaffray “threw himself at the feet of Christ and surrendered his entire life to Him and His cause.” Jaffray’s life and death bear witness to his devotion (see page 7 for a firsthand account of Jaffray’s final days in a Japanese internment camp).

2. Dispel earthly lies with heavenly truths: We’ve all seen the tee shirt: “When Satan tries to remind you of your past, remind him of his future.” As coheirs with Christ, we have the authority to disarm our enemy and claim what’s rightfully ours. How utterly liberating! Read 2 Peter 1:3. This is a promise, not merely a premise. Seize it whenever you begin to doubt what God can accomplish in and through you.

3. Realize the beauty and diversity of the Body of Christ. Jaffray’s Bible notes hint at this truth—_his feet, hands, heart, ears, eyes_—we all serve different roles at different times. When I read Ephesians 4:11–16, I realize I may never be a missionary, but I’ll always be a vital part of the mission.

4. Recognize that God uses flawed people who exercise extraordinary faith. Scripture gives us many glimpses into their lives: David had Bathsheba’s husband killed to cover his sin; Paul murdered early followers of Christ; and Peter denied His Master three times in one day. Yet, because of their faith in a limitless God, their historic impact on the Kingdom is immeasurable.

5. Believe that faith is ours for the seeking. It’s not something that God arbitrarily bestows or withholds. And besides—you really don’t need that much to accomplish the impossible. But don’t take my word for it; take His—in Luke 17:5–6.

In this issue you will find many examples of ordinary people exercising extraordinary faith in a limitless God. Apart from their specific callings, they are really no different from you and me. Be encouraged by their journeys as you move forward in yours.

Living the call together,

Peter A. Burgo

Past Alliance Life Issues


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