This month we’ve been talking about our work in spreading the good news of Jesus to people everywhere. It is pretty common for us to speak of a person we support to preach and teach in some other part of the world as a missionary, which simply means one who is on a mission. It is great to think of the Meyers in Angola, the Daggetts in Peru, the Hines at UALR or Kyndra Thomas at Rivercity church as missionaries, but it is only a small part of a very big picture. Every Christian is on a mission for God and is therefore a missionary to their world, their family, friends, neighbors or fellow workers. Many times those whom we support financially and who work at the mission fulltime are more focused on their mission than others. But it is a huge mistake to limit the concept of being a missionary to those who are fulltime, financially supported workers.
When Paul wrote the letter we know as I Timothy it was both very personal and a blueprint for him to fulfill the mission he had been sent to fulfill. Timothy had traveled with Paul all over the place for years. But now, Paul has sent him on a mission to Ephesus where the church has been in existence for years and the elders of the congregation are older in the faith than Timothy. But the church had problems and needed him to help them solve them. You get the feeling that Timothy wasn’t thrilled to be there. He may have felt overwhelmed with the job. He definitely was struggling with some health issues that Paul will talk about in the book. It may well be that he was really longing to be with Paul and was facing the reality that his mentor was nearing the last days of his life on this earth since it wouldn’t be long before he appeared again before Nero to be tried. Whatever the reasons, Paul’s plea to him was to “Stay in Ephesus.”
Being God’s missionary isn’t always about going to some far away place or even some place that isn’t that far away. Quite often God’s call to us is to stay where you are and use the opportunities He opens to us where we are. Too often we are like the apostles who were with Jesus outside the Samaritan town of Sychar where Jesus had met a woman at the well who had a terrible background but to whom he gave an amazing present and future. As Jewish men they didn’t like the idea of spending time in Samaria. They were ready to hurriedly eat their food and get on the road back to Jewish territory. Against that background Jesus said, “Quit saying there are yet four months until harvest comes. Lift up your eyes and look on the fields for they are white already for the harvest.” The opportunity for a great mission effort was right in front of them. But they were so consumed with the plan to get to the next place they couldn’t see the door God was opening right where they were. How many times in our own lives are we thinking of what we could do for God in reaching someone if we were just in some other place or the people were just different from what they are.
God certainly calls some to go to other places to share the good news of Jesus with others. But He NEVER calls us to overlook the opportunities right in front of us while we are thinking of what we will do somewhere else at some other time. I often hear people talk about God calling them to go somewhere in some very different part of the world. But I seldom hear anyone talk about knowing God is calling them to stay where they are and reach out to the people they already know. Yet, that is the call God gives to most of us. Remember the demon-possessed man called Legion out of whom Jesus cast a multitude of evil spirits. He wanted to go with Jesus when he left that region. But Jesus said, that he couldn’t go with him but to go back home to his own people and tell them what great things God had done for him. Listen carefully at God’s call for you. If it is to go to some other country or different part of the world then certainly prepare to go. But don’t miss the call of God that says, “Stay where you are.” That call may be to work with people you know or can meet today that need Jesus and you are the one God calls to share that gospel story with them now. By the way, God’s call to another place is never such that we become so sold on there that we do nothing to share the message of Jesus with the people we see every day here and now.
I hope you can be here this Sunday as we focus on the mission to STAY WHERE YOU ARE.