“So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” Acts 1:6-9 (ESV)
God permitting, I plan to return to India for a third time. I long to spend time with one of our missionaries and with some Indian pastors and their wives. As I study the book of Acts in preparation for the trip, I think about the mandate Jesus gave his earthly companions. He told his eleven followers to begin an amazing work that would be very difficult and very costly. They had to leave home to obey his command. But they weren’t on their own. Jesus had promised the Holy Spirit who would guide them, give them power and comfort them.
They were still relatively young men when they began their work. With youth comes youthful energy, strength, enthusiasm, health and hope for God’s work in the lives of people to grow and spread. But what about when you are old, weak, have poor health and probably have limited time? Do the limitations of health and age make a servant of Jesus less effective?
Consider the life of John Calvin, an energetic reformation figure who lived from 1509 to 1564. For most of his life he was miserable with hemorrhoids and no Preparation H. They bled, making him anemic and sapping his strength. He had kidney stones and infections. He had no antibiotics or pain medicines. He suffered from painful gout, and at times had to preach sitting down. He was constipated and required frequent enemas. His spleen was enlarged. He suffered from migraine headaches, heartburn and indigestion, roundworm infestation, nervous dyspepsia, insomnia, and recurrent coughing up of blood. At the age of fifty-five he died, probably from tuberculosis. These problems didn’t stop him. The travel, work, writing and preaching that he did is nothing short of amazing if you think only in terms of human strength.
When I think about my mother, I now have a better appreciation for the sacrifice she made to travel to Belize to help train some young men. She didn’t see her weak heart, lack of formal training, slow steps or anything else as a hindrance. I believe she knew she would receive power from the Holy Spirit if she was obedient to the Spirit’s call. In mom’s case her Jerusalem was Waukesha, her Judea was Wisconsin, her Samaria was to anyone she could write a letter or a note of encouragement, even the prisoners she wrote for many years. As it turns out, her “end of the earth” was Belize.
So now I recall my first trip to India. My skin was giving me grief and I was going to an unknown place. At first, I was eager to go. But then I had misgivings because of my skin issues. What would the long flights, the changes in time zone, climate, food, bathing and hygiene do to my health and my “comfort?” Would I drink something that would make me sick? As it turned out, none of these things really had any noticeable impact. Rather, the experience was very positive. I could have said I was too old or that my skin was my priority. Now I think about what John Calvin endured for his entire life and how hard he worked to serve others and minister to them. The source of power that Calvin had and that my mom had are available to me. Therefore, I am planning my third trip to India this year. Of course, I go only as God wills and gives strength. We don’t know what today brings, much less tomorrow.