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Missions 101

The Gospel is Able to Strengthen Us

Sep. 13, 2012By: Kristie Burns

Romans 16:25

“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ...” 

Paul, in the closing of his letter to the church at Rome, gives this beautiful doxology, praising the only wise God.  What is this only wise God able to do?  Strengthen the Roman Christians.  Strengthen us today.  "Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ…" God is able to strengthen by what means?  By the gospel. 

I count this verse as a beautiful gem illuminated to me by the Holy Spirit in our first weeks after moving to the mission field.  Within weeks after our arrival to Istanbul, Turkey, I hit the lowest low of my life.  Looking back, I can now see that much of what I went through was classic culture-shock which many long-term workers experience sometime during their first year or two on the field, mixed with my own sin issues that were brought to the surface in the midst transition and stress.  It was in those first few months that I faced a dark depression. 

I hated the dreary, evil sound of the call to prayer blaring from the crackling old loud speakers of the mosque just up the road.  I hated the prying, lusting eyes of the Turkish men unashamedly staring at me anytime I left our apartment, despite my modest decorum.  I felt exhausted by the three hour round trip commute standing on a crowded, smelly, hot bus to and from language class everyday.  Aside from that, I was drowning in the sin of my unbelief, insecurities, and jealousies of the seemingly all put-together energetic, happy, missionary wives raising their children, hosting and cooking for Turkish friends, and making it all look so easy.  It was in the midst of this culture-shock, depression, and face-to-face confrontation with my sinful heart that I began to plead with God for His powerful work in my life.  I knew that I was not going to make it on the mission field if He didn’t come and intervene in a deep, transforming way. 

Crying out to God, I pleaded with Him, “Lord, we moved our whole lives over to this Muslim country to preach the good news of the gospel, and yet that same gospel does not seem to be making a difference in me right now.  If your gospel is really the greatest message of all history, the one absolute truth that we must proclaim with boldness and love to those who are perishing, then it’s got to transform me daily, regularly, right now in the midst of my depression and sin.”  

And oh how God answered that pleading cry.  He led me to Romans 16:25, among other Scriptures. My husband Evan urged me to listen to a sermon by Pastor John Piper on Romans 16:25-27 that he had recently discovered on Desiring God Ministries’ website entitled, "God Strengthens Us by the Gospel."  And God opened my eyes for the first time to see that the gospel is able to make us strong.  Not strong as the world would define strength.  But the kind of strength that Christ Himself displayed in His living, dying, rising from the grave, ascending into heaven, and reigning forever.  The kind of strength that refuses to indulge in the fleshly calls of this world but rather entrusts itself to the all-wise, all-powerful, good and gracious care of our Heavenly Father.  Not perfect physical strength, but the kind of strength that is fortified by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that is able to count Christ as the greatest gain and live and die in a way that dangerously loves people and says, “Christ is all.” 

Some people have asked us what has kept us going in the midst of the onslaught of daily challenges on the mission field.  Our answer:  the sheer grace of God revealed in the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  All that God has revealed Himself to be and promises to be for us in Christ.  The gospel is the reason we go to the mission field, and it is the reason we stay on the mission field.  The gospel is of utmost importance, worthy to be guarded, remembered, and stewarded to all people.  In the gospel we see the glory of Christ, and by God’s sanctifying work are made more like the Jesus we labor to proclaim.  And in the gospel we are strengthened to live and die to the glory of God.

Tags:  gospel, missions
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