A Missionary's Perspective: Spiritual Parenting
From a fellow missionary in Japan:
We long to share the gospel and see Japanese live in it. Honestly, I don't like to wait. The microwave has to be one of the all time greatest inventions - need dinner - just nuke it in 3 minutes or less! Try translating this over to faith though and you run into problems. Instant faith doesn't seem to be in God's equation for salvation. At times, if your like me, the question becomes, "Is it worth it?" "Is it worth the years and years of struggle needed to see the ONE come to faith?" This isn't just a question we think in our heads, but one we feel in the depths of our spirits. The answer is of course- "Yes!" God attaches numerous blessings, though sometimes hidden, in the years of waiting and struggling. Let me give you just 3 to think about.
1) God uses this time to purify our motivation and love for the individual.
What will our response be when we realize the person we are sharing Christ with isn't moving as fast towards faith as we would like? Through waiting God points out to me where my actions are and are not motivated by love. As Paul tells us "Love is patient, " so isn't not being patient, not loving? So our love for the person is being tested and refined, tested and refined until we come to a place where we begin to not only the message of Christ but our very lives with the person. "But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Have so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us." 1 Thess. 2:7-8
2) God uses this time to prepare a foundation that the person will need after they believe in order to sustain that belief. Instant faith often equals instant falling away, whereas faith that has taken years to develop will also carry with it years of Bible discussions, life lessons, questions and doubts concerning the person of Christ answered, love from a believing friend, people praying, ect, ect. Unlike the seed on the rocky places that dies when the sun scorches it, a person who takes time to come to faith will usually be the seed that has fallen on the good soil and will reproduce their faith. Jesus becomes more than a one time event - He becomes a person that they have grown to know and because of this their transition into a life of faith is more natural. And because they have taken time to consider a life of faith they have anticipated and found Christ sufficient to handle the struggles faith may present in their personal life and relationships. As a result, their walk is stable.
3) God uses this time to maximize and protect His glory. There is a lot of praise and thanksgiving when someone comes to faith regardless of the timing, but this is magnified when years are added to the process. All the heartache, fear, doubts, prayers, struggles before the person believes will turn into joy to God on this side of faith. And when salvation takes years it is far easier to see what is always true - that their salvation wasn't due "so and so's" sermon or "so and so's" Bible study but because God in His goodness combined the efforts of many to produce His desired result. Man's pride is taken out of the picture and God's glory is preserved.
I'm sure there are many more reasons than this to trust God with the process - with the years it may take. The struggle may not be easy, but it is worth it!
- Like my friend, I encourage you also to keep investing your life with love into others. MW