You probably have tasted a sweet and sour sauce before just asI have many times. The sweetness comes from ingredients like fruit, syrup, or sugar, while the sourness comes from acidic ingredients like lemon, vinegar, lemon, or other souring agents. Experience in Christian Missions can be likened to the type of sensation or feeling that comes from tasting this type of sauce, which I would describe as “sweetness tinged with sourness.”
The reality of the state of Jerusalem at the time when Nehemiah was in a foreign land and serving as King Artaxerxes’ cupbearer could also be said to give a sweet and sour feeling. Nehemiah’s position was amiable, enviable and influential as it gave him access to the king, though with caution and a lot of risk. Little did he know that God was preparing him for a mission of confronting the reality of the sorry and embarrassing state of Jerusalem and its broken wall.His assignment would be the execution of a project that would entail reconstruction, restoration, renewal and revival in the land of Judah.
Prior to the visit of his brother (Hanani) to Susa, Nehemiah had fond (sweet) memory of Jerusalem, but this became tinged with pain on hearing that the Jewish remnants that had survived the exile and were back in the province were in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem was also broken down, and its gates had been burned with fire. (Neh. 1:2-3)
Dearly Beloved, the account of Nehemiah about the miserable state of Jerusalem, its wall (and by inference its security and pride) and its people is analogous to the present reality of Christian Mission, which lies in ruins and its wall continually breaking down. And its important the Body of Christ comes to terms with this reality. It does not take rocket science to accept this fact. It is evident everywhere and across all nations and cultures. How do we explain the alarming rate of missionary attrition, with missionaries quitting both on local and international scenes? How do we explain the ironic situation of the expansion of mega-churches while missionaries are giving up due to lack of support in all its ramifications and the resultant vacuum being taken over by other faiths that do not have the Gospel? This ought not to be so.
I am convinced that God has placed the Nehemiahs of our time in various places and positions of influence and has been sending His Hananis to them through various means, to communicate the message of confronting this reality and do something concrete.
The three prongs of missions, namely GOING, GROANING and GIVING are inextricably symbiotic and indispensable. It is not possible to sincerely engage in any of them without first having the burden to see a change. The burden of seeking a solution moved Nehemiah to first groan about this new experience of sweet memory that is being tinged with sadness.He spent the period of four months seeking the face of God in prayer, fasting and thinking about different ways he could return Jerusalem to its place of safety and glory.He understood the secret of winning in the public square by first fighting in his private corner. Consequently, the time that he spent seeking the face of God must have been harrowing but the future reward obliterated that temporal pain.
When we sow in tear, like Nehemiah did, we shall also reap the harvest with joy, no matter the negative views of those that hate to see the result of our resolve. (Psalm 126:6). This is the thrust of GROANING for missions and missionaries. Are you ready to play your part?