This past Sunday evening I was talking with a young lady about her desire to serve God on the mission field. The mission field to which she longs to go is one where there is much persecution against those who believe in Christ and dare to share His gospel. Such a desire gives pause to family and friends in regards to her safety. Talking to her reminded me of when two of my daughters left home to serve with Youth for A Mission, a venture that took one to various destinations in Southeast Asia and the other to the slums of Cartagena, Columbia. Many questioned Sandy’s and my wisdom for letting them go to these “unsafe” places.
A few years ago, Sandy and I heard the testimony of a young couple who followed God’s calling to an inner city ministry in New York City. Outside of their house prostitutes stood on the street corners seeking their next trick. Drug dealers openly sold their products on the street. Muggings and shootings were part of the everyday life of their neighborhood. They told about how God had used them in the shutting down of several crack houses and how angry dealers had fired bullets through their windows, one bullet lodging a few inches above the crib in which their baby slept. Everyone in the room listened with wide-eyed wonder to the stories they told. During the Q&A following their sharing, one woman asked them if they felt safe in that environment. To which the wife replied, “I wouldn’t feel safe anywhere else, because I know this is where God wants me to be.”
In his celebrated children’s book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis tells of the adventures of four children in the magical kingdom of Narnia. Narnia is ruled by a lion named Aslan who is a type of Christ from the New Testament. When the creatures of Narnia are telling the children about Aslan, prior to their meeting him, Susan asks, “Is he safe?” To which one of the creatures responds, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he is good. He is the King.”
Over the years I have come to realize that living for Jesus is not safe but it is secure. Daily God calls His children to the front lines where they are to take a stand for Him, deny self, pick up their crosses and follow Him. Those front lines may be an office in Truckee, California or on the field of some foreign land.
What is it that we mean when we pray for our own safety or the safety of others? What if the very things from which we are praying to be hidden or protected are the very things that God is intending to use in shaping us into the image of His Son and through us to reveal His glory?
Ignoring his own safety, Dietrich Bonhoeffer dared to speak out against the Nazi regime and their pogroms against the Jews. Speaking from the heart of God cost him his freedom and eventually his life, but when you read his writings from prison you find yourself reading the words of a man who was ultimately free, secure in the fact that he was doing the will of God (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy). In the mid 1950’s young Jim Elliot and four of his friends felt God’s call to take the gospel to a tribe of notorious headhunters in the jungles of Equator (Through Gates of Splendor). Whether it was safe or not was not the question, following God’s will and knowing that they were secure in that, was what motivated them to make contact with the Aucas. For their efforts they were all speared to death by the very ones they sought to lead to Christ. But their murders opened up the door of opportunity for Elizabeth Elliot and her young daughter Valerie to move to the Auca village and share the gospel with the very men that killed her husband (The Savage, My Kinsmen).
Like little Lucy inquiring of Aslan, we too must realize that Jesus is not safe, but He is good. He is the King. And what is it that He asks of His children? Only, everything. Which becomes increasingly easier when what it is that He has done for us truly breaks upon our hearts. Living for Jesus isn’t safe, nobody ever said it was. Jesus warned would-be-followers again and again that there would be costs to following Him. Jesus promised us that if we are going to live our lives fully for Him, the world will hate us (John 15:18-19). Which, He followed up with this statement, “These things I have spoken to you, so that you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).