I never wanted to be a missionary. Tramping through mosquito infested jungle was not on my "to do" list. Despite this, for some unfathomable reason, the idea kept niggling at the back of my mind.
Luckily, any time the suggestion got too insistent, I had a whole load of defences at the ready. Being a missionary is for other people. I can serve God right here. I can send money to other people who are missionaries. I can't share the Gospel. And possibly the worst one: it isn't part of my plan for my life.
Human beings are no strangers to giving flimsy excuses. One of God's biggest mouthpieces in the Old Testament, Moses, thought he had water-tight restrictions on his ability to serve God. God had other ideas.
When Moses was given his mission by God, his first response was "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" (Exodus chapter 3, verse 11). In modern terms, we might say, "I'm not the pastor or an elder or the super Christian who prays every hour of every day and has memorised the entire New Testament." It sounds almost like humility. It's not.
It's actually a rejection of God's ability to achieve what He purposes through whomever He chooses. God's response to Moses' objection was "I will be with you". Which suggests that when Moses says, "Who am I?" God effectively says, "It doesn't matter who you are, it matters who I am."
Moses' next line of defence was that they wouldn't believe him. This seems like a reasonable fear. You can imagine the Israelite slaves saying sarcastically, "Sure, God appeared to you. Of course he wants you to be a big military leader. How convenient that you were all alone when this happened." To counteract this possibility, God provides him with some pretty irrefutable proof (Exodus chapter 4, verses 2-9).
God knows best
When God calls us to serve him, our concern need not be whether people believe us or not, though belief is preferable. Our concern should be to faithfully do what He wants us to. We can let God's Holy Spirit work in others.
At this point, I imagine Moses is starting to worry that he might actually have to go and do what God has asked, so he fires off his last salvo: "I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." (Exodus chapter 4, verse 10). Surely God wouldn't appoint a stutterer as his messenger to Pharaoh!
Instead of saying, "Well, I guess you are right, you really don't have the skills for this job," God responds with a reminder that He is the One who controls human ability. Perhaps you have felt called to serve God and the thing stopping you is your lack of skills or resources. These are small obstacles to a God who created everything. He can provide us with the help we need. He did just that for Moses, teaming him up with his brother, Aaron, who complemented Moses' abilities perfectly.
The excuse to end all others
Now we get down to the crux of the issue. Exodus chapter 4, verse 13 is what makes me suspect that all the other objections were simply excuses. Here we discover the real reason when Moses begs, "Please send someone else." In essence, he simply doesn't want to go.
I see myself in Moses. I did not want to be a missionary. I had my excuses at the ready, but as I drew closer to God, He shot them all down. When the last one fell, I was left to confront the fact that I was simply saying, "Please send someone else, I don't want to."
God can change you
Of course, this isn't the best thing to be saying to Almighty God, the one whom I profess to love and follow. Something had to change and by God's grace it was me.
Once I gave up my own plans and seriously considered missionary work, God did something amazing. He replaced my excuses with a real desire to work overseas. This is not just a begrudging "I guess I have to because God says", but an inner excitement at the very thought of spending my life tramping through mosquito infested jungles to share the Good News of Jesus with those who have never heard it before.
Making excuses as to why we can't serve God is not wise. It is a joy and a blessing to serve God, and we don't want to miss out on that. The beauty of it is, when we are following God's calling and serving Him, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to discover our purpose in life.
So next time you feel God calling you to serve Him, whether it is chatting to a new person at church or dedicating your life to full-time mission work, throw your excuses away and let God change your heart to align with His good and perfect plan.
Lucinda is married to Simon, loves playing the cello and the violin, and has a longing to be out on the international mission field.
Lucinda Glover's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/lucinda-glover.html