This past summer I was able to go to a small town in the middle-of-nowhere Utah named Duchesne (pronounced Du-shane) for the third time in the past three years. It's always an exciting experience to be a part of a short-term missions trip but one aspect of short-term missions has rang true in every instance. I've often thought with regret the reality that I will probably never see the people I've met throughout my stay ever again. All that can be held between us are the memories and experiences we shared in two weeks or however long we served together. When I dwell on this thought I often find myself getting discouraged, but when I was recently in Cambodia one phrase, shared with a good friend I had met while serving, has stuck with me. As we were all saying our goodbyes, I wanted to make sure I said farewell to a brother I had become very close with over the two weeks I was serving in Battambang. The parting words we shared were as follows:
"If not again in this life, then in the Kingdom."
It was such a simple statement, and yet the weight it carries couldn't be more significant. It's not a goodbye, but an until then. It provides so much room for God to do a great and mighty work.
When one speaks the phrase I mentioned above, they are completely turning over all control to God's will and plan, not only in this physical world but in the eternal life God has provided for us. They understand that despite the great memories and joys we share, if it is God's will that we only spend those two weeks serving together in our earthly existence, then that is His will. God has sovereignty over every situation and whether He allows us to cross paths again, is entirely up to Him alone.
The second part of the until then is even more important. In use of this phrase, one is submitting to God's plan of salvation and complete faith in Christ crucified and Christ resurrected. There is no doubt about our meeting again in God's Kingdom, as a faith in Christ as Lord ensures this. There will never be a reason to be upset at goodbyes, as the Great Reunion we will take part in will bring together the Body of Christ, from every nation and every generation. Although we often experience sadness and pain at parting, we can hold fast to the truth that the Body of Christ will one day embrace those we may never again see during our earthly stay.
This truth provides me with a great sense of encouragement as I have been on several short-term missions trips, each filled with many great sons and daughters of God. If I had not the hope I would one day see them again in this life or the life hereafter, it could possibly have the potential to detract from my desire to serve on missions, despite my knowledge of the world and its dire need for the Gospel.
But that is the beauty about the Gospel we preach. It really is fail-safe. Where the world threatens with death, Christ promises life. Where the world tries to degrade, Christ lifts us up. Where the world looks upon us as broken, wretched, and hopeless sinners, Christ sees us through a lens of love, a love that would sacrifice itself for the very same sinner the world condemns.
I don't know how many times I have written this but I don't think I could say it enough: I serve a God that is so much more than what this world has to offer. Every pleasure from every sin in the world could not ever amount to the love, grace, peace, mercy, and compassion my Lord had, has, and continues to have for me.
One of my favorite authors, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, once said this concerning faith in Christ while living in this broken world:
“I discovered later, and I'm still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.”
Faith in Christ is by no means a crutch or handicap. Faith in Christ is not a display of weakness. It is not something we show or reflect to make us feel good about ourselves or our actions. Faith in Christ is submission to the ultimate plan of the universe. It is a white-flag raised by the broken, it is a cry for comfort from the lonely. It is the answer to the one that is tired of searching for real purpose in this world.
Faith in Christ is the Way, the only Way to true purpose. Politically incorrect, ignorant, and intolerant as it may seem, wouldn't you want someone to tell you if they had truth and what you believed was wrong? Can two beliefs be true at the same time if one contradicts the other?
Search no more, the answer is Jesus.