by Helen Louise Herndon
Walking by faith not only gives glory to God it also adds spice to life as it promotes adventure and character traits so foreign to a world or life without Christ.
The peak period of the North American volunteer missionary movement seems to me to have taken place between 1940 and 1975. This period was characterized by hundreds of thousands of Christians willing to walk by faith, that is, setting off for cultures and lands to which they had never been by trusting God’s personal leading and direction in their lives. Our missionary heroes bravely faced the unknown in what they considered to be an act of obedient faith. They were willing to do no less than Abraham and Sarah, who left Ur of the Chaldees to travel far and wide by simply trusting God’s leading. These more recent heroes willingly followed models such as Hudson Taylor and Amy Carmichael.
I vividly remember The Michelangelo, an Italian ocean liner, slowly and quietly distancing itself from New York’s harbor in August, 1970, on its way to Italy and France. A passenger, I traveled alone to France and eventually to North Africa as a first-term missionary, though I had never left the shores of this country. As I think back to those days, I cannot help but think what courage, what colossal faith we had by today’s standards.
That brings us to today. There is a crisis of faith facing both evangelical churches and missions. It seems such faith, which was greatly instrumental in reaching diverse cultures and people for Christ in bygone days, is missing. On the rise today is the need to visit or serve a short-term mission trip before committing to long-term ministry in another culture or country. Such epic loss of faith is not only endemic in the missions arena; it has apparently hit local church ministries as well.
For example, I am serving on a senior-pastor search committee for a very large, influential church in the metropolitan St. Louis area. As we began our search, I anticipated the awe and wonder of God leading the search committee and the man he chose to come together through steps of faith. One recent experience with a prime candidate caused me great chagrin. Though he had graduated from a Christian college where the life of faith was once promoted and is distinguished by alumni who became martyrs for Christ, and though he served in a church known worldwide for an emphasis on faith, he seemed to depend totally upon information gathering. This candidate talked to everyone possible who knew anything about the church, and he sought ironclad agreements before even considering accepting a call.
Lest there be a misunderstanding, I am not suggesting anyone should walk into a ministry totally ignorant of the people or pertinent facts bearing upon the ministry or call. However, somewhere a point is reached when only God can make clear the call to the man or woman considering a new ministry. Such a call will necessitate a step of faith into the unknown, trusting that God knows what he is doing.
Walking by faith not only gives glory to God, who alone is worthy of such glory, it also adds spice to life as it promotes adventure and character traits so foreign to a world or life without Christ. Walking by faith is not recklessness, but it certainly enhances what could otherwise be a very dull life. Those who walk by faith are brave and courageous people. They demonstrate intimacy with God, who is also deeply personal.
With all the church-growth and missionary strategies permeating the evangelical scene today, we would do well to return to the faith of our fathers and promote living by faith. If the just really do live by faith, their lives will be an adventure which both distinguishes Christianity from other religions and philosophies and enhances a winsome testimony to draw many others to Christ. Living and walking by faith equals living and walking a miracle. God knows such miracles play a definite role in world redemption, whether that blood-bought redemption be applied locally or globally.
Isn’t the time propitious in evangelical missions, as well as in the evangelical church, to again respect such heroes who were willing to exercise exceptional faith and obedience? Isn’t it time to emulate their walk with Christ in our lives and churches today? We might find a whole new generation of young Christians drawn to attempt great feats on Christ’s behalf. One thing is sure: We would know in fact that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and he is faithful to guide and direct his faithful servants.
Helen Louise Herndon, a graduate of Columbia Bible College, was a missionary with North Africa Mission, now Arab World Ministries.
Copyright © 1999 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.