“Get Busy Livin’ Or Get Busy Dyin'”
I was personally affected by the lives and accounts of the following three martyrs in the book “A Martyr’s Grace” because of the fact that all of them seemed to die—from a human perspective—“too soon” & “before their time”:
1. Ancel Edwin Allen. This child of God and pilot was martyred in Mexico in 1956 at the age of 33 only one month after beginning his missionary service for the LORD. I too had the same reaction that many people have had upon learning of Mr. Allen’s life: “Why this waste?”
2. Eleanor E. Chesnutt M.D. This daughter of God and doctor was martyred inChinain 1905 at the age of 37, just eleven years after finishing her long medical education. Again, after reading about her incredible life, I had the same reaction again: “Why such a waste? Why did God allow her to die so young after she had worked so hard and for so long to prepare for His work?
3. Bonnie Penner Witherall. This daughter of God and clinic worker was martyred inLebanonin 2002 at the age of 31 just two years after having graduated from Moody. Again, I became frustrated when reading about her amazing brief life. Why would God allow her to be killed so young?
God has been helping me process through the following notion that I have had over the years: that while our lives are important and valuable to God, we are therefore somehow “indispensable” in the roles we occupy in life regarding the unfolding of God’s work, will, and plan. Believing the latter part of the previous statement makes it so difficult to comprehend a life ended as “soon” as the missionaries listed above. Why would God “waste” such important lives as the three people above, especially when God “needs” His children to do His work in the world since “the harvest is plenty and the workers are few”?
Well, the short answer is, God doesn’t need us. It’s a conundrum, but even though God has chosen us His people to be His ambassadors on this earth, even though God does work through His people, even though for example when one has an infection in the United States God often does heal us through the antibiotics prescribed by doctors, despite all that, He still doesn’t need us. As I begin to embrace this truth that I don’t fully (or even partly!) comprehend, I can feel my soul beginning to be freed from the pressure that comes with thinking that God needs us, with thinking that “If I don’t go and do this/that then no one will,” “If I don’t go and present the Gospel to certain people than they have no opportunity for heaven and will therefore be punished in hell forever because of my laziness.” We are blessed to have the opportunity to be apprenticed by God because of how it draws us closer to Him, because of how it helps our love for and faith in Him and delight towards Him to grow. We are not apprenticed by God primarily for the skill/trade that He is teaching us. That is quite necessarily secondary to the apprenticeship.
And so as I continue to strive to do the work God is teaching me to the best of my ability, I am reminding myself more consistently that it is my relationship with God that matters even more, it is my intimate time/fellowship with God that is more important than any work I do in His name. And thus, if the LORD calls me home with my ministry and family work “unfinished,” I can rest in the fact that He will ultimately complete that work in His own good timing and in His own perfect way. Such a life devoted to Jesus is never wasted, just as shoes that are dedicated to clothing feet for running and walking are not wasted when they fall apart after three months of usage. They were not wasted because they didn’t last longer; they were used precisely as they were created to be used…
…The purpose of purchasing a pair of shoes is not to keep them in perfect condition (though of course it is important to take care of them to the best of our ability); rather, the purpose of purchasing a pair of shoes is to put them on, walk in them, run in them, skip in them, and use them to walk over terrain unfit for bare feet. So may the LORD slip His feet into us—and may we LET HIM—and walk in us, using our “soles” to show His love, grace, mercy, and truth to anyone willing to listen, to anyone paying attention.