Gloria and her husband, Dave, are missionaries. We asked Gloria to write a post to encourage other missionaries. She sent us this wonderful post on how grace makes for gutsy "prayer letters" home.
I know how tempting it is to write home in a prayer letter: “Friends, pray with us for… [insert hardship here]… that perhaps God might use it. Maybe.”? But Paul never wrote a prayer letter like that.
Chained to a prison guard, Paul wrote: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Phil. 1:12). So says Paul, the prisoner… the guy who can’t even go to the bathroom without a turnkey. How is it that “the very least of all the saints” preaches the unsearchable riches of Christ even from prison (Eph. 3:8-9)? And how is it that the church—revealed to be Christ’s unified, multiethnic bride—is an intergalactic “booyah” to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Eph. 3:10)? God who created all things was speaking his church into existence through a prisoner preaching the gospel. The only explanation for this is the shocking and subversive grace of God.
We would miss the point of Paul’s imprisonments if we marveled at how his ministry was unaffected by his chains. From the vantage point of God’s promise to strongly support us when we are weak, there was no better place for Paul to be than in that prison cell. God’s manifold wisdom was effectively displayed through Paul’s weakness, which left the rulers and authorities dumbfounded. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods” (Ps. 96:4, emphasis mine). So Paul tells his friends not to lose heart because of his suffering (Eph. 3:13).
Through the wisdom of God, cruciform ministry is his strength displayed through our weakness. Sometimes it makes me nervous to consider how Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). I prefer to look like I have it all together. Better yet, I prefer to actually have it all together. Oh, how I idolize my comfort! My mind needs to be continually renewed because I so quickly forget that supernatural ministry involves more than what meets the eye.
But praise Jesus! He promised that his grace would be sufficient, and it is. Jesus has always provided abundant grace for us over the five years we’ve served through church planting in the desert. As the manifold wisdom of God is displayed in his church, Christ is triumphing in such a way that it is obvious to the cosmos that he is the one doing the work. Jesus gets the glory for building his church in this place, and we get the joy. There may be scars and real pain along the way, but none worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us (Rom. 8:18).
Grace flips that first timid prayer request on its head: “Friends, pray with us in this hardship because God will show himself to be faithful beyond the shadow of a doubt. And we want to be ready to praise him in all things together with you.” Amen.