I'll be going on a mission trip to Guyana in a few weeks. A small group of us from Barbados will be supporting a local pastor there who works with the Amerindian peoples of the interior.
The reaction I typically get from people when I mention I am going to do missionary work is often to label me as what I call a "super-Christian".
There's a feeling that I must be some sort of a "spiritual superhero" - more perfect than the average Christian, have a direct line to God, pray constantly, never sin, have a special anointing or power, am able to go over and beyond in faith and possess a high level of spiritual discipline.
This is not true.
Treasure in Clay Jars
I mess up frequently. I am sometimes stubborn. Wilful. God has a lot of work to do in me, even after 14 years of being a Christian. Just this past week, I could have exercised better judgement, listened to the Holy Spirit, and been more prudent in two situations. I have asked God to forgive my poor decisions.
My prayer points for this week are that God will help me to cultivate a calm, submissive spirit, greater respect for earthly authorities, a spirit of discernment, purity and greater devotion. My prayer for a renewed spirit is like David's in Psalm chapter 51 verse I thank God that He doesn't give up until the job is finished (Philippians chapter 1 verse 16).
As Christians, we don't have to be perfect to serve God. This is not to say we have a license to live anyway we like and to keep sinning. It means that we are not relying on our own actions to save ourselves (Ephesians chapter 2 verses 8 to 9). We know that it is only through belief in Jesus Christ that we are made right with God.
As Christians, we are each a work in progress. You don't have to be perfect to be a Christian. "Perfection" is not in our job description. Only Jesus Christ is perfect. We Christians are being perfected- we undergo a process of becoming more like Christ daily (Philippians chapter 3 verse 14 and Hebrews chapter 3 verse 1). God's expectation of us is that we will mature and grow in faith and obedience.
After all, when you become a Christian, God gives you a new spirit: His. This spirit changes your desires. It makes you want to do the right things that please God and the power to do it.
The danger of being "too perfect"
On the other end of the spectrum, there is a danger that our sense of our own perfection, our feeling that we "have it all together" and are doing all the right things can blind us to our desperate need for God. In this state, we often don't realize our wretched state and the high cost Jesus paid to redeem us and reconcile us back to God.
Jesus told a story of two men who prayed very different prayers in Luke chapter 18 verses 9 to 14. One man was a priest who did everything right in the eyes of others and the other was a tax collector who was considered with derision by many and shunned by the Jews. How they prayed revealed a lot. Jesus said:
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' [Jesus said] "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
May we never stray too far from the cross to remember its significance.
If you are a Christian and your heart is stirred about missions, think about it seriously and pray. Ask God where to go and ask him to prepare you.
He will send you at the right time. Don't allow your awareness of your own frailties to prevent you from moving forward to where God is calling you.
Sharma considers herself a child of the Caribbean, but when she arrived in New Zealand, she discovered that she is also a kiwi at heart. She holds a PhD in Law from the Victoria University of Wellington.
Sharma Taylor's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sharma-taylor.html