A Message From Matthew Ellison about Summer Missions

What are summer mission trips all about?  By now, most of you have realized that summer mission trips are not summer camp.  Summer missions is not about more of those clever summer youth events that give you those spiritual goose bumps that are here today and gone tomorrow.

It is about a lifelong challenge to a lifestyle of reckless abandonment to God and His plans to make His glory and love known in all the earth.

Let me say that once more:

It is about a lifelong challenge to a lifestyle of reckless abandonment to God and His plans to make His glory and love known in all the earth.

A summer mission is boot camp for soldiers of the cross — what I call “preparation for the rest of your life.” And the reason I call it that is because true soldiers of the cross don’t fight eight hours and then clock out – they don’t go on one summer mission and then go AWOL –  (ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE). That’s right, true soldiers are always on active duty. They’re not interested in comfort — or having a nice safe little comfortable Christian life — they’re consumed by the cause of Christ. True soldiers will fight until the Lord comes or until they die fighting.

 Today I want to be brutally honest with all of you soldiers regarding a most essential aspect of missions, one that is often overlooked. Some of you may know this, others may think you know it, but it hasn’t actually sunk in deep yet:  the advancement and fulfillment of God’s kingdom (which by the will happen, because God said it would – Matthew 24:14) has an enormous price. That price is suffering.
In discussing suffering, my intention is not to scare any of you away from missions, but rather entice you towards missions. Because it is through suffering for the sake of Jesus that come some of the most unbelievable and unspeakable joy available to us this side of heaven. A willingness to suffer for something is called passion. The word passion is used very loosely today — we use it to describe our love for food, cars, our hobbies, and our past times… I’m not sure what passion is to you but to me real passion is what you hunger so intensely for you’ll sacrifice anything to have it.  “Suffer” is actually the root meaning of the word passion – It’s the Latin word passerre, which means to suffer.This one thing mattered more to the apostle Paul than anything else, it came before everything else. He had a singularity if purpose, a one track mind. Paul was a soldier of the cross who was willing to suffer for the sake of spreading the Gospel, and he did suffer.  He suffered immensely. He considered his life and his comfort not in comparison to telling the world about Jesus. Paul loved Jesus Christ and His Gospel more than his own life.  When Paul was converted and about to be called into the ministry, the Lord told Ananias that Paul would suffer immensely.
If you and I will truly embrace God’s mandate to tell all nations of His glory, He will show us the very same thing; we must suffer for His name. Advancing God’s kingdom cost Paul his time, money, sweat, blood, comfort, tears, years, but something it never cost him was his joy.  I want you to grasp this truth firmly.  Following Jesus cost Paul everything.  Everything that is, except his fulfillment.

Paul’s sacrifices were incredible, but one thing he never gave up was his joy. He never gave up his incredible gladness. His epistles are filled with references of joy, joy, and more joy. In fact the depth of his fulfillment, I believe, was directly related to his willingness to suffer for the sake of God’s glory. Don’t misunderstand this, I don’t think Paul enjoyed pain and difficulty; he wasn’t a glutton for punishment. He wasn’t a weirdo who wore a sandwich signboard that said “Get right or get left, turn or burn – Jesus saves” just to irritate people. But suffering for the sake of the Gospel caused Paul to rejoice, even celebrate.  Why?  Because Jesus Christ was worthier to Paul than anything.

There is a move today even within Evangelical Christianity, I’m sad to say towards ease, towards comfort, towards safety and away from danger, away from trial, away from difficulty and pain and away from the battle. It is so widespread that none of us are immune to it. Many have adopted the same consumer comfort culture of western society and we’ve done so at the death of our very fulfillment.  We’ve bought the lie and we’ve forgotten that we are engaged in a war. We’ve traded a shadow for reality and in doing so we’ve traded immeasurable joy for lousy fleeting mediocrity. In our quest for fulfillment, we’ve lost the very thing that we’ve gone after. Because the priorities of evangelicals are out of whack our joy and fulfillment are relatively small.
“Receive Jesus and everything will be okay.  Try Jesus and you will be happy.  Try Jesus and your life will be happy.  Try Jesus and things will work out for you.”
First, you don’t try God.  You try a new flavor of ice cream, you try a new hairstyle.  But you don’t try the Lord God Almighty; you don’t try the awful ineffable Lord of glory who is described as a consuming fire.  He should invade our lives and consume us.  Secondly,  in our appeals there is little mention that we must deny and die to ourselves, and be prepared to suffer.  Yet Jesus’ appeal was based on just that, “If you want to follow me you must take up y our cross daily.  You must be prepared to suffer and die.”
So many say “yes” to Jesus, not because it’s the right thing to do; not because Jesus is worth it; not because He is infinitely glorious; not because they realize the depth of their sin and their need of a loving savior; not because eternity is at stake. But because they simply want a better life for themselves. Let me make something perfectly clear here: God does give us a better life! He gives us an amazingly adventurous and overwhelmingly abundant life; however, not when we come to Him on ourterms but on His terms. When you die it’s THEN that you really begin to live. With Jesus you get life when you lose it. The Gospel is not a self-help program, a 12-step plan to a peachy life, a pathway to smooth and easy living.  It is not about psychological soothing. The Gospel is about the One True and Living Lord God Almighty and His indescribable glory and the salvation of the world that He created and died for and so desperately loves. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who would believe and that’s why Paul was not ashamed of it. Christianity that puts our comfort and our good above God’s glory is a gospel that has man at the center rather than God.   Such a gospel is anemic and without power, and without God’s mighty presence. No wonder many often lack the fearless courage to place our lives at risk for the sake of the Gospel. Many people have come to Jesus based on an appeal in which the Gospel was all about them rather than being all about Jesus. Rather than being all about His invincible, eternal purpose to populate heaven with worshippers from all nations, tribes, and tongues.
Many people often come to me and ask about getting involved in missions, which thrills me, but it is also bittersweet when I get asked questions like these:
Question:  Is it safe?

Answer:  Whoever said you’d be safe in the call of God? Eternal destinies are at stake!Question:  Will my children be safe?

AnswerI have kids and I love them so much, but I’ve realized that they aren’t mine; they’ve only been loaned to me.   Furthermore, is it safe anywhere?
Question:  What are the conditions like?  Is it comfortable?  Are there showers and beds?  Will I get sick?  What is the food like and if I don’t like it do I have to eat it anyway?
The Real Question:  In all such questions what they’re really asking is…will it cost me anything?
We should be asking questions like:“Are there people who need Jesus there, who are hurting, hungry and broken, lost and lonely?”  “Will there be opportunities to lay down my life for God’s glory?”  “Will I get to sacrifice my comfort for the sake of others?”

You know what I’ve discovered? I’ve discovered that the people whose priorities are, welllet’s just say they’re not focused on eternity, are usually the ones who lack peace, who lack passion, who are easily upset and who lack a deep sense of eternal direction. While on the other hand those who are cavalier about their comfort, who would gladly lay down their lives, who sacrifice without complaint, are the most joyful, most satisfied, most glad people I’ve ever met.  So again, please understand that my purpose is not to make anyone feel guilty or bad whose priorities might be out of sync with God’s. But rather, to entice you to line up your priorities with God’s so you can receive the reward of genuine and lasting satisfaction and joy that He longs to bestow upon those He loves. Suffering is the Price of Personal Fulfillment.

Matthew 13:44-46
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”This hidden treasure was so valuable, so worthy to this man that he joyfully gave all he had to buy it.  He sacrificed, and you could say, in a sense that he suffered loss. We measure of the worth of God’s Kingdom and its advance by what we will gladly give, suffer, and sacrifice to have it. If we’re willing to surrender all, than it has supreme worth. If not, then what we have is worthier than the kingdom to us. The extent of the man’s sacrifice and the depth of his joy reveal the worth he put on the treasure of God. When we joyfullyaccept suffering and sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom it shows the supremacy of God’s worth to us. What worth does the kingdom of God have to you? I came up with some questions to help you determine that:
Passion Test – don’t take it now; take it in your closet on your knees alone with God.
  • What do you spend your $ on?
  • What do you spend your time on?
  • What do you think about the most?
  • What do you pray about the most?
  • When you go to bed, when your awake – what’s on your mind?
  • What brings you the greatest joy?
  • What do you hunger for?
  • What are you willing to joyfully suffer for?

Make no mistake about it, the price tag of God’s Kingdom is suffering but notice it is not joy.  It may be dangerous, but it is not onerous.It may cost you your life, but it will not cost you your joy. A call to such radical living is not burdensome either; it is call to high and victorious satisfying living. When this man discovered that the treasure would cost all he had, he didn’t hesitate, he didn’t flinch, he didn’t say, “O that sure is a lot to pay – but I guess it’s worth it.” It says he rejoiced. He was fulfilled because by giving God and His kingdom preeminence he didn’t forsake joy, he found it. Do you want joy unspeakable in your life?  Do you want to be refined?   Do you want rich character?  Do you want deep spiritual fulfillment? Then adopt a willingness to suffer and sacrifice for the sake of the kingdom.  I pray that as God’s soldiers all of you would not only be enlisted for life – but actually hooked for life.

For more information on how 16:15 can help unleash your church’s potential to reach the nations, call to talk with a Missions Coach at 505-248-1615, email info@1615.org or click here to visit our website.