The Expulsive Power of a New Affection …part 2

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Roberta Winter writes further regarding “the expulsive power of a new affection…”

“For Peter, fishing for mere fish lost its attraction…

The very proper young Wesley abandoned his high church connections for the field and mining camps because God’s hand was on him …

Carey, just a poor village cobbler, became history’s foremost missionary statesman …

Wilberforce poured his riches into legislation for the slaves …

And the list goes on….

I’ve often wondered, given the chance, what Christ would have done with the rich young ruler – the only one about whom it is written, ‘Jesus looked at him and loved him.’ But he ended up a rich unknown. Could he have become a Paul, a Luther, a Wesley?

But he was rich and ‘the attractions of this world and the delights of wealth, and the search for success and lure of nice things came in and crowded out God’s message from his heart, so that no crop was produced.’ (Mark 4:19)”


These are timely, poignant and convicting reminders.

Early in our ministry, Patty and I become friends with a young attorney and his wife. Through an array of ministry involvements, the husband had tasted some incredible results in the lives of people and was seriously considering whether God would have them change careers and pursue a role with CRM in vocational ministry. He was thoroughly infected with the ministry “bug.”

I vividly remember the evening in our living room when the discussion turned to the lifestyle cost of such a decision and the atmosphere became tense. His wife, with great emotion and through tears vowed: “I cannot and will not make the sacrifices this will require nor will I deprive my children of the things I want to give them.”

It was a contemporary “rich young ruler experience” and my heart broke for them. Sadly, it is not the only such experience like this that we have observed over the years. And we ourselves are not immune.

Peter Marshall in one of his prayers captures it well when he wrote:

“Forbid it Lord, that our roots become too firmly attached to this earth, that we should fall in love with things. Help us to understand that the pilgrimage of life is but an introduction, a preface, a training school for what is to come.

Then shall we see all of life in its true perspective. Then shall we not fall in love with the things of time, but come to love the things that endure. Then shall we be saved from the tyranny of possessions which we have no leisure to enjoy; of prosperity whose care becomes a burden. Give us, we pray, the courage to simplify our lives.”


God, may you give us “the expulsive power of a new affection.”

4 Responses to “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection …part 2”

  1. Keith Says:

    Sam,

    This is becoming more challenging to me as I enter my 40s. As a young, unencumbered guy in his 20s I began my ministry career. I wanted my life to count for eternal things and not just make money. I went for it in ministry and didn’t worry about money. God would provide, and He did.

    Now, 15 years, 2 kids, and 3 countries later I’m feeling that lifestyle decision more acutely. I’m looking at my meager retirement, savings, and no house, and wondering if I acted financially responsible enough in my 20s and 30s.

    What will “going for it” and not worrying about money all those years mean to my kids? College is coming, relocation to the States isn’t out of the question, we’d like a more comfortable lifestyle after all the years of doing without, and retirement is 20 years away.

    I don’t regret my decision to focus on the eternal and not worry about accumulating money/stuff. And yet, I now face new challenges that I didn’t foresee when I was in my 20s. Counting the costs in your 20s, when it doesn’t cost much, is easier than when you’re in your 40s or 50s and bills and financial obligations are much higher.

    Other missionary friends have experienced this too. I wonder if this is one of the reasons for missionaries leaving the field around the 10-15 year mark? What can we do about it other than patronize them by saying, The Lord provided then and He’ll provide in the future too? (Usually said by those who have never had to live it.)

  2. Sam Says:

    Keith:

    Thanks for your candor and your vulnerability. What you describe IS one of the big reasons some of those serving in ministry like you throw in the towel when they reach mid-life.

    I remember having a similar conversation with someone who was very experienced, had paid a heavy price to enculterate, learn a language, and move to another people group, and he and his family were having a substantive, powerful ministry. Yet he lamented “When I go back to the States, I see all my friends and the things they have – their houses, cars, high paying jobs, private schools, vacation possibilities, etc., and I can’t help but believe I could have had the same thing …I was actually better educated and as capable.” They returned to the States.

    You are right. The cost changes as we age. It goes up. I certainly didn’t see it or appreciate it during the idealism of my 20s.

    On one hand, I don’t think that the sacrifice we are called to is an excuse for not being a good steward and “providing for my immediate family …” I Timothy 5:8. I don’t believe any of us whom God has clearly called into vocational ministry can hide behind the commitment inherent in my calling to ignore my responsibilities.

    So because I know you and your situation, I’d like to talk about why your retirement is “meager.” You have the option of doing something about that. You have the option of planning for children’s education. There are things you can do from where you at this juncture in life to better prepare for the future.

    And I don’t beleive this is all an individual responsiblity. As men and women who are part of an extended community pursuing God’s leading in Kingdom pursuits, there is a communal aspect to this issue that does go beyond the strictly personal.

    On the other hand, I cannot avoid in my own life the the call to a lifestyle of discipleship and the inevitable sacrifice inherent in it. As John Piper so poignantly puts it:

    “When the world sees millions of “retired” Christians pouring out the last drops of their lives with joy for the sake of the unreached peoples and with a view toward heaven, then the supremacy of God will shine. He does not shine as brightly in the posh, leisure-soaked luxury condos on the outer rings of our cities.” (pg. 111 in “Let the Nations Be Glad”)

    And you know the list of examples of those upon whose shoulders we stand. The list goes on and on …

    For exammple, Amy Carmichael, who as a young girl left Englad and lived and served in India for 50 years with out a furlough, “Her life was the most fragrant, the most joyfully sacrificial, that I have ever known” one biographer wrote.

    Or Samuel Zwemer, after fifty years of labor among Muslims which included the loss of two young children wrote “The sheer joy of it all . . . gladly would I do it all over again.”

    Or both Hudson Taylor of China and the infamous David Livingston in Africa, after a life of extraordinary hardship and loss said “I never made a sacrifice.”

    But I find that even those examples and all the exhortations of history and scripture don’t completely satisfy in the darkness at 3:00 am in the morning as I am wide awake and wrestling with such issues. For me it boils down to: “Is my life really going to count with these decisions I have made?” and “Is God there and is he going to take care of me and mine?”

    For me, it is in those moments that I have to somehow do real business …deep business …with Jesus. And in my experience, it is not a one time thing.

    I know that can sound like I am spiritualizing or even as you say, “patronizing.” But I know of no other way to state it. At least that is how it is in my own journey to this point.

  3. Keith Says:

    Sam,

    I appreciate what you had to say. I think the mission community needs to hear more about the increasing costs as missionaries enter their 30s, 40s, and 50s: kids’ education, health issues, retirement, peer envy, etc. so that we are not shocked by it one day, having heard little about it before.

    For those missionary Pillars to say, “I never made a sacrifice,” is the result of working through counting the costs many times during their lives. Not just once in their 20s. But again after each milestone or tragedy.

    So, I think it would be helpful to hear more of the mid-40s “recounting of the costs” struggle stories. Those would encourage and provide examples of how others have matured. It IS a maturing process.

    In my original response I was speaking for myself of 3-4 years ago and for some of my friends who were going through the same thing.

    Two of us have worked through the “recounting of the costs” and taken many practical steps toward preparing an additional foundation that will keep us out on the field another 10 years at least. We first had to answer the deep questions of, “Is it worth it?” “Am I doing something so worthwhile that it’s worth the sacrifice?” I think a lot of missionaries can’t answer that, and this is way they leave the field.

    On the ministry strategy side, I made two sets of adjustments to get my ministry more in line with what God has been calling me to do. Habit and the inertia of life had me doing things that weren’t right on target. By sharpening my ministry focus, that did a lot for me to say, “This is exactly what God wants me to be doing right now.” That knowledge makes it easy to recount the costs and keep going!

    On the practical side: We raised 20% more $ a month. We quadrupled our retirement/long-term savings over 3 years. We moved to a place better suited for our family for the long-term. My friend bought a cabin way up north in Canada on a lake and goes there each year with his family to establish “roots” and how-to-live-in-Canada for his High School kids.

    These financial things required us to think differently about our finances. Not like a guy in his 20s, but as a mid-career person. It was a natural progression in thinking to move from my more focused, mature ministry strategy to realistically figuring out what I need financially speaking to be able to do that strategy. For me, it meant thinking not just about ministry expenses, but more about our family’s long-term investments.

    That’s my story in a nutshell. I’d like to hear more stories of “recounting the costs” struggles. Those stories will nicely sandwich in-between the give-it-all-up-for-Jesus-in-your-20s stories, and the I-never-made-a-sacrifice stories of those who finished well. Prayerfully, many more people can make the transition into mid-life ministry successfully.

  4. Sam Says:

    Thanks for the well-stated explanation. I couldn’t agree more!

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