“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” - Philippians 2:3-4
I would say that I am a fairly competitive person. I have always participated in competitive sports, and I worked hard in school to be become a doctor. My husband’s favorite line from Talladega Nights sums it up – “if you ain’t first, you’re last”.
When I started participating in short term missions, I usually stuck with medical mission trips which were well within my comfort zone. I could provide medical care for people, pray for them and serve in a way that made me feel accomplished at the end of the day. In 2016, I was on a trip to Tanzania to serve in a medical capacity, but when we arrived there I was notified that the medical part of the trip didn’t really work out, and that I would be on an evangelism team instead. Seriously? I had no strategy, preparedness, or plan of action. Sure, I had participated in all of the training calls prior to the trip, but I didn’t really think I would have to be out there on the ground doing the real evangelism.
I was full of insecurity that week, and I didn’t feel like a successful evangelist. How was it that all of the other team members reported back at the end of each day that they had something like 15-20 new people profess faith, but many days I had zero? Zero is a losing number, right? It seemed that I wasn’t keeping up with the other team members at all, and I thought surely, they must have been shaking their heads at my lowly numbers. Oh, the self-inflicted frustration I endured during some of those ministry days! Don’t get me wrong, I still had an amazing and beautiful week discipling a small group of local women in the area that I was working, and those are memories that I will cherish forever. However, I allowed my competitiveness and pride to steal some of the joy out of the experience.
Thankfully, the Lord used that experience to help me to understand that doing HIS work is not about MY perceived success or failure. It is about humbling myself to be a willing and obedient servant, thankful for the opportunity to participate WITH HIM in this work.
In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul was asking the Philippian church to imitate the humility of Christ as a servant. Paul wanted the church to understand that they had to share the same mind, the same love and the same spirit to be effective witnesses for Christ. Competition, jealousy and individual successes were not to be a part of how the church completed its work. The body of Christ exists to serve and worship the Lord, and nothing else.
You may be challenged with all sorts of feelings during your short-term mission – pride, frustration, insecurity, etc. If these feeling occur, take them to the Lord in prayer, and then focus more on your own humility and gratitude for the incredible work in which you are participating. Humble yourself to lift up and encourage a team member, even if you are feeling a little fried. Humble yourself to learn from all of the diverse people you meet. Humble yourself to simply and obediently proclaim the message of God’s love, without taking the credit or the blame for how the message is received. Humble yourself to rest in the knowledge that God’s perfect plan will be achieved with or without you, but that right now you have the incredible opportunity to be a participant in advancing His eternal kingdom.
- Amy Howe