Growing with Our Father
I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
I questioned my decision to go on a mission trip. Not because I hadn’t traveled before. Mexico, Puerto Rico, New York City, Colombia, Spain, Tunisia, and China sat in my rearview mirror when it came to places in which I witnessed for Christ—going to the uttermost parts of the earth. For some reason, though, the thought of this trip to Tanzania brought me discomfort.
The trip carried the description “extreme.” Sleeping in tents, squatty-potties, vaccinations, twenty-five plus hours in the air (not to mention long layovers), bumpy dirt roads, cramped ferry rides, spiritual battles, language barriers, hut-to-hut evangelism. Oh, yeah! Now I remember why I struggled with this trip!
One familiar face signed up too, but not my wife—no comfort from her presence. One word repeatedly weighed on my mind: UNCOMFORTABLE. I regretted signing up and felt guilty for feeling that way. God and I took part in some interesting discussions during the weeks leading up to our departure. I confessed my discomfort to him while reasserting my commitment to go.
The day of departure arrived, and the trek began. Arriving at Mwanza International Airport tired and weary, I waited and waited for my luggage. It never showed up. No sleeping bag, no tent, no beef jerky, no candy, no granola bars. No powdered drink mix, no medicine, no shaving kit, no extra clothes. Just my backpack. Okay, God. I think you’re trying to make a point. God threw my comfort out the window, choosing to take me down a path of personal growth on this trip, unlike my experiences on those past trips.
I considered my relationship with God strong, but he wanted it stronger. I trusted God, but he wanted more trust. My illusion of control erased itself dramatically as I confronted the reality of utter dependence. His hand clearly showed up in every one of my uncomfortable circumstances.
We pulled away from the airport without my suitcase, but God had packed a bag for me. He filled it with trouble and testing, hunger and thirst, humility and grace, peace and provision. He said, “Ryan, I am what you need for this trip, not the things you brought. Not your past experiences, not your self-reliance, not your strengths or your gifts. I am all you need, and I am here.” God created a plan to stretch me, mold me, and make me more like his Son.
I reflected on the situation. Jesus felt the aches and pains of personal growth and trusted his Father. He modeled walking this kind of path and calls us to follow his example. Jesus learned to stay still and know his Father more deeply and intimately even in the pain. He set his eyes on his Father’s business and learned to prioritize his relationships for the sake of the kingdom. Jesus learned to deny his natural cravings for supernatural satisfaction. Instead, he entered the discipline of prayer and fasting and learned to feed on the Word of God.
Growth defines the path of a Christ-follower. Natural growth comes, well, naturally to us. Supernatural growth, however, requires more. More cooperation, purpose, and intention. Going across the ocean, crossing cultural barriers, sharing the gospel with the lost comes with aches and pains . . . but also growth.
Written By Ryan Rasberry