Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Some Have Said (God's Will Continued)

(I actually began this last week, but go sidetracked with a few other subjects...Sorry for the plethora of long posts. I will see what I can do about that!)

You may have heard it said, "The safest place to be is in the center of God's will." I have often wondered who said that. Well, I don't know if she was the first person to say it, but Betsy ten Boom did say, "The center of God's will is our only safety." Her sister might be a little more well known, Corrie ten Boom. During War World II, the ten Boom family became a safe haven for those running from the Nazis. Four members of the ten Boom family died for their commitment to Christ and their dedication to helping their fellow man. Betsy died at the age of 59 at Ravensbruck, a concentration camp near Berlin, Germany. Betsy and Corrie were the only Christians at the camp, and they not only witnessed to the Jewish women in the camp, but lead Bible studies and prayed for the guards daily.

I think I understand what Betsy meant when she made this statement, and I admire her for the life that she and her family lived. However, I do not agree with the statement. Before you judge me, let me explain. :)

Throughout Christian history there have been martyrs. In Acts, we read how Stephen was stoned to death. According to www.gospelweb.net an average of 465 Christians are murdered each day for their faith. Foxe's Book of Martyrs was first published in 1563. More recently DC Talk published a book entitled Jesus Freaks: DC Talk and the Voice of the Martyrs. Wikipedia lists the following people as martyrs:
  • James, son of Zebedee
  • Phillip the Apostle
  • Simon Peter
  • Paul
  • According to the list the only Apostle who wasn't martyred was John. He actually survived being cooked in boiling oil.
  • Polycarp
  • Origen of Alexandria
  • And a lot of people I had never heard of
Of course you could add many others to the list:
  • Jim Elliot
  • Ed McCully
  • Roger Youderian
  • Peter Fleming
  • Nate Saint
  • Bill Koehn
  • Kathy Gariety
  • Martha Myers
  • Bill Hyde
  • David McDonnall
  • Larry Elliott
  • Jean Elliott
  • Karen Watson
You may recognize some of those names. The first five are, of course, the five men who were killed by the Huaorani Indians in the jungles of Ecuador in 1956. Bill, Kathy, and Martha were killed in Yemen in 2002. Bill Hyde was killed by a bomb in the Philippines in 2003. They were all Southern Baptist missionaries that were serving during the same time I did. (I actually had the opportunity to take a position at the hospital in Yemen were the shooting occurred.) David, Larry, Jean, and Karen were attacked by terrorists in Iraq three years ago. David's wife, Carrie, was the lone survivor. They were also missionaries through the International Mission Board. By this time, I was in seminary, but David and Carrie had been students at SWBTS. While I never meet either of them, I was friends with several of their friends.

Lives Given, Not Taken- 21st Century Southern Baptist Martyrs was written by Erich Bridges and Jerry Rankin. It is a wonderful book that celebrates the lives of Bill, Kathy, Martha, Bill, David, Larry, Jean, and Karen. I typically do not write in books, but the pages of this book are filled with notes and other markings. Which brings me to the point of this post...

I feel pretty certain that each man and woman that I have mentioned and the millions that I have failed to mention felt they were filling the call of God on their lives. That they were in the center of God's will. However, it did not prove to be a safe place. Each missionary knows that they may not return from their assignment. My supervisor challenged me and the rest of my team, "Settle the time and place of your death now." Yes, missionaries could die on the field. They could also be in a car accident on their way to work here in the states. You never know, and you can't let fear keep you from following God's will for your life.

(My supervisor is no longer in East Asia. He and his family returned to the states for a few years, and eventually took a different assignment. They now serve in the North Africa and Middle East (NAME) region. They are probably in one of the most dangerous areas of the world.)

While it isn't anything personal against Betsy ten Boom, I think that a more accurate statement would be, "There is no better place to be than in the center of God's will." I might not always be safe, but there is no other place that I would rather be.

  • All historical information came from www.corrietenboom.com and http://www.freewebz.com/corrie_ten_boom/lifeattheconcentrationcamp.htm
  • Carrie McDonnall also has written a book about being the only survivor from the Iraq shooting called Facing Terror. I have read parts and it is very good. The only reason that I haven't finished it is because it hits a little to close to home.


mlm said...

This post is a deep one. It made me think lots of thoughts, too many to comment on and too many to think through enough to find articulate words to express them. :o)

But one thing I did want to say, about this statement you made:

"Yes, missionaries could die on the field. They could also be in a car accident on their way to work here in the states. You never know, and you can't let fear keep you from following God's will for your life."

Is it possible to agree with Ms. Boom's phrase AND yours? :o)

I think where I agree with "The safest place to be is in God's will" is when it comes to things like car accidents and such. In basic living, we can count on the truth of God's Word (Psalm 91 comes to mind) that those who dwell in God's Presence are protected, preserved, and given long life. Dwelling in God's Presence, to me, includes a number of things--abiding in Christ, obeying God's Word, listening to and heeding the Holy Spirit's promptings...

I believe there is a difference between this everyday living and the decision as one's vocation to lay down one's life. Missionaries, martyrs, even soldiers and first response teams have chosen to pursue a path that may in fact lead them (irrevocably) into danger. These people would probabaly embrace your phrase as being more true for them.

While I totally agree with you that we mustn't let fear keep us from following God's will for our life (something I am struggling with at the moment, fyi), I disagree with the statement that we can "never know" how and when our life will end. IMO, as Christians we CAN know how our life will end, especially if we're "safely" under "God's umbrella" of protection. However! :o) If we choose to go to war (naturally or spiritually speaking), we must do so knowing that we may lose our life in the line of duty.

What do you think?

Jane said...

mlm- I will respond...I promise. However, time is ticking and I have to finish getting ready to go. Check back Monday evening! :)