I don’t really remember how it happened.
All I know is that afterward, everything changed. I was so used to the neatness of my own life, and then wham! — everything was different.
I had one more three-credit theology class to take in order to graduate so that I could go to medical school, and the only thing that wasn’t too far above my pay grade was a class on Scripture — specifically St. Paul’s life and letters. The professor outlined the course for us and shared with us that the class would be reading the Acts of the Apostles (to learn as much as we could about St. Paul’s life) and then his letters (to learn about his theology).
As I began to read, it was like I had never read anything past the Gospels before. I was seriously asking myself, “How did I miss this part? This is freakin’ amazing!” The stories in Acts and the words of St. Paul burst into my world and shook me from my superficial, tidy existence.
Through my encounter with Acts and the letters, one thing became clear to me: mission was necessary. Evangelization was necessary.
But I already knew this, right? I was already leading a Bible study and mentoring men consistently to help them in their walk with Christ. I knew evangelization was necessary. I was doing it, and I was planning on doing it the rest of my life – even in medical school. So what were the Apostles saying that turned my world upside down? What were they saying that made me re-think whether I really had the zeal to go evangelize in the seemingly godless environment of medical school?
Let’s just say this: To St. Paul and the other Apostles, sharing the message of salvation was not just one among many important things. It was THE thing. It was the only thing that really mattered. This theme is clear in every word of Acts and St. Paul’s letters, but there were a few times where this became overwhelmingly clear for me — and each time it did, it felt like a dagger was being thrust into my heart (cliché, but so accurate).
Here are three of those daggers:
1. 3,000 souls…just like that.
When Peter got up in front of the Jews on Pentecost and shared with them that they must believe in the name of Jesus to be saved from their sins, the Scriptures say, “And about 3,000 were added to their number that day.” Yes, 3,000! Reading that was like taking a big dose of humility juice. I realized I’d never even been able to bring one person to know Jesus, let alone 3,000.
But the bitter part of that dose for me wasn’t that I had never seen someone come to know Jesus. It was that I didn’t know if I’d ever really tried. Even if after St. Peter’s speech, the Scripture read, “And only about one was added to their number that day,” at least he could walk away knowing he gave it his best shot. At least he would have tried. Ouch. In went Dagger #1.
2. “Seriously, guys, stop trying to stop me.”
At one point in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter and St. John are beaten and put into prison by the rulers of the Jews. Eventually, the rulers decide to release them, and upon their release, the rulers warn them sternly not to preach about Jesus anymore. Peter and John respond with this: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20, emphasis added). Again, these darn Apostles were wreaking havoc on my heart. For them, they were so on fire with love for Jesus that to stop preaching was like trying to go back in time – impossible. They met him, they knew him, they loved him and they would always share him. Nothing would ever be the same again. Ever.
What made matters worse for me was this line from St. Paul: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” It wasn’t just that the Apostles couldn’t stop preaching. For them, choosing not to preach would be like receiving a truck load of diamonds, driving the load to the sea and then dumping the entire load in. A beautiful, spectacular gift, entirely wasted! That’s how St. Paul and the other Apostles viewed their mission: as if they had no choice but to keep preaching. The alternative seemed utterly disgraceful. Did my life change this much when I met Jesus? …There was Dagger #2.
3. Mission = full acceptance.
If you read the beginning of any letter from St. Paul, it usually says this: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus…” Seriously, read Chapter 1, verse 1 of every single letter from Paul, and you will see it begins with some variation of that. At first glance, there’s nothing too world-rocking about it…until you realize that through this, St. Paul shows how he has totally, utterly embraced his mission. He wouldn’t have a business card with “Apostle” on it. He wouldn’t sign his emails with “Apostle.” No: “Apostle” would be part of his name because that’s how much of himself he gave in full surrender to and trust in the Lord. In goes Dagger #3.
Obviously, by this point, my life was totally wrecked by the unsurpassable zeal of these men. Just reading about them was enough. I now had a choice to make: go back to my tidy future and plans or let mission – His mission – rule. Fortunately for me, the Apostles had made it too clear. Considering a life without the radical sharing of Jesus’ love and mercy seemed pretty empty.
So out went the plans to go to medical school. At my feet lay a new road map, one whose entire route still looked pretty unclear. But this new path had one thing that no other path did: the Lord. I was with Jesus and going to Jesus. I was with souls, and I was going to souls.
Could this new route still bring me back through the original one, back to medical school, for the sake of the mission? Absolutely. But I had abandoned myself to His mission above all. For the sake of His plans, I was willing to sacrifice mine, if it was necessary.
I want mission to be THE thing for and in my life, like it was for the Apostles. I want it to be the only thing that really matters to me.
I want to be able to answer the question, “Who are you?” with “I’m Drew, an apostle of Christ Jesus.”
Want to be in on the mission? Apply to be a FOCUS missionary here!