Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) served for 55 years in India without furlough, becoming one of the pioneers of the modern missions movement. In this excerpt from her book, Things As They Are, Carmichael describes the biblical motivation behind missions.
What is God’s definition of that golden word “success”? He looks at Roman Catholic Europe, and Roman and heathen South America, and Mohammedan and heathen Africa and Asia, and many a forgotten place in many a great land. And then He looks at us, and I wonder what He thinks. Ragland, Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, after years of brain-burying waste, wrote that He was teaching him that “of all plans for securing success the most certain is Christ’s own, becoming a corn of wheat, falling into the ground and dying.” If coming abroad means that for anyone, is it too much to ask? It was what our dear Lord did.
This brings us to another plea. I find it in the verse that carves out with two strokes, the whole result of two lives. “If any man’s work abide. … If any man’s work shall be burned.” The net result of one man’s work is gold, silver, precious stones; the net result of another man’s work is wood, hay, stubble. Which is worth the spending of a life?
An earnest worker in her special line of work is looking back at it from the place where things show truest, and she says, “God help us all! What is the good done by any such work as mine?’ “If any man build upon this foundation . . . wood, hay, stubble, … If any man’s work shall be burned he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire!” An infinitude of pains and labour, and all to disappear like the stubble and the hay.
Success — what is it worth?
"I was flushed with praise, But pausing just a moment to draw breath, I could not choose but murmur to myself, 'Is this all? All that's done? and all that's gained? If this, then, be success, 'tis dismaller than any failure.'"
So transparent a thing is the glamour of success to clear-seeing poet-eyes, and should it dazzle the Christian to whom nothing is of any worth but the thing that endures? Should arguments based upon comparisons between the apparent success of work at home as distinguished from work abroad influence us in any way? Is it not very solemn, this calm, clear setting forth of a truth which touches each of us? “Every, man’s work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” And as we realize the perishableness of all work, however apparently successful, except the one work done in the one way God means, oh, does it not stir us up to seek with an intensity of purpose which will not be denied, to find out what that one work is? The same thought comes out in the verse which tells us that the very things we are to do are prepared before, and we are “created in Christ Jesus” to do them. If this is so, then will the doing of anything else seem worth while, when we look back and see life as God sees it?
It may be that the things prepared are lying close at our hand at home, but it may be they are abroad. If they are at home there will be settled peace in the doing of them there; but if they are abroad, and we will not come and do them — Oh, then our very prayers will fall as fall the withered leaves, when the wind that stirred them falls, yea more so, for the withered leaves have a work to do, but the prayers which are stirred up by some passing breeze of emotion do nothing, nothing for eternity. God will not hear our prayers for the heathen if He means us to be out among them instead of at home praying for them, or if He means us to give up some son or daughter, and we prefer to pray.
Lord save us from hypocrisy and sham! “Shrivel the falsehood” from us if we say we love Thee but obey Thee not! Are we staying at home, and praying for missions when Thou hast said to us “Go”? Are we holding back something of which Thou hast said, “Loose it, and let it go”? Lord, are we utterly through and through true? Lord God of truthfulness, save us from shame! Make us perfectly true!
I turn to you, brothers and sisters at home! Do you know that if God is calling you, and you refuse to obey you will hardly know how to bear what will happen afterwards? Sooner or later you will know, yea burn through every part of your being, with the knowledge that you disobeyed, and lost your chance, lost it for ever. For that is the awful part. It is rarely given to one to go back and pick up the chance he knowingly dropped. The express of one’s life has shot past the points, and one cannot go back; the lines diverge.”
“Some of us almost shudder now to think how nearly we stayed at home,” a missionary writes, “Do not, I beseech you, let this great matter drift. Do not walk in uncertainty. Do not be turned aside. You will be eternally the poorer if you do.” It may be you are not clear as to what is God’s will for you. You are in doubt, you are honest, but a thousand questions perplex you. Will you go to God about it, and get the answer direct? If you are puzzled about things which a straight forward missionary can explain, will you buy a copy of Do Not Say, and read it alone with God? Let me emphasize that word “alone.” “Arise, go forth into the plain, and I will there talk with thee.” “There was a voice . . . when they stood and had let down their wings.”
Oh, by the thought of the Day that is coming, when the fire shall try all we are doing, and only the true shall stand, I plead for an honest facing of the question before it is too late!
But this is not our strongest plea. We could pile them up, plea upon plea, and not exhaust the number which press and urge one to write. We pass them all, and go to the place where the strongest waits: God’s Glory is being given to another. This is the most solemn plea, the supreme imperative call. “Not mere pity for dead souls, but a passion for the Glory of God, is what we need to hold us through to victory.” “I am the Lord, that is My Name, and My Glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images.” But the men He made to glorify Him take His Glory from Him, give it to another; that, the sin of it, the shame, calls with a low, deep under-call through all the other calls. God’s Glory is being given to another. Do we love Him enough to care? Or do we measure our private cost, if these distant souls are to be won, and, finding it considerable, cease to think or care? ‘Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold and see’ —
“They took Jesus and led Him away. And He, bearing His cross, went forth into a place called the place of a skull . . . where they crucified Him.” …
“Herein is love.” …”God so loved the world.” . . .
Have we petrified past feeling? Can we stand and measure now ? “I know that only the Spirit, Who counted every drop that fell from the torn brow of Christ as dearer than all the jewelled gates of Paradise, can lift the Church out of her appreciation of the world, the world as it appeals to her own selfish lusts, into an appreciation of the world as it appeals to the heart of God.” O Spirit, come and lift us into this love, inspire us by this love. Let us look at the vision of the Glory of our God with eyes that have looked at His love! We would not base a single plea on anything weaker than solid fact. Sentiment will not stand the strain of the real tug of war; but is it fact, or is it not, that Jesus counted you and me, and the other people in the world, actually worth dying for? If it is true, then do we love Him well enough to care with the whole strength of our being, that today, almost all over the world, His Glory is being given to another? If this does not move us, is it because we do not love Him very much, or is it that we have never prayed with honest desire, as Moses prayed, “I beseech Thee, show me Thy Glory”? He only saw a little of it. “Behold there is a place by Me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: and it shall come to pass, while My Glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with My hand while I pass by.” And the Glory of the Lord passed, and Moses was aware of something of it as it passed, but “My face shall not be seen.” And yet that little was enough to mark him out as one who lived for one purpose, shone in the light of it, burned with the fire of it — he was jealous for the Glory of his God.
And we — “We beheld His Glory, the Glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”; and we — we have seen “the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” “While My Glory passeth by I will . . . cover thee . . . My face shall not be seen.” “But we all with open face, reflecting, as in a mirror, the Glory of the Lord, are changed” — Are we? Do we? Do we know anything at all about it? Have we ever apprehended this for which we are apprehended of Christ Jesus? Have we seen the Heavenly Vision that breaks us down, and humbles us to hear the Voice of the Lord ask, “Who will go for Us?” and strengthens us to answer, “Here am I, send me,” and holds us on to obey if we hear Him saying “Go”?
“I beseech Thee, show me Thy Glory!” Shall we pray it, meaning it now, to the very uttermost? The utter most may hold hard things, but, easy or hard, there is no other way to reach the place where our lives can receive an impetus which will make them tell for eternity. The motive power is the love of Christ. Not our love for Him only, but His very love itself. It was the mighty, resistless flow of that glorious love that made the first missionary pour himself forth on the sacrifice and service. And the joy of it rings through triumphantly, “Yea, and if I be poured forth … I joy and rejoice with you all!”
Yes, God’s Glory is our plea, highest, strongest, most impelling and enduring of all pleas. But oh, by the thought of the myriads who are passing, by the thought of the Coming of the Lord, by the infinite realities of life and death, heaven and hell, by our Saviour’s cross and passion, we plead with all those who love Him, but who have not considered these things yet, consider them now! Let Him show us the vision of the Glory, and bring us to the very end of self, let Him touch our lips with the live coal, and set us on fire to burn for Him, yea, burn with consuming love for Him, and a purpose none can turn us from, and a passion like a pure white flame, “a passion for the Glory of God!”
Oh, may this passion consume us! burn the self out of us, burn the love into us — for God’s Glory we ask it, Amen.
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing . . . Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto Him.”