“Son of man,” he said, “I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me. They and their ancestors have been rebelling against me to this very day. They are a stubborn and hard-hearted people. But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ And whether they listen or refuse to listen—for remember, they are rebels—at least they will know they have had a prophet among them.” (Ezekiel 2:3-5)
Relate: Today he is one of the most famous missionaries in church history. At the time he was considered a failure. In 1812 Adoniram Judson set out with his wife to be missionaries in India. They were among the first missionaries to set out from America, but their welcome in Calcutta was not very warm. The local British missionaries did not want Americans among them and so they were ordered to find their own path. Even that soon became an impossibility as the British East India company told them in no uncertain terms that they were not allowed anywhere in India. So after less than two years on the field, the Judsons left India.
They did not do as one would expect, however. Instead of returning home, Adoniram and his wife pushed forward and became the first missionaries to have a permanent presence in Burma (Myanmar). Even here, it took a long while for things to begin looking up. It was more than three years after they had first come to Burma before they had their first convert. It took almost another two years from then before that number reached beyond ten and they could start their first tiny little church. This slow start was not unique to the Judsons. I remember reading of another missionary who sold himself into slavery that he might reach the slave populations in the Caribbeans. He worked away for more than eight years before seeing his first convert. Hudson Taylor had only four converts in his first three and a half years before he broke away from his missions board and started the now famous Ningbo Mission.
React: Imagine that. Giving up everything you knew to go to a completely foreign land. As you learn the language and the culture, you plod away in obscurity. You speak, you witness, you share and pour your heart out among your new friends and neighbors… and you are met with deaf ears. Now imagine that God told you beforehand, I’m gonna send you out but they aren’t going to listen. I called you to speak, but you aren’t going to be very effective. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel… they were all told some version of this at the starts to their ministries. What if it was you? What if it was me? In a culture and society that places such a high premium on the bottom line, would we be willing to be obedient even if we knew in advance that through the world’s eyes we were guaranteed to be failures?
Help me to keep my priorities straight. Help me to remember that obedience is more important than effectiveness. It is not my responsibility to change hearts. It is my responsibility to speak out. Help me to speak. Help me to be a voice crying out Your Name. And even if not one person turns, help me to understand that my obedience in speaking will one day result in hearing, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”