TO THIRST FOR GOD
By DANNY MINTON
Gladys May Aylward wanted to be a missionary to the Chinese people, but it was the 1930’s, and the world was engulfed in unrest. Besides, she was a woman, a small woman with no language skills in any Chinese dialect, and no credentials to merit anyone sponsoring her efforts in wanting to go. But Gladys longed to be a missionary to the Chinese people, and nothing was going to stop her yearning. For months she worked as a second maid, saving almost every penny to purchase the cheapest ticket she could obtain to reach China in the shortest length of time. In the meantime, she read and studied as much as she could about the Chinese people and their culture.
Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, Gladys Aylward had saved enough money to buy a cross-country ticket from England to China, carrying a single suitcase, a bedroll, canned food, and a pan with which to cook. It was not the easiest route to take, but the one she could afford, and most of all the one that would allow her to reach her destination the quickest. She joined a mission in a remote Chinese province, leaning the ways of the people and teaching them about God, eventually becoming a Chinese citizen.
Then, China was invaded by the Japanese. Cities were being destroyed and people in every province killed. Gladys Aylward gathered more than 100 orphans into her mission, then in the face of enemy attack, she led the children for days across the mountains of China to safety at a city of refuge by the sea. She had no credentials that qualified her for any of her undertakings, except the fact that she had a thirst to serve God. In a speech she made in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1959 she said, “I have been a fisher of men. I went to China because God asked me. I did not have missionary training or missionary status. I was answerable to Him and no one else.” She would be known among the Chinese people as “The virtuous one!”
To have a deep yearning for God in our life is a must if we desire to be like Him. We all want to be like Jesus and try to do the right things that help us along the way, but how many of us earnestly seek after him with the passion in our hearts that we cannot exist until we have him firmly invested in our lives? It’s a craving so deeply rooted that we must satisfy it as often as possible.
It’s easy to follow when we are around other Christians, especially those who are strong role models. It’s simple to be “spiritual” on Sunday morning, involved in a campaign or gathered around others at a retreat. It’s not as hard to strive to be like Jesus and share him with others when we have the support of our fellow Christians around us.
However, what about when we are away from that strong influence? Does the fire to be like Jesus burn within us when those around us are tempting us to move in the opposite direction? Do we become easily persuaded to follow the world instead of following Jesus when we are away from our support group? Does the yearning to be like Him fade with each step we take out of the light of other followers?
There was a statement I remember from decades ago. I don’t remember who made it, if I read it somewhere, or caught it in a casual conversation. However, it has stuck with me over the years as I strive to be like Christ. It’s simple but strong in its voice. It expresses why we need to look at ourselves and strive to be like Christ, especially in those situations where we are around those who are not followers of Christ. It merely says, “Be careful how you live, you may be the only example of Christ and Christianity that some people ever see!”
The Psalmist expresses in Psalm 42 the yearning we should have in our desire to follow our God. “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants for you, my God!” How about it? Does your inner self yearn for God to be in your life every day, or is He only there when it’s convenient? When you look at yourself, or more importantly when others look at you, do they see Jesus?
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ.