On the mission field ‘somewhere in Mexico’

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As you read this letter, and by God’s grace, I’m somewhere in Mexico joined by a dear old friend, Tom Fritz. Tom is a veteran missionary who has served many years in Nicaragua. It is my pleasure to introduce and connect him to the director and staff of Instituto Biblico Internacional, Tuxtepec Campus, where I’ve had the joy of teaching for a number of years.

Tom will observe the biblical training program that is being provided to pastors and church leaders by Mexico Outreach. His mission in Nicaragua is multi-dimensional, including biblical training in one of the most remote places in Latin America. Please pray that our trip will be productive and safe. Traveling in rural Mexico is always an adventure.

In preparation for this trip, I wanted to share some thoughts that the Lord has stirred up in my heart. The word “encouragement” wells up within me as these trying times of worldly turmoil and personal tragedy unfold.

II Thessalonians 2:16-17 reads, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” It seems these days many of us find ourselves in great need of some encouragement. Hopefully, we can find it in God’s Word together.

Consider this: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) Often, the most powerful passages in the Scriptures are the shortest ones. The Apostle Paul’s succinct words of encouragement to the Church in Rome are as apt now as they were some two thousand years ago. Perhaps it’s because the truly important issues of life haven’t really changed.

Life can be very hard even when we are following the Lord as best we can. But bad things do happen to righteous people. The Book of Job demonstrates that fact. Trouble comes to everybody. Jesus certainly gave us a heads up. He promises that we will have troubles in this world. At the same time, He promises us that we can overcome our troubles and have the peace that can only be found “in Him.” At the end of it all, our blessed hope is to be found “in Christ.”

Life becomes even harder when we let life’s difficult circumstances distract us from the Lord’s faithful promises. Seeing eternity through the fog of personal pain and misery is not as easy as we might wish. Everyone at some point has suffered a broken heart. Perhaps we were even the cause of another person’s heartbreak.

Feelings of dashed hopes, dreams and a downcast soul make even the most serious Christians vulnerable to real despair. King David experienced a lot of despair. He expresses it in many of his psalms. For instance, “The cords of death entangled me; the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: O Lord, save me!” (Psalm 116:3-4).

Paul instructs us to be joyful in hope; hope being a key to living a joyful life in this dark world. Is it possible that our hope is often misplaced? Misplaced hope directs itself to the here and now, resting on the shaky foundations of earthly circumstances.

It’s easy to confuse real joy with our immediate conditions of comfort and happiness. In doing so, we are left susceptible to the lies of Satan. He wants us to question God’s love simply because He is not making everything to come up roses for us, even when we ask Him nicely.

True joy is not a matter of situation or circumstance. It rests firmly on our faith in the Lord and His eternal purposes for us. The writer of Hebrews aptly explains that: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Are we sure about what it is for which we hope? Are we certain about the yet to be seen glory that awaits us in our eternal life? I hope these are not rhetorical questions. Our earthly expectations will eventually disappoint us. But hope never disappoints when it rests on the shoulders of our Lord and Savior.

Paul makes this clear: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:1-5)

True joy in our lives enables us to be patient in earthy afflictions. In fact, we can even embrace them as part of our transformation to the person the Lord desires us to be. He uses our afflictions to conform us into the image and pattern of our Lord.

That sounds harsh, but that is where our hope ultimately rests. Saint Peter confirms that our earthly suffering purifies our faith like fine gold and that we can “greatly rejoice” in the trials we face. Ultimately, our “living hope” rests on our faith in the Lord whom we have not yet seen, but in whom we believe.

Faith in Him and His promises fill us with inexpressible and glorious joy because we are receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls. (1 Peter 3:1-9).

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful and let us encourage one another much more as that glorious “Day” approaches. (Hebrews 10:22-25). Amen!

Thank you and God bless you for your faithful prayers and generous support,

LeRoy

[LeRoy and Judy Curtis are part of International Outreach Ministries, Inc., P.O. Box 2140,  McComb, MS 39649. LeRoy Curtis is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served four years as a U.S. Naval Officer after which he became a pastor, Bible professor, educator, author, and missionary living in E. Africa for eight years where he and his wife developed a curriculum of biblical studies for untrained pastors in rural Kenya. His passion for training young church leaders takes him to various parts of the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. He and Judy are currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia.]