Karen Watson wrote her own epitaph. Her example has often stirred my heart to a radical devotion to Jesus and the making of disciples among all nations. Karen served as a Southern Baptist missionary to Iraq and was killed, along with three others by an unidentified attacker on March 15, 2004. Karen had written a letter to her pastors in the United States to be read upon her death. Below are excerpts from that letter:
Dear Pastor Phil and Pastor Roger,
You should only be opening this letter in the event of my death. When God calls, there are no regrets. I tried to share my heart with you as much as possible, my heart for the Nations. I wasn’t called to a place. I was called to Him. To obey was my objective; to suffer was expected. His glory was my reward. His glory is my reward…
The missionary heart:
• Cares more than some think wise
• Risks more than some think safe
• Dreams more than some think practical
• Expects more than some think possible
I was called not to comfort or success but to obedience…There is no joy outside of knowing Jesus and serving Him. I love you two and my church family.
In His care,
Salaam, Karen [Baptist Press, 3.24.04]
For several years, I kept this letter tucked away in my prayer journal. It reminded me of the kind of heart God is looking for, the kind of person I want to become. Karen’s words still echo in my heart “…to obey was my objective; to suffer was expected. His glory is my reward…I was not called to comfort or success but to obedience…There is no joy outside of knowing Jesus and serving Him.”
This is the kind of mindset that changes the world, and it is so foreign to so many. As you strive to make disciples and ignite a movement of multiplication, such a pursuit will cost you. It will cost you a life of convenience. It will cost you in time, emotion, effort, and money. It will require you to say “no” to other interests in order to make Christ’s last command your first concern (Matthew 28:18–20 ESV).
Cost and Reward
Not everyone in your church will applaud your efforts to reach the lost. Not everyone in your family will fully understand your need to invest your life in others. Not every friend will comprehend the depth of your desire to please Jesus and make Him known among the nations. In some cases, those who oppose your efforts to make disciples may be the ones closest to you. Jesus understood this well. His own mother did not fully comprehend His ministry (Luke 2:51 ESV). His brothers openly mocked His devotion to the heavenly Father and opposed His efforts (Matthew 12:46; Luke 8:19; Mark3:31; John 7:1–10 ESV). However, those who choose this disciple-first lifestyle gladly pay such a price, knowing their reward is great. It is my prayer that you will be obedient to Jesus and follow Him regardless of the cost. Jesus called each of His disciples to a radical devotion to Him and commitment to His cause.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple,” (Luke 14:26–33 ESV).
Three times Jesus stated that those who do not love Him first, obey Him fully and follow Him completely could not be His disciples. does that bother you? do those words make you feel uncomfortable? In a day when being a disciple of Jesus is equated to simple, mental agreement to the basic tenants of the faith apart from a devoted life to Jesus, these words come across as reckless, radical or extreme. But to this, we are called—a life with Jesus at the center, around which everything revolves. It is a life where Jesus is in control, seated on the throne of our hearts, and all of our allegiances are subjected to Him. It is a life of complete and full surrender to King Jesus.
A Simple Poem
Several years ago, when I was just beginning to grasp what it meant to follow Jesus, I came across a poem simply titled, “Fellowship of the Unashamed.” The story of its authorship is not clear; however, Louise Robinson Chapman, a veteran missionary to Africa (1920–1940) writes that the poem was found among the papers of a young Pastor in Zimbabwe after he was martyred for his faith in Christ.
Savor each word:
“I’m a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His and I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure. I’m done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, or first, or tops, or recognized, or praised, or rewarded. I live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by Holy Spirit power. My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my guide is reliable and my mission is clear. I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He does come for His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear!”
What stands out to you most about the “Fellowship of the Unashamed”?
By Craig Etheredge