On the Side - May 2014
By Sharon Chatwell
“Do you see those two trees?” I heard the Holy Spirit whisper. “Which one of them glorifies me?” That was an excellent question, and one that held the answer to my heartfelt prayer…
You see, in my devotional reading this Easter, I re-read the Christian classic “Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret” written in 1932 by his son and daughter-in-law (Mr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor.)
If you don’t already know, Hudson Taylor was instrumental in bringing the Gospel to the interior of China in the mid to late 1800’s. He founded the China Inland Mission (which is now known as OMF International) and acted as its Director over 35 years as hundreds of missionaries were deployed from England and other countries. The most amazing thing about all of this is that, except for asking God in prayer for what was needed, Hudson Taylor made no appeals for either funds or volunteers for this great missionary work done in China.
While Hudson Taylor served in China, millions of dollars were donated and hundreds of missionaries were sent, without one petition from other people for funds of any kind. In Mr. Taylor’s words “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.”
As you can imagine, the book was an enjoyable read, and it was wonderful to learn Mr. Taylor’s spiritual secret; that we don’t have to work at getting closer to Jesus, we just need to rest on Him, because He is already with us and promises that He always will be.
It was exciting to learn about Hudson Taylor; of his service to God, his years of dedication, his personal sacrifices, and how he and others did everything in their power to advance the Kingdom of God in China. Looking back on it now, it’s easy to see that these dedicated individuals served in China during a very finite window of opportunity, which opened up miraculously just as they arrived and closed rather firmly with the Chinese Communist Revolution (in 1949-50.) In fact, without their evangelistic efforts, the Gospel might never have been brought to inland China. But, because of their efforts, we are assured that there are millions of Christians in China today.
Anyway, like I said, I had been reading this story of this great man who had this great mission in this great country, and even though I knew better, I began to feel a little small. After all, who am I? I’m no Hudson Taylor. I’ve never deprived myself, or slept on a hard mattress, or moved to the other side of the world to further the Gospel. Sure, I’ve got my own little ministry (and quite honestly on most days it is ALL that I can handle) but let’s face it, I’m no Hudson Taylor.
I was embarrassed to feel this way. Of course, who wouldn’t be? It’s tacky, just downright tacky, to be jealous of someone who had a magnificent ministry over a hundred years ago. But there it was: I was feeling sorry for myself and a more than a little embarrassed over my own efforts that look puny next to his. Happily, in a moment of clear thinking, I decided to take it to God and tell Him how I felt about it. At least that way I would be able to get it off my chest and to ask forgiveness for it, or something.
That night, when the dog had to make its regular trip to the backyard, I stood on the porch and prayed. (The middle of the night is a wonderful time to pray.) I told God all about it. I was sorry, I told Him, but how could my little ministry measure up to the one of Hudson Taylor?
It was then that I heard the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart.
“Do you see those two trees?” I heard Him ask.
“Yes,” I answered.
The two trees were directly in front of me. I looked at them carefully. With the half-moon shining behind the clouds, their dark branches showed up in sharp relief against the whitish sky. From where I stood the trees looked to be about the same height, both of them being large and well-established; but one of them had big heavy branches that arched across the sky, and the other had thinner branches that reached more up than out.
“Which one of them glorifies me?” God asked.
“Both,” was my immediate answer, because He made it obvious to my heart that they both did; they both glorified Him.
All at once I had my answer! The Holy Spirit was teaching me that my ministry and that of Hudson Taylor’s are very different, but that they both glorify God in their own ways.
Then I looked down and to the left and saw another tree; this one a smaller evergreen. And it was clear to me that this tree also glorified God, its Creator. It was then that I understood the greater answer to my question. There weren’t just two trees, there were others as well, and beyond those were the flowers and even the grass; all glorifying Creator God.
The plain reality is that the size of my ministry does not matter. The only thing that matters is that it glorifies God. (Please, dear God, let it do so. Let it be like a blade of grass in one of your vast prairies, singing your praises.)
I am content.
Let all of us do what God has put before us; no matter if we (or anyone else for that matter) can see and understand the eternal importance of it. Let God be praised with everything we do, from every diaper we change to every meal we prepare. (Let God be praised with every letter I type on this silly keyboard.)
Let us praise Him, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
Sharon is a physician-spouse living in Lincoln, Nebraska, where there are two big trees that she can see from her back porch. Her prayer is that your ministry is alive and well, and that it is growing and glorifying Jesus! She states that her own ministry occasionally seems like the grass in her backyard… a little brown around the edges and in need of a good trimming!