By Helen Packard
Jenny said goodbye to her parents, hugged her little sister, and headed through security, excited and ready to board the plane that would take her to her DTS. Finally! She had been waiting for years to do this, to finally be able to live her life for God. Over the years, she had seen friends’ older siblings prayed for as they headed out to do DTS – to go to different YWAM campuses around the world to know God and make Him known. She had been to all the spaghetti dinners raising money for DTSs, had gone to all the report-back nights when her friends’ brothers and sisters came home, and eagerly lapped up their stories of reaching the least and the lost around the world. Since she had started babysitting years ago, she had put 50% of all her earnings towards saving for her own DTS and had given 25% away to her church’s missions funds, in addition to her tithe. She might not have the clothes and games her friends had growing up through junior high and high school, but it had all been leading up to this moment, and Jenny KNEW it would be worth it. Now she just had to wait the twelve weeks of lecture phase to get through to outreach. Of course she hoped to learn as much as she could during the lecture phase, but she had grown up in church all of her life – how much could there be left to learn? She was the champion Bible quizzer in her youth group and had been teaching Sunday school since she was thirteen. She was ready for the mission field! She wanted her life to count for something!
Five months later, Jenny walked through the same airport, on her way home from DTS. She knew her family and friends would be waiting for her, she knew she would be asked to share at church on Sunday, she knew the questions would come: how many people came to salvation? how many people were healed? what will your next missions trip be? Jenny’s steps slowed. How could she tell her family, friends, and church that her team hadn’t seen a single person come to Christ on their outreach? How would she tell them that they hadn’t seen anyone healed, and in fact, that she had faced debilitating anxiety any time she had to pray for someone to be healed or to share the gospel, because she was afraid she wouldn’t get it right – she wouldn’t measure up? How could she tell them that she had failed God? And what did God think of her?
In this story, we meet Jenny, who views her life as for God. “What’s wrong with that?” you might ask. Surely, we are called to live our lives for God – isn’t that what YWAM – knowing God and making Him known – is all about? As Skye Jethani describes in With however, living “for” God puts the good mission of God at the centre of one’s faith, when relationship with Him must be at the core. When we live for God, our lives become about striving to accomplish things for His Kingdom, at putting the pressure on ourselves to perform. For Jenny, this proved catastrophic when her DTS experience didn’t live up to her expectations of herself.
Jethani contrasts this view to the way Paul lived – no matter where he was or what he was doing, Paul’s relationship with God was at the centre of his life and ministry, and because of that, he was able to have peace and joy. In prison? That would put his mission in jeopardy, and if Paul lived for God, that would be debilitating. But because Paul lived with God, prison was merely the backdrop of a place where relationship with God was still at the centre, not making converts or planting churches. Shipwrecked? Not the most encouraging situation, but with God at the core of his life, Paul was able to go on, regardless. Whether planting churches or being stoned, Paul didn’t measure his ministry success by how well he was received or by how many souls were saved, but he trusted his life to God and prioritized relationship with God as the thing of greatest worth.
As we pursue God’s Kingdom and His work, let us do so with relationship with God at the core.