Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Friday, May 11, 2012

That Others May Live

During my time in the Air Force, I was blessed to work with some of the finest men and women this country has to offer.  Out of all those people, one group of men stood head and shoulders above the rest.  That’s an odd thing to say, because they referred to themselves as Quiet Professionals.  If anyone shunned the spotlight, it was those men.  They are known as Air Force Pararescuemen—or simply PJs. 
What makes PJs unique is their mission.  They are some of the most highly trained combat warriors the world has to offer.  They train with Navy SEALS, Marine RECON and Army Green Berets.  But, unlike their other Special Forces brethren, a PJ’s mission is primarily to save lives rather than take them.  Their motto concludes with these words: “These things I do, that others may live.”
It reminds me of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:27: “I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
Why did Paul endure the extreme trials (physical, emotional and spiritual) that he did?  That others might live.  As pastors, Christians, church planters, missionaries, we are called to no less of a commitment.  The Air Force PJ endures extreme physical and mental training—he buffets his body—so that he can be prepared to rescue downed aircrew members in “austere and non-permissive environments.”  Likewise, we are called to buffet our bodies to rescue those who are headed for a fate far worse than physical death.  Our theater of operations is not the comfortable, secure environment of our churches.  Our churches are our training grounds.  Our theater of operations is the often austere and non-permissive environment of our community, our town, our county, our region, our state, our nation, our world.  In other words, our theater of operations is our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.
None of us as individuals can accomplish the mission alone.  And none of our churches can accomplish the mission alone.  It’s a huge mission—more than 190,000 unchurched in the nine counties of Southeastern West Virginia alone.  We desperately need each other to accomplish it.  PJs never operate alone.  They always operate as part of a team, with other PJs and as part of larger Joint Operation units.  They understand the mission is bigger than them, or even bigger than their team.  We need to remember the same thing as we work together to bring the Gospel to 190,000+ unchurched people in Southeastern West Virginia.  As West Virginia Southern Baptists, we do what we do—train, learn, cooperate, strengthen our existing churches and plant new churches—for one reason.  These things we do that others may live.


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