Written by Bella Newberry, USA
People often ask me how I knew God was calling me to be a missionary—to be honest, I didn’t know for sure if He was. Moving to Taiwan from my home in the US was an intimidating decision.
In the absence of clear direction, I took small steps of faith. I visited Taiwan multiple times. I worked with the organization before committing to serving with them for a longer term. I took time to ask for wisdom from other believers, evaluate scriptures, and eventually asked people if they would partner with me in moving to Taiwan, joining me in the mission God had.
Though I had desired a perfect and clear “calling,” I found that God’s grace encompassed me as He continually led me back to Scripture. The Lord has given us great insight in His Word as to how we can live and serve Him. We have vast amounts of freedom in how to live and in which paths we choose to take.
After much anxiety in decision-making over the years, I finally started going to a few specific scriptures, meditating on them, and using them as my counselor in navigating how to make life’s tough decisions.
Find the Fruit
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control . . . If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23, 25 ESV).
The Holy Spirit enables believers to be transformed and equipped to obey Jesus—this includes how and why we make decisions.
When the choice to move to Taiwan or stay in the United States stared me right in the face, I looked for the fruits of the Spirit. In Taiwan, I knew I would have to rely on the Holy Spirit daily, because I was committing to something I felt completely unqualified for. I also knew the community of believers I would be joining in Taiwan were filled with love, joy, peace, and self-control, and I knew that I could learn from them, even though I didn’t know what daily life in Taiwan would look like.
Go to Grow
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness . . . For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge. . . (2 Peter 1:3, 5 ESV).
These verses come from one of my favorite passages. This short letter was written to believers facing a distorted message of the gospel by false teachers. In this confusing time, Peter invites the followers of Christ to continue to grow and mature in these characteristics of God and to be a good image-bearers of the divine. When confronted with a hard decision, I ask what choice I can make to help me “make every effort to supplement my faith with virtue?”
In Taiwan, I would work with a Bible school. I knew that being a part of this kind of discipleship would not only grow me in faith, virtue, knowledge, and steadfastness, but I would be able to walk alongside others as they make every effort to do the same. I saw an opportunity that lay before me, in which I could walk in what Peter calls the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and point others to walk that way as well.
Sift Out Selfishness
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. . . But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere (James 3:14, 17 ESV).
In this passage, there is a stark contrast between wisdom from above and wisdom that is evil. I ask myself, “Is this decision pure? Peaceable? Impartial and sincere? Am I making it out of selfish ambition and jealousy?” From reading this passage in James, I know that disorder and vile practices lurk around the corner when selfish ambition and jealousy are present. The wisdom described here gives a picture of the wisdom from Christ.
I knew that the desire to remain in the US came from selfish ambitions. I wanted to be comfortable, have a normal job, and be close to my family—I was even a little jealous of the lives of people around me and what I perceived as “normal.” Yet, there was a stirring in my heart to join in the mission of God to be a channel of blessings to the nations where people have not yet heard of His glorious name. A call to follow Jesus’ way of life is radical and challenging. And in His wisdom there is great peace and mercy.
These are just three passages that paint a picture of what it means to follow Christ and carry on the redemptive story of His life, death, and resurrection. But we have the whole of Scripture that gives us the greatest story ever told of what God has done, equips us to look to the future hope of the new heavens and earth, and to live in the present in a way that seeks to honor God with our every choice.
This does not mean that if we follow these passages we will never fail. We are not guaranteed an easy life. Yet, we are still marked by hope. We know that there is a God who meets us in our failures and says, “this does not have the final word.”
If we find ourselves stuck in what we think was the wrong decision, we have Christ who is with us now. We have the Scripture to guide us in how to live amidst poor decisions and failed expectations. My hope for today is that even if I made a mistake in moving to Taiwan, I made it out of faith, knowing that God’s character has not changed and will not change. If my expectations are not met, I know that I am still a new creation in Christ, a child of God, and called to make disciples whether I live in America or Asia. My confidence is not in the decision that I made but in Jesus, whom I follow.