A few years ago I read a very interesting article about why missionaries leave the field.
When I saw the question, I immediately had ideas about why this was the case. I assumed persecution, disinterest in the gospel, or opposition from local people. None of these were correct.
Most missionaries leave the field for the same reasons why pastors quit and marriages fail–the inability to get along and persevere.
Paul’s experience is quite different. When you look at his life, you see praiseworthy qualities that won’t let you down.
Acts 21:1-14 describes the journey of Paul and Luke as well as others who were leaving the Roman Province of Asia to return to Jerusalem at the conclusion of Paul’s third missionary journey. This journey is filled with significant examples of enduring relationships.
What are those qualities that won’t let you down?
First, an appreciation for other people and their needs. Throughout Paul’s life as a follower of Christ, Paul was guided by his calling to go to the Gentiles with the good news of Christ. This motivated Paul at every turn. Most of us are aware of the difficulty Paul faced as he carried out that call. His ability to persevere when times were hard allowed him to fulfill his mission and to see fruitful ministry.
Too often Christian workers quit too soon, missing the joyful conclusion of their work.
Perseverance is an amazing quality that allows you to carry on to the conclusion of what God wants you to do.
Second, Paul emphasized Christian fellowship. His experience at Tyre in Syria is amazing. Though he knew no believers there (as far as we know), he used a pause in his journey to look up believers in Tyre and to spend time with them.
When his time to move on came, the whole church, men, women, and children accompanied him to the beach to board his ship. It is one of the most beautiful pictures of Christian fellowship. These believers who had known him only seven days prayed with him and encouraged him along his way to Jerusalem. They knelt in the sand together to pray.
When we are determined to get along with others and add to their lives, we have a quality that transcends the normal strains and difficulties of relationships.
Third, Paul knew how to work through the difficulties of the past.
In Caesarea, Paul and the missionary team stayed in the house of Philip the Evangelist who had been one of the seven (Acts 6:1-7). Stephen and Philip had a close relationship. As a lost man, Saul (Paul) helped carryout the martyrdom of Stephen. Amazingly, Paul and Philip now stayed together in the same house marveling at the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Forgiveness, perseverance, and fostering good relationships will carry you farther than you can imagine.
We must be people who seek these godly qualities and encourage their growth in our lives.