Facing the Tension: Results Versus Faithfulness :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

Facing the Tension: Results Versus Faithfulness

Juanita Garland
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“She is a legalist armed with lists and goals.” That would have been an accurate description of me when John and I came to Brazil with GFA in 1978. I needed to be able to check things off and sense the satisfaction of reaching the goals. I still make lists, and I still have goals, but a better understanding of what the Lord wants of me has changed my attitude about these tools.

I needed visible results, not just for myself, but maybe more so to be able to show others and “prove” that we were being good missionaries and using our time wisely. One of my biggest concerns was being able to write a prayer letter with information that would satisfy our supporting churches—the fear of being dropped if we didn't perform well was always in the back of my mind.

A colleague of ours told me that she asked the Lord not to allow her to know she was being used by Him so that she would not become prideful. That sounded noble, but I found I needed to know I was being useful. At least that's what I thought I needed.

When my husband decided to close one of our preaching points, I felt we were failures and struggled (again) with the need to appear productive. Later, in God's perfect time we saw a young lady who was saved under that ministry go as a missionary to Mozambique where the Lord greatly used her.

God had used us! We just couldn't see what He was doing at the time. Some plant, some water, but God gives the increase (see 1 Corinthians 3:6-9). The crucial thing I am learning is that it isn't so important whether I'm planting or watering. The important thing is that I am doing whatever the Lord has given me to do.

The passage in 1 Corinthians 4 has been my “job description” for years now. I try not to judge myself and to realize that it doesn't matter how others might judge me if I am being faithful to what the Lord has given me to do (4:2). I need to avoid comparing my ministries with others whom I might think more successful. I must not worry about whether my supporters will think I'm “being productive.”

When John died and I came back to Brazil as a single missionary, the doubts began to niggle again. But God hadn't changed, nor had His Word, and it is still my job to obey faithfully what He asks of me.

Yes, I still make lists and have goals, but they are lists that will help me be faithful to what I know the Lord wants me to do as I strive for the goal of pleasing Him. Results are good, but I might not know about them until I go Home to glory! All I want is to be found faithful.

“Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self; yet I am not hereby justified: but he that judges me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:2-4).