When our losses become gain

By Kathy Ferguson Litton

Waiting for the bus in a frigid, biting wind reminded us of the ease of transportation we had left behind. Grandparents, who used to live so close, are now 26 hours away. Favorite babysitters, comfortable friendships and financial security are suddenly placed in the rear view mirror of our lives.

We left a place where we were esteemed and valued in order to embrace a place that actually has disdain for the gospel and spiritual leadership. Previously, we had a doable mortgage payment and 1,900 square-foot house. Now, our family of six is in a 970 square-foot apartment in a ZIP Code with a high cost of living.

As we consider the losses in saying “yes” to following Jesus for the gospel’s sake, we should turn to the promises of Scripture about gaining from those losses. In multiple sources, we see Jesus reference the fact that we will receive from our willingness to incur loss.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:29-31).

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21).

Scripture is clear; our gain is in the future—eternal life. Yet our gain is also in the present; our gain can be in the “now.”

Our present gains

Mark 10:29 states if we leave our houses, our families, our children or lands we will receive hundred fold—now, in this time. When we leave the things that are often sources for love, acceptance, community and security, this verse suggests those needs will be supplied from other sources.

We must let go to receive something else. We must allow Him to provide the very things we have “given up” and left behind. We cannot passively wait for automatic sources to appear; we must risk and be vulnerable to engage new people, places and processes. God will meet these needs as rarely, as neatly and as predictably as we think He could or should. Yet it is true His faithful hand will be at work to provide those needs in the present as well as the future.

“If I had come to Indianapolis full, my arms would not have been free to embrace those around me. Leaving behind family, friends, hobbies, etc., opened up my heart and schedule for those around me.” — Amy Rager Indianapolis, Ind.

“I could go on and on about what God has given our family, but God has given us a leadership team that is more like family than our own blood relatives. We literally have lived in each other’s homes and have fought the spiritual battles on the front lines together. Nothing builds unity and bonding like warfare! God sent new best buddies for our children that are more like siblings than buddies, real Jonathan and David kind of friendships.” — Lindsey Allen, Miami, Fla.

“Loss allows us to be laid open and be vulnerable in the hands of our Heavenly Father. Once we have surrendered; He can bring the transformation from within us to be more like Christ.” — Lindsay McDonald, Casey, Ill.

“Rolling hills were replaced with concrete sidewalks and high rises. Green sprawling back yards were exchanged for a patio slab. My kids can no longer go outside without me. We had to load up balls and bikes on a train or in the minivan to get them to a sprawling space. But we discovered parks like everyone else in our city. We were there to meet people. God gave us the parks so that we could see His plan that we don’t live to do life alone. We made friends. We began to make play dates. Some of those friends now come to our church.” — Shauna Pilgreen, San Francisco, Calif.

Our eternal gains

We were sent on the same mission of Jesus, “To seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). And on that mission we get to see people rescued and transformed by the gospel—souls going from death to life. We see marriages healed and relationships restored. We watch bitterness and hatred be replaced by love and forgiveness. We can offer the grieving hope in the sting of death. God is glorified as He redeems broken people, broken homes and broken communities.

What we do has eternal consequences, and what we do produces eternal rewards.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

God promises to reward us for how we serve Him on this earth. The Bible speaks of rewards in heaven that include crowns, heavenly treasure (Matt.6:20), the promise of accolades (Matt.25:21) and special responsibilities (Matt. 19:28). There are promises to those who overcome (Rev.2:26) and special responsibilities to others (Matt. 25:21).

We will never see all the fruit of our labor from a life lived on mission, and we need to be careful not to judge the success or failure of our ministry. Yet what we do on this earth does not go unnoticed in eternity. We will receive rewards. Whatever those rewards are, they will be infinitely better, more beautiful, more glorious and more satisfying than any moment in this life. And they will last for eternity.

We aren’t the first families to struggle with the losses incurred on mission. Missionary Jim Elliot’s parents were not very excited about his call to go to the Quichuas in South America. They wrote and told him so, yet Jim answered in an astounding way. Read the following excerpt from the Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot.

“I do not wonder that you were saddened at the word of my going to South America,” he replied on August 8. “This is nothing else than what the Lord Jesus warned us of when He told the disciples that they must become so infatuated with the kingdom and following Him that all other allegiances must become as though they were not. And He never excluded the family tie. In fact, those loves that we regard as closest, He told us must become as hate in comparison with our desires to uphold His cause. Grieve not, then, if your sons seem to desert you, but rejoice, rather, seeing the will of God done gladly. Remember how the Psalmist described children? He said that they were as an heritage from the Lord, and that every man should be happy who had his quiver full of them. And what is a quiver full of but arrows? And what are arrows for but to shoot? So, with the strong arms of prayer, draw the bowstring back and let the arrows fly—all of them, straight at the enemy’s hosts.

“Give of thy sons to bear the message glorious, Give of thy wealth to speed them on their way, Pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious, And all thou spendest Jesus will repay.”

It reminds me of what is said in the book of Revelations.

“Look! I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to pay each one according to what he has done” (Rev. 22:12)!

Published November 21, 2016

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Kathy Ferguson Litton

Kathy lives in Mobile, Alabama, with her husband Ed, pastor of Redemption Church. Both lost former spouses in car accidents, and God uniquely gave them new love and life together in 2009. Kathy enjoyed 26 years of life and ministry alongside Rick Ferguson. She has three children and ten grandchildren. Presently she serves as Director of Planting Spouse Development.