Give Up Your Small Ambitions
Tell the students to give up their small ambitions and come eastward to preach the gospel of Christ.- Francis Xavier
I recently read a biography of Francis Xavier. He was, as far as Western history records, the first missionary to the Far East, spreading the Gospel in India, Indonesia, and Japan.
Throughout his eleven-year missionary journey, Francis continually wrote letters back to various European monarchs and church leaders, telling them to send more missionaries. He'd started off in India, then evangelized some island colonies in Indonesia. But it took five years before he laid eyes on another missionary. FIVE YEARS on the mission field, essentially alone. Then, as the lead missionary in the region, Francis heard their news and gave the other missionaries their tasks, before quickly heading for a new field: the recently discovered islands of Japan. He would spend two years laboring there, before briefly returning to India. There he visited some towns he had evangelized and spent a short time with some fellow missionaries. Though he was now suffering from a debilitating digestive disorder, Francis again turned his face eastward, this time to mainland China. After several sea voyages, he became ill while trying to secure one last transport aboard a Chinese junk. He died alone on an island, with mainland China just beyond the horizon, a mere 14km away.
I love a good entrepreneurial story: If you risk everything for your dream, eventually your startup will be bought, your product will change the world, your ideas will be recognized, you'll make a living doing what you love and never feel like you've worked a single day! Or the bootstraps story: if you work hard enough, you'll one day own a house, pay for college, and be able to retire comfortably. But Francis Xavier's story is not such a story, for he had given up these small ambitions. His is, rather, a story of which Reepicheep, the famous mouse of Lewis's Narnia, would be proud.
My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise... -Reepicheep, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Reepicheep had been told as a baby that "you will find all that you seek" in the "utter East." He spent his entire life pondering this prophesy, while living and working in his home country. When the opportunity and calling to sail to the east was given to him by Caspian, there was no turning back. Though his ship sink and his friends perish, though his strength and health fail and in his final moments he too should sink, Reepicheep would go east.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.- Jesus of Nazareth
I am often afraid. I long for significance, comfort, security. But God is gracious to remind me: These are small ambitions. Give them up. Sell all you have - forsake all your other longings, wants, and needs - and buy this field. GoEast, and be willing to sink with your nose to the sunrise, for there I am. There I am.
We get to see the ending of Reepicheep's story - he enters Aslan's country, paddling in his coracle, "further up and further in." He finds all that he has been seeking. It's easy to forget that we haven't seen the end of Francis Xavier's story.His death, sick and alone, was but the last gasp of air before his head went under water and he found that he could touch bottom, and he walked ashore into God's eternal Kingdom.
For some of us, leaving our small ambitions means spending our savings to get to the mission field.For some of us, it means fostering and adopting.For some of us it means giving all we have to the poor, whether that be the spiritually poor by sacrificially supporting missions and evangelism, or the materially poor by sacrificially supporting social justice work. (And for most of us it's really some combination). Whatever your small ambitions, giving them up is not easy. It is the more difficult path, narrow and steep and rocky. But to this you are called, for this you were made!
Give them up and buy this field. Leave them and come East to preach the Gospel. Seek first God's Kingdom and His righteousness, and you will find all that you seek.