November 15, 2012

Nothing Is Impossible with God

In my last post, I shared how much I resonated with Rose Marie Miller's new book, Nothing is Impossible with God: Reflections on Weakness, Faith, and Power. Rose Marie Miller is currently serving in London as a missionary to the Asian community. In her long ministry, she has also been a church planting wife. In reading her book, I especially connected with her stories about serving alongside her late husband Jack in ministry and how she learned to rely on God's power to fulfill her ministry. I was delighted, then, that she agreed to answer a few questions for us regarding ministry. 

Q: In Nothing Is Impossible, you speak quite candidly about your resistance to actively be a part of some of your husband's ministry outreaches. How can a ministry wife fight this same resistance and truly embrace God’s calling on her life?

A: My first deep resistance was against being the wife of a pastor.  I had just had my fifth baby, I was weary with the care of a growing family, and now I felt I had to be something I was not.  So I became a “performer” but had no real love for the people. 

It is really a heart issue.  Whom am I pleasing: husband, people, myself? At that point, when my husband became a pastor, I simply accepted the role without going to God and asking him for His Spirit to change my heart. 

I believe this is a daily need, even today when I am glad to be serving in London; I need a daily heart renewal, a daily filling of the Spirit to love people, a daily searching of the heart to root out hidden motives, a recognition that I am in a battle and that I am not alone in the fight against the wiles and accusations of the evil one. 

Recognizing this about myself enables me to be open and honest with a much younger generation and among the Asian community in north London. 

Q: Tell us about some of the changes that God made in your life over time so that you were able to become a full-time ministry partner with your husband. 

A: I don’t know if you read my first book, From Fear to Freedom (printed by Waterbrook), but it does tell the story of the incredible grace of God to rescue a proud, arrogant, independent woman from fear to freedom.

God used some heavy tools to get my attention: the rebellion of two daughters was the beginning. (In my mind I was producing a well-behaved family). 

Then, after a disastrous ski trip in the Alps, God met me at the communion table. Twice in one day he laid bare my arrogant pride and covered me with His love, showing me the blood of Christ that was shed for me.

Going to war-torn Uganda, seeing and hearing of cruelty and devastation and knowing how hopeless I was to do anything about it, I again came to the communion table where Christ met my question, “Could I love these people?” with an answer. Yes, I could because of the cross.

But the change went deeper when Jack told me, “R.M. you act like an orphan.  You don’t believe the Spirit could ever guide you, teach you, and change you.”  All I could do at that moment was repent and ask God for the filling of the Spirit, which is still a daily need. Six months later I returned to Uganda with deep joy.  This statement—that I was acting like an orphan—was also crucial in my relationship to my wayward daughter. At that time she was studying at Stanford University and had started to read the Bible.  On the phone she said, “Mom, that is the way I am too.”  A few weeks later the Spirit moved into her life.  Now she is the wife of a pastor, something she said she would never do or be.  We have lived together for 25 years, she and 4 children.  She has written about this journey in a book called, Come Back Barbara.

Q: I love your emphasis on God being strong in our weakness. How do you maintain this perspective on a daily basis in ministry, where you have both a humble understanding of yourself and a confidence in God to do what He is asking you to do? 

A: As you read through the book, Nothing Is Impossible with God, you will see the many instances that God used to convince me that I am weak.  The problem was when He met me in my weakness and again made me strong, I tended to depend on that experience instead of the Spirit.

I cannot keep this emphasis on my own.  I have a strong prayer support among many different people.  In the U.S. there are churches that communicate with me, asking for prayer requests.  I have a large extended family—children and grandchildren who pray.  I have a special needs granddaughter who prays for me every day.  I am in four bible studies in London where I ask for prayer, and I have different groups and friends on email who regularly pray for me.  I simply cannot do life in London at 87 years old without prayer.

Then there are desert times that the Spirit brings me through that make me hunger for Christ in a deeper way than just for ministry.  I recently came through a long period of dryness, where outreach continued, but the heart was dry.  I called a few friends and asked for their prayer, and also in my desperation I asked God, “Where in the Word will I find life?”  The answer was, “Read the Psalms.”  I still continue to do this.

Through the years being in London and studying God’s plan to rescue a broken and sinful people, I understand in a fuller way the importance of what I am praying when I pray, “Thy kingdom come.”

Q: What would you say to ministry wives who are performing for others rather than seeking to the please the Lord?

A: This is a really good question and what many missionaries, wives of pastors, and women in ministry struggle with.  The Spirit’s goal for us is to love God with all our hearts, will, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.  The latter I cannot do, and the first is generally ignored.  This is what drew me to study the lives of Eve, Sarah, Hannah, and Mary.  Paul writes in II Corinthians 11:3, “I am afraid as Satan beguiled Eve by his cunning your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (ESV). I learned through the years how Satan beguiled, how to recognize the lies, and how to resist them. I asked for prayer for this many times.  Our western culture is consumed with “correct behavior,” impossible expectations, and one of the beguiling lies is: “You have to be like others.”  I live with nine people in London (all family) and I know the temptation to please, but that is not where life is. Life is in Christ and in Him alone. This is where a serious study of the Word helps us to know what pleases the Lord.  I have many dates written next to Psalm 51 in my Bible.

Another danger is that when you succeed, Satan will tempt you to think it was something you did “right” and you should take at least a little credit.  When you fail, he will fill your mind with guilt and accusation.  Both are to be resisted at all costs.

About motivation. When I got a two-year visa to work in London, I found out that I needed to clock in 35 hours per week.  Then God led me through a dry time where my motives were very clearly exposed.  I found myself doing my work to fulfill immigration requirements, but I had no strength in the dry time to do what was required.  It was then I again turned to special friends for prayer, but I also realized it was God’s discipline to get me moving out among people. When I realized this, I saw the big picture and moved forward with joy.   

Q: You are still going strong after years of ministry alongside your husband and now years of mission work as a widow. Is there ever a time where we can retire from doing God's work?

A: I do not see the word “retirement” in the Bible.  Anna was 84. She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer.  Her reward?  She saw Jesus. (Luke 2:36-38)  My goal is to finish well.  Since He is the author and finisher of my faith, then He will accomplish His goal in my life.

If you would like to win a copy of Rose Marie Miller's book, simply leave a comment below. I will announce the winner on Monday.