3. Entanglements

Excerpted from God’s Missionary

Amy Carmichael

Editor’s Note: Amy Carmichael was what we call a missionary to India in the early 1900s. But she was not a typical missionary. When she saw 5 and 6 year old girls being sold to pagan temples for prostitution, she began to purchase these girls that she might raise them and show them the redemption of the Lord. This conflicted with the policies of her denomination but did not stop her from obeying God and rescuing these children.

God’s Missionary is grounded in the notion of “home” and “abroad.” The first is a place of religious knowledge and the latter is a place of missions and work. In our time, there is not really such a distinction. Yes, there are countries that have religious knowledge but these largely lack a true relationship with Christ in spirit and in truth and often are more of a missions ground than the so-called pagan countries. And yes, there are countries that are largely pagan in their outlook and practice but these are sometimes populated by people who hunger for righteousness and truth. But the world, the kosmos, the world system headed by Satan himself, has encroached upon the people of God to such an extent that no land anymore can truly be said to be one or the other. There are pockets of each wherever one travels.

But few and far between are those who truly seek to worship God in spirit and in truth. May those few, the true remnant, who read this see that we do indeed have a high calling in Christ to live up to. - n.g.

What is the ideal of God’s missionary? He is to be a Soldier, disentangled; a Nazarite, separated; a Priest, crowned. God’s missionary is a Soldier on service out on campaign, and he cannot be entangled in the affairs of this life, “the little affairs,” as the Greek has it. They are so little as compared with the great affairs of the War. Does not the word “disentangled” run straight across much that is sometimes accepted as admissible, and even desirable in the Lord’s soldier?

There is the social entanglement: such and such things are expected of us, and we cannot do what is required in this direction, and at the same time get the quiet we know we must secure if we are to go on in strength and in calmness of spirit. There are afternoon functions which to a conscientious worker often involve a crush somewhere, if the countless things that do not show when they are done, but are missed if they are not done, are to be peacefully accomplished. There are the late hours, simple enough for those whose duties do not call them up at dawn; but for those who, to have any sort of undisturbed quiet, must not only be up by dawn but awake the dawn, quite another matter. “It was so late when I got home that I was too tired to read or have proper quiet time,” said one in speaking of these social duties so called. Quiet time - the word is vital.

This little book was about to go out for the fourth time when a girl who had read it at home said, “There is nothing in it about modern women’s dress, and nothing about useless talk.” It is true there is not and, to be frank, it is not easy to write about either; thorns and briers lie round about these subjects:


Dead to world and its applause,
To all the customs, fashions, laws,
Of those who hate the humbling Cross.

Are the words too old to matter now? I cannot think so. But let us go to our Lord, the Crucified, and ask Him what He thinks about it. And if He asks us to change our ways even in this, for His sake and for the sake of those whom we might help if we cared more for Him, and our windows were open towards Jerusalem, and not towards any earthly city, shall we not do it?

And talk: if we write it down as a law of the house that the absent are not discussed to their detriment, that no belittling stories are told of any one, nor anything said about any one unless it passes through the three sieves, Is it true? kind? necessary? if we humble ourselves if ever, unawares, we break this law, we shall be astonished at the amount of talk of the kind that harms the spirit which it rules out with a stroke. And the frothy talk of nothingness, the mere noise of words that can dull and make dusty a whole table of Christian people, will not taste good to us if by His grace we keep that law. Talk can pull down as well as build up, and it can entrap and weaken in a very curious way. But the talk that is the kind He would enjoy, frank and simple and sincere and happy as the song of the birds - this kind of talk lifts up and helps. Imagination is in place here. Imagine the Lord at table or in the room (and He is); how would our talk sound to Him? All we need, all we want, is to have His ungrieved Presence with always.

And there is the entanglement of overwork. Who has not known it? The more we love our work, the keener we are to do it well, or the more the burden of souls unreached weighs upon our hearts, the greater our joy in reaching them, the subtler the form this entangling peril takes, and the more likely we are to slip into it before we are aware.

And there is another. I would not touch upon it were it not that it is so terribly familiar, so deadly in its entangling: the unconfessed, perhaps unrealized, awakening of ambition, the love of the praise of man that brings a snare.

Suddenly, to us thus entangled, comes a call for the exercise of special spiritual energy. Someone has to be dealt with in some definite way. A trial, from which the flesh shrinks back dismayed, waits for us round the next corner. There is a sense of coming conflict; we feel the air thick with contending forces - good and evil - and the evil so terribly strong. O, those bonds - invisible cords - why do they hold one so? “As a thread of two is broken when it touches the fire” - we think of that, and call upon the God of fire to burn the bonds and set us free to fight this fight for that soul, to enable us to stand ourselves peaceful and strong in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. But is it that the Lord is farther from us than He used to be? For we fail. And thus - and who that has gone through it can ever forget it? - is there not a grief too grievous to be borne, as the very heart breaks with the shame and the sorrow of the thought: If I had spent more time with God for souls I should have had more power with God for souls, and been more calm myself in this turmoil of great waters? For the powers of darkness are as strong as ever they were. Times have not changed since the days of St. Paul. The fight with the spirits of evil is just as desperate now as it was then. The stern condition still holds good: “This kind goes not out but by prayer and fasting.” We cannot go in for entanglements of any sort, and for spiritual power at the same time.

”The evangelization of the heathen world” - it is Coillard of the Zambezi who said it - “is a desperate struggle with the Prince of Darkness, and with everything his rage can stir up in the shape of obstacles, vexations, oppositions, and hatred, whether by circumstances or by the hand of man. It is a serious task. It should mean a life of consecration and faith.”

It is not for nothing that the soldier’s word “entanglement” is used only once again in the New Testament, and then in connection with something dangerous. It is used of those who, having escaped “the miasmas of the world,” are drawn back into them and “overcome.”

We dread malarial fever, and fear lest it should get hold of us and drive us out of the mission-field. Should we less dread this spiritual malaria, the fever of a restless soul, which has a power, we know not how, to enervate the very fibre of our being, and so unnerve us for the fight? Surely this is the most dangerous form of fever possible. A fit soul in an unfit body is doubtless uncomfortably crippled, but it is not wholly ineffective; but what is the good of a fit body with an unfit soul inside it? It may as well go home at once for all the fighting it will do in the mission battlefield.

But is there not a better way?

Searcher of spirits,
Try Thou my reins and heart,
Cleanse Thou my inward part,
Turn, overturn and turn.
Wood, hay and stubble see,
Spread out before Thee,
Burn, burn.

Saviour of sinners,
Out of the depths I cry,
Perfect me or I die:
Perfect me, patient One;
In Thy revealing light,
I stand confused outright,

O to be holy!
Thou wilt not say me nay
Who movest me to pray.
Enable to endure:
Spiritual cleansing Fire,
Fulfil my heart’s desire.
Make pure.

I’d love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!

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