Felix Vargas is a Bolivian Missionary from the Sucre/Chuquisaca region. He is now 62 years old and approximately 12 years ago he dedicated his life to serving in far away communities of Potosi Bolivia. Potosi is well known for it's high altitude, cold, poor, desolate ambiance.
Although Felix is illiterate he learned Quechua and now speaks it with ease-he has also basically memorized Quechua hymnal-including page numbers!
Vehicles are hard to come by in Potosi so Felix regularly walked through the mountains to neighboring villages to share the Gospel-sometimes walking from 3 hours to an entire day to reach his destination.
During his time in Potosi, Felix has planted 3 churches and built 3 buildings to hold meetings with the believers. He continues to faithfully disciple the new believers and be involved in the preaching in the church.
There’s just one thing that makes all of this more significant:
Felix has been crippled by arthritis for the past five years.
He is single and has no family close by. He works with the believers around, but lives alone-and one can imagine that would be a lonely life.
Felix depends completely on others to care for him-and sometimes the help is sporadic. The church is small and many of the believers live far from there. Sometimes they forget to come or sometimes they can't make it back into the village. There is little to no focus on hygiene (When we met Felix, he was living in a dirty room, with old clothes and his fingernails and toenails were incredibly long). Felix receives no financial support-although he is given food. The church there in Tomaycuri is very poor and although they try to help out to sustain Felix with food and to get him in his wheelchair and outside, they do not have the means to help with any treatment to keep the arthritis from advancing.
Why would he stay there? He easily could’ve just given up and gone home and no one would have blamed him considering all that he has accomplished and all that he is suffering. What could have prompted him to stay??
Felix hopes not in circumstances but in the sovereign trustworthy God.
In conversation with Felix, he said he was just “waiting for death"...not to escape pain He can’t wait to see the Lord face to face, but in the meantime is content to spend his life now in a way that would glorify the LORD..
Felix identified with Paul who in Phil 1:23 said, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,”
Although Felix is crippled, his lips aren’t sealed, he faithfully keeps preaching and discipling believers in Tomaycuri and the surrounding villages.
He knows there’s more to this life than one can see and is spending his life for the next...
My interactions with Felix have convinced me that your perspective is what makes ALL the difference:
I want to share what I've learned about the greatest motivation for obedience
Hebrews 11 is commonly known as the faith chapter:
in context you will see a long list of the Patriarchs faith: Three famous patriarchs Moses, Noah, and Abraham demonstrated faithful obedience to the Lord although it seems that they didn’t understand what he was asking necesarily or why, they took God at His word. and they and a long list of others are remembered like this:
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
I pulled three reasons out of this passage that motivated these heroes of the faith to obedience:
- They trusted that God is faithful to keep his promises
- They trusted that their obedience for greater purpose than what they could see in the present time.
- All made a choice to believe God’s word or focus on circumstances. Their faith based on promise of what He was going to do regardless of what their current situation looked like
- Obedience in spite of uncertainty: Abraham offered his ONLY son when asked by God, I'm sure he was wondering how he would ever become the father of many nations at this rate; Moses’ parents disobeyed the kings edict to kill their baby-even though they were likely choosing to face death
- Knowing that God is bigger than death, struggles and pain. Abraham believed that if God asked him to sacrifice his only son, he could certainly raise Isaac from the dead.
- They forgot what is behind: Not forget in the sense that they couldn't remember, but they chose not to remember/focus on what they had given up to obey the Lord
- IF they would have fixed their gaze on the land they left they could have returned-but denied themselves the right to consider that possibility-they recognized their “true position citizens of heaven and thus aliens everywhere on earth”-Leon Morris
- “An understanding of heavenly citizenship moves our focus from fleshly and worldly values to eternal values of Christ and His work” Mike Sullivan
- Moses gave up his royal rights (as an adopted child of the royal family) and chose rather to “endure ill treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin (Heb 11: 25)”. He refused the pleasures of Egypt because he had something infinitely more wonderful to live for (Warren Wiersbe, Be Joyful p. 122)
- They anticipated HEAVEN as the ultimate reward
- These Heroes of the faith represented God well on earth and He was not ashamed to be called their God
- Just like the Israelites/Moses anticipated arriving at the promised land we look forward to the place that God is preparing for us.
- I think we all have experienced that looking to earthly rewards produces disaster! (see Phil 4:17-19 the enemies of the cross... “set their minds on earthly things”) v. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven—and we also eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” As believers our lives should reflect this.
All these men/women who are recorded as great heroes of the faith are remembered because of what they did:
Accomplished great things for God-they often never saw even a glimpse of the fulfillment of the promise. Heb 11:33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 ...escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; ... 35 Women received back their dead, [who were] raised to life again.
Endured great sorrows for God-for all those who accomplished great things, there were so many others who served God through incredibly difficult circumstances: Heb 11:35b There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection... killed...misplaced— 38 the world was not worthy of them.
In both ends of the spectrum, these men and women endured horrible things and accomplished great things because they “considered Him faithful who had promised”
In the same way Felix chooses to remain in Tomaycuri-dependent on the other believers, persevering through physical pain and hardship and often going without necessities and comforts. He knows he could return to comforts of home but is content to be serving the Lord and community of Tomaycuri as long as the Lord will allow him to continue.
I hope to follow Felix’ example of faithful obedience. Even if I only get 12 years to serve the Lord, I hope to remain firm in my resolve to spend every day trusting in His faithfulness, by relying on what He has promised that he will do even if I never see the results. In the same way as the fathers of the faith, I want to be able to trust in the faithful God to fulfill his promise and keep my focus fixed towards heaven even though today might look like a wreck.
I want to encourage you all also to be convinced of the goodness of God, be convinced of the future glory of heaven and let us live in a way that someday when we stand before the Lord he will welcome us in unashamed to His heaven which he has prepared for us.
Although you aren’t living with the same challenges as the patriarchs or even Felix; you also have many challenges and struggles and will you choose to trust in a faithful God to fulfill his promises; will you forget what is behind and focus on heaven as your ultimate reward as your daily strive to follow the Lord. Make a choice to live with an eternal perspective.
(Felix getting a manicure/pedicure!)