“If anyone serves me, he must follow me” (John 12:26a, NASB).
Bill Johnson was a friend of mine. He was a great surgeon who spent his life using his surgical skills, not only in Saratoga, California, but in country after country around the world. Bill was deeply devoted to CMDA ministry---a past president, the first editor of our CMDA journal and a recent recipient of CMDA’s Servant of Christ award. Bill’s most recent mission focus, starting 20 years ago at the age of 70, was the founding and nurturing of the Albanian Health Fund, an educational and evangelical mission to physicians and dentists in Albania. I can still feel his huge hand resting firmly on my shoulder, launching me into that work with him over the past 18 years. Bill’s funeral this past week was a wonderful time of reflection by friends and family with a grand tribute from the pastor, describing Bill as a blend of Albert Schweitzer and Billy Graham.
But not all comments about Bill rang true. One friend offered (I suppose to comfort the family), “I know how difficult it can be for a family when the husband and father’s idealism can always be taking them off on a mission.”
I pray to God that my family has never been, nor never will, be made to suffer because of any idealism that drives me forward. I think such words missed the point of Bill Johnson’s life. Bill did not drag his family all over the world and leave them behind on many other missions to follow a dream born in idealism. Bill Johnson loved the Lord Jesus Christ and followed Christ’s call wherever He beckoned.
Many of us as Christian doctors are in danger of seeking the romantic ideal and chasing after it for a sense of fulfillment. Such dream chasing can be destructive both to our families and to God’s best plan for our lives. We, as doctors who have the means to chase our dreams, need caution in seeking such personal fulfillment, for it can certainly bring harm to those we love.
On the other hand, throughout our lives as Christians, Jesus is constantly calling us onward into His mission, most often to a deeper commitment where we live, but sometimes to locations around the world. We must ever listen for and follow that call, whatever the consequences. Certainly the call of Christ may bring challenges for our families, but we must trust them to His loving care and follow where He beckons.
And we must trust the Holy Spirit and the church to help us distinguish the difference between the beckoning call of our Lord and the magnetism of romantic idealism. Bill Johnson knew the difference. He followed the Lord.
Let me ever listen for your call and always follow. Let me never follow a false call to idealism.