Vision Beyond Fifty Years
I. VISION FOR THE BODY OF CHRIST
This article has drawn inspiration from two key advices and
admonishments, which Paul gave to the Corinthian and the Hebrew
brethren. Paul exhorts the Corinthians that it is to their advantage,
not only to be doing what they have desired and began to do, but also
that they must complete the doing of it; that as there was readiness to
desire it, so there also may be a completion of what they have begun (I
Cor. 8:10, 11). The Hebrew Christians he admonishes to desire solid
food, which belongs to those who are matured, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil, and that the saints should be perfected through the pure word (Heb. 5:12-14).
At fifty we are no longer children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.
The greatest desire of John the ‘beloved Apostle’ is that believers should prosper and be in good health, even as their soul pro-spers (I John 2). My prayer is that we will no longer be like immature Christians, for ever changing our minds about what we believe, because someone has told us something different or has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. We should at all times speak truly, deal truly, live truly. And so we become more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of His Body - the Church. Under His direction the whole body is fitted together perfectly, and each part in its own special way, helps the other parts, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. This is where God is taking us to and this is the calling of the Church.
We have been made alive, quickened and sealed by the Holy Spirit. We should not cause the Holy Spirit sorrow and grief by the way we live. We should remember that He is the one who marks us to be present on that day when salvation from sin shall be complete. We may face persecutions, but these are light and momentary afflictions. We have a blessed promise. Rough roads need strong shoes, but they shall be given us. Weary days need plenteous grace, and it shall be afforded us. Our strength shall always be equal to every emergency. Fifty years have proven that His promises are true and we need not fear that they should ever fail.
II. THE VISION FOR MINISTRY
The Body of Christ is fully equipped for ministry. Ministers should
know their call to ministry, know the gifts entrusted to them and know
their placements, in order to avoid confusion. Some of us have been
given special ability to lead at high level; some have been given the
gift of preaching well; some have the special ability of winning people
to Christ and helping them to trust Him as their saviour; still others
have the gift of caring for God's people as a shepherd does to his
sheep, leading and teaching them in the ways of God. The reasons He gives these special abilities to do things best, is that God's people will be equipped to do better work for Him, building up the Church, the Body of Christ to a position of strength and maturity. But it does not end there. We continue until finally we all believe alike about our salvation and about our Saviour, God's Son, and all become fully grown in the Lord to the point of being filled with Christ.
III. VISION FOR THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH TO THE WORLD
While multitudes clamour for a mighty revival for the lost in the world, what the Church needs desperately is a profound reformation. Only as the Church is reformed can the culture be transformed. The tragedy of modern day Christianity is that people are looking for experiences in all the wrong places. The real experience is not found in the works of the flesh, rather it is found in the basic fundamentals. "Stand in the way and see. And ask for the old paths, where the good way is. And walk in it. Then you will find rest for your souls" (Jer. 6:16). We must re-discover the genuine worship of God, we must re-dedicate ourselves to the oneness we share in Christ and we must re-commit ourselves to witness by the power of the Spirit.
If the early Christian Church had one distinguishing characteristic,
it was their passion to communicate the love, the joy and the peace that
only Christ can bring to human hearts. It is essential that Christians
re-discover the ultimate experience of being used as a tool in the
hands of Jehovah-God in theprocess of transforming lives. We must be
equipped to communicate what we believe - the “Evangel”. If we do not know how to share our faith, then we have never been through basic training. We need to go back. Consider what would happen if every committed Christian led one person to faith in Christ each year and disciple that person, would we not quicken His return? The harvest is ripe but the workers are few. Pray for more workers. Truly no experience can compare with that of the Holy Spirit working through you to bring someone to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ: each man at least one soul. The ripple effect is our vision.
When John speaks of prospering, he calls for the building of the total man: body, soul and spirit. From generation to generation nations have been baffled by their contemporary problems and the role the Church should play in equipping man to face the problems. Many hold that the Church should be committed to the everlasting gospel and must not commit itself to ephemeral programmes. But if society is not living up to her obligations, the Church should inspire and equip her members to take up some of these challenges. The Church is an institution of excellence and we can excel in all domains. Preparing the people of God on different platforms and different pulpits equally demands for excellence in our educational, medical, vocational and income-generating institutions. The Church should equip instruments to be used in the building of the total man, body, soul and spirit.
There is a possibility of social change which reflects the radical realism of the Bible. This biblical balance is quite well expressed by Paul in I Thess. 1:9-10, where he describes the result of our conversion as being equipped "to serve the living and true God and wait for His Son from heaven." The combination of 'serving ' and 'waiting' is striking, since the first action is, actively getting busy for Christ on earth, while the latter is, passively looking for Him to come from heaven. We must serve, but there are limits to what we can achieve. We must wait, but we have no liberty to do so in idleness. Thus 'working’ and 'waiting' go together. The need to wait for Christ from heaven will rescue us from the presumption which thinks we can do everything. The need to work for Christ on earth will rescue us from the pessimism, which thinks we can do nothing. Only a committed Christian mind, which has developed a biblical perspective, can enable us to preserve this balance: "Occupy until I come", as were Christ’s words. We have emphasized the spiritual, we should not neglect the practical service on earth.
To meet these future challenges I would like to make some contributions to the amelioration of our strategies to reach the lost with the gospel and equip God's people to face the challenges this side of heaven, while waiting for the Master’s return, like wise virgins. Generally the public conscience needs to be educated to know and desire the will of God. The Church should seek to be the conscience of the nation. In social action we should not try to impose Christian standards on an unwilling public, nor remain silent and inactive.
Christians must permeate the non-Christian society. Although Christians are (or should be) morally and spiritually distinct from non- Christians, they are not to be socially segrecalgated. On the contrary, their light should shine into the darkness and their salt soak into the decaying meat. They are to let their light shine, so that their good deeds are seen. We can let our lights shine and prove our tastiness through excellence and high achievements in our secular institutions - academic institutions, medical institutions, vocational institutions, professional and income- generating units (Press, Micro-Finance). The watch-words entrenched in the constitutions of our secular institutions are Quality, Integrity and Excellence. This high standard should be improved and not compromised.
Christians must retain their Christian distinctness. If salt does not
retain its saltiness it is good for nothing. If light does not retain
its brightness, it becomes ineffective. So we who claim to be followers
of Christ have to fulfil two conditions, if we are to do anything good
for Him. On one hand we have to permeate the non-Christian society with
model establishments and institutions, and immerse ourselves in the life
of the world. On the other hand, while doing so, we must avoid becoming
assimilated in the world. We must retain our Christian convictions,
values, standards and life style. It is only as we choose and follow the
way of Christ, that our salt will retain its saltiness, our light will
we shall be His effective witnesses and servants and exert a wholesome influence on society. We should determine, by His grace, to infiltrate some secular segments of society and raise His flag there, maintaining without compromise His standards of love, truth and goodness.I implore my fellow Christians not to relent in the quickening of our minds. The Spirit quickens our hearts and helps us quicken our minds. The avenue for provoking the potentials
in our minds to become productive is by the act of learning. Learning sharpens our minds. As we read the Bible, we rub minds with God. As we read books written by other men of God, we rub minds with them; and with time our dull mind becomes sharp. Somebody once said that the two things which affect the destiny of man - either negatively or positively -are the books he reads and the company he keeps. By studying, we are stirring up the gift of God in us to make it
productive. We sharpen our minds with sharper minds to refine them. There is a wealth of potentials in us lying idle. God has deposited something in each one of us for the benefit of mankind, for which we shall be accountable.
We can make the prayer of Jabez our prayer. Jabez called on the God
of Israel saying. "Oh that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my
territory, that Your hand would be with me and that You would keep me
from evil that I may not cause pains." Jabez was already noble but
prayed for additional blessings and God granted him what he requested.
At fifty, we will not heave a sigh of relief and harbour the "I have
arrived" spirit. We still have to explore and win more
territory for the Lord. We need to extend our foreign missionary thrust; we need to develop our own properties and avoid high rentals. We should never forget that we are co-workers with God. He wants to carry out His plans through us. He created us that we would communicate with Him. How are we going to work with God, unless we listen to Him and talk with Him. More and more it should be a partnership that works by constantly being in touch with Him. This is why prayer is so important.
As we intensify to win more territory, the ‘Wicked One’ will unleash
strong opposition. The battle will be from within and from without. It
will be fiercer from within. The Christian race is accompanied with
warfare. Warfare is as normal to Christianity as breathing, eating,
sleeping are to human existence. Christianity therefore does not exempt
us from warfare. Rather, it gives us a covenant edge over the
opposition. That is why I John 5:4 says, "For whatever is born of God
overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world,
even our faith." God recognizes oppositions as real, but He wants us
reassured that we can overcome them. So warfare should not be viewed as
strange. It is
rather an opportunity to demonstrate our fore-ordained victory. We shall battle with our Bible in one hand, the trowel on the other hand and our sword girded.
In these last days, we need wisdom more than anything else in the battle against the forces of wickedness. Isaiah re-echoes this truth (43:2) "Fear thou not. When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." God commands us not to fear because the wisdom and power of God are available to ensure we pass through the river unhurt. Wisdom was available for Daniel and his friends, for Joseph, for David. It is available for us. “Fear thou not!” We shall overcome in Jesus’ name. Amen!
IV. OUR RAISON D'ETRE: ACTIVE SPIRITUALITY
The Christian life is characterized by both: a vertical perspective and horizontal perspective. We must know how to be in Christ and how to relate to our fellow human beings. Every waking moment in our lives we operate from two view points: Human and Divine. These could be referred to as horizontal perspective and vertical perspective. The more popular of the two is human. The more fruitful of the two is Divine. Human opinions influence us more than God's principles and commands. As we look forward I admonish us for the reverse.
Unfortunately, horizontal solutions seem to give us greater security and pleasure, more than the vertical ones. A common experience, when under pressure of some deadline, we much prefer a tangible way out than trusting God to see us through. Rather than waiting on the Lord to solve our dilemma in His own way and in His own time, we would normally choose the option of stepping in ourselves and manipulating a fast painless escape. But by doing so, the divine process is reversed. May God deliver us from this behaviour!
Active spirituality begins with God. It is grounded in the divine perspective. Before we can put feet to our faith can function, we must first see things as God sees them. That is how we begin to know God's will for our lives and for the Church. The book of Proverbs describes this spiritual condition as "to know Wisdom" (1:2). This wisdom is working knowledge. This knowledge is knowledge with feet. This knowledge is quick to do and to run the race.
May God help us.
( Rev. Njayo Njemo David)