Soon, another year will draw to a close. For me – and I believe it might well be the same for many of you too – it has been another packed year! And yet, as I sit down to pen this newsletter, I feel it necessary to ponder the following questions even as I recount the happenings and achievements in 2011. In the past year …
1. Has Jesus increased, and have I decreased?
In responding to queries about Jesus’ increasing popularity, John the Baptist said, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” (John 3:30) In the ministry, it is so easy to think it’s all about ourselves when it should be all about Jesus. But really, I must pause to honestly reflect if I have proclaimed the name of Jesus more than I have promoted my own name.
The Lord graciously reminded me of the right perspective on two occasions this year. At a Touch Jesus He Heals! Service, I was feeling so tired and unmotivated to pray for anyone, thinking that nothing would happen since I was not in the right frame of mind. Yet, when I dutifully prayed for a lady with eye problems, God promptly healed her! Then, the same thing happened again in Philippines. I was so stretched and tired when I arrived in Davao. God knows I did my best and preached my heart out at the first night’s rally. Going by my own feelings, I sure didn’t experience any “fireworks” or “anointing”. But when the people responded to the altar call, God moved so powerfully in our midst and in their lives! It was so humbling, but also so very liberating.
Truly, it is all about Jesus! It’s not who I am, what I can do or how I feel. It is by His grace that I am what I am! My part is to preach the Word and to declare His Kingdom. God will do what He needs to do and how He wants to do it! But my prideful nature so wants to clamour for attention and recognition. How I thank God for His Holy Spirit who reminds and convicts me time and time again. Yes! Jesus must increase and I must decrease! More of You, Lord!
2. Have I been faithful to my Master and to my assigned tasks?
When one professes to have faith in God, faithfulness to God must follow. This is consistent with James 2:20, that faith without works (faithfulness) is dead. We know this, and yet, so many struggle with being faithful. That said, I hasten to add that being or serving in the ministry does not necessarily mean one is faithful. And that is why I need to reflect on what I have done through this year. I may have been very busy, but have I been faithful? I may have done a lot in the ministry, but have I done what my Master has called me to do?
For sure, I could list all the achievements and milestones … at Covenant Vision Christian Church: preached many sermons, launched seven Discipleship Groups, served on the Worship Team, prayed regularly with and for the Youth & Young Adults, increased weekly attendance, celebrated 3rd Anniversary, setting the stage for a men’s ministry; at Covenant Vision School of Ministry: 3rd Graduation Ceremony in January, another good year of teaching Certificate and Diploma students, laying groundwork for the alumni, preparing for new students in 2012; ministering outside: preached at various churches, ministered at healing service, spoke at Young Adults Conference and Sunday Services in Davao; personal and family: wrote more songs this year, had “Yes You Are” featured at InDeep Worship 6, celebrated 9 birthdays again!, adjusting to a teenager in the family, managed a family getaway, rode Battlestar Galactica, growing needs and challenges at home.
Phew! The list could go on and on. It might even look impressive! But did I do what the Lord has called me to do? I hope so. Could I have been distracted along the way? Of course! Faithfulness is not about just doing things but doing what we have been called to do.
3. Have I been fruitful in my own life and in the lives of others?
We have all heard of those who have lived lives of regret, when they look back only to realise they have done much but have accomplished little. I believe that is not what the Christian life is about. Rather, it is about Jesus and our faithfulness to Him as King, Lord and Master. When we are duly aligned with Him and His purposes, fruitfulness will follow. When we learn to draw from Him and to live out of who we are in Him, fruitfulness will follow. After all, we are only the branches and He is the Vine. Apart from Him, we cannot bear fruit that lasts. (John 15:5)
This is by far the toughest question to answer. Simply, the results may not be as readily or immediately seen. Much of Christian ministry is about sowing, sowing and more sowing that fruit may be harvested in due season. Along the way, we praise and thank God for little indications of how things are going, for little markers that keep us on track, for little successes that encourage us. And all these, by His grace, He has allowed me to experience … no, not in the successful events that I have organised or have been a part of, but in the lives of those I minister to. My greatest joy in the ministry is to see people touched and transformed by the Lord, by the power of His Spirit; to see them hunger even more for His glory and Kingdom, and then to see these give up even more for the sake of His glorious name!
As I serve, God uses the circumstances and challenges to also produce the fruit of His Spirit in my own life. Trust me – and I will say it like it is – it is not easy dealing with people. But it is only in relationship with others that we learn how to love and be gracious with one another. And if we’d allow the Holy Spirit to convict and change us, the fruit of the character and nature of God will be developed in us. Each day, I am still praying, “Lord, change me.”; although it is much, much easier to pray, “Lord, change him/her!”
Three simple questions to ponder as we close another year. Not easy questions by any means, but no less important and critical. How did you fare? In the busyness of ministry, work and family, Christians can be distracted and deviate from the purposes of God. To this end, I really appreciated the opening remarks of Pastor Peter Tsukahira at the “Restoring the Altar of the Lord” Conference … “If it does not pertain or add to the Kingdom of God or to us being prepared as the Bride of Christ, it is a waste of time.” (paraphrased)
My dear friends, I leave you with these words of wisdom from a wonderful man and servant of God. Thank you for journeying with me and Serene (and our family) throughout this entire year. The work of the ministry continues to be demanding, coupled with a family of growing children, but we are encouraged to know that we don’t walk alone. Emmanuel, God is with us! And the Lord has provided friends in all of you to also walk with us through your love, your prayers and your gifts. We thank God for each and every one of you, and we pray that His abundant and amazing grace will always be sufficient for you and your loved ones!
In His love and for His glory!