My last letter ended with this encouragement: “We are to continue to tell an unbelieving world and church that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners and that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” – and that forms a fitting introduction to this letter.
May will be a month when mission will be very much in our minds. On 6th May Jo McMillen returns to Brazil with a clear mandate to be involved in the Creative Hands project. On 13th May Isaac and Dhushy will be travelling to Moldova to work with Dentaid. In the summer Neil Jenkins, Sue Oliver, Dan Lewis, Trevor and Pauline McMillen will be serving on various summer camps. It is good and right that we focus on these activities by supporting financially and giving the vital prayer support without which no meaningful work will ever be done in God’s kingdom.
In the same way we need to approach our work as a church consciously praying and looking for those that God might send out from us into ministry, both long and short term. What about the rest of us, of what value are our lives? When we were PNG we saw the church grow from a missionary-receiving church in to a missionary-sending church and they often used the familiar slogan ‘Pray, Give and Go’. I want to modify that slightly to emphasise the home side of mission – we are to ‘Pray, Give and Live’.
I was once told that “Prayer is first in all Christian work. It is the most important thing we can do. Men will learn to pray by praying with us.” People often say “All I can do is pray”, implying that prayer is nothing compared to other Christian work. It is a vital work in which all Christians can and must engage. If age, illness or family responsibilities prevent you attending church prayer meetings you can and should pray at home. Much work has been done for God, because isolated individuals prayed. If however you are well then our public gatherings for prayer should be a priority for you. We glorify God and serve one another as we seek Him together in prayer. It is helpful to hear ‘senior saints’ who have proven God in many and varied trials pray, because they seem to have a greater intimacy with God. At the same time it is thrilling to hear a young or nervous believer pray publicly. We need to ask why we remain silent in a meeting when we could be praying for activities in our local church or for a fellow-believer facing trials in a closed-access country. We do business with God as we pray.
The second word of the slogan is ‘Give’. We never find it easy talking about giving in Christian circles, especially when we talk about giving money, but it applies to time as well. The hymn ‘I’ve found a Friend’ contains the lines,
Naught that I have my own I call,
I hold it for the Giver;
My heart, my strength, my life, my all,
Are His, and His forever.
To what extent do we live in the light of this truth? It is often argued “It’s my life; It’s my money; It’s my time; It’s my body,” but no Christian can ever use these arguments, because we know that anything we are or have has been given to us by God. If we see our lives, money, time and body as given to us by God for us to use as those who have to give an account, then we ought to use them within the Biblical principles for giving. We are to give FREELY, no one is able to dictate to us how we use God’s gifts. We are to give SACRIFICIALLY; there are times when we have to consciously say ‘I am free to do that, but my life, time, money and effort could be much better used in God’s service if I were ready to sacrifice.’ Luke 14:26 makes it clear “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” We are also to give REGULARLY. It is all too easy to have a ‘one-off’ attitude – “I’ve done that once, that’s enough.” The Great Commission is fulfilled as we each give freely, sacrificially and regularly.
The last word in my modified slogan is ‘Live’. We serve God simply by living, if we consciously live in the light of His Word. After the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ the disciples and new believers were so full of the Lord Jesus Christ, that it was said of them “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13). If for legitimate reasons we are not able to go, then we can and must live, where God has placed us, ‘so that an unbelieving world and church knows that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners and that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
May God help all of us to Pray, Give and Live, even if we cannot Go.
Bernard Lewis May 2017