Translation for 事奉者的災禍感, Chinese version published in the Momentum STEMI's Quarterly Bulletin 動力季刊 2005 Vol.12 No.4. Note: The translation is not checked by Rev. Stephen Tong, and is not guaranteed of it's accuracy.
Risk awareness is a very important concept in corporate management. When you are doing one thing, and the entire economy suddenly collapse, those people who are well prepared will not be affected by this unexpected disaster. Many businessmen understand this, but it is a pity that people in the church and missionary do not realize this. Very often, preachers and church leaders think that if God is with us, what can others do to us? So they rely on this, a misunderstanding of the scripture, and establish a very optimistic and naïve faith, which fail to prevent things that can be prevented even by the wisdom of Gentiles. Thus, sense of disaster is a must for one who serves the Lord.
In the thinking of Paul, there are clearly a few senses of disaster. The first is: " ... so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize" (1Cor 9:27), so how is it? Is it true? Yes, because God is truthful to His own word. When God have spoken, He must use His word to achieve the purpose of the truth revealed by Him, and the messenger is only a tool, not the source of grace. When a preacher or witness of the Lord thinks that they are the source of grace, they have already lost their sense of disaster. You may think, "See how God use me! If God is with me, doesn’t it mean that I am not bad." However, when God use you, it is not because of you, but because of His word, and also giving you the opportunity to serve Him. Thus, when God’s grace comes upon you, this does not prove that you're better than others, and when you are more graceful, more plentiful, as well as smoother going than others, it may be because that if you are not given such an abundant grace, you would have fallen already. We must learn to be humble from the unconditional election and unconditional grace of God, and only with this attitude then we will bring the glory to God! If one day God is blessing my work, it is because this is the work of God, not mine. Through my preaching, others will receive the grace from God because of His word, as well as His truthfulness to His word, and I’m only a vessel. If your motive to serve is not holy and pure, but using your gifted skill with the familiar experience of preaching His word in the Bible, God will on one hand let you have result on your work, but on the other hand abandon you. Paul is very clear on this sense of disaster, but I believe that many preachers do not understand this.
The second sense of disaster, in the concept of Paul is: " ... woe to me if I do not preach the gospel" (1Cor 9:16) I believe that this is what many people is lack of, especially the Reformed, because the Reformed often think of building up their belief throughout their life, and it seems that evangelism is not their responsibility. The Reformed is very interested in rational thinking. However, we must be rational, not rationalist. The Reformed are very interested in the doctrine, but turned into a group of conservative, continuing to build up and continuing to pursuit, thus becoming a group of selfish people and very few preach the gospel. In this regard, the Reformed should repent, and need to re-build themselves -- to build on this sense of disaster, because woe to me if I do not preach the gospel. I believe that there are many theologians who never preach the gospel in their whole life, yet they feel at ease and justified, and many pastors who don’t even have enough time to shepherd their own church, not mentioning a chance to preach outside the church, but they feel at ease and justified in not preaching the gospel. I afraid that students in this institute is also good in thinking and research in the belief, and also feel at ease and justified in not participating in evangelism, in this case the Reformed movement is not a successful one. Paul said, no matter what I do, it’s for the sake of the gospel, it’s for the glory of the God, and it’s Christ that will be exalted in my body -- all these will be our wholeheartedly service in front of God, and that sums up the entire scope of Christian ethics. Christian ethics is a motivational ethics -- why you do it, how you do it, and what you have done. What is your motive? I do for the glory of the God; I build up others for the sake of God, not for man; I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessing. You can take this as your motive, and one rule fits thousands of application; Whether you are studying, preaching, working, or making money, give glory to the God! When the answers to what you do concluded to this motive, then no matter what you do, it’s for the sake of the gospel that you may share in its blessing. So today, preachers need to have this sense of disaster -- woe to me if I do not preach the gospel. So, everyone in the Reformed movement must adopt a two-pronged approach, using the truth to build up their own, and also using the gospel to save others, otherwise woe to them. Of course, we are not using this risk to threaten or to force ourselves to preach the gospel. The reason we believe in the Lord is not trying to escape, nor going to heaven, for this is a relatively selfish religious belief. We believe in the Lord because He is the truth and we return to Him, we belong to Him and we return to Him. So I believe in the Lord, and this reason of going to heaven or hell should not be the motive of my faith, because they are the result of my faith. The result of faith should not become the motive of the faith itself, motive is the initial driving force of an action, and the result of faith is in the promised eternal plan of God. Every time we turn around the result and reason, our reason to serve God will become selfish. If I serve faithfully to the Lord, then I shall get the crown of life, this is the result. However, if it’s because of the crown of life that I serve God, this is selfish.
The third sense of disaster is: "If anyone does not love the Lord -- a curse be on him ... " (1Cor 16:22). This is definitely not for non-Christian but for Christian, and this is definitely not for ordinary people but for those who are saved as well as preaching the gospel and serving the Lord. Paul said, "the man who loves God is known by God" (1Cor 8:3), and it doesn’t matter how people oppose to it, curse it, dishonor it, or whatever. If you've established such a deep interpersonal relationship with the Lord, then it doesn’t matter even if the world is against you, because the man who loves the Lord is known by the Lord. Athanasius is a key person in defense of the doctrine of the Trinity, and is also one of the greatest in establishment of the Orthodox beliefs. When he was young and do not have much experience, and all by himself resisting the world wandered away from the doctrine of the Trinity, an old man has said: "Oh! Athanasius, you are so young, you are so courageous, and you dare to resist against the Arianism! Let me tell you that the world is now against you!" His answer is: "The world is against me? Well, I am against the world!" This is a model of not giving up even when alone, and this is the spirit of Orthodox beliefs that we should have. When the world is going the wrong way, and I am by myself, I should not be self-pity, I should not say: "Oh Lord, I’m the only one left while other people worship Baal, now that they are trying to kill me too, so I escape and hide to preserve for you a remnant, and you should thanks this remnant of me, otherwise how can the history continue onward?" God will not sympathize on those who are self-pity, God will not agree with those who profess to be above worldly considerations, and God will not cherish of those who claim credit of himself. God said: "What are you talking about! Elijah, you are the only one left? You look at things based on the phenomena, you look at your credit based on your own enthusiasm, and you look at numbers based on the proportion, seeing yourself as the only noble one. Let me tell you that I have reserved 7,000 people, all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him!" So our arrogance, our self-pity, our taking of God’s glory, and our thinking that we are so valuable -- all these should be crucified. Paul is very clear on this, so he said, "If anyone does not love the Lord -- a curse be on him". Who is willing to make a living under a curse? This is terrible!
So today, I share with you these three senses of disaster. The more sense of disaster we have, the more we can avoid disaster, and the more we can foretell the disaster, the more blessing we can get from God. John Calvin said: "A saint is not a person without sin; a saint has great sensitive to small sins." The more one is clear and enlightened by the sense of disaster, the more one can avoid the unnecessary risks as well as the unnecessary judgment of curse to come. Under the common grace of God, we may not know that there are many secular who are ahead of us in experiencing or practicing things revealed by the Bible. May God help us, and let us say: Oh Lord! I don’t want to preach the gospel to others, but abandoned by you; Oh Lord! I want to work hard in sharing your word to others and save others, so as to avoid a disaster on me; Oh Lord! I want to love you, so as to avoid a curse on me. Amen!
(An exhortation to students of the Reformed Institute in Kuala Lumpur on July 8, 2005. Notes taken by 莊惟晴 in Chinese)