My City, My Home

“There’s no place like home.” (Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz)

According to the dictionary, home is the place where one lives. But we all know that home is much more than a location. It is possible to live somewhere and never regard it as home. Home is where we belong, where we fit, the place that has our heart.

When it comes to Christian service, seeing the place of our ministry as home is a basic essential. The situation we find ourselves in may not be ideal, but if we are to bear fruit it is vital that we view our locality as home.

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7)

See it as your cityI have sent you

The people of Judah were in Babylon because God had sent them there. It wasn’t their ultimate home, but for a generation it was where He had placed them. Until they were called back to their homeland they were to settle down and regard it as their city. For the Christian believer this world is not home. The hope of every disciple is focused on another city, our eternal home. But for the duration of our time on earth we are to put down roots and seek the peace and welfare of our world. Wherever God has put us is the place of our calling. We will never do anything useful for God, people or ourselves until we resolve to see it that way. We need to see our village, town or city as it really is – our city, our home.

Bless your cityseek the welfare of the city

The people of God were called to actively work for the benefit of Babylon. The near judgement and destruction of the corrupt city was prophesied. But in the meantime the people of Judah were instructed to bless their current home and seek the welfare of the city and the people within it. One day this earth will pass away and there will be a new heaven and a new earth. But while we await that Day the Church is charged with blessing the world and all the peoples in it. God has put us where we are to be a blessing. Acting as salt and light we are to roll up our sleeves and do all we can to bless our city, our home.

Pray for your citypray to the LORD on its behalf

Babylon was a wicked place and represented everything that is contrary godliness. God’s people had nothing in common with the Chaldeans. Yet they were charged with praying for the city’s welfare. The best thing any of us can do for our town, city and people is to pray. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4) We develop a heart for what we pray for. Let’s pray for our city, our home.

“Home is where the heart is.” (Pliny the Elder) The place where we live is not just an address, it is home. It is the place of our calling. Seek the welfare of your city, your home, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Tested

“All through my life, I have been tested. My will has been tested, my courage has been tested, my strength has been tested. Now my patience and endurance are being tested.” (Muhammad Ali)

A test is a deliberate, intentional procedure designed to critically evaluate and determine the quality, strength and capacity of something. Everything of value in life is tested, and this is especially true of Christian believers who are maturing into disciples of Christ. Being tested is a normal part of life.

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:11-12)

Don’t resent the testdo not despise the LORD’s discipline

The natural reaction to a test is to resent it. No one wants to do their best, only to be rewarded with hassle, hardship and suffering. Superficially, times of testing seem unfair. But it is shortsighted to despise something that is doing us good. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-5) It is testing that makes us grow up to become better, stronger, more mature people. Don’t resent the test.

Don’t get weary of the testor be weary of his reproof

If only we were tested occasionally and quickly. But the greater the task the more vigorous and robust the testing. For the Christian believer this means prolonged, intensive testing that turns us inside out and reforms us into the likeness of Christ. We can all identify with the psalmist, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” (Psalm 13:1-2) Passing the test requires endurance. “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) The test doesn’t last forever. Stick at it. Don’t get weary of the test.

Don’t misread the testthe LORD reproves him whom he loves

God’s motive behind every test is love. As a good Father he wants to develop us to our fullest potential so that we become everything He has predestined us to be. Hence the tests. Through being tested we grow and our capacity expands. Yet it is easy to misread a test as a sign of God’s disapproval. ‘If we are being tested, God must have abandoned us.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11) Being tested is a sure sign that God loves us and has great plans for us. Don’t misread the test.

“Let the trials of life make you a giant, not a midget.” (Warren Wiersbe) Thank God that He doesn’t leave us as we are, but loves us enough to do something great in us. “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” (Job 23:10)

Prayer List

“Four things let us ever keep in mind: God hears prayer, God heeds prayer, God answers prayer, and God delivers by prayer.” (E. M. Bounds)

A petition is a formal appeal to authority in respect of a particular cause. Christian believers are taught to petition God about every issue that concerns them. A specific list of prayer requests is a necessary part of praying. Without a prayer list there will be no testimony ledger. Everyone ought to have a prayer list.

“Ask, and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

Petitionask

A vital aspect of prayer is supplication, which is the action of asking for something earnestly or humbly. “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.” (James 5:13) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Ephesians 6:18) “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.” (Matthew 6:6) If you have a need, pray and make a request. Don’t complicate matters. Go to God and ask.

Promiseand it will

The Bible’s teaching about prayer is accompanied by some remarkable promises. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24) “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) “And this is the confidence that we have towards him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15) “Call to me and I will answer you.” (Jeremiah 33:3) God has promised to answer prayer. Ask and expect an answer.

Provisionbe given to you

Amazing things happen when we make requests of God. “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11) The Bible is full of examples of God’s provision in answer to prayer. After giving birth to a healthy baby boy, Hannah looked down at Samuel and declared, “I have asked for him from the LORD.” (1 Samuel 1:20) God is Jehovah-Jireh, which means, ‘the LORD will provide’. Whatever you need, ask for it in prayer and see what God will do.

“The prayer power has never been tried to its full capacity. If we want to see mighty wonders of divine power and grace wrought in the place of weakness, failure and disappointment, let us answer God’s standing challenge, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not!”” (J. Hudson Taylor) Whatever you need, ask. “For everyone who asks receives.”

Opportunity

“How much I missed, simply because I was afraid of missing it.” (Paulo Coelho)

Opportunity is a favourable situation or set of circumstances that make it possible to do something. There are those who can spot opportunities everywhere, and those who are oblivious to them. There are those who capitalise on any opportunity, and those who are too cautious to embrace it.

The writer of Ecclesiastes gave the following advice.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might. (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

Opportunitywhatever your hand finds to do

When Paul the apostle visited Athens (Acts 17) he was there to wait for Silas and Timothy so that they could continue on with their journey. But while there he took the opportunity to engage with the Jews in the synagogue, anyone who happened to be in the market-place, Epicurean and Stoic philosophers that he happened to come across, those who gathered at the Areopagus, and a few individuals who believed his message and joined him. That is a lot of opportunity to come from waiting at a transport hub. There is no shortage of opportunity if we will look around and see what can be done.

Actiondo it

Spotting opportunities is only the first step. When Paul saw the opportunities in Athens, he took action to seize those opportunities. He intentionally stepped into the synagogue on the Sabbath and took the opportunity to speak to the Jews. He deliberately walked around the market-place and started conversations. He accepted the invitation to visit a religious site filled with idols. He stood among the philosophers and preached. He welcomed and accommodated the new believers who joined him. If opportunities are not to be squandered, they must be taken and acted upon.

Enthusiasmwith your might

How we do things is as important as what we do. Opportunities will never be maximised if we lack an enthusiastic attitude. It is difficult to fault Paul’s zeal while he was in Athens. His presentation style was enough to engage devout Jews in the synagogue, intrigue strangers in the market-place, captivate scholars and philosophers at the Areopagus, and persuade some significant individuals of the claims of the gospel. Paul had a message worth being enthusiastic about, and he delivered it with conviction. If the gospel is the greatest story ever told, it deserves to be delivered with some fervour. “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)

“An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” (Winston Churchill) Every day provides countless opportunities. Spot them, seize them, and see what happens.

Look

“It’s amazing what you can see when you just sit quietly and look.” (Jacqueline Kelly)

To look at something means to direct one’s gaze in a specific direction in order to see something or someone. It is more than a casual glance. Looking is about examining something in order to see and comprehend.

Jesus often asked people to look. When he said, “Behold”, he was directing people to pause and give careful consideration to what he was pointing at.

“Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” (John 4:35)

Look and stop

It is not always easy to see what is directly in front of us because we are preoccupied with other things and distracted. In order to see what is before us we must stop. We can take a glance while on the move, but we can only look when we stop. The crowd were surrounded by harvest fields and yet were oblivious to them. So Jesus had to tell them to look. In a world of 7.5 billion people, we are surrounded by harvest fields, yet we cannot see it. Stop and take a look at the harvest field of the world around us.

Look and survey

It is possible to look at something but not see it. When Jesus directed the crowd to look at the fields, he was not asking them to take a cursory glance. He was inviting them to take a good look at the surrounding fields and to survey them. They were not just fields, but fields ready for harvesting. Perhaps we have become so accustomed to the world around us that we no longer perceive the opportunity before us. Take a good look at the world, both on our doorstep and across the globe, and survey the opportunities for mission.

Look and see

In the Bible, to see means to perceive and discern something. It means, ‘to get it’. Unlike those who, “see but never perceive” (Isaiah 6:9) Jesus was calling the crowd to look and see what he could see. Not just fields, but fields ready for harvest. The field is the world, full of people who need to hear the gospel and are waiting for someone to come to them with the message. We would do well to look at our world again and see what God sees. See the multitudes waiting for someone to go to them with the message of Christ.

“Nothing is so often irretrievably missed as a daily opportunity.” (Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach) The field of the world around us is waiting for missionaries and ready for harvest. Look, I tell you. Lift up your eyes and see it.

World Missions

“If God’s love is for anybody anywhere, it’s for everybody everywhere.” (Edward Lawlor)

Christian missions around the world is a response to the command of the risen Christ to preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15), make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), and be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The great commission is about evangelism and discipleship on a global scale.

In the book of Revelation, John the apostle saw a vision of the successful completion of this commission.

“For you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)

Who is the gospel for?

John Wesley declared, “The world is my parish.” God loves the whole world, Christ died for the whole world, and the church is called to proclaim the gospel to the whole world. The extent of missions goes beyond all known borders and embraces the whole of humanity. “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” (Abraham Kuyper) The gospel is not just for our locality, nationality or culture. It is a message for the world.

How are we doing?

After two thousand years of ministry, how is the church doing at outworking the great commission? In some ways, “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.” (Charles Dickens) Across the world the church is bigger than it has ever been. More people in more places are coming to faith in Christ than at any time in history. Yet the unprecedented growth of the global population has resulted in more people being alive today who have never heard the gospel than at any time in history. Vast numbers are being born, living and dying without ever hearing a viable presentation of the gospel. “Untold millions are still untold.” (John Wesley) There is still much to be done.

What can be done?

“Is not the commission of our Lord still binding upon us? Can we not do more than now we are doing?” (William Carey) Currently we are living in days of unprecedented opportunity for missions. There are resources available to the church today that previous generations could not have dreamed of. “There is nothing in the world or the Church – except the church’s disobedience – to render the evangelization of the world in this generation an impossibility.” (Robert Speer) If Christian believers took the great commission seriously, the gospel could be preached in all the world in our lifetime. “The evangelization of the world waits not on the readiness of God but on the obedience of Christians.” (Bill M. Sullivan) The unparalleled opportunity is there if the church will engage in missions.

“This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) The great commission will be fulfilled one day, and it will happen through our engagement in world missions.

Stickability

“Endurance is the price tag of achievement.” (Unknown)

Stickability is the ability to stick with something and see it through. It is the process of persevering with something until it is done. Any great feat requires staying power.

David had it in his heart to be king and to build a house for the LORD. But it was an uphill struggle, and it was achieved by unwavering stickability.

Remember, O LORD, in David’s favour, all the hardships he endured. (Psalm 132:1)

Hardshipall the hardships

David’s life was no walk in the park. From the beginning he was beset by challenges, disappointments and hardship. He carried a God given vision in his heart, yet difficulties followed him at every turn. Ease and straightforwardness, or pain and impossibility, are no indication of the will of God. God’s will is God’s will, whatever the circumstances. All God’s servants face hardship at many points in their pilgrimage. That is no reason to give up. God given vision involves mountain sized challenges.

Endurancehe endured

The choice David faced was to give up or carry on. Time and again he was confronted with this test. What made the difference for David was his attitude. Whatever was thrown at him, David endured. It is this attitude that separates the men from the boys. “Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convicts of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” (Winston Churchill) God given vision requires an attitude of endurance.

Successa place for the LORD

David made it. By the grace of God and a lifetime of endurance he became king of Judah, king of Israel, established a kingdom, made detailed preparations for the house of God, and became the great ancestor of Christ. Everyone wants to be like David, but few want to endure like he did. Yet for those who will fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith, there is laid up a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award on that Day. (2 Timothy 4:7-8) God given vision will eventually meet with success.

“Endurance develops every time you reject the temptation to give up.” (Rick Warren) Stickability is does not come naturally to anyone. It is developed through the trials of life. Endurance may not be fun, but the rewards are worth it. Wherever you are at, stick at it.