30 Mar Let Us Live Up To What We Have Already Attained
In the lesson of faith, if there are no trials of many kinds, faith certainly cannot possibly move to the stage of being mature and complete <Jas 1:2-4>. However, whenever practical trials come, we will once again face the spiritual battle that no one desires. Especially, when this pandemic comes, our faith is constantly being purified, and up to today, it is still being tested. God’s word tells us to rejoice because of the trials of many kinds, as those trials will surely bring about more beautiful fruits. We must firmly believe that the Lord knows our limits, and He is leading us through all these trials with sufficient grace. Today, let us understand more about faith. First, we know that faith has direction and contents. That is absolutely not blind faith or superstitious faith, but faith in God’s word which created and sustains everything. Yet at the same time, faith is personal. That is the dynamics produced by our relationship with the Lord. This is just like in the pandemic, the expression of each of our faith is different. Some people have the faith to go to church, some people’s faith also prompted them to only worship at home. This is like <Ro 14:1-2> talks about some people having the faith to eat anything, while some only have the faith to eat vegetables. But the Bible teaches us not to comment about who has or does not have the faith to do certain things, because that is the dynamics in the relationship between man and God at that moment and in that matter. This is not confined to whether you attend church during the pandemic, perhaps it also includes whether you consult a doctor when you are sick, or whether you will fork out time, energy, money, etc., under certain circumstances to commit to certain ministries. Those are very personal, they are also what we do unto the Lord. Therefore, we should not fall into the state of “self-defence out of fear of accusations”. (Testimony: I have a Christian cousin, every time he saw what I did for the Lord, he would admit that his faith had not reached that level, but he continued to seek grace before the Lord. I also kept encouraging him to take the more glorious path. His upright and humble heart truly made his faith gradually grow all these years). If a person faces God uprightly and does not receive unnecessary accusations or self-reproach, then his faith can grow healthily. But having said this, we must still understand another lesson about faith, that is: “How can faith practically grow?” Besides hearing the word, another mystery of growing the faith is <Phil 3:16>: “We should live up to what we have already attained.” Indeed, faith without deeds will certainly not grow, that faith is like mere paper talk. Therefore, we must know what we have already attained and how to live up to that. Sometimes, in the course of living out the word, it is not that we are without faith, but we are always affected by our past failures or shadows. We may think that certain things are “hard to accomplish”. However, when we hear the Lord’s instructions once again and obey Him, what comes next will be what we cannot imagine. This is like in <Lk 5:5>, Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” They obeyed the Lord’s word, and after that, they saw how the Lord fulfilled more than all they asked or imagined. In this pandemic, we will hear many voices. Perhaps the majority view and sentiment hopes that believers do not even meet in groups of ten and below. Certainly, not everyone can withstand such pressure, but the Lord’s word tells us, “Let us live up to what we have already attained.”
1. Let us live up to what we have already attained
1）The ultimate goal of faith is not great faith, but to consider Christ to be of surpassing worth
* Some people seem to have great faith, being able to offer much money to the Lord, or able to give up their jobs and go on overseas missions, but when they face other problems, such as the current pandemic, they cannot stand their ground. Therefore, true faith is not selective. Certainly, each of us have what we value or things which are precious to us. Some people value money, others treasure time, some value face, others cherish health, some value relationships, etc. However, the ultimate goal of faith is to see Christ’s surpassing worth, such that all other things are counted as garbage. In other words, the path of faith keeps leading us toward “treating Christ as the highest worth in our hearts”, such that everything we used to treasure and value in our hearts all gradually become secondary to Christ. If we look at the example of Abraham, we can say that the ultimate goal of faith is to bring his life to Mount Moriah, such that he deemed obedience to God as more precious than the life of his son.
2）But we must know what we have already attained
* Although the ultimate goal of faith is to consider Christ to be of surpassing worth, we all know that because of our imperfect faith, we cannot see “the surpassing worth of Christ” in every situation. Sometimes, we cannot overcome certain temporary fears, or look beyond some temporary losses, or give up certain comfortable environment or conditions for the sake of the Lord. That is like in this current pandemic, we will see how our individual faith is lacking. Thus, we should not regard ourselves too highly. This is not unusual, for even the apostle Paul also said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal <Phil 3:12>. But on the other hand, we also should not look down on ourselves, and think that we are powerless or lacking in everything. Sometimes, we may unknowingly fall into the mentality of pitying or looking down on ourselves, such that we do not give ourselves any pressure. That is not humility, but inferiority complex. Therefore, we know that both pride and inferiority complex can affect the growth of our faith, and hinder us from knowing the degree of our faith. When such a person encounters certain blows from some realistic situations, he may not be able to withstand that setback or challenge and thus fall away.
3）Live up to what was already attained
* First, we should understand that faith is not guts. Those with faith will naturally have courage. However, when we have guts, it does not necessarily mean that we have faith. Furthermore, faith is not a moment of courage, but it stems from the foundation of our belief. What is that foundation? That is, you believe that God is living, thus in all things (especially things that challenge your faith), you keep seeking Him, “O Lord, in this situation what do we do?” Faith prompts us to seek in this manner, until we receive clear answers from the Lord. Because <Heb 11:6> says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Because ultimately, faith will not make us rash, but act in obedience to the will of the Lord. In this suffering world, believers only need to succeed in one thing, which is to receive the peace of the Lord. That is to live in obedience to the will of the Lord. Also, our faith are of different levels. Perhaps, there are those who attained the level of faith to be leaders, some have faith to be small group leaders, some have the faith to be an ordinary believer, or some have the faith to be a new believer. Of course, those who are last may be first, and the first may be last. But the Bible tells us to seek and follow the Lord at whichever level we attained, and the voice of the Lord which we hear will certainly be in line with our level of faith. For example: If our faith can only pray for pastors and church leaders, but cannot commit to other greater responsibilities, it is fine for us to be the support behind our leaders. But if our faith has come to a level where we can bear certain important work, or can commit in terms of finances, time and gifts, then we should act accordingly so as to receive the peace from the Lord. In sum, if the Lord convicts us, we should live according to what He has convicted.
2. In this current pandemic, the country also has restrictive regulations, what then should we do?
1）In the face of legal regulations which allow only group gatherings within ten people, what difficulties do believers face?
* We know that the country and its people are now in a very tense state. Although as Christians, our lives are in heaven with the Lord, we are practically still living on earth. Therefore, believers full of faith are not without awareness of this, but we can sense the fears and tension of our countrymen, and clearly understand the requirements in the regulations. Therefore, faith is not ignorance. As of now, the church knows that it can only meet in groups of ten or less, maintaining a safe distance of 1m from each other. We believe that many of the Lord’s churches today maintain their faith in this way. However, in such atmosphere of general anxiety, some people may also feel very confused over the church now having small groups. Some family members who do not understand are also very against the church’s current small group gatherings. Some church groups (especially healthcare personnel) are very dissatisfied with any type of gathering because they face the battle on the front line. They all hope that the church is now best closed completely, and for believers not to gather, and at best worship online only. Nonetheless, believers must have a spiritual perspective and also have a responsibility toward God and their flock. Believers are not radical, but they believe in discerning what is best before God with love and all kinds of knowledge, so that they may be pure and blameless <Phil 1:10>. Therefore, we cannot only be influenced by public opinions and emotions, but we must know clearly what the Lord has instructed us personally.
2）So, how then should we live up to what we have already attained?
* Here we set a few principles: (1) In order to keep a clear conscience, we must not break the law. Therefore, the church sets up groups of ten people. However, it is the individual’s responsibility to go before God to seek His guidance personally; (2) The church will not force brethren to join small groups. Let each of us make choices with the faith the Lord has given us. There are those who long to participate in meetings, desire to be edified through the communion of saints, and they do so for the Lord. And for some reason, there are others (for example, those whose family members have great opposition, or those who are concerned about their own safety), just stay at home and receive encouragement through the livestream. That is also done for the Lord; (3) On the principle of loving all people, we must also manage our relationship with our family members. If we want to attend a small group meeting, let us understand the feelings of our family members. In this, try not to enter into unnecessary conflict with your family members. In this matter, ask the Holy Spirit to help us win the hearts of our family members with gentleness. If we are compelled to temporarily give in to our family members, we should not harbour resentment toward them; (4) Confirm the peace that the Lord has given us. If we follow the Lord’s instructions, the Lord will give us peace that surpasses the peace of the world. When we live in the peace given by the Lord, our bodies and spirits will be protected.
3）With the faith received from gathering, pray for the pandemic that is sweeping the whole country and whole world
* American pastor, Charles Stanley said, “When the second world war came, I was only nine. At that time, fears filled the hearts of everyone. But later, gradually, people’s hearts started to be brought into prayers, firm belief and courage. When Americans looked to the Lord in this way, people’s hearts had an assurance of victory over the enemies, and they indeed had victory eventually.” As this fear-inducing pandemic spreads, the situation is about the same. What people see every day is the number of deaths and people being infected. Many famous politicians and celebrities were also infected one after another. The heart of common man cannot help but be occupied by fears and panic. But gradually, we see God sustaining His people’s hearts, bringing them out of fears and into prayers, firm belief and courage, until they have the assurance of victory. Then, God will extend His mighty hands to heal this land, clearing the virus. Therefore, we must know the reason why believers still gather to pray though they are few in numbers. We are not merely sustaining our own faith, but we also know that through the strengthened faith of His people, God wants to give this world another chance, so that this land can be healed, and that people of the world have the opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved.
3. God will leave behind examples of people of faith, so that we can emulate them
1）Paul said, “Join together in following my example, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.”
* Why did Paul say this? Could not he simply say, “Let us imitate the Lord?” How can he present himself or some co-workers as the models for others to imitate? Did he not know that he too was an ordinary man, who can also fall? Here, we can offer two important points:
(1) A person whose life goal is to imitate Christ the Lord can be a model for everyone. Today, some people want to be the model for all people just because of their own knowledge, zeal, and virtues. However, what Paul boasted about was not all these, but Christ’s surpassing worth, and the consideration that everything else was garbage or loss. Although he was not perfect, because his goal was right, he could be the model for everyone to imitate. Today, if Pastor asks you to emulate his courage or gifts, that is not right. But if Pastor says, “You follow my example, just as I have imitated the Lord”, that is a right and necessary demand a pastor can request from everyone.
(2) Believers cannot be complacent because of their current faith. If Paul only said, “Let us live up to what we have already attained”, our weak human nature will use this as an excuse to be lazy, and not seek progress in faith. Thus, in believers’ pursuit of the growth in faith, the Lord will surely give them human role models (usually church leaders), so that everyone’s faith can be constantly challenged and inspired, pressing on toward the goal. In this way, the Lord’s church can grow in real relationships, instead of superficially saying, “We imitate the Lord”, yet have no real examples.
2） Are we someone whom other saints can imitate?
* Of course, we all hope to become someone like that. Church leaders may not necessarily be such models. If a church leader only can execute tasks well and has rich experiences in the society, but he is not imitating Christ the Lord, then he is certainly not an example for everyone. Thus, we who are church leaders should be careful. Our imitation of the Lord should match the position the Lord gives us. Therefore, some people in the church may not be leaders, but perhaps they are a husband, wife, parent, employee, etc, who is imitating the Lord. The declaration of their lives is to consider Christ to be of surpassing worth, and in everything they do, they seek to hear and obey the Lord. Such believers also have the same life goal as Paul, thus they can also be the example for everyone. May we not be stagnant in pursuing the growth in faith, and may we be someone whom all saints can imitate!