A Lifelong Commitment to God’s Kingdom

Living in the Light of Eternity - KP Yohannan Books

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Jesus did not train His disciples in a classroom; He taught them through example. He lived His life before them and then willingly laid it down. No wonder that, after the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, they remembered Jesus’ words to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. And every one of them laid down his life for preaching the Gospel.

At one time I thought John was the only disciple who was not martyred. Later I learned that he was beheaded. Another disciple, Thomas, journeyed to India in AD 52, where he preached and laid down his life for Jesus. One of the seven churches he planted is located about three miles from where I was born and reared.

Doesn’t it seem strange that these men who walked and lived with Jesus for three years, men who saw miracles almost beyond belief and who must have had great faith, were not supernaturally translated to heaven, but died criminals’ deaths? How could they have traveled to places and done things they knew would put their very lives at risk?

Because Jesus was their example. Jesus was never the kind of Master who told them, “Do what I say, don’t do what I do.” No, He said, “Come, follow Me.”

Jesus also said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

I remember studying the book of Acts in Bible college. As we went through it, I thought it was a fascinating piece of history. But it is much more than history. The book of Acts is a living, open-ended book whose story continues even today in the lives of committed believers. It is a book filled with the stories of people who were absolutely sold out, who had only one thing on their minds: Jesus died, He rose again, He is our Lord, He is coming back and we must tell our generation!

These believers yielded their lives unselfishly to communicate this message. When they were misunderstood, mistreated, persecuted, stoned and beaten up, they did not go around mourning their losses and licking their wounds. They went right back out and preached the Gospel—and not just the apostles, but the believers, the everyday, “normal” people like you and me.

When we read about Jesus’ life and are challenged to follow in His footsteps, we feel overwhelmed. I can’t help it, we rationalize. I’m only a human being. Jesus is God. How can I expect to keep up with Him? And we excuse ourselves from total commitment.

Then we come to Paul. It is not easy to write Paul off because he was just as human as we are. “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature,” he wrote in Romans 7:18. He considered himself an earthen vessel, a jar of clay (see 2 Corinthians 4:7).

Paul recognized that in his own strength he started from zero. He confessed his weaknesses and inadequacies continually. This is a man who argued with Barnabas, his co-worker. Acts 15:39 tells us that “they had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.” But for this normal human being named Paul, following Jesus was not a nine-to-five job, nor did it have a finishing point. This was everyday life for him.
Let’s look at an incident that took place in Paul’s life when he came to Thessalonica:

The Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here. . . .”
Acts 17:5–6

This incident was just one of many for Paul, an everyday occurrence in his Christian walk. He was accused by the crowd of, in the words of the King James Version, having “turned the world upside down.” But to him this was simply part of following Jesus.
There was no dichotomy in Paul’s life or in the lives of the early believers. Their lives were not compartmentalized into “spiritual” and “secular” activities. Their whole existence was a solid commitment, a life given for the Lord and His kingdom.

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Living in the Light of Eternity (ISBN 9781595891402) © 2014 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

Jesus Lost His Appetite

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As we read through the Gospels and observe Jesus’ life, we find that He took every opportunity to teach His disciples about the kingdom of God. And whatever He taught, He lived before them. Everything He said was clearly reflected in His life. He was a living, breathing example to His disciples. These 12 men had an opportunity to watch His life and learn from His every action.

One of the occasions that challenged and changed them is recorded in John 4. It is as relevant for us today as it was for Jesus’ disciples. You are probably familiar with the story of the woman at the well to whom Jesus spoke about living water. The disciples had gone into the city to buy food, and when they returned they offered it to Him.

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:32–35

Can’t you identify with the disciples’ confusion? Jesus had to be hungry from His journey, so they had walked to the nearby village to buy Him something to eat. They had not eaten yet, either, and were probably just as hungry and thirsty as Jesus was. Then Jesus acted as if He had already eaten: “I have food to eat that you aren’t aware of.” This confused them even more: “We go to all this trouble and now He won’t eat! Has someone brought Him something?”

What was Jesus saying? He was seizing on an everyday event—eating—to illustrate to His disciples a principle of a different kingdom. Jesus was saying something like this:
“You’re horizontally oriented, thinking about the here-and-now—your tired and dusty feet, your growling stomachs, your parched throats. But pull your attention away for a minute. Lift up your eyes! Look into eternity and see what I see. You say there are still four months before harvest arrives. But I tell you, look right now to the souls of men and women around you. The fields are already ripe and ready to be harvested. If you wait a little longer, the crop will be gone—destroyed.

“Yes, I’m hungry, I’m thirsty. But the crisis out there is so real that it consumes all My being. Compared to what is happening, I no longer have an appetite. I am desperate to finish what My Father has given Me to do.”

Jesus could have used any number of examples to explain kingdom principles. Why did He use food?

Perhaps because it makes more sense to us. For us the barest of necessities do not consist of only a glass of water and a piece of bread. Yet to Jesus, even the most basic of essentials—bread and water—were unimportant when He knew people were dying without His Father’s love.

Jesus speaks to us today just as strongly as He did to His disciples. He gives us the same command He gave them: “Follow Me.” If we are His followers, we will hear this command and do the same things He did. But as human beings, made of the same flesh and blood as Jesus’ disciples, we are horizontally oriented, too. We focus on the here-and-now—clothes, houses, educations, careers, bank accounts, finances, cars.
But Jesus calls us to lift our eyes and look away from it all. He is calling us to see what He sees, to feel the urgency He feels, to share His heart for the harvest that will soon be gone—destroyed forever—if it is not reaped soon.

Throughout the Gospel accounts, Jesus’ life was marked by urgency: “I must go”; “I must work”; “Night is coming”; “You go and make disciples.” Phrases like these tell us how Jesus felt and what He lived for. He was so desperate that food and drink took a back seat.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Living in the Light of Eternity (ISBN 9781595891402) © 2014 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit

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Imagine being Timothy. For years, you have been instructed by Paul, receiving his correction and encouragement and seeing the growth in your own life as well as in the ministry. You sit there reading Paul’s letter, knowing that the days have grown harder and once again he has written from prison. As you read, you sense an urgency in his words and realize what he is doing—he is passing the torch . . . to you! Paul’s race is over—now you must run, and run hard.

Listen to the hope and energy in Paul’s words as he passes the torch onto Timothy, saying, “My dear son! God has called you. I know your faith is sincere. I know that your heart is pure. Now remember the gift of God within you! He has put His Spirit inside you, and it is not one of fear or timidity, but of power! Now fan that into flame and run, Timothy, run!”

Paul knew that what lay before Timothy was a task humanly impossible, as is all Christian service. That is why he directs Timothy’s eyes not onto himself, but on the priceless gift of God within him—the Holy Spirit, who alone is able to work through Timothy, do the ministry and carry out the responsibilities that are now entrusted to him.

Unfortunately, the power of the Holy Spirit is one of those subjects that people in many parachurch or nondenominational organizations tend to avoid, often because of the extremism found in some sections of Christianity and their teaching on the Holy Spirit. Emotional upheaval and radical manifestations have caused many evangelicals to shy away from the balanced teaching of Scripture on this crucial subject.

We must never forget that even the Lord Jesus Christ—God in flesh and the perfect, sinless Savior—had to be anointed with the Holy Spirit before starting His ministry on earth (see Matthew 3:16–17; Acts 10:38). His powerful ministry was not just something granted to Him by virtue of the fact that He was the Son of God. It was by the power of the Holy Spirit that He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk, raised the dead and preached the kingdom’s arrival.

And it was for this reason that Jesus “commanded [His disciples] . . . to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. . . . You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’ ” (Acts 1:4–5, 8, NKJV).

Not too long before leaving them with this instruction, Jesus came to these disciples and passed a torch on to them, saying, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20). But when Jesus came to them, they were much in the state that Timothy was probably in when reading Paul’s letter.

For three years they walked with Jesus, sharing in the joy and thrill of His ministry. They stood beside Him as He touched the blind man’s eyes and rejoiced in amazement as sight came to him. But now things were different. Jesus had been crucified, they had fled in fear, Peter had denied the Lord and they had lost all hope to the point that they were returning to their fishing boats (see Luke 24:21; John 21:3–4). And now Jesus is telling them to go into all the world and do all the things He had done while with them? How impossible this task was! It must have sounded absurd. The disciples probably responded, “Jesus, we understand what You are saying, but physically You have been with us all these years. Now You say You are going back to the Father. How are we going to do this work without You?”

The answer? It wasn’t going to be without Him. He was sending the Holy Spirit, the One who would now lead them and give them the power to carry on the ministry. “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Indeed, the Lord knew they would never be able to do what He asked in their own power. He had told them earlier that that was absolutely impossible (see John 15:4). That is why He commanded them to wait until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit and had received His power for ministry.

The same is true for us today. The power of the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary. Why? Because the work to be done is not in the realm of flesh and blood alone. Our task is supernatural. And it is only by the Spirit’s power that we can accomplish the task our Lord and Savior left for us. It was the only way that Peter, the one who was so afraid of men that he ran away denying Christ, stood up with courage in the face of martyrdom to declare the Gospel and led thousands to repentance (see Acts 2). The power of the Holy Spirit is what enabled Stephen, a simple layperson in the Church, to single-handedly speak on behalf of the kingdom and then lay down his life for the faith (see Acts 7). And it is what enables and equips us for the task today, no matter how great or how small.

We desperately need men and women who not only understand doctrine, theory and teaching on the Holy Spirit, but who experience the reality of the Holy Spirit and His fullness in their daily lives and ministries, who know the precious gift of God within them that is able to set the captives free and who do just that!

Are you this kind of person? Are your life and ministry daily empowered by the gift of God within you, the same Spirit who raised Christ Jesus from the dead? My brothers and sisters, please, if not, cry out to God for this power so that you might rescue the perishing and win this generation for Christ. Stir up the gift of God within you!

Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Against the Wind (ISBN 978159589047X) © 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

The Integrity of Our Walk with God

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Integrity makes us or breaks us. Integrity is a consistency between private and public life, being what you claim to be and doing what you said you would do. You are on the inside what you are on the outside. It is life lived with consistency, and it is the reason why Paul was able to entrust the ministry into young Timothy’s hands.

In 2 Timothy 1:3–5, Paul wrote to Timothy, saying:

I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. . . . I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

Timothy’s “sincere faith” and Paul’s maintaining “a clear conscience” stand out to me, revealing that both Paul and Timothy had no secret agendas in the ministry. They served from sincere hearts with honest motives.

“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9). And Psalm 51:6 (NKJV) echoes the importance God places on this character trait: “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts.”

These verses show that God desires His children to wear no masks and live with no pretenses. When we live a life of complete integrity, we follow God’s path and walk under His blessings. “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity [or pretense]” (Proverbs 11:3).

I want to highlight four areas of our lives and ministry that must be marked by absolute integrity.

Integrity in Your Finances
Handling money is often the primary area in which integrity is found lacking, and unfaithful stewardship is the number one destroyer of so many in ministry today.
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and Money.” Notice He did not say, “You cannot serve both God and the devil,” or “You cannot serve both God and the world.” Paul told Timothy that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Notice it does not say “some evil,” but “all kinds of evil.”

Integrity in Your Work
Why did God choose David to be the king of Israel (see 1 Samuel 16:5, 10–11)? One reason is that when nobody was watching him he was faithful with his work. When he was out there in the wilderness watching over his father’s sheep and a wild animal approached, he did not say, “What can I do? I’m just a small boy and my stronger brothers aren’t here to rescue the sheep. I’ll just climb a tree and watch, even if the animal destroys part of the flock.” No, David went after the wild animals, killed them and saved his father’s sheep. He was faithful with his task. Even though there was no one looking over his shoulder to see what he did every minute of the day, he understood the importance of walking in integrity before His Lord.

We must live with the same understanding and let it direct the way we spend our day and do our work.

Loyalty Is Crucial
God puts great emphasis on the loyal heart, advising the wise man to “let not loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them about your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3–4, RSV, emphasis mine). Through this verse we see that loyalty is not just something that is cooked up, but weaved into the fiber of our hearts. And, by nature, loyalty is often costly.

Look at your life. Are you loyal to the church or organization that the Lord has called you to serve?

Often the first thing we do is complain, criticize and tear people down without taking even one day to stand in the gap, pray and agonize before the Lord for them. G.K. Chesterton summed it up well when he said, “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”

Integrity in Your Speech
Are you careful with the words you allow to come out of your mouth? So often, either by intent or carelessness, we do such great harm by the words we speak. We have forgotten that “the tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21), making it so important for the servant of God to hold to integrity in the things he says and the words he listens to.

Many start the race, but only those who abide by the rules laid out beforehand will receive the prize. Integrity is the rule of ministry. We must be an honest people, full of integrity in our financial responsibilities, our work, our loyalty to others and our speech. By living this, we can be sure to stay on the narrow road, and all that we do will not only be blessed by God, but bring glory to Him as well.

Excerpt from Chapter 3 of Against the Wind (ISBN 978159589047X) © 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

The Evidence of Your Call

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When we have received a call from the Lord, our lives will bear the fruit of it—the fruit of assurance, ownership, pure motivation and seeking only the Lord’s approval.

Assurance. When you know God has called you, you walk in that assurance. No person or difficulty can deter you or make you turn back. You are certain that He who called you will be faithful.

Consider Joseph as one example. He stayed assured of the promise of God even when his brothers threw him into the pit and sold him to the Egyptians (see Genesis 37:23–28). He ended up in the dungeon and many years were lost, but nonetheless, nothing could stop his brothers from bowing down to him as prime minister of Egypt for 43 years! Why? Because the Lord had placed that call upon his life!

Ownership. Not only is there that absolute assurance in the life of one called by God, but there is a sense of personal ownership as well.

The difference between someone who is called and someone who does something because it is a profession is this sense of ownership over the work. The one who is called says, “It is my Jesus’ kingdom. It is my burden. If I receive some kind of financial help, that’s great. If I do not, no problem. I don’t care. I will do it anyway.” It is the call that gives you the motivation to journey on. Salary and benefits do not compel you; difficulties do not sway you. The knowledge that God is faithful and that He has called you is enough.

Pure motivation. Those who know they are called serve because of the knowledge of that calling, not because of the benefits they may be able to receive in the ministry or because of the salary they are provided. If your salary were stopped and your benefits discontinued or if nobody encouraged you through the provision of material things, would you continue the journey, saying, “I will keep on going as long as I can until, though I fall and die, I have finished my job”? I am honestly asking you: What would your response be?

When we are motivated by the knowledge of our calling, it also affects our personal lives and our relationships with those we serve with. Oftentimes, “the ministry” is marked by bickering, murmuring, jealousy, arrogance, comparison of self with others and internal strife. Hundreds of workers are destroyed along the way because they rationalize and justify that kind of behavior. The character of such a workman is fallen and flawed, seeking and motivated by something other than the calling of God. The person who knows he is called by the Lord acts differently.

The Lord’s approval. The person who knows he has been called by the Lord for the work of the ministry seeks only the Lord’s approval in all the work he does. In 2 Timothy 1:3 (TLB), Paul says, “My only purpose in life is to please him.” Is that your goal too? Is pleasing God the compelling motivation of your life?

The Moravian movement of the 18th century, founded by Count N.L. von Zizendorf, has the following inscription on its seal: “Our Lamb has conquered. Let us follow Him.” In the middle of the seal is a little lamb carrying a flag with a cross across it.
The Moravian movement was known for its commitment and zeal in preaching the Gospel. It was said that for every church at home in Germany, they had three more overseas. The church was a fishing pond from which they sent out missionaries.

Earlier in his life, Count Zizendorf had been strongly drawn to the classical pursuits of art, music, painting and the acquisition of riches. But one day he was so gripped with the reality of Christ dying on the cross for him that he gave his life completely to Him and heard His call to serve Him. It was out of that call that he wrote, “I have one passion. It is He, He alone.”

Is Jesus your sole passion? Do you know you have been called by Him for the work of the ministry? Does your life show the reality of that calling and burden? May we all seek to please Him alone, that all of our decisions, emotions and daily steps would be controlled by this one factor: “I am called by the Lord. He has chosen me. I am not my own, but His. I will follow Him all the days of my life.”

Has He called you? Does your service reflect it? Can He count on you?

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Against the Wind (ISBN 978159589047X) © 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

Qualified by the Call

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When we know we have been called by God, we can have the assurance that, no matter what we may experience or the weaknesses we see in ourselves, He will equip us with everything we need to fulfill that call.

The youthful Timothy was one called by the Lord, even though Scripture reveals that by the world’s standards he did not seem like an adequate candidate to take on the responsibility of the ministry. Timothy was a young man, weak in body and shy by nature—not exactly the qualities we would particularly look for in one who was to take the place of the great apostle Paul.

One of the verses that reveals this is 1 Timothy 4:12, in which Paul encourages Timothy to not “let anyone look down on you because you are young.” Paul was aware that Timothy might feel inadequate for the ministry because of his age and lack of experience. But nonetheless, God had called Timothy to this task. The knowledge of his calling must be enough for him to rise up and take heart.

You, too, may feel inadequate for the job you have been given. You may struggle just to maintain even the image of someone called by God. When the Lord called me, I was just 16 years old. When I first became a team leader, I was barely 19. If God could use me—fragile, weak and insecure—to lead others in the ministry, there is hope for every young person called by God, no matter what they lack.

If you feel discouraged because of a lack of experience or other things, please remember that if you know you are inexperienced, you are in good shape. Only when you think you are able and mature and can succeed on your own are you really in trouble. God gives grace to those who are weak and humble, using them in the mightiest of ways. But He opposes the proud who think they have it all together and can do the work on their own.

Not only was Timothy young, but he was also prone to illness. He lived continually with the problem of physical infirmity. We know this because Paul said to him in 1 Timothy 5:23, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”

You, too, may be living with physical deficiencies. Are you called to do something huge and significant but feel like saying, “My God, I am not able to handle it; I am tired and sick”? Well, Timothy was like that, and Paul encouraged him to press on to do the job God called him to do despite his illnesses.

Add to his young age and constant illnesses, Timothy was also timid and shy, an introvert. Many verses (such as 2 Timothy 1:7–8; 2:1; 3:14–15; 4:5) reveal that even after more than 15 years of training, Paul still had to tell him, “Get up! Don’t be shy! Don’t be timid! Don’t be afraid.”

Timothy was not, by makeup and temperament, a natural leader. If you had called him to lead, he would have said, “Please, not me. Let someone else do it. I will follow.” He didn’t want to be in the limelight. How different from so many today! People murmur and grumble and fight for position, saying, “I’ve been in the ministry for 10 years and I’m not yet promoted!” “I’m better able to teach than this fellow. Why has he been made a leader and I haven’t?” “Look at her! She’s teaching, but I have a better degree!” We live with all kinds of such imaginations about ourselves. May we learn from Timothy!

In his book Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders quotes A.W. Tozer, perfectly stating why Timothy was a good candidate to take on the ministry after Paul:

A true and safe leader is likely to be the one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of external situation. Such were Moses and David and the Old Testament prophets. I think there was hardly a great leader from Paul to the present day but was drafted by the Holy Spirit for the task, and commissioned by the Lord of the Church to fill a position he had little heart for. I believe it might be accepted as a fairly reliable rule of thumb that the man who is ambitious to lead is disqualified as a leader. The true leader will have no desire to lord it over God’s heritage, but will be humble, gentle, self-sacrificing and altogether as ready to follow as to lead, when the Spirit makes it clear that a wiser and more gifted man than himself has appeared.

God had called Timothy, and he must now step out in faith and be bold in the work of the Lord.

It may sound as if the odds are stacked against Timothy, but please see how his age, weakness and even his personality did not qualify or disqualify him for being a servant of God. The one determining and sustaining factor was the fact that he had been called by God for the work of the ministry. It was this that qualified him before God and man, and the reason Paul entrusted the church at Ephesus to him during his first arrest. In Philippians 2:20–22, Paul wrote of him:

I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.

Are you called? Take courage in the truth of that call, and let it be your assurance. Despite the weaknesses you see in yourself or the difficulty that may come in the work, you can fulfill the purposes of God. For “God, who has called you . . . is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:9, emphasis mine).

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Against the Wind (ISBN 978159589047X) © 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

Knowing You Are Called

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There is great significance in the way Paul introduces himself at the start of 2 Timothy: “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”

From the first letter he wrote to this his last, Paul knew this one thing: He was called by God. It was not man who called him, it was not the need that drove him, nor was it anything from or for himself. He is making this fact clear to Timothy, saying, “I want you to know that I have not been running this race for 30 years because I wanted to do it. I haven’t been doing it because Barnabas called me or because a church paid me. I am not in this because my parents said, ‘He will be a servant of God’ or because of some organization or Bible college. My ministry is by His will. I am doing this for one reason: God called me” (see Acts 13:1–2).

There is a distinct call into full-time ministry, and it is this call that both Paul and Timothy heard, along with many others who had gone before them. All throughout the Bible, we see those who were called by God for specific purposes. In Exodus 3–4:17, we see how Moses did not appoint himself to lead the children of Israel; the Lord called him.

The prophet Amos is another example. He was just a simple farmer, with no one in his family ever having served the Lord. When those God sent him to questioned what he was doing, he defended himself, saying, “I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel’” (Amos 7:14–15, NKJV). He knew God had called him for that ministry.

And, of course, Jesus called His disciples. In Mark 3:14 we are told that “He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.”

On and on, from Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah and Paul, we see how those in the ministry are those whom God has called.

However, in the kingdom of God today, there are many ministries and organizations with hundreds of staff members seeing that the work is done. But there is a definite difference between a profession and a call:

A job, a profession, is one you choose; a ministry is one Christ chooses for you.
A job depends on your abilities; a ministry depends on your availability to God.
In a job you expect to receive something—a salary; in a ministry you expect to give.
A job well done brings you self-esteem; a ministry well done brings honor to Jesus Christ.
In a job you give something to get something; in a ministry you return something that has already been given to you.
A job well done has a temporal reward; a ministry well done has eternal rewards.1

Author unknown

I want to ask you: Are you called? Have you heard the Lord Jesus call you, saying, “Come, follow Me, be with Me and I will send you out for ministry”? The person you become, the decisions you make, the manner in which you behave and your attitude toward the Lord’s work all depend on this deep conviction that you have been called by God.

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Against the Wind (ISBN 978159589047X) © 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

But for You*

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*Translated from the Greek su de, meaning ‘But for you . . .’ (see 2 Timothy 2:1; 3:10, 14; 4:5).”

“Timothy, within the Church there will be a decline in godliness. People are going to be arrogant and lovers of money. They will be greedy. They will not be submissive, but rebellious. False teachers will rise up. But for you . . .

“There will be carnal reasoning among believers, backsliding, laziness, self-centered living and self-seeking. But for you, Timothy, be different! Be bold as a lion; don’t be afraid. Be authentic and genuine. Be unselfish. Don’t follow the crowd. If need be, Timothy, stand alone. But for you, be faithful until the end. There is a crown waiting for you.”

This call to live by godly character is the same message we in this world of compromise and casual Christianity need to hear today. That is why I bring Paul’s words to remembrance and say: My brothers and sisters, but for you, be different. It is only the one “who overcomes and does [His] will to the end” (Revelation 2:26) who will receive the reward. Full-time Christian workers all around us may grow cold and their love for Christ may fade. Many will pursue money, honor from men, position and power, and will seek their own. But for you, stay on the narrow road. Walk alone if need be. Always remember there is a higher call.

A few years ago, I heard of one brother from Tripura who remembered this higher call and pursued the narrow road. By the grace of God, he planted seven churches in three months’ time. When asked his secret to such success, he replied, “I pray as much as I work and work as much as I pray.” This small statement gave a glimpse into the solid, godly character within this man.

It was not merely his actions that made me remember him or that made the difference in his ministry. Most anyone can discipline themselves to perform all the right actions. What matters is where these actions flow from. And for this man, it was a heart that was committed to Jesus. Like Paul, he sought to be well-pleasing to God and run strong the race He had set before him.

It is this kind of life and character that makes the difference. If you were to ask this brother, “How much does your church pay you for working five hours and praying five more? How much do they pay you for being like your Master, who stayed up all night to pray?” He would surely reply, “What did you say? What do you mean, ‘How much do I get paid for praying during the night?’ ”

You see, this question has no meaning for him. His life is hidden in Christ, and he lives for Him alone, not for recognition, not for a salary and not for personal gain. He serves and lives by godly character, knowing that it was God who called him and it is God alone whom he must please.

This kind of living is a choice that only you can make. Only you can choose to press on. God’s grace will meet you at the point of your decision. When others around you, even those you may have once esteemed, look for an easier, more relaxed road, only you can make the choice to press past that and continue your pursuit, pressing on toward the mark. No matter what others may be doing or what may be accepted as the norm, hear the Lord Jesus saying, But for you, you follow Me. Set your hand to the plow, and My grace will be there to keep you, if only you choose to stand against the wind and press on toward the higher call.

May you be given strength to run strong in His grace and join in the great line of men and women who set their faces like flint and accomplished great things for God. Will you be one to stand out from the rest and be remembered in heaven and on earth for the impact you made upon your generation? Will you choose to stand against the wind and be recognized by God in His search for men?

The choice is yours.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Against the Wind (ISBN 978159589047X) © 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

The Character Inside

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It only takes one person to rout the forces of darkness and establish a testimony for the glory of God.

History bears witness to this truth as it reminds us of individuals—Martin Luther, Pandita Ramabai, Sadhu Sundar Singh, Moses, Elijah. The list could go on and on. In every generation, there are the individuals who chose to rise above the easy norm, set their face like flint and thus accomplish great things for God.

From the beginning of time, God has sought for these kinds of individuals, those to whom He can show Himself strong and through whom He can bring about His plans and purposes on earth. Consider what 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NLT) tells us—“The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

If God were searching among us today, would He find in you the kind of person He is looking for?

Well, God is searching among us today, searching for the one among His people who will make the choice to seek Him and conform his life to His principles, following Him regardless of what kind of compromise or complacency may surround. God is not looking for the majority who claim to be His, but for those authentic few, who, by their character, demonstrate that they are His and that they follow Him above all else.

Satan has done a masterful job of deception within the Body of Christ. Christianity has been redefined to fit modern society. It is now a good moneymaking business. The Christian music and entertainment industry skyrockets, while the Word of God is peddled for profit and the authentic Christian life of surrender and obedience is tossed aside as legalism. More than 2 billion people who do not know Jesus head toward hell to perish for eternity, while the Church laughs its way to hysteria, claiming this is the sign of the last days’ outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Instead of laying down our lives to serve the purposes of God, we try numerous ways to make the Almighty God our servant to fulfill all our dreams and desires. My brothers and sisters, this is not Christianity.

We have settled, content with the fact that we have at least started the race. We have forgotten what Scripture makes clear—it is not how we started the race, but how we run and how we finish. “As Christ’s soldier, do not let yourself become tied up in the affairs of this life, for then you cannot satisfy the one who has enlisted you in his army. Follow the Lord’s rules for doing his work, just as an athlete either follows the rules or is disqualified and wins no prize” (2 Timothy 2:4–5, NLT).

I wonder how many in the Church today would be disqualified in the end. It is a sobering thought.

This was Paul’s same concern for the Church in his day. In his years of ministry, Paul had seen an element of digression in the Body of Christ. That is the reason his epistles address a wide variety of sins, all that had crept into the churches over time. He had seen many fall away, as well as many who physically stayed a part of the Church but in their hearts and their actions were far from God. Soon Paul would no longer be around to address these issues and bring the necessary correction and encouragement, keeping the churches on course. This task is the one to which God had called Timothy.

So Paul, having pressed on for 30 relentless years to fulfill the call of God, now sits in his last prison cell, awaiting his death. Looking back over the years and knowing the seriousness of the task to which God has called his son in the faith, Paul sets out to leave Timothy with a guidebook on how to fulfill the ministry.

However, the essence of Paul’s message did not focus on particular topics as much as it did on this one sole element—Timothy’s character. You see, Paul knew that good infrastructure was not what was needed to ensure the growth and stability of the Church in the years to come, nor was it any external element. It is upon character that people and movements either rise or fall. If Timothy’s character was solid and true, all else would fall into place, and Timothy would finish well the race the Lord Jesus had called him to run.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Against the Wind (ISBN 978159589047X) © 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

The Process of Godliness

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Paul’s statement in Philippians 2:12, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” is taboo for many believers. God is not going to instantly make you holy—you must choose to obey so you can become holy. He will not make you godly without your commitment and work. For example, it took Moses 40 years to become Moses the deliverer. It took Joseph 13 years in prison to become prime minister of Egypt. It took years of discipline and commitment for Daniel to become someone who changed history. It took Jesus 30 years to preach the Sermon on the Mount.

Walk away from instant Christianity that offers no cross, hardship or responsibility! It is false. Without consistent discipline in life, we will remain dependent baby Christians.

The following paragraphs make up a list of practical disciplines compiled by a friend of mine to help develop a consistent, godly life. My prayer and hope is that this list of disciplines will become a blessing to you as it has been for me.

Begin with the simple things. A disciple will always seek to avoid making unnecessary work for others. So hang up your clothes. Make your bed promptly and neatly every morning. Clean up after yourself, and put your shoes in their proper place. Don’t despise these small things as irrelevant to becoming spiritual. They are the very essence of it. They indicate that extra touch of foresight, carefulness and thoughtfulness that makes the difference between a spiritual Christian and a carnal, lukewarm one.

Show respect to all—even to the poor and the lowly. When speaking or listening to someone, develop the habit of looking at him or her as if no one else mattered to you at that moment.

Tackle difficult tasks promptly. Do first the things that you would rather do last. Sit down right away and do the homework or write the letter (or article) that you have put off for so long. Welcome these difficult tasks. Cultivate a sense of responsibility in doing them faithfully.

Be punctual for meetings and appointments. The habit of being on time will never be acquired unless you are convinced that courtesy demands it and you plan ahead and allow yourself enough time to get to the appointed place. Don’t allow yourself to waste time in idle daydreaming. Bring every thought into captivity to Christ. Make use of your spare time to read quality books, fellowship with someone or help others.

When unexpected events throw your well-laid plans into confusion, don’t let stress conquer you—for that is only foolishness. Instead, choose to believe that what seems to be nothing but human blundering is really the gentle steering of God for your very best (Romans 8:28). So give thanks to the Lord for His ordering of your life.

Master your moods. Discipline yourself to behave just as well when you “feel bad” as when you “feel good.” Discipline yourself to read God’s Word and do your work even when you “don’t feel like it.”

Discipline your tongue. Don’t blurt out everything that comes to your mind. Frankness is a virtue only when it is coupled with intelligent, loving tact and discretion. Otherwise, it is evil and unnecessary.

Subordinate less important things to the more important ones. Select the things you must do, and do them first. If you “major in the minors” and allow your friends, impulses and conveniences to dictate your priorities, you will end up as a mediocre Christian—useless to God and useless to men.

Submit graciously to God-given authority. Such discipline will round off your rough edges and also preserve you from much folly.

Control your curiosity. Don’t be a busybody in others’ matters.

Conquer gluttony. Eating is not a sin, but gluttony is. Paul said, “I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is . . . for the Lord” (1 Corinthians 6:12–13). One should eat heartily and with enjoyment. But we should know what and how much is good for us, and have the self-control to stop when we should.

Learn to wait. To grab for something before God’s time is to spoil it. There is a time in God’s timetable for all things—in the matter of marriage, for example. Wait for that time, and don’t rush ahead. Learn to respect the timetables that are found on life’s joys, responsibilities and privileges. We don’t help God by opening a rosebud—we only spoil the blossom.

Systematic prayer and Bible reading are prime essentials for a disciplined life. The discipline of getting out of bed a few minutes early—at any cost—to spend time for this, every day, will itself bring rich rewards.

Our goal in life is Christlikeness, not a comfortable, self-serving, lukewarm life. Let us have a passion for improving the quality of our Christian life and fulfilling all of God’s will. Let us be ready for sacrifice or for service, applying ourselves faithfully at all times to the task at hand.

Do all for Jesus’ sake!

Excerpt from Chapter 36 of Reflecting His Image (ISBN 978159589005X) © 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.