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Take Heart

Stay Encouraged - KP Yohannan Books

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Although God is able to take the plans of the enemy and use them for our good, we must also see these as the spiritual attacks that they are. Therefore, we must keep our mind and heart in gear, ready to stand against our adversary and receive the promises of God.

I want to share a few thoughts on things that have helped me in times of struggle and discouragement. God has given us focus in the battle and weapons to fight with.

First, no matter the reason for the discouragement, think about the Lord. Hebrews 12:1–3 says,

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

It is when we look horizontally that we get discouraged. When we let what people say or think and the expectations people have of us to influence us, then discouragement sets in. When we look to men (horizontal) rather than to God (vertical), we easily become weary.

These verses say, “Look unto Jesus” and “consider Him.” It is in bringing our lives before the Lord that we find encouragement. All our troubles and all our reasons for discouragement fade away when we look up and see Him.

When we do this, we realize that the difficulties we face are just another way for us to identify with His sufferings (see Philippians 3:10). He is able to turn them around into a means through which we become more Christlike. Discouragement simply becomes a way for His treasure to shine out through the broken clay vessels that we are (see 2 Corinthians 4:7). In our weakness, He is made strong. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).

Second, think about the good things in life. Come before the Lord in praise. Philippians 4:8 tells us,

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Let us not make a list of all the reasons why we are in trouble or to stay discouraged. Don’t think about the negative. Scripture says to think about things that are lovely and wholesome and of good report. Think on these things.

One of the reasons why people become cold and cynical is because they forget the place from where the Lord has brought them. They forget His goodness toward them in times past. They forget that He is faithful.

That is why throughout the Old Testament, God seemed to continually remind His people saying, “Don’t forget. Celebrate the Passover year after year. This will remind you of Egypt and how I brought you out to freedom” (paraphrase, see Exodus 13:6–8). “Collect a jar of manna and save it to remember how I fed you in the wilderness” (paraphrase, see Exodus 16:32–33). “Take twelve stones out of the Jordan and make a place of remembrance. Then someday you can explain to others what I did for you” (paraphrase, see Joshua 4:5–7).

Likewise, we must keep ourselves in remembrance.

I encourage you to take some time now to write out a list of all the good things God has brought into your life. There are so many reasons to thank Him, and there is power and victory when we praise Him.

Consider this remarkable story of one man who chose to see the good things in his life rather than the bad.

As a recently retired man was sitting on his porch down in Kentucky, his Social Security check was delivered. He went to the mailbox to retrieve it and thought to himself, Is this all my life is going to be from this time on? Just sitting on the porch waiting for my next Social Security check to arrive? It was a discouraging thought.

So he took a legal pad and began to write down all the gifts, all the blessings, all the talents, and everything that he had going for him. He listed them all, even small things. For example, he included the fact that he was the only one in the world who knew his mother’s recipe for fried chicken in which she used eleven different herbs and spices.

He went down to the local restaurant, and asked if he could get a job cooking their chicken. Very soon the chicken became the most popular item on the menu. He opened his own restaurant in Kentucky. Then he opened a string of restaurants and eventually sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise to a national organization for millions of dollars. He became their public representative and continued in that role until his death.1

Third, pray. Come before the Lord in prayer. You do not have because you do not ask. You do not find because you do not seek. The door doesn’t open because you don’t knock (see Matthew 7:7–8). Please pray. God really answers prayer. Please believe me. He does! It is a great encouragement to see God work in answer to prayer.

Remember 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

When we pray, our attitude is transformed. It is through prayer that the Lord changes our hearts and His peace is able to enter in, lifting us above the circumstances we may be facing.

Fourth, remember the Lord has good plans for you. He is faithful to you no matter what. We must remind ourselves of this truth continually, especially when things become difficult and unclear. Remind yourself and say, “God loves me. He called me for a purpose. He is always good, always faithful. I can trust Him.” It is because of the assurance of who He is that we are able to continue on, never turning back or walking away from Him.

Fifth, live by faith, not by sight or feelings. Faith, by nature, is based upon what we cannot see. Things happen and we can’t understand why. But we can believe that God will work it out for the best. We can cling to Him in depression, hurt or sorrow, knowing that these things are for a reason and that He is strong enough to carry us through.

Only by faith can we look to the Lord in every situation. We may not know the solution yet, but He can give us peace as we trust Him to work all things together for our good. By faith we come to Him with whatever life brings—joys and sorrows—knowing that He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Listen to this cry of faith in Habakkuk 3:17–19:

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;

Though the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food;

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls—

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The LORD God is my strength;

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high hills.

Sixth, know that no matter what, you are forgiven. Sometimes that is the hardest thing to believe. All the sins you have ever committed, all the sins you are committing now and all the sins you will ever commit until the last second of your life are forgiven. They have all been taken care of. All you need to do is acknowledge that work of God and live by it. Don’t hold things against yourself. Live with forgiveness for yourself and others on a constant basis. Because of the blood of Jesus, we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Finally, have patience with yourself. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (emphasis added).
Sometimes we get so discouraged and so impatient with ourselves. We can’t see any good fruit being produced in our lives, and it tempts us to just give up. But we must remember that it takes time to be molded into the image of Christ.

Godliness, maturity and spiritual depth do not come through reading books and acquiring information. Often our problem is that we know so much. We know about what it means to be a good husband, a good father and a hard worker in the ministry. We know about being burdened by the Lord and about humility and brokenness. I know so many things in my head, yet still I long in many areas of my life to be the message I am preaching.

Rather, it is God working in us that brings maturity. The problem is in here, on the inside. I need to let the Lord work on me. I cannot do it, but God has a plan and a perfect way. He is the potter; I am the clay. With this understanding, I don’t have to get all bent out of shape and be unforgiving with myself. I can know the Lord is working with me.

Keep in mind how Jesus responded to Peter after he denied Him. Jesus did not focus on Peter’s mistake, but He saw beyond that, knowing what He was going to make him. Jesus was patient with Peter.

And just as God has patience with us, we must have patience with ourselves. We need to be objective and honest about our real condition, dismal as it may be. Yet we also must be willing to live with that truth and accept God’s grace to change us instead of trying to correct ourselves (see Isaiah 45:9).

© 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

Divine Instrument

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It seems that with all our knowledge, information and experience, we should be on top of the mountain more of the time.

I know this is how I often evaluate my life. I think that after all I’ve endured, I should now be able to face all kinds of problems without discouragement.

But it doesn’t work like that.

I can preach a message and see hundreds of people set free. I can witness remarkable things that the Lord is doing in some of the most unreached parts of the world. But within a short time, I can find myself bogged down, discouraged and confused, wondering what to do next and trying to find a way to quit, slow down or find an easier path.

Finally, I realized that discouragement, although a tool of the enemy, is also an instrument of God, used to shape us and bring us into all that He has for us.

In his book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis gives the dialogue between senior devil, Screwtape, and the junior devil he is teaching, Wormwood. The instruction given to Wormwood on how to deal with man’s disappointment and discouragement is eye-opening.

Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anti-climax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy [God] allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavor. . . . It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing. The Enemy takes this risk because He has a curious fantasy of making all these disgusting little human vermin into what He calls His “free” lovers and servants—“sons” is the word He uses. . . . Desiring their freedom, He therefore refuses to carry them, by their mere affections and habits, to any of the goals which He sets before them: He leaves them to “do it on their own.” And there lies our opportunity. But also, remember, there lies our danger. If once they get through this initial dryness successfully, they become much less dependent on emotion and therefore much harder to tempt.1

It’s true. Take heart in the truth that God uses discouragement to work all sorts of good into our lives. By it, He strengthens weak knees, granting the fortitude to journey on and preparing us for the next seasons of life.

Discouragement also has a unique way of keeping us connected to Him. It is easy to forget how much we need God when the skies are blue, the sun is shining and the birds are singing. But watch the dark clouds roll in and the storms come, and we are forced to seek shelter—in Him. This is why the psalmist said, “But it is good for me to draw near to God” (Psalm 73:28). In another version this verse reads, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good” (NASB).

Daily Drawing Near

In Exodus 16, we see a picture of how the Lord designed our spiritual lives. The Israelites were required to daily collect the manna God provided for them. They couldn’t collect enough on one day to last for two days, for if they collected more than they needed for that day, it spoiled and became full of worms. They couldn’t store it up. What they gathered was enough to sustain them for only one day.
The Lord has designed our spiritual life like that as well. Daily we must come to Him to be refreshed and restored. Just like the Israelites needed to gather the manna daily, we need spiritual refilling daily.
And the beautiful thing is, He fills us whenever we come to Him. We are drawn to Him daily out of absolute necessity. Without Him we are like a branch cut off from the vine. It is good that we need to come daily to the Lord. If we didn’t, we would so easily wander and try to live in our own strength. God loves us too much for that.

In Psalm 119:67 the writer tells us, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (emphasis added).

The affliction worked for good, drawing the psalmist back to keeping God’s word. Our discouragement works for good in our lives as well, drawing us nearer to the Lord.

This also reminds me of the familiar verse, Romans 8:28—“All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” God continually causes “all things” (and discouragement is one of the “things” included) to help us come back to Him continually for refilling. Truly, the nearness of God is our good.

I understand that it may be difficult to believe that God has a plan even in the discouragement you may be facing. But regardless, He is believable. And He knows our breaking point (see Psalm 103:14). The struggles and all the difficulties you and I face are designed to reshape us, not to destroy us.

His Presence, Our Hope

Because we know that God is good and is able to work all things together for our good, we can find the strength of heart to continue on.

In 2 Corinthians 4:1, Paul says, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.” If you read through 2 Corinthians, you’ll soon find how it seems the whole book is filled with the struggles Paul faced. But underlying all of his struggles are the words, “we do not lose heart.” You could write those words as the theme over every chapter in 2 Corinthians. It seems to be the declaration of Paul’s life.

And because he took hope in the Lord, he did not lose heart. Why? Because it is not the absence of difficulties or the absence of problems that makes the difference. It is the presence of the Lord.
Paul was starving, shipwrecked, imprisoned, stoned, beaten and left for dead (see 2 Corinthians 11). He was on the verge of an emotional breakdown so that he almost lost his mind and “despaired even of life” (see 2 Corinthians 1:8). Paul’s life was full of hardships.

But what made the difference was that Paul brought these hardships to God. He came to his Lord daily because in the pressures of the world and in the weakness of his flesh, he knew he could not stand alone. He focused on Christ, and it was Christ who caused him to stay in the fight and to stay encouraged.

This is why he was able to say and encourage others to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for [us] in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV). Paul knew from past experience the faithfulness of God to work good from each situation. His hope was in the Lord—not in his circumstances, not whether he had a good day or a bad one, not in being with the right people or difficult people.

In Genesis 37–39, we see this is the same way that Joseph lived. Although it seemed that time and time again things in his life just seemed to go wrong, we never hear Joseph complaining or grumbling. Why? Because of two reasons: First, he had faith in God—a faith that affected his perspective toward suffering. And the second reason is that God was with Joseph. All throughout the story of his life, we are told, “the LORD was with Joseph” (see Genesis 39:3, 21, 23).

The Power of Our Attitude
Paul and Joseph chose to put their hope in God. They could have easily stayed where they were at, in dismay over the troubles of their lives. But they did not do this. They lifted their eyes and put their hope in God.

Here is where we see how important our attitude is in every situation of life. Proverbs tells us that “[as a man] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). This is the reason why Scripture also tells us to “watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23, NASB).

You see, our attitude is like a sail. Whichever direction we place our sail, those winds will take us to particular destinations. If we put our sail up to catch only the winds of discouragement and doubt, it is certain that we will reach the destination we set for. But if we choose to place our sail in the confidence of God’s goodness, we are bound to be carried along by Him and see His faithfulness.

In his book The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, Charles Swindoll writes about the importance of our attitude to all the situations of life.

Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitude toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it. I believe the single most significant decision that I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important than my past, my education, my bankroll, my success or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. Attitude keeps me going or cripples my progress. . . . It alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope. When my attitude is right, there’s no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me.2

Our perspective is so very important. We can choose either to see these difficulties and become discouraged or to turn to our good Father and believe that He has a way to turn even the most difficult circumstances into good. It is the mystery of His sovereignty.

Flip through the pages of the Bible, and you will see, in story after story, how each person we revere as a hero of the faith encountered discouragement. Not one was exempt. And even the more modern-day faith examples had hills to climb and obstacles to overcome. Let us then, by faith, fix our eyes on the good that He will produce in our lives out of the difficulties that are bound to come, and stay encouraged because of Him.

May I take your hand and encourage you not to give up? Be strong on the inside.

Notes:

1 C.S. Lewis, The Quotable Lewis, ed. Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1989), p. 161.

2 Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, p. 38.

 

© 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

It’s Not Unusual to be Discouraged

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How are you?

At this moment, how are you doing? Perhaps you are on the mountaintop . . . or maybe you’re camping out in the valley? Or maybe someone you know is going through a tough time.

I think it is safe to say that discouragement comes to the best of us. One of the most difficult things in life is to stay encouraged. The stuff that keeps us going continually leaks out. It seems we are so fragile, prone to live by our feelings and emotions, so easily discouraged.

Think about it. It really doesn’t take much at all to get discouraged. It can be one look or one word, someone’s silence, a telephone that doesn’t ring or something we expected that didn’t happen. The smallest thing can trigger discouragement. Even our own imaginations, which may have no concrete basis, can trigger its downward spiral.

Where does it come from? Sometimes it feels like ice cold wind that makes us shiver deep within, and like dominoes, all hope tumbles down and we land in the pit of despair, stripped of all joy and hope and feeling so helpless. There may be a thousand reasons for discouragement, but one thing is for sure: There is someone behind this sinister force. Our enemy: Satan.

His Most Subtle Tool

It was advertised that the devil was going to put his tools up for sale. On the date of the sale the tools were placed for public inspection, each being marked with its sale price. There were a treacherous lot of implements. Hatred, Envy, Jealousy, Doubt, Lying, Pride, and so on. Laid apart from the rest of the pile was a harmless-looking tool, well-worn and priced very high.

“The name of the tool?” asked one of the purchasers.

“Oh,” said the adversary, “that’s Discouragement.”

“Why have you priced it so high?”

“Because it’s more useful to me than the others. I can pry open and get inside a person’s heart with that one, when I cannot get near him with other tools. Now once I get inside, I can make him do what I choose. It’s a badly worn tool, because I use it on almost everyone since few people know it belongs to me.”

The devil’s price for Discouragement was so high, he never sold it. It’s still his major tool, and he still uses it on God’s people today.1

I know far too well just how often the adversary uses this tool. For the past 19 years, I have been doing a daily radio broadcast in India in my native language of Malayalam, a language spoken by 38 million people. In a given year, anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 letters are received from those who listen to the broadcast.

Nearly 75 percent of these letters consist of people sharing the difficulties they are facing, their agony, disillusionment and hopelessness. They write in requesting prayer for these things. Yet what is alarming is that on a daily basis, an average of 25 letters come with the news of someone contemplating suicide, yet the person will wait until hearing back from me before going through with it.

Of course, a response is quickly sent and our staff prays. By the grace of God, only one person who had written in has actually committed suicide; all the others responded to the help given them in Christ’s name.

This epidemic of the soul is not just one found in India, but all over our world. Discouragement knows no boundaries, whether rich or poor, educated or illiterate. We as human beings, no matter what caste, creed, culture or nation we come from, all face struggles in life.

I remember when I first began to realize this. It was in Singapore in 1971, when I attended an international Christian leaders meeting. The guest speaker shared how he recently suffered from a mental breakdown and ended up in the hospital for treatment. When I heard that, I was shocked! I couldn’t fathom it. I could not understand how a preacher, an ordained minister serving God, could have had a mental breakdown. It didn’t fit into my theology at the time. But as I grew in the Lord, I came to realize that this was not an uncommon thing. Discouragement and depression happen to a lot of godly people.

No matter how high a mountaintop experience we may have had, no matter how many revelations we may have received, no matter how many times the Lord has stepped in to rescue us before, we remain weak and fragile human beings.

No amount of gifting by the Holy Spirit or being baptized in the Holy Spirit, no amount of casting out demons or performing miracles, no amount of Bible knowledge or preaching will keep us from discouragement. It comes to the best of us.

Consider Jonah. Regarded as a prophet of God, he was sure to have heard God share some remarkable things with him. He experienced the Lord’s grace and salvation from the belly of the fish. He saw how He lavished mercy rather than wrath upon the people of Nineveh. He saw God do incredible things in his day. Yet even after all of this, he became so discouraged that he prayed to die (see Jonah 4:3).

Or think about Elijah. This man of God experienced a miraculous victory on Mount Carmel, when fire fell from heaven and consumed a water-soaked sacrifice. He saw how the Lord glorified His name and destroyed all the prophets of Baal. When Elijah prayed, great things happened—a three-and-a-half-year drought ended in heavy rain.

But still, he experienced discouragement. First Kings 19:4 tells us that right after these incredible events, he “went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’ ”

Don’t Pretend

There are many examples throughout the Bible of great men and women of God who experienced discouragement. The interesting thing is that they never tried to hide it. They told God about it. They came to the Lord with their feelings and discouragement.

So often we are tempted to cover up our discouragement because we don’t want others to think we are weak. We don’t want people to think of us as unspiritual. Yet when we read through the Psalms, we hear the desperate cries of many a discouraged man. Psalm 102:1–5 says,

Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble; incline Your ear to me; in the day that I call, answer me speedily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned like a hearth. My heart is stricken and withered like grass, so that I forget to eat my bread. Because of the sound of my groaning my bones cling to my skin.

The psalmist is discouraged. It is apparent that he is not trying to deny it or hide it from anyone.

And, as always, this honest approach to God brings refreshment and hope. This psalm ends with the writer crying out, “But You are the same, and Your years will have no end. The children of Your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before You” (Psalm 102:27–28).

Most of all, Jesus did not hide His discouragement. In the Garden of Gethsemane we see Jesus, the One who was there at the spectacular creation of the universe, falling down on the ground in despair. In His moment of greatest need, He did not put on a show for His disciples but was honest and human before them.

He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed (Mark 14:33–35, NIV, emphasis added).

Jesus is our perfect example in all things, even in how to handle discouragement. Although terribly burdened down by the events of the cross that soon faced Him, He was honest before His fellow man and before His Father.

Let us follow Him in this, and receive the invitation in all things to “humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6–7, NIV).

He has given us His promise that when we cry to Him, He will hear us. “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:17–19).

If you are one who is discouraged today, please, cry out to Him. His ear is tuned in to your cries, and He waits to be your help and comfort.

1 Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 1998), p. 164.

 

© 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

Stay Encouraged

Stay Encouraged - KP Yohannan Books

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Every time I ran into him, I found him to be optimistic, smiling and full of enthusiasm. But a few months ago, I found him kind of down and out, his eyes no longer bright, the smile missing.

Over a cup of tea, we began to talk about the struggles he had been going through. During this conversation, he looked up with tired eyes and simply said, “I just need some encouragement.”

I was surprised and thought it odd to hear these words from his mouth. He is a Christian leader, responsible for hundreds of pastors and workers under his leadership, and here he was being so vulnerable, admitting his need for someone to come alongside him and lift him up.

You may be in that same place today. You may not have said out loud, “I just need some encouragement,” yet in a thousand other ways you have “said” it—that look of despair and sadness, the sighing, the questions asked, the frowned face, drooping shoulders, pleading eyes.

If truth were known, you are craving some kind of encouragement . . . looking for it, longing for it and grieving because you have not found it.

Where are you? Hibernating? In the valley of discouragement? Is a heavy, dark cloud covering you? Do you wish to quit and run away from life itself?

I have been there.

The painful shadows of hopelessness and discouragement have often stretched across my path. There are times I have wished to get off from this fast-moving train of life. Many times I have said, “This is enough. I can’t handle it anymore.” I have shouted in silence, alone in the crowd.

But I want to assure you; you are not alone in the struggle. Jesus understands.

He experienced the awful, bitter waters of being tempted to remain discouraged. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are.”

Take courage. The Lord will lift you up. He has done it for me a thousand times. No pit is so deep that He cannot reach you. No valley too bleak that He cannot escort you out. No night so dark that His light cannot penetrate.

There is hope.

You are important to the Lord. He made you and cares about you deeply. The pages of this booklet are His way of reaching out to you today.

© 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

Concluding Remarks – That They May All be One by K.P. Yohannan

That They May All Be One - KP Yohannan Books

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Please let us not get stuck on the problems, doctrines, or differences that are bound to occur in living and serving with people. Instead, choose to get stuck on love, extending grace and compassion to your brother or sister, praying for them and loving them with the love of Christ. Remember Matthew 25:40: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

You are part of the family of God—not fragmented, not divided—but with one heart, one soul and one mind. You are called to live together, strive together, pray together, suffer together, agonize together—and if need be die together—with your brothers and sisters for the sake of a world that has never heard the name of the Lord Jesus. This is our privilege and this is our calling.

Let us all then love and live in unity as one Body, one in Him.

Prayer
We pray, O Lord, that You would continue to bind us together with love—love that covers a multitude of sins, love that is so patient, gentle, forgiving and caring. Love that does not go around finding people’s faults and criticizing others but love that always gives in. Help us to be humble and broken and to consider others as better than ourselves. Make us more like You, Jesus.

Next time we will begin K.P.’s book called Stay Encouraged.  It will bless you!

© 2003 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

Vital Differences

That They May All Be One - KP Yohannan Books

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Look at your body and you will see a left leg and a right leg, a nose and two eyes. We were all given two feet and two hands. Both hands are complete with five fingers—nothing is missing. And because nothing is missing, you are able to write with your hand and feed yourself as well. You can see with your eyes and walk with your feet, doing all the things your brain tells you to do.

Imagine now if some parts of your body were missing or were sick and not working. Have you ever seen someone try to walk without their big toe? We typically consider a missing leg or missing arm a big deal—and it is. Yet how many times have you considered the importance of your big toe? This one little body part may seem insignificant and not all that impressive or important, but it establishes the balance for the entire body, keeping you steady and able to walk. You wouldn’t even be able to stand without it! How crucial this small, seemingly insignificant member really is.

Just like the toe or the leg, the arm or the nose, each one of us represents a different, unique and valuable part of the Body of Christ. Each part is needed so that the Body is complete, able to do whatever is required.
The Bible speaks of the importance of each member, big or small, known or unknown, honored or not, in 2 Corinthians. In writing to the believers there, Paul reminds them how each individual is vital and contributes to the health of the whole:

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye,’ would that make it any less a part of the body? Suppose the whole body were an eye—then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything?

But God made our bodies with many parts, and he has put each part just where he wants it. What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you. . . . ’

This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other equally. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it (1 Corinthians 12:14–21, 25–27, NLT).

Just as the Lord has done everything so perfectly with our physical bodies, He also has done with us, His Body.

I have traveled to numerous places and have seen many different groups of believers. There are differences in each fellowship, and the meshing of these differences is what makes the Body of Christ so beautiful.

The first place that comes to mind is Gospel for Asia’s international headquarters in the United States and the group of people the Lord has brought together to serve there. He brings the young and the old, the strong and the weak, the slow and the eager. There are people from different places, backgrounds and experiences, yet each one is greatly needed and fits together in the service of the Lord. No one is perfect alone, but each person’s skills, abilities, talents, giftings and temperaments make the ministry whole and complete.

A Blessing in the Difference

In the illustration of the parts of the body all being important, unity seems to be an obvious element, easily attained. But as you and I both know, it’s not always as easy as it sounds.

Differences are just that—they separate and distinguish one from another. And unless we put forth an effort to live in unity, our differences can be used to divide us, causing great chasms and hurts.

I have had many personal experiences with both knowing the pain and the beautiful purpose of differences. Back in the early days of the ministry, when Gospel for Asia (GFA) was just starting out, a brother named Fred came to work with us. I had the hardest time working with this man. He was just so different from me. We were complete opposites—I was night; he was day. His skin is clean white; mine is dark brown. That is what you’d see on the surface, but the differences ran much deeper than that. We had different personalities and different ways of doing things; everything you can possibly imagine, we were different in. We just couldn’t seem to get along. It was absolutely awful.

There were many times when I went through such agony working with Fred. Being the leader of GFA, I thought I could just ask him to leave. “I cannot live with him anymore. He just does not understand!” We obviously could not get along and because this was causing so much added tension to my days, I decided Fred must go.

The day before I was going to call it quits with him, God, in His mercy and grace, intervened. In the evening when I was all alone, God began to speak to me about the struggles I had with Fred. Surely He knew of my agony with this man and would agree with me about the pain this situation was causing me. Or so I thought. I didn’t expect to hear God say, “The problem is not Fred. It’s you.” This shocked me! “What?” I said, “Me, the problem? God, You know how I’ve been living with all these issues with this man!” He said, “Yes, I know, but it’s you that is the problem.”

Later the next day, God continued to speak to me and said, “I have a plan and you never understood it. You only looked at the work. You only looked at what you could get out of Fred. You only looked at how fast he could run. You only looked at how well he spoke and what he did to see if it met your qualifications. You only looked at how he could perform from your perspective, with you as his judge. You never understood Me.”

I broke down and cried. God was right. The problem was with me.

This incident was a major turning point in my life. I never did fire Fred; instead, I asked him to forgive me. Although Fred’s temperament never changed and neither did mine, my heart changed inside that day.

I can honestly tell you, since that day I have never had anger, unforgiveness or an unloving heart toward my brother Fred. As a matter of fact, I cannot imagine life at GFA without him. One of my greatest joys is that Fred and I—two entirely different people—work in the same kingdom’s work, fighting side by side, both taking orders from Him who is our head. He has faithfully labored right alongside me for 22 years now. This is the kind of perfect and beautiful work God does to unify His Body.
In hindsight, I see how wonderful this situation was. God puts us with other people to show us how we need them and they need us, and together we grow and mature and do the part God created each of us to do.
As long as we human beings live together on this earth, there will be differences. We come from so many different backgrounds—family backgrounds, Christian backgrounds, educational backgrounds and cultural backgrounds. We differ in age, race, income and marital status. We must not concentrate on the differences as “negatives” but rather see them as good, bringing balance and fullness to our lives and to the rest of the Body. Yet it is only as we look to Christ that we can have the perspective of seeing our differences as blessings.

Recognize the Value

The Body of Christ is complete only because of differences.
Think about that statement for a moment. Consider how many different people, ministries, churches and mission organizations there are. Each has been given a particular assignment from God and carries with it different strengths and weaknesses. Whether we realize it or not, we all need each other. We cannot stand alone.
GFA’s approach to ministry focuses on preaching the Gospel first and foremost. But recently, a doctor who heads up a large medical mission organization came to visit GFA to talk to us about the importance of hospital ministry—how Jesus healed people, and through that healing He brought them to eternal salvation.
For a long time I sat with this man and listened to what he was sharing. He had many good things to say. By the time the meeting drew to a close, I saw the enormous potential God has given their ministry. The opportunities are endless, especially in Asian nations where illness and disease are so widespread. They could minister in places like Orissa, where the medical needs were so overwhelming after the devastating cyclone hit in 2001. Millions of people would turn to Christ through the compassion shown them in treating their sicknesses and in healing their diseases.
When he had finished talking, I said, “You are absolutely right. What you are saying works beautifully if the preaching of the Gospel is not compromised.”
Ten years ago, I never would have responded so well; in fact, I would not have even considered this kind of ministry. If someone had come and talked to me like that doctor did, I would have said, “Yeah, okay. That is all very nice, but I will see you later. Here at GFA we preach the Gospel. I don’t have room for anything that is less important.”
Of course preaching the Gospel must always be the priority. But at the same time, Jesus still fed the hungry and healed the sick. If we, Christ’s Body, are to function like He did, we have to accept the value of each and every individual part. If GFA didn’t accept the ministry of this medical mission, valuing the role it plays, then the work of both groups would be compromised.
Wherever you are and with whomever the Lord has joined you together, remember that you and your brother or sister have each been given a particular part to play. As we recognize our part, our gifts and our lack, we can complement each others’ lives and experience the harmony of the fullness of Christ. Every individual that the Lord has brought into your life, especially in the service of the Lord, is uniquely placed to somehow complement your lack in the Body and you, theirs. In accepting and valuing each person and who they are, the whole Body functions smoothly.

Unseen Yet Needed

Just as there are different organs in your human body that you have never seen yet are vital to your existence, so there are members in the Body of Christ. Perhaps you or someone around you is rarely noticed, always working behind the scenes, not given much honor or fame. Remember that “the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16). And “he who is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).
Although you can’t see your heart, your kidneys or your stomach, if one of these hidden members stops functioning properly, you would certainly know. You would be very sick and possibly in the hospital.

The same is true concerning the Body of Christ. The healthy functioning of every part is critical. When each member is healthy and rightly connected to the rest of the Body, all is well. But when one member of the Body is no longer connected to the whole, that member is in danger of dying. And it is not just that part that suffers, but the whole Body is also affected.
United like this, we realize we are linked to each other, walking side by side, feeling each other’s victories as well as each other’s hurts. It is like when I stub my toe—ouch!—my whole body feels it! I hop around on the other foot and hold my toe with my hand. Maybe a little tear runs down my cheek because it hurts so badly. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Romans 12:15–16 (NIV) says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.” That means if my brother is sad, I am sad too. If my sister is sick, I feel her sickness.
In 1994 a terrible butchering happened in the African nation of Rwanda. In the span of just a few months, more than 700,000 people were killed in a conflict between neighboring tribes, the Hutus and the Tutsis. After hearing reports of this tragedy, can you remember what happened in your church service the following Sunday? In the church I attended, absolutely nothing was different. Everything continued as normal, as if this slaughtering of thousands never even happened. There were no tears, no hurt, no pain, no sharing—nothing.

This concerns me. Much of Christendom has come to focus its effort on sustaining its own emotional health, strength and comfort. Lukewarm Christianity watches those who share in the pain of the suffering and says, “That is fanaticism! That is flesh! It’s all emotion!” Lukewarm Christianity won’t let its heart be broken for the hurt and dying. But biblical Christianity sees the tragedy and is moved by the pain and suffering, weeping just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem (see Luke 19:41).
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the proper religious people left the wounded man to die on the road. Only the man from Samaria had compassion and shared the pain, helping his brother who was in need (see Luke 10).
We cannot generate Christlike compassion or godly emotions any more than we can save ourselves. But we can be obedient to pray for and receive His burden, even if it means processing painful things. I am not saying this to make you feel like you’re not praying enough or not doing enough or not feeling enough of the burden. All I want is for us to take His yoke and share with Him in “the fellowship of His sufferings” (see Philippians 3:10).
And just as we share in the sufferings, we also share in the victories and joys. If there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents, then there should be rejoicing on earth too! In Luke 10, we find the story of Jesus sending out the disciples two by two to heal the sick. Luke 10:17 says, “Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.’ ” Seeing how excited His disciples were at the power of God, Jesus rejoiced with them. Luke 10:21 says, “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.’ ”
Let us then imitate Jesus, rejoice in our differences and make the effort to see the value and gifts each of us brings to the whole. In this appreciation of each other and how the Lord has made us, He will be glorified.

© 2003  by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

Fitted Together

That They May All Be One - KP Yohannan Books

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In 1 Kings 18:31, when the prophet Elijah repaired the broken altar, we are told he used 12 stones, “according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come . . .” This is an interesting statement, because at the time of this account the children of Israel were splintered into various groups, fragmented and backslidden in heart. Yet despite their condition, God still referred to them as one, together chosen as His children. It was on that restored altar, with the stones representing the 12 tribes of Israel, that God made His great power known by defeating the prophets of Baal.

But consider this: Would that altar have been complete with only 11 of the stones or 8 of the stones representing the tribes of Israel? No, it would not have been. It was all 12 stones that were recognized by God and all 12 through which He made His power known.

We can learn a lot from this Old Testament example. Another beautiful illustration of how we are to be united as one is found in the temple Solomon built in Jerusalem. It is said that each stone used in its building was chipped at and carved away until it fit perfectly with the stones around it—so perfectly that no mortar was even needed to hold them together. Each individual stone fit perfectly with the others, becoming one beautiful temple for the Lord. This is what the Lord desires for us today.

You see, rather than dwelling in a temple made with human hands as in the days of old, God has now chosen instead to dwell within us, His temple made with living stones—you and I (see 1 Peter 2:5). Like the stones used to build the temple, God desires His living stones to fit together perfectly by the unity of His Spirit and the bond of love.

The kingdom of God is a relational kingdom. Think about it; Jesus didn’t ask us to only pray alone. He said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20, emphasis mine). Neither did He send out the disciples individually but rather two by two (see Mark 6). His purpose in doing things this way was so that they would be able to minister to each other and support one another as they reached out to the lost around them, and so that the world, by observing the disciples’ love for one another, would know the love of God.

During Jesus’ last few moments before going to the cross, He left His disciples not with a series of steps on how to reach the lost. He did not sit them down with notebooks and pens or have them memorize certain methods, techniques or anything else. To prepare them for the enormous task ahead, He simply left this powerful statement: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35, NIV, emphasis mine).

What is disunity except the lack of love? When we recognize the importance that Jesus placed upon loving one another above all else, and we begin to walk in obedience to His command, nothing will be able to hinder us from seeing the kingdom of God come in our generation!

© 2003 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

That They All May Be One

“That they all may be one,as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You;that they also may be one in Us,that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21

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One of my all-time favorite books is The Calvary Road by Roy Hession. This book was written in the context of a group of missionaries working and experiencing a time of revival together. In the introduction of the book, Norman P. Grubb writes,

We [the group of missionaries] are beginning to learn, as a company of Christ’s witnesses, that the rivers of life to the world do not flow out in their fullness through one man, but through the body, the team. Our brokenness and openness must be two-way, horizontal as well as vertical, with one another as with God. We are just beginning to experience in our own ranks that team work in the Spirit is one of the keys to revival, and that we have to learn and practice the laws of a living fellowship.1

It is my prayer that the Lord would give us an understanding of true unity and help us to put into practice the “laws of a living fellowship.” We were not called to be individuals doing our own thing. We were called into the family of God, to oneness and unity with Him and with our fellowman.
May we strive to maintain this unity, each day linking arms with our brothers and sisters, genuinely loving each other and laboring together to see the kingdom of God come.

Notes: 1 Roy Hession, The Calvary Road (London: Christian Literature Crusade, 1950),
pp. 8–9.

© 2003 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

Conclusion – Principles in Maintaining a Godly Organization by K.P. Yohannan

Principles of Maintaining a Godly Organization - KP Yohannan Books

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Perhaps, as you’ve read through this booklet, you can identify with what I’ve shared. You recall the vibrancy and passion you shared with your fellow workers to reach the lost. You remember your enthusiasm to serve one another, the love and family atmosphere you enjoyed and the unity you experienced. But all those blessings you once enjoyed are now just a memory.

Is there hope for your church, your organization? Absolutely. You can return to the original vision of your ministry. You can once again experience life and joy between you and your coworkers.

I encourage you to determine in your heart to seek the Lord and listen for His voice. It is His life that will restore your ministry. It is His vision that will guide and direct you.

© 2003 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

Practical Steps Toward Restoration

Principles of Maintaining a Godly Organization - KP Yohannan Books

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The simplest way to bring about change, as I mentioned in Chapter 3, is to start with yourself. If I demand or expect change from others but refuse to do so myself, I will never see any difference. I must take the initiative and lead by my example. This works in a family, in an organization and in a society.

Let us take a look at some practical, “hands-on” ways through which we can maintain and renew the freshness and life within the ministry where we serve.

Radical Living Restored through Abandonment

Genuine revival comes from a personal, intimate encounter with the living God, not with the rules and regulations of an organization. How can I be a servant? When I know the one who is a servant of all. How can I be broken? When I meet with the one who was broken for the world. To be radical means you must be inwardly motivated.

Take time to think deeply, to pray sincerely and ask the Lord to renew, within your own heart, the vision of your ministry. Translate that vision into your specific area within the ministry. Search for unique ways that you can share and spread this vision within your own personal sphere of influence—your supporters and supporting churches, members of your local church, even believers you meet through your everyday activities. One longtime, faithful volunteer at our ministry originally started serving here because of her contact with a staff member in the laundry room of their apartment complex. The possibilities are virtually unlimited, but you can only access them when you have allowed the Lord to do the work in your heart.

Regularly review your mission statement†, your vision†† and your core values†††. Talk with leaders and others who have been with your ministry a while to learn what it was like in the early days.

To be radical, you must deliberately choose to do things that would help develop and cultivate your heart. It will not happen on its own. Take stock of your spiritual condition; face yourself honestly. Take responsibility for your own spiritual growth—don’t shift the blame to others or to circumstances for your failures, shortcomings or stagnancy.

† A mission statement outlines the direction for your life/organization—the compass that keeps you going in the right direction.
†† The vision fulfills the mission statement with the actual steps—the map you use to get to your destination.
††† The core values are the principles and standards with which you fulfill your mission statement.

Transformational Living Restored through Decontrol

Think of all the people within your church or organization with whom you have influence—large or small, directly or indirectly. It may be an “official” position in which you have responsibility over them, or it may simply be that you share a bond because you live nearby, share similar tastes or have children who play together. Whatever the case, you can begin to think about those people: their potential, their giftings, their backgrounds, their testimonies, their character and their dreams. As you begin to do so, you will find within yourself a growing appreciation for each one of their lives. Begin to pray specifically for each individual.

The life of Jesus, in its finest manifestation, was all about caring for others. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45). Let us be continually thinking of how we can bless and encourage others. Those who are in responsible positions within the organization need to be considering how to continually build up and “recharge” those who are under their authority and how to develop each one based on his or her abilities and giftings. What matters is not so much money, housing or things. People matter most.

Motivate others, not through power and heavy-handed techniques or through benefits, false hopes or manipulations but through love, grace, encouragement, approval, forgiveness, correction, challenge and integrity—and in some cases prayer and fasting. Do what it takes, as the Lord gives you the grace, to work toward really becoming one. We are not one just because we work together—it is because we genuinely care for one another.

I can testify that nearly every miracle that happened in our ministry came about not just as a result of my efforts or prayers, but also because a few individuals prayed, fasted, believed and stuck together. It had nothing to do with position or power. God’s only method for getting things done, moving His kingdom forward and doing miracles is men and women. The work comes only secondary to the people who do the work.

Relational Living Restored through Empowerment

When you have influence over someone, whether it is a position of authority or simply the advantage of experience through having served a longer period of time in your ministry, you should never use that influence to get things done or make things happen. Force, veiled threats or intimidation, even when spiritually disguised, are never a substitute for love, mercy and grace.

Make sure that you place a higher value, above anything else, on a person’s inner reality, character, humility, and brokenness and on a heart that seeks no glory or ambition. Acts 6 tells how the Lord directed the apostles to select men for service.

Ask the Lord to show you a handful of people within that circle of influence, one or two perhaps, in whom you can invest your life and share your vision. If you have responsibility over them at the office, begin to train them to do your job. Be open and honest with them, even at the risk of rejection or unresponsiveness.

I would highly recommend that you regularly read—perhaps every three months or so—Gayle Erwin’s The Jesus Style1 and study through the book Humility2 by Andrew Murray.

The disciples stuck with Jesus for no other reason than love. And it is crucial that we understand this as we relate to one another.

Notes:

1Erwin, The Jesus Style.
2Andrew Murray, Humility (Pittsburgh, PA: Whitaker House, 1982).

© 2003 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.