Tag Archives: Missionaries

God’s Promises

Click the image to download your free copy.

Please, my precious brothers and sisters, when discouragement comes, look to the Lord. Use every hard situation, every bad circumstance, every illness—everything—as an opportunity to seek the Lord and rely on Him.

When you are discouraged, I strongly encourage you to remember the promises of God, given to us in the Bible. Many times it has helped me to say these promises out loud, applying their truths to the situations I am facing at that time. Boldly confess that:

• God is a good God. He is my Father (see Romans 8:15).

• The Father loves me the same as He loves Jesus (see John 17:23).

• I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb by grace . . . a new creation (see Revelation 5:9, 2 Corinthians 5:17).

• God is the strength of my life (see Psalm 27:1).

• I can do all things through Christ . . . (see Philippians 4:13).

• The Lord is my Shepherd. I want nothing (see Psalm 23:1).

• Surely He has born my sickness and carried my sorrows, and by His stripes I am healed (see Isaiah 53:5).

• My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches (see Philippians 4:19).

• I can resist the devil, and he will flee from me (see James 4:7).

• No weapon formed against me will prosper (see Isaiah 54:17).

• I am more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ (see Romans 8:37).

• All things work together for my good (see Romans 8:28).

• I am bold as a lion (see Proverbs 28:1).

• He will never leave me nor forsake me (see Hebrews 13:5).

• Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads me with benefits (see Psalm 68:19).

• As the days, so shall my strength be (see Deuteronomy 33:25).

• When I am weak, then I am strong (see 2 Corinthians 12:10).

• Let the weak say I am strong (see Joel 3:10), for the Lord is the strength of my life.

God’s faithfulness and His mercies are new every morning! God wants us to know this. It is beautiful to know the freshness of God and how He restores our souls. Stay encouraged!

© 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.

Be an Encouragement

Stay Encouraged - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor. . . . Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.1

Take a minute and look around you. Look close at the faces of people and see in their eyes the desperate longing for understanding and their cry for a few words of encouragement. If nothing else, just a look, a pat on the back or a smile can make the greatest difference in their day.

We are such self-centered creatures that from the moment we wake up until the moment we lay our head back on the pillow, we are consumed with ourselves. We think about our sorrow, our concern and our need for understanding and affirmation.

But what does the Bible say about this? “Give, and it shall be given unto you” (Luke 6:38).

Are you one looking for encouragement and appreciation? Then I have a suggestion for you: Encourage someone around you. Give to them what you are looking to receive, and you will be surprised how it will return back to you a hundredfold.

Listen to the words of Christ, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12, NIV).

William Barclay once said, “One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement. . . . It is easy to laugh at man’s ideals. It is easy to pour cold water on the enthusiasm. It is easy to discourage others. The world is full of discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a man on his feet. Blessed is the man who speaks such a word.”2 How true this is.

While reading through the well-known and loved book Chicken Soup for the Soul, I came across this story, which again shows the significant impact a little encouragement can have on the people in our lives.

A college professor had his sociology class go into the Baltimore slums to get case histories of 200 young boys. They were asked to write an evaluation of each boy’s future. In every case the students wrote, “He hasn’t got a chance.” Twenty-five years later another sociology professor came across the earlier study. He had his students follow up on the project to see what had happened to these boys. With the exception of 20 boys who had moved away or died, the students learned that 176 of the remaining 180 had achieved more than ordinary success as lawyers, doctors and businessmen.

The professor was astounded and decided to pursue the matter further. Fortunately, all the men were in the area and he was able to ask each one, “How do you account for your success?” In each case the reply came with feeling, “There was a teacher.”

The teacher was still alive, so he sought her out and asked the old but still alert lady what magic formula she had used to pull these boys out of the slums into successful achievement.

The teacher’s eyes sparkled and her lips broke into a gentle smile. “It’s really simple,” she said. “I loved those boys.”3

If we as parents or friends want to motivate our family members or people around us, we must be encouragers. We must choose to give sincere appreciation and honest praise for even the slightest good that people do. Thus we can spur others to greater achievements in life.

The renowned psychologist and thinker, professor William James of Harvard, mentions that each individual has tremendous energy, power, strength and potential in themselves. According to him, compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual thus lives far within his limits. He possesses powers of various sorts that he habitually fails to use.

Encouragement is a powerful force. An earlier study shows that no one can achieve significant heights in life alone; it is always done with the help and assistance of others. In this, encouragement is without any doubt one of the most powerful things we can do to help others. Those who have studied the lives of people such as Charles Dickens or H.G. Wells know how timely a word of encouragement and praise proved to be the turning point in their lives, enabling them to attain great heights.

Consider Charles Dickens. His life did not exactly provide him with the conditions to be one of the greatest literary writers, yet that is what he became. Forced to quit school when he was 12 due to his father’s imprisonment (for outrageous debt), Dickens spent his days pasting labels on bottles in a rat-infested workplace.

He desired to write and pursued that dream, only to have his work rejected time and time again. But one day, one of his stories, although denied for publication, was returned to him with a note saying that he was a great writer and the world needed him. These small words of encouragement sent Dickens running up and down the streets of London rejoicing. They also served as the staying power in his writing, therefore bringing us such literature masterpieces as Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, The Tale of Two Cities and others.

When you read about the lives of great men and women in history, you will always find there was some person or group who encouraged them, being the key factor to all that they achieved.

Just think about it. Who taught Martin Luther his theology and inspired his translation of the New Testament? Who was the individual who witnessed to Sadhu Sundar Singh of India? Who encouraged Mother Teresa to leave her home in Albania and travel to India? Who was behind the staying power of Amy Carmichael in the midst of endless years of physical suffering and difficulties on the mission field in India? Who was the elderly woman who prayed for years and witnessed to George Verwer for over a decade? Who financed William Carey’s travel to India and his ministry?

You see, it is easy to understand. It doesn’t take superstars and the most brilliant to encourage others. You can do it. I can do it. English poet, William Wordsworth, once said, “That best portion of a good man’s life, his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.”4

I want to ask you, when was the last time you encouraged someone with your words or actions? We are most Christlike when we can show compassion and love for others. Jesus always affirmed and strengthened the weak, the lonely and the unwanted.

One of the most significant ways in which we can encourage others is to listen with our hearts to what they are saying. Often people say things not in words, but in their feelings, their actions and even their silence. While listening, ask the Lord to give you understanding to what they are saying. Then you will be able to respond with the determination to encourage and strengthen them.

There are times you can do things to show your support and encouragement. Sometimes it is sharing finances, giving them a book that will help them through a difficult time or sharing a song that will encourage their heart. It could be just simply taking the time to sit down and listen to them.

Daily look for something positive and encouraging that you can do or say to the people around you to strengthen them in this life’s journey. Appreciate people and acknowledge even the little things that they do. Never underestimate the power of positive words and a solid handshake or pat on the back.

When I look back over the years of my serving the Lord, there have been numerous times of deep discouragement and struggles. Many times I have thought about running away from it all. In each of those times, it was some brother or sister saying “I am praying for you” or doing something to encourage me with their words or actions that gave me the courage to continue the journey. Even today that is true.

May you be that to someone today. “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

Notes:

1 Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, Chicken Soup for the Soul (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 1993), p. 3.
2 William Barclay, Letter to the Hebrews: The Daily Study Bible (Edinburgh, Scotland: St. Andrews Press, 1955), pp. 137–138.
3 Canfield and Hansen, Chicken Soup for the Soul, pp. 3–4.
4 Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 1995), p. 3.

 

© 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.

Take Heart

Stay Encouraged - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

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.

 

Watch the Lamb

That They May All Be One - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Philippians 2:5–9 says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.”

When Jesus humbled Himself in the last unequaled step of humility and love by dying on the cross, Scripture says that, “Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him.” Love and humility is the road that leads us to unity and oneness, and it is the same road Christ walked while on this earth. When we see Him and the extent of His love and humility, choosing the low road, we begin to understand the power of humbling ourselves before our brothers and sisters, just as Jesus did. Consider the words written by the prophet Isaiah about our Lord, the Lamb of God:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:3, 6–7, NIV, emphasis mine).

Think about the magnitude of these verses. The Son of God, who was there when the heavens and earth were first formed, chose to come to this earth not as an esteemed and highly respected man, but as a helpless baby born in a dirty stable to a poor, unwed mother. To take it further, He died the death of a lawbreaker. The only perfect man ever to live without sin on this earth died on a cross between two thieves. Even with 12 legions of angels at His disposal (see Matthew 26:53) ready and able to stop this great injustice from happening, Jesus chose to remain there—to be broken and humbled and to die. If ever there were a man with the right to fight for himself and against the wrong done to him, it would have been Jesus. But He did not. He never opened His mouth against His accusers or in His own defense, but only said, “Father, forgive them . . . ” (Luke 23:34).

Only when I compare myself with Christ am I able to humble myself with all of my heart. What breaks relationships and sows disunity is my thinking I am better than somebody else, that my way is right or that my conviction is better than another’s. But when I compare myself with Christ, who am I? Who am I to say, “I am right”? Who am I to stand up for the way I think things should be? Scripture says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant” (Philippians 2:5–7).

It is when we choose to have “this mind in us,” to see Jesus and follow Him in our relationships, that He will be exalted in our lives, in our brother’s life, in the Church and throughout the nations. Is this not our ultimate goal, to exalt and bring honor to the name of Christ? When we choose to walk in love and humility toward one another as He did—even to the very ones who crucified Him—we will see Him exalted. The world will know we are His disciples by our love for each other, and they will come to bow before Him because of this love.

Recently a brother who serves with our movement came to me upset about a particular situation involving some of the people he works with. When he came to talk to me about it, I knew from the moment he entered the room how upset he was.

“Please! I did not come to argue with you, Brother K.P.,” he said. “You are my leader. I will do anything you tell me to do. Just let me tell you the facts.” And so—one, two, three, four, five—he laid out for me the whole story, explaining all that had happened and how he was right. Then he raised his voice a little, and I could hear the pain in it as he said, “Brother K.P., tell me, am I wrong?”

I had to calm down because I didn’t want to raise my voice as well. I said, “You know, you are absolutely right.” I think he was expecting that I would argue with him or point out something wrong. But I said, “You are perfectly right.” And he was. But my question to him was this: “Was your attitude in the situation Christlike? Was your response Christlike? Did they hear the mercy and love of Jesus in your voice? Did they see in you His grace and forgiveness?”

There was silence, and then the conversation continued. I said, “Even though you are correct, would you still ask others to forgive you for your lack of love in handling the situation? Would you bend and break even when you are right?” Jesus did. He could have come down from the cross and proven He was God. But Jesus didn’t do it this way. And by the grace of God, neither did this brother. The next day, even though he was right and the facts were in his favor, he went and asked the others involved in the situation to forgive him.

It is this kind of submission and humility that binds us together and through which Christ is exalted in our lives and on the earth. What I am finding out about myself in dealing with people is that the problem is not outside. It is not the people who keep coming to me, pestering me, beating me, calling me names and telling me how to do things. The problem is that my own heart doesn’t want to bend and break and respond as Christ would, in genuine love and humility.

Let us strive toward this end. “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:1–2).

© 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.

Choose the Low Road

That They May All Be One - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind. Let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:1–4).

The essence of this Scripture is that unity and humility work hand in hand. Unity comes from love, love comes from humility, and humility comes by submitting to one another. When there is no humility, there is no unity. Mother Teresa once said, “Humility is the mother of all virtues. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”1 She also said, “To love and to be loved, we must know our brothers and sisters. For knowledge always leads to love and love in action is service. Our work is only the expression of the love we have for God.”2 Romans 12:10 pleads with us to “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.”

I used to be a fighter. I fought for my doctrines. I fought for my way of ministry. I must have been one of the most difficult human beings to live or work with. I won every argument and always got things to go the way I wanted them to. But in reality, every argument I won I really lost because I lost the people—I alienated the Body of Christ around me. Every time I won, I hurt my brothers and sisters, as well as God, because I would not choose to do things His way—the way of love and humility. But praise God that He didn’t give up on me. Slowly I began to understand the importance of submitting to my brothers and to my sisters, truly loving them.

Willing to Bend

I used to be absolutely radical about my theological doctrines. Even now, there is a whole theological world that fights over so many different points of view on a variety of subjects. Volumes are written containing thousands of pages debating these different opinions. Yet the root of all these arguments and debates is really hardness of heart and a lack of love. Any doctrine or form of “Christianity” that is not spoken and upheld in love, that induces people to continually fight for their side, creates disunity and rips the Body of Christ apart.

When we handle our pain, our rights, our gifts or our talents without love, we are walking on dangerous ground. It does not matter how right we may be in standing for truth—if what we say is not done in the love and humility of Christ, disunity will result. But there is joy and life in giving in to the ways of God and being broken and humbled.

A few years ago I attended a pastors conference in California. I was scheduled to share on missions along with a couple other speakers from across the United States. To be honest, I didn’t like one of the other plenary speakers at this missions conference. This man had written some articles that I thought were really destructive to the work of God.

As I remembered the things he wrote, I began to get very upset over the whole situation. I couldn’t believe he was invited to the conference to speak on missions. As I started to speak before the assembly full of people, I made an unkind, unloving comment about him. I considered myself justified in what I said because I thought the damage he did to the kingdom’s work was great.

Directly from this missions conference, I flew to India. While I was there, the Lord began to speak to my heart and show me how I had spoken wrongly. As soon as I came back to the GFA office in the United States, I knew what I needed to do. I had to call and ask forgiveness from the man who invited me to speak at that conference. But what I said was not just a private thing—it was public, involving many people. So when I called him, I said, “Would you please do me a favor? Next time you write to all of the pastors who attended that conference, would you please tell them I ask their forgiveness for having made that statement? It was not in the Spirit of love or the Spirit of Christ that I spoke it, and I am sorry.”

Do you think this was easy for me to do? Not at all! Each one of us has our pride, our knowledge and our own way we think is right. But what we know will never justify us saying anything rude or unkind. Remember the famous chapter in 1 Corinthians that says,

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1–3).

The beauty of this whole incident is that when I humbled myself and sought forgiveness, this man that I had spoken against responded back to me. He had received the letter that was sent to all who attended the conference and read of my asking forgiveness. He called me and thanked me for my humility, saying, “Brother K.P., no wonder God is using you so much. No wonder God’s grace is upon your life.” And I said, “Thank you for saying that to me.” God knows how hard it was for me to humble myself and ask for forgiveness. But He is faithful to give us the grace and strength to submit to others and admit when we are wrong.

But this doesn’t mean we must always say, “Yes, yes” to everything. Maybe we know that someone’s actions or beliefs are wrong or the way we’ve been treated is not right. We don’t just pretend these things are okay for the sake of keeping the peace. Instead, what we need to do is commit these situations to God and let it go into His hands, praying for our brother or sister, asking God to give us wisdom and to work things out His way. William Barclay once said, “In our dealings with men, however unkind and hurting they are, we must exercise the same patience as God exercises with us. It is simple truth that such patience is not the sign of weakness but the sign of strength; it is not defeatism, but rather the only way to victory.”3

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul describes a situation of a man living in blatant, unconfessed sin. It took great love for Paul to put this man out of the church. Maybe it sounds horrible and unkind, but Paul did it with a firm, tough love. And look at the result. In
2 Corinthians 2, that man was restored to fellowship again. This kind of love—God’s kind of love—always brings unity to the Body of Christ. It is a tough yet humble love that gives in but doesn’t give up.

Unity in Action

If we really desire to be like Jesus and to walk in love and power as He did, we must humble ourselves.

We cannot just underline Scriptures on humility in our Bibles and never implement them into our lives. Scripture is practical, and we must live it out to experience its transforming power in our lives and relationships. We have to be willing to bend and break and live a life of “not [thinking] of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think” (Romans 12:3). We have to “honor [and give] preference to one another” in real ways, everyday (see Romans 12:10).

Because Scripture tells us to humble ourselves (see James 4:10), let us look for ways to do just that. Let us seize the opportunities God puts before us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to consider them better than ourselves. Be sensitive to other’s needs, and when you are wrong, say so. “I am sorry for saying that. I didn’t know it would hurt you. I didn’t mean it that way.” Often I am not sensitive enough to even know when I am being insensitive! Let us all pray, “Lord, make me more sensitive to my brothers and sisters.”

This is what I believe the Lord desires for each and every person who confesses His name, whether in full-time ministry or not. God is looking for lowly hearts that are ready to be filled with His love and power. He is looking for a Body ready to be broken for the millions who are spiritually starving because they do not know Jesus. Only to the measure that we are willing to bend and submit to one another will we experience the unity and love that Christ can bind us together with. And it is the people who dwell in unity on which He said He would command His blessing (see Psalm 133).

© 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.

 

The Bond of Perfection

That They May All Be One - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Have you ever seen a boxing match between a left arm and a right arm of the same person? Does your little finger purposely scratch and hurt your ring finger? If you are cold, does one of your feet try to block out the other foot to get closer to the heater? No, of course not. To even speak of such things seems absolutely ridiculous. But, I tell you, this sort of ridiculous fighting goes on in the Body of Christ all too often.

One of the things I fear most in ministry of any kind is the disunity that the devil is able to create. When disunity prevails, the work of the Lord is destroyed. Satan knows very well that “any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall” (Luke 11:17, NIV).

And seeing how Satan cringes at the thought of the kingdom of God advancing, he does not want the house of the Lord to stand. So he takes those differences that were meant to complete us and uses them as the very thing to divide us. Whether it is differences in theology and doctrine or styles of worship and prayer—any difference you can imagine—Satan will use them to sow seeds of strife and disunity.

This is the reason why God so justly and immediately dealt with anything that hindered the unity of the children of Israel throughout the Old Testament. Whenever God asked His people to go forward, He would first weed out whatever held them back from moving ahead united in heart and mind. In Numbers 16, we read the story of Korah, the man whom the ground opened up and swallowed after he refused to acknowledge Moses as God’s appointed leader. In Numbers 12, God punished the fractionating spirit of Miriam and Aaron. When the 12 spies came back with divided reports about the prospects of taking over the Promised Land, God punished the dissenting 10 spies who had not trusted Him (see Numbers 14).

What (or Who) is the Problem?

When I was 18, I traveled throughout India as part of an Operation Mobilization evangelistic team. We would share the Gospel with people in different towns and villages, selling tracts and other Christian literature at a very low price. With the money we made selling the literature, we bought food to eat and keep us alive.

Our team was made up of all Indian brothers except for our team leader, Brother William. He was a tall Englishman, 6 foot 2 inches or so, who previously studied as a medical student but walked away from it all so that he could reach the lost in Asia. He was always a very nice and gentle man. As our team leader, Brother William was responsible for making decisions in the group. I served alongside him as the assistant team leader, and was expected to take care of the problems of the Indians on the team.

After working with Brother William for a couple of weeks, it was obvious to me that everything he did was simply done in the wrong way. He didn’t understand the culture or do things the Indian way. It got so bad that I was afraid the team wouldn’t survive with him in charge. He was never very concerned about washing his clothes or keeping clean. When he would get ready for bed at night, his trousers were so stiff with dirt and grime that they almost stood up on their own. And he stunk too. On top of all that, we could never sell enough books, and so we were half-starving. He would take us from one street vendor to the next, asking, “Chapati, how much it cost?” (Chapati is similar to a tortilla.) Then he would ask, “Dal free?” (Dal is like a lentil soup.) In some places, if you buy enough chapatis, the dal is free. Wherever the dal was free, we would buy the chapati and eat. But not very many places gave free dal. So in the horrible heat we would follow this white man, going from one vendor to the next, trying to find a place to eat for as little money as possible. We were half-starving, dirty, sick and selling very few books.

I must honestly confess, although Brother William was from England and was older than I was, I knew I could manage the team better than he. Many of the decisions he made seemed totally off the wall. Our ministry was ineffective. There was no unity on the team at all. Nothing was working.

One day I just couldn’t take it anymore. When the team gathered for our prayer meeting in the morning, I declared a boycott. I said, “Brother William, you cannot be the leader! You just are not able. You are an English man. You don’t understand Indian ways. You take us like beggars looking for food. You stink. The literature is not being sold. You are not a good example for us, and you don’t care about us. Whoever made you our leader made a big mistake. We cannot cooperate with you anymore.” Everyone was on my side.

I still remember that day. I can see Brother William’s face so clearly. He didn’t say one word. He simply sat there and cried. That’s all he did. Tears poured down his face, and all of us Indians on the team, including me, sat there and didn’t know what to do. All of a sudden, it was like the Lord walked right into my heart and convicted me, “You are sinning against Me. You are rebelling.”

I broke down weeping, realizing the magnitude of what I had just done. I cried, “Brother William, please forgive me. Look, I touch your feet. I will be your servant. Even if you starve me to death, even if you want me to work all day and all night long, I will obey you as long as you are my leader. I will never fight with you or against you again.” I turned to my Indian brothers as well and said, “I have done wrong. Please forgive me.”

That day I saw the hand of God holding Brother William. I saw the man’s weaknesses and his struggles. When he first came to India, he was tall and well-built, with his muscles bulging out. In a few months’ time, he was all skin and bones because he lived just like us. He lived on the streets, ate simple food, suffered from diarrhea and had all the other problems we had. For the first time I saw Brother William’s sacrifice. And I saw God using him to take me from where I was to a much higher place—to a place of humility and genuine love for my brother.

After this incident, things went along so smoothly. Our team life was wonderful. I loved Brother William like my own life. I have wonderful memories of those times. He never changed. He didn’t start washing his trousers or getting us more food. But I changed. We never had disunity or problems after that because God had dealt with the problem—with me. I, the one who “knew” how things should run, had been the cause of the disunity all along.

Put on Love

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection ” (Colossians 3:12–14).

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4–8).

All disunity begins with a lack of genuine, godly love for one another. That’s where it all starts. When Satan gets in and stirs up strife and hurt, love dries up and things go downhill from there. This is also when the work we are doing for God comes to a standstill. As long as disunity abounds, all ministry will be tainted and ineffective. But when our hearts are cleansed and changed, softened and broken, ministry becomes a simple overflow of a heart filled with love from Christ for all men.

© 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

Click the image to download your free copy.

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

Click the image to download your free copy.

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

Click the image to download your free copy.

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.

 

What Happened?

Principles of Maintaining a Godly Organization - KP Yohannan Books

Click the image to download your free copy.

Someone once said that within the timeline of any movement, the original life, passion and vision would be sustained about 25 years. The excitement, freshness and newness are on a basic uphill incline up to that point. After that, things will begin to change. There will be more of a plateau effect on the distinctives of the movement.

During the early days of my ministry with Operation Mobilization, I heard its founder, George Verwer, speak about the problem of losing vision and passion. He said, “God raises up a man with a vision and heart for God, and that becomes a movement. Then it turns into a machine. Then it ends up becoming a monument, and it is history. It is dead.”

This is exactly what happened to the YMCA, the Salvation Army and most mainline denominations, such as Methodist, Lutheran and Moravian. What glorious beginnings they had under godly leaders! But now look at some of the mission organization of the past and see—where are they today? The vision, the burden and passion are gone.

Unfortunately, I have found this to be true in organizations I have known. But the greater question to ask is when will we ever learn from others failure? Let us take a look at what changes.

Radical Becomes Conventional

In the secular world, a business’s generation is also said to last about 25 years, after which freshness and vision—and thus success—decline. Japanese organizations, however, have manipulated this time frame through education and structure changes. They begin to implement changes after only about 10 years, before people become set in their ways and find difficulty adapting to change. In this way, businesses are perpetually moving on, without losing their edge and success in the industry.

After a certain point in the life of a movement, things somehow shift into “maintenance” mode. The life that was once radical is now a part of the past, a part of history; now the goal is simply to “do it the way we’ve always done it.” What was once a fresh, flexible way of doing things now becomes a hard, stiff structure of rules, regulations and bylaws that we build around ourselves to feel some sort of protection.

Individuals now have positions on a variety of levels—some you can approach directly and others you cannot. By the time you attempt to go where you want within the organization, the structure is so complex you almost need a road map to navigate the maze!

A movement that has gone from radical to conventional is no longer regulated by vision and faith; instead, the decisions that come out of it are based on careful calculations of the lowest risk possible. Prayer meetings become planning meetings. Simple, childlike faith is replaced with smart, business-oriented brains. Change becomes nearly impossible because the ball and chain of bureaucracy is too strong.

This shift has happened to some of the finest movements in the history of the Church. Even right now there are some that are going through a terrible crisis. And we should not think that, regardless of the organization with which we serve, we are immune to this change. It can happen to us!

Keep in mind—I am not saying that structure is wrong. With the growth of any movement, structure is vital, for you cannot function without discipline. The last verse of the book of Judges says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The next verse in the Bible is Ruth 1:1, which says, “. . . there was a famine in the land.” No army can survive without discipline. No nation can survive without discipline. And no organization can survive without discipline.

But what I am talking about is the heart. The danger we must avoid is not discipline and structure, but replacing love, enthusiasm, freedom and empowerment with laws, regulations and power-based structures. When that happens, do you know who pays for it? The lost world . . . and our children who are growing up within the context of our ministries.

Transformational Becomes Transactional

This is when the motivation changes from one of heart condition to one of external rewards and benefits. Instead of, “I am so excited to be here; God is fresh and real, and our family is growing in His grace,” the attitude is more like, “What do I get out of it—money, position, recognition?” As time goes by in an organization, people start thinking more about benefits and vacation time than service from a sold-out heart.

When believers in the book of Acts were beaten up and persecuted, the Bible says that they regarded it as a privilege that they were considered worthy to suffer for Jesus’ name (see Acts 5:41). Paul tells us in Philippians 1:29 that “it has been granted [to us] . . . to suffer for His sake,” or in other words, our “gift to suffer.” Tradition says that when Peter was eventually sentenced to die by crucifixion, he asked to be crucified head down, as he did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. For those who sold all to receive the precious pearl of great price, nothing could hold them back. They wouldn’t ask, “What can I get out of it?” but rather, “What can I give?”

But as time passed, things began to change in the first-century church as well. Paul writes in Philippians 2:21, “All seek their own.”

And what about you—where do you stand in this chronology? Are you feeling that the burden is too heavy for you? Do you wonder, “How long can I keep doing this? It’s too hard to keep going. I don’t know why I am doing it anymore. What about the future? Is all this worth doing?” Somehow, very privately, deep within your heart, these questions and thoughts can begin to burn and grow, even while outwardly you appear to be full of enthusiasm and praise to God.

I am not saying in any way that we should not have a plan for vacation time, insurance benefits or any of these things. The danger lies, though, in our hearts going after these externals or after some kind of promotion or recognition. When that happens, the joy that used to fill your heart will fade away, and all that will be left is self-centered motivation.

Relational Becomes Rational

Back in the mid-80s, when God led one young man to join us and help with our computer, I remember the one question I asked him before we accepted him: “Are you willing to clean the toilets and wash the dishes for the rest of your life, and never touch another computer again?” You see, I wanted to know if he was willing to become a servant—that’s all I wanted. When I heard that he was willing to do anything, then I was glad to have him join us.

I tell you this to make a point. My concern was not so much about whether or not he had a big degree or his expertise and skill in his area. I was looking for someone with a servant heart.

When an organization goes from relational to rational, its values change. Skill and competency become more important than allowing the Lord to work through people. Things are perceived rationally and logically rather than based on faith that will produce miracles.

But when God calls people to serve Him, He will look beyond the 99, who have the best brains but are not broken, to the 1 who is perhaps not as smart but who is humble and willing to be used. Paul says that God chose the foolish things of this world—the least and last, the nobodies—to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27, KJV). That is His way. Paul tells us that he himself was gifted with a brilliant mind, a stellar education, an impeccable pedigree—but he valued knowing Christ above it all so he threw it away and regarded it as dung (Philippians 3:4–8, KJV).

What matters to God? Servanthood, brokenness and faithfulness. Look at Joseph’s life. How much education and training did he have to become prime minister? I don’t think he had ever been to school. How about Daniel—what type of preparation did he have to become one of the top rulers of Babylon? And what was Amos’s job that led him to become a prophet of the living God? David’s qualifications to become the mightiest king of Israel included sheep herding and being a refugee. These are not fairy tales. This is reality. This is the way God works.

Do I place a premium on ignorance, on people who have no ideas or education? No, that is not my point. What I am saying to you is that when an organization comes to the place where passion is no longer a central value and, instead, titles, recognition and degrees hold priority, it will go astray.

So what must be done in a situation like this? How can we walk carefully so that we can avoid these three pitfalls? Let us explore that in the next chapter.

© 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.