Dr. Tan Kok Beng
We Cannot Live Without the Grace of God
One of the things we cannot overlook in the Bible is that we humans, being sinners, are not good enough for God. No matter how hard we try, we are useless. It is only the grace of God that makes us good and useful. This is an important faith matter that the young missionary under training must recognize and apply to his or her life.
A missionary may be an adventurer not because he or she goes to unusual places to preach the gospel but because he or she steps out in great faith that the grace of God will abound in him or her if they obey the Word of God. The missionary should recognize that our whole life is a work in progress. And progress is made possible only through the grace of God.
Saved by Grace
The Bible says, “we are saved by grace through faith, not of works, lest any should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Sinners cannot save themselves, as nothing we do will be good enough for heaven. The grace of God reached down to us in Christ even when we were helpless and unable to save ourselves.
Serve by Grace
It is also this same grace that will enable us to serve God, to learn the language and culture of the people we are called to serve, and to be part of the community of believers. The Apostle Paul knew this, and so he said, “I do not deserve to be called an apostle…but by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
This verse implies that God by His grace called us to service even though we are not good enough. His grace overlooks our frailty and inadequacies and makes us His servants. It is also His grace that enables us to serve Him. The spiritual gifts we hare are gracelets -better known as gifts of grace (charisma). He imparts His grace though the release of gifts to enable us to serve God effectively.
We Are Strengthened by Grace
Paul told his young disciple, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:1). Serving God can be very demanding and the possibility of a “burnt out” is always there. However, God’s grace is available to us to strengthen both our inner and outer man.
When Paul was undergoing much difficulty because of his “thorn in the flesh,” he prayed three times for God to remove it. But God didn’t. the reason: “But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God did not remove the thorn but He gave sufficient grace to enable him to overcome his difficulties. Paul experienced God’s power in a new way in his weakness. His faith was also strengthened through this experience.
A missionary must realize that God does not always answer our prayer in difficult times. He does something better: He enables us to overcome them by His grace that we may be stronger in faith.
Having briefly discussed the necessary and sufficient element of God’s grace in missionary living and training, let us consider the role of deeds in our missionary living and training.
We Cannot Live Without Deed
As missionaries and missionary trainees, we must recognize that we cannot live without deeds. There are many Christians (so-called believers) who say there are “converted” but do not show any evidence of their faith. They are more “worldly” than spiritual in their lifestyle and value system. They be “Sunday” Christians but certainly lack commitment in the way they live.
Prove Your Faith By Deeds!
The Apostle James says that such people are not true believers. His challenge to us as missionaries and missionary trainees is given in these words: “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:18,26).
In other words, we must prove that we are sincere and true Christians by our action! It is so easy for everyone to say, “I believe” but it is quite another to live up to that confession. Just lip service will not change anything-it certainly will not get us to heaven. And it will not enable us to live a victorious and satisfying life in Christ.
Some of the evidences of True Faith are as follows.
The first proof of true faith is the transformation of life and values: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things pass away and all things become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). New experience, new life, new value system. No missionary or missionary trainee can ever succeed without heeding to this advice, demand and requirement.
New Desire and Motivation
The caterpillar-ugly and greedy-eats leaves constantly. When it becomes a butterfly, it doesn’t crawl any more. It now flies and eats honey. It is no more ugly but beautiful. Everyone notices the difference. So, is the born-again Christian. The Apostle Paul writes,
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
New Purpose and Goal
The unbeliever lives in the flesh and lives for the flesh and the world. The carnal mind is death, Paul tells us,
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:5-8).
The Christian is commanded not to love the world but to crucify it:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)
The true believer lives for Christ and seeks to glorify God:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh- (Philippians 3:3)
A missionary’s goal is to be like Jesus and to fulfill His high calling:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14)
The Question Before the Missionary and the Missionary Trainee
The question before us is this: Are we true believers? Then have we the “works” to prove that? We must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
Dr. Tan Kok Beng
Bethany International University