Dr. Tan Kok Beng
Our Lord stated that every one of His disciples is to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” In other words, He expects the Christian to make an impact on the world. Men are to be influenced for Christ as a result of the Christian’s life and commitment to Christ. It means that the Christian, having experienced the blessings of God, is to become a blessing to all the peoples of the world.
This concept is nothing new. In the Old Testament, God had stated this intention when He called Abram. He said, “I will bless you … and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you … and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3 NIV)
This Abrahamic covenant is also applicable to all Christians, because we are the sons of Abraham by faith. (Galatians 3:6-7, 14, 29). It is also because the purpose of God in Abraham was fulfilled in Isaac, and subsequently in Christ. Through Christ, that same blessing has come to and through the Christian.
Now the question is, how are we as Christians to “guarantee” that we will impact the world for Christ?
1. Keep the Vision Alive
God gave to Abraham the vision of multitudes like the stars in the Milky Way and sands on the seashore (Genesis 15:5). God kept reminding him of that vision, especially when things weren’t going well (Genesis 22:17; 26:4). This vision kept him going even when the odds were against him. It inspired his faith.
Paul also had a vision on the road to Damascus. That got him going even when the chips were down. Standing before Agrippa at his trial he declared “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision …” (Acts 26:19). What was this vision? He saw the risen Christ – yes; but the Lord gave him another vision in the form of a commission.
I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles – to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God that they may receive (the blessings of) forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me. (Acts 26:16-17 RSV)
The vision Christ gave him was that through him (Paul) many Gentiles will be blessed, as God promised Abraham. Thus Paul became an apostle to the Gentiles, which was also endorsed by the leaders in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:8-9).
We need such a vision to keep us spiritually alert and motivated in our life and ministry.
There is another reason: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 AV). If we don’t share our blessing of salvation with the unreached then they will perish.
The RSV translates this verse thus: “where there is no prophecy (“revelation” in NIV) the people cast off restraint”. It was through prophetic revelation in the old days that people received the Word of the Lord. Usually this came through visions given to the prophets. In Samuel’s day, we read, “In those days the Word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (1 Samuel 3:1). So God called Samuel to be a prophet and spoke through him.
Proverbs 29:18 thus implies that when God does not give His Word (be it through vision or prophetic revelation), the people are “unrestrained” – i.e. they lived without any restraint against sin and evil. In other words, to maintain vitality in our Christian life and to be effective in our witness, we need to always keep our vision alive.
2. Have the Right Aspiration
Paul’s aspiration was “to know Christ and the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). He knew how important this was, as he always prayed for the Christians that they too may know “the surpassing greatness of His power towards us who believe” (Ephesians 1:19).
It is in knowing Christ intimately that we learn to trust Him more and thus be empowered to serve Him more effectively. “The people who know their God shall do exploits” (Daniel 11:32 AV).
The secret of Paul’s power and authority lay in his intimate relationship with Jesus. There are no short cuts to spirituality and anointed ministry. It is found in the prayer (Luke 6:12, 22:40-43); and the constant waiting upon the Lord. (Isaiah 40:31)
A Christian’s witness can be liken to that of a concert pianist. On an average, he spends eight hours daily practicing daily on his piano to stay “tuned” in his professional standard of performance. When he neglects it the public notices right away and his performance becomes mediocre.
When a Christian neglects his “closet” time and intimate walk with his Master, he does not shine as brightly as he should. The opponents of the early church noticed immediately the difference when Peter and John stood before them: “they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13 NIV). They certainly made an impact on the world!
3. Live with a Sense of Mission
To make an impact for God and on the world, we must also take the Great Commission seriously: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel … make disciples of all peoples” (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19). We must make evangelism a way of life, not just an incidental “outreach” program.
William Carey, “the Father of Modern Missions” as he is often known, was a cobbler. But he lived with a sense of mission. He was known to say often, “I am a Christian first, a cobbler second. As a Christian, my life objective is to win souls; I mend shoes to pay the expenses.”
He had the right perspective. Often we are so obsessed or bogged down by our careers, we forget to realize that there are souls around us perishing. We become so self-centered and success oriented in our work, we fail to see people in need – they need the Lord. In this way we withhold our blessings from them.
The story of the irresponsible soldier seems so applicable to many of us: “And while your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.” (1 Kings 20:40 NASV). In our busyness and frantic paper chase or career development, we often let precious souls slip through our fingers, sometimes into a christless eternity.
There’s nothing wrong with career development or paper chase. But we must keep them in proper perspective. We must have the right sense of values and set our priorities right. We must put first things first.
I had this call from a friend who had studied overseas and returned home highly qualified. He said, “I need your prayers for God’s guidance. I’ve had two job offers and I don’t know which one to take.”
On further enquiry he said, “one pays $12,000 per month and is a five-day week. The other pays $11,000 per month and is a six-day week”. To most, the choice was quite obvious, so why pray about it?
“But I really want God’s will,” he said. I promised to pray for him.
Two months later he revealed that he had taken the $11,000 job. Noting my surprise, he said, “You know, I prayed about it, and I discovered that I could really serve the Lord in this job, while I couldn’t do it in the other better paying job. Here I can share the gospel with my staff and colleagues freely. I have even got a Christian Fellowship going and people are coming to Christ. Praise the Lord!”
He has a sense of mission. He has direction. He is constrained by the love of Christ. He is one Christian who impacts the world.
Are there more like him?
Dr. Tan Kok Beng
Bethany International University