Monday, May 01, 2006

Being A Witness of the Truth

This is my personal summary of the expository preaching of James 5:10-13 by Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 30 April 2006

Verse 10 and 11 remind us to think of the prophets' perseverance. They did not lose faith in difficult times and have become eternal models and historical examples that enlighten us. The bankruptcy of religion consists in the lack of good examples. Many religious leaders and politicians have great power but they are very corrupt and compromise on sin. But the kingdom of God is eternal. With faith towards God and self-discipline, many saints become examples for all generations. They are remembered for their perseverance and how they stand firm in trials.

The book of Job is one of the most precious literary works in history. It deals with the issue of injustice and sufferings. The root of these problems is connected with eternity so they cannot be solved completely in the finite process of time. We cannot use temporal attitude to solve problems which are eternal in nature. They are very complex. God's leading in our lives is also not simplistic.

All Job's 10 children died in one day. All his possessions were gone in one day. He was even filled with diseases. His wife asked him to curse God. Job's initial life that was smooth and blissful all of a sudden turned into complete bankruptcy. He had to solve the problems regarding the meaning of life. Unless one has the understanding of the eternal will of God, he has no strength to face such sudden sufferings.

When we cannot see any glimpse of hope, can we still say, “God, You are full of mercy and compassion.”? Probably we will begin speaking words just like non-believers. We will begin asking whether God is real, whether our faith is based on empty foundation or God's throne in heaven, whether God's love has any relationship with our sufferings, etc. In times of sufferings, our spirituality is tested.

We know that Job is blessed. But we can say that now because we can see the outcome after his sufferings. During his sufferings, he could not see what was to come. Often times, we make mistakes by trusting in our feelings during times of sufferings. Normally we behave like a good Christian but deep in our heart, our feelings are our god. We use our feelings to drive our fallen reason, and use our fallen reason to direct our will, and then use our will to form our prayer.

A great man of faith would not do such thing. He will not take the part to replace the whole. He will not take his personal sufferings to question the far bigger, complete picture. He will not use his temporal feelings to judge God's eternal will. Hence Job replied to his wife who asked him to curse God, “You are talking like a foolish woman.”

Job therefore, become a good representative of humanity in a right response towards sufferings. From the book of Job, we know that things that are happening in the visible world are the results of dramatic battles happening in the invisible world. Those who only look at phenomena will not be able to understand. We must learn to see the unseen. The invisible is forever while the visible is temporary. Paul also said that our hope is also in the unseen, as there is no need to hope for what is seen. So the Scriptures give us very strong principles and great teaching in our response towards sufferings. May we not bring disgrace to God's name during our times of sufferings, but glorify Him and make use of sufferings to break through and overcome.

The book of Ephesians says that the people who live in the world live without God and without eternal hope. There are no promises of God as the content of their lives and there is no eternal life as foundation of the temporal life they are living. However, Christians are different. We have God, His promises and eternal life. So our response towards sufferings should be very different.

We need to learn from the examples of the saints and thank God for their examples. A person can be a teacher of history if he can overcome the temporal world and in his short life time transcends history to build connection with the eternal will of God. So we have Abraham, David, Daniel and many others as our teachers and we are their students. They only lived a few decades on earth but they have victory over history, transcend history so they have become teachers of history. May we not only thank God for them, but also learn to be like them.

During sufferings we often cannot feel the grace of God. But blessings are found not only in the presence of the graces we normally feel. Great blessings are also found in spirituality that stays strong when all those graces are taken away from us. God will not let the temporal sufferings to take over our eternal blessings. He has the power to enable us to overcome so that in the midst of the greatest sufferings, we can still enjoy our eternal status with God in heaven.

After speaking of the example of the prophets, James suddenly said that above all, do not swear. What has swearing to do with teachers of history he just mentioned? And why did he say “Above all”, making this swearing issue of utmost important? How important is it and what is its relationship with the previous verses?

Often times, we can escape sufferings if we just compromise on the Truth. If we live in dangerous place, would we still hold up our faith? Verse 12 says that our yes should be yes and no should be no. We have to say what we ought to say and there is no need to borrow other powers, whether heaven or earth, to increase our credibility. It means that we need to be simply a witness to the Truth. This is very important and James is not exaggerating his point. Saints suffer because they are witnesses of the Truth. On temporal earth, the most precious thing is to be a witness to the Eternal Truth. But often we need to pay price for being witnesses to the Truth. There are no sufferings greater than the sufferings borne by witnesses of the Truth.

When we swear, we are using other powers to improve our trustworthiness. Many people like to borrow others' reputable and trustworthy names to increase their own reputation. People even come in Jesus' name to advance their own ends, because His name is trustworthy. Jesus Himself forbids us from swearing so that we learn to be simply witnesses of the Truth.

Generally in life, if we are trustworthy, if we always speak truthfully, we will be able to stand in times of sufferings. Trustworthiness, as the Chinese saying goes, is like our second life that can sustain us when our life falls apart. We can rebuild what we have lost if we have a trustworthy reputation because people will trust us.

Would an honest person be disadvantaged? Yes it is possible. But it is only temporal and will not last forever. Would a dishonest person become rich through deceit? Yes it is possible, but while accumulating dishonest wealth he is also inviting sword in his household which will end in bloodshed, so his gain will not last forever.

Our human body is created with implicit wisdom of God. He gives us two eyes and two ears but only one mouth. Representatively, we can use our eyes to see good and evil things and use our ears to hear both truth and falsehood, but we only have one mouth which should only speak the truth. A righteous person is not an ignorant person. He knows both good and bad things, but would not go against his conscience and will only be a witness to the truth.

The last phrase of verse 12 says that our yes should be yes and no should be no, or else, we will be condemned, that is, to face God's judgment.

So we have two choices. The first is to be the witness to the Truth. If we bear witness to the Truth, we will face trials and sufferings. Trials can be really tough, so tough that sometimes people just prefer to die than to live on. The second choice is not to bear witness to the Truth. If we do not bear witness to the truth, we will face God's judgment.

The question is, which one is worse? To face trials or to face condemnation? Can we take God's judgment? How do we know we can bear God's condemnation? The Scriptures say that those who persevere through trials will overcome but those who are condemned are the real failures. We must have courage to stand up for the Truth.

Verse 13 tells us that if we are suffering because we are standing for the Truth and we feel weak and troubled, we ought to look up to God and pray that He will deliver us. When God delivers us from our trials and we are enjoying good times, we ought to give thanks to Him. In this way, we learn to submit all our anxieties to God and to rejoice all the days of our lives as witnesses to the Truth. So we can stand firm and not flirt around with history and be made obsolete by the decadence of the world.


At 2:41 AM, Anonymous gary chen said...

Hi Mejlina!

Just wanna thank you for your consistent effort in recording uncle tong's sermon.


and i see that u'are very quick in putting them up!


At 3:05 AM, Anonymous said...

Today sermon, indeed, is teaching us about being true Christian people. That's what I got. I always believe that being a Christian is not easy. We are suffering in this world. And if some of you are leading a happy life, you should not forget that God gives those blessing to help others. Some of you who has to be suffered, you should stay still and pray. Remember that world possession and attractiveness are worthless. We are better suffering in this world and enjoying in heaven.

Some of you are just dealing with the difficulties such as job, school, family, and friends. Yet, you are not satisfied with this world and are not able to deal with it. What are we chasing? How about Christian people who were persecuted in middle east, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Srilanka and Indonesia. They are risking their head everyday and have you ever thought about it? When people get the news, they will just say “poor that guy.” How about kneel down and pray? Learn from Job. Have we ever thought what is our purpose to be born in this world? Are they only study, work, marry, have fun, and etc?

Think about it my brethren. Think about what God wants from you? Why we have to be born in this world? Why you are here? Don’t you see that the time is near? I know that some of you will say “ oh, come on, even the apostles said that so but this has been 2000 years and nothing had happened.” That’s why most of us will think that probably the end of the world will not come in my era, and if I am able to do good deed than it should be okay? Nonsense! Talking about good deeds, we are far worse than other religions! They are much better than we are. Do you realize that Muslim is growing and Christian is decreasing? Last time Christians were growing after the apostles because they were suffering. Tell me, where are the suffering Christian now? I am not saying that we should live like a beggar. All of us should understand what does it mean as a Christian. Think about it.


At 5:05 PM, Blogger Ignatius said...

Hi Mejlina,

You are a very efficient person. 11pm & the post is up. Thanks for your effort.May God raise up more committed individuals like you to inspire other Christians.


At 12:16 AM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Thanks for all the comments, my transcript readers. Keep the feedback coming, will appreciate whatever input that can help improve this blog. :)

Desy, thanks for putting up your input about being true Christians. After some exchanges with you, I can appreciate deeper the meaning behind all those words.

It is very true, many of us are living in our own little world, struggling with personal stuffs as though they are the most important problems and celebrating our little victories as though they are so significant... unaware that we are actually so disconnected with the whole big picture of reality... oblivious of the existence of majority billions on this planet who know nothing of the kind of life we live. It is a very embarrasing position to call up God's name and claim those high and eternal things while we are so detached from the rest of humanity.

I can only so much as face up to this reality, a gap I feel painful & shameful to look at... but I believe that so long as we are willing to face the issues honestly, God will guide us in the right path. I'm still finding the right Christian response.

At 2:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

See the Indo_Calvin postings about the false teaching of the Reformed speaker Stephen Tong. He teaches the heresy of regeneration before belief, etc

At 7:14 PM, Anonymous DNL said...

how to get to indo calvin? who is you have his url?


At 12:27 AM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Anonymous,

(This is a copy of what my response to you on my main page because you mention the same thing here)

If these statements are to be taken seriously at all, you need to identify the source & reliability of the information, the people who say this, the actual quotations of Stephen Tong himself and verify whether his words have been understood in context or misinterpreted out of context. Then we can discuss objectively the various issues.

Otherwise anyone can just accuse anyone of anything, especially in blog like this where anybody can remain anonymous.

As you can see, in this blog, I also try to acknowledge the references and sources of all my materials. In this way, I am held responsible for what I write & also open myself to critics and comments.

Thanks for visiting my blog.


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