This is the English version from my previous post titled Kotbah Pdt Gilbert Lumoindong di Paris. Ps. Gilbert is an Indonesian preist who was invited to preach in Paris Centre Chretien, Paris, yesterday. Somehow I am tempted to translate and rewrite this again in English, because the sermon was so powerful that I’d like to share with you (if you happen not to speak Indonesian). The sermon is still the same with the Indonesian version, however if you read both of my posts and understand both languages, there are some parts which are not the same :p
I would also like to notify you that since I rewrite this sermon, I have modified it, in the sense that there is some additional information or explanations (for my English speaking friends) which are common in my country but you don’t find in the Western culture or countries. So rather than just a mere report of posting, this note also become one of my reflection note. I put also some of my comments and my knowledge based from what I read, I experienced, or what I heard from friends. The essential and the core point of the sermon, however, remains the same.
So here we go :D
The title of the sermon was “Being a Strong Christian”. Often than not we hear that a Christian is expected to be a tender, gentle, and loving person full with love and compassion and slow to angry. But hardly we ever heard another characteristic that God wants us as His disciples, that is to be STRONG. It is not enough just to develop an attitude of loving God and others. Yes it is important, and loving God and others is surely an essential element, but it’s not enough. We need to be strong in God too. Nowadays we often here people saying that they love God, but their actions proclaim the opposite. Lots of marriages are shattered in divorce, homosexuality seems to get more and more normal and accepted, people even go to church but they beat their wives at home.
There are 3 reasons why it is critically important to be strong in God.
The first is, because Satan exists. The complete version is, because Satan exists and we need to be strong to refuse and say NO to his temptation (and we need to be strong also to say no to our flesh). I know this is sounds to be ridiculous answer. For Western people who are used to get on with their logic and do not believe in the superstitious things, it’s really an answer prone to be mocked at. But for the people in Indonesia, and some Asian countries as well, believing in supernatural things is really common. In some local areas we can still find some magician practitioners which are making money by sending, chanting, and casting bad spells or curses toward people, as their clients or customers wish. There are still rituals, festivals, and traditions which still include the elements of chanting spells, and you need to take part of it in order to be freed from the evil power that works in the air. I myself believe that everything which exist was non-exist before, and that supernatural power indeed works and also exists. The devil influences our mind to do the bad things from the very beginning, (and our flesh like doing bad things more than good things), and it’s always in his intention to draw us farther and farther away from God (in some point, you may see my writing about God and sin in this post).
Satan can do anything and anybody to keep us apart from God. He wants us to become bitter with the church, to become bitter with the people in the church. He wants us to become bitter with God also. When we are easily fallen into its trap and become angry to God, he will be happy. Our disappointment and resentment is Satan’s joy. The temptations or evil thoughts mostly come to our mind first, and that’s why we need to be strong in saying NO to Satan, and this is not easy at all. But how can we be strong, then? Of course by spending more time with God. The more time we spend with God, the more we know Him. And the more we know Him, the more we love Him and become strong in Him. We are strong when we are grounded in His words, because His words are the truth, and the truth will set us free. So, we can be sure that a person who is strong in God must love God, but we can’t be sure for the other way around.
Ps. Gilbert then gave an example about the story of Joseph when he was seduced by the Potifar’s wife. Joseph was greatly seduced; the Bible said that he was seduced not only once or twice, but many times. I found that this is really interesting to know that Joseph said NO to his master’s wife, despite he could use that great advantage. But that was not Joseph did. Instead, he strongly said NO to her. He took off his clothes and run away (Genesis 39:12). And this is what stunned me, even though I’ve read and I’ve known this verses so many times: that Joseph was actually a strong man. He is strong, because he could say no. I mean, come on, as a man, how can you resist that? Imagine a situation in which a beautiful woman is freely offering herself to you and to sleep with you! Wow. And she does that not just once or twice, but every day. Do not worry about your master feeling because it can be easily taken care of. Even if you are caught up, you could easily fight back saying that it was her fault, and not yours. It is much much easier to grab that already-in front of-your-eyes advantage rather than moving away. Joseph was a man who won over his own lust, flesh and desire. He is strong because he could control and restrain himself.
Well, what happened next to Joseph was not a good one. Instead of being promoted, he ended up in prison after being maligned and given a false testimony by Madame Potifar. This kind of thing still holds into account in our daily life. We are still faced and confronted with so many unfair things in life, like why I end up like this after I’ve done good to people?! And this is the case when a strength is needed, a strength to keep walking and believing in God’s promise. Because God never sit still to see His children being put ashamed of. The bible told us rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; DO NOT FRET because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Those who wait for the Lord, they shall inherit the earth (Psalm 37: 7, 9). In Joseph’s story, God even used his time in prison to prune him even more. Joseph became a dream interpreter, God was with him that he was wiser compared than any wise men in the kingdom, even better than the wisest man ever! And Joseph ended up in a higher position than before, he became the right hand, the trusted man of Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt. The pharaoh was nothing more than just a symbol of head of state in Egypt. Many times we think and we feel that we don’t deserve to be in this and that situation, but God can always turn our misery into our joy. He’s an expert as heart mender. Bear this, that the work of evil is temporary, it will not last long; but the work and the love of God endures forever. Has He not promised us that His plan for us is a plan that will prosper us, and not to endanger us? For a while we might seem to know much better than Him, but I always remind myself that it is God who has a helicopter view, and not me. Based from my own experience and from the stories that I heard, it is never a wrong decision to trust God.
The second reason why we need to be a strong Christian, is because things do not always work like we want or expect. (Nah, now you may say that this is a more reasonable and down to earth reason!) Ps. Gilbert told that nowadays, if people are experiencing bad things and come to their pastor to get a counseling, mostly they will get an answer: they are in that condition because of their lack of faith. Or if someone has prayed about something for a long long loooong time, but still they don’t get what they want, then they become bitter, angry, and disappointed in God. Maybe they will leave church, and it is possible that they conclude, “Aaaah, God doesn’t exist!” Remember, in accordance with the first reason above, our resentment is the Satan’s joy.
The Apostle Paul once asked 3 times to God to get rid of a messenger of Satan due to a thorn in the flesh which was given to him. Not only asked, Paul even pleaded to God. He was begging God, that it might depart from him. But what did God say to Paul? Did He get shoo away the evil messenger? No. instead, God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:8-10). Wow. Ps. Gilbert continued, saying that if Paul consults to the pastors in churches nowadays, most likely he will get the answers like, “I think you need to pray more about it. Pray zealously!” or “Maybe you should pray and fast about this matter” or “Maybe you have committed a serious sin! Repent soon and ask God’s forgiveness” or even answer like “You need to have more faith, my child.” Those are the answer that we often hear today, aren’t they? Everytime we see our sister or brother who is struggling with something, it is easy and quick to us to judge them by saying that they lack of faith. I myself find that this kind of answer is really irritating, and in some cases resembles a little with a prosperity gospel (it emphasizes more to get God’s blessings rather than God Himself. Or, in simpler way, it give more stresses to the gifts rather than to the Giver. For example, I can drive a BMW while your car is only an old mustang, so it means that I have more faith than you, that’s why God blesses me more).
I really love the next sentence that Ps. Gilbert said. He said, “a faith is not forcing what we want to God. Instead, it gives up our heart to do what God wants from us, and completely trust Him.” Mind you that trusting God doesn’t mean that we just sit still and do nothing and expecting everything will be settled down automatically, and we will receive anything we want like manna falls from the heaven. For example, trusting God doesn’t mean that we can eat as many junk foods as we want while expecting a healthy body. Or we go out hanging out in a mall, do not study in the day of our final exams and demanding God to give us a straight A mark. No, it’s not like that. James in the Bible said that a faith without action is a dead faith (James 2:14). But trusting God means we do our part best we can, and trust Him to do His part perfectly.
Let me share you a devotion from a friend when I was in Indonesia. It’s about Job, the man who suffered so much that he longed to die. He lost all of his wealth, his cattle, his children, he himself got struck with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head, which he took for himself a potsherd to scrape his body. To make it worse, his wife even scolded him and mocked the God that he trusts.
The story of Job deals a lot with the issue of human’s suffering and the question of WHY DID GOD LET IT HAPPEN. Isn’t it?! Everytime I read Job’s story, it always came to my mind, “Yes, why did God let it happen?” until the devotion which my friend brought gave me a revelation. He told us an illustration: whenever an antique’s seller is selling his products, he would assure all of his (potential) buyers and customers that his products are the best with number 1 quality. Now, as a customer, what will come to your mind when you are passing an antique’s seller yelling on the street, promoting his product to be the best? Surely you want a proof, that his product is indeed the best. And if you are interested to buy it, you will demand that proof, because you don’t want to spend your money on a fragile product. And talking about the best quality of an antique, is that it should be resilient and sturdy, not easy to break. If I am the seller and I am really sure that what I sell is really good, I will without doubt, slam the antique in front of my customer’s eyes to proof that it will not broke. Why would I do that? Because I am sure with the quality of my products. I know it already.
And so did God know Job. If you read the passage in Job 1 and 2 carefully, you will find a very interesting discussion between God and Satan. Satan wanted to attack Job, and God let him to do it. God was so sure that Job will stand up no matter what. I even think that God was kind of boasting Job to Satan…. It’s like boasting your own child in front of other parents. God said like that twice, in Job 1:8 and in Job 2:3. He said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is NO ONE like him on earth, a blameless and uprigth man, one who fears God and shun evil?” When I was reading it, for me it seems like God challenged Satan to test Job, saying, “You’ve been wandering along the earth. You want a challenge? Try this man, Job.” And surely it’s not just a low level challenge; it had to be a level-hard challenge! God knew the characters of Job SOOO MUCH that He even dared to present Job to be tempted by Satan. He’s not playing easy with devil, you know. I am so stunned and amazed even when I am writing this!! If a customer has a right to demand a proof of a product’s quality from the seller, don’t you think that Satan – and the world also – always demanding a proof to see the real character of us as Jesus’ disciples??
At the end of the story, we know that Job still chose to keep believe in God, he didn’t forsake God. Yes Job was angry, he didn’t know why all of those happened in his life. He questioned God, he admitted that he was angry with God. But despite all that, he chose to believe in God’s ways. The sufferings that he had been through were actually to reveal his very real character, the real value of him. By that, Job even experiencing God personally and not just hear from what other people said about Him (Job 42:5), and indeed God restored Job’s condition, even twice as much!!! I wish that we can change our paradigm after reading this, that actually it’s a privilege to be in a hard situation. It’s the time when God’s presence is stronger, when His eyes are watching over us closer and sharper. It’s the time when His hands mold and shape us to become more and more like Him.
The third reason why we need to be a strong Christian, is because only the strong can be the winner :D
Ps. Gilbert gave us a very good yet so simple illustration. In the world cup of 2010, who was the winner? Spain. And why Spain? Why not France, why not Indonesia? :p the answer is simple, because Spain was the strongest. Of course in the reality, it’s not as simple as that. Being strong alone is not enough, we also need tactics, being smart and capable of knowledge. But strong is of course, one essential element which is in-negligible. It is the strongest who is able to stand up right till the end of the game, till the finish line.
And talking about race and game, aren’t we ourselves in the middle of the race? Yes, we are! In fact, we are in the middle of spiritual battle. As a Christian, we constantly facing battles every single day. Battles that our eyes not see, yet they happen and they’re real. Jesus said in the bible, only he who endured till the end will be saved (Mark 13:21). And what does endurance need, people? Yes, it needs strength!
We can find lots of preaching and writing about the importance to be strong in the New Testament. For example, in 2 Timothy 2:1, Paul advised and asked Timothy, his spiritual son, to be strong in Christ. Paul saw that it was important for him to remind Timothy to be strong as he was in the prison. Imagine how Timothy was so shocked, to know that a person like Paul, a person he considered as a perfect role model of faith in Jesus Christ, was in prison! How about him, then, a mimic boy? Now I’d like to return a bit to the reason number 2. There were times where God released Paul and other apostles from the prison. For example, in Act 5:17-25 and Act 12:1-19, God released Peter from the prison. But there were also times when God let Paul and other apostles to dwell in the prison. Yet, the most amazing Paul’s letters usually came during the time when he was imprisoned. Even the sweetest Paul’s letters for the believer in Philippi came when he was imprisoned! Isn’t that ironic?? Can you imagine an imprisoned person who consoled others, wheras he himself was the one who needed consolation?! How could Paul do that?? …. Because he was strong in God.
Guys, this world needs strong people. The church needs strong people; strong people like soldiers who are ready to be sent into the battle to undress the evil and to minister to the world. The world needs strong people who are unshakable and stand firm on faith. The church does not need “spiritual babies” any longer who need to be fed all the time. And how can we make a good soldier? Again, 2 Tim 2:4-7 best describes it: that a good soldier is he who doesn’t occupy his mind nor entangle himself with the affairs of this life, with his own business and private life. A good soldier is the one who focuses on the battle that he has to win. The same thing happens to a good athlete in every race. A good athlete will only care about how he could win the game, grab the trophy, win the tournament. For example, a sprint runner on the start line will not, EVER, looked at his competitor’s shoes on his side and thinking about what could be possibly the brand of his so damn good looking shoes. Neither he will look at his competitor’s body and compare the muscles, which one is better shaped. No! He won’t have time to do that. From the very first time, his eyes already focused forward, he will run run and run as fast as he can till the finish line. And only the fastest, the strongest, can win the race. The letter in Philippians told us to forget the things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead (Philippians 3:13), and the letter in Hebrews 12:1 encouraged us to let aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
That’s why…. Those are the reason why we need to be strong in Christ :)
We live in a world which is crazier and crazier. It’s really heart breaking to read news or books or articles or newspapers about anything that happen in the third world countries. Any thing can happen, anything. Well, not only in the 3rd world countries but even in developed countries as well. When I was in Paris and eating in KFC, there was a little girl – probably not more than 4 years old – approaching my desk, asking for a chicken. I said no and asking where her mother was. (Well, I was thinking that I could give her a slice of my chicken, but then it occurred to my mind that her parents might got angry at it and I might be accused of giving poisonous food or what, and I don’t want to be in any problem, that’s why I said no). She didn’t answer my question, instead she keep saying “Poullet…. Poullet….” And later on she just took two sauces from me! Again I wanted to take back the sauces, but I was afraid that it might cause her to cry so I just let her. Later on I saw that the little girl was walking from one table to another, asking some food. My friend and I began to talk, and we seriously thought that there was high possibility that the girl had been taught to do so by her parents, to beg. But because her face was clean, there came another possibility, that the girl was kidnapped and raised by someone else, and she was told to collect food for the ‘boss’, the ‘patron’ or anything. And the thought like that was just pathetic.
Finally, when we had finished our lunch and got out of KFC, we saw an old beggar on the street with the little girl! The old man held the girl, there were things around him, and he ate the chicken given by the girl :( So it seems like our second guess was right…. And it is highly likely that she was not the only girl taken and raised by the old man, there might be other kids as well. The story of what happen to other kids in developing countries, like in Indonesia, could be far much sadder than this and unthinkable.
Well, yeah. So, I believe that we are in this world with our each own mission to accomplish and with a goal to expand the Kingdom of God and to glorify Him in everything we do. I hope it concludes why it is important to be strong…