This year, by God’s grace, I was able to attend our church family’s National Cell Leaders’ Conference (NCLS) on April, Leadership Development Institute (LDI) training from June to July, and first LDI Alumni Homecoming on October. Everything was a first, every opportunity was another reason to be thankful, and every decision to participate had to be done by faith.
On September, I received an e-mail invitation that got me surprised. I was invited to attend the National Leaders Conference scheduled on the first week of November. It is an annual conference where ministry associates and area leaders participate on. I am neither a ministry associate nor an area leader (not even close, to be honest), so to be able to have an opportunity to be in that conference was all because of God’s grace.
First off, visiting the place where I stayed for a little over thirty days last June to July with some of the best people in my life got me so nostalgic. I was kind of shy to be sitting with my former LDI teachers, mentors and organisers. I was even shier during our food breaks, but I truly praise the Lord for their lives because they were all very conversational. Every food break became an opportunity to hear how God manifested His sovereignty and goodness in their lives. And each time I got to talk to them, I saw a glimpse of Jesus’ humility in them — though with many PhDs, high professional positions, academic honors and experiences in terms of ministry, they remain to be all out in serving the Lord.
We were provided a manual for the conference. It contained the detailed conference schedule, group quiet time discussion questions and all the speakers’ presentation points. By the end of the three-day conference, my manual was filled-up with notes — so filled-up that even the back cover had scribbles on it.
Here are some take-aways I had from the conference:
- Stretch Thy Tents
During the conference, there were testimonies shared to us about the recent Marawi siege and how God protected and delivered His children. Even the manliest heart in the room teared up. I was personally blown away by how God worked miraculously in every scene. The testimonies were about His people’s faith-in-action as well. I wish I can openly share the details in this blog but for confidentiality sake, I would rather just talk about how God revealed and rebuked me of complacencies and even despondencies in my heart as I listened to their testimonies.
“We continue to share the gospel to people in town even with a big chance of being killed on-the-spot because of our faith in Christ.”
I found myself frozen in embarrassment as I heard these words.
“We left our families and the security of earning from the jobs we had. We made a decision to be sent out to a place unfamiliar, without any assurance of a place to live in or food to eat the next day. By faith, I said: God, this life is Yours anyway. Use me for Your kingdom.”
And there I was.. listening with a heart easily satisfied with incremental inward and outward growth. There was pride behind my excuses to consistently set the pace in following Jesus. There was complacency in me.
Complacency is a danger to a Christian’s heart. It kills commitment and perseverance. Complacency says, “It is okay. I am doing what needs to be done. I have some bunch of people to take care of and pray for already.” While Jesus says, “Constantly seek me by faith. Take up your cross daily.” Complacency is righteousness by works (thus not by faith) before the Lord.
Complacency kills intimacy with God.
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” – Isaiah 54:2
God calls us to enlarge the place of our tents and to stretch our tent curtains wide! He calls us to keep going. He calls us to lengthen our cords and strengthen our stakes! He desires that we keep persevering, learning and growing. He also desires that we be thankful and content (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Philippians 4:12) but never in plateau or stagnation.
- …and be Ambitious for the Lord
In my last morning at the conference, there was a verse in our group quiet time that struck me the most. It was Paul saying, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Romans 15:20).
It was Paul’s ambition?! That astonished me in so many levels. He was very passionate in preaching Jesus especially where He is not yet known.
This struck me because Paul’s ambition is one of my fears. I even once wondered why God kept putting me in places where Jesus is not yet known and accepted. He also kept putting me in places where I do not have a co-laborer to harvest with.
But having thought of it, God does put us in circumstances where all we could do is to depend on Him. The verse was God’s way of encouraging me to let go of my fears, doubts and unbelief. It was also God’s way of reminding me to follow Him not based on what I see but based on faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).
In the final night of the conference, a young man shared how he was sent to an unfamiliar province with few people to do exactly what Paul did — to preach the gospel where Christ was not known. They prayed, fasted and held on to God. They had conviction and perspective, and so they boldly shared the gospel to people with love and by faith. They followed-up on them with the hope that they too will have a growing relationship with Christ.
In about two months, their group was already ministering to eighty people! And a number from these people already made a commitment to follow Jesus all the way. This November, Lord-willing, they will already have their third Encounter God Retreat. From having no microphones or musical instruments for worship, God eventually provided a free place where they can worship Him as a family. God truly uses broken vessels.