Love in the End Times
A Sharing by Pastor Eric Chang Delivered on 28th August, 2003
The thing I want to share is about the fact that time is very short and Christians today, due to the spiritual condition of the church, [are not conscious of this]. Christians generally have very little concept of this idea of the shortness of the time. It is very different from New Testament times. In the New Testament, Christians were very conscious of the fact that the time is short. But then, after 2,000 years of church history, the concept of Jesus’ coming again begins to fade away, so that there is no more sense of urgency. As we read in the latter part of the Bible, it says that since things have gone on for so long, it will just continue to go on like this and nothing will change.
It is important to know that the early church had a very different situation. You see, prophecy had indicated that Jesus was going to come - the Messiah was going to come - so, people knew that [they are] to wait. The Jews are still waiting for the Messiah because they do not accept Jesus as the Messiah. Because the prophets in the Old Testament said that a Savior - the Messiah - is coming, the Jews were waiting. But when Jesus came, they rejected Him. Why did they reject Him? It is because people want to accept a Savior who comes in glory and power - a king! Remember when Jesus rode into Jerusalem as a king, riding on the back of a donkey, the crowds came out to welcome Him. We like to welcome a king: somebody who is impressive; somebody who is great; somebody that commands our respect. But when Jesus, having made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, put that aside and then went to the cross, notice the people turned around and said, “Crucify Him!” That is the human mentality. If you come in glory, people accept you. If you come in humility, they do not like you. So it is the same thing in the church. People who are “hen wei feng (很 威 風)”,very impressive, are easily welcomed. But people who are humble are despised.
That is what happened with the Jews. When Jesus came the first time, they were willing to welcome Him. He did mighty works. He preached wonderfully. He was the kind of king they were willing to accept. If only He continued on in His power to drive out the Romans to set up Israel as a great kingdom, He would have been welcomed by the whole nation. But He came to take away man’s sin. To do that, He had to sacrifice His life. To do that, He had to go to the cross. The result was that the multitudes rejected Him, as the world still does today. But after He had died and risen again, the clear message was that He is coming again. And the next time He comes, he comes as King. That time it is for sure: He will come as King. That [is] what you read in the Revelation: not only as King, but King of kings and Lord of lords. The next time He comes, He will reign. He will be the Judge. But we wait, and we wait, and we wait, and we say, “When is Jesus coming?” The church has waited 2,000 years and we still do not see Jesus. So what is happening here? The result is that, gradually, we lose sight of His coming. But if that happens, we fall into a big mistake.
Do We Want Jesus to Come Back?
Now, how does the New Testament end? I think we know the New Testament well enough to know that it ends with those words. Do you remember those words? In the New Testament, in the book of Revelation, what we read there is: “He that speaks these words is coming soon.” [Rev. 22:20] And then the response is: “Come, Lord Jesus.” [Rev. 22:20 RSV] I like the Chinese translation. The Chinese translation says: “Zhu Yesu, qing lai ba (主耶穌，請來吧).” It sounds nicer than the English, which just says, “Come, Lord Jesus” as though, “Well, if You are going to come, I can’t help it, so come.” But the Chinese is “qing lai ba (請來吧)”, inviting Him to come. [This] sounds much better and I think expresses the spirit of it much better.
At the end of 1 Cor. 16:22, what we read there is a phrase: “Maranatha” [KJV]. Now ‘Maranatha’ is not Greek. ‘Maranatha’ is Aramaic, which is a language related to Hebrew. And ‘Maranatha’ means: “Come, O Lord.” Why is it that the New Testament is written in Greek, but this ‘Maranatha’ is not translated into Greek but uses the original Aramaic? The reason is because this phrase ‘Maranatha’ has become a slogan, a “kou hao ( 口號)”, among the Christians. In China, we are very familiar with “kou hao (口號)”. With this, the Christians would greet each other, begin or close a meeting with “Maranatha,” which means: “Come, O Lord.” It is a prayer that the Lord will come. Just before that, you will see the words: “If any man does not love the Lord Jesus, let him be accursed.” That is quite a shock! Quite a shock! But right after having said that, then it says “Maranatha”, right? What is the connection between the two? What is the connection (because it is very important for us to understand this connection)? Do you say “Maranatha”? Or if you do not say it, do you have the desire in your heart that Jesus should come again? Are you ready to see Him? Be very honest. [Someone in the congregation responds...] No, huh? You see, you have one honest man here. He says he is scared because he does not feel ready yet. You have a very good point. That is true for many of us, not just for you. We do not feel ready to meet Him, right?
For example, if you want to get married very soon, you do not hope Jesus would come and spoil all your plans, right? I mean if you are going to get married, say in October or something like that, and then Jesus comes in September, what would happen to your marriage? Everything is down the drain! Right? You ordered a new car, and you have not even had the chance to sit in the car and Jesus comes and that is it. So, yesterday, somebody drove me in his fancy car. Oh, this car is really something. It is what is called “The Hybrid”. Do you know “The Hybrid”? It runs partly on electricity and partly on gas. It is a very new thing. And because the gas charges the electric part, when the car slows down, you stop by the red light, it is charging the battery. Then when you start up, the battery powers the car, not the gas, so it uses only half the amount of gas that the average car uses. It runs very quietly. It is very new; it is the latest thing. And so, here you might be having a new car and Jesus comes and you never even got to sit in this wonderful fancy machine that can run on gas and electricity at the same time.
So, partly it is maybe we are afraid to see Him for whatever reason and partly it is that we have so many nice plans. Think of all the money you saved up for your retirement. Then one day, when you retire, you are going to enjoy Florida and trip around the world, and who knows what. You work so hard and you save your money and your bank account is getting bigger and Jesus comes and your bank account is worth nothing. You worked and saved all these years and you cannot even enjoy your retirement. So, who wants Jesus to come? Does anybody here want Jesus to come? One of you said you might not have anything to do when Jesus comes. You might have to still work on something else. When Jesus comes, you are not going to be idle. You would have to work not doing your present job. Well, if you can look at it positively, that is good. Most people look at it negatively. Another one of you said that whoever has met the requirements will not be afraid for Him to come. That is right. So, what are we to do about this situation because we are never going to come to the point where we think we are good enough to meet with the Lord? Another one said, “Let Him come earlier, then we do not commit so many sins.” That is very good insight. I have not heard that one before.
If We Love the Lord Jesus, We Want Him to Come
But the early church, we will see, constantly called for Jesus’ return. And what was the connection of those two sections of 1 Cor. 16:22? “If any man love not the Lord Jesus, let him be accursed.” That, I think, is one of the strongest statements Paul has ever made. It is virtually pronouncing a curse on anyone in the church who claims to be a Christian who does not want Jesus to come. The ‘love’ here - “if anyone does not love” - what is the connection? It is because if you love Jesus, you want Him to come. If you do not love Him, of course, you do not want Him to come. It shows that most of us - and here is the powerful meaning of this verse - it reveals, like a mirror, the fact that most of us may not love the Lord Jesus. It does not say, “Well, too bad, you do not love the Lord Jesus.” What it says is: “If you do not love Him, let that person be accursed.” Wow! That is frightening! I have never heard Paul make so strong a statement that sounds like a curse. But I think the statement is not meant as a curse. The fact is that if you do not love the Lord Jesus, you will be cursed. It is because either you love Him and are saved; you do not love Him, you are not saved.
But I would like you to see the effect of this verse on your life. Can you honestly say - can you honestly say - that you love Jesus? The test of that is: if you love Him, can you say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Now, how about that? If I ran a scan on each person here, and ask, “Do you love Jesus?” I think most of you will say, “Yeah, yeah, I love Jesus.” [Then I ask:] “Would you like Him to come?” You may say, “Um, well, how about later?” So, we cannot say “Maranatha.” We cannot pray that prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus” for all those reasons we have seen. Like what one of you said, probably the most basic reason is that we do not feel that we have faith to see Him. With the kind of life that I live, how disappointed would He be with me? I think this is very important because, otherwise, we fool ourselves. We say. “Yeah, I am baptized. I am a Christian. I think I love Jesus.” Are you sure? You may not be so sure. The test is: Do you want Him to come?
The Indications of the Time of His Coming Are in the Scriptures
Of course, He is going to come whether we want Him to come or not. That is the big problem. He is going to come anyway. The problem is not on His side; the problem is on our side. He is going to come, and that is part of the thing I want to share with you. He is coming! There is not a question about it. Just as He came the first time, He is going to come the second time. The question though is: When? Isn’t it? When is He coming? That is the part that makes us a little nervous because we cannot seem to have a clear idea. If you knew when He is coming, you can make preparations. Okay, let us say you are not a very good Christian and one week before His coming, you really polish everything up and you really become on fire for one week. I mean, fire we can maintain for one week; maybe not for one year, but one week, we can still manage. So one week before He comes, we can pump ourselves up. We sing a lot of hymns. We do a lot of praying. But now, we do not know when He is coming. So what to do? That is the difficulty now. And then the Scripture warns us [in that] it says: “In the day that you are not prepared, that you do not expect Him, that is the day that He comes.” Oh, that is too bad. Then we have no way to prepare. We have no way to prepare. That is the whole idea. It is because He wants to catch us exactly as we are. No preparation! No pretense! We have no way to know how to be ready. Suddenly, He will come! So, some of you are looking quite worried now. One of you asked, “If you had an idea when He is coming and then you try preparing yourself, in your heart you have to ask yourself, ‘Am I preparing myself because I want to, or is it to make the time limit?’” That is right. That means the genuineness is going to be tested. We cannot make any preparation. That means, when He comes, He will catch us just as exactly as we are. That is the scary part.
What is important to understand is that a large part of the New Testament is about His coming again. Look at it again. If you would like, mark the sections. You would be surprised how much of the New Testament is concerning His coming, the judgment that comes, and so on. We will all stand before Him to be judged. It is because the second time He comes, He comes not as Savior; He comes as Judge and King. Only the first time He comes as Savior. That is why it says, “Today is the day of salvation.” [It is] not ‘tomorrow.’ If He comes by tomorrow, your day of salvation is over. It is finished.
But is it the case that since we know He is coming, that we have no indication whatsoever? The Lord knows; He would say, “No, there are indications.” For example, if you look at the sky, if you know how to look at the weather - He said you see the sky is red at night [Mt. 16:2-3] - then you know how to say, “Oh, maybe tomorrow will be such and such a weather.” There is some way to predict. He said, “You look at the fig tree and it now has no fruit; but when the right season comes, it brings forth fruit. When you see [a certain tree] beginning to bear flowers, you know [its] fruit is coming. [It is] not [so with] the fig tree, but it is interesting that He speaks of the fig tree because the fig tree does not give any flowers. That is why in Chinese, it is called the “wu hua guo (無花果)”, a “no-flower fruit”. So again, the fruit appears, but you can only go by the season; you cannot go by watching the fruit.
Now we all know that the fig tree is an emblem of Israel. Israel was dead for 2,000 years. It was finished. It disappeared as a country, as a nation. We live in a generation that are eyewitnesses to a resurrection: a resurrection of a whole nation. That was predicted 2,000 years ago by the Lord Jesus, and the prophets even before that. It was predicted and it happened. In 1948, in spite of the opposition of so many countries, the major nations of the world, Israel was established. It came into being as a nation. That is an amazing thing. So, if we are watching for the signs, we can see things happening. Jesus said there are other signs: wars, famines. But wars and famines have always been happening. The question is not whether there will be a war or famine, but the intensity of those wars. The earthquakes become more frequent, more disastrous. So, things are there for us to observe. We find events moving faster and faster.
The Bible Code’s Prediction — this Present Age will Come to an End
There are a lot of things we can talk about as indicators of the Lord’s coming. But I just want to point to another recent development which is called the “Bible Code”. This is not to say that it has to be a hundred percent right, but just as a matter of thought. Some of you have heard a little bit about the “Bible Code”. Have you heard about the “Bible Code”? This was not developed by Christians. You have to understand that this was developed by a group, a number of Israeli mathematicians, so the Christians had nothing to do with the development of the “Bible Code”. These mathematicians, using high-powered computers, discovered that in the Bible there appears to be a code and that all kinds of events have been predicted in this “Bible Code”. The person who wrote this book on the “Bible Code”, initially, himself did not even believe in God. In fact, he even thought that maybe, it was some higher intelligence that inspired the Bible, but not necessarily God. He did not believe in the existence of a personal God, but of some kind of a higher intelligence. He himself is a news reporter. And so when he heard about this and these Israeli scientists, namely, mathematicians, who came up with this discovery of the code, he was fascinated, and so he began himself to use that code, to learn how to use it, and he interviewed all these mathematicians.
It is a long story. For example, his first book began with he himself checking the “Bible Code” and discovering that Yitzhak Rabin, who was the Prime Minister of Israel at that time, was going to be assassinated. This is because as he looked in the “Bible Code”, he saw the name Yitzhak Rabin - as [he describes it in his book entitled] The Bible Code - crossed by another letter in Hebrew (this is all in Hebrew, of course) which says ‘assassin’ or ‘assassination.’ So he warned Yitzhak Rabin and said, “You are going to be assassinated according to the ‘Bible Code’.” But Yitzhak Rabin did not take any notice of this. He said, “Another crazy journalist with some ‘Bible Code’ nonsense” and so on. Well, we know what happened: Yitzhak Rabin was, in fact, assassinated. He did not want to listen to the warning. Since then, different people have studied the “Bible Code” and looked from different angles and questioned the possibilities of this “Bible Code” and so on. In the end, it is hard to dispute that there might be something in it.
When I said that this was done by mathematicians, you will wonder what do mathematicians have to do with the Bible? What it has to do is this: you will need to know that all Hebrew letters have a number. For example, in Hebrew A is alef, B is beth, and so on. Thus, A, alef, is number one, beth is two, and it goes on and on, right through the alphabet. So, every letter has a numerical equivalent. They discovered that by working with the numbers, then they could calculate various things. But also the other thing was - it is a very complicated thing, but just to put it simply - that it was not possible to discover the “Bible Code” until the invention of high-powered computers. That means to say it was hidden in the Bible until these last days, in this last time. This means that only in this present age is it possible to discover a code because only now are there computers powerful enough to handle these very complex calculations inside the Bible. So, that is another signal, you see. If it were fifty years ago, they could not do it. The computers were not powerful enough to handle this kind of thing. Nowadays, any personal computer, almost any anyway, I suppose if you have a reasonably advanced computer, it can handle the “Bible Code”. If you know how to use it, you could do that.
Anyway, what am I getting at? The point of this matter is that according to this latest calculation - remember it is not done by Christians; I think I have to emphasize this point - the calculation is that this present age will come to an end, according to them, in the year 2006. 2006! Now, the Hebrew calendar does not work from January to December, like the Western calendar. It works basically from September, October around to the next year. So 2006 is just a kind of rough equivalent to the Hebrew year. That means it could start at the end of 2006 and go on to the three-quarters of 2007. The interesting thing about this was that in my own attempt to see if there are any indicators in the Bible that could give us an approximate date - the date is very approximate; we cannot tell the day, we cannot tell the hour, we cannot even tell with precision the year, but approximate - according to my calculation in recent time, I came up with the figure of 2007. And then I thought, “Oh, their date of 2006 is a bit different from mine” until I realized that theirs is the Hebrew date, and with mine, I am talking about our regular calendar, so that we are very close to one another.
The Method Used in Coming Up with a Personal Prediction
To explain very briefly how I came up with 2007, it is because of trying to understand the way numbers work in the Bible. The Bible is a very amazing book. Not only does it have, according to them, a “Bible Code”, but it has a numerical structure in the Bible as well. Now you need to know that the Greek New Testament is all numerical as well. Just like Hebrew and Arabic, it is all numerical. What do I mean by that? Well, in Greek, you have alpha, beta, gamma, delta and so forth, which is the equivalent of English A, B, C, D and so on. Now alpha is one, beta is two, and so gamma, delta is three, four, and so on. And so the whole alphabet is also numerical. But then it was discovered that the New Testament also has a numerical structure. There is even a numerical Bible, which tries to eliminate certain discrepancies in manuscripts by calculating the numbers. So, that is very interesting, too, and I have taken a bit of look into that one. But anyway, the whole thing to understand is that I do not go by that at all.
There are certain numbers which recur in the New Testament. If you read the New Testament, you are familiar [with this]. Most familiar to you would be number 7, right? If you look at the Revelation, everything is number 7. Seven this, seven that. Seven candles! Seven plagues. Lots of things! Everything is sevens. But not only are there the obvious sevens. There are the hidden sevens of which there are very, very many. That is another very interesting thing and a very big subject of study. That numerical seven is an amazing thing because there is no way to calculate when the author was writing that letter. He cannot have known that He has used this word seven times. I mean, if you try to write a letter, you would not realize it. You know, you do not calculate, “I am writing this whole book and I put in exactly seven of this word and seven of that word. The number seven - you will find many words in the Revelation occur seven times. If you have a computer that gives you statistics, you will quickly discover how many words occur seven times in the Revelation. There are also words that occur seven times in one particular letter of the New Testament or seven times in the New Testament as a whole. But it is uniquely the case in the Revelation. Everywhere, I have studied this back and forth and I am amazed sometimes to discover, “Oh, this is seven and that is seven.” Without a computer, that is quite a job to discover that these are all sevens. But then nowadays in our age of computers, we discover the hidden patterns in the New Testament. It is really amazing. But I am even not going by that at all.
There are certain numbers that have significance apart from seven, for example, the number 40. How many days was the Lord tempted in the wilderness? 40 days. How many years were the Israelites in the wilderness? 40 years. And how many days was Moses up on the mountain? All the time 40, 40, coming up 40. When you realize this pattern, you realize that this number has something peculiarly to do with Israel.
Now, if you realize this, you try and take a look in that 40-year pattern in Israel. Israel became a nation in 1948. It occupied what is at that time called Palestine. And then later on [I realized something; it was when] I was there. I was a student in Israel at one time. I lived there for a time, learning Hebrew. That was when I was studying theology. And when I lived there, I realized that Israel had established itself as a nation since 1948, but it did not have Jerusalem. Jerusalem was still in the hands of the Arabs in Jordan. And Jerusalem was defended by the Arab Legion, the best fighting men of the Arab force. I lived in a Christian place up on a hill that faced Jerusalem, the city of Jerusalem. I could see the whole city of Old Jerusalem, the city wall. I just look out of my window and I see the whole of Old Jerusalem, in front of my window. And not so comfortable was, on the city wall, right facing my window across the valley, a heavy machine gun, which seemed to be pointing straight into my room. I looked at the building, this St. Andrew’s Hospice, a Scottish church building, and I could see the marks on the wall where the bullets had hit the building during various times of fighting. I could see the soldier on the city wall on that side and I hoped that his finger would not get itchy when he saw me on the veranda and squeeze the trigger. Right in front of me is the Valley of Hinnom. The Greek word ‘gehenna’ comes from the Valley of Hinnom, which is where the New Testament word for ‘hell’ comes from. The English translation of ‘gehenna’ is hell. So that valley was the Valley of Hell. There are a number of reasons for that. One is because people used to burn their rubbish down there. The fires would be burning in there, so it became a picture of hell. You have to know that during my time, nobody was burning rubbish. In fact, it was no man’s land. If you go down there, you would be shot. It was a kind of dividing line and nobody dared to venture in that direction.
The thing was that Israel had the whole of Palestine except Jerusalem; it was still in Arab hands. The Jews used to say that Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a head. There is no head there. It was vital for them to get Jerusalem. But Jerusalem is sitting in Arab control. So, what happened? Well, a convenient occasion came when they got attacked by Egypt. And then, as one of you mentioned, the Six-Day War occurred. In six days they captured Jerusalem. That was one of their objectives. All the surrounding Arab countries attacked Israel, and it was a miracle, [for] they won the war in six days! They were outnumbered by all these surrounding nations, but most important was that that was their chance to take Jerusalem.
And when I was there, I had already observed their preparations to take Jerusalem. Very quietly, they were working to take Jerusalem. They had special units. Their plan was they must take Jerusalem with minimum damage because they were facing a very well-trained Arab force there who could wreck the whole city. What could they do if they take over a ruined city? And they did not want that. So, what they did is they carefully executed their plan and took it by such surprise - it was so fast - and executed a surgical operation that surprised the Arab legion defending the city. Because they were behind the city walls, they [the Arabs] thought they would be quite safe. Israel had their plans and quickly moved in and took Jerusalem. So, that was the first time in Jewish history that Jerusalem was back in Jewish hands after 2,000 years. For the first time, Jerusalem was in Jewish hands again. Ever since the time of the Romans until [then], they never had Jerusalem. But now, once more, Jerusalem was in their hands. In other words, from that date on, Israel had fully been restored. Before that they had no head. But now, they had. It is because for them, Jerusalem was more important than all the rest of the territory. It had historical significance. As long as they did not have Jerusalem, they did not have anything much worth having. But now they had Jerusalem. When they put the flag up on the Tower of David in Jerusalem, that was when Israel finally was restored.
Now, 40 years from that time  would take us to when? That is right. 2007! That is how I came to this date, and I was surprised the “Bible Code” came to virtually the same date. That is surprising. We are now coming to the end of 2003. So, if any of you want to get married, you had better do it fast. Otherwise, you do not have too much time to enjoy your marriage. Those of you who are hoping to get your degree, whatever it is, well, maybe you can just forget about that and do something more useful. So, time is short.
2007 Is an Approximate Date - It Could Be Later, or Even Earlier!
I want to emphasize that it does not mean necessarily that Jesus will come - that the end of this age comes - at 2007, because if you know the Bible, there is a principle of flexibility. It says in Peter that the Lord does not desire that any should perish but that He wants all men to be saved. [2 Pet. 3:9] But He cannot wait indefinitely. If you do not want to respond, that is your business. But He will not delay His coming indefinitely.
But there is another principle in Matthew Chapter 24 which said that the time would be shortened. That means the time of tribulation or suffering will be shortened. Now what is this tribulation? New Testament students and scholars have been studying this and are trying to figure it out. Is this a general persecution that is going to take place? Or what kind of situation has to be shortened? If it is going to be shortened, it will be before 2007. And if the Lord tarries somewhat, it will be after 2007. But at least, we have an approximate date rather than no date at all. We have an approximate date. It could be 2008, it could be 2009, if the Lord tarries. Or it could be 2005 or 2006. Who knows? Now these things are outside of our control. But what I want to share with you tonight is that time is short and that there is an indicator that we have in the Bible. We live in remarkable times, in amazing times, times in which we can use even my desktop, my portable computer, my laptop and I could use the “Bible Code” to calculate all kinds of things.
A few weeks ago I was in “Chapters” [a bookstore] and I found another book by another Jewish person - again by Jews like The Bible Code. Both are not written by Christians, you have to understand. This Jewish person is saying that his calculation also comes to 2006 or 2005, but [it is] also around 2006. He is speaking to the Jews, and saying, “You must repent because the Day of Judgment is at hand.” He is saying the Messiah will return. They are looking for the return of the Messiah. So, though they do not accept Jesus, they accept that their Messiah is coming. And he says to the Jews, “You must repent. The time is very, very short.” I have been reading this; I was really surprised. I looked back and forth to confirm that it is written by Jews. He quotes the Old Testament and says, “You see, all the things that the Jews have suffered, including the Holocaust, beginning back in the Old Testament, [are saying]: ‘You had been warned, but you did not listen to God. God already told you.’ Back in Deuteronomy and other places in the Old Testament, [it warns] that if you do not listen to His voice, you do not obey Him, then every curse, every curse in this book will come upon you.” He says, “Haven’t you read your Bible?” The Bible [here] means the Old Testament, not New Testament. [He says:] “Haven’t you read your Bible? Why don’t you listen? And you are asking why God brought the Holocaust? Well, if you read the Bible, you will know why. And now, when you look at the Bible Code, you are not going to listen again? God’s judgment, the final judgment - and that is worse than any holocaust if you do not listen to Him - is coming.” According to him ([he] did his own calculation apart from the other person) in fact, he thought that it might be a little bit earlier; it could be 2005. [It is a bit alarming because his calculation says it is even a bit earlier than what we have discussed.] But he says that maybe 2006 is also possible.
How Then Shall We Live in This Remaining Time?
So, what do you think? How do we live our lives? If you realize that in this age, we have only three years or so to go, will you continue living as you are living now? The Lord Jesus gave a parable exactly about this matter. He said, “There are five wise virgins and there are five foolish virgins. [Both groups] made some preparations. But one [group] made full preparation; the other made inadequate preparation. The five who did not make proper preparation, what happened? They were left out. They were rejected. But they both made preparations. That is the part that worries me. It is that when we have made some preparations, we think that, “Well, that is good enough. I’ve already made preparations. I’ve prepared the oil. My lamp is burning.” I have preached on this another time, so I will not go into this in detail. But the whole point is that, in the end, five were excluded and only five entered. If we go by that percentage, it would be that half the Christians will be saved and half will not be saved, because to be excluded is to be left in the outer darkness. That is what the parable is saying. If we go by that percentage, that is a serious warning. I hope you here are not in the half of those who are going to be left outside [for] only half will be saved.
Now, out of a sense of concern and anxiety, I share this with you and what you do with it is up to you. You may say, “Well, who cares about what this fellow says. It is his own opinion.” Correct. That is fine. I have finished my responsibility. I have told you what the Word of God says, according to what reliable evidence I have been able to discover here. If you think that the evidence is not worth anything, or not worth much, that is up to you. But as a servant of the Lord, I have finished my responsibility. A prophet simply prophesies. What you do with his prophecy is your business, your problem, and nothing more to do with the prophet. So, I am very concerned about how Christians are living: the carelessness, the concern with temporary things which are passing away, and [the] spending [of] one’s energy and time [in what is not of value]. As the Lord Jesus said in John Chapter 6, “Why do you labor for that which is not bread,” [v27] that is, not of any eternal value? You work for the things that are transient. They pass away. Is there anything you do that has an eternal value? Think of what you did today. Which thing you did today has eternal value? Now, if you witnessed to somebody, that has eternal value. If you loved somebody, cared for somebody, that has eternal value. But what is the eternal value of the other things you did? Just think about it. So this could change the way we live. Let me just conclude very soon. Maybe we have a little time to ask some questions, discuss some questions.
How shall we live in this remaining time that we have that we can be sure - I mean sure, not just hopefully - be sure that we have entrance, that this light would keep burning until He comes, and not find, like those five foolish virgins, that at the last minute, the light is gone. The thing that matters again is here: remember two things are connected, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus...”. That is the key thing. The whole thing hangs on the matter of love. Now I have served the Lord some 40 years and have pondered the Word of God back and forth and tried to understand the secrets of the spiritual life. There are many secrets, many principles, but I will try to boil this down to only one thing.
God Used a Film to Kindle the Love for Jesus in Me
It is easy, but extremely difficult. That is the paradox. “If any man love” - the whole issue hinges on loving Jesus, which also means loving one another. There is no such thing as loving Jesus without loving the other person. It does not exist. If I say, “I love God,” but there are people I do not love, then I am a hypocrite because I cannot cut off some people from God’s love. This subject of love is extremely difficult and I do not really know how to expound this matter because it is something to do with life, not something to do with words. Now love is something like, somebody strikes a match and lights the lamp or lights the candle. It is an action. It is not a lot of talk, and you can talk ‘love’ to death. That is the problem. There are those who can talk about love, but they cannot do it. There is a lot of talk [about love that] I am almost scared to talk about it. But we have to say something about it.
Let me try to put it like this. One day, the Lord struck a match by His Holy Spirit and lighted me with that fire of love and I went up in flames. It is a unique experience and I still remember that experience in my memory. I sometimes wonder, have I gone down since that time in terms of my love? I am very concerned about that. But I remember that the fire burned in me. I think it came in part, i.e., the Lord (what is this match that He struck?) used a film to speak to me and it was about somebody called “The Little Woman.” I do not know if any of you have heard of “The Little Woman.” “The Little Woman” was Gladys Aylward. Gladys Aylward was an Englishwoman and I had the privilege of listening to her back in my student days in London. She was an old lady and I was just a young student. She came to our fellowship in Hong Kong House, in London. We invited her and she very graciously came and she shared. And you know, she reads the Chinese Bible. She only reads the Chinese Bible and she was speaking in Chinese. She is not a highly-educated person, but the only Bible she reads is the Chinese Bible. It put us all to shame. In our hands we were all reading English Bibles and here we had an Englishwoman speaking to us in Chinese from a Chinese Bible, so we felt quite convicted.
The film was about her life. I cannot recall if I saw this film before or after meeting her. But if you know the story, you know that she gave up her comfortable life in England and she went to China with no missionary society willing to accept her because she was nobody. She had no education; no training, no nothing! Who wants to accept this nobody? No missionary society would even look at her. All right, nobody wants her, so she went to China by herself, trusting only in the Lord. She does not speak Chinese; she does not know any Chinese. She has to go there to learn Chinese. Wow! Here is this ‘little’ [woman]. She is called “Little Woman” because she is very small. She is a very small woman and she also looked quite frail to me. But her love - it was with that fire of love that she set a fire in China. Who did she try to serve, to minister to? Well, she ministered to the children who had no parents or could not find their parents. It is because, you see, China has gone through many, many wars. The result of all those wars is to leave all these children with no parents. So many orphans! I think those of us from China know about the situation. I myself remember those days of refugees: of weeping children who could not find their parents, starving on the streets, walking around in rags, [being] skin and bones. All over China were this kind of children. So, instead of enjoying her comfortable life in England, what did she do? She gathered these children off the streets and mothered them with very little resources, since she had no missionary society behind her. [It was] just [that a] few friends in England, who maybe pitied her or tried to encourage her, sent her a little bit of money and she gave it all to look after these ragamuffins.
Then came the Japanese. As though they have not done enough damage, they came along and she had to flee. She had to flee with this whole group of children. They could not go very fast and the Japanese were pursuing behind. [They were] closing [in], coming closer and closer. And she was trying to rush these little children into the Chinese zone to take them away from the Japanese and all their unspeakable cruelty. She tried to get them away. Of course, she was risking her life now. Why should she come to China to risk her life in the middle of a war? That was what the film was showing.
Now, she had one Chinese young man who was touched by her love and he worked with her. He saw that she really poured out her life for these children and he felt that she needed help. She could not - this frail little woman - how could she take care of so many children? So, he came along. He loved the Lord, and he helped Gladys Aylward. But as they were fleeing, the Japanese army was closing in behind. One day a detachment of the Japanese army was catching up. It is because the army moved fast; the children moved slow. And then that part of the film showed that the young man looked back and he saw that the Japanese unit was going to catch them all and was going to kill them all.
I think those from China all know enough about the brutality of the Nanking [now Nanjing] Massacre and how they just killed everybody. They used children and women and whoever for bayonet practice, literally for bayonet practice, just for the fun of it. I saw an interview of Japanese veterans, just, I think, a few weeks or two weeks ago or something. It was a documentary about the Nanking Massacre. I do not know if some of you saw that program. I know the story, but I looked at it again. This was from the mouth of Japanese soldiers who were there. Some 300,000 people in the city of Nanjing alone were massacred. A soldier said that indeed they just bayoneted the people basically for the fun of it. He said, “I still remember a woman carrying two children. One in this arm, one in that arm, and we put a bayonet through both children and her, like putting them on the barbecue skewer. We just put it right through them. So I just give you this as a background. That was the way the Japanese at that time [did things]. This soldier said, “I feel I have to say something about this because the government keeps denying this kind of thing, because the Japanese face cannot take it. But the truth is that that is what happened. I was there and I did that myself. I am not better than anybody else. I did it, too.”
Anyway, the Japanese soldiers were closing in. The part that touched me is: I looked at this young man. I mean he has his whole life in front of him. He looks like a very fine young man. He turned back and he saw the Japanese soldiers. He thought, “What am I going to do?” And he said, “Okay, I’ll do this.” He drew their attention and he started running in the opposite direction. So, of course, the idea was to let the children and Gladys Aylward go and he would draw [the Japanese away]. He knew there was [a risk of] certain death, but he would keep them going in the wrong direction as much as possible so that [Gladys Aylward and the children] would have time to get away. And so he began running. They fired, but because he was running zigzag, they could not hit him. He kept running, but of course, eventually, I mean you cannot outrun a whole unit. So, eventually, they caught up to him and killed him. But because of his sacrifice, his self-sacrifice, the children were saved; they got away. So Gladys Aylward had enough time to take the children away. It was just that extra bit of time that saved the children.
I remember I was deeply touched. I think that was the match the Lord used to kindle a fire in my heart. I thought, “Could I have done that?” I thought, “No. No. I am too selfish. I could not do that.” So, this young man was far superior to me. Why do I not have his love? I am so concerned to live my life, my future, my studies, and on and on about the self. And here, without hesitation, [this young man] looked at the situation and knew there was only one way to save Gladys - who would certainly have been killed because she was a foreigner - and the children. Well, even if [the Japanese] do not bayonet the children one by one, they would all starve to death because they would not have Gladys anymore. Who was going to feed them? He knew also that if he stayed with the group, he would be killed, too. So, if he is going to die anyway, [he thought,] “Why not I die and let them live?”
And the fire burned. It is amazing how the Lord used this true incident, portrayed in film, to ignite my heart. I remember that feeling of God’s love pouring into my heart because of this person’s act and example. He took the cross. Like Jesus, he accepted crucifixion. My heart then was kindled! For quite a long time, I remember, I just walked in love, letting that same love [inspire me]. I said, “Lord, give me that love. I do not have it. I am a selfish person. But put that in my heart.” The Lord heard me and He gave me that love. It was just wonderful, that sense of walking in love.
Let the Fire of God’s Love Be Kindled in Us
Now in 1 Jn. 4:8 and 4:16, it says that: “God is love, and he that abides in God abides in love.” I remember, in those days, I had that immense sense of the presence of God. God was so close to me because I was living in His love - that love burning in the heart. Also, the amazing thing is that just as that young man’s life affected me - I do not even know what was his name (even to this day, I do not know his name; I do not recall who he was) - the point is that his life touched me and the fire burned in my life. Without my knowing it, because of the fire now burning in my heart, other people started burning as well.
You see, the only life that can affect other people’s life is the life where the love of God burns. It does not depend on how eloquent a preacher you are. That young man never preached one word. He never had the chance to preach a word to me anyway. But it is the life that does something. I said fire. Fire is light, you see. Now this is the thing. The five virgins, presumably they had light, I presume they had some love. They must have had love for the Lord or they would not be waiting for His coming. But it was not enough to maintain to the end. Thus, when Jesus came, the fire was out. But the other five, the wise ones, they kept the fire burning until the end. It was still burning when He came.
That is why whenever it was said how much love I had, I said, “No, no, the truth is, I do not have enough love.” That is the problem. You see, it is just not adequate. But the thing is that what we need to learn is not just to talk about love, but learn to let it kindle us. What is so important about that is when you have God’s love touching you or coming into your life, you suddenly discover that God is very near. You sense His presence. Do you sense His presence? When you pray, [does] He seem far away? It is very hard to pray when God does not seem to be listening, when He seems to be way off somewhere else. But the person who lives in love, as I know from first-hand experience, discovers that God is very near. An amazing thing is when you pray, He answers, right away. But now, when you pray, as I find many Christians [say], they do not know: “Does God hear me? Does He listen to my prayer? Am I wasting my time? Am I talking to the wall? How do I know He is hearing me?”
So what I am saying is that maybe we have three years to go, [or] whatever; it does not matter. But if you can live in the fire of His love, let Him kindle your heart. You are going to find that it does not matter whether it is three years, four years, two years, who cares? It is because you are already living in His presence. And then you see that you do not need to be afraid of His coming, because you are no longer living for yourself. God’s fire is burning you up. The great thing is that you are going to discover that even if you do not seem to be doing anything spectacular, things are happening.
I heard somebody once say, “ I am serving the Lord.” He was somebody who became a Catholic priest, to my astonishment. He said that he was serving the Lord because of me. I gulped and I said, “I never knew that. When was this?” He said, “Yes! I am now in the ministry because of you.” And I thought, “I don’t remember. I don’t remember asking you to join the ministry.” He said, “No, you did not ask me to join the ministry, but when I saw your life, the fire of God burning in your heart, I knew that that is what I want.” At that time, he had just done his Engineering studies. He had a future in Engineering. Instead, he went to train to become a priest. He became a priest because his whole family background was Catholic. He did not think he knew of any other way to go. But spiritually, he was no different from us because he joined our Bible studies after he became a priest. He would sit in the Bible study group and then he would fellowship with everyone and everyone was very happy. Then at the end, he would say, “ Do you know who I am? Would you like to guess?” People would look at him and say, “Well, you are Brother Wilfred.” “Yeah, but do you know what I am, what I do?” They would say, “No.” He would say, “I am a Catholic priest.” They would gulp and say, “A Catholic priest in our Bible study? He would say, “Don’t be afraid! You and I, we are one. You love the Lord. I love the Lord. We will never divide from one another.”
The thing that surprised me was that we had lived in the same student home, the International Student House in London, and we had often fellowshipped at mealtimes and so on. Then one day, he went off to become a priest, and I said, “Well, if somebody else will become a priest, I can believe it, but not Wilfred.” Why? It is because he was such a worldly man. He loved to run around with all the girls. How is this man ever to going to become a priest? It means his whole life, he will never get married. I said it is not possible, you know. Believe it or not, Wilfred became a priest and is still a priest to this day, but one who loves the Lord. Do not think that all Roman Catholics are bad people. Of all things, I am responsible for somebody becoming a priest. It was beyond anything I could imagine. But when he told me that, my mouth dropped open in surprise.
I just want to show you that it was not through any preaching. Do not say to yourself, “I do not have much Bible knowledge. I do not have much skills. I am not eloquent.” It does not matter. The only thing you need is the fire of God’s love. Why is it ‘fire’? It is because love burns. You know anybody who has been in love, humanly speaking, knows that it is a kind of a burning feeling. It makes your heart very warm, right? But, of course, human love has a way of degrading, a way of declining. Whereas God’s love, because of its purity, has a way of going from strength to strength. That is why I say that anyone of you, whether you are an auntie “bo Mu (伯母)” - and many aunties say, “Well, I have no knowledge, no skill” - do not worry about it. The only thing you need is love, and then God can use it. So, this is the main thing I want to share, that is, if you can let God’s love [kindle in you the fire].
Paul Emphasized Love, Not Spiritual Gifts
Now many people talk about the filling of the Holy Spirit. Let me say a word in here. I have many Charismatic friends and they like to talk about the filling of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. Yesterday, I talked with a brother who told me about how he experienced speaking in tongues and so on. I listened for a while. He was telling me all this and he was, of course, very exhilarated about his experience in speaking in tongues and so forth. Now spiritual gifts are not strange to me. Then I thought, as I listened to this, a worry came into my heart. The worry is that the moment you have some spiritual gifts, like tongues, which is actually the least of the gifts, the lowest of the gifts, according to Paul, or healing, healing people and so on, [you may think you are spiritual].
The Lord has used me to heal people, but I do not consider that I have a gift of healing. I have shared before, I think, at least, on two occasions, and I have prayed for people who had a large tumor in the case of one and a small tumor in the lip in the case of another. Both were going for surgery. Both had already been x-rayed and confirmed that they have tumor. In the case of the woman, it was a large tumor in her uterus. In the case of the younger woman, she had a smaller tumor, but a very painful one, pressing on the nerve in the lip. The only reason I prayed for them is not because I think I have a gift of healing - in fact, I do not think I do - but it was out of compassion because both were suffering intense pain while they waited for the operation. The operation was a few days away and the pain was unbearable. I think anybody who knows people with tumors or cancer [know] the pain is unbearable. You often have to take morphine injections and so on. And the only thing that moved me was compassion. That is all. And I said, “Well, since they suffer so much, then I will pray and lay hands on them.” I prayed for them and in both cases the tumor just vanished into thin air. It was gone. When the time of the operation came a few days later, they asked, “What happened to the tumor?” That this-sized tumor can disappear in three, four days is not possible. They checked the x-ray taken before the intended operation and said, “Well, there is clearly the tumor here.” Then they took another x-ray to determine the precise location for operation purposes [as they normally do] and there was no tumor to be found.
But we must not think that we are spiritual because the Lord uses us to heal somebody. That is the mistake of many of our Charismatic friends. When this dear brother was talking about his experience in tongues, a worry came into my heart, because I could see that immediately he thought he is a bit more spiritual than other people. Do you speak in tongues? “No.” “I speak in tongues.” “I did once anyway, so I am more spiritual than you.” That is why so many Charismatic churches are in danger of going down the drain because the emphasis is on gifts. Now you need to read 1 Cor. 13:1, which begins in the first line, “Though I speak with the tongue of men and of angels but....” But what? You can speak with angel tongues? You can speak with human tongues, foreign tongues? You do not know Hebrew and you can speak in Hebrew? You do not know Arabic and you can speak in Arabic? [You] speak in tongues of men or of angels, or some heavenly language that nobody can understand. But Paul says, “Though I speak these tongues, but I do not have love, I am just like a gong.” Bong! Bong! Lots of noise! Well, I do not think the Charismatic feels too nice about that, that: “My tongue is only like a sounding gong?” If I do not have love, I am nothing. Nothing! I do not care what gifts you have. If I have faith that can move mountains and I say to this mountain by faith, “Move!” and it moves, but I have not love, I am nothing.
The point we need to understand is this: the only thing that matters as far as God is concerned is love. If you have that, you have everything. If you do not have that, you have nothing. That is the point. That is the point. So, if you read my testimony, do not think I am spiritual. I only want to say what the Lord did, not what I did. Most biographies tell people: they did this and they went to that college and they did this work and they built up that work. I only want to talk about what God did, not what I did because what I did counts for nothing. All that matters is love.
Now this also has to do with the life of the church. You have here a small group of people. How big or how small does not matter. The only thing that matters in the church is love. You take love out of the church and what have you got left? Can you tell me what is left when you take love out of the church? You have only got a social gathering. That is all you have got: a social gathering. And if you want a social gathering, then join Alcoholics Anonymous or YMCA or something else because in those places, love is not the question; it is not the issue. But a church that has no love is nothing. Nothing at all! It does not matter if you have 2,000 people in there. What is the use of 2,000 people and they do not have love? I was just talking with somebody today of a church in Hong Kong that I went to visit. It has over 2,000 people. On Sunday, all packed full! But you go in and nobody says hello to you. “Who are you?” You have 2,000 people, so who are you? You come out and nobody says hello to you. You are like a shadow: you walk in, nobody notices; you come out, nobody notices. As for refreshments, it does not exist. I mean you do not serve refreshments to 2,000 people, right? So, you have got nothing. The only thing is when you go in there, you come out with less because you are supposed to leave an offering behind. It is because it is very hard to escape the offering. They pass the bag; if you do not put anything in; it does not look so good. So, you put something in. In some churches, it is even better; the offering comes around two times. So, unfortunately, I did not know that. I put the whole thing in the first offering.
Maintaining Love in the Church Is Difficult
So, the important thing about the church having love does not depend on the next guy loving you. Love is not “bei dong (被動)” - it is not passive - waiting for somebody else to love me. The point is that your contribution to the life of the church is what? It is to put in your share of love. If everybody does that, what happens? You have an overflow of love. That is the beauty of it. Now what this church is going to be depends on you. It does not depend on Pastor Tim and Sister Alice alone. You say, “Oh, it’s all up to them. They make the church good. Oh, good leaders!” Or, if they do not like the church, what are they supposed to do to make church good? What they can do is only that much. The rest depends on you. You can make this church a house of love, like a family, a home. But if people come just to take whatever they can get from the church, I mean in terms of love and support, and put nothing in, then of course, you have a deficit. Whether it has a credit or deficit depends on each one of us.
Now I think that where the church declines is exactly in this place. Maintaining the love is very, very difficult, let me tell you the truth. Some people, going back, if I may refer to the Montreal days, in the early days in Montreal church, that was their goal. And I just want to share the same thing with you here, that every person did their share to contribute love. Not your money! The money is not the important part. What is important is your heart. In those days, people who came to the Montreal church would say, “There is something different about this church.” They try to figure out what it is. There was a fire; there was a warmth, at least. There was a person, actually a foreign brother (maybe Ronald can remember the brother who came all the way from London, Ontario), [named] Brother Harold. He had only one leg. The leg was taken off because of cancer when he was younger. With one leg, every weekend, after work, he got in his car and he drove from London, [Ontario] six hours’ drive, at least six hours’ drive to Montreal. He stayed with the brothers over the Saturday, and then Sunday night, he had to drive six hours drive back to London. Summer or winter, this dear brother made the journey to Montreal. We would say, “You know, with one leg, you are sitting in there so many hours, how can you do this?” He said, “Well, it’s worth it! It’s worth it because I come here and I am in this family. I receive...”. And he was a Canadian brother. So, it is important to see that there was something that drew him to come. All those long hours of driving! Imagine twelve hours’ driving or more. That is not counting stops. I am talking about six hours of driving time. From here [Toronto, Ontario] to Montreal is one-and-a-half hours of driving time already.
Is there something in this church that would draw somebody who would come even one hour away, never mind six hours away? If there is love, people will come. [It is] not because the preaching is necessarily marvelous, but because there is something there, that they cannot find somewhere else. Well, that situation is no longer the case in Montreal [church], I would be honest with you. I have not served in Montreal for more than fifteen, sixteen years now. I have been away from Montreal sixteen years and the love is very hard to maintain. It is still warm; it is still loving; maybe not as powerful in the love and the fire as before, but there is still something there. There is still something. But I share this with you because I hope, for your own spiritual good, as well as for the good of the church, that you let that fire come.
If There Is a Union of Our Will with God’s Will, We Will Love
Now I [mentioned] the filling of the Spirit; what was I going to say? Let me say this. You are filled with the Spirit not because you speak in tongues, not because you can heal the sick. Do not let anybody deceive you on this. I say that with Biblical authority. It is not because you have faith that can move mountains, but because you have love. The Apostle Paul made this so clear that we do not make a mistake on this point because in Rom. 5:5, he said that God has poured out His love upon us. The words he used in the Greek are exactly the same words that are used in Acts Chapter 2 for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, which filled each one of those in the upper room. Once you realize this, you realize that the one evidence of being filled with the Spirit is to be filled with God’s love. And that love has already been poured out. In other words, it is up to us to receive it. If you do not have it, it is not because God did not give it. It is because you have not opened your heart to receive it. That is why I say, it can be very difficult to explain, and yet, it is very simple. The simple part is simply open your heart and let His love pour in.
The difficult part is that our hearts are very resistant to His love. Why is it resistant? I do not know. But there is [the matter of the will]. In order to receive that love, it has to do with our will. I said ‘resistant’ because the will does not want to take it. We do not want to let that love come into our lives for fear that that love is going to turn our lives upside down. That love will never force its way into our lives. Love never uses force. It is very beautiful; it is very gentle; it is very kind. All those things are listed in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13. God never uses force on anyone. You do not want to accept Him, even though He is God, He does not crush you like an ant. He respects your will. But you have to take the consequences for that decision. So, the only way to do it is to say to the Lord, “I want Your will to be my will.” In other words, you want to do nothing but His will. And His will, because of His nature, is love. Thus, the result is that when you want to do nothing but His will, then His will becomes your will. What happens then is, as I mentioned briefly before, there is a union of wills. You become one with Him. That is the only true union. The only true union is where two wills become one. I think those of you who are married know very well that just being united in the bond of marriage does not make you one in heart. Your union is purely, you can say, a physical union. It is a union of two people bound by law eventually, but nothing much else afterwards.
But there is only a true union between two persons if there is a union of wills. It is like two very good friends, like David and Jonathan in the Old Testament; there is a union of wills. Your will is my will; my will is your will. And this union of wills is what makes for true unity. Too many people get married who should never be married because there never was a union of wills. And union of wills is not a simple thing. It takes time to establish and it takes strength to maintain. It takes commitment to uphold. Therefore, there is very little in the matter of union of wills. But in the early church, when the Holy Spirit came down, as you remember in Pentecost, what happened? The love of God, as in Rom. 5:5, came into each one of them and it says that they were of one heart and one mind. The whole church: one heart and one mind! There was truthful union of will because everybody’s will was submitted to God’s will.
Now you do not have to worry about the whole church. You just start with yourself. For me, everyday, I have only one aim. I start in the morning, and right till the evening, I have only one thing I do: “Lord, throughout this day, let only Your will be done in my life, not mine.” That is my daily prayer. I do not dare to ask for high things. That is as high, I think, as we can go in some sense. I do not start the day with any eloquent prayer to the Lord. Whenever I get up, I turn over on my face, with my face to the pillow. I kneel for that time. You can say [it is] what the Muslims do nowadays and Christians do not do anymore. But it is what Abraham did long before the Muslims did when he found, remember, the three strangers in Gen. 18:1. One of the three strangers, of course, as we know later, was the Lord Himself. Abraham, such a humble man, sees three strangers and he bows with his face to the ground. And I think the Muslims learned it from Abraham. I find that [I] just [want] to show before the Lord, even in a physical act that: “Lord, my will is totally yielded to Your will. Only Your will be done.” Therefore, there is a union of wills, because now I put away my own will and [there is] only His, so there is a perfect union of wills through the whole day. From that, the Lord gives me His peace, His strength. It does not mean that the day is going to be easy, but it means that whatever He wants, [let it be done.] If it has to be pain, let it be pain. That is the love of Him.
So that our love is not just talk, “I love you, Lord. I love you, Lord.” Then we get a pain in the back, we get a pain in the arm, and we say, “Lord, what are you doing to me?” But if I say, “Lord, let Your will be done,” even if it means that He has to throw me down the stairs before He picks me up and fixes me up again, I say, “Good! Fine! Thank you, Lord. Let Your will be done.” That is why I said He has to test me. The Lord may say, “Did you say, ‘My will be done?’ Do you mean that?” I say, “Yes.” [He says,] “Okay then, so you have ten days of pain. Do you still say, ‘Your will be done?’” I say, “Yes, Lord, Your will be done. In agony, it will still be done.” Are we good-weather Christians only? Do we only love Him when everything is going nicely? The church is full of such people. They want the promises. If you are going to the Christian bookshop, you will find a book of promises. The funny thing is that it gives the promises without telling you what are the conditions of the promises. You can get a promise with no condition? There is no such thing. So, before you say, “Oh, since there is this way of praying that ‘Your will be done,’ I’ll pray that.” Not so fast! Not so fast!
Doing God’s Will Gets Tougher as One Goes onto a Deeper Level
Do you want God’s love? Wonderful! But I want to tell you the other side, so I do not deceive you. Don’t say, “Well, you didn’t tell me that part about the pain coming.” You say, “Your will be done”? Do you know when Jesus prayed that prayer? He prayed exactly that: “...not My will, but Yours, be done.” [Lk. 22:42] But when did He pray it? It was in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was not in the Garden of Eden, you know, with all the fruit around there, [where] you just stretch out your hand and this nice, juicy fruit [is there]. [It was] in the Garden of Gethsemane. So, that is why I said it is the hard part, to open your heart. [The part where you say:] “Lord, let Your love pour in” seems easy. “Your will be done” - that sentence is easy to say, but hard to live. I have lived with pain for the last thirteen years or so. And the Lord is still questioning me, “Do you want My will to be done?” I say, “Yes, Lord,” It may be tough.
But, now, let me not frighten you too much, all right? I have to tell you the truth, but not frighten you too much. If you are a young Christian, He will treat you very kindly. You pray; He answers. You pray; He answers. Have you discovered that? A young Christian can ask for something and he gets it right away. When I was a young Christian, I would say, “Lord, give me this” and I would get it [right away]. It is really like a father treating the little child. You do not want to give the child a hard time. Sometimes you have to say, “Okay, that is enough for now.” But as I went on in the Christian life, I asked, and then I have to wait a longer time. I said, “Lord, before You gave it to me so quickly. And now I have already waited several days.” He says, “Several days? That is nothing yet. You’ll wait several weeks yet.” “Several weeks? How come You are treating me like this?” [He says:] “It’s because you are growing up now. When you’re growing up, you don’t get that kind of treatment anymore.” And so you ask why I am being treated like this now? Well, I hope I have grown up enough to take this level of treatment. I have come to that level. So, you do not have to worry. It does not mean that like me, you will say, “Your will be done, not mine” and tomorrow you are going to have backache and you are going to have it for the next thirteen years. No, no. Do not let me frighten you. You will have to reach something of a little bit more level than where you are now. Some of us, especially me, have to get harder treatment. I think some of you are much better than me. The Lord does not have to treat you so hard. Why does He have to deal with me like that? Well, because I am a hard character. Yes, I am a hard character. As I was saying, you say I am loving, no, I am not that loving. I am a disciplined [person] and disciplined people are hard people.
That is what scares me. That is why I often say, “I have to learn from Pastor Timothy.” And he keeps saying, “No.” I say, “That is the truth, because he is a much more gentle character than I am.” This is not being humble. I am just telling you the truth of the matter. Even a great person like the Apostle Paul, [as] you know very well, the Lord had to put a thorn in his flesh. Do you know what is the feeling of a thorn in the flesh? Well, it is easy to discover. Take a thorn and stick in your flesh; you will soon know what it feels like. It is not pleasant. Not pleasant! The other day, I had to go for a blood test. You can still see a little bit of a mark here on the arm. So when this lady took out her needle, I said to her, “You know, I feel ashamed of myself.” She said, “Why?” I said, “You know, a lot of things, I am not afraid of. I am not even afraid of war and bombs and machine guns, whatnot. But I see that needle and it scares me.” I said, “I’m really sorry. I feel ashamed of myself.” She said, “You don’t have to be ashamed. You’re not the only one.” And so, she stuck the needle in and then she said, “Well, it wasn’t so bad, was it?” I said, “Thank you! I think your skill is very high.” But I still have a bruise here. So, the Lord knows what kind of thing scares me: needles and thorns. The big things do not scare me; the small ones [do]. That is the strange thing. I have seen many a soldier come through a battlefield, but when he sees a needle, he gets scared. Somehow you realize I am not alone in this thing. And the Lord stuck a thorn in me as well, just like the Apostle Paul. That is not because I am good. It is because, as the Apostle Paul said, it is because of his inclination to pride, and the same is true of me. I am the kind of person, who is very much - subtly, not consciously - having some sense of pride, of self-confidence. Self-confidence is pride. You trust in your ability. You trust in your skill. You trust in your knowledge, and knowledge puffs up. The more knowledge you have, the more proud you become. So, the Lord sees me and says, “This man I have to do some more work on him. And so I get some thorn stuck in me. I say this so that you do not have to be afraid, all right? It would be many years to go before He might have to deal a little bit tougher with you. You might never even come to the need. You see? You might never even get the chance to taste the thorn. It is too far down the road to worry about.
All right, our time is about gone. I just share with you from my heart. You notice that I am not speaking from prepared notes. This is not a lecture. I did not want to give you a lot of quotations. But it is just a heart-to-heart sharing.
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church