Focus on Christ

Posted on July 1, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Devotional Reflections

Our current travels to former places of ministry in Southeast Asia have brought to mind many long-forgotten experiences. In fact, there has probably been a sub-conscious effort to suppress the embarrassing language faux pas and painful times of cross-cultural learning.

I have often shared with new missionaries that though God blessed us with valuable relationships and remarkable response, our first-term in Indonesia was essential a time of learning. It was not just learning the language and how to cope with an austere life-style, but God had to teach us many things. He revealed our spiritual mediocrity and shattered our debilitating pride. He made us aware of our own inadequacy in spite of all the education, training and orientation we had received.

It was reassuring to find that the Apostle Paul wasn’t the powerful orator and persuasive Christian apologist I had perceived him to be, yet God used him to evangelize cross-culturally and start churches all across the civilized world. I could readily identify with his testimony in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5: “When I came to you, brethren, declaring the testimony of God, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom…I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom.”

Could I ever identify with that! It was exasperating trying to communicate with a language I was just learning and did not speak fluently. People would look at me with puzzled looks trying to figure out what I was saying. Those were the more polite listeners; most would just laugh out loud, amused at my butchered pronunciations.

Going into Muslim villages as a foreigner was an oddity that drew a great deal of attention. The normal Indonesian hospitality would fade into a hostile reaction when they discovered I was there with the intent of proclaiming a Christian message. Talk about fear–with their hand on their machetes they suggested I leave, and I was out of there.

It was several years before I developed an understanding of Muslim worldviews to the extent of being able to present biblical truths in a way that would elicit understanding. Yes, the gospel is an offense to the world, but how do you explain the trinity to a Muslim without him thinking you have three Gods instead of one? My witness was not with persuasive words of wisdom. I diligently persisted in my efforts to witness, but it was definitely with weakness, fear and much trembling.

However, it was reassuring to note to what Paul attributed his success. In verse two he explained, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” He understood how and why God could use his weakness and inadequacy in verse five. It was “so that your faith might not be based on man’s wisdom but on God’s power.”

We will always fail if our witness and ministry is no more than our own wisdom, persuasive arguments and impressive oratory. People may respond, make decisions and embrace our teaching, but it will be with little change in life. It will not produce the faith that will endure trials and prove victorious in the face of adversity and persecution.

We must be nothing more than a channel of God’s power, an instrument through which the Holy Spirit communicates truth with life-changing conviction. And we can be that kind of witness only if the singular focus of our life is to know Jesus Christ in all His fullness. Nothing can substitute for knowing Christ and Him crucified. It must be the passion of our life.

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