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Don’t just be the Messenger, be the Message

Man is called by God to participate in leading others to Him. He is called to be involved in God’s plan of redemption (Matt 28:18-20) and he is charged with the role of being a brother’s keeper (Gal 6:1,2). To raise a nation, God called upon the man, Abraham. To lead Israel out of Egypt, Moses was called; and to cross over and take the promised land, Joshua was called.

Christians are in the soul saving business. We must embrace the fact that we must learn to draw others to us before we can influence them for God’s purpose. God, through Christ, has established the church, and provided the word, the truth, to help His people to be converted and fulfil His plan of redemption in partnership with Him.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, declared that though he be free from all men, yet he committed himself to be a servant unto all, so that he might gain the more (1 Corinthians 9:19). He was not just a messenger from God, but he also lived the message. The four messages he carried in his life were:

  1. He enslaved himself in servitude, though he was a free man, without any obligations to any man.

  2. He committed his life to the salvation of his fellow brothers

  3. He committed his life to the salvation of those outside of the church; and

  4. His goal or purpose was to gain them for God.

While it is important that we know the Bible as detailed as we are able to, in the area of fellowship and evangelism, it is not enough to just know the product. One must also possess people knowledge, that is, the ability to build relationships and rapport with people.

In the marketing world, there is a saying that goes: “15% product knowledge and 85% people knowledge to close the deal”. To evangelise and to cultivate fellowship, we need to build relationships with people. To build relationships we need people knowledge, and the Bible is the greatest resource book for guidance in this area.

The greatest principle in this area is: Treat people the way you want them to treat you.

Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

Though this verse reference is linked to the execution of justice and mercy according to the law of the Old Testament, the principle of application is the same.

For example: if you have deposited $1,000 dollars in the bank, would you expect to withdraw more than $1,000 dollars? Of course not! This principle can be applied to many situations. The Bible also teaches that we reap what we sow (Gal 6:7-10). We cannot withdraw more than we have deposited. Our relationship with each other here is like a personal bank account. If we deposit distrust, we can only expect to withdraw distrust. If we deposit friendship, we will be able to withdraw friendship. If we keep depositing criticism, it will be what we withdraw. And the list goes on.

We have to understand that every congregation has their own problems. Our problem often seems bigger because they directly impact us. If we look at the letters of Paul to the different churches, we will also realize that these churches have their own sets of problems. But what Paul asked them to do is to apply the 101% rule. Look for the 1% good of the church and work on it 100%. The church at Corinth was plagued with problems; yet Paul helped them find the 1% goodness.

“Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.” (2 Cor. 7:4).

I was surprised to find Paul boasting so unapologetically about the church in Corinth immediately after stinging rebukes in his letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 7:11-14). We need to find the 1% of goodness and work on it 100%.

I started asking how I want others to treat me and I found four basic answers from the Bible. In it there are stories that teach us how humans relate to each other. It teaches how people are drawn to one another and are willing to serve one another – to the extent of forgoing their own rights and comfort.

We Need to be Encouraged

When people touch our lives, we see how beautiful and wonderful our world can really be. They show us that our hopes and dreams can take us far by helping us look inward and believing in who we are. They bless us with their love and joy through everything they give. When special people touch our lives, they teach us how to live. Do we want to be that special person? Are we that kind of person? I enjoy that quality in others; therefore, I want to be an encourager.

Someone once said, the best exercise for the heart is to bend down and help lift someone up again. Most of our best friends are those who encourage us. We don’t have many lasting relationships with people who put us down. Let’s look at people that are close to us e.g. our family. A husband may try to encourage his wife to stay healthy by jogging; but if the husband runs at his own pace, the wife will give up in no time.

There was a story about a father who wanted his only son to take over his business, but his son never did. The father was devastated and the wife went to the minister and asked for help to talk the son around. The minister, wondering why the son refused to take over the multi-million dollar business, went to talk to him. This is what the son said: “He never let me catch the tenth ball”. It transpired that the father was trying to teach his son self-reliance by playing games from a very young age, but he taught it in a negative way. He was a driven man and thought that the best way to teach self-reliance was to never encourage or praise. They played catch in the yard every day. The objective was to catch 10 consecutive balls. But on the tenth throw, he would always throw it out of reach. The son never had an opportunity of catching it. The son grew up feeling that he could not measure up. Relationships are soured when we make people feel that they cannot measure up.

Another aspect of encouragement is the influence we cast on people around us. We can never influence through antagonism. Parents, if we keep highlighting the mistakes our children make and not the good that they have done, we know where it will lead them. It’s a shame that we often forget this principle when we deal with others. Affirmation helps to build people up (1 Thess 5:11). People tend to do better when they are affirmed. The best thing that we can do when we meet each other is to spread hope to each other. Do we convey hope or despair? Christians need to convey hope. We all play an important role in each other’s development. One way to start is by being more concerned about making people feel good about themselves than we are about making them feel good about us.

We Need to be Appreciated

William James once said:

“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”

How much does it cost to say thank you? Nothing. I am glad that parents at the Lim Ah Pin church are always reminding their children to show appreciation.

Appreciation breeds appreciation. Appreciation with encouragement breeds confidence. We are all co-workers for God. We need to constantly emphasize each other’s worth and value. We know that confidence can provide the momentum we need to be the person God want us to be. Criticism and petty remarks can stop a person where they are; but confidence can make a person become unstoppable.

Here is a railway example: do you how we stop a 25-ton locomotive parked on a slope from moving down (in case the air for braking is depleted)? A 10cm wedge shaped like a door stopper. Yes, a tiny 10cm wooden wedge can stop a 25-ton mammoth! On the other hand, if that locomotive moves at 60km/h, it can crash through a steel reinforced concrete wall 60cm thick. What I am trying to say is that while our appreciation and encouragement can help provide the momentum to overcome barriers, insignificant and petty remarks can stop a person dead in their tracks.

Most of us think wonderful things about people, but they almost never get to hear it. Remember, it is of no value if all we do is think it. It becomes valuable only when we give it away. We must never undervalue any person. God is present everywhere and every person is His handiwork.

We Need to be Forgiven

“And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

Almost all emotional problems and stress come from unresolved conflicts and the failure to develop the right relationships with people. A forgiving spirit is the basic, necessary ingredient for a strong relationship.

He who forgives ends the quarrel. -African Proverb

Forgiveness frees us from guilt and allow us to interact positively with others.

Ernest Hemingway, in his short story “The Capital of the world,” tells a story of a father and a teenage son in Spain, whose relationship was so strained that the son ran away from home. The father set out on a long journey to look for him. At his wits end, the father placed an ad in the Madrid newspaper which read: “Dear Paco, meet me in the front of the Madrid newspaper office tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven. I love you.” At noon the next day, there were 800 Pacos in front of the newspaper office, all seeking forgiveness.

The great hallmarks of a Christian are giving and forgiving. Show me a person who walks with God and I will show you a person who has a giving heart and is forgiving of others.

People who find it hard to forgive are either terribly arrogant or tremendously insecure. They are arrogant because they think that they can do no wrong. We often allow ourselves the room to make mistakes but not others; we would view our mistakes as small, but those by other as big and egregious. I told my son Amos some time ago that he must advise the church to remove me from its leadership if I behave arrogantly at home.

Sometimes, even when truth and justice are on our side, we may never be able to right the wrongs done to us. Constantly fighting for our rights will only make us resentful and angry. These are destructive emotions that sap our energy and make us negative. People who focus on their rights are often looking backwards instead of forwards. When we stop worrying about our rights, it helps us to look in the right direction and releases us to move forward on our journey.

“And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10)

Job, after enduring 40 chapters of criticism and condemnation from his friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, had the opportunity to get even. God had announced his displeasure with the trio, giving Job a wonderful opportunity to say “I told you so.” Instead, Job prayed for his foolish friends. Job refused to exact vengeance or bear grudges. He took the high road; he interceded for them and sent them on their way.

The truth is that people who do not forgive are hurting themselves much more than they are hurting others. Our bodies and minds are not designed to carry the stress and sorrows that comes with bearing grudges. John Maxwell said in his book “Be a people person”: “If you don’t have peace, it isn’t because someone took it from you; you gave it away. You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control what happens in you.”

We need people to understand us

How do we feel when people misunderstand us? The common emotions are, loneliness, frustration, disappointment and resentment.

According to Peter Drucker, a management guru, 60% of such problems arise out of faulty communications. Marriage counsellors say that the root cause of most divorces is faulty communication. Criminologists tell us that up to 90% of all criminals have difficulty communicating with other people. Communication is fundamental to understanding. We need to communicate and a common pitfall is that we tend to mind-read instead of clarify. We think our perception is the absolute truth. This stems from our obsession with being right all the time. Do not assume or you will be consumed – by frustrations, disappointment, resentment and fear.

To improve fellowship, to improve our evangelistic effort, we must learn to be a people Christian. Look at each other as a total person, and how they normally behave or respond. People have lapses – allow people to have lapses and people to have their off days. People don’t care what we know until they know that we care. Most of the time we see ourselves as the messenger of God.

My challenge to us today is to not just be a messenger of God, but to be the message.


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