Everywhere you look, people are hurting from the happenings of 2020. Death, unemployment, lockdowns, and restrictions have combined to make this a unique year in my lifetime. We hear of people facing discouragement and depression due to all the heartache that has been dished out by 2020. These situations sadden me, and I must pray for those who are suffering.
I have faced personal difficulties in 2020. There have been health issues for myself and others in my family. There have been legal issues as one individual has sued me for a fender bender that occurred nearly three years ago. There have also been attacks against my youngest son, myself, my parents, our sending church, and our church plant in Canada. These are the difficulties I am willing to share. 2020 has given me plenty of reasons to be discouraged, disappointed, and depressed.
As we reach the end of 2020 and look at the new year coming in just a few hours, I want to share some reasons why I am not discouraged by all that has happened. Instead, I am encouraged about what the Lord has done, despite the difficulties. I am encouraged by what the Lord may do. I am encouraged by what the Lord will do.
What the Lord Has Done
While we had to stop our door-to-door and literature distribution efforts as a church, we have found other ways by which to get the Word of God into a lost, dark world. We have given away about 35 Bibles and 60 New Testaments through an ad we posted on Kijiji (sort of like Craigslist, but WAY better). We distributed these Bibles and New Testaments because individuals contacted us to receive one. Toward the end of December, we produced a booklet entitled Seven Steps to God. We also recorded a YouTube playlist of these lessons and added the link to each booklet. We have already given away 6 of these booklets to people who have reached out to us. This response amazes me! We plan to continue this effort in 2021.
We have not seen high attendance to our church services due to the fear promoted by the media and the various restriction measures that have been in place most of the year. However, we have had several people search us out and come with a heart to join us and learn from the Word of God. Some of these folks were saved several years ago, while others came to the Saviour during the lockdown. We are already planning the baptism of three individuals in the next few weeks. These events tell me that the Lord is still working, even if it is not as quickly as I would prefer.
I have seen the Lord work and bless in my own family. Just a week or so back, my youngest son made public the Lord's call on his life to preach the Gospel! What a thrill that was to hear. I have also had the privilege of training all three of my sons in our church plant's college-level Bible Institute. This has been a joy to me, and I am looking forward to seeing my two oldest sons graduate in June 2021!
Many of you already know about the personal attacks on myself, my family, and especially my youngest son. These have been vicious, yet unfounded, attacks. It has sometimes been hard to answer the telephone, knowing that the topic is likely to be these false accusations again. Through this difficulty, the Lord has given us new friends and prayer partners. These good folks would never have known or prayed for us had they not received these malicious accusations in their email or through their church website. Some churches have even chosen to take us on for financial support as a result of these attacks. The attacks still hurt, but the Lord has been good to us through it all!
What the Lord May Do
What the government will do regarding their restrictions is unknown. We do our best to cooperate while still meeting together as a church family. Despite this uncertainty, we are looking forward to what the Lord may do.
We are toying with the idea of beginning an internet radio station. We would not be live 24/7 but would have consistent programming each weeknight. Of course, we could ramp up the hours we are live as we are able to obtain further programming, etc. We are excited about the possibility of this opportunity as a means of outreach in our city.
The Lord may allow everything to return to "normal" in 2021, and to bless the seed we have sown in 2020 with a tremendous harvest of souls. We will keep sowing the seed because we do not know what the harvest will look like. However, we do expect a harvest of some sort.
The Lord may count us worthy to suffer for His Name. This means more difficulty than we have ever experienced, but if it means Jesus' Name being lifted up, it would be well worth the pain. I am not prophesying that this WILL happen in 2021, but there are indications that it MAY happen. As Jesus told us, "Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets (Luke 6:23)."
What the Lord Will Do
I am certain that the Lord is going to use our efforts for His glory; that our labour is NOT in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). If I am faithful to sow and water the seed of the Word of God, God has promised to give the increase. God will not give the increase to allow me an opportunity to brag on my ministry, but to lift up His own Name. I am OK with that! The truth is that I am here for Him, so I don't need the spotlight.
I am certain that the Lord is going to continue to keep His promises to me, that He wrote in His Word. I have trusted these promises for nearly 41 years since I first trusted Christ, and I have always found the Lord to be true to His Word. I have NO reason to think that the Lord will turn His back on His promises just because we enter the year 2021.
I am also certain that the Lord is coming soon. It could be before we reach midnight in Edmonton, which means that we won't see 2021 on earth. That would suit me just fine, except for the plight of the lost who are around us and need to come to Christ. The more I think of how difficult 2020 has been, the more my mind returns to the "blessed hope" of every believer. When Jesus comes, He will reward His servants for their faithfulness. It is exciting to think that I may receive a crown that I can then cast at the feet of Jesus, for He alone is worthy!
There is no reason to be discouraged as we prepare to enter into 2021! The Lord has been too good to me in 2020 to be discouraged. To be honest, I am excited to see what the Lord will do in my heart, and through my life in 2021. I am excited about enjoying His promises even more deeply than ever. I am excited about being one step nearer to His coming.
One of the major enterprises that we, as True Life Baptist Church, want to emphasize during the year 2018 is reading all the way through the Bible in one year. This may seem overwhelming to you, as you sit down for the first time to read your Bible. You may flip through the many pages of your Bible, and wonder how it is possible to read through the whole Bible in a year. but, let me assure you, reading through your Bible is a blessing which you do not want to miss!
It is easy to take God's Word for granted in these days. Many Christians have more than one Bible. As I sit at my desk, there are three Bibles on my desk. I have six more Bibles on my shelves and several more in my filing cabinet. The problem today really isn't a lack of Bibles. The real problem today is that people (sadly, even God's people) aren't interested in what God has to say. They think about the Bible when they come to a church service, and sometimes when things are difficult in their lives, but the Bible isn't the "go-to" book for every day that it ought to be.
To be honest, we are privileged to have a copy of the Bible in our possession. This has not always been the case. Down through the years, there have been times when very few people had a copy of God's Word in their language. This does not mean that the Word of God did not exist, but that there were very few who had the privilege to read and understand it.
There are two basic reasons why others have not had the privilege of God's Word that we have today.
First, there is the problem of translation. In times gone by the Greek language changed from the Koine Greek that was spoken in the Roman Empire during the days of Christ and His apostles. Only those who were studied in ancient Greek could understand what God had said. No one had taken the pains to translate the Word of God into the various languages of the world.
This is a problem even today. There are places in the world where the Bible has never been translated into the local language of the people. In our ministry in Papua New Guinea, there was not a copy of the Word of God in the tribal language of the people. I can even remember the day when there was not a copy of God's Word in the trade language of the country. This makes it very difficult for people to minister the Word of God to others, but it also makes it impossible for people to search out for themselves what God really said, as did the Bereans (Acts 17:11).
We have the privilege of holding in our hands the preserved Word of God in the English language! Of course, I am referring to the King James Bible. The King James Bible is superior to any other "bible" due to the superiority of its text, the superiority of its language, as well as the superiority of its translators. I will not delve into these reasons at this time, but, suffice it to say, we have a great privilege that many people from all parts of the earth do not enjoy! We have the Bible, and the opportunity to read it on a daily basis!
Second, the reason why others have not had the privilege of God's Word is that of the law. Way back in ad 1229, the Roman Catholic church, through its Council at Toulouse, decreed that the Bible should be denied to all laymen. Down through the ages, one government after another has banned the Bible, confiscated them and burned them. This has left many people without a copy of the Word of God.
God has given us grace by allowing us to live in a country that does not outlaw the possession of the Bible. This is a privilege that we did nothing to obtain! There are independent Baptist churches in North America who have made it their purpose to print and distribute the Word of God, in part or in whole, to all parts of the planet. They realize that it is a privilege to possess the Bible, and they dearly desire to make it available to every individual on the face of the earth.
If you are in possession of a Bible, you have been privileged beyond your ability to understand! If you have the ability to read your Bible, you have a great privilege. But, if you will willingly read the Bible, and allow the Holy Spirit of God to speak to your heart, you have received a privilege that few have realized!
Let's not take our Bibles for granted. Instead, let's faithfully read and apply it each day!