In our life of faith, we sometimes experience difficulties by surrendering to an unfavorable situation. When we do not overcome hardship at the moment and compromise with it, the situation becomes worse and our faith meets a great crisis.
In any situation, we should overcome hardship and preach the gospel with strong faith in God, not losing our love toward Him.
Now, let me take an example of a sister. One day, she committed her child to the care of a church member and went out on urgent business. When she returned to the church, she saw the caretaker giving her baby a cookie that seemed to be cheap and untasty but giving her own child a more expensive one. At that moment, she thought that her baby was treated unequally and became offended.
Actually, the church member, who cared for the sister’s child, bought some cookie for him with pleasure and gave some to him, but he didn’t like it. That’s why she gave it to her own and some other cookie to the sister’s child. At that moment, the sister returned and saw it; she didn’t control herself, and consequently she failed to keep the sisterly love that she had kept until that time.
This may happen to us, not only to her. When we walk the way of the gospel, sometimes we get influenced by surroundings and circumstances and fail to control ourselves.
If our faith gets shaken under any circumstance, our spirit may be put in danger; we may be caught in the devil’s trap. However, if we have stable faith, we will not be influenced by any circumstance or situation.
If we keep our faith only under favorable conditions and get desperate under unfavorable situations, we can’t be preachers like the Apostle Paul. In any situation, Paul accepted everything as favorable for the gospel. Through the life of Paul, let’s learn and follow his example.
“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. … I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. …No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Co 9:19-27
Paul became all things to all men so that he might save many. Keeping his mental attitude in our mind, let’s do our best for the gospel in whatever situation we are placed.
On the journey of the Exodus, the Israelites didn’t remain constant in faith. When they were placed in the desert, they didn’t maintain the same fervor of faith that they had first at the time of the Exodus. Though there were so many people (the number of men was about six hundred thousand), only two who were not influenced by outward surroundings and kept their faith could enter the land of Canaan as God had promised. All of the rest did not enter it but fell in the desert.
All the other people complained of no water, grumbling against God. They didn’t keep their faith in a difficult situation. God, who made all things, had power to command the clouds to rain and to make bread rain down for them to eat in the desert. However, they didn’t keep their faith in the Almighty God to the end, and consequently they were all destroyed (1 Co 10:5-11).
However, even in the same situation Joshua and Caleb kept their faith to the end. “God is with us. He will lead us to the land. So do not be afraid of them” (Nu 14:8-9). Thus, they trusted in God only, and they were greatly blessed.
So was Apostle Peter. He understood all things inwardly, and he didn’t get influenced by outward circumstances. Jesus rebuked him more than other disciples, even calling him, “Satan,” though he didn’t actually commit a great fault deserving of such a serious rebuke.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Mt 16:21-23
One day Jesus told him that He would be arrested by the Gentiles and die on the cross. Then Peter, who was loyal to Jesus, said, “Lord, I’ll not let this happen to you. Who dares to do that? I will not let …” Saying that, he drew out his sword. However, instead of commending Peter, Jesus sternly rebuked him, “Away from me, Satan.” How greatly he would be shocked! Nevertheless, Peter didn’t think much of what Jesus said; for he believed firmly that Jesus loved him so much and He said such words because He wanted to give him a lesson. Thinking that, Peter followed Jesus to the end.
When Jesus was walking on the lake during the fourth watch of the night, the disciples saw Him and were terrified, saying, “It’s a ghost.” Then Peter stepped forward courageously and said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Then Jesus said to him, “Come,” and he came toward Jesus. Peter, however, became afraid soon when he saw the wind and waves, and he began to sink. Then Jesus said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt 14:22-33). Like this, Jesus rebuked Peter rather than commended him, saying, “You are the best disciple of the twelve.”
Let us suppose that we hear such stern words from Jesus. Even if we hear them from a pastor, we may be disheartened. Peter received such stern rebukes directly from Jesus. However, he was not influenced by such outward things. As a result, he was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven and became the rock of the church.
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Mt 16:18-19
Now, we need a great faith that can move mountains, so that we can accept what has a favorable influence on us and reject what is not beneficial to our spirit. Apostle Paul beat his body and made it his slave before Christ, so that he might keep him from becoming conceited. Following his example, we too should keep our hearts and our faith in God.
At the beginning of our life of faith, we keep our minds affirmative and positive in preaching the gospel. Think of Judas Iscariot and Saul the first king of Israel. They kept their faith in God at the beginning. However, as time passed, they were influenced by outward surroundings, and they failed to keep their faith.
Under any circumstance, we should not forget that we are given the mission to gather our lost brothers and sisters, as the fellow workers of Christ. Though our surroundings may change, we should keep our hearts and our faith in God. When we keep the faith and passion that we have at the beginning, we will go to heaven without fail.
Under any circumstance, Paul made it a favorable opportunity to preach the gospel. In any situation, we too should proclaim the gospel to people around the world.
Here is a good example of a sister. She made a national holiday ‘a good opportunity to preach.’ When she visited her husband’s house on the holiday, she was preparing a dish. Then she took some and gave it to the wife of her husband’s brother, saying, “Try it.” That day, she could lead her soul to God. In that situation, it might be difficult to teach God’s word with the Bible. So she preached to her in such a way. Likewise, if we preach the gospel in a proper way, we will bear good fruit. Though we are placed in a bad surrounding, we can look at it as a good opportunity for our preaching if we are always prepared to preach.
A head of a company has said that everything in the street looks like money when looking out of the car window. He said, “Everything spread all over the earth is profitable. I wonder why they do not pick it up.” “How can I make it more profitable? If I do this way …” Thinking that, he must have thought of a way of making money. That’s why he’s become the head of a large company.
I hope all our family, too, will have such an eye for the gospel, so that they may regard all the people in the street as “the object of preaching.” The Bible tells us to preach the gospel to all nations. All people are the object of preaching, aren’t they? We should create our circumstance rather than complain about it.
Now our brothers, who serve in the army, are eager to preach. During their leave, they lead many souls to God. When a master sergeant scolds them for preaching, they turn that situation into a good opportunity to preach to him. By doing that, they lead many to receive the truth.
“We can’t.” Such a thought has obstructed the gospel work. Now, we should not be influenced by any surroundings but preach the gospel boldly in every situation, just as Apostle Paul did. “In that place, people don’t accept the gospel.” This is just a fixed idea. If we change our mind, everything is possible. Now the gospel is being preached to the countries of Buddhism and of Islam, and even to communist countries.
Though a man believes in Confucianism or Buddhism now, God Almighty can turn him. We should not forget that. If we try to turn him by ourselves-if we try to preach to him on our own, we will be afraid of our surroundings and fettered by the thought-“we can’t.”
Now, let’s find out how Paul’s mental attitude was, when he preached the gospel.
“… And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Ac 20:20-24
As stated above, Apostle Paul possessed a positive attitude toward the gospel, and God was pleased with him and let him bear fruit and establish many churches in various places. Wherever he went, he preached the gospel. He was chained and put in prison, but he took it as a matter of course. He preached to the prisoners when he was kept in prison, and led them to repentance.
In prison he preached boldly before the prisoners, and in the palace he preached before the king and the royal family. Anytime, anywhere, Paul boldly told people about Christ. Though the devil disturbed him in his preaching by all means, he was steadfast in his faith. He was kept in prison, but it couldn’t stop him from preaching. Even in prison, he could be free; his spirit and faith made it possible. Paul thought that everywhere in this world was a place for preaching, and he thought all mankind was the object of preaching. He turned every situation into an opportunity to preach.
Apostle Paul could preach in any and every circumstance. When he met the Jews, he tried to understand their thought in their place, so that he might preach the gospel to them and persuade them to be Chris-tians. When he met Gentiles, he considered their peculiarities and en-vironment, so that he could preach to them and make them Christians. He didn’t ever think, “The Jews are bound by the law, so they might not accept …” or “The Gentiles are idolaters and pagans, so they might not …” He did not have such negative thoughts at all.
Now, we need to understand what it means to preach like Apostle Paul. One of our church members misunderstood the preaching of Apostle Paul, and he said that he would give up his present work of an evangelist and join the people in some places of entertainment, in order to preach to them. Actually it is far from the preaching of Apostle Paul. However, if one of our sisters, who can’t participate in the gospel preaching in ordinary times, has a chance to go to such a place with her family or friends, she may preach in that situation. This may be an example of the preaching of Apostle Paul.
Apostle Paul had a job at that time. When he met many people on business, he preached to them. We can preach in all situations, being faithful to our present duties. Though we are tied to a job at work, we can preach even in that situation. Preaching always in any circumstances-this is the concept of Apostle Paul’s preaching.
When Paul met the Jews, he became like a Jew, putting himself in their place, so that he might save them. And when he met the Gentiles, he became like a Gentile, so that he might save them. However, he never participated in the sacrifices of pagans. It was for the purpose of preaching that Paul met the Gentiles and the Jews. Many hindered him in preaching, and some intended even to kill him. However, even in such a dangerous situation, he was not concerned about it and preached the gospel more boldly, because his mind and heart were always focused on God.
Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Ac 21:11-13
It’s time for us to preach like Paul. Until now we have preached uniformly. However, today many are coming to Zion from various places in the world. So we need to understand their cultures and customs, so that we can preach the gospel to them. That’s why ‘Apostle Paul’s preaching style’ is required.
God has already showed us what result will accompany us. He has fulfilled everything, and so we are now supposed to witness the fulfillment of the last days’ prophecy. We all want to receive God’s blessing abundantly in conformity with God’s plan. Then, we are to change our attitudes and feelings and thoughts, thinking about whether or not we are really doing what pleases God.
‘The work of an evangelist’ is the greatest duty given by God. We can do the work even though we do not go to the church every day. Everyone can preach in his own situation-at school or at work or in any other place. We should preach in season and out of season. This is the greatest duty that we ought to do in this earth.
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; … But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Ti 4:1-8
Let’s look forward to the crown of righteousness and the glory of heaven, just as Apostle Paul did. We should not be influenced by our circumstances and situations. A dead fish floats downstream, but a live one swims upstream. We should not be swept away by the tide of the world. Rather, we should pursue righteousness and keep our faith.
Think of righteous Noah and Lot. When people were all swayed by their surroundings, the two were not shaken. They feared God to the end, and they became the forefathers of faith praised in the Bible. Though the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were indulged in a gay life, forgetting God, Lot did not forsake God. In any situation or condition, he never lost his faith in God. So did Paul and Peter.
Following their examples, we should get over any difficult situations, as God’s faithful children. If we are right in God’s sight, we will be lifted up, just as Daniel was honored and placed in a high position even when he was a captive. However, if our hearts are not rested in God, we will easily be shaken in unfavorable circumstances, like Judas Iscariot who compromised his faith by his surroundings and failed to enter the glory of heaven. The 144,000 people should never be shaken under any circumstance. Just as a sunflower always turns its face toward the sun, we should direct our hearts toward God, following Him wherever He goes.
Look around! There are about six billion people in this earth. All of them are the object of preaching. The whole world is a huge field of preaching. Let us preach to all, everywhere we go, just as Apostle Paul did. With the talents given to us, let us strive to seek our lost brothers and sisters around the world.