By the grace of God I completed 40 years of my life in Christ on the 18th of November 2002. Walking with God as a student for 8 years, as an Engineer for 5 years, and as a fulltime preacher for 27 years has been challenging and thrilling. In April 2003 the prayer group I foundedin 1963 in the Engineering College Campus in Karaikudi, Tamilnadu, celebrated its Ruby Jubilee. In this context I was inspired to write down 40 most important lessons I have learnt during these 40 years. I submit them here for this generation and those to come.
My position in Christ is the most amazing revelation I have ever received in my Christian life. I died when Christ died; I was buried with Him; I rose again with Him; when He ascended I was made to sit with Him in the heavenlies. Christ is my righteousness and sanctification. The Father God cannot wink at sin but I am fully accepted because He sees me through His Son. My life is hid with Christ in God. No one can condemn me. Satan is wasting his time in accusing me. On earth Christ is with me through His Spirit; in eternity I shall be with Him in my glorified body.
Among the spiritual disciplines, the study of the Bible must be considered the foremost. God has magnified His Word above all His Name. Our attitude towards the Bible affects all areas of our life. Prayer is called the Christianís vital breath, but we must first listen to God in Bible Meditation before we speak to Him in prayer. Systematic study of the Word begets meaningful worship. The Bible is up to date for any generation. As a textbook it is the same for the new believer as well as the mature saint.
Prayer is the most practical expression of our dependence on God. When we add fasting to prayer we tell God that we desperately need Him. Prayer is not essentially to change God but to change us fit into His plan. Our prayer life is the devilís primary target, because if we fail on our knees we fail everywhere. Prayer is sweet because it deepens our intimacy with God. I ask God what all I want, but He gives me only what I need. I therefore thank Him for unanswered prayers too.
Godís call to holiness is the foundation for any other specific calling in our life or work. Holiness in thought, word and deed is Godís supreme purpose concerning each of us. He sent His Son to show us what holiness is. He sent His Spirit to empower us live holy. Holiness has two sides: what God does and what we are to do in response. Eccentric groups in Christendom emphasize just one of these aspects and leave out the other. Sins of omission are not less serious than sins of commission in the sight of God. Periodic self-examination helps us grow in holiness.
Temptation is not sin, but yielding to temptation is. Everytime we say no to temptation, we are strengthened; everytime we say yes, we are weakened. Unless thereís a real desire to overcome temptation, victory is not possible. Temptations may come from the most unexpected person and place, and strike at the most unexpected hour. No one can say that he would never be tempted in a particular area. You will be tempted strongly to commit that sin against which you have vehemently preached. You will be shaken in that area where you have strengthened others. Seek Godís help daily and stay watchful.
The Holy Spirit is God. He is not simply a power or an influence but a Person in the Trinitarian Godhead. God the Father is in Heaven, and God the Son is at His right hand up there. Only God the Holy Spirit is literally and personally present here on earth today. But for the baptism with the Spirit I received 40 years ago, I would not have understood Godís ways so clearly. The gifts of the Spirit will have the desired effect only to the extent they are operated with His fruits. Attaching a denominational label to the anointing of the Holy Spirit has been the worst tragedy in Church history.
Authority over Satan is the birthright of every child of God. Demons can oppress us but never possess us. We belong to God, bought by Him by the precious blood of His Son. We do not struggle towards a possible victory but proceed from a victory already won. Over occupation with the subject of demons as well as ignorance of it are two extremes to be avoided. Binding Satan is an attempt not sanctioned by the Scriptures. God has let him loose and free during this dispensation. Our responsibility is to give no place to him. He is already defeated and his final destiny is sealed.
Nothing saps the spiritual vitality of a child of God like sexual immorality. It will also blunt his spiritual sensitivity. If he is a preacher and he indulges in this sin for long, the flow of Godís message through him will be blocked. When thereís no truth in the innermost being, God will not reveal His wisdom. The Kingdom of God will suffer numerous losses. There is no substitute for genuine repentance if there must be restoration. Transparent fellowship with men of God and accountability to them are a protection.
Decisions make us or break us. Thereís no safety or security outside the will of God. Godís leading through His Spirit is promised to every child of His. But He reveals His will only if thereís a willingness to obey. Absolute surrender to Godís will makes our flight effortless and graceful. Those who are accustomed to Godís guidance can testify that it is naturally supernatural and supernaturally natural. Leaders to whom God reveals His mind are a strategic asset to their ministries. Divine guidance usually comes in stages.
God gave Daniel and his team of three young men an unusual aptitude for learning the literature and science of their time in Babylon. They were ten times better than their counterparts. It is unfortunate that preachers and leaders donít challenge and encourage our young people to excel in the academic world. The result is that we donít have many Christians occupying top administrative posts. Simply praying for the nation is not sufficient. We must produce Moseses and Daniels. Higher studies in secular disciplines are not a waste even if one is called to be a fulltime preacher.
Family is the school of patience. Success in family life does not depend on tolerance but acceptance. When the negative things in the spouse appear bigger than the positive, marriage will begin to deteriorate. In spiritual warfare no two-member team is mightier than husband and wife. Keeping the first love fresh is not easy, but itís worth all the troubles taken and sacrifices made. The lasting gift parents can give their children is the quality time they spend with them.
Love of money is condemned in the Bible as much as the lust of the flesh. It is the root of all evil. Godliness with contentment is great gain. Covetousness and stinginess are sisters. A liberal soul will experience daily showers from Above. Honesty in financial matters is a fundamental qualification for Christian leadership. Prosperity is not always indicative of Godís approval, or poverty a curse. In general those who are materially poor are spiritually rich. In showing love, the poor are more genuine than the rich. They are also more trustworthy.
Health is wealth. My body is the temple of Godís Spirit. I must do all thatís possible to keep it free from sin and sickness which are basically interconnected. I must eat well, sleep well, exercise enough and work hard. "Early to bed; early to rise!"ó This golden rule is for everyone, especially for preachers. Gifts of healing and medical science are Godís gracious provisions for our wellbeing. Vacations are a must. For every six days of work God takes a day off!
Sports, games, outings, picnics and the like are not unspiritual or a waste of time. It is Godís will that we enjoy life fully and sacrifice legitimate blessings only when required. Jesus enjoyed parties and dinners so much that He got a nickname, Sinnersí Friend! Art and beauty are divine characteristics. Shabbiness in dress and dwelling does not reflect Godís nature. Hobbies and exercise keep the mind and body relaxed and fit. Staying in touch with nature and playing with children help understand the Scriptures better.
Just like water flows down the slope, the grace of God gushes towards a humble heart. Humility is the most desirable virtue in making and maintaining relationships. Pride is the chief characteristic of Lucifer, and every fallen man has inherited it. "God resists the proud." The Bible doesnít make such a statement against any other vice. A constant realisation of our unworthiness before God is the surest way to develop humility. Of what we have, there is nothing that was not received from God. Pride takes many subtle forms. One such is the pride of humility.
I must not be lethargic or slothful, but at the same time I should not run ahead of God. Walking with God means keeping pace with Him. God never acts in haste because everything is under His control. If I believe this truth, I also will not panic. Godís delays are not denials. He does everything beautiful in His own time. Impatience causes irreversible damages. There are no shortcuts to goals which God has set for us. The path may be painful and long, but thatís where God matures and perfects us. Patience is perfection. It is the queen of virtues. I must be patient with others as God is with me.
Orderliness and discipline are hallmarks of Christian discipleship. Godís love for orderliness is seen in creation. At the end of each creation day He reviewed His work of the day and was satisfied that it was good. Habitual disorderliness affects devotional habits, sermon preparation, family life and administrations. Acquaintance with an orderly person and watching him at close quarters will help us practically. Punctuality and smartness are important ingredients of order. The commonest name for our God in the Old Testament is the Lord of "Armies."
Eternal rewards ultimately depend on our faithfulness. Whatever work God has committed to us is because He counted us faithful. It is a struggle to stay faithful in a world of cunningness, crookedness and corruption, but itís worth it. Honesty and faithfulness are becoming rare commodities in todayís world. This scarcity in Christianity is most deplorable. Moses had several failures so much so God didnít even allow him to enter the Promised Land. Nevertheless God unreservedly commended his faithfulness.
Consistency is one of the sublime secrets of success. Those who keep changing tracks will hardly accomplish anything substantial for the Kingdom of God. Lust for novelty and popularity is an enemy of consistency. By discipline we must overcome boredom and humdrum and delight in the work and the course which the Lord has assigned to us. Slow and steady wins the race.
Friends, fellow-believers and coworkers are Godís precious gift to me. I must not simply use them to satisfy my needs. I should always endeavour to build and bless them. We are called to serve and not to be served. People are fragile; I must handle them with care. Everyone is hurting. I must be a healer of wounds. I should love everyone freely. Holding grudge and harbouring bitterness will only make me the loser. Everyone in Heaven will be there only because he is forgiven. I hope to be there on the same grounds. Seclusion in the name of separation is unscriptural. Just like Jesus we must grow in sociality.
Living in an ungrateful world, we must constantly remind ourselves to be thankful to God and grateful to people. Thankfulness cannot be assumed but must be expressed through words and deeds of acknowledgement and appreciation. It is pride that chokes our throats from thanking others. Maintaining a list of persons, who have helped us from childhood, will be handy to pray for them and send appropriate notes of thanks on birthdays, rebirthdays and anniversaries.
Hospitality and loving enquiries are fading away fast in the modern world. Relationships are becoming impersonal. Time spent leisurely with one another just to enjoy company is considered a waste. This culture is anti-Biblical. We lose many graces in life because of this trend. E-mail is fast but it cannot replace handwritten letters. We never outgrow the need for personal and affectionate enquiries. Some of the strangers we entertain may be angels of God. "Am I my brotherís keeper?"ó is an ancient question which still angers God.
The Bible speaks more about giving to the poor than tithes and offerings. Godís concern for the poor is imprinted all through His Word. Charity may serve as a point of contact for evangelism but that should not be our primary motive. We must help the poor because they are poor and we have more than what we need. True happiness is in making others happy. We can see God in the smile of the poor. We can never give too much to the poor. No one has become poor by giving to the poor. The God of the Bible is the God of the poor. Christianity is charity.
Nothing keeps our souls aflame and makes our spirits dance like personal soulwinning. No evangelistic activity is superior to it. Personal soulwinning and watchful living are interconnected. When a preacher considers personal soulwinning an act below his dignity or a waste of time, he is not in tune with the Good Shepherd. Our theology of salvation gets refined everytime we lead a soul to Christ. If we stop personal soulwinning, there can be only two reasons: Either we donít believe any more that Christ is the only Way, or we have lost the passion for souls.
Christ so loved the Church that He gave Himself for it. I must love the Church however imperfect it may be. My burden for the evangelization of the world must not negate my concern for the edification of the Church. If missionary organisations and evangelistic agencies are nets to catch fish, churches are baskets to collect them. Here lies the secret of abiding fruitfulness. There can be so many ministries not directly within the structure of the Church, but everyone of them is only a supplement and not a substitute to the local church.
Casteism in the Church is worse than AIDS and SARS. Feelings of racial superiority are totally unjustifiable in the light of the New Testament. Churches and Missions which have caste-minded leaders are to be pitied. We have not properly understood the power of the Blood of Jesus until we know how it has wiped away the distinction between two diametrically opposite people groups like Jews and gentiles. The Cross and casteism are eternal enemies.
Among Christian ministries, no one is superior or inferior to the other. Limelight ministries get all the applause, but only in eternity we will know who had pleased God the most. No ministry or Church is 100% flawless or 100% fraudulent. No ministry has it all. We must learn from others and work with them if the Kingdom should expand. One ministryís strength should help in the weakness of the other. Meeting often with other leaders will weed out suspicions. Seniority is not superiority. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first!
Ministry to youth is difficult but rewarding. When an old person is saved, his soul alone is saved. When a youngster is saved, his life also is saved. Youth normally grow faster in spiritual life than seniors. God usually chooses young people for most challenging tasks. Questions of youth must be frankly answered. The normal tendency to despise young people must be resisted. They must be given active role in the Church. With enough of freedom and guidance, they will accomplish fantastic things. They have a right to commit mistakes like the elders.
Being called to preach is an admirable privilege but an awesome responsibility. Preaching is an eternal business and it must be taken seriously. No pains must be spared for preparation. Oratory skills may be advantageous but folks will be blessed only if the preacher has received a definite message from the Lord and he delivers it in the power of the Holy Spirit. At the end of each sermon I must know for sure that I have pleased God. I must preach what the Bible teaches, and endeavour to practice whatever I preach.
Christian writing requires lot of discipline and study. Gifting alone will not suffice. You can speak whenever you want, but not so with writing. Unless God implants a seed in the heart of the writer, however skillfully he may write, the product will be a doll and not a baby. A writer cannot fully hide his autobiography in his writing. Everytime I write an article I go through the discomforts and pains of a woman in labour. What is spoken may be forgotten or twisted, but what is written is written.
When religion is so highly commercialised, we must check our motive in fundraising by asking ourselves whether it is money for ministry or ministry for money. It is said that Godís work done by Godís men in Godís time in Godís way will not lack Godís support. However there will be seasons when God would make the rivers dry. Thatís when we must overcome the temptation to employ subtle methods of fundraising. Sympathy appeals by Christian ministries put God to shame. How we spend money must be pleasing to God if His supply should not be blocked.
I must remain in my calling and should not go beyond my sphere. God does not expect me to do everything but only what He has assigned to me. This realisation will keep me away from unhealthy competition and wasteful duplication. God is interested in how I do a thing rather than how much I do. If I attempt to do what is not Godís will for me, I cannot expect His enablement to accomplish it. I will only end up employing ignominious methods.
Balance is indispensable for wholesome growth in Christian life. Being balanced is not staying neutral. It is holding both the extremes in proper tension. Doctrinal deviations are invariably due to eccentric emphases. Balancing Scriptural truths is an art one should cultivate with the help of Godís Spirit. This is a must especially for those who are called to the ministry of teaching. Comparing Scripture with Scripture is a safeguard against imbalance. There are truths which Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals should learn from each other.
Bigness is not greatness. Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed. Godís people are called little flock. Beginnings in Godís work are usually small. God desires growth, but quality perhaps without quantity is more desirable than quantity without quality. It is said that the first impression is the best impression. But the Bible teaches that the end is more important than the beginning.
No one can promote me to a position God has not designed for me. Also, no one can bring me down from where God has placed me. Therefore I can be perfectly relaxed on the face of jealousies, competitions, injustice and threats. Promotion or demotion comes from God Almighty, and no mortal can stop it.
I have learnt more from my failures than successes. Some of the truths in Godís Word are clearly seen only through the glasses of tears. When my eyes are full, I see Godís full-circled rainbow on every page of His Word. Nothing keeps me humble like failures. They also teach me that I need others. Friends and neighbous must be valued greatly. Accountability is a safeguard. Blameshifting is unprofitable. Self-introspection is fruitful. No failure is final.
I thank God for the disadvantages with which I grew. They have become advantages in my life and ministry. I have learnt to appreciate even small blessings so-called. I understand the plight of the have-nots and empathize with them. Murmuring is minimised. My heart is filled with praise to God who remembered me in my lowly state. The experience of living with disadvantages was behind the words of Jesus which attracted the poor. We try to give our children everything they ask. By doing so we are not actually helping them.
The more I study the Bible the more I realize how little I know and how much I know not. Everyday I grow in the know- ledge of the Lord but I will know Him as He is only in eternity. I donít know God fully but He knows me perfectly. Thatís what strengthens my trust and confidence. After 40 years of my walk with God I have more questions than answers. I donít understand many things. It is the element of uncertainty that adds thrill to Christian life.
The Second Coming of Christ is not a subject for discussion and dispute. It is an event we must prepare for. Among sincere Christians there are various views on the mechanism of Christís return. We can find Scripture passages to support any of them. What is important is to keep ourselves and make others ready. Our supreme priority should be the edification of the Church and the evangelisation of the world. Because we believe that Christ is coming again, we are optimists.
Suffering in Christian life should not surprise us; the absence of it must. Having a mind to suffer is the best preparation to pass through the valley of darkness, disease and death. Suffering is suffering, but if handled rightly the outcome will be felicitous. Some of my best sermons and essays were born in the days of adversity. Suffering trains us to comfort fellow-sufferers. After God has tried us, we shall come forth as gold. The greatest of all is that God is with us!