As we enter 2018 and you make your New Year’s resolutions, I want to help frame your year ahead with what I feel God is saying and doing.
We like to talk about how God is raising Singapore up to be the “Antioch of Asia“, and I believe we’re living in a season where God wants to raise up voices and messengers in this nation, especially as we approach the 40-year cyclical review of Billy Graham’s prophecy over Singapore.
But as I read Acts 13:1-3, I find that Antioch was only Antioch because of what the disciples did in Antioch.
“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers … While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:1-3)
They were five faithful men who were praying in small, seemingly weak and mundane prayer meetings. Then, as the Holy Spirit directed, they brought the message of the Gospel to the places that needed to hear the revelation of God.
The Lord honoured their faithfulness and perseverance by launching the greatest missions movement that has changed our world today.
We’re living in an age where every time you look at the news, bad things are happening. But the Bible – this book that contains the past, present and future – shows me that God is also doing something. He’s accelerating something in the earth.
“And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”(Matthew 24:6-8)
I believe it is the Second Coming of Jesus, and there is a possibility of it happening in our time. We can be part of the story God is writing in the nations. We have to begin to look beyond what we are doing in our own little worlds and ask the Lord, “God, what are You doing in this present hour?”
WILL YOU BE HIS VOICE?
The Burning Hearts prayer movement is committed to raising up messengers who will call and prepare the nations to love God with their whole heart, to host His presence and to exalt Him day and night.
Burning Hearts’ desire was never just to build a prayer room called “Burning Hearts”, but to make Singapore a House of Prayer by raising up forerunners like John the Baptist who will go out and point others to Jesus. In that time, God raised up a man – but this time round, I believe God is raising up a company. A company called the Church.
We can look to John the Baptist as a prototype for how we can position ourselves to be forerunners, messengers, voices for Jesus’ Second Coming, as John was for His first coming.
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:1-3)
Just as God called this man almost out of nowhere after 400 years of silence to be His voice – the one who would prepare the way and usher in the promised Messiah – He is looking for messengers who aren’t simply echoing what they hear from the pulpit. People who make an impact with their lives.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:6-9)
John the Baptist was known as a messenger who carried the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:16-17) – only the most epic, call-down-fire-from-Heaven (1 Kings 18:20-40), intercessor-on-the-mountain prophet who lived hundreds of years before him.
He was also known as “the burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35) to his nation, a beacon of light amidst great spiritual darkness in his nation. And not only that, Jesus Himself called John “the greatest man borne of a woman”. Wow.
“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11)
We must observe here that John the Baptist’s greatness had nothing to do with his gifts or talents. If you compare him to the rest of the prophets, you’d realise he was a pretty dull character. He didn’t do spectacular miracles like Elijah or Moses.
I don’t think God equates greatness with what you do or what you perform. In fact, I believe the reason why Jesus might have called John “great” was that he lived in a time and season all the prophets of the Old Testament, from Isaiah to Ezekiel, had longed to see but never did.
They could only talk about the Messiah, but John was the one who had the honour of seeing the promise come to pass and ushering Him into the world.
The greatest generation ever born would be the one that gets to witness and usher Jesus into His Second Coming.
And this is great hope for me: Jesus goes on to say that “the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven” is greater than John! What a paradox. It means we all are greater than John. Because as much as what John the Baptist experienced during his time was great, it was not in full.
He died before Jesus went to the grave and back. He died before Jesus ascended into Heaven. And he died before His second return. But there’s going to be a generation that will actually experience the fullness of God from glory to glory.
The greatest generation ever born would be the one that gets to witness and usher Jesus into His Second Coming. Only one generation gets to do something to bring Him back, and I choose to believe we might be that generation.
WILL YOU CARRY HIS SPIRIT?
In the last days, there will be much chaos and confusion on the earth. But God desires to give us clarity and understanding in the midst of this mess, in the midst of this mandate of being “the Antioch of Asia”.
It will take a God-given messenger who will be able to rightly articulate what He’s saying and begin to usher a nation into its God-given destiny. And we can look to John the Baptist for several marks of the messenger from Heaven, to do as he did as people sent forth from God to bear witness of Christ.
3 MARKS OF THE MESSENGER
1. Filled with the knowledge of God
There will be many interpretations and teachings about Jesus, but it takes one who is filled with the knowledge of God, who sees Him rightly and understands His ways to be able to represent Him rightly before others.
“John answered, ‘A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.'” (John 3:26)
And only God can reveal God to you. John the Baptist knew that everything he was telling the world about the Messiah had been given to him from Heaven. Most of the time, we hear about God from people. But as Jesus asked Peter in Matthew 16:13-20, “Who do you say I am?”
God is calling his messengers to do what John the Baptist did – to go into a place of wilderness, an environment with no distractions, to stand before Him and gaze. To allow the Scriptures to frame Jesus in our hearts and minds, the Word made flesh (John 1:14).
It takes God to know God.
2. Embodies the message
John the Baptist didn’t just preach a message on Isaiah 40 – he was Isaiah 40. The voice of one crying in the desert. The Word he spent most of his life consuming in obscurity had consumed him. It had become of his flesh.
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3)
We need to be messengers who live the Word, the message of God. Not just people who quote and retweet, thinking it will spark a revolution. What is the message inside you? Until the Word of God consumes you like a fire in your bones, you are just an echo.
The world doesn’t need another echo. It is waiting for a voice from Heaven. A voice willing to spend years in the wilderness, worshipping and praying the Scriptures, talking to God.
And when the word of the Lord finally came to John after almost 30 years of preparation, he walked out of that desert, burning with His message, and into the hearts of men all over Jerusalem and Judea.
3. Dead to personal ambition
This is a characteristic I want to pursue more in my own life – that my ambition will not be found in recognition, but to see Jesus fulfil His calling and receive His glory.
In John 3:25-26 we observe a discussion that arose among John’s disciples over Jesus “stealing” his ministry – people were flocking to Him to get baptised.
“‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:28-30)
But John’s definition of success of a ministry was not in impact, influence or number of followers. It was simply to see Jesus fulfil His calling to become the Bridegroom King with a Bride fully in love with Him – that is, the Church, His reward.
His own life was dedicated to being that signboard pointing to the Messiah; he was the friend of the Bridegroom. And when the Bridegroom appeared, he stepped aside and told those who were listening: Follow this Man.
It’s so easy as a young minister, a young person with ambition, to be tempted by the desire for significance. But I’ve learnt that at the end of the day, ministry comes and ministry goes. God is looking for people who are passionate and selfless about seeing Jesus fulfil His calling.
Our role as messengers is to call the Church, fellow believers, to wholehearted pursuit of Jesus.
WILL YOU STAY THE COURSE?
I believe with all my heart that as Singapore comes into prominence as her destiny unfolds, God wants to reproduce messengers who will be like John the Baptist. The good news for anyone who wants to be that kind of messenger is this: You can.
But the process of becoming one is tedious. Messengers are cultivated, not cloned. We must learn how to tell the difference between immediacy and urgency.
Immediacy is what made Moses kill the Egyptian guard in his zeal to be the Israelites’ deliverer ASAP. Immediacy is what made Abraham have a son with a woman who was not his wife in order to become the “father of nations” ASAP.
These men rightly knew their destinies, but as it is with many Singaporeans, they did not understand God’s concept of urgency.
Urgency was what made John the Baptist spend 30 years in the desert learning the ways of God before his ministry began. Urgency took thousands of years after the fall of mankind for God to bring forth His salvation plan in the form of a baby, Jesus Christ.
30 years of carpentry. Three years of miracles and messages before going to the Cross and back. 2000 years later and He still hasn’t returned. But He will.
My prayer is that God will raise up burning and shining lamps whose very existence in life provokes people to know God.
God’s urgency does not look like He’s in a hurry. He fully intends on bringing everything He’s planned to pass, but He’s patiently looking for men and women who will walk in His rhythm of formation. People who will put their lives fully into His hands and allow Him to form and shape them so that they can bring the fullness of His promises into the world.
Will we stay the course?
In the new year, my prayer is that God will raise up burning and shining lamps whose very existence in life provokes people to know God. Who glory the mundane over one moment of hype, who toil and search God out in the Scriptures. Whose lives are the message, even if they remain nameless and faceless, and whose only ambition is to see Jesus receive His full reward for His suffering.