In 2 Corinthians 4, both in verse one and again in verse sixteen, Paul states emphatically: We do not lose heart.
In my prayer concerning the current situation many of us in the ‘working saints’ category are facing, I was led to 2 Corinthians, a book on the new covenant ministry and its ministers, and specifically to chapter four, on the living of the new covenant ministers.
Just as in Paul’s day, the ministry and the ministers are being attacked. And just as in Paul’s experience (2 Cor. 4:15-17), we recognize that behind the things we have to deal with in our daily life is an intention to wear out the saints of the Most High (Dan. 7:25) and cause the love of the many to grow cold (Matt. 24:12).
Therefore, our response to the outward attacks and the inward wearing down should be the same as Paul’s: We do not lose heart!
The Lord wants to make His home in our hearts. In order to cooperate with Him, we need to be on guard against anything that would cause us to lose our heart for the Lord, the betrothing ministry that causes us to love Him, and the church life.
Following Paul’s example, we can stand against this tactic by encouraging one another, testifying of our experience of Christ and the church.
If you read Paul’s testimony in 2 Cor. 4, you will be encouraged. If we respond in like manner, not preaching ourselves (v.5), but testifying of the One who has shined in our hearts (v.6) and of this treasure in our earthen vessels (v.7), then this momentary lightness of affliction will work out for us, more and more surpassingly, an eternal weight of glory (v.17).
‘And having the same spirit of faith according to that which is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak’ (v. 13).
It is in this context that I would like to share my testimony concerning the church life, those who take the lead in the church, and the ministry. Not because my experience is unique or special, but because it is typical and common.
To begin, one particular example comes to mind. I pulled into the parking lot for the prayer meeting – late again. Through the heavy snow I could see the warm light glowing from inside the meeting hall. I parked and paused a moment, looking around at the modest cars, already covered with a foot or more of snow, and a smile began to form. What kind of people are these, venturing out in a blizzard for a prayer meeting? Immediately I felt my spirit leap within me, and I found myself declaring out loud:
As for the saints who are on the earth, they are the excellent – all My delight is in them (Psa. 16:3)!
It is that sense of absoluteness and unpretentious pouring out that characterizes my experience in the local churches.
I grew up as a ‘church kid’ and I had the realization, quite early on, that this was a group of people that had paid a price to take this way. They were not perfect, in fact they were quite ordinary, but in the midst of their seemingly ordinary existence, I had the sense that their lives were full of meaning and purpose.
Having attended countless meetings, conferences, and trainings of the local churches and of Living Stream Ministry (LSM), having taken hospitality with saints who meet in the local churches all over the world, and having observed the living of the saints when visiting their homes, I can testify that I am a witness of their absoluteness and a blessed recipient of their faithful, loving pouring out on me and on those around me.
Through food and fellowship, prayer and practical care, financial support and faithful words, the older saints, as my spiritual parents, would ‘most gladly spend, and be utterly spent’ on my behalf (2 Cor. 12:14-15). Now that I am a parent myself, I want the best for my children, and there is no other environment I would rather have my kids grow up in.
If I had the gift for writing hymns, which I do not, the hymn on my experience in the church life would look a lot like #1238:
Never did I dream before,
Such a place could e’er be found,
Where the tears of sorrow cease,
Songs of endless joy abound.
One who seldom ever sang,
Now delights his voice to raise;
Singing hymns with all the saints,
Echoing the ceaseless praise.
Day by day the world goes on,
Just as it has gone before.
Millions grasp and clutch at life,
Wond’ring if there could be more;
Such was I and would be, yet
Mercy found me out somehow;
With what gratefulness I say,
“I’m in God’s own family now.”
I feel compelled to speak because I do not want to see any of my brothers or sisters cheated, robbed or defrauded of the treasure we have in the church life and in this ministry.
This is not to say that the church life is perfect or that those taking the lead in the church and the ministry are infallible. Consider the record of the children of Israel in the Old Testament and of the churches in the New Testament. Both are full of all sorts of failures and negative situations, but they were still God’s people.
We should not expect that the churches in the Lord’s recovery today would be any different. We receive all who God receives, not just the good ones. Do you want instant problems? Just add people.
That doesn’t mean we are reckless or ignorant. I know that there is much fellowship among those who take the lead about how to protect the saints’ safety and handle the inevitable negative matters that come up.
For example, in my locality, all the ones serving with the children must pass a background check, and the ushers actively monitor who has access to the children’s area. But there is no central (or outside) organization to mandate practices or oversee and interfere with the administration of a particular local church.
Because we are a living body, we have to rely on life, nutrition, circulation and members with particular functions to deal with negative things, and leave the administration of a local church to the local leadership.
In the few limited situations where I have been involved in fellowship related to one of the negative matters that had to be dealt with, I have been deeply impressed by the loving heart and wise consideration of the senior brothers who were taking the lead.
I realized that this was a love that comes from recognizing their own shortcomings and from being one with the Lord’s heart not to judge, but to recover; and a wisdom which they would be the first to testify comes not from their own brilliance, but from many failures, much fellowship, and from closely following the ministry.
Far more common are the experiences of enjoying the Lord with the saints and through the ministry (the ministry of the New Testament as ministered by Watchman Nee, Witness Lee, and many other ministers among us).
Anyone who has been around for as long as I have has lost count at the number of meetings where we left with our cheeks hurting from smiling so much. I do not know how many times I have uttered the word ‘wow’ when reading the ministry or listening to a message, amazed again at the clear revelation of Christ and His purpose that is being unveiled, opened up from the Bible.
Perhaps most compelling of all is the sense of peace and purpose that comes when meeting with the saints and realizing that this is what I was created for. As the Psalmist experienced in Psalm 73, in our daily life it is easy to become perplexed, stumbled, envious and troubled – to lose heart. But when we come into the sanctuary, which is to turn to our spirit and meet with the church, we receive divine revelation and obtain the explanation to our all our problems. Praise the Lord!
Testimony by Jeremy Mason concerning, We Do Not Lose Heart.