In the middle of August, I was blessed to teach systematic theology to twenty-three Honduran pastors outside of Tegucigalpa, Honduras at a Bible institute ran by Baptist Medical & Dental Mission International (BMDMI).
On the heels of returning from that week-long trip, God has reminded me afresh of five major truths, which I share with you to stir you by way of reminder (2 Pet 1:13).
1. God’s desire is for the nations. Thankfully, one of Southern Baptists’ greatest strengths is that we get this truth so well. We fully affirm “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,” (Mt 28:20) and “Be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth,” (Acts 1:8). However, God doesn’t want to us to simply affirm these Scriptures. He wants us to personally experience the fulfilling of these Scriptures because it leads to great joy in God.
I can’t describe to you the joy it is when you travel to another nation and see people living for Jesus. To personally witness brothers and sister in Christ, who don’t look like you or speak the same language as you but who worship the same God you do, causes unspeakable joy to well up in your heart. You can’t help but worship God more and marvel at His abounding grace when you see it poured out on all the nations of the earth. My heart couldn’t help but join in praise with the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders of Revelation 5 who sang a new song to Jesus, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation,” (Rev 5:9).
Remember that God’s desire is for the nations, and so should ours be as well.
2. God’s Word is really all we need. I was so impressed with these pastors. Although they had very little formal education, they were so smart. They loved the Scripture and had poured themselves into it. It was all they had. In fact, I probably get more books through attending a single conference than these men will acquire in their entire lives. So again, the Bible is all they had, but it’s enough. The Word had done what God had promised it would do: “The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple,” (Ps 19:7).
When they talked about doctrine, rather than quoting theologians, they quoted Scripture. When they spoke, rather than supporting their position with opinion or tradition, they used Scripture. When they discussed issues in their church, rather than looking to the latest church growth fad or some sanctified sociological how-to book, they looked to the Scripture, and in all cases, the Scripture was gloriously enough.
How we need a renewed commitment to not just the authority of Scripture but to the sufficiency of Scripture as well. God’s Word is really all we need.
3. People are basically the same worldwide. During the discourse of the week, we had many pastoral conversations about issues going on in their churches. As they explained what was happening, I quickly began to see that these pastors face in their churches and communities the very same basic things I face back here in Alexandria. The reason is that the fallenness of humanity is universal and leads to the same universal struggles worldwide.
Some might be dismayed at the pervasiveness of this situation, but it actually gives me hope because we also have the universal answer, namely the gospel of Jesus Christ. As I looked over the city of Tegucigalpa with 1.5 million people with the vast majority lost and a terribly high crime and poverty rate, I felt overwhelmed. But, God graciously reminded me that city, nation, and world transformation begins with individual transformation in the hearts of mankind. Transformation that’s any count must come through the gospel. People are basically the same and therefore, need the same gospel remedy. Give them the gospel above all things!
4. What we’ve been given by God is to be passed on to others. We as Americans and Christians have been extremely blessed by God. Just travel to any other nation of the world, and you’ll see. God has poured His common grace out on us as Americans and His special grace out on us as Christians in abundance. However, God’s blessings to us are not to end with us. They’re to be passed on to others. We’re to be channels of blessing! Finances, time, abilities, knowledge, and the gospel itself were all given to us so that we could pass it on. To be stingy with these things is to be disobedient to God. So consider how you can bless others by passing on what God has blessed you with.
5. God is in control. Oh what a glorious thought that we have to be reminded of again and again! I faced quite a bit of spiritual warfare trying to discourage me from even going to Honduras, but God was faithful in reminding me from Scripture why I should take risks for Jesus. My theme going into and during the week was very simple: “Father, I trust you.” I must have prayed that a thousand times—going through airport security, during planes taking off and landing, weaving through the insane traffic of Tegucigalpa, looking at the speedometer of our truck registering around 80mph as our translator drove down semi-paved mountain highways.
God is in control, which is a cause for great praise as Psalm 66:8-9 instructs us, “Bless our God, O peoples, and sound His praise abroad, Who keeps us in life and does not allow our feet to slip.” It’s also cause for great trust. As biblical counselor Paul David Tripp wrote recently:
- “You don’t have to work yourself into control over your world. You just need to rest in the care of the One who is in control.”
- “No matter how chaotic your world seems, God rules over every situation and location for his glory and your good.”
- “Remember, what is out of your control, exists under the careful control of the One who is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise, all-good,” (http://twitter.com/#!/paultripp, Aug 17).
I was actually able to read those words in Honduras in the middle of the week and was greatly encouraged by them. Fear and anxiety be gone. God is sovereignly in control! Trust Him!