Editorial (April 2018)
by Dr Stanley Ling
(Regional Director, SIM East Asia)
The 125 years of history in SIM testifies to the reality of “strive and thrive” in missions. The birth of SIM was particularly trying as two out of the three founders died from malaria within a year of entering the interiors of Nigeria. Many would have thought the endeavour was doomed to failure right from the start. The sole survivor of the 3-man team, Bingham, was striving to initiate the mission work. Though he did start a mission station by the eighth year, he was by no means thriving, as there were many challenges that threatened to shut down even the very first mission station. As the team continued to strive and trust God, the mission managed to make some breakthroughs after 14 years of struggling and hard work.
Striving carries the picture of someone struggling and working hard to make something work or happen. Thriving, on the other hand, shows that one is doing well and marching onwards to success.
It is often said that in God’s work, we do not need to strive too hard because He is in control of all things. But if we look at examples in the Bible, individuals like the Apostle Paul or the prophets in the Old Testament, and even our Lord Jesus Christ, we would be surprised to see how diligent, persevering and long-suffering they were in carrying out their mission. How then shall we as missionaries look upon “striving and thriving”?
In Martin Luther’s “Theology of the Cross”, he discovered that God often speaks through paradoxes. “He makes something out of nothing, He wins by losing. He lifts us up by bringing us low. He turns Good Friday into Easter Sunday. He works opposite to the way humanity logically expects an omnipotent God to work.” (note 1)
Indeed, it is when we struggle and strive that we realise how weak and incapable we are, it is only then we turn our eyes to our God and Master. He will then make us thrive. 2 Cor 12:9-11 says: “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The paradox of “when I am weak, then I am strong” is something that God had taught SIMers over the last 125 years.
We need to do our part. W e need to strive and struggle. We need to be diligent in proclaiming the Gospel and blessing the people with kind deeds. In the process, we realise how weak we are. We then experience the grace of God making us strong when he comes alongside to help us thrive.
There are many testimonies of how God helped us when we were helpless and in dire straits. We strived, and then we thrived, all because of the risen Lord who promised “and surely, I will be with you till the end of the age.”
May I encourage all of us not to become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Gal 6:9)
Note 1: 10 Great Ideas from Church History by Mark Shaw, IVP Books, 1997, pg23
注1：『10 Great Ideas from Church History』萧马可著，1997年IVP Books出版，第23页。