TIYO SOGA - LANGA, IN CAPE TOWN ON THE 29th JUNE 2006.
FATHERS, MOTHERS, BROTHERS AND SISTERS, sons and daughters, I greet you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. After having read the book of Nehemiah Chapter 6, the following words rang in my mind and I decided to share them with you as the theme for my address:-
THEME- NO CHALLENGE NO GROWTH
If you encounter problems in your Christian life don´t run away because you´ll just face the same things in the next place, so why not do your growing here where there are quite a number of people you know, knowing very well that the reward for faithful work is more work.
In the book Nehemiah Chapter 6 verse 11 Nehemiah was challenged from both angles with hard threats from people like SANEBALAT, TOBIAS and others but he said "SHOULD SUCH A MAN AS I FLEE?" I THINK ITS TIME FOR US TO GROW because if there are no challenges there is absolutely no growth.
Take the good example of an athlete: The best thing about being a winning athlete is not so much the publicity or the financial reward. The best is just being the kind of person in mind and body who can compete with confidence, whether you win or loose. Long after the applause has ended, the prizes received, and the money has been spent, the successful athlete still has a healthy body and an excitement about achievement that keeps life interesting.
So it is with the Christian Ministry. The reward of ministry isn´t appreciation from the congregation, as welcome as that is. The real reward is the spiritual growth that makes us better servants, able to lay hold of the challenges God sends our way. That´s why St Paul cautioned Timothy in 1 Timothy 4 verse 15 "TAKE PAINS WITH THESE THINGS, BE ABSORBED IN THEM, so that your progress may be evident to all.
Listen to what God said to a grumbling Jeremiah in Jeremiah Chapter 12 verse 5 " If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?
When St Paul addressed Timothy in ( 11 Timothy 2 ) he referred to Timothy as a STEWARD ( verse 2 ) a SOLDIER ( verse 3-4 ) an ATHLETE ( verse 5 ) and a FARMER ( verse 6 ) . As Stewards we have spiritual wealth to protect and invest: as soldiers, we have a war to wage and an enemy to defeat, as athlete we have a race to run and as farmers we have a soil to plough and a seed to sow. And while we are doing all these things and more, we have the glorious opportunity to grow and become more like Jesus Christ.
God´s Ministers are not manufacturers they are distributors. As God supplies the spiritual seed and bread to us, we gladly share it with others, and we ourselves are enriched in the process. Remember my dear friend, Jesus compared the will of God and the work of God to food that nourish us (John 4 verse 34) and where there is nourishment, there will be development.
When we stop growing, Ministry becomes stagnant, even boring and what we do becomes safe and predictable. The privilege of ministry is growth but the tragedy of ministry is arrested development and stagnation. Arrested development produces painful consequences in the life of the servant of God. He starts living on past experiences and has nothing fresh from the Lord to share with his people. The bread is stale and the seed does not germinate. The family that lives on leftovers may survive, but it will not be too healthy or happy. The Minister will preach that "There is no friction in our church, while the silent opposition quietly say - "yes no friction because there is no motion".
There is a wonderful thrill in the challenge of the Christian life. It is a warfare that never ceases. A war that does not feed cowards: People advancing toward an enemy, only to swing backward when they are getting too near to the war.
One theologian once said those people are like a person sitting in a rocking chair, listening to radio music, moving forward and backward with the rhythm. There is and there can be no Christian living without advancement and without war against all that is evil.
We have a very bad and unhealthy past: blacks struggling under the heavy laws of the apartheid era. People thrown here and there for the benefit of the minority group. Some blacks tried to make themselves "BLACK-WHITES" but they never became whites. Many left their beloved country preparing for war against this monster (APARTHEID). Many churches joined the struggle and the New South Africa emerged, and now we proudly say we are living in a free
democratic country, where freedom of speech and freedom of worship is allowed.
But most unfortunately, our church is struggling against the very monster we thought our heroes and heroines have captured and destroyed. This demon is alive and is working day and night within some of our fellow Presbyterians. We are hunted high and low by people who proclaim themselves as true Christians and their church as thee church.
Every now and again we found our beloved church with our good names dragged in the mud. The name of our beloved church pinned and hanged on the notice boards of the worldly courts. We are forced to join the church or the denomination we do not like. We are persecuted for followinq on the footsteps of our forefathers: the J.Y Hlisos , the I Njolozas, W.P.T Ndibongo, K. Manakaza, Y. Mbali, T.Soga, A.V. Ndzimande , B.W.Zulu, G.T.Vika, T.P.Finca, D,V. Sikhutshwa, T. Dekeda , G.G Ndzotyana, F.W.Ngxenge and many others, not forgetting W. Masinda , S.B.Ngcobo, L.K.V. Maposa and J.E. Khonyane.
Many R.P.C.S.A members are now kept captives in the U.P.C.S.A, sold by some of our bretheren for better STIPENDS plus many things that were not allowed in the R.P.C.S.A. I believe, there is nothing impossible to God. In Jesus name we are going to rescue them!! No matter what number we are, we are going to save them!
This reminds me of one of the greatest POETS, WILLIAM WILBERFORCE in his POEM: "THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE" .The story says, there was a war between two nations, RUSSIA and one of her neighboring countries. The Russians invited UKRAINE and SIBERIA to form a coalition, and a large number of armed soldiers from these countries were sent to Russia. A fierce and fearful gun-battle ensued resulting in many soldiers dead and all the remaining captured by the Russians. The only soldiers left in this forgotten country were a young battalion of SIX HUNDRED (600) SWORD FIGHTERS named "THE LIGHT BRIGADE".
NO CHALLENGE NO GROWTH
When the sad news about the captured soldiers, and their guns confiscated were circulated, everybody was in tears with some fleeing to the nearby countries for safety. The young General looked at the remaining soldiers and then at the shivering, hopeless, countrymen and women. Filled with hope from God he said: FORWARD THE LIGHT BRIGADE!! CHARGE FOR THE GUNS!!
It is said:
• Theirs, not to make reply
• Theirs, not to reason why
• Theirs, but to do and die
• Into the valley of death
• Into the mouth of hell
• Rode the six hundred
There were no war trucks to carry them but only horses. These soldiers rode to an army which had all sorts of arms, big / large and small, cannons and mortars, but the young general shouted: "FORWARD THE LIGHT BRIGADE". The thing is, their colleagues were kept captives and the Light Brigade was forced to go and rescue them.
The poet says, they rode through the gun smoke, cannons roaring like thunder, while horse and hero fell!! When they got inside the walls they all flashed their sabres bare! Flashed as they turned in air! Surbring the gunners there! Charging an army while the entire world wondered!! Cossack and Russian reeled from the sabre stroke. With all said and done, these soldiers managed to rescue their fellow soldiers. Note well: We are not fighting an enemy in S.A only. Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe have vowed to form a coalition. Their forces multiply ours.
NO CHALLENGE NO GROWTH
I now charge you to go forward you Christian soldiers. I am the Gideon of these days and you are the battalion under my command. God used Gideon and three hundred men to destroy the Midianites, (Judges Chapter 7 verse 7). He (God) used David to destroy Goliath (I Samuel chapter 17 verse 50-51). Is it not the same with us? Are we not flashing sabers to an army which is armed with guns and cannons? Are we not fighting to rescue all our colleagues and fellow Christians swallowed by the U.P.C.S.A? My dear fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters it is a matter of life and death. If anyone proves a coward today, defeat is certain, but with courage we will gain victory.
It does not matter what we are, in the sight of men, but it is absolutely essential that in the sight of God we shall be doing His will. Do not heed the criticism of other people even that of some good, but mistaken Christians. Your duty is to do God´s work, and strive to do His Will along the lines which He has appointed you. If others are criticizing you, you will be about your master´s business so thoroughly and the Lord God is watching you.
NO CHALLENGE NO GROWTH
The absence of problems in a church usually signals that people are not being challenged. How does the servant of God keep growing, no matter how many tough years of ministry he has experienced?
1. He seeks always to be himself. Nothing robs us of maturity like trying to be what we are not or imitating somebody we´d rather be. On all occasions, be yourself - your best self and trust God to use you. Don´t waste time and energy being an imitation, let God make you into an original?
11. Don´t depend on the Bible alone when preparing a sermon. Tackle a tough book and prepare your way through it as though you had to pass an exam. Examine your own ideas in the light of what the book says. Just be sure it´s a book with meat and bones so that your mental muscles will have something nutritious to chew on. A book that doesn´t challenge us is not likely to change us.
NO CHALLENGE NO GROWTH
The difficult situations of ministry encourage growth and reveal that a maturing process is going on. It is said that, a crisis does not make the man but reveals what the man is made of. During the trying times we must stand like the tree that sends its roots deep and its branches upward and outward, always growing, always fruitful, always helpful, just like the man described in Psalm 1 verse 3 and Psalm 92 verse 12-15. Our motto must be "GO FORWARD" forward in personal attainments, forward in gifts and in grace, forward in fitness for the work and forward in conformity to the image of Christ. I am now echoing Paul´s admonition to Timothy - "that your progress may be evident to all". (1 Timothy chapter 4 verse 15).
NO CHALLENGE NO GROWTH
So get on with the Lord´s business. The days are numbered and are dangerous. The time is short, and overwhelming disaster looms on the horizon. Get into the fight. Fight for the properties of the church of our forefathers. Fight for our inheritance. The Lord God, His son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all watching us. One great theologian once said "Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be strong men and women. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. This is the time to grow. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen and Amen!