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Pastoral Letter 14 Jan 2018

Apostle Paul is the spiritual father to many believers and he is the founder of several churches that God was pleased to use him to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to many places. Believers who came to know Christ through him looked up to him for spiritual guidance. They learnt the whole counsel of God from him. They were taught by him how to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. They learnt from him how to pray. They learnt how to encourage one another and to build up one another in the same faith. They learnt to serve and care for one another. When they sinned, Apostle Paul also served as a disciplinarian who rebuked and exercised church discipline on them. When they have needs, Apostle Paul gathered other believers who were able to support them. Apostle Paul shouldered great responsibilities as their spiritual father. Surely he needed prayer support. Indeed Paul himself needed prayers and therefore in Hebrews 13:18, he called for prayers: “Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly."

Paul humbled himself and sought for the believers’ prayer support. Specifically he asked for prayers from the Hebrew believers whom he had been (in this epistle of Hebrews) rebuking for their spiritual immaturity, for wanting to return to the sacrifices of the Mosaic covenant. He had warned them against apostasy, against hardening their hearts, and against being dull of hearing. He had exhorted them to keep looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of their faith. And yet it is to these “weak’ believers that Apostle Paul sought prayers from. He did not have the high and mighty attitude which says, “Hey, you are so weak. How can you pray for me? Anyway I am more spiritual than you. I do not need your useless prayers. You are the ones who need my prayers. Not the other way round.” No, Apostle Paul was not proud at all. Neither did he looked down on them. Humbly, he called for the Hebrew believers to pray for him. Not only for him but also for his co-labourers in the work of the ministry. Apostle Paul realized that he

himself was a man who needed prayers. To do God's work, it is God's strength and wisdom that matters. No human strength and power will be able to replace the spiritual strength from above.

It is highly possible that Apostle Paul and his co-labourers were going through some trials and persecution, and faced hindrances in their ministry. All these sufferings were not because of any wrong thing that they had done or do. That was why Paul called upon his good conscience to act as his witness. And whatever circumstances they were going through and had to go through, they did not compromise their faith but in all things were willing to live honestly. The word “honest” means more than just being truthful. It means there is no malice, evil intention, sinful desire in living honestly before God and men. There were those who tried to be good because of ulterior motive and evil intention. Apostle Paul and his co-labourers gave their life to serve God and minister the truth of Jesus Christ to all. For money and a better life, Apostle Paul and his co-labourers could have given up their Christian faith. But they saw with spiritual sight the true value of wealth that is not measured by dollars and cents. They saw the good in doing the right thing before God. They did not allow their good conscience to be seared with hot iron. They pressed on despite the fierce persecutions. They willingly obeyed the Lord and live a holy and righteous life before Him. The day-to-day spiritual battle were extremely tough because they were the spiritual leaders. The strategy that Satan used which we are not ignorant of is to attack the church leaders using his lies and deception. All his darts are aimed in such a manner to deal the fatal and strongest blow upon the spiritual leaders to make them fall.

Will they fall? If they trust in the Lord and persevere on, they will not fall. Failing to keep a good conscience and live honestly in all things means that the evil one has overcome them, and that they have sinned against God and had stumbled the children of God under their care. How many church leaders had already fallen? The three top sins that plagued spiritual leaders are still the love of money, the lustful crave for sex and the abuse of power. These three evils constantly tempt those in spiritual authority. That is why church leaders need our prayers. They are not supermen. They are not immutable. We must understand that in the flesh they are weak but in the spirit they can be strong because of God. For God is strong to empower them to overcome the evil one. That is the promise and assurance. God has given us the necessary power and ability to overcome any kind of temptation and trial. We can overcome when we trust in God to do it.

Apostle Paul believed in this strongly. He knew it is God who has empowered him and his co-labourers in good conscience living honestly in all things. And in the most sober and soundness of mind, Paul sought the prayers of the Hebrew believers that he would be restored to them sooner. The next verse reads, “But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.” The word “restored” implied to be free, to be released from bondage. It is possible that Apostle Paul may have been arrested and put in prison. We do not know for sure. But what we do know is that whether he was in prison or not, he was hindered from coming to them. He knew he would eventually come to them but did not know when. That was why he asked for their prayers that he would be able to come earlier. Why was there a need for Paul to come to them? He could write to them just as he had done this time. In writing, he could even rebuke them for their sins. Actually, nothing beats meeting face-to-face. Apostle Paul wanted to meet them face-to-face, in order to see them, to talk with them, to teach them, and to guide them as a father would his own little children. Meeting face-to-face adds to the personal touch of care, love and interest. You can see the facial expression, the body language, hear the tone of voice, have eye contact when you meet face-to-face. Email, twitter, whatsApp, Facebook would not do a better job than meeting in person. You may add a love symbol, a smiley or even click many “likes.” It still loses out to meeting one another physically.

We must thank God for spiritual leaders who minister in our midst. And we must continue to pray for them that God would protect them from the wiles of the evil one. The satanic darts shot at them will be the most fiery and destructive. Satan will not rest until Jesus comes again. The least you can do for your church leaders is to pray for them. It is the least and yet most powerful because you are calling upon the King of all kings and Lord of all lords to watch over them and strengthen them for the work of the ministry. Your prayer for them is important. Will you pray for them? May God help us. Amen.

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Dennis Kwok