BOOKS WORTH READING MORE THAN ONCE
Only a hard heart would be unmoved in thinking of the way the Lord Jesus wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane till drops ‘as of blood’ fell from his brow. But if we reflect on those hours only in a devotional manner, we miss the point. We must probe the deep questions: ‘Why did he suffer? What is the meaning of the agony?’ As soon as we begin to explore the why question, we find new vistas. We see our own conversion to Christ in a new perspective – for we see it in the context of his plan for the whole world. As we do this, we find our love for him being given a firmer basis, a doctrinal foundation – building such a foundation for our faith is the best and truest way of keeping our love for him alive.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all give a detailed account of Christ’s agony in the Garden, but John does not even mention it. Why not? Perhaps he did not feel it necessary. To John, the whole of our Lord's life on earth was suffering. Right from the beginning, his death on the cross was on his mind. For John it was humiliation and indeed agony that the Son of God should have condescended to become a man. Gethsemane was just one expression of that agony. Throughout his gospel John stresses the glory of the Son of God. To John all Christ's life on earth – including his suffering – is infused with his glory. John’s profound and wonderful perspective provides a key as we consider the Cross.
John and Luke both emphasise that Jesus went into the Garden often. He was moving willingly towards his death and was not trying to hide; Judas would know exactly where to find him.
When he was ready to leave the Garden, he said ‘Rise, let us go’ not to escape his foes, but rather to meet them. He was on his way to die. His death was not something he suffered so much as something he accomplished. He chose when he would be betrayed, tried, and crucified. ‘What you are about to do, do quickly’, he said to Judas, as if to say ‘This is the time which I have appointed for you to do your dire deed.’
Christ’s terrible temptation
As we know from Genesis 3, Adam sinned when he was tempted in the Garden of Eden. Christ is the ‘second Adam’, and he triumphed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He did not draw back from the suffering which awaited him, but like a King serving on the front line, he advanced to face the enemy.
Adam was tempted in Eden; and Jesus was tempted in Gethsemane. It is important for us to grasp that Christ fought with temptation; it was a real issue for him. We are told by the writer to the Hebrews that he ‘has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin.’ So there must have been the possibility for him of drawing back, and not dying for the sins of the world.
He had fought with temptation to Messiah-ship without a cross in the wilderness. (The same temptation had come again through Peter at Caesarea Philippi, when Jesus said, ‘Out of my sight, Satan’.) Luke tells us ‘the devil left him until an opportune time’ - he was to return in all his terrible force in Gethsemane. Sometimes the most intense temptation can come before the crisis that brings blessing, as we may know from our own experience; we see that happening here.
What was the cause of Christ’s dreadful agony in the Garden? He did not fear physical death; not even the horrible death of crucifixion. Many believers have faced such death, calmly and fearlessly. The spiritual burden he carried - bearing the sin of the world - is what appalled his spirit. Christ’s death would not symbolize, but actually materializehuman guilt. This explains the intensity of his feelings and the words the gospel writers use to explain them - ‘sorrowful and troubled’, ‘deeply distressed and troubled’, ‘overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death’.
The expression rendered ‘deeply distressed and troubled’ probably comes from a Greek root meaning ‘away from home’. Certainly, for our Lord Jesus, it was the beginning of the horror of great darkness that would end in his cry of sheer dereliction, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
‘May this cup be taken from me’
While in Gethsemane we see Christ shrinking from his suffering, but the Apostle John records him as saying, ‘Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?' He delighted to do the Father's will, yet he naturally shrank from the awful agony of separation from God.
There is no contradiction between Christ’s desire to do his Father’s will, while also shrinking from it.
In the book of Leviticus we read of the burnt offering (a ‘sweet-savour offering’ of an unblemished animal) presenting a beautiful aroma to the LORD. But there is also a ‘sin offering’, a different kind of sacrifice, where the animal’s blood substitutes for human sin. Here is the essence of atonement.
All this foreshadows what now becomes real, and ultimate, in the offering andsacrifice of Christ himself. He offers to the Father a perfect life without blemish, in sheer devotion, for the Father’s pleasure. And he becomes, in our place, the sacrifice for sin. This is the double truth captured in Thomas Binney’s lovely hymn:
There is a way for man to rise
To that sublime abode:
An offering and a sacrifice,
A Holy Spirit's energies,
An advocate with God.
In the Garden he knew he had to accept it, if atonement were to be made, yet as he is dying on the cross the following afternoon he cries out ‘Why have you forsaken Me?’ Christ’s awareness of what was happening had become clouded. In the dereliction of cutting himself off from God, our Saviour had cut himself off from light; here was the heart of his agony. To go through it knowing everything would turn out well would not have reached into the depths of our sinful nature; he had to forego that knowledge. For not only did he bearour sin for us, but he was made sin for us:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Of all the descriptions of the Atonement in scripture, this is surely one of the most graphic. It comes at the close of perhaps the most profound exposition ever of suffering and glory. It is just not possible to skate onto the next chapter without a deep sense of wonder at the depth of Christ’s love.
Fierce, costly love
In Gethsemane Jesus turned to his disciples in his very human suffering seeking human solace. As the Psalmist had written: ‘Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none’. How much the memory of Mary of Bethany's anointing must have meant to him. Evidently she understood. On Calvary as the Son of God lost the last consciousness of his Father's love and presence, our forgiveness would be won.
In the Lord's final words in the Garden he tells his disciples to sleep on, then seems immediately to ask them to wake up as it is time to leave. We can assume that some hours passed in between; hours in which Christ sat watching over them as they slept. What a picture of love when he was in need. As the Psalmist wrote, ‘He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep’. It is a strangely peaceful scene as Christ thinks thoughts of love beyond human expression - fierce, costly love - revealing the longing heart of God. This is the message of Gethsemane. And this was the scene on which Judas and the Roman soldiers arrived, so Judas could betray Jesus.
This is an unusual volume. Two writers look at the same passages from the Apostle Paul, and draw out complementary principles on handling money. John Stott focuses on Paul’s teaching on giving, Chris Wright on accountability. I can testify to the personal integrity of both authors; and to their deep desire not only to live by these principles, but to share them in a relevant way with God’s people around the world.
We need to see our giving as a response to God’s own generosity. There is a pastoral feel to John Stott’s writing – sometimes, as he says, it may be right to reduce our giving. We should always give thoughtfully, and keep our giving under review.
Churches tend to associate Paul’s teaching here only with a call to give. I hope this short book will help to change that, for these scriptures teach much more. The six principles of accountability that Chris Wright highlights are non-negotiable. A safety-net of accountability is critical for those in positions of responsibility, to whom money has been entrusted.
Many will be surprised by Chris’s assertion that, on the plain level of number of verses, the Apostle Paul ‘gives more text space to writing about issues relating to financial affairs of churches than he does to writing about justification by faith.’ The spiritual nature of this subject is clear, and the Apostle’s theology of money, as God-centred and mission-centred, deserves keen attention.
We shall all be shaped by either the values society imposes on us, or by the biblical principles clearly articulated here. So we need to consider Paul’s teaching closely. I commend the words of John Stott and Chris Wright as they challenge us to be more deliberate in engaging with this subject, as part of a God-focused, Christ-centred and spirit-led life.
Femi B Adeleye
Associate Director (Africa), Langham Partnership International
This book is a gem. It could be a lifesaver for someone in Christian ministry. I trust it will bring a welcome restoration for any who have lost their joy in the heat of the battle, or simply become worn down.
I'm sure it will provide a soothing balm for the honourably-wounded. I wish I had read it in my early twenties when I began in full-time ministry. I was inspired by the biographies of Robert Murray McCheyne, who died aged 29, Henry Martyn, who died at 31, and Jim Elliot, who was murdered aged 28. I was influenced by others who said they would rather 'burn out than rust out'. For my first four years in ministry as a young student worker, I thought days off and holidays were for wimps! So I filled my holidays with ministry opportunities in the UK and overseas.
Then something changed - I was given a sabbatical period for nine months and suddenly experienced exhaustion as I stopped the constant whirr of activity. Six people I had mentored became student workers, and also experienced some form of physical breakdown or health problems. It caused me to realize that I had provided a poor and inadequate model, and I needed to re-think. Later I saw that I had a deficient view of God as both a Father who lovingly cares for his children, and as a Creator, who gives his people all things richly and freely to be enjoyed.
There must be many Christians in ministry who behaved like me, adopting a sub-Christian and indeed rather platonic worldview, where the body is seen as being unimportant. Pablo Martinez provides a healthy antidote to that. The book is replete with choice statements and powerful principles, such as 'a fruitful ministry is not the same as a full ministry'; ‘the problem is not working too much, but resting (renewing) too little'; 'we are not human doings but human beings'; and ‘we must learn not only from Jesus’s doing, but also from his stopping’.
As I read this book I was reminded of the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesian elders, at the end of his last missionary journey. He was on his way to Jerusalem ‘not knowing what will happen [to him] there’. He sent a messenger to Ephesus, a full day’s journey away, to find the elders, and bring them to Miletus so he could meet with them before he sailed. The passage is highly-charged and very moving (Acts 20:17-38). The Apostle urges the elders to ‘Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (v28). Note the vital order of that command. This book is a perceptive commentary on those critical first four words.
Pablo Martinez is Spain's leading evangelical psychiatrist. In his mid-twenties, he made a choice which set the direction of his life. He had the opportunity of engaging in student ministry, or becoming Spain's first evangelical psychiatrist. He chose the latter and has been the means of blessing, help and deep-seated counsel to thousands. His previous books, like A Thorn in the Flesh and Praying with the Grain have been a source of great encouragement and help to many hard-pressed believers.
This book provides liberation for those who fail to appreciate the wonder of God's creation and the fatherly care for his children. More than that, it provides a wonderful sense of the wholeness which the Christian gospel brings to those who place their trust in Christ as Saviour, their dependence on God as Father and Creator, and who draw on the sustaining help and support of the Holy Spirit.
The strange paradox is that in Pablo's attempts to encourage readers to take care of their body and enjoy God’s creation, those who follow his advice will find that their joy in Christ and the gospel is deepened, and their commitment to serve in Christian ministry enhanced.
I am pleased, too, to see the Appendix on handling the past. Over the years I have met many students and Christian workers who carry deep burdens from their past. We have waited a long time for a chapter like this, which I’m sure will bring profound help.
For some, this book will be exhilarating, for others it will be liberating, and for many, it will be an eye-opener. My prayer is that for all readers it will be a source of enrichment and joy.
General Secretary, International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) 1991 - 2007
International Director, Lausanne Movement 2008 - 2016
ANTIDOTE TO MAD BUSY
(Published in Evangelicals Now, January 2019)
Before I even opened this book I pondered: ‘Here’s another offering in the “avoiding burnout” category – we church workers really mustn’t be taking notice of the wise counsel of previous authors!’
But then again I still hear so many conversations, among both clergy and laity, that seem to make the ‘mad busy’ lifestyle a badge of honour. In a stark response to this potential idolatry of busyness, Pablo Martinez, a leading Christian psychiatrist based in Barcelona, states that to dismiss rest and fail to take care of ourselves is not only bad practice, it is an exercise of ungodliness and an expression of unholiness.
So while this book’s title may suggest it’s something to buy for your minister and staff team, I suggest you read it yourself first.
Using texts from both the Old and New Testaments, along with the honest ‘mistakes’ of well-loved Christian leaders of the more recent past, Martinez builds a strong and clear biblical framework for times of revitalising rest and intentional self-care. Recognising that rest is God’s design for us, that we are more fragile than we often admit, and that self-care is the responsibility of the maturing Christian, this brief and very practical book offers sage advice in five simple chapters packed with accessible insights and ‘do-able’ challenges. Very helpful reminders, if not necessarily new revelations.
Martinez concludes that paying close attention and taking care of yourself are commands of our loving Father which are part of what it means to live the abundant life that Jesus came to purchase for us. If our lives are now hidden with Christ in God that must include the necessary seasons of rest that are integral elements of that better quality of life we are called to experience. ‘The essence of rest lies in resting in God.’ (p.82)
Finally, the six-page appendix ‘Troubled by your past?’ is worth the price of the book all on its own.
In 1989, I was asked to address the participants of Lausanne II, the International Congress on World Evangelizationin Manila. The subject of my message centred on the church’s responsibility to give the gospel to ‘the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind,’ and I was excited with the prospects of awakening the Lausanne gathering to Jesus’ mandate in Luke 14. I knew instinctively that the need was greatest among churches and people with disabilities in countries like the Philippines. Back then, I had travelled to only a handful of less-developed nations. The needs in the Philippines focused my mind. I had never seen so many maimed and injured people dragging themselves along the dirty sidewalks, wearing flip-flops on their hands. I managed to make friends with many of them living in makeshift lean-tos between our hotel and the conference centre.
Most were paraplegics; some were blind, and a few were amputees. But none of these dear people had ever seen anyone like me. When I extended a greeting to them, gesturing awkwardly with my limp hand, they seemed hesitant to touch me. They stared wide-eyed, few of them having ever seen a quadriplegic who had no use of legs orarms. When I spoke to them about my love for Jesus, they seemed fascinated. I could almost read the thoughts behind their amazed expressions: How can this lady trust God the way she is?!
The same thing happened at the Manila Pastors’ Conference, an additional Lausanne convocation for several hundred Filipino Christian leaders. I shared with them the same Luke 14 message. Observing my obvious limitations, they seemed especially curious about my faith in Christ. During lunch break in the main hall, many watched my husband Ken feed me a hamburger. Again, I felt curious eyes examining us, and I could almost read their thoughts: How wonderful that God has made her so happy amidst such a difficult disability! How does she do it?
I was experiencing first-hand the power behind 2 Corinthians 4:7,10, ‘But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.… We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.’ The more obvious the weakness in the messenger, the more beautifully adorned is the gospel he shares! People with disabilities are the burning bushes spoken of in Exodus 3—we cause curious onlookers, even skeptical ones, to turn aside and ‘see this strange sight, why the bush is not burned up’ (Exodus 3:3). People with disabilities, especially missionaries with disabilities, make people hungry for the Bread of Life, and thirsty for the Living Water. They provoke the question Is God truly powerful enough to sustain his joy in a quadriplegic? I must find out more!
This shows exactly why people ‘who seem to be weaker are indispensable in the Body of Christ’ as together we strive to make Jesus known to an unbelieving world (1 Corinthians 12:22). To the natural eye, people with disabilities seem to be weaker; they seem to be the least likely candidates for Kingdom work. But to the spiritual eye—to those who value what God values—people with disabilities add depth, richness, and a platform for explosive power in Kingdom advancement.
To quote the editors of the book:
‘Herein lies the problem with the mission movement. We are inclined to assess our performance according to the standards of the secular world. This success-oriented approach can cause us to squeeze our potential missionaries into rigid molds in which they have to be intelligent, strong, agile, and have high energy: the Type A personality. This can mean that the mission movement selects only missionaries who have certain personality types, or alternatively it can tend to squeeze people who are different shapes into the same mold.
When applying the world’s standards of success we therefore discount people who are different, who can’t be squashed into an ableist mold. Almost by definition, people with disability will not fit into an ableist mold, and nor should they. The stories you will read in the following pages are of missionaries who do not fit that mold.’
The book you hold in your hands is vitally important to the church and its mission movement. Its stories of people with impairments are the proof-text for 2 Corinthians 4:7-12. They are modern-day validations of the need for Christian workers on the field whose disabilities adorn the gospel. I appeal to leaders in agencies and denominations to consider what I believe to be a compelling case for selecting and training qualified people with disabilities for mission work. It is an idea whose time is long overdue—especially considering that our preeminent example is the apostle Paul himself!
So, enjoy the stories, consider the arguments, study the Scriptures, and start asking questions. Ask how you can enlist, and even exploit, people’s limitations for the glory of God on the mission field. Do you lead a mission agency, a denomination, or a church? Are you a wheelchair-user seeking to hold out the gospel in places where most say, ‘You can’t go there’? This book is your guide to taking next steps in inviting God’s all-surpassing power to explode through your mission or church outreach!
Turn the next page, and let the adventure begin.
Joni Eareckson Tada
Lausanne Board Member
CEO/Joni and Friends International Disability Center
Foreword to section by D E Hoste.
By Sinclair B Ferguson
The name of Dixon E Hoste is not well known today. But there are three reasons why he deserves to be better remembered.
The first is that he was the second General Director of the China Inland Mission, the chosen successor of Hudson Taylor. Hudson Taylor’s name remains as well known as his successor’s is forgotten. Yet any man who can follow and advance the work done by such a pioneer and legendary figure must himself be an individual of outstanding stature. Dixon Hoste was such a man. Coming as he did from a regimented and highly-disciplined military life he brought the natural talents and spiritual graces which the Mission needed at such a strategic time in its history.
The second reason Hoste deserves to be remembered lies in the fact that, paradoxically, he lived to be forgotten. ‘Live so as to be remembered’ is stirring counsel. But there is another side to the fruit of God’s grace: ‘Live so that you will be forgotten, and Christ will be remembered.’ That counsel may fuel devotion to Christ in many young hearts momentarily; but to sustain it over the long haul is a challenge of major proportions. And it is here that Dixon Hoste serves us as such a model.
Even when he was a young missionary, people spoke of being ‘impressed by his lowliness’. We tend to be drawn to the trappings of leadership; Hoste’s leadership impressed people by the sheer force of his lowliness and humility. What appears to have struck so many people was not so much the power of his personality, but what Scripture calls ‘the power of godliness’. We do well to listen to such a man.
There is a third reason why Hoste should be remembered. His gifts lay in his prayerfulness, his thoughtfulness, his wisdom, his passion for evangelism; in his thinking rather than in powers of speech. For D E Hoste was a man who thought. He was wise: ‘If I have any gift at all, I feel it is along the lines of applying Christian principles to life.’
The statistics of the period of his directorship tell their own story of his faithfulness. Those years saw the Mission grow from 780 to 1,360 missionaries; from 364 organized churches to over 1,200; from 400 outstations to over 2,200; from 1,700 baptisms in a year to 7,500.
At a critical juncture in its history, the China Inland Mission had a wise head and a prayerful heart to lead it, and a steady hand on its rudder to guide it into the future. The pages that follow will give you glimpses of what that must have meant to the large numbers of Christians who looked to Hoste for counsel and encouragement.
This republication will bring D E Hoste’s wisdom and style of leadership to younger men and women in whose hearts God has begun to stir up a desire to serve him without reservation. It is from among these that the leadership of Christ’s church will come. The value of these pages is out of all proportion to their length. For my own part, I wish that I had them long ago.
Sinclair B Ferguson
Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary
Teaching Fellow, Ligonier Ministries
First published in a 1999 free-standing OMF edition of Hoste's writing entitled 'Thirty-six steps to Christian Leadership'.