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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Give Me That Mountain!

The Bible is certainly full of heroes of the faith. It is common to hear of Moses, Joshua, David and Paul when people are giving examples of faith and devotion to the Lord. And, yes, I admire these too but this morning my quiet time took me to the story of Caleb.

Caleb was forty years of age when he was sent to spy out the Promised Land. He came back telling the people that it would present a challenge but that the Lord would give them the land because He had said so. For no fault of his own, he was sentenced to wandering in the wilderness until the faithless generation had passed away. He entered into the battle with rest of the Israelites when the time came to go into the Promised Land. They had victories coupled with a few failures but eventually the time came to give the inheritance to each who had fought. There were still others living in the land. There would still be battles.

Caleb is eighty-five years of age when he asks Joshua to give him Hebron. It was where the Anakim lived. The Anakim were known for their size and considered giants. They would have been the hardest group to defeat since they also had fortified cities.

His age should have given him the opportunity for retirement. He could have told the younger members of his family to go to battle without him. He could have sat in a rocking chair and waited out the rest of his life but he still wanted to meet challenges head on.

This strikes me as very unusual because I live with a people who are enamored with retirement. They not only save for it but look forward to it. They brag of having no bosses, no obligations and no challenges.

I realize that there comes a time when a person must realize his limitations. Too often people try to continue when they cannot do so physically. Worse yet, some coast because they know that they can retire at any time. People need to make an assessment which includes others who can honestly tell them when it is time to step back.

Retirement has become doing only what you want to do for the sake of yourself. I don't believe that is what God wants us to do. Yes, you may retire from your money making job but your service to Him has no retirement date. Somehow many people have thought that these two go hand in hand. They don't.

Serving the Lord does not end because of age. In fact, the godly believer should be looking for God's challenge to him no matter what his age. I want to stand (if possible) before the Lord all of my days asking for new challenges.

But I don't have to wait for that, do I? I can ask God for His challenge before me today. I can ask that the challenge be filled with giants and full of reasons that it can't be done. I can ask for His glory to be known. I can say:

Lord, give me that mountain!

Joshua 14:10-14 (NIV) 10 "Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said." 13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.


Anonymous said...

I guess you can't ever retire! Hooray for us!

Anthony Chia said...

Over the weekend, I have had the privilege of hearing 2 scenarios of how a woman and a man of faith are still living, but before I go there, Ps Prentis' viewpoint reminded me of my just retired, Senior Pastor, Derek Hong; of what he repeatedly saying, in the last couple of months.

I come from a Charismatic Anglican Church, and according to the Anglican Diocese, the head of a local church is to retire at the age of 65; and so, my long-time Senior Pastor had to retire from running the church he had looked after, right from his beginning of his church career, from the 70s. But Derek has been stressing this: "There is no retirement". Well, he was only retiring from man's appointment of him as head of a local church, but he was NOT and is NOT retiring from serving the Lord.

Not only in the secular world men have created the concept of retirement for one or more of several reasons, in churches, too, we find man-made mandatory retirement. Indeed, Derek has left office, and a new pastor is in charge, but Derek definitely did NOT retire from serving the Lord. As I understand it, he is even busier than before, flying all over the places, as the Lord opened up doors for him to minister on the international platform. The Lord knew there was the retirement requirement, and the Lord prepared Derek, particularly visible, in the year or two, before his scheduled "retirement".

I believe, in one of previous comments here, when I talked about the “works redemption” aspect of the redemptive work of our Lord, I said that, as a Christian, we will never really cease to serve God; only a temporal rest, then we get reassigned, like Elijah was reassigned. On a continuum, we serve God (we are to), and thereafter, after we have passed on, we will continue to serve Him; breaks are only temporal. I remember I used the phrase, "work till no-end", but it is no drudgery, for serving the Lord is a labor of love; love for God.

Is there no concept of retirement in Scripture? There is; and one e.g. is the case of Moses, but it is to be understood with the perspective that I have just outlined above. Moses served God in his earthly life; just in a glance: he served God in leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, and continued to lead the people of God towards the Promised Land. Then, when the Israelites neared the Promised Land a second time (before entry), God "retired" Moses. It was clear from Scripture, it was God's idea; He commanded Moses to pass the baton on, to Joshua. After Joshua took over, Moses featured no more; he went into the mountains overlooking the Promised Land, and he died there.

Moses' retirement was NOT permanent, unlike men-made retirement. How do I know that? We know that Moses went to Heaven; a reasonable assumption, for Elijah went to Heaven (taken up to Heaven, in a chariot), and Moses subsequently, in the days of Jesus' earthly ministry, came to Jesus, together with Elijah, meeting with Jesus at Transfiguration. So, we can see, the "retirement" by God was only transient or temporal; Moses resumed serving God, after he has passed away, and was raised to Heaven.

Cont. on next page...

Anthony Chia said...

Cont. from preceding page

While we do NOT retire from serving God based on man-made retirement policy (one retires from man’s appointment like being a church pastor, but from NOT serving God), God does retire us, simply in recognition of the "inevitable" for men, i.e. men will eventually reach his or her full earthly life-span. That is an earthly constraint, which God does take into account; and He would come to address your next assignment after that! Meanwhile, the baton has to be passed on (Now, Moses’ retirement was really NOT due to weak body as a result of old age, although, that age of 120+ might be regarded as old, for Moses was still strong bodily; and that was why I used the phrase, “reach his or her full earthly life-span”. If you want to know why Moses did NOT enter the Promised Land, go here: ““).

The most sensible approach we should adopt, so as to please God, is therefore, that we regard each "retirement" as a "rest before reassignment", and in each reassignment, we just continue to do our utmost, until such time that it is time for the saying, "It is finished" to apply to us, just as it did for Jesus, on the Cross - in other words, when our job on earth is done (finished), and we are going up to meet our Lord, is that retirement, the last rest for our earthly life.

In a sense, I disagree with the portrayal of Caleb as being old and still wanted to face challenges. Had it been Moses, at the age of around 120+, and he exhibited the same attitude, it would have been a clearer and better example. I will explain why: Perhaps, in that time, age 40+ is the "I can take the world on" age; age 80+, the mellowed age; and age 120+ is the age of baton-passing. Big assignment (leading the people of God out, from Egypt) was given to Moses when he was 80+, not 40+. 80+ was NOT considered "old", for the case of Moses; similarly, 80+ should NOT be regarded as "old" for Caleb. In other words, Caleb got a minor but nevertheless important assignment at the age of 40+, and he asked for a big assignment at the age of 80+.

Man's life-span is expected to settle to around 2 scores and a ten; i.e. around 70 years old. 2/3 way (in Moses' time - about 80 years old) is about 47 years old. Of course, there is no basis to say that, only and if only, you reached the 2/3 mark, will you be on your "big" assignment. In actual fact, there are many stories of people moving along a continuum, starting from a young age, and snow-balling their ministry over time.

In fact, I was aware, some years back, there was a saying, coming from the West, particularly, from places like the US, that when the person has passed the 40 mark, that person should be regarded as automatically disqualified for bigger things, even in the church. In other words, there is the tendency to label people as “over the hill” sooner than what is reasonable.

The point to note is therefore, that we should NOT unnecessarily curtail people's involvement in serving God, by applying artificial age cut-offs. The better motto to adopt included this: "All can serve". This motto, I believe {a word of knowledge, you say}, was what the Lord had wanted, and still wants, with regard to the church that I belong. All are given a mountain, tailored to each individual. When you have conquered that mountain, you can then be assigned another mountain. Yes, you can talk to God about the mountain you want to overcome; but remember, it is God who knows what kind of mountain and what level, you are to surmount, in each stage of your spiritual growth. It is alright to dream, but be humble to take the mountain the Lord has assigned.

Cont. on next page...

Anthony Chia said...

Cont. from preceding page

With regard to serving God, I dreamt doing bigger things (and I still do), but I would and am just taking whatever little hills that come my way; maybe, even seemed to be stalling, to my dislike. However, how can I claim I know what is best for me when I know so little; it is better to defer to the Master for our assignment.

Of course, the other thing is that we should NOT compare; you are different from me, and I am different from her; and each is having separate and possibly entirely different mountains. Is the one who had led 100 persons into the Kingdom necessarily done better than the one who had only led 10 persons? Not necessary! Don’t compare, and don’t judge others’ ministries, even as you may judge the teachings of another.

I come back to the 2 scenarios I referred to, at the beginning of my comment: Yes, last weekend I have had the privilege of one of Derek’s sisters approaching me at the end of the late morning service and asked me to pray with her (My “retired” Senior Pastor, Derek; a number of his siblings were/are actively serving the Lord).

Talking about retirement, this sister of Derek, used to be a missionary in a large nation for several years, but had stopped doing that for a while now, and is living in Australia (but is back in Singapore for the Chinese New Year). She shared that although she had left mission work in that large nation, she has continued to support the project work that she was involved in. She had continued to provide financial support to that work, even though she herself was in Australia, holding secular job to earn her keep. She was sharing, she has done that financial supporting for some time now, and wants the Lord’s view of whether or NOT she should still continue (to provide the financial support). I prayed with her, and I said to her that the Lord is pleased to have us continue to serve Him. Her giving of her financial support, even though she was no longer there on the field, is still serving the Lord. I assured her that when we give as unto the Lord, it is honored by God, regardless how the funds are being used.

In my heart, I marveled and admired the servitude of the Hong family; NOT only she gave towards that mission work, another sister of Derek also had given towards the entire renovation cost of a church premise of that mission work. The Hong family is NOT rich financially, yet even as I write, I remember another saying of Derek (a little paraphrasing, perhaps), “I may not have this or that, but I am NOT poor.” Derek chose to see himself as NOT poor, which is right; for a child of God is NOT poor. Rather, he (and his siblings) has learned godliness with contentment as the way of life. By the way, that sister afterward, shared that she might again be out on the field if the Lord so directs – there you have it, only rest until reassigned.

Cont. on next page...

Anthony Chia said...

Cont. from preceding page

The second scenario is this: The preacher for the weekend services shared that a retired Singapore Anglican Diocese Bishop, now staying in UK, is aged well over 90. In their meet-up recently, the ex-Bishop acknowledged that the body was surely not what it used to be, in other words, getting weaker, yet the conversation did NOT end there, the preacher shared that the ex-Bishop followed it with “but Heaven is getting nearer.” When I was still a very young Christian, I read a book written by one who had served God with much happenings, but in the later part of his life (the late years), he ceased to see anything much happening in his life, as if the Lord had retired him off, and doubts surfaced in him (Come to think about it, the fact that I remember such a storyline, I figure now, perhaps, a long, long time ago, even as I was a young Christian, somehow, my heart had already contemplated giving of time and energy in serving God in some way; but that is now, something worth my pondering). But here, is a contrast; an ex-serviceman, perhaps, sensing increasingly, his work is going to be said to be finished, he is looking to share his Lord’s glory, refused to be put down by the sad reality that we will reach our full earthly life-span, and die.

Oh, indeed, Christians should fear death NOT.
Oh, death, where is your sting!
Oh, when death no more, life evermore.
Meanwhile, I am a mountaineer.
Meanwhile, I shall be up and about the mount.
Meanwhile, mount after mount.
My mountain, here I come.