The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Christians: Commitment
Some reflections from my heart…
Before I left for India two weeks ago, a number of our members expressed their best wishes for my journey. Some did so in serious comments, others in more humorous tones. I remember, for example, that Jimmy Hewitt told me that a mutual friend of ours had gone to India on business and when he returned, he was asked about the trip. He replied: “Well, let me put it this way. From now on whenever I get mad at someone I am not going to tell them to go to hell—I’m going to tell them to go to India!”
He was right in part. When you speak of India it is impossible to exaggerate in any way whether you are speaking positively or negatively. There are dimensions of that land that are like what hell must be—and there are other dimensions which lift you to the edge of heaven. India has 850 million people—three times the population of the United States with only 1/3 the geographical space. It has more people than Africa, Australia, and South America combined. It is the second largest nation on earth, the largest democracy and the most needful nation in the world. It has enormous wealth concentrated in a few high caste families and it has grinding poverty affecting multiple millions of people. It is the most religious nation on earth, but it is also the earth’s most heartless society. The low caste people, known as the untouchables, are condemned to a life so terrible that I cannot even describe it to you. Women are, in general, used, abused, and misused. In fact, there are 55,000 babies born each day in India—but 25% of the girl babies in that number never make it out of childhood.
So there is a sense in which, when I went to India, I went to hell. But amazingly enough, I found Jesus Christ there. I saw Him there maybe as I have never seen Him before. And He is waging a remarkable battle against the darkness and evil which exist in that sometimes hellish place. To be precise, there are presently 80 million Christians in India—80 million!—and that number is increasing dramatically every day. I would go so far as to say that on the basis of what I saw, the dream of India becoming a predominantly Christian nation sometime during the 21st century is not an idle dream at all.
Let me try to make the point by describing for you where I was just one week ago. It was my privilege to preach at a dedication service for a church in the village of Kohtapehta, some 200 kilometers north of the city of Madras. The village is home to about 2,000 people known as the Yanadi tribe. Until a year ago they were some of the most feared people in India. They were fierce warriors and killers. They were devil worshipers and snake charmers. Their pagan rituals were so brutal and intense that they would actually vomit blood as an act of obeisance to their pagan gods. Each year at planting time, in order to gain the favor of the gods for a good harvest, they would select a child from the village, cut off the child’s arms or legs, and leave the limbs in the field as an offering.
Then came Jesus Christ and a man named Kamalekar. His name literally means “victory in Christ.” What a name and what a man! Kamalekar is a legend in that part of India. He is a small, wiry man with a gigantic faith and an indefatigable energy. Several years ago, he asked God what he wanted him to do and he heard God say “Take the Gospel to the villages.” That he is doing. With an incredible courage, he is walking into these pagan or Hindu villages and establishing churches—42 in the last year. Six months ago he began working in Kohtapehta. Miraculous conversions began to occur. The whole village was affected. Their pagan animistic practices were set aside even though not everyone in the village is yet a Christian. I preached out in the open air with the village Christians seated on the ground before me. They sang Gospel songs in their Telugu language, many of them written by Kamalekar himself. He then translated for me as I preached. I preached on the subject of Jesus and the man at the pool of Bethesda who had been ill for 38 years. As the service unfolded, hundreds of the other villagers came and clustered about the edges of the field. They listened and reacted, both to the service and to the sermon. When I finished, twelve men and women came forward and asked to be baptized.
The only available water was in a drainage ditch by the side of the road. The water was horribly polluted. Kamalekar insisted that my health would be endangered by getting down into that water. So he immersed these new Christians in that drainage ditch while I gave to each one a new name. You see, it is the custom for new Christians in India to lay aside their Hindu, Muslim or pagan names and to be given a new name from the Bible. As those new Christians would emerge from the water, I would embrace them and give them the name I chose for each. The whole experience set off a great celebration in the village and Christian mothers and fathers began crowding around me asking me to anoint their children with coconut oil and deliver a blessing to each child. There were dozens of them.
Then suddenly, there stood before me a couple who had just been baptized. They held in their arms a little boy who had no legs. I asked Kamalekar what had happened. He said that two years ago, the little boy’s legs had been cut off and placed in the fields at planting time to appease the pagan gods. Now these parents wanted to offer their son to Jesus Christ. They asked if I would give their son a new Biblical name. I took the little boy in my arms, prayed for him, and then I said to his weeping parents: “You shall now call him ‘John David'”. That is my son’s name. And just as I pray for my son, John David, so now I will be praying for a little boy named John David in the village of Kohtapehta. I hope you will pray for him, too.
And so it continued day after day in different parts of the country. I encountered again and again, conversions and miracles and changed lives and transformed villages. I encountered again and again, people whose commitment to Jesus is so strong as to put my own to shame. I encountered again and again the reminder that in the end people with that kind of commitment to Jesus Christ will prevail upon the earth.
Now some reflections from Scripture…
To put it bluntly, the third Beatitude has taken on an entirely new meaning for me. You see, that Beatitude is about commitment. Of course, you may be saying to yourself: “That Beatitude says ‘Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.’ What does that have to do with commitment?” Everything. Let me explain it like this.
Back in the 1600’s, the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral was built in London. Upon its completion, the architect, Sir Christopher Wren, arranged for the Royal Family to have a private tour. When they finished the tour, the king said to the architect: “This cathedral is awful, amusing and artificial.” Sir Christopher Wren was thrilled by that response. Why? Because back then the word “awful” meant “awesome”, the word “amusing” meant “amazing”, and the word “artificial” meant “artistic.”
The point is clear. With the passing of time, words sometimes change in their meaning. That’s exactly what happened to this word “meek.” For us the word implies someone who is weak and wimpy, someone who is spineless and namby-pamby, someone who gets pushed around and kicked in the teeth. But that’s not the way Jesus meant the word at all. For Jesus, meekness did not mean weakness. Exactly the opposite. For Jesus, meekness meant a strong commitment to God and an unswerving obedience to His will. That’s always the way the word “meek” is used in the Bible.
It’s helpful to remember that in the Old Testament, for example, Moses was referred to as being meek. Think about that. Moses whom God called to lead His people out of slavery, Moses who laid his life on the line and stared down Pharoah, Moses who led the people through years of wilderness wandering all the way to the Promised Land, Moses who was one of the strongest leaders and one of the most courageous characters in all the Bible, Moses was called the meekest of men. In the Book of Numbers we read these words: “Now the man Moses was very meek, meek more than all the men that were on the face of the earth.” It is quite clear that Moses was considered meek, not because he was weak and wimpy, but because he gave himself completely to God. He obeyed God. He trusted God. He served God. He did God’s will regardless of the cost or the consequences. That’s what it means to be meek.
It’s also helpful to remember that in the Bible the Greek word used for “meek” is “praos” which refers to the taming or training of wild animals. The meek then are those who have been tamed or trained by God and brought under His commands and control to be used in His service.
I read an article not long ago about the training of Arabian stallions. Hour after hour, day after day, the stallions are taught to obey the master and to trust him completely. The master always has a whistle and when he sounds the whistle, the stallions are taught to stop what they are doing, no matter the circumstances, and they are to come immediately to the master. Then comes the final test. The stallions are placed in a corral in the desert midway up a hillside. At the bottom of the hill is a beautiful oasis with crystal clear water. The stallions are held in the corral for several hours under the blazing sun with no water to drink. The master stands at the top of the hill. The stallions are released. They go charging down the hill toward the water. But just before they reach the water the master blows the whistle. The stallions who, despite their terrible thirst, turn and run up the hill toward the master are considered well-trained. These powerful horses trust the master completely. They subject their will to his. They live in constant obedience to his command.
That’s what it means to be meek. It means to be totally surrendered to God’s will. It means being totally committed to serving Him in life. It means to trust Him completely. So in Scripture meekness never means weakness. It never means wimpiness or cowardice. Rather it means the strength which comes from commitment to God, the poise which comes from trust in God, and the steadiness which comes from putting Jesus Christ at the center of your life. O how near to the heart of God are those who are completely committed to His will…
Let me finish this by taking you back to India with me. I said earlier that I found a commitment to Jesus Christ which put my own commitment to shame. One illustration…remember Kamalekar? This small, wiry man with a gentle spirit, looks like anything but a powerhouse—but his commitment to Jesus Christ is overwhelming in its power. He has paid a heavy price for his faith. He has suffered intense persecution from Hindu extremists. He has been beaten repeatedly. He has been threatened with death. He is forty years old but looks like he is seventy, so severe is the toll his work for Christ has taken. But he will not be stopped. Two years ago, religious militants destroyed Kamalekar’s home. After destroying his home, they went to one of the churches he had planted in a nearby village. They killed two believers they found there. Then they set the church on fire. As an Indian missionary told that story he said: “Kamalekar stood in the nearby river and watched his church burn. Do you know why he was in the river? Because in the light of His burning church, he was baptizing eleven more converts into Christianity!” That’s the third Beatitude lived out in a highly effective Christian life. O how near to the heart of God are those who are so committed to Jesus Christ and so surrendered to His will! They shall inherit the earth because they are the beloved children of the One who made it.
Just a few reflections from my heart, from my mission to India, and from this Book. I hope and pray that you will take them to your own heart for Jesus’ sake…