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Sovereign Grace Bible Church of Cebu
 
 


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Going abroad

by: Jose Francis Martinez

Many Filipinos are leaving the country and moving somewhere else that hardly anyone does not know of someone who either has left or is leaving the country. In fact, in the medical field alone, sixty five medical doctors in Cebu, some of whom are the very best, are taking up nursing because they want to move and work either in the U.K. or in the U.S. And this phenomenon is not only found in the world but even in the churches of Christ. I have meet Reformed Baptist pastors in Luzon who have expressed deep concern that many church members have either left the country or are planning to leave.

Therefore, I would not be surprise if you are thinking of just the same. Perhaps you are wondering: "Why should I not leave like the others? There is no command in Scriptures that forbids Christians from leaving their country. Besides, my decision is not going to be like Lot's. If I will move abroad, I will move to a place where there is a good Reformed Baptist church I can be a part of . Why sweat it out here in this country? Why not move to a country that would promise a better future for my children?"

Now if that is what you are thinking about, there are a few more biblical principles and passages that you should consider and give weight to. Do not just decide to go without first considering and given due weight to these biblical principles.

And what are those principles? There are four vital biblical principles that you will have to consider and give due weight.

THE PRINCIPLE OF CONTENTMENT

I want to emphasize at the outset that not all who leave the country is because of a problem of lack of contentment. But there is also no doubt that many, if not most, leave the country because of this particular problem. Many leave because they are no longer content with God's provision for them in this country, and, therefore, they want to try it out somewhere.

And Christian, if you ever leave the country to go somewhere else make sure that you are not leaving because of this problem of lack of contentment.

The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, "Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, 6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna." - Num. 11:4-6

Note in this passage, what the people did. The word "rabble" mentioned here refers to the "mixed multitude", who were not Israelites but who went along with them. They had greedy desires. And it was before long that the Israelites were infected with the rabbles' greedy desires and became very discontented with their lot that they were sulking and weeping. It was not before long that they even despised the manna that God graciously provided them with - "There is nothing to look at except this manna".

Furthermore, note in this passage how God reacted.

Now there went forth a wind from the LORD and it brought quail from the sea, and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, all around the camp and about two cubits deep on the surface of the ground. 32 The people spent all day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers) and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. Num. 11:31-32

God gave the people what they wanted, and even more than what they wanted. God carpeted the land with quails - two days journey in diameter and about three feet deep of meat. Now that's a lot of meat - more than what the people needed and could gather. But God did this not in mercy but in anger! Thus as the people were about to eat the meat, God in wrath destroyed many of them.

While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very severe plague.

Perhaps you are wondering: But why did God react that way? Why was God so angry with the people? Several reasons are indicated in the passage, the effects of which is cumulative.

  1. First, the people were craving for things that were not even essential to the sustenance of life.

    We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone (verses 5-6a)
    If the people had nothing to eat and drink, then there reaction would have been more understandable, although still inexcusable. But the people were craving for things that were not even essential to life, but the extras of life they used to enjoy in Egypt. Thus God's anger burned against the people. .

  2. Moreover, the manna the Lord graciously provided the people was good enough for food. And the passage emphasizes this in verses 7-9.
    Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. 8 The people would go about and gather it and grind it between two millstones or beat it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make cakes with it; and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it.

    The manna may not have been as delicious as the fish and the meat and the spices in Egypt but it was good enough for food. It was nutritious, filling, and tasty enough. But the people despised the Lord's gracious provision. They were not content with it. Thus the Lord's anger burned against the people.

  3. Furthermore, the people longed for the extras in life they no longer enjoyed and forgot the good they were enjoying under the favor of God. What was the condition of the Jews in the Egypt? They were slaves oppressed by a paranoid and cruel Pharaoh. Their lives were made bitter by Pharaoh with excessive hard labor. And their male children were not even allowed to live - for Pharaoh would have them killed out of fear of an insurrection. But the people forgot the mercies of God in delivering from their bondage and hardship in Egypt and they focused only on the little things they used to enjoy in Egypt. This is really the nature of discontentment. It focuses only what one does not presently have rather than the many blessings one presently has. The grass is always greener somewhere else. Therefore, God's anger burned against the people.

  4. In addition, we must remember that it was for the good of the people that God provided them with manna in the wilderness, not because He did not have the power to provide them what they wanted, and not because He just wanted them to unnecessary 'suffer' in the wilderness.
    In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end.- Deut. 8:16

    What good? One of them is spelled out in Verses 17-18.

    Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it all alone. Say to the people, 'Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt." Therefore the LORD will give you meat and you shall eat.

    Thus when the people became discontent and had greedy desires, the Lord's anger was aroused against the people.

  5. Besides, was not the Lord with them? What not the Lord bringing them to land flowing with milk and honey? So why be discontent with the Lord's present provision for them when they had such a blessed inheritance in the future? Therefore, God's anger burned against the people.

Therefore, beware of this attitude of discontentment. 1Tim 6:8 "If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." If you are thinking of leaving the country, make sure that you are not doing it out of a discontented heart. Make sure that you are not doing it because you have become dissatisfied of God's gracious provision for you here in this country. Leaving this country with that attitude will never cure you of that problem. Moreover, if you leave the country out of a disposition of discontent, God might just give you what you want, but not in mercy but in anger and in judgment. No one can see your heart. However, God can. Therefore, beware of this attitude of discontentment.

THE PRINCIPLE OF SELF-DENYING SENSITIVITY TOWARDS GOD'S PEOPLE

Christians cannot leave in isolation from other Christians. And what we say, do, or fail to do can and do affect other Christians. Therefore, it is important that we be sensitive that our words and actions do not have a negative effect upon others. So if you thinking about leaving the country, then you cannot just be thinking about yourself. You have to think in terms of what effect that will have upon church you are a part of.

And the importance of this principle is stressed for us in Num 32:1-5, 6-15, 16-19, 20-23 (READ).

Note here: What the children of Gad and Reuben were requesting from Moses. a. What they were asking was that they will not go beyond the Jordan but instead stay east of the Jordan, since the land they have already conquered was perfectly suited for their needs. b. In and of itself, there was nothing wrong with this request. In and of itself, it was a legitimate request. In fact, on one condition, Moses allowed them to settle east of the Jordan. 2. However, the implication of that request greatly disturbed Moses.

He viewed that request as utterly selfish and he saw the negative effect it will have on the rest of God's people that he reprimanded those who made it.

And what the sons of Gad and Reuben were doing was so serious in the eyes of Moses that he equated it with what the spies did in discouraging the people from entering the land of Canaan - an act which brought destruction upon the people.

Now why are you discouraging the sons of Israel from crossing over into the land which the LORD has given them? This is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land. For when they went up to the valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the sons of Israel so that they did not go into the land which the LORD had given them. So the LORD'S anger burned in that day, and He swore, saying, 'None of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob; for they did not follow Me fully, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have followed the LORD fully.' So the LORD'S anger burned against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the entire generation of those who had done evil in the sight of the LORD was destroyed. Now behold, you have risen up in your fathers' place, a brood of sinful men, to add still more to the burning anger of the LORD against Israel. For if you turn away from following Him, He will once more abandon them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all these people. - Num. 32:7-15
The sons of Gad and Reuben did not exactly do what the spies did - for they did not directly and verbally discourage the people from entering the land. However, in the eyes of Moses, what they were requesting from him is virtually the same as what the spies did in discouraging the people. Our words do not only affect people but also our action or non-action has the same powerful effect.

So if you are thinking of leaving the country, and therefore, the church you are a part of, give due weight to this matter of sensitivity to the rest of God's people. You cannot just selfishly think about yourself, the benefits you can derive from it and that of your family's. You must think in terms of the rest of God's people. "What effects will my leaving have upon the rest of God's people? Will it dishearten them? Will it discourage them from continuing the work of the Lord in this country?" And if your attitude is: "I do not care. I have a life to live and a family to raise", then be sure that your sin will find you out.

THE PRINCIPLE OF SUFFERING FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.

The work of building the church will have to involve some "sacrifices" of the part of ministers of the gospel and of all God's people. This principle is powerfully expressed by Paul in Col 1:24-29.

24Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. 25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Note that Paul speaks here of doing his share of suffering on behalf of the church and of "filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions (or suffering)" (Vs 24).

And what is Paul here talking about? Is he saying that Christ's atoning death on Calvary was not sufficient to atone for all the sins of those whom He came to die? No! That cannot be what Paul is saying! For elsewhere the Bible speaks that Christ's once-and-for-all, all-sufficient, and non-repeatable sacrifice on Calvary is all the sacrifice we need to atone for all of our sins! (Heb 7:26-27; Heb 10:11-14, 18).

So what then is Paul talking about in Col 1? What does he mean by "filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions"? In the context of Col 1, Paul is talking about his work and calling of building up the body of Christ - the church. That work is not yet complete after Christ died on Calvary, and that work will have to involve suffering and difficulty. It will involve self-denying labor on the part of the people of God, and particularly, ministers of the word of God. Paul, however, was more than willing to take his share of suffering for the building up of the church and in that sense to fill up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.

Now, the work of building up the church of Christ is not yet complete. In fact, it will only be complete at the second coming of Christ. Doing that work of building the church will involve suffering and afflictions on the part of ministers of the word of God and the rest of the people of God. God's people will have to do some sacrifices for the building up of the church of God! That was true in the past, and that is still true in any and every generation.

Now here is the point of application:

  1. If the church of Christ here in the Philippines is to be built up, then God's people here in this country will have to do many "sacrifices". God's people here will have to do their share in suffering on behalf of the church and in filling up what was lacking in Christ's affliction.

  2. So if ever you are thinking of leaving the country, then make sure that you are not leaving because of unwillingness on your part to take your share in suffering on behalf of Christ's body - the church. Make sure you not leaving because you just want a more comfortable life elsewhere. If ever you leave, make sure your reason is not a carnal one.

  3. For what is our suffering here compared to the glory that awaits us in heaven? Paul says that our suffering in this present time is not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom 8:18).

THE PRINCIPLE OF NOT WASTING A GOD-GIVEN OPPORTUNITY

And the God-given opportunity I am talking about here is not the opportunity to go somewhere else in the hope of a better and more comfortable life here on earth. But the opportunity of being used by God for the building of up of the churches of Christ here in our beloved country.

This principle is beautifully expressed in the words of Mordecai to Esther - Esther 4:6-14.

6 So Hathach went out to Mordecai to the city square in front of the king's gate. 7 Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact amount of money that Haman had promised to pay to the king's treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict which had been issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show Esther and inform her, and to order her to go in to the king to implore his favor and to plead with him for her people. 9 Hathach came back and related Mordecai's words to Esther. She excusing herself, is threatened by Mordecai 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and ordered him to reply to Mordecai: 11 All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days. 12 They related Esther's words to Mordecai. 13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, "Do not imagine that you in the king's palace can escape any more than all the Jews. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?

Do you see what Mordecai is saying? He is not saying to Esther that if she will not do what she can to save the Jews from destruction, then nobody else will. No. He says that deliverance will come for God's people from another place. IOW, he is reminding Esther that the cause of God is not dependent upon her. If she will not do what she can to save the Jews from destruction, then God will raise someone to do the work.

Mordecai, however, urges Esther to grab the God-given opportunity to be used by God for the deliverance of God's people. Since God has providentially put her in a situation where she can be of used, then she must not waste that sacred opportunity.

If you are thinking of leaving the country, and therefore, the church you are a part of, then make sure that you not wasting a God-given opportunity to be used of God in building up of the people of God in this country.

Who can best serve the cause of Christ in the Philippines than Filipino Christians who were born here, who have lived here for years, who are used to the standard of life here, who know the culture and the ins and outs of the way of life here?

Unless the church sends you to do mission work in very needy land to start a church and train local pastors to oversee the work, this is the place where God in providence has placed you. And this is the place you are most suited to serve the church of Christ. So why waste the God-given opportunity?

I am not like some sincere but ill-informed pastors who plead with God's people not to leave the country out of fear that God's cause in the Philippines might come to nothing. God's cause is not dependent upon anyone. He can work not just with the means but even above the means, without the means, and even against the means. If some Christians will leave, God can always raise up others to take their place. But why waste an opportunity God has given them in providence to serve the church of Christ in this country? We only have one life to live - and after this - eternity in glory.

Conclusion

I do not want to leave the impression that I am against all Christians leaving the country to go somewhere else. There could be valid and God-honoring reasons for going. But if ever you are thinking of going, consider and give due weight to these biblical principles we have considered: 1) the principle of contentment 2) the principle of sensitivity towards God's people 3) the principle of suffering for the sake of Christ's church 4) the principle of not wasting a God-given opportunity. If your reason for leaving is carnal, then repent, and come in faith to our gracious Mediator - the Lord Jesus.

But to us who are decided to stay, let us avoid making unrighteous judgments upon others who have left or are thinking of leaving. John 7:24 "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with a righteous judgment." The fact that a person is leaving does not automatically mean that his/her reason/s are carnal. So do not pass any judgment on the basis of just appearance. Judge with a righteous judgment.


► posted by: SGBC Cebu @ 10:59 AM Share

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