The Cactus Series

7. Reap Without Sowing?!

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV)

In this passage, Paul uses three parallel phrases in order to remind Timothy the foundations of Christian service. In these three phrases, Paul does not mention his own ability, the fruitfulness of his service, or even how he selected ministry partners. All he says is "I have" three times to express his faithful devotion regarding his ministry work to Jesus. Paul firmly believed that as a result of "a life of faithful and devoted work to Jesus" he would be rewarded in heaven. This is probably why he uses this particular phrase in his last teaching to his beloved student and son Timothy.

I have been a pastor for over six years. Never had I dreamt of using my writing skills to serve God. The main reason being simply, I am not a good writer. Whenever I hear that brothers and sisters are inspired by these written devotionals, it is I who feels that I profit from the hard work of others. In fact, I do not do much. From my notes to what you read, there are people who proof-read, type, edit, print, etc. All I do is put down on paper what God has impressed upon my heart. Relatively speaking, I don't do much work.

I feel that I have to show appreciation to others. But then I ask myself "Am I being humble?" After thinking it over, I actually found that this was a rather silly thought. Think about it, everything is from God - spiritual gifts, talents, time, opportunities, ministry partners, the fruit of ministry - these are all entirely by the grace of God. I have absolutely nothing to boast about. As Paul reminds us, the foundation of Christian service is to remain faithful and devoted to Jesus wherever He calls us to.

"How silly I am to have spent over six years before finally understanding this ..."

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   The Cactus

   Rev. Kelvin Li
   June 25, 2008

6. Dedicating My Life

2 Timothy 2:2 says "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." The Apostle Paul uses this verse to call attention to the crucial principle of discipleship. Beginning with Paul, then Timothy, "the reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" and counting the "others", there are a total of four generations of "the disciples of Jesus Christ" mentioned here. From this passage, we read of the expectation that Paul has of Timothy - his true son (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2), to - in a sense - have children, grand children and great grand children.

Because of my ailing health, a friend recommended a particular vitamin supplement to me. However, in order for me to purchase this supplement, I first needed to obtain a special membership. Nowadays, this has become a common marketing practice and business approach. Membership has the exclusive privilege of dealing with a particular product offered by a particular retailer. Additionally, members who refer and get hold of more members are further rewarded. This marketing strategy has become quite successful and popular.

Similar to this marketing concept is the idea of discipleship. Paul asked Timothy to find "reliable men who [would] also be qualified to teach others" and to teach them everything that he knew. In other words, the teachings of Jesus are to be passed "one by one." Those who teach and those who learn then both benefit spiritually in the process.

In a perfect world, this method of preaching the gospel and discipleship would cover the planet in no time - ideally, in an instant the entire world would be full of believers. However, in reality, not all men are "reliable to teach others" and the world is not perfect but flawed with wickedness and sin. Rather than adopting these concepts to make disciples, people implement them to aggressively pursue financial wealth and prosperity.

The Bible never mentions the Heavenly Father ever having grand children. Instead, anyone who believes in Jesus Christ is a child of the Heavenly Father - all who have faith in Jesus are also related to every other believer in the household of God. Furthermore, the Apostle Paul's ministry of discipleship emphasizes the importance of making disciples of all generations - discipleship that carries from one generation to another. Nowhere is it implied that there are different generations or levels within the household of God - again, all followers of Christ are children of the Heavenly Father.

Jesus commanded His disciples "to go and make disciples of all nations," implicit within this Great Commission is the principle of making disciples "one by one" and also from generation to generation. It is my hope and prayer that we would take heart to what the Holy Spirit entrusts to each one who believes in Jesus as Paul also entrusted to Timothy the command of Jesus "to go and make disciples of all nations."


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The Cactus

Rev. Kelvin Li
June 19, 2008

5. The Sun No More

"The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory." (Isaiah 60:19 NIV)

If we look at the first half of this verse, "The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you", this is an interesting image of darkness drawn here. Today, we know that the sun and moon are responsible and critical for the changes of the seasons. Today, as we face a shortage of natural resources, solar power has become important in energy conservation. What is more, without sunlight our bodies lack of certain vitamins vital for health and growth. In the day of Isaiah, the absence of the sun and the shine of the moon would have resulted in an enormous crisis as mankind would have been faced with the complete darkness of the earth.

Though the first half of this passage shows the sentence that God proclaims, as we continue further into the chapter we find that God proclaims the victory of His promises. The second half of verse 19 actually begins to show us the promise "for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory." Though the sun and moon are essential for daily living, if we are in the Lord our lives would lack nothing.

Looking back to when I was first admitted to the hospital, I could not even swallow food. I could hardly breathe on my own. I was unable to even carry out the basics of daily living. I experienced a deficiency of energy and "get-up-and-go." I would have bouts with the determination to survive. However, it was during this period that God used His divine power to grant me a deep realization and awareness of His sovereign presence. My shoulders felt God holding me tightly with His hands. His chest leaned in tight against my back. From time to time I could hear a soft voice talking to me. When I would open my eyes, there would be nobody behind me. This continued on occurring at different hours of the day for four days. If truth be told, my original thought was that I had nothing to worry; I was ready to go by whatever His will was for me. To stay or to go, I was willing to obey. But then, something beyond even my expectations, His healing hands came upon me. Gradually, I could breathe and even eat again as usual.

Oddly enough, this extraordinary experience did not last and even almost completely escaped my memory. Later on, however, my memories of the experiences did return. The spiritual lesson that God wanted me to learn was, "do not focus too much on the supernatural and divine encounters." Rather, I learned that my focus was to be "For those who fear Him lack nothing" (Psalm 34:9).


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The Cactus

Rev. Kelvin Li
June 2, 2008