I recently attended this year’s LDI Graduation Ceremony. It was really a celebration of God’s goodness. Another set of graduates from all over the Philippines and even from Japan committed their lives to Jesus on another level. Last year, I was sitting at the graduates’ area, tearing up thankful for the opportunity and excited for the journey of following Jesus’ pattern of ministry. But this year, I was at the supporters’ area, cheering and praying for the graduates as they will follow Jesus’s pattern of ministry all the way, too!
I reminisced of my LDI experiences last year. I am glad to have seen my former teachers, batchmates and even my brothers and sisters in the faith from other ministry areas. But more than anything, I am so glad to have witnessed how God is continuously moving in and within the hearts of the people in the Body of Christ.
The message of Pastor Roger Borres, through the power of the Holy Spirit, really hit hard on me. I caught myself listening so attentively to what he was sharing. It honestly seemed like I was listening/reading through 2 Corinthians 4 for the first time ever. The concluding message during the graduation day only included two words: KEEP GOING.
Just two words but with an impact that can sustain a disciple’s heart for many days ahead.
The chapter starts with: “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” This verse is so beautiful that it does not need any further explanation. It is as humbling and encouraging as it gets. We are living right through the mercy of God, and such mercy implores every disciple of Jesus to keep going.
This mercy means that we do not deserve God’s forbearance and compassion at all. We actually deserve nothing but punishment because we have offended the One who created us. But His love for us withheld all just condemnation. God’s mercy is more than enough for a disciple of Christ to keep preaching Jesus Christ as Lord and to keep serving others for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:3).
FROM MERCY TO GRACE: THE DAY MY ATE VIVIAN TOLD ME TO KEEP GOING
When the words “KEEP GOING” flashed on the screen, I remembered my ate Vivian telling me the exact same thing when I was going through a season of discouragement.
I started sharing the gospel to and leading Bible study groups with acquaintances at work some time in 2015. First few weeks, three ladies became five then eight. Then in the next months, eight ladies became five then three. Then two. Then one.
I thought, “God, it could be that this remaining girl will be the harvest from all the labor. Okay, Lord. I will continue to disciple her.” And so I did. I invested my life to this girl all the more, encouraging and challenging her every time to grow in her love relationship with the Lord. She continued to join along our Bible studies. She even brought two of her officemates along with her in our weekly Bible study group.
Until one day, late December of 2016, the girl also left without any goodbye. I still tried to reach out to her but she gave no reply. I was heartbroken. Not only did I feel like I lost the opportunity to disciple her but I also felt like I lost a friend and a younger sister.
I did not want to meet up with her two friends anymore. I secretly thought, “They too will leave anyway.” During our next meet-up, as my heart was so discouraged, one of them said, “We invited our new officemate but she said she’ll just join us next time.”
I smiled but I was actually hesitant. I told myself, “This is not new. They will all leave anyway.”
“Her name is Grace”, they added.
I silently prayed, “Well, Lord. That’s exactly what I need to have in order to go on: Your grace.”
The next day, I approached my discipler, ate Vivian. I told her, “Ate, I want to stop meeting the ladies I am Bible studying with at work. It has been two years but instead of experiencing growth, what I have now is discouragement. Maybe I should just move on and look for another place where I can share the gospel.”
My ate Vivian said to me, “There is no point of discouragement. What is God teaching you in the situation? Learn it and keep going. Do not give up.”
The next week, with a heavy heart, I told God: “Okay God, I won’t give up. This is Yours anyway so I will keep on going. You are teaching me to live by faith and not in the flesh. My flesh sees discouragement but your Holy Spirit in me sees hope and perseverance.”
That same week, January 11, 2017, I met Grace for the first time. She came inside the conference room very shy. I shared the gospel to the three of them that day. It was that day that Grace prayed to receive Jesus in her life as her Lord and Savior.
One year and six months later, I find myself sitting at the supporters’ area of the LDI Graduation Day venue – waiting for Grace to come up the stage with her life verse playing along. I knew she has been praying for a life verse so it was my first time to hear it. Hearing/seeing her publicly declare Acts 20:24 bring an unexplainable joy in my heart.
If God did not intercede, using even my discipler to tell me to keep going, I would have just given up. If I had given up, I would have not met Grace. I would have just drowned in defeat.
I cannot claim anything good from what happened. Grace is not mine. Grace did not open up her heart because of anything I did. Grace is God’s. It is God who opened up her heart, who gave her a teachable spirit. It is God who planted faith in her. It is God who watered her and made her bear fruit.
God used Grace, even the rest of the girls I am discipling today, to show me that I am only living right through His mercy. Typing these words right now even brings tears in my eyes. I do not deserve to partake in His mission. I do not deserve to be entrusted with people to reach out and disciple. I do not even deserve to utter His words or to even be in His presence. Yet He said He chose me, not because of who I am but because of who Christ is (John 15:16). Indeed, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
The words “Therefore, we do not lose heart” appears in the same chapter twice. But on the second one, it adds: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
God is renewing His followers each and every day. As He sees through how I am wasting away, He renews my inward being each and every day. What beauty in sanctification. We have a God who loves us from the inside out.
We also have a God who does not only speak reminders and encouragement, but also tells us how to stick to it. In fact, through Paul, God ends the chapter with: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
God used that LDI graduation day to renew me. God allowed me to be there because He wants to personally tell me “Do not lose heart” not just once but twice. God’s mercy indeed intends to be our passion-driving force to refuse fatigue and discouragement.
And so we keep on going. We keep on praying.
All glory to God!