Perseverance of Faith

Then Rebekah and her maids arose, and they rode on the camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rebekah and departed. Now Isaac came from the way of Beer Lahai Roi, for he dwelt in the South. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming. Then Rebekah lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel; for she had said to the servant, “Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took a veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. (Gen 24:61-67)

According to God’s promise Abraham begot a son named Isaac. He grew up and the time came for him to get married. He did not marry even until he was forty years old. Since his mother had already passed away and he himself was forty years of age, he would have felt quite lonely. He was wandering about alone in the fields. While the sun was setting, he was all by himself miserably roaming around. He would have been lonely and missed his mother too. Yet he didn’t get married even until then. And there was a reason for that. If he had wished to do as he pleased, he probably would’ve got married already. It’s not as though he had to have a university degree nor have a house ready; he was a shepherd tending the flock. Usually they get married when they turn 16 years of age and have children. But the reason he did not get married even though he was forty years old was because his father didn’t want him to find a wife in the region where they were living. That was also God’s will. So Abraham sent a servant to his native land – Ur of the Chaldeans – to find a woman for his son. And a woman named Rebekah was brought from there so that Isaac married her when he was around forty years of age.

There was a clear reason as to why Abraham sent a servant to his homeland to find a wife for his son. When God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans, He told him to leave his country, his family and his father’s house. In doing so, he became a wanderer. He was separated from all of his relations, the culture and civilisation he was accustomed to, as well as traditions and practices he belonged to, all the gods they worshipped and influence from family. God made him become such a wanderer in order that he may have only God’s guidance. It was also for Abraham to become a Hebrew who relies only on God in times when he is at a loss and doesn’t know where to go or what to do in a foreign land. However, if Isaac was to find a wife in the land of Canaan, then all the suffering Abraham went through would become futile.

Let’s say that Isaac found a beautiful woman in Canaan. Then her father and mother would also be living in Canaan. Her grandparents would be living there too, as well as her relatives – uncles, aunties, nieces and nephews. Everyone would be living in the same area. If that were so, Abraham and Isaac would also become their relations and ultimately, they would be influenced by those people and follow their cultures. God had done all that to make Abraham a wanderer and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans. But if they were to settle in Canaan, God’s plan would not be accomplished. So even when selecting a wife for Isaac, she had to be a stranger and a wanderer herself. So Abraham sent a servant to his native land where he used to live to find a wife from there. Just like Isaac, Rebekah begins to live a life as a stranger and wanderer in the land of Canaan. And just as his father did, Isaac and his wife had to be led by God only and trust in his promises alone. They were cut off from their family as well as all intervention from them. That is exactly what we need.

Presently, what is hard for middle easterners in their faith life is that it isn’t easy for them to break away from family ties. Also, it’s hard for them to break away from their culture. Since their religion and culture are tied together, they can’t have faith separate from their life. Their way of life is their religion and hence, for them to believe in Jesus means they have to be separated from their way of life. Thus it is almost impossible for them to believe in Jesus unless they leave their family and country. That is why preaching the gospel in the Middle East is not that easy.

If Pastor Kidong Kim had even one person who believed in Jesus in his family, that is, if his family had been Christians for a few generations starting from his grandfather and then his father, then it would’ve been hard for him to be the founder of Berea Movement. Actually, his father nor his uncles nor anyone in his grandfather’s generation were Christians, except for his aunt who had little influence was the only one who believed in Jesus. Thus Pastor Kim led his faith life free from any influence from tradition or existing theology. Instead he diligently read the Bible by himself which is why he could be led by the Holy Spirit only. He did later graduate from a Presbyterian seminary, but if he had built a Presbyterian Church, there would be many restrictions placed by the Presbyterian church and therefore would not have been able to lead Berea Movement.

Although he graduated from a Presbyterian seminary, he built a Baptist Church. There are relatively less restrictions placed on Baptist churches. However, because there are still certain constraints in the Baptist Church, he decided to come out from there. And then he established Christian Southern Baptist Church in order to lead this faith movement which we are following. Therefore, if we were to now be affiliated to another denomination or organization, it would need to be considered most carefully, for it may actually become a hindrance to us.

In order to start a reform movement, it is imperative to have this complete separation. Is there any other reformation quite like our faith? We buried our old self and became a new person in Christ – so can there be a reformation quite like this? We completely broke away from our past. What is baptism? It means to bury our old self. We had the things we liked, we loved, we enjoyed, we took pleasure in. We had our own world; my world. We buried those things. If we say we buried our old selves yet keep the things we loved in the past, they can become a snare for us. I used to have my treasured things – stories, poems, drawings and music I had written which were the fruits of my agony and when I was feeling lost. And I used to enjoy them in a way. But I burned them all up. Sometimes when I remembered them, I regretted that they were gone. I had a whole book full of music I had composed. Sometimes it felt regrettable that they were gone. So it was good that I burned them.

In this way, it is about breaking away from the attributes of the old person. Thus when a man and woman are married, it is good to live separately from their parents. It is also the Lord’s command. “A man would leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”. Just as Abraham left his native land in order to begin his journey of faith, it is necessary to leave one’s father’s house and family. After that, it is important that they build a family led by the Lord Jesus. In the same way, we ought to resolutely cut off all the relations that belonged to this world, and even bury our old self with its passions and desires, in order to lead a proper faith life. Then we will be able to advance forward.

As people live their faith life, some are sitting on the fence, leaning towards the world and its cultures still which is why they fail to have only God’s guidance. Especially since everyone has a smartphone nowadays, we are exposed to such cultures even more. Because we are living in times where the internet is in our hands – news, television and internet are always at our fingertips, we have greater exposure to the world. As a result we can hear the messages coming from the world far better. We need to keep a distance from them but instead we are getting closer to them, making our faith life harder and harder.

In order to have a successful faith life, we definitely need to have self-control over these things. We should be set apart from the world to be holy. The Lord said to us to come out of them and be separate from the Gentiles. Furthermore, He tells the saints to even come of the people and be separate to be His children. Then He goes on to tell those who became His children to be separate and become His disciples. Though many have become disciples, He says even to them to be separate and have power and holy. We must be able to deny our old past and come out from there.

Thus our faith life needs to be led by the Holy Spirit every single moment and hour so that our faith is not hindered in receiving God’s guidance. When we have the guidance of the Holy Spirit our faith life becomes pleasant and joyful. The manifestation of the Holy Spirit truly transcends man’s imagination, bringing to us that which we may never comprehend. And in order for us to have such presence of the Holy Spirit, we can’t follow the way the world leads us. Rather, we must be watchful, our spirits have to be awake to be led by the Holy Spirit. Let us pray for that together.

If we examine the kings of the Old Testament, they start off by obeying God’s will as King David did but towards the end of their reign, they deviate from God’s will, building shrines and doing what they ought not to do. Even King Solomon became corrupt in his latter years. And we might wonder how that can be possible. It seems quite strange. But that happened because of culture. King Solomon took many women as his wives and concubines. They were women from foreign countries – Gentiles. And they brought their many gods with them which became a culture. They became part of the culture that everyone adopted and followed without feeling foreign or strange.

Although they were worshipping God in the temple, they still built shrines where they went to call on the name of Jehovah too and offer sacrifices. Because that was a form of culture, they developed this culture of worshipping God. They were not worshipping idols but the name Jehovah. Yet they were not doing this in the temple but in a shrine which they had built out of their own will. This permeated into their lives so naturally as a culture over a period of many decades, that they failed to recognize the problem. After a long time, King Rehoboam’s son was apparently a man who diligently obeyed God’s word, unlike his many predecessors. Yet even he left the shrines where they were. Why? Because it was part of their culture, he didn’t get rid of them. Similarly, since we are so exposed to the cultures of the world, if we accept and take them all in, we would have the same result as Israel did.

It seems quite inconceivable to us when we now look at those kings that received in idols instead of worshipping God, but in actual fact, we are doing the same. Since televisions came into our households, prayer started to diminish. Since we had computers in the house, family worship became no more. It’s all the same. After getting cable television, dawn prayers ceased. In this way, as we take in one idol, we lose that much in worshipping God and continue to change in that way over time. It is imperative that we gain the strength in our spirits to overcome these cultures and draw nearer to God. Let us pray that our God helps us as we determine to use our will, strength and might to overcome.

God our Father, help us to be watchful so that we can steer away from all the cultures, pleasures and enjoyments which we used to mindlessly accept as the worldly people do, so that we can be more receptive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We want to use our willpower to keep away from these things. Holy Spirit give us the power and wisdom and help us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center