Longing for the Eternal Blessing
And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (Gen 25:27-34)
Humans are creatures that can forecast and consider the future. Animals are unable to consider the future. They cannot foresee the future. They don’t have any plans or dreams. Though it may appear as though they are preparing for the future, it is merely an instinctive action, not something that arises from thorough planning. Squirrels, for example, collect acorns and bury them underground. However, we cannot say that they do that by planning but rather based on instinct. God made them that way. So they forget where they buried their acorns. Since they are forgotten, the acorns stay planted underground and later grow.
In this way, animals are unable to foresee even one day into the future. They cannot even predict the immediate future. However, man is able to look ahead even into eternity. Man looks towards eternity, the distant future. To such a man who is able to foresee the future, our God gave His word, His prophecies that man may know what will take place in the future so that he may prepare for it. God even gave the ability to man to give up that which may profit him now in order to attain what is coming in the future. That is what our faith is about. We are trying to attain life eternally. Man loves life, and desires to possess that life eternally.
Thus we long for something better. And what is that? It does not disappear halfway but lasts forever. That is what we are trying to obtain. When God says He will be with us, it is not only for a brief moment but forever. The Old Testament people believed that God was with them, but that wasn’t everlasting. It was only while they remained on the earth and protected the tabernacle.
But Jesus came, and as He sent the Holy Spirit, He promised saying, “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit will be with you always.” This is a truth that will never change even after the earth is destroyed and we enter heaven. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us and us being made one with God is everlasting. Once a person is born into this world, he goes through all kinds of events. But what is more important than them all is that he possesses what is eternal. And for that, he is able to give up and surrender everything else. That is our faith.
Thus having faith is impossible unless one has a longing for the everlasting. A person who does not yearn for the everlasting would not desire Jesus. Such a person would not long for the Holy Spirit nor seek God. He is already satisfied with what is not eternal. There are people that are so thirsty for love. But they find love in the world and live happily. However, they are really pitiful people. Who are we then? We are not satisfied by just that. We can’t be satisfied with such love that will be lost one day. So we are still thirsty. These are the type of people that are blessed. But others are already satisfied with the joy that the world gives them. If that’s the case, they will not be able to meet God. They would not desire Jesus.
The gospel is for everyone to believe, but not anyone comes to believe. Only those whom God has given to Jesus can believe. What is faith conscience put in other words? It is the longing heart for the everlasting. The heart that desires the everlasting. Without it, no one will long for Jesus. There is no reason to long for Him. So in a way, it is not for just anybody to believe in Jesus. Everyone can believe in Jesus, but not anyone is able to believe. Some even make it to church but walk off after hearing the gospel because they are disinterested. It is not what they were after. But some people find what they have been looking for because of that which is everlasting.
As we work in ministry, we have to look ahead into eternity. Some look forward ten years or so, others twenty years. But the wiser person would think about the everlasting reward he would receive when he enters heaven later on. We must look forward to the everlasting reward as we work, not just a few decades. That is why we need the power to not be deceived by the things that are before our eyes. We shouldn’t be deceived by those which appear to profit us right now in front of us. In Proverbs it is written, “My son, do not be deceived. Do not be deceived by the lips of an adulteress and her smooth speech. For she may appear beautiful, but she is a two-edged sword that will destroy you. So flee from her.” Before your eyes, she is saying with a soft voice, “Take and eat this. It will be sweet”. But when you look at it spiritually, it’s scary.
But people fall for it and are deceived. They can’t resist the temptation and in the end, gulp it up. Actually, they already know that it’s a trap but they take it anyway because the benefit appears so great. Hence people become fools because of their greed. However, we need to have God’s grace. We mustn’t be shaken by those sweet temptations before us. Although we can’t take the everlasting right now, we need to have the wisdom, inspiration and power to work for what has been promised to us forever. When the moment for decision comes, we have to choose what is good. We always have such moments of decision. But a person of faith will not get excited and worked up by what is before their eyes. The choices we make in those moments are so critical.
While it is a matter of course that we cast out demons and heal the sick by faith, when I look back now, there were people who came to a bad end because they were unable to use their faith in such moments of decision. Since they didn’t have faith, they couldn’t look ahead into the future. There was a pastor who followed Berea for a few decades and then decided to deny it, saying that he had nothing to do with Berea when persecutions started to come. He even wrote in a newspaper that Berea is heresy. The reason he did that was because he needed his church to grow immediately. He didn’t have boldness. After that, he couldn’t work as he used to. Apparently, other people who did Berea with him went to see him, even people who were overseas came to him and said, “Pastor, how can you do this? You must not be doing this.” And the pastor said to them, “It is my fault. Please forgive me. I have no other choice. This is my limit”. So he couldn’t do anything more. He didn’t have power anymore. He knew it was wrong, and yet he chose that. Why? By his decision, he could immediately profit; if he didn’t, he would lose something. But as a result, thirty years later, it is very rare to find anyone casting out demons in that church. They changed. Yet the people that persecuted him are still calling that church a heretic church. You would think that after they did that to deny Berea, the persecutors would’ve forgotten about them. However, persecution still follows them. But they themselves have forfeited the true essence. They don’t cast out demons. If they were able to look twenty years ahead into the future, they wouldn’t have made that decision. How unfortunate is it? The church no longer has revival as it used to.
There were many reasons that led me to return to Korea from China, but the decisive reason was that I had to quickly have these books translated. That was what I felt like I had to do. As someone who had been taught God’s word this way, I was testifying as I learned it. But I began to see this gap between me and the people who were preaching in China. I didn’t find this to be a huge issue, but later, I realized that it was becoming a burden to the pastors in China. I was shocked by that. I must not be a burden to anyone wherever I go. I need to return to Korea quickly. And then I began to think about matters which I was never concerned about before. I didn’t think this would become an issue and the pastor there also told me that there was no issue. However, it was becoming a problem.
In the midst of this, there was an incident which became the decisive moment. Perhaps the pastor noticed something was going on, so he called for me one day. At that time, there was talk of some people becoming ordained as pastors. There were three others that I worked with, and talks arose about getting them ordained and letters of recommendation were written, and so on. But that pastor called me and said I would be ordained with them too. This was already after more than ten years. He told me, “We will ordain you with the others.” Maybe he thought of keeping me there by ordaining me. But his words lit the fire within me. After he said that, the urge became stronger in me, that I must return to Korea quickly. Before they ordained me, I needed to go back to Korea. If I am ordained here, I won’t be able to say, “Actually, I’m a Berean.” Once I am ordained, it will be too late. So I said to him, “I need to work at Seoul Sungrak Church.” And then, within a month or so, I returned to Korea.
When I thought about returning to Korea, there were many hardships, not just one or two. I wrote down all the pros and cons of returning to Korea. Cons – if I go to Korea, nobody will acknowledge me; I’ll just be a lay believer. I haven’t studied at the seminary. I don’t have a house. I have to start all over again from zero. I have to start from the first year of seminary. But if I stay here, they will ordain me now. And after that, we will be connected to the branch churches in the US to receive monthly support. Since the church’s focus was missions, there would be no restraints on missions. I would be able to work as a missionary, and everything I had thought about before would be there. But if I return to Korea, I have to start again from zero. I have no connections, no one that I know. At that moment, I figured there was one advantage of returning. What is the advantage of going back to Seoul Sungrak Church? It is my mother church. No matter what I preach, I will not feel restrained or burdened in my heart. And I will be able to work for Berea Movement. That was the only advantage. That I will be able to work without hesitation. But for everything else, the other side was favourable. They had conditions that were more favourable. But after writing down the pros and cons, it was so clear. One side was all about the physical, pertaining to the external environment; the other side was everything spiritual. So there was nothing more to question. I had to choose spiritual blessings. That is why I returned to Korea.
When I look back now, I know I did the right thing. If I had made the wrong decision, where would I be by now? I can’t even imagine. Although I had sacrificed those things back then temporarily, now I have everything I need to work even better. Whenever we are at a crossroads, if I boldly choose the spiritual without any hesitation of heart, then my sermons and preaching will be more powerful. However, if I do not make the sound choice, I will lose confidence and thus be unable to preach boldly. I give thanks that God gave me the faith to make that choice at that time. It was not by my works but grace that led me to that decision. I am just grateful that I made the decision I made. So let us pray that we can always choose the spiritual which God gives us, choose what is everlasting, and choose this blessing.
God our Father, help us not to be enticed by the good things that are set before our eyes but fill us with the faith to always yearn for the everlasting. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center