Chiang Mai, Thailand I

The Asian Missions Forum

I am in transit to Chiang Mai, Thailand to speak at the 50th annual Asian Missions Forum. What an honor and a privilege to be invited to participate. Some 250 missionaries and church leaders will be gathering in Chiang Mai to talk about what God is doing through their work and in their part of the world. It is oddly encouraging for me to be reminded that—whether I am aware of God’s kingdom in far-flung parts of the world—God certainly is and moves to pursue his purposes.

It is a bit of an ordeal for a Nashvillean to get to Thailand. BNA to ATL—one hour. ATL to Seoul, South Korea—14 hours! Seoul to Singapore—6.5 hours. It took about 28 hours to complete the trip to Singapore. I did get an overnight break, staying in the home of long-time Singapore missionaries Dave and Debbie Hogan. We push on to Chiang Mai tonight. I’m bearing up surprisingly well for an old man!

The theme of the Forum is “Faithfulness”—a singularly appropriate emphasis given the 50th anniversary of this event and the great need for faithfulness in ministry generally and in missions particularly. I’ve been fascinated by my study and preparation of this concept.

I do want to share (in the course of this blog) summaries of the four sermons I’ll be preaching at the Forum. For the moment, however, let me share one preliminary observation on “Faithfulness.” The word occurs often in Scripture—over 200 times! It is most frequently used of God and in description of his character: God is faithful … he keeps his promises … he can be counted on … he is always the same. “Faithfulness” is also an important characteristic of those who would be godly. Jesus lists faithfulness (along with justice and mercy) as one of the “weightier matters” of relationship with God (Mt 23:23).Paul puts faithfulness in his line-up of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).

Faithfulness is a big deal.

But, at least according to a quick scan through Scripture, it is not a very common virtue. Only a handful of people are actually called “faithful” in the Bible: Enoch, Noah, Moses, David, Hezekiah. And, of course, Jesus. Paul loves to recommend his “preacher boys” as “faithful” or “faithful ministers”: Epaphras, Tychicus (twice!), Onesimus. Peter calls Silas a “faithful brother.”

There are people who call themselves faithful in the Bible but, somehow, that just isn’t the same thing as having God call you faithful.

To make matters worse, we have a long line of people in the Bible who proved faithless: priests, prophets, judges, and kings of Israel (take your pick); Israel herself (one of the Old Testament’s favorite descriptor of Israel is “faithless”); Judas, Phygelius and Hermogenes (2Ti 1:15) and Demas (2Ti 4:10), Diotrophes (3Jn 9).

This very tentative observation forces me to ask a question. If faithfulness is such a critical characteristic of God’s people, yet faithful people are often the exception to the rule, where do I stand? Am I one of the exceptions? Have I managed to fight off the temptations and fatigue, the distractions and despair, that have ruined the faithfulness of so many?

One thing I can say: faithfulness isn’t easy. If it were, there would be lots of faithful people reported in the pages of the Bible … lots of faithful people in evidence in our churches. Faithfulness is a hard-won crown. Few there are who win it. And none at all save for the power and grace of God.

If you would like to see more information about the Asian Mission Forum, here is their link:

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© 2012 by Tim Woodroof. Reproduction of this material requires permission from the author.