“You should work for God!”
“No! We’re supposed to rest in him!” 

“Your teen years are meant to be enjoyed!” 
“No! Your teen years are preparation for adult responsibility.” 

“We should pray for people who are suffering!” 
“No! We’re supposed to do things for people who are suffering!” 

Since you’re reading this online, I’m sure you’ve been exposed to this tiring, aggravating, and frustrating kind of argument. It’s called a false dichotomy or false dilemma. Usually it has two sides fighting louder and louder trying to make their point, with neither side acknowledging or listening to the other. Meanwhile, any non-anxious observer can see that there is no need to choose between the two. “Why not both?” as the popular meme asks. 

One of the most common genres of internet arguments that love to feature false dilemmas is the classic young versus old argument. 

“Children nowadays are so spoiled unlike my generation.” 
“The generations before mine were so irresponsible as to get the world to where it is today.” 

The false dilemma here is the assumption that what’s best for everyone moving forward is to choose between generations and to make them fight each other. This is not only stupid and ultimately unhelpful for society. It’s also not how our God does things. Our God is the God of the Old and the New. 

God makes this point very clearly and beautifully in Isaiah 43. 

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, 
a path in the mighty waters, 
who brings forth chariot and horse, army and warrior; 
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick . . . 

Isaiah 43:16–17

This is a callback to the Old. It’s a retelling of one of the greatest miracles in all of the Bible, one of the most signficant events in the entire history of Israel: the crossing of the Red Sea and their deliverance from slavery. This was meant to cause God’s people to be thankful for that time. Everyone hearing this prophecy would have recognized the memory of the glory days, which is what makes the next verses more surprising. 

Remember not the former things, 
nor consider the things of old. 
Behold, I am doing a new thing; 
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:18–19

“Don’t remember the former things? Don’t remember the things of old? But God, you were the one who brought it up!” If we rephrase, it’s like He’s saying, “The God of the Old things—the spectacular, amazing things that brought you to where you are today—is telling you now to stop thinking of those things and consider the New thing He is doing now. Can you see it?” 

In these four verses, God firmly establishes that the way He was working before isn’t exactly how He’s working in the present. In the past, He made dry ground appear in the sea. But in verse 19, He reverses the model and now a way is made in the wilderness and it’s water that appears in the desert. He cannot be put into a box because He is the God of the Old and the New. Any person who only emphasizes one at the expense of the other has fallen into the trap of the false dilemma. We do this when we idolize tradition or idolize trends. 

Idolizing trends sounds like an obsession with the most trending news cycles, issues, and celebrity gossip. There’s a fascination with what the most social media savvy personalities and churches are doing online, without as much regard for their soundness or faithfulness. It means thinking that the church is woefully behind and the past is unnecessary baggage to be jettisoned. 

This is not good because God was moving in the past. Instead of throwing it away, we must ask Him to give it meaning and resources for us to move forward. 

Idolizing tradition sounds like constantly glorifying the old days. It would mean thinking and acting like the best thing for the church of today would be to go back to the practices of a past time. For people from Every Nation Philippines, it would sound like 1984 in U-Belt was the only time when the Holy Spirit moved and what you and your campus ministry today need is to do things exactly the way they were done back then. 

This is not good because the Holy Spirit is doing something fresh today. We must not put God in a box of our own making based entirely on what’s been done before. 

Our God cannot be limited by people’s attempts to capture Him in neat theological descriptions or well-documented ministry practices. Yes, we hold to orthodox theology. Yes, we walk in alignment with the true body of Christ across the world and throughout history. But even within that span, there is so much more that we have yet to discover about how God is moving in our time. 

God isn’t looking for people who will say they’ve memorized the right words, they’re following the right protocol, or they’ve repeated the right patterns. No, He’s asking people to behold (look) and perceive (understand). The ones who can look to the past with gratitude and look at the present and the future with faith are going to experience an amazing ride as they follow the God of the Old and of the New.

Last Monday, I got three different messages from good men who needed help.

What’s common among these men is that they needed help and they weren’t too proud to ask for it. Contrary to what some people think, asking for help doesn’t make you weak, incompetent, or, for men, less manly. In fact, a person who doesn’t ask for help is usually the one who fails because they have no one to help them.

Why are so many people trying to project an image of perfection or self-sufficiency? We know that no one is perfect, but we go to great lengths to pretend we are. I’m not saying to let the whole world know about your problems on a social media post. But do have a trusted group of wise and godly men and women who know you inside and out?

If you need help with anything, don’t wait till it’s too late. Ask for help. You’ll be surprised how much easier your life is because you did.

If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Ecclesiastes 4:10 (NIV 1984)

I was talking to someone on staff recently. She was accepting more roles in the organization that were out of her job description. I appreciated her for her willingness to serve, but asked her why she did this when she clearly had other tasks to accomplish.

The response: “It doesn’t take that much time anyway.”

Many of us have the same perspective. I know I use that reasoning a lot. Multitasking is fun and there’s the added rush whenever we do something new. But there are a lot of hidden costs that we don’t see.

As much as we love to multitask, we must be aware of its hidden costs. This is not to say you should not multitask. Just know that it will not require “just a little bit” of your time. You will need to consider the hidden costs, factor them in, and focus on the work you need to do, considering the time you have.

Application Suggestion: You can close this window now and get back to working on whatever you’re supposed to be doing.

One of the things every leader wants is a deep bench. That’s a sports metaphor that means having a lot of quality people on your team. After a few months of hiatus due to the pandemic, the NBA games are back on track. It will be interesting to observe which ones will go far, not just  because of their stars, but also because of key bench players coming up big in difficult times. (Please, let’s not get divisive about who we’re rooting for. We have the YouTube comments sections for that.)

A common observation of people regarding our church and our movement is the number of leaders on all levels. And they ask how this is done. To be honest, it’s been a priority from the beginning and always remains one, as a quick look through the blogs of a number of the leaders will show. We know that new leaders are the lifeblood of an organization. Strategies and models get old, technology can become obsolete, locations change, but leaders—men and women who are skilled, passionate, and united—will be able to hurdle whatever challenge may come.

So how do I get a deep bench? I’ve been thinking about this a lot, watching a number of teams in action through the years. Here are some common points I observed.

  1. First, make sure you really want one.

As appealing as it may sound, having a deep bench has its disadvantages. For one, if you’re the leader, you’ll have to give up some of your prime leadership opportunities to give others a chance. It means you won’t be getting credit for things that other people used to applaud you for. During a South Luzon Convergence in Los Baños, I watched the ENC National Director at that time, CJ Nunag, lead the entire event from behind the scenes. He did not get up onstage until he gave announcements to end the event and appreciate the staff. He gave up all the slots to other preachers, leaders, and hosts. Could he have been the one up there? Yes. Would he have been better? Most definitely. But to him, getting a deep bench was worth it.

Some leaders may say they want a deep bench, but when faced with the cost of giving up the limelight, or even getting replaced by better leaders, they resist. So before moving to the next points, think about it first. If you’re happy with where you are, then great. If staying small and ineffective doesn’t bother you, then excellent. But if you want your message to get across and impact more people, and you’ll do anything to do it (even step aside, if necessary), then read on.

  1. Give people a chance.

That’s a little obvious after the first point. But it takes a skilled, artful leader to maximize these opportunities every day. I appreciate people like Pastor Ferdie Cabiling, who’s a Jedi Master in discovering these openings. Any speaking, serving, or leading opportunity is quickly delegated to new leaders who can benefit from the experience.

If you play video games, think of it like an RPG. For new players, the slightest enemy kill gives experience points (XP) that allow them to level up. These basic kills are negligible to your high-level character, but they could be a big jump to a newbie. Don’t be greedy! Share those slots with people and watch your team level up.

You’ll need leveled-up teammates to take on the bigger challenges.

Nothing great is ever accomplished alone, so I hope this will help you go out there and build great teams to do great things!

  1. Encourage them to develop their strengths.

Every new leader will learn from you, but they will not do everything like you. One of the beauties of a deep bench is the variety of skills that people bring in to enrich the whole team. This is not a threat! Disunity, rebellion, gossip, deception, laziness—these are threats to the team. Difference is not.

Sameness is not a requirement for having unity. In fact, one of my favorite things about the people I work with is seeing how different they are and how their strengths cover my weaknesses. Some leaders make the mistake of automatically recruiting like-minded teammates from similar backgrounds and perspectives. This isn’t a barkada; it’s a team! You need to work. Amazingly though, when the team is healthy, it can become like a barkada in closeness. Let them run in their strengths. Let them be their own different and weird selves. It makes the whole stronger.

  1. Develop strong relationships.

You don’t have to be close—knowing each other’s secrets, having secret handshakes, calling each other BFFs—to work together. But if you want to work together effectively, you’ll need to get to know each other better. Most of the people I work with now aren’t exactly childhood playmates, but through the months and years of working together, we’ve become good friends.

I once asked one of my mentors, Bishop Manny Carlos, how he developed such strong relationships that ran beyond work and into family and personal life. His network includes a lot of great leaders, like my dad, whose strong respect for each other is apparent in every meeting. He said, in his distinctive way, “We do battle together, Joe.” I must’ve looked really confused because he continued, “We pray for each other. We support each other. When one of our family members is sick, we’re there. When someone’s got issues in life, we don’t kick them to the curb. We walk them out of it. It’s not so much a team-building gimmick; it’s more a lifestyle of being there for each other. It makes work light.”

  1. Grow yourself.

John Maxwell once said something about how our ability to attract skillful, committed people is proportional to our own skill and commitment. If you’re a Level 8 leader, you’ll get teammates who are 7s and below. (I’m not referring to their value as human beings, but what they bring to the working team.) So maybe the best thing we can do to get better leaders is to become a better leader ourselves.

Good people don’t lie around doing nothing. They’re busy doing stuff they care about. To get them, we need to attract them. What attracts good leaders? Better leaders. I used to begrudge the teams I’d watch other people form, especially when I’d want the same thing and couldn’t get it. I’d make a pitch to people to work with us who wouldn’t be interested. Then I remembered that John Maxwell quote. I was dreaming if I thought these quality men and women would want to work with me. (They also have their own call from God.)

From that point on, I tried to improve as a leader. Good thing I had men and women in my life to help me with that. “You’re too snobbish. You don’t seem to care. Stop interrupting. Don’t roll your eyes. Build with the others. Don’t say things like that anymore. Pray, pray, pray.” God’s got the team you’ll work with. We can only be faithful where we are now and trust Him for results.

  1. Grow your team.

So maybe our future team will be great. But what about the one we have now?

Well, we can always grow them. So many leaders are waiting to be discovered by people who believe in them and won’t give up on them. If we’re looking for a set of perfectly skilled demigods to descend from Olympus to join our cause, that’s gonna be a long (and impossible) wait. But if you can look around at the men and women (or boys and girls) within your reach, and if you’re willing to serve them and invest in them, you could very well have your Dream Team in a few years.

So those are some ideas on how to get your own deep bench. Is your cause worth it?

I was in a meeting recently with a few officemates. I told one of them, “I’m feeling a little bothered by _______. Help me figure this out. Does this person really have an issue that we need to deal with or am I just being impatient?”

The answer I received: That person does have an issue. But you are also impatient. Let’s wait for God to bring the issue to light.

I love working with people who know my shortcomings.

I am thankful that they know how flawed I can be and can help me with my weaknesses.

There are many temptations to hide our mistakes, even from those who love us. Maybe we’re afraid of being rejected. Maybe we think they’ll stop respecting us. Maybe we think our relationship with them will change if we admit it.

But as many as those reasons are, there are better ones for letting quality people get close enough to know the truth.

1. They can help us.

When we hide our sins, we’re saying, “I’m more concerned about my reputation than actually getting better.” That’s like saying, “I’m more concerned about looking healthy than really being rid of this sickness.”

The Bible says, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13, NIV 1984). By admitting our flaws to other people, we can get help. People who don’t admit their mistakes can’t be helped. How tragic it is to crash and burn with people all around who can help us. No, it’s better to admit it and get help.

Proverbs 27:6 (NIV 1984) says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

2. They can protect us.

Another benefit of being open with my flaws with my team is that they can cover for me. CJ Nunag, who used to be the national director in Every Nation Campus Philippines, knows how impatient, impulsive, and insensitive I can be. It isn’t news to him. I admit stuff to him at work that other people don’t know about. He balances me a lot.

But here’s an unexpected benefit: When other people complain to him about me, he can protect me. He can say, “Yeah, Joseph and I talked about that. I can assure you he’s sorry about it.” It stops the complaint right in its tracks. But CJ wouldn’t be able to do that if we weren’t open with each other. (And also, he’s really a great guy.)

There are people all around us who want to help. Let’s help them help us.

3. They probably know about it already.

Sometimes we think that admitting our mistakes will make people lose faith in us. As leaders, it can make our position insecure. But the truth is, they probably know about it already. They’ve felt our shortcomings and the effects of our failures. So hiding it from them only shows that there really wasn’t much trust to begin with.

But try admitting it and you’ll be surprised that you actually gain respect from them. In the story I wrote above, the person I was talking to is someone I am clearly overseeing. And yet, because of our relationship, we can talk with each other frankly. This hasn’t removed her trust in me as a leader, but only seems to strengthen it.

I pray that we all can experience the freedom in having a set of relationships with people that know about our shortcomings and love us anyway. If you don’t have that, send us a message in the ENC Leaders Facebook page. I’d love to introduce you to people who can do that—and to the One who can help you be that kind of person to others.

People who don’t know anything are more likely to ask questions. This can lead to answers, and then they’ll know something.

The problem with knowing something is when people confuse it with knowing everything.

People who think they know everything don’t ask anymore. Why would they? They know everything, or at least they think they do.

While none of us would ever say that we “know everything” outright, our actions may say something different. When we don’t ask questions, when we aren’t willing to learn more, when we aren’t open to correction—that’s what we’re saying. “Why should I learn that? I know everything.” Or at the very least we’re saying, “I don’t need to learn that.” Famous last words.

We are saying “I know everything” when . . .

All of these are different ways that knowing something can make us dumber. Don’t make that mistake. The world is huge! Every person has a story to tell. God can do things we’ve never even seen. It’s better to know nothing but Him and enjoy the ride.

We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

1 Corinthians 8:1 (NIV 1984)

A few years ago, Marc Constantino, a good friend and pastor of Victory Metro East, talked with our men campus missionaries on the need to stay connected in relationship with one another. He talked about the reality of people’s lives imploding because they hide their character flaws instead of getting help. He made the statement, “Choose humility over humiliation.”

Everyone has their weak points. And we won’t get away with hiding them or pretending they don’t exist. Unfortunately, we are predisposed to presenting only the positive sides of ourselves. Think of what we tweet or put on Facebook. None of them are incriminating, except the pieces we’re okay with confessing.

That’s why Pastor Marc emphasized the need for close friends who know so much about you that they can warn you when you’re getting close to danger and call you out when you’re in sin. This is called accountability.

When I heard his message, I wrote down a few more questions that I want to ask myself.

  1. How long am I in this for?

Sinful things often promise short-term gains, but cannot fulfill long-term dreams. Every time we give in to sin or disguise our mistakes, we are making a decision for short-term gain versus long-term goal fulfillment. Often, by the time the consequences of our actions hit us, they’re at a much higher price than we expected. And whatever joys or pleasures we thought we gained have long since expired.

“Food gained by fraud tastes sweet to a man, but he ends up with a mouth full of gravel.”

Proverbs 20:17 (NIV 1984)

  1. Do I feel entitled to anything?

I’ve seen in myself that when sin knocks, it’s easier to give in to it when I’m feeling entitled to something. Maybe it’s when I’ve been doing a lot for others, or I’m envying someone else’s success, or I’m just having a hyper-inflated sense of entitlement. Regardless of the reason, the justifications are similar:

“I really owe this to myself.”

“I’ve been doing so much for other people. I need some ‘me time.’”

“Everyone’s getting theirs, when do I get my share?”

Another twisted version of entitlement comes with being offended. It works like this: someone did you wrong, so you are justified in doing wrong back. Like taking money from an office that you feel doesn’t treat you well. Or responding harshly to someone you suspect is doing you wrong. Here’s something I’m glad my parents drilled into me: I can’t control what other people do; but I have the Holy Spirit, so I can control myself regardless of what they do.

  1. Am I acting like the rules don’t apply to me? 

It’s no coincidence that people’s lives implode just when it seems like everything is going for them. That’s because success, wealth, and recognition can breed a feeling that we are playing by a different set of rules from everyone else.

Everyone has to account for their expenses, except me.

It’s not a good idea for people to drink so much, but I can control it.

Other people really should be more careful with members of the opposite sex (or same sex), but I am not as easily tempted.

Articles like this would be good for my friends, but not for me. I don’t need accountability in my life.

I appreciate Pastor Marc for raising those uncomfortable questions with me. I proceeded to have a few penetrating but healthy conversations with friends afterwards and I’m thankful for them. How about you? Do you have people whom you are accountable to?

This article is based on a preaching of Pastor Joseph Bonifacio for Unite 714 in May 2020.

Did you know that the Bible calls some people stupid?

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.”

Proverbs 12:1 (NIV)

Yes, the word stupid is in the Bible. But what does God call stupid? Who does He call stupid? 

There are moments in our lives where we feel we may have said or done something stupid. “Ang bobo naman nun, bakit ko sinabi yun?” In awkward conversations, when you make a mistake in grammar or vocabulary, or when you make a social faux pas, tapos napahiya ka. That’s usually our gauge for stupidity.

But God’s standard is different. The verse says, “Whoever hates correction is stupid.” In other words, puede magkamali sa ibang bagay. But when we don’t want to be corrected for those mistakes, that is stupidity. When we are afraid to ask for help so we can be set right, that is stupidity.

This is a good question for us to ask ourselves today. “How do I respond to correction?”

When someone points out something I did wrong, what’s my response? Am I grateful? Am I angry? Am I defensive? Do I just want to get it over with and say, “Oo na, sorry na!”? 

How do we know we hate correction? It is when we get angry or offended at people who correct us. I like the way Pastor Jim Laffoon summarized it: “If it costs too much for people to correct you, eventually they will stop doing it.” And it will be a loss for us, which is why the Bible calls it stupid. Because that uncorrected heart, thought, or habit will always be a glaring part of our life, our soul, our character, and our work.

We may hate correction because we’ve experienced being verbally or emotionally abused when we made a mistake in the past. Someone may have spoken out of a bad or malicious heart, and that may have scarred us emotionally. We may have gone away feeling judged and rejected by people whose opinions matter to us. And it’s true that we may need to receive emotional healing from those experiences. But we should not use past experiences as an excuse to continue to hate correction. We will only be hurting ourselves. We will miss out on a learning experience. We will miss out on enjoying our relationship with the person who gave the correction. 

The Bible describes correction as a gift. Correction is not a sign of rejection—in fact, it’s a sign of love and acceptance. We need to see it from God’s perspective. 

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,

and do not resent his rebuke,

because the Lord disciplines those he loves,

as a father the son he delights in.”

Proverbs 3:11,12 (NIV)

Looking at the bookends of these verses, we see that the Lord’s discipline has relational value. Correction comes through loving relationships and is a sign of acceptance in a relationship.

Do you know who doesn’t get corrected? Someone who doesn’t have anyone who cares about them! Someone who doesn’t have anyone who cares if they take the wrong path or if they wreck their relationships. Thank God we have a spiritual family that speaks the truth in love and a Holy Spirit that disciplines and rebukes!

Maybe, even during this pandemic, God is revealing junk in your heart. He is showing you things to correct in the way you talk to your family members, the way you perceive Him, the way you perceive the ministry, and in how little you believe the Word. 

This isn’t a sign of rejection or condemnation. It’s not God’s way of saying, “Ang pangit pala ng ugali mo. Bagsak ka pala this whole time.” No, this is a sign of God’s love. God is saying, “I love you and I don’t want you to stay that way. So I’m going to show you some parts of your heart that need to change, and I’m going to change them with the power of the Holy Spirit.” 

Let’s not be stupid. Let’s trust God, our Heavenly Father, and thank Him for His discipline in our lives. 

This article is based on a preaching of Pastor Joseph Bonifacio during an online virtual camp with Victory group leaders from ENC Malate in May 2020.

We are going into the third month of the quarantine and as a leader, you are probably asking, “What can we do? There’s no church event where I can bring my friends to, where they can hear the gospel being preached.” 

But when we read the Bible, we see that disciples with the Holy Spirit in them would make disciples wherever they were—literally wherever.

Really? Even in a pandemic? How is that even possible?

We will see through the events outlined in Acts 8 that God can do great things through regular disciples, regardless of the situation.

The book of Acts outlines the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy when he said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Jesus went from a small scale vision of reaching the city of Jerusalem to a seemingly impossible mission of reaching the world. 

Throughout the book, we see that indeed, the church started in Jerusalem and the rest of Judea, and then, in chapter 8, it began to spread to Samaria and the rest of the world. 

Yet, this did not happen the way the disciples expected it.

Undesirable Situation

Things were going great for the early church in the first few chapters of Acts. Their numbers were growing. They were meeting in the temple courts and praising God together. Different kinds of people were getting saved. The church was socially responsible, mindful of the poor and the needy among them. 

But in Acts 7, the anger of the Jews was stirred up against one of the disciples, Stephen, and that led them to stone him to death. In the next chapter, we see this escalate to a citywide persecution in Jerusalem against the church.

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.Acts 8:1–3

As you read the first part of Acts 8, you’re probably thinking, “Lord, how could You let this happen? Why did You allow them to break up? What did they do wrong?”

Sometimes, I can’t help but think that in our current situation. We’ve had all these plans for our campus ministry. We were just coming from a great outreach season. We had so much going on. How can God let the pandemic happen and affect all our plans drastically? 

What we are going through is similar to what happened then. The early church that was able to meet all the time was suddenly scattered all over the place. There may be many reasons God allowed this to happen, but there is certainly one good effect: 

Those who were scattered went about preaching the gospel.

Persecution is a negative thing. It is terrible. It is something we hope to never see again. They prayed all the time for the persecution to be lifted. But one of the effects that couldn’t be denied is that people began to share God’s word. People were able to do this, when before they probably did not have the time or the opportunity to do so because the apostles were there to do it for them. But when these regular believers were left on their own, they began to preach the gospel themselves. 

This undesirable pandemic is terrible. We didn’t want it to happen. We pray that the virus will go away for good and that the quarantine will be lifted all the time. And yet, we see people taking it upon themselves to share God’s word, because they just can’t bring their friends to the service anymore. They just can’t hope that the campus missionary will go to their campus to preach to their classmates. The responsibility falls solely on them, and God moves powerfully through them

Unlikely Leaders

Undesirable situations lead to unlikely leaders rising up, as we see in the next part of the story. 

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. – Acts 8:4,5

Who was Philip? This is not Philip, the apostle, who Jesus challenged at one point in the Gospels to think about how to feed five thousand people. This is Philip, the evangelist, who was not called that way because he was paid to preach the gospel, but just because that’s what he did as a volunteer. He can probably be compared to an usher or an administrator who always stayed in the background. He did not style himself as a hero. But because of the persecution, he had to run for his life. He was not on a planned mission trip. He found himself escaping to Samaria and what followed were amazing stories of people getting saved wherever he went. 

Before this chapter, the stories always revolved around the apostles. In Acts 7, we see that the martyr, Stephen, who preached the gospel as he was being stoned to death, was a volunteer. In Acts 8, we see another volunteer, Philip, preach the gospel to people as he was escaping for his life.

In this time of the pandemic, unlikely leaders will emerge. You may think you’ve never had a role to play. But this situation makes us realize that all it takes is the Holy Spirit moving in us to effectively preach the word to our family and friends. You are not a bench warmer. You are not a fan. You are not part of the audience. You are a part of God’s team.

This is not supposed to add to our concerns and our burdens. But we are supposed to run to God with all the concerns and burdens that we have and as He ministers to us, we will be able to minister to others as well. 

Unexpected Fruit

Philip’s courage to preach the word led to surprising results. 

And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. Acts 8:6

The preaching of the gospel in Samaria and eventually to the rest of the world was the fulfillment of what Jesus prophesied. If not for the vision Jesus cast, all the disciples would be able to see in this situation are the challenges posed by the persecution. And yet the very circumstance that was deemed undesirable and terrible led to Samaritans hearing the gospel and receiving the gift of salvation.

This pandemic is a terrible time for all of us, but I believe that God is doing something and there will be unlikely leaders who will rise up to produce unexpected fruit. There are probably people in your life who you have given up on. You feel like they could never be open to the gospel. And yet, because of our unique situation, you find them having a spiritual hunger that wasn’t evident before. As you allow God to build your connection with them, you will see unexpected fruit being borne.

Undeniable Power

The Samaritans could not deny the power behind what Philip said and did. When he preached the word, it had power to touch and transform hearts. When he moved in signs and wonders, it had power to prolong and promote life. There was nothing magical behind what he said and did. It was the power of the Holy Spirit manifested in him as he obeyed in faith.

The long history of Christianity in Ethiopia can be traced back to Philip simply staying close to the Ethiopian eunuch he met along his journey, leaning in to give ear to the Holy Spirit for instructions and patiently leading the man to the Lord through their conversation. 

Philip was the unlikely leader who produced unexpected fruit as he tapped into the undeniable power of God. He simply went wherever the circumstance brought him, stayed close with the people around him, and obeyed whatever instructions the Holy Spirit gave. 

Are you at home? Are you on social media? Stay close and listen to the people around you. Seek the Holy Spirit to give you instructions on what to say and do. 

During this undesirable situation, may we find God’s undeniable power producing unexpected fruit in unlikely leaders among us.

This article is based on a preaching given by Pastor Joseph Bonifacio during an online staff meeting with ENC missionaries in April 2020.

For the past six weeks, it has been a privilege for me to witness you serving, connecting with God, and reaching out to others despite the circumstances. It’s a privilege that we get to do these together in the midst of crisis and suffering.

Suffering never feels good. And yet it is interesting to note that Paul exhorts us through his letter to the Romans to rejoice in our sufferings. 

How can we rejoice in our sufferings? It seems like suffering is something to be endured or survived—but is it really possible to enjoy it?

Let’s take a look at the passage where Paul talks about it.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.Romans 5:3–5

Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character.

This makes sense. This is precisely the reason why athletes need to work out, because difficulty increases endurance. For those of us who may not have gone through a lot of suffering, the current crisis can actually help build our character—that is, the person within, the stamp in you, who you really are. And when your character is built, it produces hope.

Character produces hope.

Now this doesn’t seem to make sense. Does this mean hope is subjective? Some people see hope in situations where others don’t.

But how exactly does character produce hope? Endurance produces proven character—that is, the kind of character that has been tested, has gone to the limit, has gone through the fire, and comes out like pure gold.

Yes, we know biblical truths. We’ve studied them. We’ve preached them. But It is only through suffering that these truths are tested and we see how strong and good they really are. The things we’ve studied and preached—now we know that they’re true. They’re good. They’re solid. They’re lasting the test of time. 

Proven character produces hope because it means God has got us through. Our hope is in the truth that we have seen these trials before, and we have come through to the other side. We may not have experienced a pandemic before, but we have experienced disappointments and disruptions. We have experienced financial lack. We have experienced persecution. 

What have you gone through in order to follow Jesus Christ and obey Him? All of those sufferings have strengthened your endurance. They built your character. And they are now pointing you to the hope that you know: “God, you have never abandoned me. You will never abandon me now.”

As we overcome each trial, we keep proving that God is really with us. He has not abandoned us before, so now we know we can go through this. We’ll make it through—with Him. 

Hope does not put us to shame. 

The hope that comes from tested character does not put us to shame. As we overcome more and more trials, we prove God’s faithfulness even more. And we become more firm in stating, “I made the right decision. I wasn’t wrong to trust God. It wasn’t wrong to say ‘yes’ to God. I wasn’t wrong to put my hope in God.” People without hope need to hear that from us. They need to see it in our lives. They need to experience the same hope we have.

God pours His overflowing, unlimited love into our hearts.

Moreover, we are reminded in this passage that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. We need God’s love in the midst of suffering, and the good news is that His love is not a trickle. It’s not a ration. It’s poured out—unlimited, overflowing, and always on time. The Holy Spirit can hit anyone with God’s unlimited love, without delay, every single day. 

The sum of all this is that we can rejoice in suffering, because in Christ, suffering can only produce good things in us.