May 2024 | Vision Leads to Transformation

Evaluation is Important for Growth
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Evaluation is Important for Growth

Dr. Valson Abraham

(Inaugural address of at the Centennial Convention of India Pentecostal Church of God on January 14, 2024)

Paul says that he has not arrived yet. That's a remarkable statement. If anybody had the right to claim he had arrived, it would be Paul. He wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament. He helped spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire and made an incredible impact on the world. Yet Paul, at the end of his life, says, "I have NOT arrived. I'm not perfect. I'm still growing."

Paul first visited the city of Philippi in about 52 AD. He was thrown in jail for the first time in his life. But he organized a church there and moved on to other cities. In the next ten years he visited Philippi several times and was generously supported by the Philippian people. Philippi was his favourite church and people.

But now it is 12 years later, about 64 AD and Paul has been thrown in prison again, this time in Rome. He is getting old. His health is not good. He is facing hardship. He desperately wants to be released so that he can fulfil his last ambition - to preach the gospel in Spain. But months pass and he remains in jail. One day he writes a letter to the Philippians.  

God has done wonderful things through the IPC church in the last 100 years. There are many things to be recorded. Like Paul records the faithful service of Timothy and Epaphroditus, there have been those who have been faithful in their service to Christ in IPC churches. 

Part of the celebration is evaluation. Anniversaries are great moments to look back, but we need to be careful with nostalgia. We must remember the hardships, sufferings and people who laboured. We must remember the blessings. Paul could have taken great pride in what he had already been able to accomplish. Instead, we see that he was not content and was still striving for more. It is important to remember that. We have been blessed as a church in the last 100 years, but all of us still have a long way to go. God is not done with us yet. We have not arrived. We are still growing.

Then Paul goes on to say, THIS ONE THING I DO. He is declaring his FOCUS. His CONCENTRATION - his DETERMINATION. He says his consuming focus in life -first and foremost priority -- FOCUS is - JESUS CHRIST. KNOW CHRIST and MAKE CHRIST KNOWN.

Paul says, I have realized I am going to focus on ONE TASK than try to do multiple tasks - so he says he is going to ELIMINATE a few things.

You must decide what instrument in the orchestra you are going to play and become an expert at it. I had the privilege to see and hear to Dr. E Stanley Jones preach on multiple occasions - “too many Christians dabble in 40 different things and hence they do not accomplish much.”

The problem is not the lack of desire or ability - but the lack of FOCUS. (vs. 13b) –PAUL SAID, “THIS ONE thing I do: forgetting what is behind.” PAUL learned to FOCUS. One of the great violinists said, “Success came to me when I decided to concentrate.” Focus precede success. We need to eliminate, so we can concentrate and focus on the most important person - JESUS CHRIST. 

This is our 100th anniversary. While it is essential to learn from the past, you cannot live there. To move forward involves two things.

PAUL learned to Forget his Failures. You should FORGET certain things. 

Don’t rehearse things in your heart that God has long ago forgiven and forgotten. Satan's favorite desire is to paralyze us with the past, to manipulate us with bad memories.

Paul says, "I learn to forget the past." Do not sit around beating yourself up for mistakes.  All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. I am sure there are things that you are not proud of and you have regrets.

Paul had many regrets that could have haunted him. He was a persecutor of the church. He hounded people who were believers and had them locked up and stoned. Nothing you ever do will change your past. It is gone, over, dead. Since you can’t change it, let it go. Learn from it, but then let it go.

Forget your successes. Forget your accomplishments.  You can learn from success, but you can’t live in them. It is easy to rest on your laurels. Sometimes we try to live in the past and base our security on past performance. Thank God for the “good old days.” But they are gone. Success tends to make you complacent and satisfied and fill you with pride. Then you stop growing and learning and then you're going to fail.

Over 2,000 years ago, a young Greek artist named Timanthes studied under a respected teacher and great artist. After several years the teacher’s efforts seemed to have paid off when Timanthes painted a beautiful work of art. Unfortunately, he became so engrossed with the painting that he spent weeks gazing at it. One day, when he arrived to admire his art, he was shocked to find it blotted out, covered with paint. Angry, Timanthes ran to his teacher, and the teacher admitted he had destroyed the painting. ‘I did it for your good. That painting was hindering your progress. Start again and see if you can do better.’  Timanthes took his teacher’s advice and produced “Sacrifice of Iphigenia” It is regarded as one of the finest paintings of antiquity.

Today, we celebrate our past, but we cannot live in the past. You can't run a race looking backwards. You've got to focus ahead. You need to forget your accomplishments. You need to forget the hurts of the past. You need to forget your failures of the past. Is all your conversation in the past tense or the present tense? 

Remember past blessings and express thanks to God. When you remember past failures ask God to help you to be careful in the future.  Do not look back in an unproductive way. Forget everything that hinders your spiritual progress in the present. I remember watching the Sydney Olympics (Sep 2000)- the United States runner who was favored to win, lost because he looked back for a split second, and he lost the race. Forgetting keeps you from defeat, despair, and difficulty. 

Paul says he is pressing FORWARD-- shows us his DETERMINATION (vs. 13c) – “straining towards what is ahead, I press on.’  The word PRESS ON is the Greek word DIOKO which means to run swiftly. It is the same word as persecution. Before Jesus appeared to Paul, Paul would persecute or DIOKO the church – chase after them with all his might. Now Paul is chasing after Christ. The intensity was the same; the direction was different. As we look to the future, I pray that we will have the same determination that those who went before us had. 

Paul said, I press toward the mark. The Christian race is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. The Marathon race is over 26 miles. Paul conquered cities, established churches, and wrote books. He did not retire, he continued in the ministry, moved to higher heights.

IPC - the word for us is DIOKO – PRESS ON. There are more mountains to climb, more people to help share the good news, more churches to build, and more victories to win.  Paul refused to live on the glory of yesterday’s victories. IPC - I pray that we will realize that our best days are ahead of us, not behind you. So, let us press on, chase, move FORWARD, proclaim Christ, win souls, plant churches, and help people know Jesus Christ. Focus on Christ- Forget past failures, Move Forward. 

“If God is your partner, make your plans BIG!” – Said D.L. Moody. Let us lift our Hands to God. Turn our EYES UPON JESUS. Let’s gaze on his wonderful face. The things of this world will grow strangely dim. In the light of His glory and grace. To Christ and Christ alone be all the glory. 

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