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当刚强壮胆(Be Strong and Courageous)

「勇敢不是没有惧怕,而是有面对恐惧的力量。」
上周我们提到以色列人因为被恐惧掩盖信心,结果要在旷野游牧。四十年过去了,他们再一次站在应许之地的边缘。神在摩西死前领他上尼波山,让他最后一次观看这应许之地。我也曾站在那山上,被眼前那看似永恒的景色所震摄。摩西离开世界之前,将领导神子民的重任交付约书亚──他是看重葡萄多于巨人的两个探子之一,与迦勒同样相信神的应许能战胜困难。

以色列人正准备进到应许之地,约书亚也正式登场(参约一)。他另有一个心志,他刚强壮胆,要将那从旷野游牧的希伯来奴隷训练成征服者。我们身为个人、或教会或家庭的一份子,也要面对这样的挑战:由引颈以待的人,变成行动的人;由装备好的人,成为征战的人。我们都需要刚强壮胆。

圣经所提到的勇敢壮胆是一种强烈的、有决心的力量,是我们面对强大的挑战和巨大的障碍所需要的。这份勇敢来自我们的内心,由我们最深的情绪和热诚而来。勇敢不是没有惧怕,而是有面对恐惧的力量。若没有先面对和克服自己的恐惧,则不能称得上是勇敢。

我还清楚记得十来岁时,我试着要克服对海的恐惧。我知道我必须克服这恐惧,因为居住在香港根本没法逃避海洋。我鼓起勇气,决定参加一个潜水入门课程。我外表看起来似乎勇敢,但内里其实紧张得要死。我强迫自己从船边跳下海,然后游进水里不够五米,我便看见左边有一个黑影。是鲨鱼!我极度惊慌,立刻赶回船上。我跌跌撞撞地上船之际,潜水教练惊叹说:「哗!你看见那海豚了吗?」

老实说,我们各人都倾向将海豚看成鲨鱼。四十年前的以色列人中,那十个探子也将应许之地的「海豚」看为令人恐惧和吃人的「鲨鱼」。如今,当约书亚再一次站到约但河边,他也或许会担心历史重演。虽然神已应许将「凡你们脚掌所踏之地」(约一3)都赐给他的子民,约书亚深深明白他们将要面对连场激战。如此,神三次重申这激动人心的劝告:「当刚强壮胆。」神知道约书亚的需要。带领这班人进入应许之地这个任务毫不简单,且令人却步。海豚会变成鲨鱼,面对巨人时就会忘了葡萄。

神也彷佛要对香港教会这样说,三次重复吩咐:「当刚强壮胆。」神说:「我的子民啊,你要听。在你所面对的一切之中──在这持续的疫情、政治上的转变、群体撕裂,并世俗主义及极端政治的挑战里──『当刚强壮胆!』」我们听得见他所给予的挑战与鼓励吗?

但请留意,我们不能将任何我们想要的东西称之为「应许之地」,然后期待神将之赐予我们。正如神在约书亚记(这卷书的名字既是约书亚的名字,也是耶稣的名字)第一章对约书亚所发出的挑战那样,神会赐下刚强壮胆的心,让他能达成神的计划。这刚强壮胆的心可以分为三方面:

首先,神叫约书亚在他领导百姓的事上要刚强壮胆(约一6)。约书亚要带领神的子民进到神应许之地,每一步都很需要勇气。

面对全球民族主义和极端主义的持续发展,我们身为基督徒必须以身作则,展现另一个心志,以及与别不同的领导特质。首先,我们要认清自己眼中的梁木,才指向别人眼中的刺。有些知名教会或基督教机构领袖被权力、情欲或金钱引诱跌倒,令整个信徒群体都蒙羞。因此我们每一个人更需要活出合神心意的领导特质,以诚信、谦卑、自我牺牲、鼓励别人、为整个群体的好处而委身的精神服事。我们需要壮胆,在我们的影响範围内──我们的家庭、学校、办公室和公共空间里领导别人。

我们借着耶稣的灵,帮助我们的城巿寻得医治和合一。在耶稣里,我们会发现这刚强壮胆的领导能建立起诚信和盼望。在他里面,我们可以刚强壮胆!

其次,神叫约书亚在他顺服的事上要刚强壮胆(约一7-8)。合神心意的领导来自对神话语的顺服。他的话语不可离开我们的口,我们也总要「昼夜思想」。这样做既不简单,也不容易,因为世界总是在提供其他更诱人的选择。面对所爱的人的指摘,我们需要勇气去聆听主的声音;面对自己错谬的欲望和习惯,我们需要勇气去遵行神的话;当世界认为神的话很古旧、很落伍,又不接受他的时候,我们需要有不从众的勇气。我们是否有足够的勇气,在面对逼迫之时仍为神站立得稳?

我们要持续阅读、细尝和言说神的话。那样,我们就能以刚强壮胆的心来顺服他。「如此,你的道路就可以亨通,凡事顺利。」

第三,神叫约书亚在他惧怕和惊惶的事上要刚强壮胆(约一9)。神指出了「惧怕」和「惊惶」这两个强大的阻力,会妨碍你在生命中实践神的使命。两个星期前,我们谈论过对巨人的恐惧;而「惊惶」所带来的挫败,正是那使我们对生命失去盼望、失去信心和失去热诚的关键。约书亚也曾经面对过惊惶挫折,神也知道在他要成为领袖的这刻,他过去所经历的破碎可能会成为他抓紧神应许的拦阻。

惊惶挫折常常来自我们所经历过的失败和遗憾、所犯过的错误。这种挫败的感觉就像一张厚重的被子,将我们压住,压碎我们的灵。我们需要极大的勇气,才能克服过往失败经历的那份沉重。我们需要勇气在跌倒之后屡次爬起来,我们需要勇气,不让过去的过犯破坏现实里的美善及对将来的盼望。

我们有些人背负着过去的遗憾,以致对未来失去信心和盼望。我们要明白,达到合神心意的第一步,就是要摒弃神所不喜悦的。神不希望你被过去的挫败和遗憾缠绕,他想你放开这些重压在心上的事。「因为我的轭是容易的,我的担子是轻省的。」(太十一30)

「因为你无论往哪里去,耶和华──你的神必与你同在。」(约一9)神没有离弃你。你之所以能够壮胆,是因为你无论往哪里去,他都与你同在──即使是在深深的绝望中,在遗憾与失败的痛苦中,在沉重的羞耻感中,他也与你同在。当刚强壮胆!

耶稣的跟随者也面对着跟约书亚很类似的情况。他们的朋友耶稣,刚被钉在罗马的十字架上,这实在太令人震惊。他们活在一个失去盼望的帝国之中,挣扎求存。他们不清楚前面的路要怎么走,要怎样继续坚持。耶稣在升天前不久,带门徒到一座山上,俯瞰着加利利,吩咐门徒要「去,使万民作我的门徒,奉父、子、圣灵的名给他们施洗。凡我所吩咐你们的,都教训他们遵守。」他以这有力的应许总结:「我就常与你们同在,直到世界的末了。」(太廿八19-20)

耶稣赋能予我们,使我们可以完成使命,正如神也赋能予约书亚以完成他的使命。在香港这个关键时刻,我们要自信地活着,奉父、子、圣灵的名为人施洗,在自己的社群中建立门徒,教他们遵守神的话。耶稣所应许我们的,就正如神所应许约书亚的:他就常与我们同在!

当初一个人带着一个使命,进到应许之地扩展神的国,所倚靠的正是神的能力与临在;而同样是这份能力与临在,如今带领我们领受使命,进到我们所属之地、所属城巿、所属文化的应许之地,去扩展神的国。

愿我们都为着香港、为这时刻、为这福音──当刚强壮胆!站起来作领袖,更深倚靠神的话,靠着圣灵的能力克服惊惶挫败。

这或许是香港最美好的时刻──神的能力在我们里面工作,所能绽放的光彩远超过我们的所想所求,也远超越我们的想像。

「另一个心志」讲道系列文章。系列完。)


英文原文:

Be Strong and Courageous


“Courage is not the absence of fear, but strength in the face of fear.”

Last week we left the Israelites wandering in the wilderness because their fear overwhelmed their faith. Now, 40 years later, they stand once again on the threshold of the Promised Land.  Moses in his dying moments had been led by God up Mt Nebo to look over the Promised Land for the last time. I’ve stood on that mountain, awed by the view that seems to go forever. Before Moses died he entrusted the leadership of God’s people to Joshua, one of two spies who was captured by the grapes rather the giants, who along with Caleb believed God’s promises could triumph over obstacles.

Joshua now takes centre stage (Joshua chapter 1) as Israel prepares to enter the Promised Land. His different spirit is defined by strength and courage that will transform the Hebrew slaves from wilderness wanderers to conquerors. We also as churches, families and individuals face the challenge to moving from anticipation to action, from people prepared to people in conquest. And that demands of us both strength and courage.

Biblical courage is fervent and resolute strength in the face of overwhelming challenge and obstacle. Courage comes from our heart, from the seat of our emotions and passions. Courage is not the absence of fear, but strength in the face of fear. No one is courageous without first having faced and overcome their fear.

I well remember a day when as a teenager I tried to overcome my fear of the ocean. I knew I had to overcome this fear since I could never escape the ocean while living in Hong Kong. I screwed up my courage and decided to do an introductory scuba dive. Outwardly I may have appeared brave, but inwardly I was quaking with fear. I forced myself to jump off the boat and into the ocean. I had barely gone down five meters before I saw a dark shadow to my left. A shark! Filled with panic, I thrashed my way back to the boat. As I clambered on board the dive master exclaimed, “Wow! Did you see the dolphin?”

I think if we are honest with ourselves, we all have a tendency to turn dolphins into sharks. Some 40 years before, the ten spies had turned the ‘dolphin’ of the Promised Land into a fearsome and devouring ‘shark’. And now, as Joshua stood once again on the banks of the Jordan River, he may have been concerned for history repeating itself. Even though God promised to give to the people “every place where you set your foot” (Joshua 1:3), Joshua knew they would face many fierce battles. With this in mind, three times God repeats the stirring admonition: “Be strong and courageous.” God knows exactly what Joshua needs. Leading these people into the Promised Land will be a daunting and difficult task. Dolphins will become sharks. Grapes will be forgotten in the face of giants.

I sense God leaning over the church in Hong Kong and giving this same three-times repeated command: “Be strong and courageous.” God is saying “Hear me, my people. In all that you are facing, in the ongoing pandemic around you, in the shift taking place politically, in the divisions deeply entrenched in your communities, in the challenges of secularism and political extremism—in all this “be strong and courageous!” Can we receive these words of challenge and encouragement?

A word of caution. We cannot call anything we want our Promised Land and expect God to give it. Rather, just as we see from God’s challenge to Joshua in the first chapter of the book that bears his name (and the name of Jesus), we are offered strength and courage to achieve God’s purposes in three specific ways:

First, God calls Joshua to be strong and courageous in his leadership (v 6). Joshua will lead God’s people into the land God has promised, and this leadership will require courage every step of the way.

In the face of growing global nationalism and extremism, we Christians must model a different spirit and different qualities of leadership. We begin by acknowledging the plank in our own eye before pointing to the speck in the other’s eye. We have been shamed by the failures of well-known leaders in churches and Christian organisations, who were seduced by power, lust, and money. More than ever each of us must model godly leadership that is authentic, humble, self-sacrificing, encouraging and committed to the good of the entire community. We need courage to lead in our own spheres of influence—in our homes, schools, offices and public spaces.

It is through the spirit of Jesus that we will help our city to find healing and unity. In Jesus we will discover the strong and courageous leadership that builds integrity and hope. In him we can be strong and courageous!

Second, God calls Joshua to be strong and courageous in his obedience (vs 7-8). Godly leadership comes from obedience to Gods’ word. We must keep his word on our lips and “meditate on it day and night.” This is neither simple nor easy in a world that offers tempting alternatives. It takes courage to hear God’s voice when we face condemnation from those we love the most. It takes courage to obey God’s word and break with wrong desires and habits. It takes courage to stand against the majority when God’s word is dismissed as outdated, old-fashioned, or socially unacceptable. Will we have the courage to stand firm for Jesus in the face of persecution?

We need constantly to read, savour and speak God’s word. Then we will have the strength and courage to obey. “Then we will be prosperous and successful.”

Third, God calls Joshua to be strong and courageous in his fears and discouragement (v 9). God singles out fear and discouragement as two powerful elements that stop the progress and success of God’s mission in and through your life. Two weeks ago we reflected on the giant of fear. But discouragement may be the number one thing that drains us of hope, expectation, faith and passion in life. Joshua had faced discouragement before. Now in this defining moment of his career, God understands how the brokenness of his past has the potential to stop him from seizing God’s promised future.

Discouragement often arises out of our failures, mistakes and regrets. Discouragement lays over us like a heavy blanket, weighing us down, breaking our spirit. It takes great courage to overcome the heaviness of our mistakes. We need courage to get up again and again after we fall, to not allow a mistake from our past ruin the positive reality of our present and the hopeful potential of our future.

Some of us are carrying regrets from our past and it is sapping the confidence and hope we have for the future. We need to understand that the first step in getting what God wants is having the courage to let go of what God doesn’t want. He doesn’t want you to be shaped by discouragement and regret. He wants you to let go of the things that weigh down your soul. “His yoke is easy and his burden is light” (Matt 11:30).

“The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (v 9). God has not forsaken you. Your courage comes from the reality that he is with you wherever you go—even in depths of despair. Even in the pain of regret and failure. Even in the heaviness of shame. He is there. So be strong and courageous!

The followers of Jesus faced a very similar situation to Joshua. They are overwhelmed with the reality that their friend Jesus has been executed on a Roman cross. They are struggling to face life in an empire that is crushing everything they hope for. They are unsure what is ahead, or how they are can continue on. Not long before his ascension to heaven, Jesus takes his disciples up a mountain overlooking the Galilee tells them to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” He concludes with this ringing promise: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20).

Jesus empowers us for our mission, just as God empowered Joshua for his. We are to live confidently in Hong Kong in her hour of need, immersing people in the character of the Father, Son and Spirit, making disciples of those in our community, teaching them obedience to the ways of God. And Jesus promises us the very same thing that Joshua was promised: he will be with us all the way!

What started with one man and a mission to expand God’s Kingdom into the Promised Land with the power and presence of God, led to all of us receiving the mission to move into the Promised Land of our own locations, cities, and cultures, with the promise of the power and presence of God.

So for Hong Kong, for this hour and for the gospel—be strong and courageous! Rise up in your leadership, deepen your dependency on God’s word, and in the power of God’s Spirit overcome your discouragement.

May I humbly suggest that for Hong Kong this may be our finest hour. God’s power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine.

 

作者为The Vine主任牧师。


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