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「另一個心志」講道系列

當剛強壯膽(Be Strong and Courageous)

「勇敢不是沒有懼怕,而是有面對恐懼的力量。」
上週我們提到以色列人因為被恐懼掩蓋信心,結果要在曠野遊牧。四十年過去了,他們再一次站在應許之地的邊緣。神在摩西死前領他上尼波山,讓他最後一次觀看這應許之地。我也曾站在那山上,被眼前那看似永恆的景色所震攝。摩西離開世界之前,將領導神子民的重任交付約書亞──他是看重葡萄多於巨人的兩個探子之一,與迦勒同樣相信神的應許能戰勝困難。

以色列人正準備進到應許之地,約書亞也正式登場(參約一)。他另有一個心志,他剛強壯膽,要將那從曠野遊牧的希伯來奴隷訓練成征服者。我們身為個人、或教會或家庭的一份子,也要面對這樣的挑戰:由引頸以待的人,變成行動的人;由裝備好的人,成為征戰的人。我們都需要剛強壯膽。

聖經所提到的勇敢壯膽是一種強烈的、有決心的力量,是我們面對強大的挑戰和巨大的障礙所需要的。這份勇敢來自我們的內心,由我們最深的情緒和熱誠而來。勇敢不是沒有懼怕,而是有面對恐懼的力量。若沒有先面對和克服自己的恐懼,則不能稱得上是勇敢。

我還清楚記得十來歲時,我試著要克服對海的恐懼。我知道我必須克服這恐懼,因為居住在香港根本沒法逃避海洋。我鼓起勇氣,決定參加一個潛水入門課程。我外表看起來似乎勇敢,但內裡其實緊張得要死。我強迫自己從船邊跳下海,然後游進水裡不夠五米,我便看見左邊有一個黑影。是鯊魚!我極度驚慌,立刻趕回船上。我跌跌撞撞地上船之際,潛水教練驚歎說:「嘩!你看見那海豚了嗎?」

老實說,我們各人都傾向將海豚看成鯊魚。四十年前的以色列人中,那十個探子也將應許之地的「海豚」看為令人恐懼和吃人的「鯊魚」。如今,當約書亞再一次站到約但河邊,他也或許會擔心歷史重演。雖然神已應許將「凡你們腳掌所踏之地」(約一3)都賜給祂的子民,約書亞深深明白他們將要面對連場激戰。如此,神三次重申這激動人心的勸告:「當剛強壯膽。」神知道約書亞的需要。帶領這班人進入應許之地這個任務毫不簡單,且令人卻步。海豚會變成鯊魚,面對巨人時就會忘了葡萄。

神也彷彿要對香港教會這樣說,三次重複吩咐:「當剛強壯膽。」神說:「我的子民啊,你要聽。在你所面對的一切之中──在這持續的疫情、政治上的轉變、群體撕裂,並世俗主義及極端政治的挑戰裡──『當剛強壯膽!』」我們聽得見祂所給予的挑戰與鼓勵嗎?

但請留意,我們不能將任何我們想要的東西稱之為「應許之地」,然後期待神將之賜予我們。正如神在約書亞記(這卷書的名字既是約書亞的名字,也是耶穌的名字)第一章對約書亞所發出的挑戰那樣,神會賜下剛強壯膽的心,讓他能達成神的計劃。這剛強壯膽的心可以分為三方面:

首先,神叫約書亞在他領導百姓的事上要剛強壯膽(約一6)。約書亞要帶領神的子民進到神應許之地,每一步都很需要勇氣。

面對全球民族主義和極端主義的持續發展,我們身為基督徒必須以身作則,展現另一個心志,以及與別不同的領導特質。首先,我們要認清自己眼中的樑木,才指向別人眼中的刺。有些知名教會或基督教機構領袖被權力、情慾或金錢引誘跌倒,令整個信徒群體都蒙羞。因此我們每一個人更需要活出合神心意的領導特質,以誠信、謙卑、自我犧牲、鼓勵別人、為整個群體的好處而委身的精神服事。我們需要壯膽,在我們的影響範圍內──我們的家庭、學校、辦公室和公共空間裡領導別人。

我們藉著耶穌的靈,幫助我們的城巿尋得醫治和合一。在耶穌裡,我們會發現這剛強壯膽的領導能建立起誠信和盼望。在祂裡面,我們可以剛強壯膽!

其次,神叫約書亞在他順服的事上要剛強壯膽(約一7-8)。合神心意的領導來自對神話語的順服。祂的話語不可離開我們的口,我們也總要「晝夜思想」。這樣做既不簡單,也不容易,因為世界總是在提供其他更誘人的選擇。面對所愛的人的指摘,我們需要勇氣去聆聽主的聲音;面對自己錯謬的慾望和習慣,我們需要勇氣去遵行神的話;當世界認為神的話很古舊、很落伍,又不接受祂的時候,我們需要有不從眾的勇氣。我們是否有足夠的勇氣,在面對逼迫之時仍為神站立得穩?

我們要持續閱讀、細嘗和言說神的話。那樣,我們就能以剛強壯膽的心來順服祂。「如此,你的道路就可以亨通,凡事順利。」

第三,神叫約書亞在他懼怕和驚惶的事上要剛強壯膽(約一9)。神指出了「懼怕」和「驚惶」這兩個強大的阻力,會妨礙你在生命中實踐神的使命。兩個星期前,我們談論過對巨人的恐懼;而「驚惶」所帶來的挫敗,正是那使我們對生命失去盼望、失去信心和失去熱誠的關鍵。約書亞也曾經面對過驚惶挫折,神也知道在他要成為領袖的這刻,他過去所經歷的破碎可能會成為他抓緊神應許的攔阻。

驚惶挫折常常來自我們所經歷過的失敗和遺憾、所犯過的錯誤。這種挫敗的感覺就像一張厚重的被子,將我們壓住,壓碎我們的靈。我們需要極大的勇氣,才能克服過往失敗經歷的那份沉重。我們需要勇氣在跌倒之後屢次爬起來,我們需要勇氣,不讓過去的過犯破壞現實裡的美善及對將來的盼望。

我們有些人背負著過去的遺憾,以致對未來失去信心和盼望。我們要明白,達到合神心意的第一步,就是要摒棄神所不喜悅的。神不希望你被過去的挫敗和遺憾纏繞,祂想你放開這些重壓在心上的事。「因為我的軛是容易的,我的擔子是輕省的。」(太十一30)

「因為你無論往哪裡去,耶和華──你的神必與你同在。」(約一9)神沒有離棄你。你之所以能夠壯膽,是因為你無論往哪裡去,祂都與你同在──即使是在深深的絕望中,在遺憾與失敗的痛苦中,在沉重的羞恥感中,祂也與你同在。當剛強壯膽!

耶穌的跟隨者也面對著跟約書亞很類似的情況。他們的朋友耶穌,剛被釘在羅馬的十字架上,這實在太令人震驚。他們活在一個失去盼望的帝國之中,掙扎求存。他們不清楚前面的路要怎麼走,要怎樣繼續堅持。耶穌在升天前不久,帶門徒到一座山上,俯瞰著加利利,吩咐門徒要「去,使萬民作我的門徒,奉父、子、聖靈的名給他們施洗。凡我所吩咐你們的,都教訓他們遵守。」他以這有力的應許總結:「我就常與你們同在,直到世界的末了。」(太廿八19-20)

耶穌賦能予我們,使我們可以完成使命,正如神也賦能予約書亞以完成他的使命。在香港這個關鍵時刻,我們要自信地活著,奉父、子、聖靈的名為人施洗,在自己的社群中建立門徒,教他們遵守神的話。耶穌所應許我們的,就正如神所應許約書亞的:祂就常與我們同在!

當初一個人帶著一個使命,進到應許之地擴展神的國,所倚靠的正是神的能力與臨在;而同樣是這份能力與臨在,如今帶領我們領受使命,進到我們所屬之地、所屬城巿、所屬文化的應許之地,去擴展神的國。

願我們都為著香港、為這時刻、為這福音──當剛強壯膽!站起來作領袖,更深倚靠神的話,靠著聖靈的能力克服驚惶挫敗。

這或許是香港最美好的時刻──神的能力在我們裡面工作,所能綻放的光彩遠超過我們的所想所求,也遠超越我們的想像。

「另一個心志」講道系列文章。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.

 

作者為The Vine主任牧師。


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