It's hard to focus on writing when one has preaching to do. No wonder most scholars don't preach and most preachers don't write and publish. Each to his calling and gifts. Yet I know in my life things are not so simple - not so black or white. I can preach well because I am a scholar. I write well and comment on Scripture because I am a preacher. I remember that it was in Sabah in my 2nd year of my PhD when I was invited to preach a series of 7 sermons on the book of Revelation that the main thesis of doctoral study came to fruition. Writing and preaching should inform one another. In my extended Sabbatical, sometimes I wish I could just go away. Perhaps spend a fortnight in Europe, sitting and listening to papers on the Bible. Perhaps fly away to New Zealand and spend some time with my son.
But increasingly I felt the Lord's leading to remain in Sabah. Sometimes it is easier to run away instead of staying put. Staying put requires just as much focus and discipline - to remain in the Lord's calling and to be obedient to the heavenly vision. Last Sunday I received two invitations to preach. One in KK and the other in a district just a bit farther from Ranau. This morning I received two invitations to preach on Christmas. I have been invited back to Tenom for Christmas where I preached last May. And there is this interior district right at the heart of Sabah, two hours from Keningau, the main interior town about 3 hours' drive from Kota Kinabalu.
In my middle age and second part of my ministry the notion of community is most important to me. I told one woman leader in Papar last Sunday that I am original Sabahan (she thought I came from Hong Kong). Now I do two things at the same time. With an ear opened to what the Spirit is saying to the churches as I prepare my sermons, I also spend time writing. It's just past 7,000 words into the middle of John 12. It's a bit slow going - stop and start and I have to contend with my preaching engagements. Some people think preaching is easy. To me it is the hardest. To listen to God and His Word and to know how to preach and teach it to His people - to declare God's will to that local church in their particular context of Christian living is no easy task. And above all, preaching is mediating God's presence through His Word. God's people should be made aware of His holy presence when they listen to His Word preached. This only happens when the Holy Spirit is present in the preaching. When God is present in the hearts of His people, the only response is bowing down in worship to a holy God, confessing our sins, and setting our lives in order in the fear of the Lord. Who is adequate for all these? But with God we are able to do all things and our adequacy is from Him.