Thursday, September 22, 2022

"Suffering mistreatment with God's People" (Hebrews 11:25)

After my blogspot this morning, I reflected on the third passage the Lord gave me when I returned to Sabah in 2014 to serve once more among the indigenous peoples of Sabah. The Greek word, συγκακουχεῖσθαι is a hapax legomenon, only found in Hebrews 11:25. With the word, "sun" in the beginning of the word, it means Moses identified with God's people and whatever their fate became his fate. It was the same when I returned to Sabah. I had to suffer the afflictions or more accurately, the mistreatment of God's people. What do I mean by the mistreatment of God's people? In Egypt, the Israelites were enslaved and a foreign people in a foreign land. When they wandered in the wilderness, they were wanderers from one place to another for many years, four decades in all. When Moses identified with God's people, he took on their sufferings as slaves. He became like them, in their lowliness.

As for me, I had to humble myself and suffer deprivation in order to minister and live among them. I have to suffer poverty just as a vast majority of them are poor. There are a few elite among them and high-income earners but 95% of the people are poor and perhaps 60% are very poor, the bottom of socio-economic ladder. Specifically, I identify with my fellow pastors, most of whom start with zero money when they begin to pastor a church just like I was penniless in my first posting as a lecturer in the interior of Sabah at the foot of Mount Kinabalu. I bought my first car as pastor in my 8th year of ministry. 

How do I suffer mistreatment? Yes, I did not turn away my cheeks from blows like prophet Isaiah said. I was in honour and dishonour. I was respected and I was insulted. I took all the mistreatment in order I could still minister among God's people where I am. Like the shepherd in Zechariah, I was wounded in the house of my friends. I suffer mistreatment due to lack of good leadership just as many pastors and members suffer due to lack of good leaders in their midst. Many are still paid under the minimum wage. 

At least, as long as I am around, I offer an alternative, a hope for a minority that things could be better and that ministry could be different and that the church could be glorious according to God's will. I suffer mistreatment with low salaries. In fact, in all my four positions since I got back to Sabah, it was a downward trajectory from the first to the fourth and the next appointment, the fifth could be lower still than the previous appointment. Who is adequate for all these? If God had not spoken to me through Hebrews 11:25, I might not have lasted these 8-plus years. But there is no lack for those who trust in the Lord. God is faithful. He said that He would be with me if I returned to the land of my birth. Indeed, He had, and He had shepherded and fed me all these years, in abundance and in want, I can do all things in Christ Jesus my Lord. 

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