© Marcelo A. Tolopilo
Learning from road trips
I love road trips. I enjoy getting up early in the morning, hitting the road before dawn, sipping on a hot cup of coffee while talking to my beloved co-pilot and navigator, Val. It’s such a treat to sit in the company of my wife and family and talk about anything and everything while watching the landscape morph with the ticking of the miles.
And with as many road trips as we have taken one thing I’ve learned is this, it’s important to keep your bearings. In other words, A.) know where you’re going and B.) be familiar with your map to make sure you’re on the right highway. Nothing disheartens the wayfarer more than wrong turns and wasted miles.
Many roads to ruin
In a similar way Walking In The Promises is committed to keeping its biblical orientation in ministry. We need to break out God’s life/ministry map (scripture), as it were, and gauge the biblical fidelity of our direction. This is necessary because in every generation there inevitably arises a profusion of alternate routes beckoning ministries like ours and churches to turn aside from God’s tried and true paths and travel their exotic and “enlightened” backroads. Since the Reformation, the proliferation of deceptive alleyways offered to derail biblical ministry is dizzying.
After the reformers restored the biblical gospel of salvation, and hoisted the rallying flag of “scripture alone,” in effect restoring the Bible as the standard for the believer’s faith and practice, the attacks on biblical ministry have been relentless. On the coattails of the Reformation came the onslaught of rationalism, liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, neo-liberalism, mysticism, pragmatism, “Christian” post-modernism, etc.
If there is one central tenet these errant philosophies share it is that they dethrone the Bible from its central guiding place in ministry, yet they promise to lead its adherents to spiritual abundance (enlightenment, peace, power, relevance, etc.). Sadly, while promising much, false paths can only lead to spiritual dead ends and as such constitute many roads to ruin. That’s why it’s valuable to continually evaluate our ministries, and indeed, our very lives against the plumb line of the Bible.
Keeping our biblical bearing
Recently I went through the process of evaluating our ministry biblically. I got out the Lord’s roadmap, turned to its pages and asked myself the question, “What is it that drives our ministry? What is it that fuels Walking In The Promises? What is the wellspring from which our ministry flows?” Many important principles came to mind. We are driven – as we all should be – by God’s glory. We certainly desire to be fruitful in that pursuit. We especially long to connect men, women, children, leaders, families to God. The list could literally go on for pages. But as I prayed and contemplated what drives Walking In The Promises (seeking God’s glory, striving to be fruitful, etc.), I kept coming back to one key truth and it is this:
We believe God’s Word is true and when faithfully unleashed (explained) transforms people.
Regardless of what form our ministry takes…
- Preaching in pulpits
- Equipping families
- Challenging men’s & women’s groups
- Developing leaders
- Exhorting pastors
- Planting churches
- Engaging in One-on-One discipleship
- Mentoring couples
- Encouraging young families
…ultimately our ministry flows from one clear principle: God’s Word is powerful to accomplish all that God desires. Nowhere is this expressed as well as in one of our ministry’s key verses, Isaiah 55:10–11. There the prophet Isaiah compares God’s Word to precipitation. Rain and snow cannot complete their cycle without accomplishing exactly what they are designed to do, to germinate life and produce its fruit.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
It is literally impossible for water to fail in nature’s rhythm, and so it is when God’s truth is unleashed. It will not, and indeed cannot, fail to fulfill what God desires through it, chiefly the salvation of men and women and the transformation of His people. God’s Word then is strong to save (1 Peter 1:23). Peter writes “… for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring Word of God.” The most obstinate, rebellious, unbelieving person can be born again when God’s Word takes root in the heart and germinates into eternal life.
What’s more, the Bible is powerful to sanctify (1 Thessalonians 2:13). It accomplishes God’s good work in us over a lifetime. Paul reminded the Thessalonians, “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.”
I had these principles vividly displayed for me recently when contemplating the biography of John Newton. As most of you know John Newton lead the life of a debauched, licentious, sailor and an unprincipled slave trader. He excelled in sinning. He was as “far gone” as a man can get, and yet the gospel – through the Word—saved him in his twenties. He was radically changed at salvation by the gospel and marvelously transformed by the Word for a lifetime. Newton spent the balance of his earthly life (He lived to be 82!) serving God joyously in two pastorates. He was by all accounts one of the kindest, happiest, most loving pastors to grace the evangelical landscape in England. A life steeped in the Word of God yielded its fruit in its season (Psalm 1:1–3).
My friends, the truth of the gospel can save those lost loved ones and friends whom to us seem out of redemption’s reach. God’s Word is strong to save! But the Lord also continues His supernatural work of transformation in those He saves, and the source and means of our lifelong spiritual metamorphosis is the Bible.
This is why WITP is committed to unleashing the Word. It is powerful to accomplish all of God’s design and desires. Ministry does not depend on me and my skill but on the God who has spoken powerfully, the God who saves and sanctifies through His Word. I take immense comfort in that! This is the road on which we launched Walking in The Promises, and it is the path we are still traveling and will travel until our journey leaves us at heaven’s door.