Hundreds of teens and youth leaders from around the world are traveling today to the Third Wave youth conference that will be held in Hyderabad, India. This initiative is one of the most significant events that the Church of the Nazarene holds every 3-4 years in order to raise up and equip emerging youth leaders. Although I will not be participating this year, I had the privilege to travel to Bangkok, Thailand and San José, Costa Rica in 2012 and 2015, respectively, and those Third Wave conferences made an impact on all of us who were there.
One of the most influential moments in Thailand occurred on January 8, 2012 when General Superintendent Dr. Eugenio Duarte gave the closing message entitled, “Making Christlike Disciples in the Nations.” With youth from 56 different countries represented and the Lord’s Supper being served, this sermon was far from mere theory. This was a challenge to those present and to all youth of every nation to engage in our core mission.
For young people who want to see the world changed in a blink of an eye, Dr. Duarte reminded us from Hebrews 12 that we are running a race, and that this race is a marathon, not a sprint. Although there are many reasons why people race (to be healthy, to participate with others, or to compete and win, for example), we as Christians race to change the world.
Hebrews 12 is clear, as well, that this is a race that requires encouragement, clarity, perseverance, skills, discipline and motivation. Many of these are in short supply in the world around us. In fact, we may feel at times so weary that our goal seems unattainable. But Duarte stressed powerfully that winning will come. We will win the world! We do recognize that there will be deep valleys during this race. Yet, we do not overlook the blessings that come in disguise in the valleys.
As we race in this marathon, the question arises as our bodies and spirits tire: how are we able to run with perseverance? Hebrews 12 gives us the recipe.
- Remember the great cloud of witnesses (v.1). Hebrews 11 is the encouragement we need: it is a chapter full of real people with real difficulties serving really faithfully. But who are the people that have also gone before us in our lives: those mentors and leaders who have invested in us? We must not forget them! They gave their best. We must give our best! They gave all. Jesus gave all (vv.1-2) and we must give all!
- Get rid of sin and travel light. Many of us think of our need for forgiveness as a one-time thing. But an app on a smart phone must constantly be updated. There are bug fixes and new software tools. We also be constantly sensitive to God’s provoking and prompting. We must never grow complacent. We must not admire holiness, but rather PURSUE holiness. Sin is not defined by culture. Sin is defined by God and his convictions. Susanna Wesley wrote to her son, John, in 1725 with this definition: “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.” We must update our app constantly! We must throw off all that entangles and hinders!
- Be disciplined and possess a singular focus. Faith is the subject of chapter 11. But faith goes hand in hand with discipline. The best marathoners say they cannot ever miss a day of training. Why then are we so nonchalant with our spiritual discipline(s) and training? We must fix our eyes steadfastly on Jesus! What are the goals that He has set for you? Consider him, know him, love him, and be a true follower of Jesus Christ! Even as we think about and admire our mentors and the great people of faith who have gone before, we do not fix our eyes on them, but rather on JESUS, the author and perfecter of our faith.
We responded to the message from Dr. Duarte by praying at the altar and sharing a meaningful time of Holy Communion. But I believe we all responded afterwards, too, by running the race. Let’s pray this Third Wave in India helps create marathon-running, disciplined and persevering world changers once again.