Stand Firm! What I learnt from Acts 29 2018 Australia and New Zealand Conference.
The 2018 Conference was once again a huge encouragement to me, my wife and our church family. This year’s conference speakers included Ray and Jani Ortlund from the U.S, Mark Sayers from Red Church in Melbourne, Adam Ramsey from Liberti Church on the Gold Coast and we also had the privilege of Austin Stone Worship. It was challenging, encouraging, inspiring and as always God-glorifying.
Here’s what I learnt.
1. Standing Firm Requires a Long-Term View
Pastor Adam Ramsey finished the conference with an impressionable send-off, exhorting us from 2 Timothy 4 to remember that we know how the story ends. Paul is at the end of his ministry and his life. Yet he fears nothing. In fact because of his absolute confidence in God’s promises he is able to say,
18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 2 Tim 4:18
Pastor Adam used Paul’s end to encourage us to live not only for that end but from it. This was not only how Paul finished but how he lived. In faith knowing that the story has already been written and no amount of opposition could thwart God’s promise to bring him safely into his eternal kingdom.
Therefore we should live now as God’s kids fully convinced of his sovereign plan for our future. Yes, persecution will come. Yes, times will be difficult. And yes Jesus is our king and all the citizens of his kingdom win in the end.
2. Standing Firm Requires Us To Expect the Cost and Remember The Reward.
Preaching from 2 Timothy 4:1-8 Ray Ortlund not only reminded us to be prepared for a big cost in following Jesus but also that the reward is worth it. Paul charged Timothy to endure suffering, reminding Timothy that he also had been “poured out as a drink offering”. Serving Jesus can be tough. There is a cost to be counted. Yet at the same time, as with anything meaningful and worthwhile, the reward is greater than the cost. Therefore we must not only count the cost we must remember the promise. What is the promise? That Jesus has for us a “crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 2 Tim. 4:8
Ray simply reminded us of how great a reward this is. He used it, as Paul did to Timothy, to encourage us forward in the mission of God in order that we could also say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. It’s not just the counting the cost that helps us move forward, it’s remembering the rewards.
3. Standing Firm Requires Us To Understand The Space In Which We Live.
Mark Sayers is a pastor and cultural missiologist, meaning he is essentially a specialist who studies and is trained in the science of missions and cultural engagement. Mark is a gift to the church and he blessed us greatly by helping us to understand the context in which we currently live. The more we understand the history of the western culture, the better equipped we will be to bring the gospel to bear on our current culture and consider more effective means with regard to equipping the church for the future culture.
4. Standing Firm Requires Prioritising And Working on Your Marriage/Family
As a husband and Father, I was very encouraged by Ray and Jani Ortlund. There is simply something motivating in seeing a couple in their 60’s deeply in love and experiencing genuine friendship. For me, it was a huge motivator to see what is possible in my marriage and family. Yet they made it clear it takes consistent work. It’s a never-ending commitment to love and serve our spouse and children and to trust God in his good design. I left identifying areas I need to continue to work on in order to love and serve my wife better. Yet I also left with a great hope of what could be in another 30 years. I am more motivated than ever to get to the end and not only run the race of faith, but also the race of life with my wife and kids.
Thank you Ortlunds for your faithful and encouraging example.
5. Standing Firm Requires Community
This year Life Centre Church had a team of 33 people attend the conference. Without a doubt, this is my favourite part of conference every year. I get to do this journey with a bunch of incredible people that are humble, faithful, generous and genuine friends. I love seeing so many of our team pray for each other, eat and drink together, worship together and simply enjoy God and his people. I walk away every year shaking my head at the thought that I am leading a church with such amazing people. I don’t feel worthy. I don’t feel capable. I just feel blessed.
Thank you, LCC. You encourage me more than you know.