As a staff, we have been going through “The Heart of a Servant Leader” by John C. Miller (aka Jack Miller). This came at such an opportune time as I am recovering from a cold and last year with the diagnosis of diabetes. It made me reconsider so much about the notion of self care but also of “holy self-forgetting.” So for this week, I wanted to share a letter he wrote to a missionary who was recovering from a serious illness. Jack had also almost died a year before as he undergone four months of chemotherapy. I hope that you as you read this, it touches your heart in a manner that considers our rest as a way for us to serve. Often we think of rest as the end goal but it is a pathway for use to rest in God so we can serve others. 

Repentance Is Just Humility 

August, 1988

Dear Sam, It was with much joy that I received your letter, telling about God’s working in your life during a very hard time. You have been very sick, and we rejoice in God’s great kindness in restoring you to good health in answer to many prayers. We love you, dear brother. Your family needs you, and we need you. So take good care of your health, as much as is consistent with faithfulness to God and with living fearlessly and without undue preoccupation with our physical condition.

God has been bringing to us here at New Life and the home office [World Harvest Mission] a spirit of healing too—that of a deepening repentance. That is why your letter speaking of your own repenting struck me as part of a pattern of God’s working. I know God granted me the grace and joy of repentance during my ordeal last October and November. Paul [Jack’s son] and I did some deep repenting together. God really convicted me that pride crowds out the love of God. The group taking leadership training this year has also been undergoing much repentance and with many lives being changed, really in a basic way. Then some of these same folks and others under Bob Heppe’s guidance in Amsterdam experienced a similar repentance as they read Repentance and Twentieth Century Man together in preparation for a very fruitful ministry time.

So God has shown great kindness to us—and most certainly to you. I praise Him for healing you and restoring you to your ministry. I especially honor your repentance, which you described to me. Cotton Mather has said, “Every man upon earth may find in himself something that wants mending.” Calvin also describes repentance as a gift from God to the church, a gift that is especially to be treasured as we see the Spirit working it in Christian lives. Thank you for sharing with me this gift. I treasure you as a work of God, most precious to Him and to me. May God grant you grace to deepen in your repentance! Pray that He will do the same for me! For repentance is just humility, and humility stands in the low place, not on the mountains of pride. Therefore humility gets much grace because grace runs downhill! Bear also with a little counsel about your experience of severe illness. Don’t take lightly having been very sick. When you have been seriously ill—as you have—afterwards you may have to struggle to balance care of your body with a holy self-forgetting. When cancer came, my temptation and inclination was to give up being a careless extrovert in matters of health and become an introvert, preoccupied with my physical life. Well, God has helped me to repent, in some measure, for both tendencies. At present, though, I am still waging war in this area of my life. For this is the anniversary of my illness. About this time last year I first noticed the onset of lymphoma symptoms—abdominal swelling and sweats. Well, any time my body is slightly overheated or a bit feverish or I just feel sweaty in the heat, I have a fight with a satanic attack of fear. The feelings whisper, “Maybe your lymphoma is coming back.”

Perhaps you don’t have precisely the same kind of struggle, but we all need to labor to see that our lives are controlled by God’s will and the gospel of hope and not by our anxieties.

But the Lord has helped me. I have been able again and again to confess my anxieties—really deep ones—and ask God to take them away because I cannot. They are simply too deeply rooted in me and my past. But once the Spirit shows me the self-centered unbelieving core of my fears, then help usually comes to me very quickly in the form of release. Essentially I need to confess to God that I have a deep-seated need to protect and control my life and ministry. Once I acknowledge that hard, painful fact to Him, grace seems to stream into my life. Somehow the Father delights in honesty. Usually when my anxieties dominate and will not go away, I need to face the truth that my devotion is not being given to God with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, but to myself.

But His cleansing through the blood of the perfect Lamb has been so powerful and freeing for both you and me. So let’s not be afraid to confess and forsake our ugliest sin and rely on the Spirit enabling us to put on Christ’s love for others. Since you shared your struggles with me, let me acknowledge that one of my battles is with my constant tendency to forget what God has done for me, to ease off on my repenting, and to rest on my past humblings under the impact of chastening. Here I am almost fully recovered from my severe chastening of the past year and amazing deliverances, and already my heart is drifting into complacency. Forgive, O Lord!

But Rose Marie and I took today (Saturday) to pray together and put the priority on thanksgiving and praise and letting intercession flow out of that. We have especially been praying for you and the Ireland team and for us in the church and mission here to experience revival, and maybe that revival begins with the recovery of thanksgiving and praise.

Today has been a wonderful time of joy and freedom—and we believe an opportunity to shift our faith from circumstances and appearances to the Father’s holy and absolute sovereignty, His all-conquering grace, and the sweet hope of Jesus’ sacrifice revealed in the preaching of the cross.

Finally back to Mather and the joy of repentance, which is closely related to the joy of praise. After he stated that every one of us has something that needs “mending,” he added that “the work of repentance is to inquire, not only, what we have done, but also, what we have to do.” What the staff and I, and others, have been doing here is trying to deepen our oneness of love with members in the church and fellow elders. We think this is what we have to do! Sometimes it means that people who are really different in style and personality have to work harder at developing oneness. Sometimes it means getting rid of prejudices or prejudgments about others and especially getting rid of attitudes of superiority toward those who seem less enlightened than we are! I am thrilled by what I see happening as we work on what we “have to do” in order to mature in Jesus’ love.

Will you join us in this work of the Spirit? Why not labor with all faith and hope and joy to deepen your relationship with your team leader first?—and then with each of the other team members? Make it your goal, the burden of your labor and the intensity of your devotion—to fulfill the law of Christ in serving them in love. For me, I like to translate this into practical terms: one of my primary jobs is to make others successful. Make it your joy and your task to see that the team succeeds. Rest when you need to, but work very hard when you work. Gather the fuel by meditation in the Scriptures when you rest, but when you work burn hot for Christ!

I write these things to you with confidence that you are not neglecting them. You are laboring with zeal in the heat of harvest. I have seen you many times burn hot for Christ. Let grace abound and joy abound and let loving work abound. These next six months are crucial. Give it all you have as your praise of Christ repent, we magnetize the world with our hope, love and joy. You are already a magnet, grow in your magnetism. Warm greetings to your family.

Much love,

Jack Miller

Prayer Prompt (taken from the Worship Sourcebook)

We are tired, Lord,
weary of the long night without rest.
We grow complaining and bitter.
We grieve for ourselves
as we grow hardened to the pain of others.
Another death leaves us unmoved.
A widow’s tears fall unnoticed.
Our children know only the bitterness
already possessing their parents.
Our violent words explode into violent acts,
bringing destruction without thought or reason.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lead us to repentance, that we may forgive and be forgiven. Amen.

I hope that this will help you dive deeper in the wonders of grace, repentance and faith. I hope that we consider the words of Jack Miller as we are invited to the joy of repentance. One of the best ways of exercising that gift is to do it in community that promises to extend that to one another.

Remaining in Him,
Peter Ong