“Lessons I Am Learning From the Lord”
by D. John Richard
Ramesh Richard with his father, John
Ramesh Richard’s Preface: I usually write a biblical-theological-practical reflection to open this publication, but I would like to close out this year with some words of wisdom from my late father—the biggest, deepest and longest spiritual influence in my life. On February 4, 2018, John Richard went to join my mother, Manorama, with the Lord Jesus Christ, just 16 days short of his 95th birthday. As many of us are entering a publicly recognized season of thankfulness and remembrance of our Savior’s incarnation, I wish to share with you these deep insights from my Appa. May they encourage your and bring glory to God.
1. Until I die, I need to learn lessons from my Lord.
He wants to fulfill in me the desire of His Son, my Jesus, who prayed, “I in them” (John 17:23, 26). The longing of Christ is to reincarnate Himself in the life of every true believer: my mind—a mind through which Christ thinks; my voice—a voice through which Christ speaks; my heart—a heart through which Christ loves; and my hand—a hand through which Christ helps.
In short, Christ’s desire is that I be a little Christ. As a little Christ, I can boldly reiterate the words of the apostle Paul to our people: “I urge you to imitate me.…Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord…will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4:16–17). Again in 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul pleads with the Corinthians, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
When I think of the example of Christ, I think of the fact that my Lord’s practice exceeded His teaching. Jesus taught, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13 KJV). But what did He do in practice? Jesus laid down His life for the ungodly, sinners and His enemies (Rom. 5:6, 8,10). Christ’s practice exceeded
By contrast, my teaching far exceeds
my practice. So please pray for me. The world is waiting to see the outliving of an in-living Christ. “On that day when we see Christ living out His life in you, then on that day, we Hindus will flock to your Christ even as doves flock to their feeding ground.” (Dr. Rabindranath Tagore)
2. My goal should be God Himself
My goal is God Himself, not joy,
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my
Tis His to lead me there–—not
mine, but His—
At any cost, dear Lord, by
—F. Brook (Keswick #279)
When the Blesser Himself is mine, why should I seek His mere blessings (cf. Rom. 8:32)?
His is the responsibility to lead me to Himself. Mine is to respond to Him and say, “At any cost, dear Lord, by any road.” I am learning that God’s ways may not be the easiest, may not be the shortest, may not appear to be the safest, but His ways are ever right.
3. Through the once-for-all sacrifice of the body of Christ, I have been made holy (Heb. 10:10).
Yet, through that same sacrifice I am being made holy (10:14). That is, I am being conformed to the likeness of Christ (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18). This my God accomplishes through the process of self-disglorification: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
This process of self-disglorification is seen in the life of the apostle Paul in these chronologically arranged statements:
a. Not in the least inferior to the chiefest of the apostles (2 Cor. 11:5)
b. Less than the least of all the saints (Eph. 3:8)
c. The chiefest of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15)
The dross has to be purged; the jagged ends of our character, its rough edges, have to be made smooth in the furnace of afflictions.
“Lord cut, Lord carve, Lord mould, Lord do anything that may perfect Thy Father’s image in us and make us meet for glory.” (Samuel Rutherford)
“Lord, open Thou mine eyes that I may see the real smallness of my greatest greatness.” (A Puritan’s prayer)
“I have seen the enemy; it is I myself.” (Pogo, the philosopher)
4. My life should be an open storybook.
That I should walk in the light day by day; that I should lead a life of transparency; that I should ever keep in mind all that I think, speak and do as naked and open before the eyes of Him with whom I have to do; that I should endeavor to have a conscience void of offense toward both God and man; that I should be blameless in the sight of both God and man, harboring no unconfessed, unrepented sin, if I am to keep on being filled with all the fullness of the Spirit of God. I need to remember, too, that there’s such a thing as “solidarity of sin.” Illustration: Achan’s sin and Israel’s defeat at Ai—God says Israel has sinned (Josh. 7:5, 11). No sinning Christian is an island.
5. I can never graduate from the foot of the Cross.
I need, therefore, to pray daily certain prayers:
a. “Lord, deliver me from the power of self-deception. You know the deceitfulness of my heart; show me my exact condition as I am in Your sight and grant me grace to repent, confess and forsake all sins that bring grief to Your holy heart.”
b. Far be it, O Lord, that I should be known as a Doctor of Deception; may I truly be a Doctor of Divinity.
c. Lord, I bring to You my personal sins: sins of impurity, ingratitude, impatience, unlove, untruthfulness, unbelief, prayerlessness, pride, hidden corruption and self-centeredness. Lord, wash me. Lord, make me clean. Thank you, Lord, for the blood of Jesus Christ, my Blessed Savior, which goes on cleansing me, moment by moment.
6. I am learning the crying need to cover my family in regular, sustained prayer.
Morality especially is fast declining everywhere, and one wonders what it will be for our children and grandchildren in another 10 to 15 years. The terrible times in the last days mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:1 – 9 are already happening among us. Hence I pray every day:
O Blessed Trinity, may your benediction resting upon me and my wife be passed on to our children, our children’s children and the generations to come! May their lives be as a sweet-smelling savor! May they exude the fragrance of the Lord Jesus Christ! May their outward lives, which men see, bring much credit to our Master’s name! May they all be filled with all the fullness of God! May they be complete in Christ! May rivers of living water flow from their innermost being! May they irradiate the beauty, the mind and the character of Christ! May they reflect like mirrors the glory and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ! May they all be full-time Christians and some among them even full-time Christian workers! May they be reconcilers reconciling people unto God, people with people, repairers of the breaches, bridge builders! May they scatter sunshine wherever they go! May they distil the dews of peace wherever they go! May none of them be lost unto perdition!
7. I need to have victory in the area of my reactions.
I have no power over what others may speak against me or may do to me. But then in the strength that the Son of God supplies, I can have power over how I react to those who hurt me by their words and harm me by their deeds.
We know of Victor Frankl, who told his Nazi guards, “You have killed my wife, my children; you have stripped me naked; but there’s one thing that you cannot take away from me and that’s as to how I choose to react to what you have done to me.” That’s showing the mind of Christ, who cried out as He hung on that cruel cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Likewise we hear Stephen praying for his enemies, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).
Dr. Paul Rees says, “To return evil for good is Satan-like; to return evil for evil is beast-like; to return good for good is man-like; to return good for evil is Christ-like.” The apostle Paul says he takes pleasure in reproaches, he delights in “insults” for Christ’s sake (2 Cor. 12:10). Says Stanley Jones, “My critics are the unpaid guardians of my soul.” Our critics watch over the health of our souls. What more! They are doing us a service and we do not even have to pay them a salary. The Lord uses my critics to see that I do not stray away from the narrow path He wants me to traverse. The lesson is that we spill out what we are filled with. Is it the fruit of the Spirit or the vinegar of resentment?
8. I need to cultivate a holy fear not to become a castaway.
The apostle Paul, who could boldly witness to Christ before the authorities of his day, had this holy fear. He said, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27 KJV). I am to run the race in such a way as to get the prize. Strict training and self-control are absolutes. Therefore I beat my body and make it my slave, so that I myself will not become disqualified for the prize. God forbid that I should hear Him say, “I have no more use for you; you are now to Me as a rejected, broken piece of china.”
The Bible speaks of two Sauls. The first Saul is Saul, the son of Kish, the first King of Israel. He had a great beginning but a poor ending. By contrast, the second Saul, Saul of Tarsus, had a poor beginning but a great ending. I am to take heed as to how I end the race. I have to bear in mind that I am high on Satan’s hit list, that there’s a way to hell from the very gate of heaven, that many mighty captains of the Lord’s Army have fallen by the wayside, not fighting the Lord’s battles but by playing into the hands of the evil one, and that there have been surprises of sin even in the holiest of histories. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12 KJV). This I have to do day by day until the Lord completes my pilgrimage on earth.
9. I should so live now that I will be remembered even after my departure for the spiritual impact that I had made on some people.
That I may be able to re-echo the words of the apostle, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith; Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6–8 KJV).
Of me, may it be engraved on my tombstone: HE ENDED WELL.