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Finishing Well

Harding Ng

In the past couple of years, several of God’s faithful servants had passed to be with the Lord. They include Rev. Mark Cheng Kor, Rev. John Tsang, Rev. Paul Shen, Rev. Ligong Yu, Rev. John Pao, Rev. Xian Gao Lin, Rev. Philip Teng, plus our own beloved Rev. John Kao. These men were not some ancient spiritual leaders but all had once been friends and pastors close to our hearts. We have personally heard their sermons, read their books, been impacted by their testimonies and greatly encouraged by attending the revival meetings that they led. Having lived lives that shone so brightly and been a blessing to so many of us, they now have returned to the heavenly home to enjoy their rewards.

During a recent T3C pastoral/deacons leadership retreat which I had the opportunity to ponder and share on the topic of “Quality of Spiritual Leaders,” I was once again reminded of the legacy of these faithful servants of God. What a fulfilling thing that when coming to the end of one’s life, by the grace of God, one might look back and be able to say with confidence and gratitude: “I have finished the race well!”

The three marks of “Finishing Well” are:

1. A True Great Leader Has Committed Followers.
The bible records that at David’s old age, he gave orders to write down the long list of names of his band of mighty men and there was the anecdote of the Three Brave Warriors. At the time, David was a fugitive running for his life from his father-in-law yet his archrival King Saul, one day perhaps out of nostalgia and by chance, he blurted out that he wished a drink of the cool water that he used to enjoy from the well besides his hometown Bethlehem. The three men heard his words, then risked their lives by breaking through the Philistine camp to bring the precious gift of water to David (2 Samuel 23:13-17). David did not anticipate his casual comment would cause these willing volunteers to devote their lives for him and became quite overwhelmed. A great leader knows the importance of his team; he needs his mighty men and the rest of his faithful troops in joint force and unity to accomplish God’s purpose.

2. A True Great Leader Always Gives Glory To God.
The three men presented David with the water from Bethlehem, David was so touched that he could not drink it, but exclaimed that the water was like the blood of the three warriors who had risked their lives for him. David poured out the water to the ground to the Lord, an action symbolic of a libation offering (2 Samuel 23:13-17). Only the Lord deserves something so precious! According to the Levitical system, the priests of Israel would make a special drink-offering to the Lord where wine would be poured out in front of the altar where the sacrifice was laid and consumed by the fire, giving a sweet aroma pleasing to the Lord, signifying the climax of the offering. Great leaders love God and endeavor to serve God with their best. Yet they appreciate the fact that the allegiance of others to them are but a reflection of their devotion to God, hence they will quickly turn them over as due credit to God who alone deserves all the glory!

3. A True Great Leader Recognizes His/Her Own Insufficiency.
In that same passage of the long list of David’s mighty men, a name leaps out “Uriah the Hittite” from the page when it reaches the last verse “there were 37 in all.” (2 Samuel 23:39). David had committed adultery with Uriah’s wife and then plotted his death by letting him be killed in the battlefront. Those were David’s heinous crimes and darkest moments of his life and abomination in God’s eyes. Yet, contrary to burying the fact so as not to tarnish his records, he in his last words actually praised and honored Uriah in stating that he was one of his elite warriors. A true great leader is forever indebted to the “hesed” faithful steadfast unchanging love and forgiveness of God. He has the courage and transparency to acknowledge his failures and brokenness before God. David also wrote the Psalm 51 as genuine penitence which helps countless people throughout history, we included in our confession of sins before God. Rev. Kao in his later years would  often claim: “I am not like anyone young; I have dwindling health; I don’t feel I am gifted as many others; I am not seasoned with experience, but by the grace of God I am who I am and God’s grace is always sufficient for me! For that, I rededicate myself on God’s altar, may He continue to use me till the end!”

Lately I am preoccupied with the flow of thoughts whenever I contemplate on Rev. Kao’s life and his legacy in ACEM. Here is a man who had been involved with building the body of Christ, his brotherly love toward both old and new members of ACEM churches and especially his incalculable care and influence to all the pastors that he had helped trained. For several decades, he had served with the ACEM’s pastoral teams in the fight for the gospel for the salvation of souls to the glory of God. I pray that the ACEM pastors and churches will carry on this ACEM spirit, flourish and be faithful with many more of us to be “Finishing Well!”


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