INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–Christian leaders must face their fears and admit they can do nothing without Christ, said Sammy Tippit, one of the featured speakers at a June 13 worship service sponsored by the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists. Tippit, an internationally-known evangelist from San Antonio, said the key to courage is God’s perfect love, which drives out fear.
Johnny Tucker, from the International Missions Association in Citronelle, Ala., exhorted listeners to heed the words of evangelist Junior Hill, who said, “I want to finish [in ministry] with honor and dignity.” Tucker warned of falling short of God’s full vision by becoming insensitive to His voice.
Included in the announcements was the launch of a COSBE website, www.sbcevangelist.com, designed to guide congregations as they consider calling an evangelist for crusades or conferences. COSBE is affiliated with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Tippit, whose autobiography, “God’s Secret Agent,” tells of his mission work in communist Eastern Europe, said God’s people are living in an age that requires them to be courageous, but that courage comes from being in the presence of God and not by denying fears.
Referring to the passage in Acts 4 where Peter and John are brought before the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, Tippit suggested there are three keys to courageous Christianity.
First, Christians must face their fears. Jesus forced Peter to face his fears, telling the apostle he would deny him three times. It was only after Peter acknowledged that he had fears that God was able to transform him into the bold preacher who proclaimed, “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed,” (Acts 4:8-10).
Second, Christians must admit they can’t, but God can. Peter said, “Salvation is found in no one [other than Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12). Tippit told of his arrest years ago in communist-led Leningrad, where he was asked to sign a confession for his crimes. He refused, and his jailers told him that if he didn’t, he would be sent to Siberia immediately.
“Oh, God, I need you,” Tippit prayed, acknowledging that his own wit and words were not going to get him released. Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Tippit began to write his testimony, in an echo of the Apostles Creed, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell, and on the third day He rose again from the dead, and ascended into heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”
“He came into my heart and saved my soul,” Tippit wrote, “and if you want to know Him, too, you can pray this prayer right now.” Saying the confession did not go over well with his captors, Tippit nevertheless conceded that his boldness and power came from God and not from his own feeble heart.
Third, courage comes from spending time with Jesus. Tippit said the Jewish leaders noted the courage of Peter and John, even as they realized the two apostles were “unschooled, ordinary men … [who] had been with Jesus,” (Acts 4:13). Perfect love drives out fear, Tippit said, because there is no fear in the face of Jesus, where perfect love abounds (1 John 4:18). It is by spending time with Jesus that our fears fall into perspective before a great and holy God, suggested Tippit, a full-time vocational evangelist with Sammy Tippit Ministries.
FINISH WITH DIGNITY, HONOR
Johnny Tucker urged the evangelists not to let sinful anger cause them to fall short of God’s full vision for their lives.
He noted that Moses listened intently to God’s instructions, citing Exodus 17:6, “Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so.”
But later, during a similar instruction, Moses was too angry to hear the subtle difference in God’s command: “Take the rod … and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water,” (Numbers 20:8).
Moses was angry at his Hebrew flock for their disobedience, and as a result, he’d already broken the first stone tablets that contained the Ten Commandments. Tucker said Moses had taken his eyes off God and fixed them doggedly on the Hebrews, creating in him a dangerously wrong focus for anyone in ministry: an agenda to get back at the people who had angered him.
The Bible says, “… and [Moses] said unto them, ‘Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?’ And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also,” (Numbers 20:8, 10-11).
Tucker’s point was that part of being a Gospel minister includes dealing with difficult and messy people, and a Christian leader should never let anger dull his sensitivity to God’s voice. Otherwise, Tucker said, “in the heat of battle, you may not hear the words of God correctly.”
Even though Moses did not follow God’s specific instructions, Tucker noted that the water still flowed from the rock in abundance, and to those looking from a distance, the action appeared successful.
“But your success is never measured by how many people agree with you. Rather, it is measured by doing what God calls you to do regardless of how many agree with you,” Tucker said.
This disobedience by Moses was incredibly costly, Tucker noted. God brought him to within sight of the Holy Land, but then told Moses, “There it is! There is the land I swore to you, but you cannot go over to it,” (Deut. 34:4).
Tucker spoke of the magnitude of this tragedy, that God had placed this immense vision of the Holy Land within the heart of Moses, yet with the promise on the horizon, God told Moses he would not be allowed to complete the vision. And that is where he died.
“It makes you want to go back in the life of Moses and ask, ‘What happened?'” Tucker said. “The same thing has happened to the best of men.”
Moses is not unique when it comes to a vision from God planted in the heart: “God has a vision for you, too!”
“But over the last 42 years I have seen precious men of God no longer serving in ministry because they became bitter from the angry cry” of the people they serve, Tucker said.
“It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done for God,” Tucker said. “If you develop an angry attitude — ‘Must we fetch water for you out of this rock, you rebels!’ — you run the danger of hearing God say, ‘I’ll let you see it, but you can’t have it.'”
“If there is a preacher here who has allowed bitter and angry words to move His eyes from You,” Tucker prayed, “Then bring his eyes back to you.”