Last week I had the privilege of attending the centenary celebrations for Laidlaw College. You may know Laidlaw College as New Zealand Bible Training Institute (NZBTI - 1922-1972) or Bible College of New Zealand (BCNZ - 1972-2008). Over the years many of our mission partners and church leaders have been impacted by this institution, either directly as students, or through the influence of staff and graduates of the college.
As I talked with many attending the centenary, I was reminded of Hebrews 12.
12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (ESV)
In this passage, we are told to look to the great cloud of witnesses, as an encouragement to run the race with endurance, and to finish the race well. In Hebrews 11, we learn about the great men and women of faith, those who have gone before us and have lived lives that honour God and are example for us to follow. But these heroes of the faith did not live perfect lives, many struggled with doubt and others were disobedient to God. But regardless, they are given as examples to follow. These heroes of the faith show us how to run the race of life.
At the Laidlaw centenary, I was reminded of those that have gone before me. Those that have been in the race of life for longer than I have, who are still running the race, and who continue to look to Jesus as the founder and perfecter of their faith. Three examples that stand out to me, are all graduates of NZBTI from the early 1960s. Dr John Hitchen was a student in 1961-1962. After graduating, he worked as a youth pastor in Christchurch while completing further study. After marrying, John and Anne went to PNG to help establish Christian Leaders Training Institute (CLTC), where John eventually became Principal. In the 1980s, after further study overseas, they returned to New Zealand where he worked for BCNZ, becoming Principal in 1990. To this day, John continues to research and write and encourage many in the faith.
Roger Dahlberg also studied at NZBTI in the early 1960s. He left with his wife Jenny in 1965 to go to Malaysia to do God's work. To this day he continues to serve in South East Asia. His heart is for the poor, the neglected, and the forgotten. The work of New Hope Christian Ministries which Roger established, spans across Asia helping those most in need. As he shared with me, he feels more comfortable around rubbish dumps, squatter villages and remote country areas in Asia than he does attending a centenary celebration in New Zealand.
Colleen Redit studied at NZBTI in 1962-1963. In 1964, Colleen sailed from New Zealand to answer God's call to India. Christian Missions Charitable Trust (CMCT) was established by Colleen to empower, rehabilitate and uplift the poorest of the poor in India. Her entire life has been dedicated to doing God's work in India. As Colleen says.
"The Lord has never failed me in providing for my needs. Looking back over almost 60 years, seeing God's leading in how CMCT was established, I can only bow in deep humility."
And there are hundreds of others that have gone before us, and give us an example to follow. So can I encourage you to think about those that have gone before you. Those men and women that have been examples of how to live the Christian life. The individuals that have invested their time and energy into you and made you the person that you are today. This may have been your parents, or your grandparents. It may be your friends, and those in your faith community who have helped you grow in your faith. Or perhaps it is the leaders in your church who have instructed you and encouraged you in a life of faith. And then there are those that you have heard, or read about that have been examples on how to run the race well.
We do not do the Christian life on our own, we do not run the race alone. There are many who have gone before us, who are an example to follow. There are those who we run alongside, who encourage us and help us in the race. And there are those that are looking to us, those who are following our example. They are looking to us for help on how to live a life that focuses on God. They need our encouragement so they can keep looking to Jesus and running the race to the very end.
So can I encourage you, continue to run the race with endurance, and always keep your focus on Jesus. He endured the pain and suffering of the cross, and He is now sitting at the right hand of the throne of God.
And if you want to read more about Laidlaw College, and the example of other men and women of faith, then please have a look at the centenary web site (Laidlaw Centenary (laidlaw100.ac.nz))