The following is a transcript of Bishop Ferdie Cabiling’s message from Discipleship 2018.
Today, I want to focus on being established in the Word and prayer. Why do we need to be established in the Word and prayer? Because we are living in a world where we have so many challenges—the pressures of the world and of the flesh. We have the typhoons of life, the storms of life, that would try to devastate and destroy us. There are a lot of teachings out there that would try to derail us from the doctrines and theology of the Scriptures. And so therefore, there’s a need for a believer, right after they have received Christ, to be established in the faith, in Jesus, and in the Word and prayer.
I couldn’t think of any passage, there are a lot of passages, but I want to look at the story in Ezra 7:10. It says in this passage, “for Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”
Ezra was sent to the remnants in Jerusalem, in order to help build spiritual foundations in the lives of the remnants and of the Israelites. He was sent there—there was Zerubbabel, there was Nehemiah, who had built the walls of the city, but Ezra was sent to establish a strong foundation in the spiritual life of the people. And so this is the commission given to him in this short passage, and I’d like to share this to us.
In the first part of the verse in NIV, it says, “he devoted himself.” He devoted himself. That’s where we get the words “devotions” and “devotionals,” some people say, “devos,” their daily devotionals. He devoted himself, and there are three areas where he devoted himself. The first one is study. He devoted himself to searching the Scriptures. Sometimes, when people would try to study the Bible, they do it out of curiosity, and that’s good at first, but I hope that we go beyond curiosity.
Some people are on the other side of the fence; they’re study the Scriptures so they can display, so they can have knowledge, so they can have more tools and weapons to argue with people. We don’t want that; we don’t want to gain knowledge that puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1). We’re not here just to gain knowledge; we don’t just study the Scripture for displaying, so that we can win all the arguments. I believe that we are called of God to study the Scriptures, so that we can have an understanding of the Word of God. Understanding of the Scriptures is very crucial. That’s why there’s a need to come and understand, seeking to understand the Scriptures. You don’t impose what you know about the Scriptures; you examine the Scriptures, you search the Scriptures. And that is an important part.
There were Jews in Acts 17:11 that were more of noble character than the Thessalonians. They’re called the Bereans. Why? Because the Scripture says that these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the Word with all eagerness. There’s such a desire inside of them. They examined the Scriptures daily. These are the Berean Jews who have heard the sermons, and yet they did not stop there. They decided to receive it with eagerness, and it says, “they examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” In NIV it says, “to see if what Paul preached was really true.”
How dare these people question what they have heard from Apostle Paul, who is the author of two-thirds of the New Testament? Today, we have doctrines and theology, and most of those came from the writings of Apostle Paul, and yet these men and women decided to examine the Scriptures daily, to see if what he really said was true. They weren’t questioning the character of the person; they were just good students of the Word. They examined the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul’s sermon was really true.
So there’s a meditation that was happening. God wants us to meditate on His Scripture. The word “meditate” means to muse, to think over and over, to ponder, to mutter, to memorize, to internalize, to pray, to ruminate, to think about it slowly at time, to say it over and over again, to examine the Scriptures, so I can have that as part of who I am—the Word of God. Study the Scriptures.
Romans 10:7 says, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” When we allow ourselves to be in the Scriptures, when we allow the Word of God to become part of who we are, when we are faced with the pressures of the world, when we are faced with the challenges, like the storms of life, then we would be able to make it. When there are false doctrines that are being taught, then it will help us discern and have spiritual discernment, and say this is false, and this is true, because I have been meditating on the Word of God. And so that is crucial, in order for us to be established in the Word and Prayer—devotion to His Word. We have to be devoted to His Word, and I’ll tell more about that as we move on.
The next part of the devotion that Ezra focuses himself on is to study the Scriptures, and then, to do it. It says, to do it. He was delighted to do the Word of God, and apply it. Practice it and do it. There were five frogs on a log. Three decided to jump. When you look at the log, there were still five more on the log, in spite of three deciding to jump. Why? Because decision doesn’t mean action. There’s a big difference. It’s by the grace of God that will help us apply the Scriptures.
Discipleship without teaching will be hard. Acts 28:20 says, “teaching them to obey, teaching them to do.” It takes the grace of God to apply what we’re learning in this life. There’s a trap sometimes, that, because we know of something, we can be deceived to think we have already done it. There’s a big difference between knowing and doing. There’s a huge gap between knowing and doing. It is crucial to bridge the gap, and that is by the grace of God, helping one another, helping a fellow believer as a Victory group leader, helping them to cross the bridge and apply it in their lives.
Victory group leaders have to help one another; we can’t do it, apart from one another, letting the Word of God be applied in our lives. The challenges and pains in this life, we can’t make it without the Word of God being part of who we are. In the Philippines, we have regular guests: around nineteen to twenty storms every year. In Metro Manila, we have around five to six storms. We call it typhoons; in Bangladesh, they call it cyclone; in the US, they called it hurricane. Nevertheless, these are storms. Pastor Ariel mentioned that a while ago, when we started out, when he tried to explain Establish, the Scriptures from Matthew 7:24-27 told about the wise man who built his house on a rock, but when the rain fell and the winds blew, and the floods came, and beat against the house, the house did not fall because it was founded on the rock. But the foolish man who built his house on the sand, when the rain came in and the winds blew and came and beat against the house, the house fell with a great crash.
You know, with the typhoons hitting us, I have my own personal experience in my province. I grew up in Central Luzon, where we experience around seven to eight typhoons every year. I had an experience when I visited Tacloban, seeing the devastation and seeing the bodies all over the place because of a huge storm, and people asking questions upon questions; it’s tough to be a pastor in the middle of this devastation. Pastor Janssen and I had dinner in the midst of all this, and all the eyes were on us, inquiring about the typhoons and the devastation, and there were arguments, they would argue and they would talk, and then finally, everyone’s eyes were on us, the pastors, as if we all know the answers to all the issues of the world.
Sometimes, you feel the same way, but I believe if we have the Word of God in our hearts, though we may go through some tough times, there’s something there. As we say in Tagalog, “meron kang mahuhugot. Sa paghihirap sa buhay, meron kang mahuhugot, because the Word of God is in your heart.”
I appreciate my wife, Judy, for going through this life with me. We have a son who was born with special needs. He’s about to be 14 years old. What is sustaining us today is the Word and His promises to each and every one of us. Before coming here today, I had to see my son go through through a seizure. What would sustain a father? What would sustain a person who’s going through some tough times in life? There’s only one thing that would help us be sustained. Through the storms of life, there’s one thing that would cause us to move on and continue to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives: His Word.
Establishing in the Word and prayer.
Devoted to study.
Delighted to do.
And the last part, it says there, “to teach.” Determined to teach. It is part of establishing foundations of the Word and prayer in the heart of a believer, for them not just to gain knowledge to apply it in their lives, but also for them to find someone to share their faith with, to find someone to share what the Lord has been speaking to them through the Word.
Teach! Going back to that passage in Matthew 28:20, teaching “them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Teaching is part of discipleship, and we cannot set that aside. I thank God for the people who have taught me the Scriptures. I thank God for Pastor Tom who helped me understand the Scriptures. I thank God for Gregory Dickow, who helped me and asked me to go read the Bible together with him, while he was reading his Bible in a corner, I was reading my Bible in the other corner. He showed me how to spend time in the Scriptures, and to preach. Some of you wonder if evangelists taught me how to preach, but it was Pastor Steve who taught me how to preach in FEU and in UST. I thank God for the investment of time; in all the wrong words I’ve spoken, he would correct me along the way. I appreciate him going out with me in teaching others the Word of God. We needed somebody to come! It would take a community to make a disciple; we can’t have a disciple without the community.
In page 145 of WikiChurch, it says, “Just be a chapter ahead.” Just one chapter ahead! If you are are one chapter ahead, as long as you can stay one chapter ahead, you can disciple him. You don’t have to be in a seminary to be able to teach. One of the challenges we had in 1984, when we would go out and preach in the streets, would be religious folks who would come to use and ask:
“Have you been to a seminary? What seminary have you come from?”
And they would ask us, while we were preaching the gospel, they would challenge us, “Have you been to a seminary?”
Thirty-four years later, now I’m in the seminary!
But thirty-four years ago? “What do you mean, cemetery, I mean, seminary?”
We only know the Bible! We only know people who helped us go through the Scriptures and built that foundation in our lives. Amazing, amazing experience.
You know what? Ezra said that he devoted himself, he set his heart, devoted himself, to study, to do, and to teach. Now, that’s one man. But when we go to Acts 2:42, they devoted themselves to apostles’ teaching, to prayer and to fellowship, to breaking of bread, and to prayers. We want each and every one of us to be devoted in faith, devoted in the Word and prayer, devoted in fellowship and church community. When we are founded on the rock, when we are founded and devoted to the Scriptures, then it will help establish others, it would ignite a spiritual passion in others as well. As Victory group leaders and interns, a disciple established in God’s Word and prayer ignites spiritual passion for others to follow. When they see you and I established in God’s Word and prayer, then it would ignite something in the hearts of the people we’re helping.
The reason why I’m able, the reason why it’s possible for me, as a young person, to read the Scriptures, is because I’d seen this man exemplify reading the Bible. I still remember him up to today, because he would show me the Scripture. He was the one who brought me to biblical foundations. Greg Dickow. He would bring me into that class—that was the first time I met Pastor Steve teaching the class—to make sure that it was established in my life.
I’d like to encourage us today: have your own Bibles. Have a Bible app if you need to, or an old-school Bible. Get a Bible. Get a large print if you’re above forty; if you’re below, it doesn’t matter. Get your own Bible, not your wife’s Bible. Have your own! Then have a notebook where you can write the verses that the Lord has been speaking to you.
You can use different ways to do it. There’s SOAP. There’s Scripture, Observe, Ask, and then, Pray. Who among you take a bath every day? Okay, remember SOAP, every day, you gotta have that SOAP. You get your Bible. Scripture, Observe, Ask Questions, and then Pray.
Let’s say you don’t take a bath every day. You go on the road, so let’s use ROAD. Read, Observe, Ask, and Do. ROAD. Maybe you can do that, whatever it takes, just read and then observe, ask questions, and then write what you have been observing, and out from that would come your devotion and then prayer at the end.
Or, I made up another one: Stare. Stare at the Scriptures, and if you see something glaring, something that you have observed, write it down. Glare. Have you experienced that, something glaring out of the verse? And then Dare to change. Have you read your Bible sometimes, reading your Bible, and you start crying? You close your Bible, and then you start crying? The Holy Spirit is daring you to be transformed, and you come before God in prayer, and then you Share. Find somebody to share what you have learned that day in your devotion.
Whatever it takes!
Then you gotta have The Purple Book! Go through it, and get deeper in the Scriptures. We are trying to put it online so that it can be quicker for some of us to share it with others, but there’s no shortcut. Go get The Purple Book. I’m just so encouraged today. May the Lord bless you as you continue to search the Scripture like the Bereans.