2017 India – John Park

The Power of Gratitude

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:4-8

Our short 5 days in Chennai was incredible. Personally, I felt alive, whole, and had mad fun. It was my first time going to India, and I absolutely loved it and would love to go back. Apostle Thomas was the first to bring the Gospel to this land, I was curious to see how God had moving from then until now. There are many things I’d like to share, but ain’t nobody got time to read a book. Please feel free to meet up with me if you’d like to hear more! I’d like to take some time to share with you the personal revelation God gave me through this trip. It was pretty unexpected, but God loves to do that. It’s actually a very simple revelation, and it gave me vision for what 2017 would look like for me.

On the second day of ministry, we had the opportunity to take part at a new church plant in a village called Pallyam. We were invited to the dedication service and I was given the honor and privilege to preach. Packed into a small church about the size of my room, I felt humbled to be able to preach at a church where local leaders had toiled and labored for over many years. It was a disciple of Pastor Mathew that had committed many years ministering in this village. I was planning to preach on community and family, but I felt God leading me to preach on something else: Thanksgiving. I preached from Psalm 100:4-5: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” I briefly encouraged the small congregation to be a house overflowing with thanksgiving and praise, and dedicated the church to be a house of worship. I shared how God is attracted to hearts of gratitude, and how gratitude cultivates faith, hope, and love. After a sweet service, we left to go to dinner. I wondered why God had led me to preach on Thanksgiving.

The next day, we had a wonderful day of ministry. It was a pretty chill day, and I had some time to rest and process in the evening. As I was on my phone, I went on Facebook to check out the update from the Sri Lanka and Nepal teams. I went on the New Philly Facebook page to see real time updates, and began to scroll and read. “Supernatural healing breaking out in Nepal! Altar call filled for healing and many receiving Christ in Sri Lanka! Deliverance from demonic oppression and people falling under the power of the Holy Spirit! People being set free from drug addiction in prison!”

I’d like to share and confess something that happened at that moment. Instead of celebration and praise, my mind was invaded with foolish thoughts. Jealousy rushed in, comparison infiltrated, and insecurity began to rise. I began comparing our trip to the trips of others. I thought to myself, “Snap, there are more healings happening over there than here. So many salvations in Nepal! Only 40 salvations here in India.” (I know, ridiculous right?). I then could not focus on my own sermon prep. Instead of focusing on India, I began to focus on myself. That evening, the Lord gently and lovingly rebuked me to bring me back into alignment. He saved my trip by saying this: “John, I won’t let you harvest plenty if you can’t appreciate even 1 salvation. If you continue to go this route, eventually you won’t even appreciate your own salvation. This is a fast track to religion.” I wanted the statistics. I wanted the numbers. Deep down inside I wanted the recognition. But I didn’t have the heart to steward. I didn’t have a pure heart. I got distracted. I realized that over the years, my heart had veered from valuing the grace in my life. I felt like swine trampling on pearls. So many pearls. So much grace. The same pearls that they treasured, I was taking for granted. I was exposed to my thankless heart the day after I preached on Thanksgiving. That night, it was His kindness that led me to repentance.

“…restore unto me the joy of thy salvation…”
Psalm 51:12

The next day, we took part in what Pastor Mathew called a “Fasting Prayer Gathering”, where members of his church gathered to simply worship and pray. It’s similar to the idea of having a Jeremiah Prayer Meeting (JPM) at New Philly… or so I thought. We began by having an epic time of praise led by Pastor Mathew himself collaborating with THE David Chong of Sydney. After a fiery time of praise, Pastor Matthew began to lead the whole congregation in prayer. He spoke in Tamil, so I had no idea what he was saying. Everyone in the room then fell on their knees and started praying. Then something pretty cool happened. One woman in the congregation was given the mic and began to pray earnestly and passionately. As soon as she said amen, another hand went up asking for the mic. The next person also prayed a prayer filled with zeal and tears. I looked across the room and there were multiple hands up wanting to go next. One by one, without even a second of silence in between, the people in the church would cry out and pray fervently, sincerely, with tears streaming down their faces. As each person prayed, many said amen in agreement.

After about 15 people had prayed, my knees began to hurt and I told God, “Lord, I’m sorry but my knees hurt so I’m just gonna sit on a chair.” I also wondered, “Quite some time has passed now. How long is this chain going to go? Is EVERYONE going to pray a prayer?” Well, 2 more hours went by. Around 100 people had prayed without skipping a beat. Tears still streaming. Hearts still engaged. I was struck with awe.

Finally, Pastor Mathew took the mic, and his closing prayer hit me like a freight train. He began to choke up as he prayed. And then in English he cried and prayed, “Lord, why me? Why me, Lord? Why?” I wondered what was going on in his heart. He proceeded, “Lord, out of all the people You could have chosen, why have you chosen me? Why have you called me to shepherd this church? Why have you called me to do Your Kingdom work? I am so undeserving of this calling. I am so unworthy of this calling. Thank you for choosing someone like me to do the ministry of Christ.” I couldn’t help but be moved by his heart and his prayer.

Afterwards, I had the chance to sit with him during lunch. I asked him, “Pastor Mathew, what was going on in your heart when you were closing in prayer?” He replied, “John, I just had a moment of utter gratitude. I was just so humbled that God could call someone like me to lead this church and partake in His ministry. I was just thankful.” He continued to describe to me his background, “You see, you need to understand that I didn’t grow up affluent and privileged. I actually grew up in a low caste. I have people in my congregation that are from the high caste of society. How can God take someone like me to lead all of these beautiful people? There are much more qualified and worthy people, but He chose me. For this, I am so thankful for His grace.” Can you just imagine my ENFP response? I sat there STUNNED.

This is the crazy part. I then asked, “I wish I could understand Tamil so I could understand what everyone in the room was contending and interceding for.” Guess what Pastor Mathew then said? “Haha John, actually none of those prayers were intercession. Everyone single one of those prayers were prayers of thanksgiving. They were expressing their gratitude for their salvation, and for God’s faithfulness in their lives.” So there I was. Again, awestruck by the fact that I just sat through 3.5 hours of the people of God overflowing with pure gratitude. With a big smile, Pastor Matthew says, “Our church has separate meetings for corporate intercession.”

After lunch, I was reflecting on the prayer meeting and my conversation with Pastor Mathew. I was amazed by how eager people were to express their thanksgiving to the Lord. No one cared about what people thought about them. There was not a hint of passivity in the room. No one waited for somebody else to go first. I wondered if anything like this would fly back home, or how much space there would be in between each person that prayed. I also thought about how when he first said, “Why me,” I thought he was complaining and expressing weariness before the Lord. Boy, was I dead wrong. His heart attitude was that of humility. Gratitude. Meekness. The life he was living was truly a privilege for him. I was humbled because I had never had that attitude toward ministry. I had never thought to myself, “Lord, why have you chosen me to be the campus director of SNU? Why have you chosen me to be in full time ministry? Why have you chosen me to be the team preacher of this trip? Out of all people, you chose me to share such powerful and precious words to your people. Out of all people, you chose someone like me to shepherd His precious sheep.” Never have I prayed this. What was left exposed in my heart was entitlement, which is the very thing that chokes out seeds of joy, faith, meekness, and more.

I learned a lot from Pastor Mathew. I saw him like a David- a man whom the world saw as lowly and insignificant, but God saw His heart. God saw a heart that was after His own heart. He saw meekness in the heart of David. So God blessed him with men known as the “the Mighty Men of David.” I saw God providing Pastor Matthew with many mighty men. Men of valor, men of humility, men of submission, and men of honor. I saw the heart of David in Pastor Matthew.

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled,
and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Matthew 23:12

It’s pretty humbling to reflect upon this past trip. God is funny, and God is very intentional. He flipped the script on me at that village church and led me to preach on gratitude. He then exposed my lack of gratitude the day after in my room. And finally, He allowed me to witness and be provoked by a man, as he, his family, and his whole church overflowed with pure thanksgiving.

I walk away from this trip desiring a deep gratitude for my own salvation. I want a heart that explodes with excitement and joy when even 1 person comes to encounter and know Jesus. I want a heart that takes nothing for granted. I am challenged and provoked to have a heart that carries an attitude of humility and utter gratitude toward ministry and toward whatever God puts in front of me. I want to see all as a gift and privilege rather than to slip into a place of entitlement.

This trip to me was about the revelation of gratitude. Gratitude is the fertilizer for seeds of hope to be cultivated. Gratitude is the fertilizer for seeds of joy to be cultivated. Gratitude is the fertilizer for seeds of faith to be cultivated. Gratitude brings us into alignment with the perspective of heaven. Gratitude is the key to cultivating a fruitful vineyard in the inner garden, unto fruitfulness around. It looks like 2017 for me will be the Year of Gratitude.

I shall leave you with this: