G.T. Ng, who will return to his post as General Conference Secretary, began his Sabbath morning sermon, “From Despair to Mission,” with the lighthearted humor that has become his trademark. To loud laughter, he told a story that involved the question “Who Are You?” and turned on a botched use, by a non-English speaker, of the phrase “Me, too.” Then he asked worshippers whether, if asked that same question, they would really know who they are.
His sermon proposed an answer. Working from a comparison of Revelation 10 and Daniel 12 and a review of the 1260-day prophecy in Daniel 7 and 12 and the 2300-day prophecy in Daniel 8, Ng advanced a complicated argument to the following effect: Adventists are the people called, following the despair of 1844, to “prophesy again” (Revelation 10:11).
Turning the phrase into a refrain, he told the story of Adventist beginnings and of its growth around the world. “Yes, we must prophesy again!” he declared between sentences, saying finally that we “must do so until Jesus comes.”
We too easily forget, he said, that we are “God’s peculiar treasure,” a people “united in the spirit and the counsel of the Lord of hosts,” “watchmen and flag-carriers for the Three Angels’ Messages.” Nothing should “distract” us from this reality. While Nehemiah was finishing the Jerusalem wall, he had to consider a distracting invitation from unsympathetic neighbors. He replied: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down” (Nehemiah 6:3).
Ng turned this phrase, too, into a refrain. There are Muslims who do not know Jesus, and they must hear the prophecies concerning Jesus: “We cannot come down from the wall.” Likewise there are Hindus and Buddhists who do not know: “We cannot come down from the wall.”
If the Adventist pioneers knew despair to begin, they came to know an evangelistic mission that we share today. To underscore that mission’s urgency, he echoed a perspective familiar to older Adventists in the U.S. and perhaps also to younger ones from newer centers of Adventist life. The present time, he said, is “an extraordinary time.” And as for quinquennial General Conference sessions, “there is not going to be another one….We are living,” he declared, “in a world that is doomed for destruction.”
A vocal soloist then sang “Here I am Lord…I have heard you call me in the night…I will go, Lord, if you need me.” Ng then appealed to the congregation for greater commitment to evangelistic mission—by prayer, by financial support, by offerings of time and talent. Then, turning heavenward, he gave thanks to God “for telling us who we are, a special people for a special time.”
Charles Scriven is chair of the Adventist Forum board, and a member of the General Conference reporting team in San Antonio, Texas.
Photo Credit: North American Division / Bokovoy