Evangelist and Bible teacher Dr. John Haggai was not a household name in America. But last week, when he passed away at the age of 96, this kindest and most gracious of men left a giant legacy for the Kingdom of God.
A small part of that legacy was me.
As a skinny, 20-year-old student from India attending a seminary course in Singapore, I was transfixed as this passionate, bold American shot a burning arrow into my quivering faith: “Only what you do for Jesus Christ is eternal. Think of the one thing you will do with your life to glorify God.”
I think Dr. Haggai knew he was telling me something I couldn’t figure out in one day. He knew he was dropping this idea in my mind, and it would have a ripple effect. He knew how to plant something that would take root and bear fruit later.
Fast forward 50 years, and it’s a question I believe every follower of Jesus today must contemplate and ultimately answer: “What is the one thing I will do for God?”
With our world in turmoil – hostage to a virus, reeling from a contentious election, and protests, riots and chaos everywhere – so many Christians are running in all directions. Distracted. Unsure. Afraid. Asking, “what should I be doing now” – and yet too frantic, too busy to ask God for direction and listen to His voice.
Could I humbly suggest we ask ourselves Dr. Haggai’s one question that truly matters in life: “What is the one thing God is asking me to do?”
Coming from a small hamlet in India, I had no money to pay for the month-long leadership course. Dr. Haggai’s organization paid my expenses. When he saw me – a young man barely out of my teenage years – he confessed: “I don’t know why we invited you to come… we never invite anyone under 30. Obviously, God must have a plan for your life.”
Dr. Haggai encouraged the leaders in his seminar (just over 40 participants from 12 Asian nations) to dream big. He told us Mahatma Gandhi’s big dream was one thing – a free India. He talked about Indians and others bringing the love of Christ to their own people, rather than the traditional colonial approach of sending Western workers – a radical concept I came to embrace in my book Revolution in World Missions. “If you believe God wants you to climb to the top of the highest mountain, you can do it,” he said. “Nothing is impossible with God.”
Coming from my little world – the smallest village in India – I was amazed at the idea I could do something bigger for the glory of God. In my heart, I had a growing awareness God was calling me to do this one thing – to bring hope to the untold millions in the Indian subcontinent – the poor, the outcasts, the beggars.
Dr. Haggai opened my mind to think of my entire life as a wisp that would soon vanish. “We have only one life… and before you know it, the time is gone,” he said. “Our life is like a vapor, a flower that withers. As Moses prayed: ‘Teach us, O God, to number our days.’”
Several years later, this one thing began to grow increasingly vivid. I said to myself: “I don’t want to live for material things. Caring for the beggars and the poor, showing them the love of God, that’s the one thing I want to do with my life.”
Dr. Haggai also taught me that with God working through me, and by His grace, I could embrace the whole globe, because “nothing is impossible with God.”
Just over four decades ago, with this one thing burning in my heart and a seed donation of $50, I started Gospel for Asia (GFA World, www.gfa.org). Many said to me: “This is a great dream, but it won’t work. You’re talking about doing things that are impossible.” Today, by God’s grace, GFA World is a global movement and one of the largest mission organizations in the world, serving millions of the poorest and most marginalized people in the world and showing them the love of God.
Look, if you believe the dream you have is from God – that one thing – and you’ve made a decision to live and die for it, you will succeed. Dream the biggest impossible dream you can. Problems, roadblocks and discouragements will always be there, but without facing challenges, you will never do anything big for God.
Dr. Haggai never claimed any credit for himself. Yet his life influenced thousands upon thousands of evangelists, pastors and missionaries for the glory of God. He was not an A-lister in the world’s eyes, but he was an A-lister in the Kingdom of God. God used him to do one thing – turn the world upside down for Christ! In the next decade, his ministry – Haggai International – aims to train another 250,000 Christian leaders worldwide.
I can hear Dr. Haggai now: “Take courage. Press on. Die to yourself. Live for Jesus. Do that one thing for God’s glory.”
If God can take a skinny teenager from India and use him for His glory, think what He can do for you if only you will say: “Here I am, Lord. Use me to do this one thing for You!”