As we begin praying for students in 2023, here is a letter to prayer supporters like you from IFES General Secretary Tim Adams.
As I listened to and read God’s Word this Christmas, I was powerfully struck by the obedience of the young Mary and her fiancé Joseph. In Luke 1:38, Mary responds, “I am your servant, may it be to me as you command”; similarly, in Matthew 1:24, we are then told that Joseph completely changed his plans to separate from Mary and “did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him”. With each case, the deeply profound and life-changing acceptance of God’s will for their lives is described in just a single sentence.
Mary and Joseph’s obedience is not simply the result of doing as they are asked, like a dog who is trained to sit or lie down on command. I see much more: obedience grounded in love and trust; intentional and loyal submission; and a courageous readiness to leave behind the familiar and risk everything as they stepped into the unknown. Their love and desire to be faithful to the divine call on their lives makes them ready for a decision that re-shapes their future. In fact, the Greek word used in Mary’s response is doula, the feminine form of doulos, with the connotation of a lifetime service as a bond servant or slave.
We see in Mary and Joseph a beautiful obedience, a commitment and resolve that foreshadows the obedience of Jesus himself, and a model of the obedience to which all of us, as Christians, are called.
In the last days and weeks, many thousands of IFES students have gathered for mission conferences in Tanzania, Nigeria, at the Revive conference in Europe, and the Urbana conference in the USA. I have been present for two of these events and, at each, was moved to see that same beautiful obedience in students, as they completed commitment cards or stepped forward in response to God’s call on their lives. Pivoting from Christmas into the unknowns of a new year, I pray that beautiful obedience continues to be lived out as they walk each day in close relationship with their God.
And this calling is not just for our students, it is a call to every one of us: students, staff, prayer partners, financial supporters and friends of IFES. The prevailing orthodoxy says it is in taking control of our lives that we will find true happiness. But recent history has made us acutely aware that we are not in control. We are facing global economic uncertainty, alongside conflict and its manifold impact.
In IFES, we continue to mark our 75th anniversary, remembering God’s faithfulness to us and his unchanging nature. At the same time, we are preparing for our World Assembly in August, where we want to hear what God can show us about becoming resilient witnesses who thrive together in ministry amidst the challenges of today’s world.
Whatever 2023 brings, may our response be marked by the same beautiful obedience we observe in Mary and Joseph. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will enable us to subvert the earthly noise and our selfish fallen nature and empower us with more of this beautiful obedience through our service to him in the world’s universities. May we enter the new year with confidence in God.
Yours in Christ,
IFES General Secretary