12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Phil. 4:12-13
Recently, someone approached my wife and I with a financial need. It was a large sum the brother was asking, but the circumstances mitigated it. Now, when someone comes to me with a need, I become very sensitive. Not just because the Bible says to be merciful, but it is also because I have been in similar situations myself and I know how easy it is for people to misunderstand you.
On the other hand, my wife and I don’t have much in terms of savings; actually, for years we have been trying to save and save, but to no avail. When this person came to us, we were in the middle of another attempt at “saving”. As far as we were involved, he couldn’t have come at a worse time!
Faced with the challenge, my wife and I looked at the options. We discussed the fact that she had no guarantee with her job, and that I as a pastor had no salary. Our kids are still in school and there were so, so many other things that we needed money for. As we talked on the need to protect our meagre savings, a particular phrase suddenly popped up in our conversation: “Anything could go wrong at any moment!”
When I heard these words, something extremely powerful rose up in my spirit. Something rock hard. I will never forget that feeling.
At that instant, I remembered the words of the Apostle Paul:
“12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
In a flash, my whole life passed before me. I recalled the many times when I had been down in life, times when I sank so low financial-wise that I was reduced to begging. (In such times, people will say this or that about you. Some will try to judge or shame you – while, conversely, you try to excuse or justify your situation. But the fact is, there are always times when God will take every child of His through tests of deprivation, one way or another.)
I then called to mind the other (not-so-many) times when I had more than enough. There was a time in my life when, if I had wanted to, I could have flown to New York City, first class.
As these contrasting scenarios flashed through my mind, I could feel a tremendous strength rising up in my heart. At the time that we were having this conversation with my wife, we were in town, walking. All of a sudden I came to an abrupt stop in the middle of the road and turned to her. Looking deep into her eyes, I said, “No, my wife. We shall live. No matter the circumstances, we will live. We have been living all these years and you and I know it was never by our own strength. Much more so, now, we shall survive!”
I love experience. Experience is a good thing, however painful. That is why the Bible says we should not appoint to the office of a bishop one who is a “novice” (1 Tim. 3:6).
The Bible also says that a deacon must “…first be proved” (v.10).
People should not be appointed to office in church before they have been proved. ‘Proving’ talks of experience.
I believe the many experiences that God takes us through as saints strengthen our hearts. It is this strength that the Bible calls ‘grace’. Through the grace that God gives us, we can arrive at the place where we can literally laugh at life; a place where we no longer fear anything! We do not fear lack, nor do we fear being full. Not that we are stupid. But we know something that the world, the devil and ‘life’ do not know.
Many years ago, when I was in school, we read a book called “Things Fall Apart”, written by the renowned Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe. I no longer remember anything that was written in that book, but the title of the book is firmly etched on my mind.
Even if things were to literally fall apart in my life, I have come to the joyful realization that I would not fear, for both my heart and my mind are firmly founded on my God and King, Jesus Christ, who is my real Provider.
In both experiences involving me being in lack and being full, I made ghastly mistakes, mistakes which I am keen not to repeat. Unlike then, now, if I lacked and needed to work with my hands, I would work – as I do now. Conversely, if I were to have all the money in the world, there are things I would do in far different ways than I did before.
And yet, in all these things… the greatest mistake that I could ever make is the mistake of trusting in my self and in my means rather than in God. This is where I really need the death of the cross to work in me. In this regard, as in everything else, my heart’s cry is that I might pattern my life after the Apostle Paul’s:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)
What circumstance could possibly terrify me when my life is hidden in Christ?
[In the African savannah during the dry season, when the ground is parched and dry and both it and the vegetation are all color-less, it is the women in their stunning attires who bring color to the landscape]