“Troubled On Every Side!”

8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 2 Cor. 4:8-10

One time, not too long ago, I was in a jam – financially, spiritually and virtually in every area of my life. Spiritually, I was hanging by a thread, literally. I couldn’t pray and I couldn’t read my Bible. I would spend all of my devotion time looking into space. The worst time was when it came to ministering in church. I preached while looking at the clock, willing the time to pass quickly. I reckoned that if I made a lot of ‘spiritual’ noise within the allotted time, no one would notice that there was not a shred of the Spirit in my sermon. (Surprisingly, the services were always extremely lively!)

As my condition worsened, I soon found myself blaming myself for each one of the problems I was facing. As far as I knew I hadn’t done any express sin that warranted this downward spiral in my life. But I couldn’t put my finger on the reason nothing seemed to be working in my life and I could not find anyone else to blame. I was also ‘smart’ enough not to blame the devil.

It was then that the Lord, out of mercy for me, came to my rescue; and He did so in the most unexpected manner.

Early one morning, at exactly 6 o’clock, a brother 600 miles away called me as I lay in bed. For the last three hours, I had been lying on my back worrying about all the problems I was going through. At the exact moment that the brother called me, I was just beginning to doze off in fatigue. I was therefore none too happy as I made a belabored effort to answer his call.

The brother had never called me that early in the morning, so I thought he had something important to tell me. But, as it turned out, he had absolutely nothing of any importance to tell me. After the initial greetings, he told me that he was rushing off to his job. He works as a casual construction laborer. Work was hard to find lately, he intimated to me, and life had become extremely hard.

“But”, he concluded brightly, “we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed!” Then he hung up.

It took me a split second to realize that the brother’s last words were direct scripture. I shot out of bed like a bullet. The good news was that my wife was not at home at that time, she had gone visiting. Otherwise, I would have had some explaining to do.

I hit all the lights in the house as I began making a frantic search for my Bible, which since the last Sunday service I had thrown into no-man’s land. When I finally located it, I almost tore out the pages as I feverishly scrambled to find the scripture. I knew it was exactly as I had heard it on the phone, but I just had to make double sure!

When I finally found it, I sighed with relief – and unbounded joy! The scripture lay there before me, exactly as the brother had spoken it. I trembled as I read the words.

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed” (2 Cor. 4:8).

Even as I read the words, I knew the Lord was speaking to me. I read the phrase over and over again:

“… troubled on every side”.

“… on every side”.

The joy that Lazarus felt after resurrecting from the dead wouldn’t have lighted a candle to the exhilaration I felt as those words rolled about in my heart. I can assure you, beloved reader, that on that particular morning, the biggest cloud ever lifted from my shoulders. I felt indescribably free and relieved! I realized that the devil – whom I had been desperately trying to shield from blame – was he who had actually been telling me that it was my fault that I was undergoing all these negative situations in my life. But the Lord came to my rescue by showing me through His Word that what I was going through was the perfectly normal Christian life! Trouble on every side! I couldn’t’ believe it!

Much of the time, it is like we want to have a ‘hedge fund’ in our spiritual lives. It is like we want to have the rights to lots and lots of breathing space. Somehow, it has been psyched into our minds that the Christian life is a trouble-free life and that, at the very worst, God allows us to encounter a few teeny weeny problems which we can easily brush aside while sucking on our chocolate bars.

But the Bible doesn’t say that. On the contrary, it says that we shall be “troubled on every side”!

I can assure you that if the Bible says trouble, it is talking of more real trouble than all the terror groups in the world can think of. It is talking of everything that the flesh, the world and the devil and all his hordes can throw at you. And, the Bible adds, we shall encounter this trouble on “every side” of our lives.

That is so Biblical. Jesus Himself said,

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)

As children of God, tribulation is our portion in the world. The Bible concludes,

“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind…” (1 Pet. 4:1)

Abominations In The Church

The theatrical skills are straight out of Hollywood. And the words come from the devil’s own mouth.

Notice how cleverly the man drops the “F” bomb; and then, dramatically turning away, he listens in on the crowd and, when they take the bait, he carpet-bombs them: “F u! F u’all!”

It’s fascinating – and deeply troubling – the way this ‘preacher’ uses the Word of God (supposedly a sermon on forgiveness) to serve his own purposes. Clearly, he is in love with the “F” word, and he craves the opportunity to introduce his love for this word to a wider audience. But he is a preacher: what can he possibly do?

It is at this point that the devil – who is his real master – shows up and instructs him exactly how to do it and superbly get away with it…

These are the depths to which the gospel has been made to sink today.

But the Bible tells us:

“3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.” (Eph. 5:3-7)

Aside from these preachers themselves, people who go to such churches should reflect especially on that last verse.

The Humility of Naaman

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. 2 Ki. 5:14

This is the story of Naaman.

But first… There is a popular story from one of the tribes in our country about a certain elderly man. The story goes that one day, as this man was out herding his cattle in the fields, one of his cows gave birth to a calf. By the time he was ready to take his cattle back home, the new-born calf was strong enough to stand on its own and move about.

The man began walking his cattle home; but now the cow and her young calf would not move from the place they were. The mother’s attention was fixated entirely on her calf, while the calf was entangled about his mother’s legs seeking for her teat. The result was that, as the man tried to shoo both the cow and her calf home, they instead kept turning about in circles.

The man got angry and he began to beat the cow with his herding stick. He kept on beating her mercilessly. By this time, the rest of the herd had put a considerable distance between themselves and the man and his cow. His got more exasperated and he beat the cow even more ruthlessly.

At about that time, a small boy who was about twelve years old came upon the old man punishing his cow. The man was beating the poor beast as if he was on the warpath. The boy observed him for a while. Then he walked up to him and said,

“Excuse me, Sir. Please, Sir, if you would take the calf and carry him in your arms, the mother will follow along.”

The man considered the distance the rest of the herd had moved on and made up his mind. Without further ado, he took the new-born calf in his arms and, to his surprise, the minute he began walking away, the cow swiftly followed along, mooing loudly.

When the man reached home, everyone in his household was surprised to hear him complaining loudly that he could not allow himself to be shamed by a little boy. He kept repeating these words over and over again. As he spoke, he moved about in fast, furious motions, and it was clear to everyone that something deeply unsettling had happened to him. Of course, with the disposition that he was in at that particular moment, no one dared ask him what had befallen him. All they knew was that the father of the house was breathing murder.

Soon afterwards, his lifeless body was found dangling on a rope from one of the trees in his compound. The man, in a blind rage, had gone off and hanged himself.

Later, after the facts had been gathered together, it emerged that the man had hanged himself simply because a small boy had “taught” him how to do something right. This elderly man decided he could not live with such an affront to his pride and he took his own life.

In 2 Kings chapter 5 we read about Naaman, a captain of the Syrian army. The Bible declares about Naaman that he was

“a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.” (2 Ki. 5:2)

Notice that Naaman had achieved his many victories by the hand of the LORD. That little fact is central to our lesson here. But, as we shall see later, though it be of the Lord, it is not the doing that is important with God; rather, it is the attitude of our hearts.

Although Naaman was a great and mighty warrior, yet he was a leper. Despite all his victories and all his glory, Naaman had no joy in his life. So he went down to Israel for he had heard that he could receive healing of his leprosy there. But he was a proud man and when he arrived in Israel he met with a series of events that progressively undermined his pride. The final insult was when the Israelite prophet, Elisha, instructed him to go dip himself in the muddy waters of the Jordan seven times and he would be healed. Naaman decided he had had enough and he turned to go back home.

But praise God, Naaman had servants who truly loved him. They came up to him and besought him, saying:

“My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (v.13)

At which Naaman hearkened to them.

“Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”

I have heard songs sang saying, “Speak, Lord! Speak, Lord”, etc., meaning those singing them are ready to obey God at the touch of a button. This imaginary readiness comes about because people have a romantic view of God and of His calling.

But there is nothing romantic about the call of God upon one’s life. The call of God to obey Him is one of the most difficult things in our lives, simply because it of necessity touches our pride. We are born with the seed of pride in us.  It is good and OK to sing out our eagerness to obey God, but remember the devil also sang (as all angels do); but still he allowed pride tot come into his heart, and he ultimately rebelled against God.

Moreover, according to the lesson that we learn in the story of Naaman, you can do many extraordinary things for the Lord but still be proud. That is why there are many men of God who do miracles and wonders in Jesus’ name, but they have pride in their hearts and are burdened with sin in their hearts. Jesus said of these people that He will tell them on the last day:

“I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Mat. 7:23)

It is not the doing; rather, it is the attitude of our hearts that is important with God. God had to heal Naaman of his pride first before He would heal his body.

The Bible says in Romans 8:7:

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”

Pride breeds anger and every other work of the flesh and it is incapable of doing the will of God. Ultimately, it brings death upon its bearer.

That is why we need to crucify the flesh, or the carnal mind. Without crucifying our flesh we cannot truly obey, or please God.

No man got to learn this lesson first-hand than Naaman himself. He had set out to ‘obey’ God on his own terms, where his pride would remain untouched. But God brutally turned the tables on him, and he was left to decide whether he would obey God on God’s terms or not. His healing lay in that single fact. He had to choose between nursing his pride or rejecting it and receiving the healing for his body.

That was under the old covenant. Under the new, the gospel has to do with the healing of our souls. We therefore have to choose between defending our pride and receiving God’s eternal life.

Ultimately, Naaman’s spiritual legacy lay, not in the many victories that he won on the battle field (although it was the LORD Himself who wrought these victories through him). Rather, he will be remembered in eternity on account of his conversion through humbling himself.

“15 And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel… thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD. 18 In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing. 19 And he said unto him, Go in peace.” (2 Ki. 5:15-19)

[Below: Obedience is key to receiving eternal life]

image14893

“Righteousness Exalteth A Nation

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. Prov. 14:34
Not too long ago, my two children were travelling alone to a neighboring country for a holiday. Now, that was something like a one-time experience for them, so they were very excited. When they arrived at our side of the border ready to cross over, they were calmly and immediately processed through. When they reached the other country’s border station, just a few feet away, they encountered a totally different experience. The immigration officer there demanded a mandatory inoculation certificate, which was supposed to have been given to them on our country’s side of the border.
My daughter told the officer that she and her brother had forgotten all about it and she asked him to let them go back and take the inoculation.
To which the officer replied that they could not go back because they had now crossed the border. They were now on a one-way ticket, he told them, and there was no turning back. In other words, they were now this immigration officer’s prisoners.
The only way he could help them, he told them, was for them to give him a certain amount of money.
My children love watching detective stories and by now they knew exactly where this was headed. They realised they were trapped. My daughter immediately took out the money and gave it to the officer, and they were let through.
When my daughter later told me this story, I was angry at first. But then the Lord opened my eyes to see the bigger picture and what I ended up with was deep sadness.
I know a thing or two about the country my children were visiting. One of the things that I know is that this country is deeply corrupt. Now, we all know that corruption is everywhere but, by every account, this country has taken corruption to “the next level”. That’s a fact.
The other thing that is open news is that this country is rife with deep internal problems, including racial divisions. Every few years internal wars flare up and people get killed, displaced, etc. Moreover, there are all kinds of problems both in government and within civil society itself. Crime – murders, robberies, etc. – is a byword in this country.
I had never connected the two – until I heard my children’s saga. That was when the Lord opened my eyes to see why a nation that thrives on corruption is going to have all the problems this country has.
In the Old Testament, the Book of Isaiah talks about righteousness probably more than any other book. One of the things we read there is:
“In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.” (Is. 54:14)
That’s basically saying the same thing as our key scripture in Proverbs 14:34. You can pray all you want, you can be the most “Christian” nation on the entire planet; but if you are not walking in righteousness, you will not be established. Just in case you are wondering what the Bible means by “established”, it simply means that the things the Bible talks of here will not be within your borders:
“thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.”
Sometimes we wonder why there are wars and turmoils in certain countries and not in others. Unless it is a clear case of persecution for their Christian faith, the reason, in most cases, is clear: there is no righteousness in these countries. People are corrupt, or they are immoral, or they are anti-God in a variety of ways. That is what we are witnessing in the West also: a rejection of God and an increasingly brazen embracing of immorality. The outcome of these things for a nation is calamity, a broken and hurting society and terror on every side.
Jeremiah 4:2 also says:
“The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.”
Notice that both in Proverbs and in Jeremiah, the Bible speaks about a nation. It is not enough for a nation to call itself a Christian nation. We must work righteousness, and this, for a nation, applies firstly to its government. The first thing, therefore, that believers in every nation should do is to pray for that nation; not that there be no drought or famine or any other calamity; rather, chiefly, that the leaders and the people of that nation might exercise righteousness. That is exactly what the Bible says in 1 Timothy chapter 2 verses 1-4:
“1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
Notice, “… first of all”.
Prayers and supplications are to be made for all men, but especially for kings and for all that are in authority (like that immigration officer) – for what purpose?
“… that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
Godliness and honesty within government are the pillars of an established nation.
Let us pray.
“Lord, You reign in righteousness. You love righteousness and you show yourself the protector and defender of all who are righteous. We pray for our nation, Lord, that its people may love righteousness, right from our leaders down to the man in the lowest dungeon so that we in this nation may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

[Below: A local community meeting in Singida]

image15283

Receiving The Inheritance – Part 2

5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him. Eph. 6:5-9

In this scripture, Paul addresses the “masters” also.  Unless Christ has worked in them, masters can be downright condescending, and even rude.

There is a story among the people I live with, the Wanyaturu, about a white missionary who found a group of people walking on the road and he decided to give them a “lift” in his pick-up truck. This was during the colonial era. In those days there were neither cars nor any form of motorized transportation, so a “lift” in an old beat-up truck was worth more then than a modern flight from the Sahara to New York City, NY.

And so this kind, benevolent elderly missionary happily drove for hours and hours until, at last, his passengers signalled that they had arrived at their destination. He stopped, and one by one his passengers dropped off the van and when they were all done, they turned and walked off into the bush without saying a word.

The missionary waited for a few minutes and, before they had gone out of earshot, he called them back. The villagers walked back to the truck, at which the missionary instructed them to get back in because, he explained, he had just realized their journey was not over yet.

The missionary turned his truck around and started back on the road he had just come by. Hour after hour he sped along the road as the villagers sat silently in the back. Finally, he arrived at the very spot he had picked them up earlier in the day. He stopped the truck and ordered everyone to step down.

The villagers submissively got out of the truck and silently looked at the missionary’s face, seeking for an answer. The man had an answer for them.

“It is because you did not thank me”, he said, at which he got into his truck and took off, leaving the unfortunate villagers in a cloud of dust. By then it was night, of course.

During colonial times, the white man was master and the black man his servant or slave. This missionary was exercising his rights as master.

But that’s the spirit of the world. You feel sadder for the missionary than even the stranded villagers! The man may have been a missionary all right, but in his heart he was a pagan. With God, there is no “respect of persons”. God does not make a difference between the rich and the poor; between the important and less important of this world; nor between the master and his slave. The only difference that God makes actually lies in our hearts. We can decide to be and to do what God asks of us. That is when God will regard us differently from those who do not.

It is true that work pertains basically to servants; therefore, it might appear as if the rest of us are free to do as we wish. But this is a big trap here. Many people who are not servants lose out on the “inheritance” promised in verse 24 simply because they do not carry the heart of a servant. Most people – especially people who feel they are entitled to some form of importance – do not “serve the Lord Christ” when it comes to relating to or doing things for other people because they have a bossy mind and a bossy attitude. That attitude will not give us Christ’s inheritance because basically such a person is not serving Christ, but their own selves.

Christ received His inheritance from the father by agreeing to become a servant Himself. Let us all, rather – both masters and servants – desire the mind of Christ. The Bible says of Jesus:

“6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:6-8)

At which we will receive Christ’s inheritance:

“9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)

[A young Nyaturu girl]

image15853

Receiving The Inheritance – Part 1

5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him. Eph. 6:5-9

For almost two years ago now, one of the brothers in our church has been working as a bus conductor in a certain bus company. The people who own this company, who are Muslims, really mistreat the brother. When he is not on the road they get him to do the most menial jobs at the office: sweeping the office floor, and sometimes the entire compound; cleaning and dusting the tables, windows, doors and even the toilets. His employer treats him like trash simply because he is saved. It is not his job to do these menial tasks, but his employer makes him do them out of spite. He regularly says to him, “I will break you until you agree to become a Muslim.”

His employer’s special “punishment” initially was to make sure the brother would not attend Sunday church service. Even when he was not on the road, he had to ask for permission to attend church by messaging; and if his message was not acknowledged – none of his messages ever were – he had to report at the office.

One day, I told him, “Brother, whenever you are not on the road on Sunday, come to church. God will take care of everything.”

The man began coming to church, and his employer has never asked him a question since.

Initially, the mistreatment he received at the hands of his employer placed a heavy toll on our brother’s patience. He had thought of leaving the job; but jobs are hard to come by nowadays. So he persisted. But the gospel teaches that we are to serve our masters from the heart; how could one serve such masters from the heart?

The secret, as the Bible teaches, is to do things “as unto Christ”, and not to men. Colossians 3:23-24 says:

“23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

Our “inheritance”, or reward, is not with men. It is with God, and therefore, it is God that we should serve, and not men. But that’s pretty tough when God commands us to serve Him by serving men!

But let us go back to our key scripture above, Ephesians 6:5-9.

Let us first begin by asking: what does the scripture mean by “neither is there respect of persons with him”?

Remember God is talking to the church here. This scripture therefore simply means that we are all equal in the sight of God. Due to our fallen nature, men have a tendency of categorising men in the natural. Having categorised them, we then handle them according to the categories that we have assigned them. When we encounter a rich or important person, for example, our demeanour changes all of a sudden. We bring out the best in us. Sometimes we can do things that can even surprise us.

Another example is when a person from the Third World meets a person from the West. I know this is tough to admit, but it is true. Under normal circumstances, such an encounter is quite a study in human psychology! But this state of affairs is of God because God said:

“25 … Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. 26 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.” Gen. 9:25-26

Some people have a problem with this scripture, but why should you have a problem with something that God said in the natural?

But in the Spirit, praise God, we are all equal in God’s house!

That is why the Bible is quick to remind the church that with God there is no respect of persons, lest any believer consider their natural score as anything with God. God only distinguishes in the Spirit, and this is why we need to strive to serve God in the Spirit, i.e. with the fruit of the Spirit. For we who are called to be spiritual, everything is to be done from the heart, the heart of Christ. The Bible tells us that God is love. We are to do everything out of love. When in a position of servanthood (or slavehood), therefore, we will serve out of love – love for the person we are serving and love for Christ.

Love engages our hearts. With love, it does not matter whether men see our service or not. We will not work very hard when the master is around and throw our tools down the minute his car drives out of the gate. We will not smile at him but harbor a grudge against him.

No, we will smile at our master and serve him with all our strength because we love him. Love is something far more superior than the cheap menpleasing stuff we carry on with. We could say that love is the true servant. If we do not have love in us, our service is hollow, and futile.

Today, of course, this scripture applies mostly to contractual, paid servants. But in Roman times, when Paul penned these words, most “servants” were actually slaves. And we all know who a slave is. A slave has no freedom of his own and he is to do his master’s bidding by compulsion, if necessary. And yet these slaves were the very people that Paul was addressing here, telling them to work for their masters

“with good will doing service, as to the Lord”!

I believe in our time and generation we are privileged. We have many privileges and one of them is that we are privileged to be free. Let us not abuse this freedom. Let us rather benefit from it by using our freedom to serve both God and men from the heart, with an open heart, joyfully and with all our strength.

The Humility of Zacchaeus – Part 2

1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.

6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. Lk. 19:1-9

And now, finally, we get to Zacchaeus. Notice scripture tells us that Zacchaeus was “the chief among the publicans…” Now, there is a difference between the words “the” and “a”. The Bible does not say that Zacchaeus was a chief among the publicans; no, it says he was the chief. That tells us that he was the top executive among the publicans. In modern times, we would have referred to him as the chairman, the managing director, or the CEO.

You probably are wondering who the “publicans” were. These were the revenue guys. They were the tax collectors. In a sense, these guys control the economy of the land. They are therefore very powerful. Zacchaeus was the CEO of the Roman revenue machinery. By any standards, therefore, he was an extremely powerful man.

The Bible also says that Zacchaeus “was rich”. I certainly haven’t heard of a CEO who is not rich. It is a natural virtue of their position. I don’t know about other countries, but in our country, Tanzania, these revenue guys are the highest paid of any sector within the government. That does not mean that these people necessarily amass all their wealth in legitimate ways. Some don’t, as Zacchaeus owns up in verse 8. But, whether by hook or by crook, Zacchaeus was an extremely rich man.

And now – wonders! – we see this Zacchaeus running. I haven’t heard of a CEO running, unless it is a form of exercise prescribed to him by his personal physician. I very much doubt that even the president of the U.S.A. would cause any corporate executive to run for any reason whatsoever. Such a man or woman has people under him who will run if some running needs to be done. But Zacchaeus ran, and his running had even nothing to do with his occupation. Zacchaeus ran because he wanted to see Jesus!

Then, the Bible says, Zacchaeus found out he would not be able to see Jesus on account of the crowds and because he was short in stature, so he climbed atop a tree. The chief of the publicans climbed atop a tree to see Jesus!

The founding father of our nation, “Mwalimu” Julius Nyerere, was a great man by any standards. During his burial, the crowds were so huge that some people had to climb atop trees to see his casket passing by. Needless to say, and with all due respect both to the Word of God and to the men who climbed up the trees, as the Bible says, “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” climbed up those trees.

But Zacchaeus did..

Now, lest we get carried away by the physical aspect of this story, let us realize that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus for a completely different reason than a physical one. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus because something burned in his heart. He had a hunger and thirst in him that was not physical. There was something troubling him on the inside and he somehow knew – or hoped – that Jesus could meet his need.

And Jesus, when He had arrived at the place where Zacchaeus was, the Bible tells us that

“… he looked up, and saw him”.

When the Bible says that Jesus “saw him”, it is not talking in the natural. It is saying that Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the Spirit. He saw right into Zacchaeus’ heart and He saw the hunger there. And right away Jesus knew He had a work to do. How so wonderful! When God meets a willing and ready heart, He ceases all His programs and focuses all His attention on that particular heart. The Bible says:

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” (2 Chron. 16:9)

Jesus therefore looked up and told Zacchaeus,

Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.”

Some people thought that Jesus wanted to go and have a nice meal at rich Zacchaeus’ house. But Jesus had never had a food agenda. He was after Zacchaeus’ soul.

Upon meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus discovered he had found the one thing that could assuage the hunger in his heart. He had found true riches. So much so that he was ready to sacrifice all his earthly possessions. Having made up his mind, he stood up and declared:

Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”

Some things are not written in the Bible, but I believe Jesus must have been wiping the tears from His eyes upon hearing this man’s words. Unlike the rich young ruler that we read of in Luke chapter 18, Zacchaeus had given up all his worldly possessions to the end that he might gain Christ, that he might gain life, and eternal riches.

At which Jesus declared:

This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.”

By lowering himself and casting away his pride, rich and powerful Zacchaeus had “cast his bread upon the waters” and now he had finally found it (Eccl. 11:1). There is a price to pay for our salvation. The price begins with a humble heart. We cannot bribe God with any amount of money, or any amount of singing or ministry. God looks upon the heart, the humble heart. For the humble man or woman, God will stop everything and do a work in that man or woman.

And, pray, need we state the end product of a heart upon which the Lord Jesus Christ has worked?