Instructed In God’s Ways

5 And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day.
6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
7 And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him?
8 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so… 1 Ki. 22:5-8
The surest sign that your life is not laid on the altar, that you are not taking up your cross and following Christ, is when all you want to hear is the good news. You don’t want to hear any bad news. You don’t want, for example, to hear someone scolding, rebuking, or correcting you. I personally have a problem when someone tries to do any one of those things to me. Something rises up in me … It took me a long time to realize that that “something” is the old man, who is still alive in me.
That’s not a good confession, but it is the truth about me. And man, am I glad to hear there is a first, second and third heaven! I am glad to know that at least in one sense God is so far from me. That makes me know that I still have a long road ahead of me; and yet, somehow, I love that challenge! I am learning to take up my cross and follow Christ.
There are many “challenges” in this world. But how about we hear about the challenge of the cross for a change?
Many people think the old man is fairy tales. But he is as real as you and me. And he lives in us, when our lives are not fully crucified with Christ on the cross.
When you are not taking up your cross and following Christ there are many things that you don’t want to hear. You don’t want to hear that your business is not going well, or to find yourself broke, penniless. You don’t want to be in lack… But the Apostle Paul says that he was “instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil. 4:12).
Instructed. It took a long time, but a time did arrive when Paul was ready for any situation, good or bad, that God would allow in his life. He accepted any situation with joy. Many of the situations that people of God will tell you are from the devil, Paul knew were from God! That is the difference between a man whose life is laid on the altar, and one whose life is not.
In the scripture above, it says that as King Ahab happily downed goblet after goblet of the finest wine in the land, about 400 prophets stood before him and prophesied in the loftiest terms about the victory that would be his once he went to war against the king of Syria.
In contrast, King Jehoshaphat was a righteous man. This means that this man’s life was laid on the altar. That does not mean he was perfect; but he was a man who was daily taking up his cross and following Christ. This man therefore knew the ways of the Lord. He was instructed in God’s ways. And when he saw such a large number of prophets and heard them prophesying the same thing “with one mouth” (v.13) – and good news, at that – he immediately got suspicious.
But King Ahab was an evil man, and he did not know the ways of the Lord. He was particularly indisposed to hearing any bad news, which invariably came from only one man, the prophet Micaiah. King Ahab wanted only to hear good news.
Do you know that many people of God today are crisscrossing the face of the planet seeking for a favorable prophecy about a situation they are facing? And, personally, when I read this kind of scripture, I can begin to understand the reason for the rise of the mega-church: it is because the message preached in such churches is one generally of a positive, upbeat approach. Here it is “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. All is good news – the gospel according to the flesh. Any bad news is out. Such news is not from God!
But if you read to the end of the saga in the above scripture, you will find that every prophecy that Micaiah made on that day (and it was all bad) came to be fulfilled. That means his was the Word of the Lord, bad news as it was.
When in the Spirit we identify our lives with Christ’s in His suffering and death, we will understand that God works both in the good and the bad. In both these situations we can learn to see God’s hand and allow Him to accomplish whatever He wants to accomplish.

[Below: A storm hits the Musoma pier]

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God’s Will Found In Suffering

35 And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said unto his neighbour in the word of the LORD, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man refused to smite him.

36 Then said he unto him, Because thou hast not obeyed the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as thou art departed from me, a lion shall slay thee. And as soon as he was departed from him, a lion found him, and slew him.

37 Then he found another man, and said, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man smote him, so that in smiting he wounded him.

38 So the prophet departed, and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with ashes upon his face. 1 Kings 20:35-38

The lesson here is that we will not accomplish God’s plan in our lives without sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Hebrews 12:6 tells us that God chastens those He loves and scourges every son He receives. Hence the cross, where the sufferings and death of Christ are revealed in our hearts and where through this revelation we willingly give our lives to them, so that we may share in His resurrection life also.

The “neighbour” in this account is very much like today’s Christians. He could not understand why someone had to suffer. Thus rationalizing, he refused to beat the prophet of God as the man of God had requested him to do.

But notice it was “the voice of the Lord” that commanded him to beat up the prophet (v.36). And, apparently, the first man missed it. That’s the danger of the lack of revelation within the church.

Soon afterwards this man was killed by a lion.

If we lack revelation we cannot understand how the sufferings of Christ relate to our lives. And when we do not want to suffer with Christ, we die spiritually.

But imagine the second man! Can you imagine him hitting away at the man of God; in fact, he beat him so badly that he injured him.

We cannot try to reason or rationalize with God. We need to pray for a spiritual understanding of His ways. After all, it is His plans and purposes that really matter.

Probably the first man questioned, “But why? Why should I hit you?”

But the Bible says we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. Only through identifying our lives with the sufferings of Christ on the cross will we find ourselves doing that good and perfect will of God as Paul says in Romans 12:1.

I am sure this revelation was what the second man had. He therefore beat the prophet. He injured him. He made him to suffer!

What does that prophet suffering remind you of? Jesus, of course! It is so interesting how when God opens our eyes we see Christ in every scripture!

The Bible says in Isaiah 53:10 that “it pleased the LORD to bruise him”. The man who beat up the prophet was walking in this revelation.

Today’s generation has faith all right – but only for the blessings. You listen to contemporary Christian songs and they are (nearly) all talking of the goodness and provision of God. Today’s Christians have no faith for the suffering. They ask, “Why should I suffer? Christ died that I may live a comfortable life!”

They have a skewed ‘revelation’ of the cross. If suffering comes along they consider it to be of the devil. The hand of God is not revealed in their sufferings.

When we use human reasoning we will never arrive at an understanding of the Cross. Many Christians today know the cross only as a place where Jesus died for their sins. But they do not know it as a place where they, too, are supposed to suffer, die and resurrect with Christ.

But God has news for us. Even as we rejoice at what Christ accomplished for us at the cross, we will need to carry faith for something equally important – spiritual maturity. We will need to carry faith not even just for suffering, but for dying with Christ. Only when we have accomplished these will we be able to carry God’s plan in our hearts and lives.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:10: “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

After this unnamed prophet had thus suffered, the Bible says he “departed, and waited for the king by the way”. Through suffering, God had prepared him to carry out His purpose.

[Below: Dar es Salaam coastline]



A Warned Church – Pt.1

And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. 1 Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.

But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee? 2Kings 22:20-24

If one were to speak to the Church today in the manner that Micaiah spoke before the two kings and his fellow prophets, he most likely would get the same treatment that Micaiah got from Zedekiah. The truth is not popular in “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4). That’s why you can’t help but admire men like Micaiah!

I do not believe that it is God’s will that any man should die the way Ahab died. But I also believe that if God sees that you are firmly set on a course of destruction from which you are unwilling to be persuaded from, then He has no option other than watch you waste yourself down that road.

In the age we are living in I am willing to join Micaiah’s ranks and say that this is a generation where the Church has been lied to. Every servant of God is speaking about how God loves His people and how He wants to bless them. The ‘Good News’ has been made extremely sweet! The Church is being encouraged to have a positive confession in every circumstance. And yet, I believe God wants to warn the Church that there is a narrow road which it needs to take. It is not time to listen to the ‘victory’ band, the materialistic gospel that has craftily wormed its way into the Church of our day.

The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that he determined to know nothing among them “save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” 1Co. 2:2. I wonder how we can preach any other gospel other than the one these Apostles preached! I do not see the early Apostles preaching the sloppy, solve-all-my-problems-at-the-press-of-a-button gospel that is so abundantly preached in our churches today. The Early Church heard and lived a gospel that said, “…It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Act_20:35). Those words of scripture mean so much more than meets the eye.

Today, instead of having a Church that believes it is “blessed” in the carnal way it thinks it is, I am persuaded we should be having a Church that is warned. A Church that has taken heed to the warning not to depart from the narrow road of denying self, taking up our Cross and following Jesus – Mat. 16:24. Any other gospel apart from that is deception.

And, if the Church is bent on following after its own worldly philosophy and ways, then it will end in destruction like Ahab did.

Grace For The Humble

And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly… And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house. 1Ki 21:27-29

It stumps me to imagine that God could forgive a man as evil as Ahab was. This Israelite king had just okayed the wanton execution of an innocent man just so he could take possession of his plot of land. Prior to this, King Ahab had done many other evil things and brought untold suffering upon his subjects. The Bible states about this Ahab: “But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up…” (verse 25).

I wonder what kind of judgment many of us would have passed on such an evil man. No doubt, the same that God Himself passed on Ahab, as we read in verses 21 to 24 of this sad account: “Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin. And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.”

We would have executed that sentence swiftly and surely.

But apparently God was not going to carry out that sentence. Something occurred that stayed God’s hand. Something about this man, Ahab, moved God to change His mind. What was it? The Bible says that Ahab humbled himself before God. This action by an evil man made God to re-consider Ahab!

Hot-headed as we might be, we may want to consider the fact that probably God knew Ahab’s heart more than we do. This is one of the most significant things that set God so far apart from us. God knows the hearts of men. That is something none of us can lay a claim to. God can see into the innermost parts where none of us can see. That is why the Bible warns men to desist from judging others – man is hardly capable of judging another man’s heart! We might think a man proud but God knows he is humble enough, thank you.

That Ahab could go from one such extreme of committing evil, to another, of completely humbling his heart before God, tells volumes about his character. I am of the opinion that Ahab was simply a weak man who was controlled by a totally evil woman, his Canaanite wife Jezebel.

The point is that God saw the humility in Ahab’s heart and His fierce anger was stayed. There is something about God and a man with a humble heart. From reading through the Bible, it appears to me that God will move heaven and earth to reach out to a man who has decided to humble himself before Him, regardless of what that man may or may not have done. You see, God knows us perfectly well and the first thing He knows about us is that we are evil through and through. He does not need to waste His time muckraking through our hearts looking for some good in them. It is we who think that we have any good in us; but God knows otherwise. For that reason God is not looking for us to be good. And He is certainly not interested in those nice-looking facades which we are so expert at in putting up. God is looking for us to walk before Him with a humble heart, period. God will consider a humble man a thousand times over while he thoroughly ignores a man who imagines he is good – for there is no such thing as a ‘good man’ with God.

It is God alone who can work any good in a man’s heart; and this Godly dealing is only possible in a humble heart. But many people confuse the gifts and calling of God with humility. (We will look into that topic another day.)

God is gracious and merciful. He can easily forgive in circumstances where it is very difficult for us to forgive. God is capable of easily letting go of situations, and He does. And He can do inexpressibly far much more along that line! BUT… He needs to find a heart which is humble so He can show mercy to it. The Bible in James 4:6 says that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

In many times of crisis in my life, I have found that the only thing I could really do was to simply fall face down before my God with a bowed heart. Unfortunately, that is not always my first option but when at last I find myself there, what a sweet relief…! I can attest to the fact that God has never let me down in such situations.

Tonight I want to address anyone going through a moment of crisis in their lives. You may wish to take the beautiful option of humbling yourself before God. Humbling yourself means making up your mind to fall into the hands of God and cry out to Him for mercy. The best thing is not to mourn, which we normally do when in crisis. The best thing is to happily humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and await His grace there. The point about fasting in this regard is that forgoing the things of the flesh will help you to focus on the things of the Spirit, especially your heart.

I guarantee you from God’s Word that He will not fail you. If God was able to look and see into Ahab’s heart, I assure you He will do the same with you. You will experience His mercy – and find victory in the issues that you are facing.