The Thorn For His Grace

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Cor. 12:7-10

Many years ago, before I got married, I was the sweetest, kindest human being you could ever meet. My pastor would tell the congregation, “Look at Mwita. You can call him anything, and it doesn’t trouble him one little bit. He is always at perfect peace!” I was a star.

In fact, I was so lovable that, one day, some ladies from our church paid me a visit. Ours was the biggest Pentecostal church in town, and you can visualize the kind of ladies who attend such churches: not simple housewives, but teachers, managers, office workers, etc.

Anyways, they came in a sizable group and they found me in my bachelor quarters. At that time I was working, so I was living in a nice apartment. After the usual greetings and introductions, they brought out their objective. They all expressed their love and affection for me. After which they let slip that the sun waiteth not even for the king, so to speak. The years were moving on and that I should consider moving on to the next stage in my life. Finally, from the folds of their loving hearts they pulled out a name.

I silently considered their proposition. To be honest, it is many years since, and I do not recall exactly how we wound up that conversation. But the fact that I did not marry that girl means that I turned down their proposal. And the fact that I refused certainly has nothing to do with the girl in question: not only was she very beautiful, but she was also considered one of the spiritual pillars among the youth in the church. But I do remember also that at that time I was fully engaged to Christ and, except for my job, I had no other commitment, hobby or interest except Him alone.

Fast-forward to a few years later when I finally did get married – to a different girl. This girl was not from our church, so she did not know me. Unbeknown to her, though, a nightmare was awaiting her. Within a short period of time into our marriage, she was shocked to find that she had married… well, the devil himself.  Even I was surprised by the change that I saw in me. The Bible says we should be transformed to become Christ-like, but this particular transformation occurred the other way round. I changed from being the picture-perfect representation of the Christ-like life that I supposedly was, to something completely different. I discovered I had little patience – and tons of pride. And she was rubbing up against my pride so hard! My wife originates from a tribe where women do not fear men; while I come from one that seeks to put the fear of God in every soul it meets. I wanted her singing my praises all the time; but that was the last thing on her mind. In fact, she had some unflattering thoughts about me which she was not afraid to voice out loud. Having someone by my side who could not be coerced into playing my tune proved to be the biggest trial of my life.

Not too long after our honeymoon ended, we were into fighting, scraping and everything else in between. And, to the utter dismay of my pastor who had spent the better part of his sermons praising my patience and resilience, my wife and I were now regular visitors to his house; and all for the wrong reasons.

Finally, my thorn had arrived, beautifully wrapped and packaged; and hand-delivered by God Himself. It had come to battle with my flesh. And the flesh in this case was my pride.

There is an immeasurable difference between good old human goodness and the grace of God. When we talk about the former, no man is totally bad. Even Hitler must have had some feelings for his wife and children. However, when we talk of God’s grace, it can only be had if we allow that thorn in our flesh. That was exactly what God told Paul, and we can hardly expect God to tell us something different from what He told the apostles. Paul says to the Corinthians, therefore,

“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)

It has taken me many long years since then to allow God, through my wife, to put His finger on the one spot He wants to deal with in my life, which is my pride. But a time came when I had to choose between whether I wanted to keep my pride or to carry the grace of God in my life. And it is a choice that I am forced to make every day. Sometimes it is difficult to make this choice. But, whatever the case, I certainly have learned my lesson. If I desire to walk with God and carry His grace, I must allow the thorn to be there in my body, permanently.

[God can use anything to bring about the death of the flesh. The death of the flesh brings much grace to our lives. Are we truly dead and buried?]

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Paul’s Spiritual Ministry

17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. Phil. 4:17-18

I am still intrigued – and greatly challenged – by the Apostle Paul’s attitude towards material wealth and towards the offerings that he received from God’s people. When Paul received a gift, he did not say, “Gotcha!” Nor did he exhale an, “Oooooh, yeah!!”

No. Paul’s outlook was never about himself. As a recipient, he never thought about himself when it came to the ministry of giving and receiving. On the contrary, he thought about the giver. He thought about how this other person would gain through their gift in God’s heavenly Kingdom.

But probably the truly earth-shaking revelation is of how Paul could convert something that was basically material into spiritual. It is like in science, where you can turn something from physical form into chemical form. Paul turned a physical action into a spiritual one. How did he do it? He did it by not directing the gift to himself, but to God. He says,

“… the things which were sent from you, (are) an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.”

The Philippians sent Paul a gift and Paul did not write, “Oh, your gift really blessed me. It took me out of a rut.”

Instead, Paul says, “The gift that you sent me was received, not by me, but by God, and it has pleased His heart. Your gift has blessed God.”

But words are just words. You can say all those wonderful-sounding words and still be a man or woman who is looking after himself. What makes the difference is the lifestyle that you live. A life of self-denial is the proof that such words are indeed true in a man’s life. It is therefore through Paul’s lifestyle that we can judge and commend him for being a spiritual servant of God. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:8:

“I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.”

Whatever Paul received from other churches, he used it, not on himself, but to minister to other churches. This is what the revelation of the gospel in a man’s heart does. His whole outlook on life becomes, not about himself, but about others.

And, pray, what “service” do you suppose Paul did the Corinthians?

It was spiritual service. He preached to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. He taught them to give of their lives also even as Christ had given His. This was Paul’s “service” to the Corinthians.

I heard a bling (you have to look up “bling” in a contemporary dictionary) preacher tell his congregation, “You see my bling, you see my Bentley, you see my glory, but you do not know my story!”

The man also owns a Mercedes Benz and he went on to justify his extravagant lifestyle. “I have been pastoring for 26 years and… I have accumulated my wealth over the years.”

Another felt she had to justify on TV why she had to fly only on business class: “I really could not fly commercial at this stage of my life and do what I am doing. I could not endure it physically… You know how hard it is to fly commercial.”

“Physically”. All these preachers are thinking of is their physical and worldly comfort. They think only of themselves. And they have the material and financial wherewithal to live the kind of lifestyle they want.

But the Apostle never thought of himself. A true man of God thinks only of losing – losing, that others might gain. But it goes far beyond that; in fact, the spiritual man loses in the natural that others might gain in the Spirit. If it was a matter of owning churches, Paul owned all the churches in Europe, Asia and Africa. He also owned all the churches in the Middle East, except the tiny enclave of Jerusalem. He could have gone on and become the richest preacher who ever walked this earth. But Paul’s lifestyle hardly reflected any such thing. In 1 Corinthians 4:11-13, he writes:

“11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.”

Those were the apostles of old; they were the Godly ministers of old. Today, largely, it is a far much different story. But, again, it is all about seeing into the never-ending war between the flesh and the Spirit. If one does not have this revelation, he cannot live the kind of lifestyle that Paul and the other apostles lived. He cannot deny himself. Nor can he see into God’s spiritual Kingdom.

Paul was fully filled with the Holy Spirit and in all aspects of his life, he was fully directed by the Holy Spirit. Paul therefore thought in spiritual terms in every aspect of life. We can sum up Paul’s life and ministry as a true ministry of the Spirit. Viz:

  1. Paul never thought of his own profit, but of the profit of others;
  2. Even when Paul thought of others, he was not thinking of the material gain they would receive on this earth, but of their spiritual gain in God’s heavenly Kingdom.

And this is what Godly ministry is all about.

[Paul chose to lose in order that he might minister to God’s people in the Spirit]

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A Heart For God’s People

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

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.

14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.

15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. Phil. 4:10-18

Ever heard of aliens? Well, there is no such thing as an alien. At least, that is my belief. But there is a new kind of ‘alien’ that we are going to learn about today.

During our recent regional CTMI conference (www.ctmi.org) in Dar es Salaam, the speaker, Brother Miki, quoting from 1 Peter 2:9 said, “A new race of people arose in the world when Jesus died and rose from the grave. A new race of people, saved by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. It is called the Christian race.”

I was sitting there and my mind was moving super-fast. I began thinking, This was a race that is not white, black, Asiatic, nor Arabic. You won’t find this race among all the races in the world. It will never be found there. It is a race of people that is alien to this world. It is indeed, as the scriptures say, a “peculiar people”.

It is in this light that we can appreciate Paul’s words in the scripture above. It is also in this light that I personally find it hard to count myself as a part of this peculiar race. How could I attempt to compare myself with this man who did something so unbelievably extraordinary?

And what is it, pray, that the Apostle Paul did that was so extraordinary?

The portion of scripture that answers this question is in verse 17:

“Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”

Once you understand what Paul is saying here, you will understand that this was a man who was truly in a class of his own, spiritually speaking. In simple words, the apostle here is saying that he wanted the Philippians to give; but not for the reasons that many of us would be thinking of.

Paul had only one reason to want the Philippians to continue giving. The reason he rejoiced for their giving, he says, was because

“I desire fruit that may abound to your account.” (v. 17)

The reason I say I am not in Paul’s league is because  whenever I have a need I always think of the shortest way to have that need met. And if a brother or sister comes to my aid, I will tell them, “God bless you”. But more often than not my “God bless you” is my selfish way of saying, “Thank God the need has been met” rather than a sincere desire to see the brother or sister blessed in the Spirit.

But God’s sacrificial love is revealed in the Apostle’s life in two ways here. In the first place, even though Paul had needs, he did not think of himself in time of receiving. On the contrary, he thought about the giver. He rejoiced, not on his account, but on their account. He rejoiced, not because he was receiving, but because they would be receiving!

Secondly, the Apostle Paul desired spiritual blessings for God’s people. He rejoiced because he knew that as they gave materially, they would be receiving spiritually.

Today many preachers will tell you to give in order that you might receive a material reward in return. I heard one preacher say, “If you do not pay your tithes, you will not be fed!” Fed, presumably by God. Wow!!

Today, the Name of God is blasphemed all over the world because of preachers of the gospel who do not have a heavenly agenda. A preacher who only has an earthly agenda is the most dangerous living thing alive. Seriously. This man or woman will take God’s people down the road of destruction for he or she will show them only how to prosper materially. Moreover, all he or she is thinking is how he can gain from them. He does not have their spiritual interests at heart.

But the Apostle Paul had the spiritual interests of God’s people at heart. And it is here, in this scripture, that God’s heart for His people is revealed: it is a heart that desires for us to get hold of the heavenly vision, and a heavenly reward, not an earthly one.

A Ministry Of The Spirit! – Part 1

2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:

3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. 2 Cor. 3:2-3

Many years ago, when I was under the charismatic gospel, I used to go to church meetings, conferences, etc., armed with pen and paper. These were my most important tools after my Bible. I had to write down everything that was taught.

Another thing had to do with my Bible. In those years, my Bible looked like a tattooed body. Underlining, highlighting, notes and comments were written all over my Bible. If I gave someone my Bible, they could not have been able to know what was originally written in the Bible; they would need a microscope to decipher what was of God and what was mine.

Another thing: I owned many different versions of the Bible, and my favorite pastime was to go through and compare all these versions against each other daily. I also had Bible concordances, dictionaries, commentaries, study guides and every kind of reference book that had to do with the Bible. And books… I loved to read books written by men of God. I loved the Lord with all my heart, and I did everything possible to get to know Him more.

Today I still love the Lord as I did those years back. But everything else has changed. Today, I have only two Bibles. One is the King James version; and the second one is the standard Swahili translation, Swahili being the language that we use in our part of the world. I have heard people say that the King James is difficult to read and hard to understand. I also used to think that in those days. Not any more. In fact, I find the King James Bible not only the easiest book to understand, but the most joyous to read.

I no longer carry pen and notebook into any service. That is, unless I want to take some information from someone, like their address. Or if I have an announcement to make in church. When I go into a church service I go only with my Bible.

I no longer use concordances, commentaries or any reference books. And I no longer study the old Biblical lands.

About my new Bible… I have had it since 2013 and I have written nothing inside save my name and address. There are no notes, no highlights, no underlining, no nothing. My Bible is just as it was when it came from the printers. If you open it, you would think I have never used it.

That’s the Swahili Bible. For the English Bible I have only my old King James version, which I once had considered getting rid of. And this Bible has no references in it. It is not a Study Bible.

(I have to say it here: there are some Bible versions which read like James Hadley Chase.)

I no longer read books, especially Christian ones. They no longer excite me. What excites me is the daily revelation that I get from God’s Word in the Bible.

So what is all this about? What has happened to me? Have I ran mad?

No. What has happened is that I have received the revelation of the gospel of the cross, which is the ONLY gospel ministered to by the Spirit. The revelation of Christ crucified ministers to the heart, not the mind. If you want to know that you are not under the ministry of the Spirit, all the proof you need to have is how much you feel you have to take and compare notes, read books, rely on study guides, references and commentaries, etc. The litmus test – as a friend of mine would say – of the fact whether you are or you are not under the ministry of the Spirit is when your life is cluttered with these things. It is the mind that relies on ink and paper; and the Spirit does not minister to the mind. The Spirit ministers to our spirits. The Bible says,

“Deep calleth unto deep…” (Ps. 42:7)

Notice verse 3 of 2 Corinthians 3.

“…ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.”

The Holy Spirit does not write His message with ink. Nor does He write it on paper. He writes it with life – God’s life. And He writes it on our hearts. Not on paper. All you need when you go to church is to have a right and receptive heart. And to make sure you are receving the right message.

We cannot become epistles of Christ if we are to rely on ink and paper. To become an epistle of Christ means to carry the life, and the grace, of Christ. Ink and paper go to the mind, and no work of the mind can produce this life in any man. Ernest Hemingway committed suicide despite having one of the greatest minds in the world.

Pen and paper. Throw those into the dustbin. Same with the ipad. Get a right and humble heart, and Christ will minister to you.

All the variant gospels, ministries and churches that have sprouted all over churchdom are a result of a lack of the ministry of the Spirit in the church. That is why you hear warped things like the gospel of prosperity, and worse.

But praise be to God for the gospel of the revelation of the cross. When the Holy Spirit ministers, He ministers through a revelation in our hearts. And the Holy Spirit does not reveal many things. He reveals only one thing: Christ and Him crucified. This is the ONLY gospel that the Holy Spirit ministers. He does not minister any other gospel for the simple reason that it is in this gospel alone that He dwells, the gospel where the precious blood of Jesus Christ was shed. The Holy Spirit cannot dwell in any other gospel. Therefore, no other gospel can bring life to a man. No other gopel can transform a man to become an “epistle of Christ.”

How do I know this? It is because the Apostle Paul himself said,

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

If the Apostle Paul determined to know only one thing, then that’s the only thing worth knowing. It is the only thing any sincere believer should want to know.

Oh, to get a grip on the Pauline revelation! The gospel of the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ is emphatically a ministry of the Holy Spirit, not of men’s minds.

Ultimately, this revelation is the only thing that a true believer can boast in, for it is what transforms him into the true image of God’s Son Jesus Christ, which is all that God is waiting for us to become.

Christ Crucified, Our Firm Foundation

10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,

11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured… 2 Tim. 3:10-11

Unravel. That’s one word you would not to hear in connection with your life. There you are, your life all neat and tied down pat and, all of a sudden, it begins to unravel. I wouldn’t wish that for myself nor for anyone else.

But many lives have unravelled in this world. One of the lives that unravelled horribly fast was that of a man in the U.S. called Joe Paterno. The sequence of events that led to Joe’s life unravelling was started by a man called Jerry Sandusky. Jerry Sandusky preyed on young boys and sodomized them. But then, Joe and Jerry worked on the same team. Joe was – had been for decades – the much-celebrated coach of the powerful Penn State college football team and Jerry was Joe’s technical assistant. The story goes that Paterno & co. knew about Jerry’s evil deeds but they firmly put a lid on it, unwilling to divulge Jerry’s dark secrets and end up compromising the sports image their team held, over the fate of a few boys. But one day, in the natural course of such events, the pressure forced the lid to fly off, and all that was known (and not known) about Jerry’s rot became public news, including what Joe and and his other assistants knew. Sandusky was jailed, of course but, within a few months of the publicizing of the allegations, Joe Paterno, one of the greatest legends of the sporting world, died of a broken heart, leaving behind a legacy forever tainted and a name irreparably damaged.

There is nothing to rejoice over such news. In fact, this is news that should break the hearts of each one of us. It is extremely depressing news.

Not all lives will unravel in this world. But in heaven, every life that is not built upon the sure foundation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, will unravel. That is exactly the thing to avoid.

One of the best lines in the scriptures is found in 2 Timothy 4:7. It was written by the Apostle Paul. It says:

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…”

This is a line that each one of us should desire to have written for our lives.

Notice, “I have finished my course”.

This is one man whose life will never unravel in this life, nor in the next. The reason is because he fought the good fight, he kept the faith. But pray, how did Paul keep the faith?

It was through the life he lived. His life was an open book. There were no folds where he hid things in his life. Nothing was hidden from view. He laid out his life for all to see, and among the people who would see Paul’s open life would be his young disciple, Timothy.

But Paul’s was also a victorious Christian life. That was what made the difference.

I wish I could speak to my family, without wincing, the Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy:

“10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, 11 persecutions, afflictions…”

Unravel. This is a word that is designed to send fear and terror down our spines. But it ought not to. There is a place of safety from the terror this word inspires. It is in the cross. Here we are free from such terrors. When we accept to deny ourselves by taking up our cross and following Christ, we are assured that here on earth we can walk in the greatest liberty of spirit. We have nothing to hide, for we have become more than victors over sin. And, when we get to heaven, we will stand tall in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and before His holy angels.

I wish I could become more of an example to my wife, my children, and to those around me. I wish people would see more of Christ in me. That was what the Apostle Paul accomplished. That was what guaranteed that his life would never unravel. Paul denied himself and took up his cross in order that he might show forth in his body the only life that would not unravel, the life of Christ, Christ crucified.

[Below: Arusha is the most well-known of Tanzania’s towns. Little-known Singida is some 300km down south]

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Two Lessons – Part 2

1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.

2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.

3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:

4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;

8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. Gal. 2:1-10

Notice, in verses 7 through 9, the two things that the apostles in Jerusalem saw in Paul: they perceived and acknowledged that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto him; and they also saw and acknowledged the grace that was given unto Paul.

This spirit of humility is very important for the church. The end goal for the church should be unity in the Spirit. Unity in the Spirit cannot be achieved where there is no humility. Had the apostles in Jerusalem not been able to see in the Spirit and had they told Paul: “You are a novice in this ministry, what can you tell us?”, the end result would have been a divided church right from the start, and there is no telling where that would have led to.

That is why we need to hail the early apostles as heroes of faith. Not only on account of the miracles that they performed, but more so for their humility. Humility always attends true faith. It is for this same reason that King David is a great man in the Bible. David did one of the most horrific sins recorded in the Bible; yet right to the end he was God’s favorite. How come? It was because David had a humble heart.

It was through this humility that the apostles could recognize Paul for who he was in the Spirit. It was also through this same humility that both Paul and these men could agree on one of the most important pillars of true Christianity: to remember the poor.

Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. (v.10)

In ministry, we must remember the poor. Remembering the poor is central to our Christian faith. We can learn from the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In John 13:29, we read:

“For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.”

This scripture clearly shows that Jesus ministered to the poor financially. (We know from other accounts that Jesus ministered physically and materially to the people He preached to.)

What about the Apostle Paul? Paul tells the Corinthians;

“I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.” (2 Cor. 11:8)

Today there are men of God who rob God’s people to enrich themselves and to live comfortable lives. There is no way you are going to convince me that a Bentley or a Hummer or a 2000-dollar suit is for ministry. Which proves that even the private jets used by modern preachers are not really for ministry.

There is no place for this kind of lifestyle in the Bible. Paul did not “rob” other churches to enrich himself. But, as we see in 2 Corithinans 8, he took the money he got from the more affluent churches to serve the less fortunate ones. This was to fulfill what th scripture says:

“… he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack” (Ex. 16:18).

As of Paul’s own life, on the contrary, we read of his and his fellow apostles’ lives thus:

“11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12 and labour, working with our own hands…” (1 Cor. 4:11-12)

True apostolic ministry will always look out for the poor. That is why the early apostles, who were true men of God, could concur and exhort each other to “remember the poor”. With these men, you would not hear such immature references to the poor as “lazy”, etc.

The long and short of it is that a gospel that does not mind the poor is a dead gospel. Whatever the Bible writes it writes to show us the heart of God. In this singular scripture, it is easy to see God’s heart for the poor and downtrodden people of this world.

Why should we “remember the poor”? It is primarily because nothing in this world is worth a person’s soul. No amount of money that you can hoard in your pocket or bank account can compare with the value of a human soul. Money – or, rather, the love of it – should not hinder us from serving the poor. In serving the poor, we serve God.

Godly Chastisement Brings Godly Character

Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 2 Cor. 12:5

This is an awesome scripture. Notice Paul talks of two different people here: “an one” and “myself”. Of this “an one” he says he will “glory”, or boast; but of the persona he calls “myself” he says:

“yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.”

Who is this person of whom the Apostle Paul is willing to boast in?

He tells us exactly who this person was: he was a person who

“was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” (v.4)

This was a spiritual person because Paul says of him:

“(whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)”

We could use language here to describe these two – the “an one” and the “myself” – as two personalities within the same person. The “an one” is the spiritual man and the “myself” the carnal man. These two personalities dwelt inside Paul, just like they do in each one of us. And the Bible in Galatians 5:17 tell us that the two are in a perpetual state of war.

“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

The incredible fact about the Apostle Paul was that he took sides with the Spirit in its war against the flesh. That is a detail that we take so much for granted; and yet to take the side of the Spirit against our own selves is without a doubt the most difficult undertaking that any human being can attempt. It is therefore profound what Paul says of himself:

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (v. 10)

It is a powerful testimony of a man who had surrendered his life completely to Christ that the resurrection power of Christ may dwell in him. Paul allowed himself to become weak in the flesh in order that the power of Christ may rest on him. Christ had told Paul:

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (v. 10)

To which Paul responded by declaring:

“Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

Oh, the glory of that! The long and short of it is that when we are strong in the natural, we are weak in our spirits. Conversely, when we allow ourselves to become weak in the flesh through Godly chastisement, we become strong spiritually. If, for example, an argument arises between me and my wife, I as a man am tempted to use my ‘machismo’, or male chauvinism, to remain on top. And she, having heard about the Beijing Conference and women empowerment, will try and stand her ground. Neither one will be willing to go down without a fight.

But the Bible tells us exactly how to bring the power of Jesus into our homes, into our churches and even into our communities: it is through spiritual humility. And spiritual humility comes about through buffeting of the carnal mind in us.

The Bible says in Rom. 14:17:

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

How do we bring righteousness, peace and joy into our lives and into our homes?

It is by following the Apostle Paul in accepting Godly chastisement. It is the only way we can let the Spirit to win in us.