Interlude: Tribute

55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Acts 7:55-56

Two days ago, a terrible tragedy occurred in our country. An overloaded ferry which was making a crossing between two islands in Lake Victoria capsized and, as I write, more than 150 people have been confirmed dead from that accident. The social media in our country is clogged with photos of the bodies of these our fellow countrymen and women . Our nation is currently in a state of deep mourning. So many lives have been needlessly lost; and so many lives left irreparably scarred. Lake Victoria islands are closely-knit communities, and many families lost more than one relative. At any rate, the nation of Tanzania is like one big family, thanks to our founding father, ‘Mwalimu’ Julius Nyerere, who managed to unify it under the banner of one language, Swahili.

This tragic accident occurred at about 2 p.m. local time. That same evening, another death occurred, far from and quite unrelated to the one on Lake Victoria. At 8 p.m. of the same day, a lady in one of our churches went home. She went to be with the Lord. I was informed of the news by her pastor at the exact time she died, since she died in his arms.

When I heard the news, I broke down and cried. In fact, I cried the whole night. I cried, not because this lady had died, but because I knew the circumstances surrounding her demise. And my tears were tears of joy, not of sorrow.

For those of you who read my recent post titled “Kishapu!”, immediately I left the town of Kishapu I passed by one of our churches in a town called Igunga. Being new in these parts, it was my first time to visit this church. I intended to sleep over and have a little chat with the pastor there.

Early the next morning, however, before I left, the pastor took me to see one of his parishioners. He informed me that the lady in question had been suffering for a while now with what appeared like the beginnings of paralysis on one side of her body. She had been to the hospital and all the doctors could diagnose her with was high blood pressure. But no medication brought any relief. The pastor wanted me to pray with her.

When we arrived at her house we found her alone; her children had gone to school. She was attempting to go about her normal chores, but it was clear she was in extreme pain. Her body seemed bent completely to one side.

My heart went out to this sister. I could not imagine someone living in that condition for any amount of time. But in my heart, I knew I had to do something more than just pray. I told her, “Sister, before we pray, I want to know a little bit about your life history.”

Although she was in pain, she managed to talk clearly and she told me quite a lot about her life. She told me that she had suffered much in life (I could see it in the poverty surrounding her). She had four children to take care of; but what really hurt her was that her husband had left her. Life was therefore very difficult. She ended by saying that she was “bitter at life”.

When I heard that, I knew I had nailed what was troubling her.

Right there, in the presence of her pastor, I told her, “Lady, you have to let that go. You have to let go that bitterness. You cannot take one step forward in life with that heart condition.”

Immediately, I said that, she went into a paroxysm of pain as the paralysis hit her.

But I was unrelenting. I told her, “The condition that is tormenting you is a result of what you have allowed into your heart. You have to forgive where you need to forgive, and you have to let go where you need to let go.”

With many such words, my fellow pastor and I coaxed this lady to once again submit to the Lordship of the Lord Jesus in her life even though she was already saved. I waited for her to respond.

At length, she nodded her head in acquiescence, and I prayed for her. I prayed for God to heal her body and her soul. As is normal with me, I laid in heavily when it came to praying for her soul; my heart was all there!

When the pastor called me to inform me of this sister’s demise two days later, I was surprised. She hadn’t seemed that close to dying. But then the pastor told me something that made my heart to dance with joy. He told me that the sister’s last words were: “Thank God for the words you and pastor spoke to me. I am well in my soul. I have let go everything and I feel at peace with God.”

After which she said, “I am having a splitting headache, pastor. Please pray for me.”

Those were her last words. She tried to talk further, but nothing else coherent came out of her mouth. Her body gradually lapsed and death made its final futile grip on her.

That was when the pastor called me.

When I received news of her death, I spent the whole night visualizing the kind of welcome that sister must have received from the Lord Jesus Christ. I played the scene over and over. And I cried and cried.

With the stroke of a pen, so to speak, this precious lady had accomplished what none of us could accomplish were it not for the grace of God. Even though it were a matter of something that she probably had accomplished in a single day, yet this lady had joined the ranks of the Apostle Paul, who wrote,

“7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

For the believer, death is all about finishing the race that has been set in front of us in the Spirit. It is a matter of grasping the incredible grace that is available to every child of God, and putting it to good use.

[Home – our eternal home – calls]

A Sinner’s Worth

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Mat. 18:11-13

How much is a person’s life worth? The Bible says that God gave up ALL He had because He considered each sinner’s life worth that much. The Bible says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Our lives were worth all that God had. You cannot lay a price to such a revelation.

But it is the individual touch that speaks volumes about God’s compassion, mercy and grace.

Beyond the fact that God sent His only Son Jesus to come to die for us, the scripture we just read in Matthew 18 gives us an even more amazing description of the incredible worth that God attaches to a sinner. Two factors are revealed here. One is that God goes for the sinner as if he were the only person in the universe. The second, even more incredible thing is that God goes after that person Himself, personally.

I remember, many years ago, how one night the Lord came calling at my heart’s door. This is how it happened. I was in my final year at the university. But I was also a sinner of the most frightful sort. That night I was all alone in my room when all of a sudden I felt a deep, indescribable grief welling up in my heart. There was no preamble; just as suddenly it was there, and without a thought the tears began rolling from my eyes. The grief was so overwhelming that it shook me till I thought I would tear apart.

Having never experienced anything of the sort before, I thought it was a sickness. But it was past midnight and the dispensary would be closed! So I lay in my bed, sobbing uncontrollably, till morning.

In the morning, I felt all right again, so I did not bother to go to the dispensary.

Thereafter, every night after that, the Lord would come and stand in my room. And then He would softly call out to me. You appreciate, of course, that I did not know then that it was the Lord. I neither heard a Voice, nor did I see any Body. I did not even feel a Presence. In fact, having established that it was not an illness, I decided it was just a feeling, and I was convinced it would soon go away!

It was long after I got saved that I came to understand the surreal drama that had been unfolding in my room those many nights back then.

I cannot remember for how long this went on, but on countless nights until the semester ended, I would spend half the night (and sometimes the entire night) standing under the showers, crying my heart out. I would cry till the tears had completely dried from my tears. Even after I had stopped crying I would continue standing under the shower, savoring a strange kind of peace. I must have cost the university a neat bundle with the water bill!

When I went home for the vacation, the Lord made His final call. I had continued living my old sinful life, of course, since I had no way of knowing that the Lord had been calling. Then, one day a pastor and three young men passed by our home. They found me there all by myself, just as I was finalizing my ‘plans’ for the evening. I would never have guessed that that would be the end of the road for the Mwita that I was then; but it was. By the time these blessed men left our house an hour later, I was back in the Lord’s fold.

It happened so suddenly, and no other member of my family was even around.

To this day, I can never fathom what it was that drew the Lord to me. I cannot understand what it was that caused Him to come looking for me. However hard I look, I cannot find anything of worth in me that could have attracted the Lord to me. I can only accept His gift of faith which teaches that He did all that out of love. Not because there was anything good in me, nor because there was any ‘worthiness’ in me, no. Indeed, I am convinced (and the Bible affirms it) that it was because of my very unworthiness that He was so overcome with compassion and mercy that He decided to give me worth.

And He did not give me any old worth; He gave us – me and you – His very own worthiness! He gave us the best that He had, the best of the best!

I give my Lord and Savior praise and glory and honor and thanksgiving for the incomprehensible grace and mercy that He showed me then, and which He continues to show to me today. And there is also something more… My heart yearns with all its strength for such a heart of love and compassion as my Lord’s. A heart that can give the best that I have. A heart that can deal with an individual person as if he or she were the only person in the world.

In reality, this is a commandment. We are commanded by Jesus Himself to love people in that manner. It is an incredibly enormous responsibility we have been shouldered with, and we are hardly up to the task. We need to cry out to God for His grace in our lives.

If I had only one prayer to make, I would not ask for any other thing. I know exactly what I want from the Lord: that particular heart of love and compassion. Somehow, in my heart, I know that those are the only true riches, the only real treasure – and therein is the richest contentment.