“A Joyful Heart Is Good Medicine”

1 And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.

2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.

3 And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.

4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?

5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?

6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.

7 And he arose, and departed to his house. Mat. 9:1-7

Jesus’ first order of business is always the condition of our hearts. Always. The Lord is unchangeable about this. Even if you were to be brought to Jesus just about dead and desperately clawing for your last breathe in a gesture that commanded the highest levels of pity, still the Lord wouldn’t be half interested in your precious body as He would be with your heart.

I know of a man, a friend of mine, who was very rich in the early 1990s. He had the biggest hardware business in town, and when he visited the big cities he would travel by plane. And when he went to those cities he stayed in hotels with such names as the Hilton, Intercontinental and Serena. By any standards, the man was a very ‘big’ man.

One day, this man met the Lord Jesus Christ and he became born again. There are people who think that a rich person cannot get saved. But Jesus died for all men and, in any case, it is God who knows men’s hearts. You would never have known it then by the kind of lifestyle that he lived, but after he got saved, this man demonstrated the most humble heart you will ever find anywhere.

Soon after this man got born again, two revenue officers came to his office and they told him that he had a big backlog of taxes which he had to pay. They told him, however, that he could settle the accounts by giving them a fraction of the money.

The man told them he was now saved and that he was not willing to bribe them. At which they stiffened and intimated that they could slap him with even bigger taxes, legitimate or not, if he did not play along. The man did not flinch. He told them to list all the taxes that they wanted him to pay.

The next day, they came. When I say they came, I mean that they came to finish off our man. They felled on his table a demand note that amounted to all the money that he had. The man took the paper, looked at it, and he told them to wait for him at their office. He graciously walked them out his office door then he went straight to the bank where he withdrew all the money that was there. With this money he went and paid off his taxes to the last cent.

Afterwards, he went home and informed his wife what he had done. The next day, he opened his business as usual. The fact, though, was that he was preparing to close shop. His business could never again rise from the ashes. Not long afterwards, he actually closed down his business and went home.

When his wife, who was also saved, learned of what the man had done, she stumbled in her spirit. Her heart became resentful towards her husband. She became so bitter, in fact, that she suffered a physical disability. A nerve in her backbone ruptured, or something, and she began suffering excruciating pain in her back.

She went from one doctor to another, receiving treatment after treatment at great financial cost. But her back did not improve and the pain only worsened.

In the meantime, her husband bought a piece of land with the money he had left and he began cultivating vegetables. The woman’s condition only worsened with the descent of her husband’s fortunes and status.

One day, a prophet of God came to our church. During one of the services, he called the woman over and told her the exact condition of her heart. He told her even how it had affected her physical health and how God would only heal her if she let go of the bitterness in her heart.

Obviously, this was a big demand upon the dear sister, for she had completely closed her heart. But the man of God encouraged her by telling her that all she needed to do was to be willing to let go.

Finally, the woman acquiesced. She nodded her head to indicate a ‘Yes’. At which the man of God placed his hands upon her and prayed over her and God healed her instantaneously. It is now many years hence, and this woman has never again spoken of the pain in her back, just as the man of God said.

But the point here is that her physical disability had been caused by the bitterness in her heart. When she agreed to let the bitterness go, God intervened and healed her.

It is no secret, and even many doctors own up to the fact, that many serious ailments are a result of people’s difficult heart conditions. Bitterness and unforgiveness especially are big culprits in this regard. There is nothing any earthly doctor can do to heal such conditions. There is only one doctor who can heal a heart condition: Jesus Christ, who defeated death. A heart disease is a deathly disease, and Christ is the only one with the authority to heal this most deadly of diseases.

Epilogue: After a fit of starts and stops, the brother finally settled comfortably into his new farming career. Small-scale nonetheless, but the man was content with it. That was many years ago. I have been to his farm many times and his is the best-managed farm I have ever seen. Financial-wise, it is a dim shadow of his former glory in the hardware business. But the Lord blesses in many ways. After many years of hard work, this brother’s efforts came to the attention of the regional government. Today, he showcases the region’s agricultural prowess in nearly all their agricultural exhibitions.

The best news, however, is that his wife is happy and contented by his side and they are a precious couple to behold. They are a big blessing to the church and to the community as well.

Proverbs 17:22 says:

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

Defeating the Devil

26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

27 Neither give place to the devil. Eph. 4:26-27

This scripture is talking about anger and wrath. In the Swahili Bible, the word “wrath” is translated as “bitterness”.

Notice the scripture here warns us against “letting the sun go down upon your wrath”. That is not something we should take lightly. This is because the devil is mentioned right there. In fact, it says to not give place to the devil. That means the devil is pressing in against us. And the devil is not someone to tangle with. If we are weak, he will break into our lives – and destroy us!

If we “let the sun go down upon our wrath” we will lose the battle with the devil.

Anger and bitterness do not come out of the blue. They occur in our hearts when we have been offended, when we have been wronged in one way or another. But Jesus said, It is impossible but that offences will come…” (Lk. 17:1)

Notice Jesus’ use of language: It is impossible…” In other words, if offences do not come to challenge us, then we are outside of Jesus’ realm of operation! Of necessity, things will come to test our faith.

Now, if you tell me that you do not ever get angry, it will definitely be interesting to know who you are because even the Apostle Paul got angry (Acts 23:1-5)! We all come against situations that will make us angry, and sometimes bitter. The biggest challenge that we have as Christians is keeping our hearts pure when these offences come.

Let us take the example of the Christian who does not watch pornography, does not listen to worldly music, does not curse – indeed, someone who has kept themselves pure from the world. That is truly good and commendable in God’s sight.

But remember the devil is always looking for somewhere to latch a foothold in our lives. He will keep circling around us, looking for that “place”, or space.

My wife works as a nurse in a certain organisation in Dar es Salaam. I, on the other hand, live and work for our church in the town of Singida, 700 kilometers from my family. (Hopefully, by next year my family will have moved to join me in Singida, we are working on that.) That being the case, my wife and I get to see each other once in a blue moon.

Anyways, recently an opening occurred in the organisation where my wife works whereby some nurses were required to come to the very town that I am  in, to work for several weeks. My wife did not know about the mission – until the selection was done and the nurses were just about to leave!

Someone came to her desk and told her, “You were shortlisted for this project, but the manager vetoed against you going because she said she needed you here.” But this manager also knew (indeed, everyone within the organisation knew) that I was in Singida, and she knew  that this would have been as good an opportunity as any for my wife to be close to her husband!

And the lady who brought my wife the bad news added, “All of us who were involved in the selection process were very bitter when the manager crossed out your name. We all wanted you to go.”

My wife told me, “I knew it was a test of my heart, but God gave me grace. I stood steadfast. I told this lady it was okay and I went and bade my fellow workers goodbye with a good heart as they left. And I have not felt a tinge of bitterness in my heart.”

In other words, the devil wanted her to feel hurt, and to react.

I told my wife, “Flo, by keeping a pure heart in that situation, you have won a bigger victory in the Spirit than if you had come here. I am so happy you did not come.”

I felt a deep victory in my heart at the ‘loss’. I, too, did not feel any anger or bitterness at the manager. I am sure the Lord had prepared us long before against this attack of the enemy.

Much of the time, losing in the natural is the only way to gain in the Spirit. Sometimes, though, we are not so grace-full, and we are not ready to lose in the natural. Sometimes we lash out in anger or we harbor bitterness in our hearts, and when this happens we get robbed of the victory in the Spirit.

In such cases, we can chose to repent immediately, and regain our victory; or we can chose to “let the sun go down on our wrath” – and lose the battle. And when we lose the battle, the fruits are there. We begin ‘spreading the word’, an evil word. We want to tell people about our situation. We want to explain things. In extreme cases, we can even curse people, backbite – or even fight physically!

And when we arrive at such a place we suffer miserably at the hands of the enemy. Things like depression set in easily into our lives.

I am glad that God’s Word gives us the chance to not go through such a horrible experience.  We can easily walk in victory against the devil, 24/7, simply by guarding the purity of our hearts. This can only come about as we deliberately crucify the flesh and its lusts in our lives.

[Below: “My sister, guard your heart. And then the joy of the Lord shall fill you up!”]

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The Power of the Gospel

During my stay in Mauritius I was invited to a brother’s house for dinner, and I was struck by the deep love that the man of the house had: he wanted to know all about me and he went about it in the most gracious and considerate manner I had ever seen. He also wanted to share his story with me, and by the time he finished I had made a 180-degree turn in my perspective of this quiet, unassuming man. Below, with his permission, I have reproduced his story:

“My name is John Paul Pyndiah and I was born 54 years ago. In 1980 the Lord touched my heart and I got saved and joined a Pentecostal church here in Mauritius.  Reading through the Book of Acts, I was moved by the lifestyle that I saw in the early church – the unity, simplicity and love that existed in the Church then. I always desired to live that life. But things did not go like that. In the church I was in I could see each of us making an effort to live that life, but it was not real.

In 1989 I got married to a sister who was a member of the Christian Church (Eglise Chretienne) in Curepipe. At first it was okay, each one going to his/her own church. But for me this soon created a big problem. I expected my wife to follow me to my church, and this expectation brought problems in our marriage. In fact, I was praying constantly and expecting a miracle for my wife to join me in my church, and I stood on the Word of God which says that the husband is the head of the house and the wife ought to submit to him.

But things did not work out as I was praying and expecting, and my heart began to become bitter, broken and desperate, and I did not know what to do. One day, a pastor of Eglise Chretienne came to visit us and while I was sharing with him my hurt feelings, he simply asked me to seek the Lord and ask Him to give me an open heart so that I could see His plan for our lives.

I had never heard that kind of language before and it left me deeply mystified. I did not understand what he was trying to tell me. I was attending a church where they taught on prosperity, blessings, healings and miracles. The word ‘open heart’ was a new vocabulary to me and I did not understand it.

Sometime afterwards, the company I was working for sent me on a mission to the neighboring island of Rodrigues. It was then that a miracle happened. I was looking for a church to worship in and the first church I came across was a Eglise Chretienne church….

I went and met the pastor, who immediately invited me to his home. When I arrived there I was surprised to see the small house he was living in – a small 2-bedroom house. But what really astonished me was to see the great number of people who lived in that house. Altogether, there were 25 people living there – young, old, men and women, people of different backgrounds and all living together in peace and joy, sharing whatever they had together.

At that very moment, the Lord opened my eyes and I understood that He had answered my prayer. I had always prayed that the Lord would show me the kind of life that I read about in the Bible. When I saw what was going on in that pastor’s small house and realized it was real, I knew I had seen the reality of the gospel. It was so clear that I remember feeling as if scales had literally fallen from my eyes. I understood for the first time how the gospel had changed these people’s hearts and brought them together in unity and love just as in the Book of Acts.

At that very moment also, without further thought or deliberation, I made a decision to join my wife in her church, the Eglise Chretienne; and I have been there ever since. It is now 20 years since and I have never regretted the decision I took that day. On the contrary, I came to understand how great God’s love for me was and how He had opened a door through my marriage to bring me to understand the gospel of the Cross, the peculiar revelation that was delivered to the Apostle Paul. I realized that had been His desire for me all along.

Two years after my return from Rodrigues, my wife gave birth to a wonderful son. Today he is a born- again young man who fervently loves the Lord. I am happy he got saved under this gospel because in the world we are living in this gospel is my only assurance for his security. It is the only gospel that has the power to secure his life on a firm foundation which can withstand the pressures of today’s world.

In retrospect, I can see that even before I got the revelation of the Cross, I loved the Lord and my heart was sincere. But I did not have that revelation of what Christ had accomplished for me on the Cross, and how I was required to identify my life with that work of the Cross. I was therefore walking in defeat and I could not overcome the things of my flesh. But I witnessed a different lifestyle from my wife.

I thank God for revealing the Cross of Jesus in my heart. This is the gospel that the Apostle Paul calls the power of God. It is also the gospel that Paul himself submitted himself to, in order to crucify the flesh and walk in spiritual victory over the flesh and all the works of the devil. He says in Galatians 6: 14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.’”