“Things Which Are Not Seen” – Part 2

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Cor. 4:18

Let me pose you a question. What comparison would you, as a spiritual person, make between owning a 10 million-dollar mansion and someone whose dead bones brought a dead man back to life, in spite of the fact that, during his lifetime, this man whose dead bones brought the dead man back to life slept in “a little chamber… on the wall” whose only furnishings were “a table, and a stool, and a candlestick”? (2 Ki. 4:10)

If you are a person who only sees in the natural, I will bet that a 10 million-dollar house must sound very attractive to you.

What you don’t know you don’t know.

And what comparison, pray, could there possibly be between a man who could walk on water, as Jesus did, even though He had “nowhere to lay down” His head, and a preacher who sleeps on a million-dollar water bed?

Once again, I will bet that if you are a person who sees only in the natural, you would very much want to know how a million-dollar water bed feels like.

Finally, what similarity can we attach between a life simply lived in this world but full of eternal hope and a life richly lived down here but empty and fruitless in the Spirit?

When Hurricane Harvey hit the city of Houston, Texas, in August 2017, the most prosperous mega-church in America, which is located in Houston, closed its doors to the many desperate people who went knocking on its doors seeking for shelter from the floods. Not until it was shamed publicly did the church drag its doors open.

Imagine… unsaved people were opening their doors to the needy, and yet a church could not. That speaks of zero fruit of the Spirit. Luckily, that church preaches material prosperity and physical well-being. I am glad it does not preach spiritual well-being, otherwise it would have embarrassed God big time. Spiritual well-being involves coming to people’s help in time of need.

When we see in the Spirit, we despise not only the things of this world, but our own lives as well. We embrace the cross and crucify the flesh.

This great woman could have made Elisha a five-star hotel accomodation. But somehow she knew he would not need it. So instead she beseeched her husband:

“Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.”

I wonder who among today’s prophets would live in such an abode. Nearly all the ‘prophets’ that I know of today are competing for a spot on Forbes magazine. All you need to do is to Google any one of their names and scroll down to the column written “Net Worth”, and you will be blown away. They sport million-dollar mansions and cars.

Elisha had none of these, but he was full of the life of God! He was the compassionate Elisha who told his servant, Gehazi,

“Call this Shunammite.”

And when he had learned of her need he said to her:

“About this season… thou shall embrace a son.” (2 Ki.4:16)

This Elisha who slept in a room on the wall was the same Elisha whose bones brought to life a dead man (2 Ki. 13:21)! Elisha had been long dead; but the life of God refused to depart from his bones! The Spirit of God stayed by Elisha’s remains long after he had died! What better witness to a holy man of God.

The Bible commands us to look at the things that are not seen, not those that are seen. In other words, we are not to see in the natural, but in the Spirit!!

When we look at the things of the Spirit, we will live a powerful life of the Spirit. Our transformed lives will testify of the power of God.

What would you rather have? God is my witness. I would rather have the life of God in me as Elisha had rather than the finest trappings that this world could offer me.

[True men of God are deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of God’s people]

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“Things Which Are Not Seen” – Part 1

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Cor. 4:18

There is a big problem in the church today. The church does not see. It is blind in the Spirit. It does not see “the things which are not seen”. In fact, the church understands only the things that are seen; and it often scoffs at the things that are not seen…

A while ago, a friend of mine was preaching in our church and he said, “There is no worse impairment than the disability to see.”

He was talking about seeing in the Spirit.

Let us read 2 Kings 4:8-10.

8 And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. 9 And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. 10 Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.”

Notice,

“… an holy man of God”.

I just love that. That is what a true prophet of God ought to be. Holy. Not unholy.

Today we have prophets who are anything but holy. And they are not just unholy; they are sinning big time, to the extent that they are being arrested! They are being arrested for charges ranging from rape, to money laundering and everything in between. That includes your favorite prophet from down south. And please save me the nonsense that these fellows’ arrests are “persecution for the gospel’s sake”.

But notice here that Elisha was a holy man of God.

How, pray, do we prove that Elisha was a holy man of God? Is it because this woman said so?

The answer is yes. And why, pray, should we believe her testimony? It is on account of her character. The character of the Shunammite woman allows us the privilege to believe anything this woman said. When she says that Elisha was a holy man of God we believe that is what he was.

I love the story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman. It is one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible. It is the story of a pure, holy, loving relationship between a man and woman who were not husband and wife.

I love the way the Bible portrays this woman.

“a great woman”.

It was not the husband who was great. It was the woman. The Swahili Bible says that she was “a woman of position”. She was a noblewoman. But notice also how submissive this great woman was to her husband. When she decided that something needed to be done for the man of God, she beseeched her husband.

“Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.”

I just love that. You see, with God character is everything. The Bible says of our spiritual mother, Sarah:

“Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord…” (1 Pet.3:6)

And for this reason she is the mother of all who believe.

“… whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”

The humble spirit of both Sarah and this Shunammite woman is something every woman should emulate.

It is this same quality that makes us (and God) to believe the Shunammite when she says that Elisha was a holy man of God.

[Today’s ‘prophets’…]

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]

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Two Lovely People

8 And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.
9 And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.
10 Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.
11 And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.
12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.
13 And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.
14 And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.
15 And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.
16 And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.
17 And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life. 2 Ki. 4:8-17

In this and the next post I will be writing about two great women of faith. The Old Testament is filled with stories whose incandescent beauty is only surpassed by the glorious revelation of the Holy Spirit who walked in the midst of the experiences that we read there.

As with all scripture, the story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman is full to the brim. I do not know how many books it would take to uncover to any level of satisfaction the riches to be found in this scripture. In this post we will attempt to bare the tiniest glint off of this priceless treasure trove.

What a woman this Shunammite was; and what an incredible man of God Elisha was! In the Spirit, these two fitted together like a glove.

The Shunammite woman was a truly great woman on the earth, and at her death she became a great woman in heaven also. Not too many people can attain to such an achievement, for the Bible says that not many great earthly men will be great in the Kingdom of God.

One of the things we notice in this narrative is that the Shunammite woman welcomed the man of God into her house ‘with no strings attached’. She was self-less, and she loved the man of God for who he was, not for what she could gain from receiving him into her house.

Elisha, on the other hand, felt indebted to this woman for her generosity towards him, and he desired to do her some good in return. But even when he called for her and asked her what favour she would desire from him, she wanted nothing.

“I dwell among mine own people”, she told him. Which meant that she did not have any problem for which she needed his intervention. More to the point, she implied that she was contented with her life.

But this Shunammite woman had a secret need buried deep within her heart. Actually, this need was greater than anything that Elisha had alluded to. This need comprised of the fact that the Shunammite had no child. Moreover, her husband was old, and their hopes of bearing a child had grown dim, if not entirely gone. The Shunammite would not think of burdening the servant of God with such an impossible wish. She therefore refrained from telling him.

Apparently, Elisha had not noticed that his benefactor had no child. But his servant Gehazi had noticed. When Elisha therefore pressed Gehazi for what they could for the woman in return, Gehazi told Elisha, “I know what this woman’s real need is. She has no child, and her husband is now old.”

Immediately Elisha heard that, he knew what he needed to do. He sent for the Shunammite woman again and when she came he told her,

“About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son.”

Her reaction tells us that this was her greatest need in life. In the classic manner of reactive disbelief she told the man of God:

“Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.”

But it came to pass just as Elisha the man of God had said. The woman conceived and, at the time that Elisha had appointed for her, she gave birth to a baby boy.

So what lessons can we learn from this story?

There are many, but the most obvious one is that God will reward us when we bless others selflessly. This woman blessed the servant of God, Elisha, and God blessed her in return. It happened to her exactly as Jesus Himself said,

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Secondly, notice that the Shunammite woman did not go seeking for her blessing. On the contrary, of her own free will and out of her good heart she patiently served God by serving His servant. And it was that God saw it and, in His own time He met her most desperate need in life.

The Shunammite’s heart was filled with giving.

There are people searching for answers to their problems, but they are going about it the wrong way. They do not have the patience of this woman. Were they spiritual people, they would simply serve God and await His deliverance. There is only one way to test God: it is by serving Him, and serving Him wholeheartedly.

Notice also that Elisha tested the woman by asking whether he could intervene on her behalf in very mundane matters.

“If someone has taken your piece of land”, Elisha told the woman (paraphrased), “I could talk to the king and he could help you get it back.”

Today, many people regard men of God as the fairy with the magic wand in their lives. They regard them as the solution to all their earthly problems. This is the reason for most of the long prayer lines you see in many churches. Many people go to church to have their problems prayed for, not to be edified or to learn to love God in the Spirit. There are many people who are believers, not for spiritual reasons, but for earthly, material ones.

But the Shunammite woman was contented with her lot in life.

Thirdly, we learn an important lesson from Elisha himself. In the first place, the way Elisha conducted himself in the Shunammite woman’s house was exemplary. So much so that the woman told her husband,

“Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.”

In other words, the more Elisha passed by, the more she came to realize that this was a holy man of God. I do not think she would have noticed that if Elisha had conducted himself in a disorderly manner.

Unfortunately, it is not so with many preachers of the gospel today. Stories abound of the carriers of the Good News that would make your skin crawl with dread. Today, there are fewer and fewer men of God who are true examples of a Godly, holy life. I know of a certain ‘prophet’ who lodged in a pastor’s house for a time, and he ended up demanding that the ‘spirit’ had told him move into the pastor’s bedroom and the pastor to move out. Unfortunately, the pastor complied. It took a public outcry to reverse the situation; but the damage had already been done.

Lastly, and of equal importance is the fact that men of God ought to be able to sow spiritual things into the lives of God’s people and in that way bring the great blessing of the Spirit into the church.

In Romans 15:27 the Apostle Paul says:

“… their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.”

Elsewhere he tells the Corinthians:

“If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” 1 Cor. 9:11

Notice Paul is not talking of mere preaching of God’s Word. Rather, he is talking about God’s ministers investing in the Spirit into the lives of God’s people. The price that one has to pay for such an undertaking is that he has to die to self. He has to lay down his life for the sake of God’s sheep.

[This morning I woke up with this song on my heart. And I cannot help myself just watching everyone who is in this video!!]

What’s Important?

Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.

And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. 2 Ki. 4:1-2

Everything appears dark in this account, but I see only light.

In the first place, I admire this woman. She could say of her husband, “thy servant did fear the LORD”. There could be no greater testimony to the piety of this man of God than such words coming from his wife. (Now, right here and as an aside, let me point out that today there are people who will publicly talk well of their spouses but, alas! it is only that – a publicity stunt! This was not the case with this woman.)

Back to our man. This poor servant of God died poor. He died leaving nothing in his house “save a pot of oil”! On top of that, he died in debt. And the creditor was coming to sell his two sons to regain his money!

We can’t begin to imagine the anguish of heart that this man must have gone to the grave bearing for the life of deprivation that he knew he had left his family with!

Well, the man died poor all right, but I like what his wife tells Elisha about him: “thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD”.  This meant that even Elisha knew and could testify about the God-fearing life of this man. I like that. I like the fact that this man died fearing the Lord. That clicks with me. I am sure that was enough for God, too. This man was a great man in the sight of the Lord. I can easily tell you what happened to him when he died. He was immediately ushered into the presence of his Master where he was warmly told (by God Himself), “Come and sit by my side, thou good and faithful servant!”

Actually, the important thing in all this is that this man lived a God-fearing life. His state of need in this world did not lessen his piousness in the sight of God. You know, people today are trying to convince you that possessing material wealth is the sure marker that God is with you. They tell you that you will not borrow, but you will lend. In a rather hush-hush manner, poverty is now officially on the list of church ‘sins’ today. As a result of these damaging hyper-beliefs Christians are visibly struggling to keep up with the Joneses. They do not want to appear they are not blessed. What a futile race!

But here we see a righteous man who died not only poor, but in debt. This was a man who was running a different race. In his deep poverty, he could actually serve God in true liberty!

I don’t care one little bit about all the teachings about how wrong it is to be poor and in need, or even to be in debt. All I care about is that this man died in the fear of the Lord. I think I like it that way far much better than if he died rich. It beats all the pride and arrogance out of anyone, particularly those who put their trust in worldly wealth.

And actually, with regard to this, some people are completely out of touch with reality. I think they need to get out of their mansions and move around a bit. There are people in my part of the world who live in such abject poverty that all these stories about prosperity are so much confetti to them. These people live by faith. They literally trust in God for their very next meal. But in their state of want they are serving God in the Spirit. Someone who lives in ‘cloud nine’ or wherever, filled to the brim with the fat of this world, will turn over in their soft beds and claim, “I thank you, God, because I am not like these fellows who have no faith.”

But I can assure you that they have faith. The fact that this man died poor and in debt but walking in the fear of the Lord makes the point that money or worldly riches is nothing in God’s Kingdom. Money is not what comprises serving the Lord.

Someone almost had us there! Are you safe?

I can answer that question for you. It all depends on the gospel you are hearing. When you are hearing the right gospel, you will know what is important with God. True prosperity is the fear of God that a man carries in his heart.

By the way, do you see any signs of the cross in the life of this humble man of God?