The past will always come back to haunt us, and it is very powerful. That is why there are many evil people who, in the fading years of their lives, commit suicide. It is because they cannot bear to look back at the evil they did when they had the choice – and strength – to do good. When you have the strength to do good, do good, and do it now. That is the only true investment that you can put up, not just in God’s heavenly Kingdom, but for your twilight years here on earth. The good you do now will be the reward of beautiful memories that you will reap in your fading years. You cannot afford those bad memories: in your twilight years, they will kill you.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil… Mat. 6:13
The world is an incredibly evil place. People undergo all sorts of tragedies every day, perpetrated upon them either by fellow men or by nature. Every day an incredibly large number of people suffer unspeakable horror and suffering the likes of which many of us would never dream of. But for we believers, the threat is double-edged: the devil would love to see us not just suffer in our bodies; but, even more importantly to him, he would absolutely love it for us to become lost spiritually. It is my firm conviction that the devil would even be willing to forgo harming us physically if that action would lead to our spiritual downfall. For this reason, therefore, the real place we should keep our eyes peeled really hard is in the spiritual realm. We should not be deceived when calamities and other forms of suffering appear to be visiting other people and not us. In the spirit, Satan is as close to us as our skin. That is why the Bible says in 1 Peter 5:8:
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…”
Satan is a relentless foe. The Bible likens him to a roaring lion who is walking about, seeking someone to devour.
This is why Jesus’ words in this prayer are so important. That God can – and does – deliver us from such an enemy is such a grace.
One time a brother was describing to me how the Lord delivered him from the sin of adultery. This man was an army man and on this particular occasion, he had agreed to rendezvous with a strange woman in a certain location. It was his first time to attempt such a thing and he expected it would go smoothly.
But when the woman arrived, she was dressed from head to toe in a black hijab, the traditional garb for Muslim women here. The man had never seen this woman dressed in such clothes before and when he saw her, his heart was struck with mortal fear. He got so scared that he ran away. Literally. The minute he realized it was her he quickly walked away from the scene and left the woman standing there alone. In our country, many women wear hijabs and this brother told me he could never comprehend why he got so scared of this particular woman.
When I heard that I said to him, “Brother, that was not ordinary fear. That was the Lord. The Lord personally appeared to you and rebuked that sin in the Spirit and His rebuke was what caused that fear in you.”
The Lord works over-time to protect and preserve us against the many different forms of attacks from the devil. We should be constantly praising and thanking God for this inexpressible gift.
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. 1 Pet. 2:18-25
The believer’s worst nightmare is to find him or her defending himself in time of suffering, and particularly when it is wrongful suffering. The most terrifying thing that can happen to a believer is not to meet the devil face to face. On the contrary, it is to find him/herself unable to humble himself as God requires him/her to do. This is the worst thing that a believer can experience.
The key verse in the passage above is v. 19:
“For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.”
Notice the words:
– “conscience toward God”
– “suffering wrongfully”.
We are to take wrongful suffering patiently. That is God’s will for us as His children. There are people who teach that believers should not pass through an iota of trouble. That is not what the Bible says. Such a gospel is from the devil.
What exactly does it mean to “endure grief, suffering wrongfully.”? It means not to seek to set matters right when we are being persecuted wrongfully. It means not to react bitterly when wrongfully attacked, and not to seek vengeance. There are many believers who have a vengeance mentality. They walk about with thoughts of revenge for real and imagined wrongs. In every situation they want their pound of flesh.
But notice in this passage of scripture that it is when we take wrongful suffering “patiently” that we become “acceptable with God”. “Acceptable to God” means pleasing God by doing His will. It means becoming His children, real time, because it is the nature of God to endure suffering and thus to defeat evil with good. It is when we bless, instead of cursing in contrary situations, that we find ourselves doing God’s will. It is when, from our hearts, we do well to our persecutors, and do not repay evil for evil.
We are to seek to do well and to respond positively in the most contrary situations.
When they came to arrest Jesus, the Bible says that Peter took out his sword and cut off one of the Chief Priest’s servant’s ear. Peter’s heart was bitter – and faithless. But Jesus’ heart was different from Peter’s. In the first place, Jesus had no element of bitterness or vengeance in Him. Secondly, His heart was filled with kindness and mercy. And so, even as He knew the sufferings that these soldiers would put Him through, yet Jesus could only bless and do them well. He took the servant’s ear and put it back. He even took the trouble to inform us that the servant’s name was Malchus. Jesus made Malchus one of His special friends! Jesus loved those men!!
Then, after they had tortured and crucified Him, as He died on the cross, He could only think of blessing them. He said,
“… Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Lk. 23:34
Jesus was a Man who was acceptable to God. That means He pleased God highly.
But when we begin bad-mouthing our persecutors or murmuring about our wrongful sufferings or bad situations, or entertaining thoughts of vengeance, God is not pleased at all. The reason is that these attitudes are of the flesh. It is the flesh that likes defending itself. God does not defend Himself. On the contrary, He gives out His life. The Bible states of Jesus:
“24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” (v. 24-25)
Jesus did not defend Himself when He was wrongly accused and persecuted to death. He willingly gave away His life that we might live.
Jesus did not carry any grudges against anyone. We are always carrying grudges, one way or another. But Jesus did not do that. Instead, the Bible says, Jesus “committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (v.23).
That means there was peace in His heart even as His rights were being taken away from Him. There was no grumbling or murmurings from Him. From the bottom of His heart, Jesus would not lift a finger to defend Himself. Instead, praise and thanksgiving flowed from Him towards God. And a good heart towards His enemies. Everything that Jesus did was acceptable with God.
I thank God that He has allowed me to live to see these truths. During the course of my life, I have fought and fought – for my rights. But God is not pleased with such attitudes because they are of the flesh, and carnal. I have discovered, much to my distress, that there is no worse place to be than when you are not pleasing God.
I cannot please God because I am Zakaria Mwita. God is not pleased with names or personalities. I cannot please God because people call me “Man of God”. I can only please God by doing His will. It is my prayer that God will give me the grace to never open my mouth or do anything to defend myself when I am suffering wrongfully. That is the time of my testing, and I can only do only ONE thing to pass that test: to carry a good heart.
[Below: A boon: The new face of public transportation in Dar es Salaam City]
35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Lk. 6:35
The keyword in this portion of scripture is “nothing”.
Jesus wants us to have the kind of heart that He had when He was here on earth. It is soft, gentle, forbearing, patient, forgiving and extremely loving. When you have the heart that Jesus had you can do the things that Jesus commanded us to do – a feat which is impossible otherwise.
Because of the heart that He had, Jesus could boldly address the difficult things that are involved in our human relationships. Today, we will look at two of the issues that He talked about: doing good and lending. Jesus said, “… do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again”.
Notice Jesus did not just say, “do good, and lend”. That is hard enough. But Jesus added: “… hoping for nothing again”.
Since the language used in the English translation here may not very clear, let us turn to another rendition . The Swahili Bible says: “… don’t expect to be repaid by the one you have lended to”.
Now, how about that? On the face of it, lending might appear to be a non-issue. You lend me, I repay you, deal. But the hard truth is that in the lending/borrowing schema, the one who lends often feels that they have a certain ‘right’ over the person they are lending to. They can even feel patronising, and bullish. There is a certain power attached to our ability to lend.
But, according to Jesus’ words here, that feeling of control is not the biggest challenge. The greatest trial for the one who lends is what Jesus talked of here: “… do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again”.
We hardly think about it, but the minute we lend to someone, we subconsciously wait for them to repay us. It is the same when we do a good deed. We expect appreciation at the very least and, ultimately, repayment of the good deed that we did.
But Jesus said, “Do good and lend, and do not expect to be paid back”.
The Bible says that then, “ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”
In other words, in order for us to become children of God, we must lose. That talks of a really, really big heart. There are believers who have a big of everything – except their hearts. There are believers, for example, who call themselves the King’s Kids; and they live a particular kind of lifestyle. But to be a true child of God, you will need to do more than wear the latest fashion jeans and live the high life “in the name of Jesus”.
To be a true child of God, you will need to have the kind of big heart that Jesus had. The true child of God is the one who can do good to everyone – friend, foe, and everyone in between – and expect nothing in return.
The true child of God is the one who can lend, and consider it as if he has given, not lended. He is thinking, “That guy had a need”.
God’s love in us knows no bounds. It is as endless as the universe is endless. We only need lay down our lives on the altar, and we will discover that love in us.
[There are two major bus stands in Mwanza City: the one for south-bound buses and, here, the north-bound one]
(1 Samuel chapter 30)
Some people think that David became king of Israel because he could play the harp. No, sir. The reason David became king of Israel is because he had a certain kind of heart which we all need to have if we are to be kings and priests in the Kingdom of God.
The background to this story is that the Amalekites had come and attacked David’s town of Siklag, burning it to the ground and taking all the people (mainly women and children) while David and his men were away. But God gave David and his men direction, courage and strength and they followed after the Amalekites to rescue their people. But the Amalekites had had a 3-day start and this meant that David and his men had to move fast – too fast, in fact, that some men fainted by the way. When they arrived at a stream called Besor, two hundred men were unable to cross over, and David and some four hundred of his men who were able to move on had to leave these here, no doubt guarding any excess luggage.
David and his men caught up with the Amalekites and the Lord gave them a sounding victory over them. It appears the Amalekites were a very large number because the Bible says that “16 …. behold, they were spread abroad upon all the earth… And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels, and fled.” 1 Sam. 30:16-17
Thus David rescued all his people and he recovered everything the Amalekites had stolen. But the Amalekites had also raided other cities and they therefore had an enormous amount of booty. All of this David and his men recovered also from them.
When David came back to the men whom he had left at the brook Besor, the Bible says that these men “went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him: and when David came near to the people, he saluted them.” (v. 21)
David saluted them. I love that. He said, “Howdy, guys! How have you been?” I can see the warm smile on his face at finding his men safe, well and no doubt refreshed.
But, unfortunately, there were amongst the men who had gone with David to war “wicked men and men of Belial” (meaning men of Satan), who were against the 200 who had remained behind being given any of the spoils “save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart.”
I cannot even begin to contemplate the utter helplessness and futility that the men to whom these words were directed felt. Those words must have been like knives cutting into their intestines. And it would have been doubly so, coming from their comrades-in-arms.
I thank God for men like David.
Now, if you are in church and you have such an attitude towards your fellow brethren as these men had, then the Bible straightaway calls you a wicked person and a son (or daughter) of the devil. That’s quite a rotten heart, anyway.
And while I am at it, may I point out that too many Christians today are trying to escape responsibility by playing the judgement card. If you say something they feel they are not comfortable with, they say, “Don’t be judgemental!” or “Don’t condemn!”
If someone is judging or condemning me, that’s their problem with God. On my part, it would be of far greater profit to me if I were to take their ‘judgement’ as a challenge.
But let us get back to David. When David heard these wicked men’s words, you would think that since they had played such a big part in the rescue mission David would hearken to them or try to hold some sort of council meeting with them.
But David promptly shot down the idea. But, even more importantly, it is the fashion in which he ‘killed’ that idea that is of interest to us here. “Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand.” (v. 23)
David did not say, “OK, guys, I know you’ve worked your knuckles off…”, no! In no way would David allow himself, nor those with him, to lose sight of the One who had given them the victory. He gave all the credit for the success of the mission to God.
There and then David declared that the spoils would be divided equally among those who had gone to battle and those who had remained behind.
And, the Bible says, “ it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day.” (v.25)
If you can’t say “Amen!” to that you aren’t far from the grave.
When we get to know the righteousness of God, we arrive at the foundation of fulfilling God’s law in our lives. In the first place we are so humbled we consider ourselves as nothing. Secondly, we put God on the pedestal of our lives and since we are no longer there (we are dead to ourselves) we consider all that we have accomplished as not accomplished by us, but by Him.
Lastly, of course, we acknowledge that we are no different from those who have done lesser than we, or even those who have done nothing. I believe this is the greatest challenge facing many of the “self-made” Christians we see today. I personally won’t go as far as calling anyone “wicked men and men of Belial” here, but the Bible does so, and those words are certainly a shot across the bows of anyone who harbors pride and self-righteousness in their hearts.
When we are walking in the righteousness of God, we humbly acknowledge that He who accomplishes things in us is the same who fails to accomplish them in others. Human logic is thrown out the window here; you cannot say, “Oh, because I did this I deserve that!” Sometimes the reward will go to the one who did nothing. For God’s ways – and judgements – are unsearchable.
The Apostle Paul says, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” Rom. 11:33
[Below: Each one has a part to play in church; none is more important than the other.]
Sometimes with the current distressing situations like the recent kidnapping of school girls by the Boko Haram in Nigeria, one finds it difficult for one’s thoughts – or heart – to focus. This kidnapping is no less an atrocity than all the other injustices going on in the world, but its scale and magnitude make it particularly horrendous.
And yet this and other such acts of barbarism remind us exactly the world we are living in – “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4) – and our responsibility becomes all the greater. We live in an evil world indeed, and that’s all the more reason to “put on the Lord Jesus” fully. Somehow, one way or another, these things demand our attention and action for we are the light of the world.
If we can do nothing else, at the very least we can pray and trust God for the safe return of these girls to their families, and in the meantime that He may protect them from the evil purposes of their captors.
Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it. Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone. He setteth an end to darkness, and searcheth out all perfection: the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death. The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant; even the waters forgotten of the foot: they are dried up, they are gone away from men. As for the earth, out of it cometh bread: and under it is turned up as it were fire. The stones of it are the place of sapphires: and it hath dust of gold. There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen: the lion’s whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it. He putteth forth his hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots. He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing. He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light.
But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire. The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies. The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold. Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air. Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears. God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; to make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure. When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder: then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out. And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. Job 28:1-28
When I was in secondary school, there was a boy (whom I shall call Hercules) who was a few years my senior, probably two classes or so. This boy was, quite simply, a phenomenon. He was involved in virtually every field activity; and he outshone everyone in whatever he chose to do. I remember in particular that he was the all-time best hockey player and best swimmer at school. He excelled in every swimming style: backstroke, butterfly, breast.
During one of our school dormitorial swimming contests I was chosen to represent my dorm against other contestants, one of whom was Mr. Hercules. It is a mistake my dorm leaders must still be mulling over, 3 decades on.
The guy must have hit the water before I even heard the whistle. The rest, as they say, is history. By the time I finished the race, he could have gone to the Hilton downtown, had his lunch and walked back.
“Life’s not fair!” says the graceless Scar in Disney’s ‘The Lion King’. Hercules was built to bring much more misery to us. One can be athletic without necessarily having an athletic body, right? But it was not so with Hercules. He had the most athletic body that I can recall even to date. Broad, powerful shoulders, a muscle-ribbed torso, powerful legs, the works. You did everything you could to avoid being found anywhere near this sensation of a man.
Naturally, Hercules was also one of the top school prefects. It seemed life revolved only around him.
Now, you would think that if there was a God (something I was taught to believe since I was a child), He would have mercy on us poor ungifted souls and put a brake on things right there. We thought things could not possibly get worse, but they did. This time God did not simply turn the handle a notch higher; He sent it hurtling into space. A disaster of Herculean proportions was in the making and none of us boys had the slightest hint of it until the day it hit us like a tornado. This one must have affected the entire student body…
Apart from his many other superior virtues Hercules was also extremely handsome. This, however, was not too much of a problem since we had no girls to compete for in our school. But all this was about to change and, unknown to any of us, Hercules’ good looks would provide the coup de grace that would wipe out the last vestiges of life in us.
What happened was that one of our teachers decided to bring in his family from England; and one of his children was a girl. She was a girl of extreme beauty.
I know it is not true, but sometimes it is the most difficult thing to not believe that God is unfair. There were hundreds of boys in that school, but this girl fell in love head over heels with… Hercules! No boy was allowed to have a girlfriend but somehow, every evening after school, the girl’s dad would allow Hercules to walk the girl around school in full sight of everyone. Sometimes one did not know what was more bearable – to have them safely in your sights as they walked hand-in-hand or to see them disappear around a corner and not know whether a secret kiss or a whisper was passed from one to the other!
The rest of us were, in a word, dead. We were the walking dead. It was more than we could take. But the situation was beyond our reach and there was nothing we could do about it. We concentrated on our studies as best we could and it was with a sigh of relief that I personally saw Hercules wearing a graduation gown and knew that that was the last I would ever be seeing of him.
The thought never crossed my mind that he might be coming back to check on his English sweetheart. God at last remembered us and did not allow that to happen, otherwise a considerable number of us might have become nervous wrecks!
I cannot remember for sure but if I ever had Hercules in mind during any prayer that I made (assuming I did pray) there was no doubt as to the kind of prayer that I would have had for him. It would have to do with asking whoever was in charge to send a bolt of lightning to strike the fellow dead.
After I left that school I joined a gym to try and get Hercules’ chest and shoulders, but it never worked. I would lift irons but no muscle developed. Only my sinews got tougher. So I resigned.
With time I forgot my race of life against Hercules and moved on…