Loving Jesus, Loving His Church – Part 1

And he is the head of the body, the church… Col. 1:18

Many years ago, when I was living in Musoma, a young man I knew was given the job of preparing a small piece of farm land down by the lake (Musoma is a port town situated on the shore of Lake Victoria). As he was digging up the earth, suddenly the hoe hit against a polythene bag that had been buried under the earth. The young man gingerly pulled up the bag and, as he did so, all the alarm bells in his body began ringing. He had the horrid feeling that the contents of that bag were not something he would want to see. But curiosity killed the cat, as they say. The mouth of the bag was tied with a thin, tight rope and, very cautiously, the boy began untying it. Upon peeping inside he saw what looked like the beginnings of human hair; and he did not wait to see the rest. He already knew what it was: it was a human head.

He dropped the bag and blazed a trail from that farm that would have been hard to erase. He ran as if the devil himself was after him.

I suspect none of us would have responded differently had we been in the same situation. Encountering a body-less head, or a headless body, would be an terrifyingly unspeakable nightmare for any normal human being.

If that is the case in the natural, should it not be much more so in the Spirit? Should it not be the scariest thing in the Spirit when we split up Jesus from His Body, the church? But, unbeknown to many, that is exactly what many believers are doing. And more terrifying is the fact that no one seems horrified by this attitude on the part of Christian believers. It appears as if it is the most normal state of affairs!

But we need to understand that the church is the apple of God’s eye. God looks upon nothing but the church. That is where His heart is. Just as a parent’s heart is on their child, God’s heart is on His church. That was why Jesus said,

“5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. 6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! 8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. 10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” (Mat. 18:5-11)

Jesus was talking of the church. The church is God’s “little ones”. You cannot destroy someone who has been washed by the blood of Jesus and get away with it.

But destroying the lives of God’s people is exactly what we do when we have no revelation that we need to lay down our lives. But, as we shall see in the second part of this post, preachers have taken it to an entirely new level.

Jesus told Peter,

“Feed my lambs” (Jn. 21:15)

“My lambs” was Jesus’s affectionate reference to His church.

Everyone is loudly declaring how much they love Jesus. You just go to any worship or prayer meeting and you will hear people emotionally telling Jesus how they love Him. But few can pay the price for the words they say, for the price of saying we love Jesus is to love God’s people with sacrificial love. God’s love demands that we lay down our lives for one another. Indeed, God’s love is the love that looks out for the spiritual wellbeing of your brother/sister-in-Christ.

You can easily gauge how much you love Jesus by measuring how well, especially, you wish God’s people in their spirits (3 Jn. 1:2).

Unfortunately, this kind of loving is one of the most difficult for most believers to do. This is clear from the fact that there are so many divisions within the church! There are inter-personal divisions: husband vs wife; parent vs child; brother vs brother, etc. There are social divisions: the rich are divided against the poor; the educated are ganged up against the illiterate; the Africans are gossiping against the whites; etc.

I believe with all my heart that God’s people first need to stop telling Jesus they love Him. When you tell Jesus that you love Him while you do not love the church, it is as if you were addressing a head which has no body. It is as if you are talking to the head and telling it, “I love you, head, alone, but not the body you are on. Cut yourself off that body and I will love you even more.”

Strange language indeed. This is the sort of thing that can only happen in voodoo. In voodoo they do these kinds of things.

But loving Jesus means loving our earthly brothers and sisters. The Apostle Peter tried to dodge the bullet, but Jesus would not allow it.

Jesus asked Peter,

“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”

Simon Peter answered,

“Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”

Jesus then told him,

“Feed my sheep.” (Jn. 21:16)

In other words, If you love me, give your life for my sheep!

Do we love the Lord?

In Part Two we will talk about the worst culprit of them all, the modern-day preachers.

[The price for loving the Lord is loving His church.]

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Abigail’s Beauty – Part 1

Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb. 1 Sam. 25:3

I am going to put out a rambling post here but, amidst the ramblings, there is a concrete gem, a gem that I will try to pry free from the general ramblings. The gem encased in these ramblings is a gem of priceless worth. The subject is centered on the heart, the human heart. The heart we are talking of here is not the organ that circulates blood in our bodies, no. We are talking of the other heart, the spirit of a man.

As a man is, so is his heart. Your character cannot exceed what your heart carries. In other words, your character can do no more than reflect your heart. The intentions of your heart will come through in your character. As a man is, so is his heart.

Was Abigail a physically attractive woman or was she not? I am sure she was. But that is not what the Bible is talking about here. When the Bible says that Abigail was “of a beautiful countenance” it is not talking about her physical beauty. At no one time has God ever been concerned with anyone’s physical beauty. God created both what we call “beautiful” and what we call “ugly”; and He saw it was good. Both are His, and He values them equally. At any rate, even the world itself has something that puts a balance between the so-called ugly and the beautiful. It is the saying that “beauty is in the beholder’s eye”. What you consider ugly someone else calls beautiful.

But, praise the Lord, none of this is of concern to us here. God is Spirit.

On the contrary, when the Bible talks here of Abigail’s beauty, it is talking about her heart. God told the Prophet Samuel:

“…for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)

Nowhere in the Bible is it written that God said later, “Sorry, I recall I said a while back that I look on the heart, but let it be known that once in a while I look also on man’s outward appearance.” When God says something, He does not come back and add to or try to take back a little bit of what He has said.

God does not, has never, and will never look at or talk of anyone’s outward appearance. God is not moved by physical appearances or outward manifestations.

But that’s not us! (And here I am deliberately digressing, for I love these kinds of challenges that the Bible throws at us). Oh yes. The natural man is easily drawn to outward beauty. We have a big problem there. The charismatic gospel in particular has given room to physical, material and outward expressions of “Godliness”.

But we are called to be spiritual, and the spiritual man is not drawn to outward appearances or beauty. He is dead to that.

[So many different hearts in this photo; but Jesus would want them all to be identical in beauty]

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Prayer, Faith, And Obedience – Part 1

15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.

16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.

17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.

18 He said, Bring them hither to me.

19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children. Mat. 14:15-21

There is no denying that feeding “five thousand men, beside women and children” with five loaves of bread and two fishes was an incalculably extraordinary miracle. I haven’t heard of such a feat lately; and by lately I mean the fifty or so years that I have been about on this earth. This post endeavors to explore the factors that led Jesus to perform such an incredible miracle.

Not too long ago, a lady from one of our churches paid me a visit, and she had a heavy burden on her heart. Her son, she explained, had come out of college more than two years ago and he had yet to find any form of employment. The young man had therefore resorted to offering tutorials to local students for a fee just to earn a living.

I asked the lady, “Madam, have you tried prayer?”

To which she replied, “Er, yes, but…”

“I mean, the prayer of faith”, I corrected her.

It didn’t take me long to realize that she had spent more time worrying than praying. I therefore took time to speak with her, and I read to her the above scripture in Matthew 15. And it is the gist of my conversation with this lady that I wish to share with my readers here.

Just before I get into what I told this lady, though, I cannot, upon re-reading the above verses, but convey my deep admiration for our Lord Jesus Christ. Though Jesus was capable of doing so, He did not perform great miracles just because He was able to. He did not do anything on a whim, or to impress the crowds. On the contrary, Jesus did everything in perfect accordance with His Father’s will. In other words, Jesus obeyed His Father. God does not do things just to dazzle crowds. On the contrary, He does things according to His Master Plan in the Spirit. His plan and purpose in the Spirit supersedes anything that we might do, and our obedience to that is of supremest importance in our relationship with Him. That is why, in 1 Samuel 15:22, the Lord says,

“Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

Which brings out the fact that not every miracle work – indeed, not every work of ministry – is an indication of its worker’s obedience to the Lord. We as children of God need to get that right, because we have a penchant for cheering at every flash of light. But to obey the Lord is of far greater importance than working of miracles.

Anyways, back to our lady.

The Lord gave me a revelation and I told the lady, “When scripture here says that Jesus ‘blessed’ the bread and fish, that word ‘blessed’ there means He prayed. The Lord prayed for the food to be multiplied and, after He prayed, a miracle of momentous proportions took place. Jesus did not take the fish and bread and throw them at the crowd expecting a miracle to happen. In other words, the miracle that day did not just happen. It happened because Jesus prayed.”

Prayer works. There is so much teaching in the Bible about prayer – and these are all teachings that we can take at face value. The Lord Jesus said,

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Mat. 7:7)

But He did not just end there. No. He girded that instruction with a promise:

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (v. 8)

I know from personal experience that prayer works. There are things I have prayed to the Lord for, both in my personal life and in my ministry, which I have seen the Lord, clear as day, answer. Every one of them.

The Lord said, “Ask”! After you have asked, you can go on to knock; and to seek. Many of the things that trouble our hearts we do not even need to knock or seek for; we only need to ask. They are the things of this material life.

I love what the songwriter wrote: “Is there trouble anywhere? Take it to the Lord in prayer.”

Is there trouble anywhere? Is there a  need anywhere? Take it to the Lord in prayer. A simple prayer: “Lord, here is my need. Please provide.”

And move on in your spiritual life in faith, expecting. There is no earthly need that the Lord cannot, or will not, meet for His children.

A Man; And Money

1 For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you:

2 For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.

3 Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready:

4 Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.

5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.

6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.

10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)

11 Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

12 For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;

13 Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;

14 And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.

15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. 2 Cor. 9:1-15

Today’s is a rather long post. I felt I should not cut it up into 2 or 3 parts but bring it up as a whole. So, belt up!

Notice also that the title of this post is “A Man; And Money”, not “A Man And His Money”. That is important for our understanding of what I want to share here.

I write a lot about money in this blog. Now, I will not say that the reason for this is because I do not love money… or that I do. I will not say anything about that here.

Aside from money, though, my readers will concur that I also write a lot about the Apostle Paul. But what could possibly be the connection between Paul and money?

Brother Miki Hardy, the head of our umbrella church organisation, CTMI (www.ctmi.org) once called a meeting of pastors, both from the islands and from the African mainland. He told them, “Go tell your churches that we need only two things: we need a man; and we need money.”

I was not in that meeting, but when I heard that statement, in my spirit I knew exactly what Brother Miki was speaking about.

A man, not men. Getting that rare man who can fully carry the purpose of God in their hearts is no mean task, even for God Himself. The flesh, unfortunately, is a big barrier for many of God’s servants. The flesh is our most intractable enemy. That is why we can talk so loftily of the Apostle Paul. Through his ministry, Paul was able to set the standard of how a servant of God ought to be: his character, life and ministry. To arrive at this goal, Paul denied himself and gave himself fully to the call of God. He allowed God to mould him to fit His plan. Unfortunately, too many of God’s servants do not have Paul’s vision or heart. And, in our generation, God is still looking. He is looking for a man.

The case for a man is summed up in how God chose to use the Apostle Paul. Paul single-handedly and effectively took the gospel to over half the then living world. Physically. Not to mention the physical, psychological and spiritual torment he endured.

Secondly, God used Paul to write over two thirds of the Apostolic epistles, on which the entire apostolic gospel hinges.

And then there is the life that Paul lived. Faultless, and blameless. The Apostle Paul attests to what God can do with that rare man who is willing to sacrifice all for Christ.

Lastly, Paul had a heart for God’s people. He was a father to the churches. And this is the most difficult position to fill in God’s order of vacancies. Not many people have a true heart (God’s heart) for the church. One time, Paul could trust only Timothy in this regard! (Phil. 2:19-22) Incredible.

Money, on the other hand, is needed in church because it logistically helps to further the gospel of Jesus Christ and bring glory to God. Yes, money does bring glory to God if used well. Unfortunately, the love of money has created its own problems within the church. Notice the Bible says that not money, but the love of it, is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Money is clean. Our love of it is not. Money can accomplish a lot of good; our love of it brings only misery and tragedy, as is so evident in the world around us. When the love of money enters the church, its consequences are incalculable, and devastating.

We as the church need to understand these things.

Now, back to the Corinthians. The Corinthians were a desperate lot. They were 1. Fornicators of the worst kind 2. Divisive and combative; and 3. They were very, very stingy. You would need a nutcracker to get a dime out of their pockets. (The Apostle Paul had to send an advance delegation to prepare these saints to collect money they had promised a year earlier!)

But all these things speak of the extent to which the Corinthians had allowed the works of the flesh into their lives. That is why, in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, the Apostle Paul addresses them thus:

“1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3 For ye are yet carnal…”

We could laugh at the Corinthians were it not for the fact that we are also tempted in like manner; and I have never heard of a soldier who laughed at a fallen comrade. When we are walking in the flesh (which we do oftentimes), when we are not denying ourselves and taking up our cross, we automatically have all the works of the flesh in us, only in varying measures.

Apparently, the Corinthians were not poor folks money-wise, certainly not to the extent that the Macedonians were. But Paul had to write two whole chapters of the Bible to get them to give! And we will never know for sure whether they ever did give, for it is not recorded.

But the lesson that I want us to grasp in these verses is why we need money in church. We need money:

  1. In order that we “may abound to every good work”. The Bible says that one of the keystones to abounding to every good work means giving to the poor and meeting every good need. There are people who have a problem with giving to the poor. They call the poor “lazy”. Well, lazy or not, there are legitimately poor people, otherwise we would need to rip 2 Cor. 9:9 out of the Bible. When God blesses us and we are rich, we should not become complicated and conceited; we should remain plain and simple.
  2. Supplies the needs of the saints (v. 12). There are needs in the church. People need food, clothing, school fees for their children, etc. These are basic human needs when we are here on earth.
  3. Thanksgiving to God. When a need is met, God’s people give glory and thanksgiving to our heavenly Father. They say, “Thank you, Lord, you have been so faithful!” And God loves it when His people glorify Him (For He alone truly is worthy).
  4. Prayers and Godly envy. “And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.” (v. 14) Godly people don’t envy your Ferrari. It is worldly people who will envy your material expansion. Godly people envy the grace of God upon your life.

And so, here, in Paul’s words to the Corinthians, we have the case for the need for a man, and for money, in the church.

I cannot end this post without pointing out the grace of God that was upon the Apostle Paul’s life. Notice he does not angrily lash out at the Corinthians for their sluggishness. Instead, he begins (v. 1 and 2) by praising their readiness to give, even though it is clear they did not demonstrate any. But Paul had faith in them. That talks of incredible faith, and love.

[God is still looking… for a man]

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God’s Grace Revealed

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19

The account of Elijah and the widow of Zarepath in 1 Kings 17:13-14:

13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. 14 For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.”

After Elijah had eaten, the widow and her son would eat. Isn’t it wonderful that God puts us so close to Him? Immediately after God, man follows in importance. God does not place cows, or horses and, most certainly, not dogs or cats, in second place! No, He places man.

Writing to the Philippians in Philippians chapter 4, the Apostle Paul follows the same pattern that we see with Elijah and the widow of Zarepath. After telling them about the importance of their offering to God, he then tells them,

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)

When it comes to importance, there is nothing that can supersede God; certainly not us with our well-documented failings and shortcomings! The Bible says of God:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (Jam. 1:17)

He alone is perfect in holiness. That is an attribute that no creature can lay even the shadow of a claim to. Why should God not be first in everything? In the world, men are put first because of the qualities they possess. In the Spirit, God has that peculiar attribute that puts Him first above everything else.

And yet… God has gone even further than we could ask or think. In giving His Son Jesus Christ for our sins, He has of His own will put us ahead of Himself! That is unimaginable, but it is true. It is in this difficult-to-comprehend line of love that Paul writes the Romans:

1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh…” (Rom. 9:1-3)

That is unimaginable love. God has put us first!

It is in this regard that we should count it an immeasurable grace to have God think of us the way He does. We are not worthy of it, yet God regards us. Job had this revelation, for in Job 7:17-18 he says:

17 What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him? 18 And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?”

Oh, the power and grace in these words! Notice Job understood that God not only magnifies man and has set His heart upon him but, in order for this state of affairs to be manifested, God visits man every morning and tries him! Should we therefore not rejoice when various trials come our way? As the Apostle James says:

“2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Jam. 1:2-4

That is how God has set His heart on man. He has not set His heart on man so that man can have his fill of money and worldly material things. On the contrary, it is so his soul may prosper.

And that is how we can truly appreciate the grace of God upon our lives.

[Amidst a tangle of assorted greens, a lone sunflower plant provides a graceful contrast]

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Faith In God, Not Men

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.

19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:10-19

Oh, to be free! You would think that after the Apostle Paul had told the Corinthians that he was often hungry and that he was naked (for lack of clothing), you would think that if the man was in such dire straits, then such would grasp at any ‘aid’ that came his way the way a drowning man clutches at a piece of straw.

Unfortunately, that is the way it is with much of the church today. God’s people, and especially the ministers of the gospel, have been literally enslaved, and hence incapacitated in the Spirit, by their love for money. In the world there are people known as sponsors, financiers, underwriters, godfathers, etc. These are people who bankroll the big and small worldly projects; and they are exalted in the eyes of their benefactors. There is a belief, especially within Pentecostal churches, that the church needs people who will help advance the gospel financially, materially, etc. This has created cartels and groupings in the church, where the moneyed are given a higher status.

Since Paul’s ministry was such a big affair, you would be forgiven to think that he needed such people to advance his ministry. But no. It was not so with the Apostle Paul. In his spirit he was free from the love of money. By extension, he was therefore free from men. Therefore, he could serve God in the Spirit and in truth. The gospel of Jesus Christ, of which Paul was its foremost servant, has never needed men to advance it. Indeed, scripture does not allow for the existence of bankrollers in the church. That is a worldly spirit and it remains in the world. In the church, we have only one financier – God Himself. It is not the rich man who finances the gospel in the church, no: it is God Himself. It is not man who supplies our needs, material, financial or otherwise; it is God who does.

As a matter of fact, the rich man’s place in the church is clearly set out in the Bible.

“9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.” (Jam. 1:9-10).

The rich man’s position in church is the lowest.

The singular reason God allows us to give into His Kingdom is so He can have an opportunity to bless us as we exercise our faith. His challenge to us is stated in Acts 20:35:

“… It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

When we accept His challenge, God rejoices in blessing us. He is the total financier.

The Apostle Paul also tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:14:

“Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.”

If a worldly father is mandated to lay up for his children, how much more our heavenly Father?

In church, we are all to become children of God, not some godfather figures in church just because we have money.

What the church needs is faith, not money. And what the church needs is God, not men. The Bible says,

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)

Notice the Bible says  God, not men. This realization set Paul so free! He was free to not even put demands on God’s people. He trusted in God to supply his needs; and when the help was not forthcoming, still Paul trusted in God. He knew God had a reason for delaying His help. That was faith!

Paul was free to preach the gospel because he was a slave to only One – God Himself. And he set God’s people free to serve God in total freedom: give as you want, when you want, according to the working of God’s grace in you.

Today, it is the other way round. In fact, most sermons on giving are engineered to bind God’s people, not to set them free. They are geared to compel God’s people to give. This is because there is little faith amongst pastors and they are looking to men, not to God, to supply their needs.

But the revelation of the cross comes to destroy all idol-worshiping in church. Christ is given center-stage once again when the flesh is crucified to the cross, and true faith is restored once again both to the pastor and to the congregation.

[“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”]

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… Unto Perfect Faith

22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray; and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 And when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. Mat. 14:22-33

Jesus told Peter,

“Come.”

As I was reading this portion of scripture, the tears gushed from my eyes. Imagine that! Jesus was perfect God. Jesus never made a senseless statement. Which means He perfectly meant it when He told Peter,

“Come.”

Oh, for faith in our lives! If God had never meant to teach us something from these words, they would never have been written. How many times has God told us, “Come!” and we doubted and hesitated?

There Jesus was, calmly standing, not just on the water, but over the raging waves themselves. He was God, and full of perfect faith. And here, Peter, Jesus’s most intrepid disciple takes a step in that same direction; but he fails to arrive at the goal for lack of faith. Can you imagine how Jesus would have rejoiced had Peter walked all the way to Him? Knowing Jesus’s simplicity, it is not an exaggeration to say He would have danced on the water, for faith pleases God!

Oh, for faith in our lives! How many times has the Lord asked us to take that small step of faith, and we feared and faltered? We doubted.

One of the things that clearly displeased the Lord Jesus Christ when He was here on earth was how faithless his disciples were. He was bothered that they did not have simple faith in God. Over and over we read of Him castigating His followers for their lack of faith.

The Lord has been impressing on my heart, as we begin the new year, that we as His children should become men and women of faith – perfect faith. God is not pleased when our faith is low or imperfect. Indeed, the Bible states unequivocally in Hebrews 11:6

“But without faith it is impossible to please him”.

Here in Hebrews also it reminds us that our elders in the Spirit obtained a good report with God on account of their faith (v.2). In the Old Testament, the Bible does not expressly use the word “faith”; rather it simply says that these men and women pleased the Lord. But here, in Hebrews 11, it tells us that it was through their faith that they pleased God.

So what is faith?

Hebrews 11 again gives us the answer.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. (v.1)

Faith is not doing something. On the contrary, faith is doing something because one has seen the things not seen; they have gotten hold of things hoped for. The Bible does not say, “Now things”… On the contrary, it says,

“Now faith…”

And it does not say, “the substance of things” or “the evidence of things”, no. Rather, it talks of

“things hoped for… things not seen”.

We are not called to just do or have things. Rather, we are called to do and have things by faith. We are called to do and have things that are seen in the Spirit. That is faith. And we are called to live a total life of faith.

That is why the Bible says in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 that we can do a multitude of things but, if we have not love, they all amount to nothing. Love is not just doing things; love is something that is born of faith, the faith of God in us.

The Lord has been impressing upon my heart that we should strive to be men and women of greater faith for the days ahead. When we have faith, no storm of life will over-run us; on the contrary, we will calmly walk over these storms as if they did not exist. And through our faith and love, we will give a powerful testimony of Christ’s life in us.

We can only obtain a good report and we can only please God if we have faith in Him. But much of the time we are like these disciples of Jesus: we believe Him after the fact:

“Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.”

They did so after the fact. But that was not faith.

We are not to receive a good report by worshipping God. We are to get a good report by having faith in Him.

Is Jesus Lord and Christ? Is He Lord over every situation? Is He Lord over every relationship?

That question should get a big “Yes!” from us. Whatever situation we might be passing through, it is a big “Yes!”. That is faith. However rough the patch, however tough the relationship, God is in control and we should release our faith and trust in Him. We ought not to fear or doubt. Rather, we should see Jesus standing on the waves and, by faith, walk to Him.

Even if it means walking over to Him through the valley of death.

That is faith.

[In this iconic performance by Jessy Dixon, the Lord reminds us that He will calm the storm]