“Thank You, Lord”

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Heb. 12:1-13

The Americans gave the world the mega-church; but they weren’t half-prepared for the surprise that Africa would give them: the field church. These are super mega-crowds of believers so huge that no structure in the world can hold them. They therefore congregate in open fields, in football grounds, etc. In the southern part of Africa, where they have a propensity for such things, there are countless such churches.

The lives of most of the leaders of these churches, though, are less than exemplary. The word “exemplary” means being so praiseworthy or excellent in something as to be an example of. When I say less than exemplary, I mean these men are not examples of the Christian life.

One such preacher of a field church that claims to raise the dead – a man so rich he owns aircraft and a fleet of expensive cars – has a knack for generating fights of every sort, except the good fight of our Christian faith. He has been involved in altercations with the leader of the Roman Catholic church in his country and currently he is involved in a bitter confrontation with one of that country’s political leaders. We get to know of these things because they cover every news channel.

The reason this man is involved in these childish skirmishes is because he cannot afford to be opposed or disagreed with. He is lord of whatever turf he believes he owns and everyone has to bow down to him. He cannot endure to be slighted.

That is in stark contrast to the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says that when men opposed Him, Jesus “endured” their opposition.

“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself…”

In 1 Peter 2:22-23, it further says of our Lord:

“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”.

This was because Jesus had the grace of God in Him. And we are called to carry that same grace in us, in order that we may live an exemplary life… a life of faith, forbearance, forgiveness, love. And we are to thank God exceedingly for sending His Son to come down to earth to show us that these things can be lived. If God had not sent Jesus down in human form, we would have no example to follow. We could rightfully say to God, “God, You are in heaven, and we are down here on earth. What do you know of what we are going through? Just continue living your life in heaven and leave us to our earthly lives.”

I tell you, that would leave God speechless and, on judgment day, He would have to waive His judgment on all humanity.

But, in Jesus, we are presented with this amazing example of a Man who, in human form, could live out the grace of God in its fullness and perfection. We are only called upon to run after Him, taking hold of God’s grace that is readily available to us. The Bible says that, in the dispensation of the new covenant under which we are living right now, this grace has been given without measure (Jn. 3:34).

The greatest measure of the grace of God in our life is when men oppose us. That is the moment we can reveal the grace of God in us.

For this confrontational preacher, therefore, instead of continuing to raise the dead, he should instead go back into his closet, lock the door behind him and cry to God; cry to God for the grace to bear with the opposition of men against him. He should cry to God to help him to learn to love them and to bear with them. For it is in the opposition of men that the chastisement of the Lord – and the love of God towards us – is hidden. And this is the gift that we can truly thank God for.

A Father’s Joy

Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be. – Sheldon Silverstein

I have a teenage son whom I am tempted to think does not please me as much as I would want him to. No, he is not rebellious in any sense of the word and he is actually pleasant to be around with. But, for me, there are the practical issues of daily life that I would love to see him get involved in more consistently and – for heaven’s sake – add some speed on!

So it was with some surprise, the other day as I was watering my sunflower garden that, out of the corner of my eye, I espied the window curtains to my son’s room moving. I looked up to see someone inside folding the said curtains and, soon after, opening the window. Upon looking closely, I realized it was my son who was doing that job.

Now, with some of these feelings, you never know where they come from. As I watched my son opening that window, I felt an incredible sense of relief and pride. This feeling was something not too far removed from what one would feel if their son won a scholarship to Harvard.

You must be thinking I am nuts. You must be wondering what could be so great about someone opening the window to their own room. But a little background is in order here, and I would want you to know that that curtain has been one of the sticking points between me and my son for a long time. Every time I entered his room during the daytime it was dark and it had a musty smell on account of the curtain and window not being opened. I had settled to lecturing him constantly about the value of having light and fresh air in his room. After which I would fold the curtains and open the window myself.

There was also a cobweb that I had been telling him to remove from the window panes for a week, and every time I entered the room it was still there. But, just yesterday I entered my son’s room and the cobweb was gone.

So there I was watering the sunflowers and my mind began moving at lightning speed. I thought: if I can feel so happy and relieved at my son doing something that pleases me, how are things up there with God when I do the littlest of His pleasure? I had never thought about it in exactly those terms, but on this day I found it fit the script quite well. The Bible says,

“If ye then, being evil…” (Mat. 7:11)

God is extremely happy and pleased, real time, whenever we do a little bit of His will. The prospects of such a thought are astronomical.

Because, whether we like the thought or not, we as God’s children are not much different than our teenage children. Problematic, to say the least and, at worst, outrightly rebellious. And it is on account of the fact that we are living under the new covenant of grace that we can get away with the things we do. But it is a far cry for most of us to say that much of the time we do that which is pleasing to God.

Quoting the Apostle Paul, which we love doing, is all right; but we better admit that, even though we strive to follow him, the man was simply out of our territory, at least most of us.

Anyways, to cut  long story short, ever since that day I have been walking on cloud nine, so to speak. I have felt propelled to consciously do that which is pleasing to God, well aware that this is real. The reality of God being pleased at me is astonishing to me. Moreover, my heart is filled with thanksgiving to God for the grace to realize that I can actually please Him through the abundant grace that He gives to me. That I can make God’s heart glad – what a grace! And… what an accomplishment!

“Much Tribulation”

21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,

22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. Acts 14:21-22

What would you rather have preached in your church?

Today, the church has a wide range of choices when it comes to what people want to hear. But this wide range of choices is a dangerous thing for all these things cater to the flesh. The Apostle Paul warned his young protégé Timothy:

“3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

To which he added an admonition:

“5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

Notice that “endure afflictions” is firmly tucked in there. We may have a choice today, but the early church did not have the luxury of hearing what they wanted to hear. No doubt they, just as much as we, would have liked to hear a “soft” gospel, one which promised them a comfortable and trouble-free life here on earth and eternal life in the hereafter. But God would not allow that, for in surrendering to the flesh there is no life.

The apostles were men sent of God. They had in their hearts a revelation of Christ, Christ crucified. They therefore had only one message to deliver:

that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”

I wonder how you can reconcile this Biblical message with the man-made messages of financial and material prosperity, promotion and whatnot. In today’s gospel setting, it seems you are not allowed to upset people. It is more important to talk about the “abundant life”, whatever that is, than the suffering that we are to endure for the gospel’s sake.

But if we live, we live for Christ, and if we die, we die for Him also. This is borne out by the example of the Apostle Paul himself who, when addressing Timothy, writes:

“16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me… 17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” (2 Timothy 4:16-17)

It would have been wonderful to read that God delivered Paul from harm in order that Paul could continue living his own life. But this account states otherwise. It says here that God preserved Paul in order that he might continue preaching the gospel. God preserves us for a purpose – His purpose. There is no place in scripture to believe that God preserves us in order that we might continue doing our own thing here on earth. God preserves us in order that we might preach and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is for this reason that God brings the cross into our lives. The cross is God’s plan for mankind. The cross involves all the things listed in 2 Corinthians 12:10:

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

In this gospel, people will stamp on you and you will tried and tempted in many different ways. And God expects us to take all that patiently.

The Bible makes clear that you can enter into the Kingdom of heaven minus many of the things that we think are important in our lives – financial success, promotion at work, healing; Jesus even said you can enter with one eye and one hand (Mat. 5:29,30) – but you cannot enter the Kingdom of God without living out the cross in your life. The Bible says that we must through much tribulation enter into God’s heavenly Kingdom. That means suffering and bearing with a lot of negative things in our lives as believers.

That being the case, how about we begin thanking God for the problems instead of wishing them away. We might have been taught otherwise in the mega-churches; but we just might find we are on the right track here. Actually, the Bible says we are.

“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”

To exhort means to encourage. You encourage someone when they are undergoing challenges and hardship. The Christian life is a challenge. Living the Christian life is actually the greatest challenge there is in life. The reason for this is because this challenge is not necessarily about physical or material deprivation. Rather, it goes deep into the nether parts of our souls and challenges us there. Here, the deepest things of our hearts are challenged. Here, our pride is challenged. If you are white, your whiteness will be challenged. If you are an African, your Africanness will be challenged. If you have a greed for material wealth like the rich young man we read of the other day that will be challenged also.

These and other carnal traits are the things that make up the un-Christlike character in us, and God wants them out of our lives. God sends us His servants to exhort us to bear with hardships for the gospel’s sake. They encourage us to die to self and to our lusts. After we are truly and fully dead, the grace of God – which is the life of Christ – will increase in us, and we will be able to please God in every area of our lives.

[What would you rather have preached in church?]

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God’s Singular Focus

1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.

8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. Mat. 17:1-8

There are slightly differing versions of this account in the three gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. But there is no mistaking what happens at the end of each account. In every account of this story, Elijah and Moses left the scene, and disciples were left beholding only two things: Jesus Himself, and the words that God had spoken from out of the cloud:

“This is my beloved Son: hear him.”

In other words, God powerfully took Elijah and Moses out of the New Covenant scenario. Peter would have loved to retain both these Old Testament prophets with Jesus; but God firmly said no.

It is not possible to have both the old covenant and the new one working in our lives.

I remember in school we had something called a duster. The duster was used to clean off the blackboard. Here, in this account, God Himself came in a cloud and dusted Moses and Elijah off the map. But He did not dust off Jesus. The cross is undustable. The cross is inerasable.

Although the apostles were probably witnessing a heavenly scene (the Bible says that Jesus’ clothes and countenance changed and became heavenly white) yet, when God appeared on the scene in the cloud, He neither referenced Elijah nor Moses. Instead, He spoke only about Jesus:

“This is my beloved Son: hear him.”

This was a powerful demonstration to the disciples of the singular focus that God attaches to Jesus – and to the cross.

Today, people want to lump Jesus, Moses and Elijah together. They want to place the old and the new together. But that is simply unacceptable with God.

Today the majority of believers are either into law or into miracles and signs and wonders. But, at the same time, all these people proclaim, “Jesus!” But, although these things (law and miracles) may be good in themselves, neither one of them have the power that is needed to do in us the singular thing that pleases God, i.e. to transform us and to form in us the character of Jesus. The Apostle Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24:

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

You can be ‘baptized’ into the law up to your neck, but you cannot please God through the law. You can also be into miracles and signs and wonders; but you cannot please God through these things. Jesus said that many who are doing miracles right now will not go to heaven (Mat 7:22). The only thing you can please God with is by taking up your cross and following Jesus.

Few today are hearing the gospel of the cross preached. Even fewer still are willing to take up their cross and follow Christ. Many would rather listen to the comfortable gospel of prosperity and of solving one’s problems (financial prosperity, miracles, healing, promotion, etc.).

But God has wiped everything off His blackboard and left only one thing: Jesus Christ, and him crucified. God wants His new covenant class (the church) to focus on only one thing. This was the singular focus that the Apostle Paul also had (1 Cor. 2:2; Gal. 3:1). The cross is the SINGULAR way we can please God. Why the cross? The cross crucifies the flesh and this brings the grace of God into our lives. And it is through carrying God’s grace in our hearts alone that we can please God:

“Wherefore… let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear”. (Heb. 12:28)

That is how we can come to understand the reason for Paul’s singular focus on the cross of Christ. In all his teachings and in all his life, Paul purposed to know (and to live) nothing apart from Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And the power that was in Paul’s life was and is profound and unambiguous even to this day; and it will be unto eternity.

Christ crucified is God’s revelation to the world.

[“And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.”]

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Bigger Seed, Bigger Fruit!

But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 2 Cor. 9:6

It is hard not to contextualize this scripture. In the charismatic gospel that I grew up in during my early years of salvation, this scripture was automatically interpreted in shillings or dollars – or material things. Give more and you shall receive more. 2 Corinthians 9:6 fits the money lovers’ agenda like a glove. It is a prized favorite with them.

But the Apostle Paul, who is the writer of this scripture, was not a money lover. Paul was a man of the Spirit. He could hardly have been smitten with the dollar sign. So, why would he write such words?

As I said in a recent post, I raise chickens for a living and, through this enterprise, I have learned many valuable lessons. Simple lessons in the natural, but profound in the Spirit. I have learned, for example, that an egg will hatch a chick that is equivalent to itself in size. The bigger the egg, the bigger the chick that will be hatched from it and, once fully grown, the bigger the chicken that chick will eventually become. Likewise, the smaller the egg, the smaller the chicken it will produce.

In other words, the bigger the seed, the bigger the fruit!

In like manner, Paul is saying here that we shall reap a harvest equal to the seed we have sown. But Paul is talking in the Spirit, not in the flesh. He is saying, therefore, that in the same measure that we sow in the Spirit, we shall reap in like measure in the Spirit.

How do we sow in the Spirit? We sow in the Spirit by dying to the flesh; by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Christ. You can argue your way to the farthest galaxy and back but that principle remains unmovable. It will only be done away with when Jesus comes back to end this present world.

What does it mean to deny ourselves? Denying ourselves in the Spirit means finding joy in the things of the Spirit rather than in the things of the flesh. It means casting away the things that would profit our flesh – the “me” attitude – and looking beyond self to the will of God. God’s will includes looking outward to the interests of others rather than inward, to our own interests. And this attitude must of necessity come with joy and a free will. That is why, in the following verse Paul states:

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

The word “cheerful” here talks of joy in the Spirit; and this joy can only come about when we have denied the flesh.

The more we sow our lives by denying ourselves, the more we will become profitable to God and to others in the Spirit – and the more we will add to our spiritual and heavenly account. As we give of our lives more and more, we create a tornado-like effect of profit – for God, for the brethren, for unbelievers even, and for ourselves. This is exactly what Paul says in the subsequent verses:

“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.” (vs. 8-15)

Let us now consider the reaping part. Notice, in verse 10, that it is “the fruits of your righteousness” that God is looking to. What is that talking of? It is referring to the fruit of the Spirit. The more we give of ourselves in the Spirit, the more the fruit of the Spirit will increase in our lives. Peace, joy, thanksgiving and such-like things will be found in greater measure in our lives as we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ.

Wherever the idea came from that this scripture refers to us prospering in the natural? God is not looking to us to prosper in the natural. Whether we prosper in the natural or not is nothing with Him. Increasing “the fruits of your righteousness” is what truly concerns God, and whatever it takes to arrive at that goal should be our concern also.

The greater our giving through dying to self, the greater the joy and thanksgiving to God we create in the Spirit. And these are the activities that please God.

The sowing/reaping principle is all-encompassing. It involves our ministry also. We will become effective in ministry to the extent that we die to self. The Apostle Paul says:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Cor. 15:10)

Is God a respecter of persons? Hardly. God’s grace is there for all of us to acquire. But there was an increase of grace in Paul’s life for him to become more effective in God’s labor fields to the extent that he received that grace “not in vain”. How did Paul receive God’s grace “not in vain”? Paul received God’s grace not in vain by sowing his life. He shut his eyes and presented his flesh as a living sacrifice to God. In that regard, the grace of God worked more in him.

That is why we need to not look to the flesh if we are to bear much fruit in the Spirit; fruit that will abound far beyond our personal frontiers even to God, and to others, both saved and unsaved.

[Below: “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”]

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The Recipe For Carrying God’s Grace

1 Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.

2 After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.

3 Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. Hos. 6:1-3

There are many good things which I can recount that God has blessed me with. First and foremost, of course, is the salvation of my soul. There is nothing to compare with this grace.

Secondly, there is my pastor, and my wife. I know I might sound stupid saying this, but I am yet to decide who between these two I should put first. For my wife is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones; yet my pastor is as God to me. He has shaped my life to become what I am today.

I could list blessing after blessing that God has bestowed upon me. And yet… among all of the blessings that God has bestowed upon me, there is none I cherish more than God’s hand upon my life. I count God’s chastisement of my self as the most important blessing in my life.

Do not for a minute think that this is something that I have always received with joy. There are times when, like the Apostle Paul when God first began dealing with him, I also have “kicked against the pricks” (Acts 9:5).

There is nothing joyous in the flesh when God begins dealing with us. We can be sure of that.

The Bible declares in Romans 8:7:

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God…”

The mind of the flesh is enmity against God, and we are full of it. We are full of spiritual folly and every kind of sin. When God therefore begins dealing with our fleshly mind or lusts, He goes about it just as you, too, would go about dealing with an enemy: He pummels the flesh to the ground. Actually, He buries it six feet under. God wants the flesh dead and buried; and that’s the reason He brings the revelation of the cross to our hearts. In the Spirit, the cross is the instrument by which we can crucify our flesh every day.

“O happy day!” we sing. “When Jesus washed away my sins.”

When Jesus washes away our sins, we become spotless white. For that to happen, much needs to happen. There will be much confrontation and much flaying of the flesh.

I once read a self-defence manual that said when you shoot at a deadly enemy, you should shoot until the enemy is completely immobilised. “Don’t stop shooting until he stops moving”, it said. That’s when you can be sure that the enemy is absolutely dead.

That is what God does with the flesh. It took Jesus six hours to die. With us, it could take much longer. But God will not stop shooting until He makes sure the flesh is completely dead.

“O, happy day!”

The happiest day in my life was the day God placed His finger and touched my pride. It is the day that God tore me up, ripped me apart. I am forever grateful for that day, – and days – and I am forever grateful for the people God used to bring these situations upon me.

Yes, God uses people. We can see that all over the Book of Acts and in the Pauline epistles.

I had always read Paul’s words,

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)

But I had never stopped to think what these things constituted in Paul’s life. But now I know they comprised of the most debasing, offensive and degrading things, things that were done to him by… men. All this was orchestrated by God to break Paul’s pride; to break the “I” in him.

God cannot work with us while we are carrying the flesh. We must die in order that Christ’s resurrection life may be found in us. You cannot possibly compare this miserable, earthly life that we carry (which is nothing but death) with the life that God wants to give to us – Christ’s resurrection life. The latter is full of faith, joy, love, peace, and hope.

Finally, let us look at Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:10:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Notice Paul is saying that he worked more than all the other apostles. But in saying so, Paul is not applauding himself; rather, he is exalting the grace of God that was in him. He says:

“… I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

In other words, Paul had more grace than the other apostles.

How did so much grace come to be upon Paul? Is God a respecter of persons? Of course not. But the reason Paul had so much grace upon him was because he allowed God to break him more. The reason for abundant grace being upon Paul are his words that we just read in 2 Cor. 12:10:

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

Paul rejoiced in these things!

The more we rejoice in these things also, the more grace we will have, just as Paul had, for God is no respecter of persons.

And, pray, what does the Bible mean when it says that Paul “laboured more abundantly than they all”? Is it that he preached more than they? It could well be that he did, but that is not what scripture is talking about here. On the contrary, here Paul is saying that he had more of the fruit of the Spirit in him than the rest of the apostles. He had more patience, more love, more faith, more of everything of the Spirit, for the grace of God was upon him.

It is for this reason that the Bible says Jesus had the Spirit without “measure” (Jn. 3:34).

I have heard some people preach that the Spirit has been given to us without measure. But it is important to qualify that statement. The Spirit was given to Jesus without measure because He

“… poured out his soul unto death” (Is. 53:12)

Have you poured out your soul unto death? The Spirit – and, by inference, God’s grace – can only be given to us without measure to the extent that we lay down our lives just as Jesus did.

And by God’s grace we are not talking about miracles or prophesying (cf. Mat. 7:22). Rather, we are talking of the grace to live the crucified life – the ability to forgive, to repent, to die to the lusts of the flesh, to die to our pride.

The central question is, How can the Lord heal, if He has not wounded us? It is impossible.

God must wound us first. We must spend two days in the belly of the whale, and on the third day God will raise us up with Christ.

[He is all I need]

To Carry God’s Grace

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 1 Cor. 12:7-10
Being a team leader is not easy. People will try to bludgeon you to death if they can because people naturally hate the top dog.
My wife works for a certain organisation and she is the head of the particular area that she works in. One time, for a considerably long period of time, she would come home and she would tell me the most harrowing tales of how some of her fellow teammates were treating her. It appeared as if my wife’s organisation had deliberately selected the most bellicose of its workers and put them on her watch.
The most indigestible of these assaults were a couple of workers who would always talk her down like she just got out of the crib. Worse, they tried to discredit her and prove how incompetent she was. This hurt her to the core.
They tried to hurt her as much as they could. They would ask her things like, “Are you really a pastor’s wife?”
Somehow, I knew these things were happening because, apart from what my wife told me, I noticed that whenever the company car dropped her at our house, no one else would get out, even to say ‘Hi’ to me, although they knew me. Immediately she got out, they would roll up the windows and drive off with the tyres squealing.
Naturally, this state of affairs hurt us both terribly. It was a real trial! Many times I would toy with the idea of allowing my wife to retire from her job. But then we needed the money. So we barricaded ourselves in prayer and in the encouragement we got from God’s Word. I would encourage her to forgive them – even as I myself struggled with the need to forgive! It did not seem as if the ordeal would ever end. How could it ever end? My wife’s fellow workers had bound themselves to engage us in a permanent state of war.
One day, a senior official from their organisation came from Dar es Salaam to do an ‘audit’ of my wife’s team’s performance. He stayed with them for a week. During the course of his stay, whenever he asked my wife about anything, she always had it at her fingertips. So much so that in one particularly compulsory and sensitive procedure, the official told her he would not be needing to go through it with her.
“I trust you”, he told her.
He told my wife a few other things also. He told her that she was the only team head who had everything that he needed at hand and who understood perfectly well what she was meant to do.
At the end of his audit he called the team together. He told them, “I have been observing all of you. Your team leader is the most competent person I have met since I began assessing our organisation’s teams. I therefore direct you to consult her whenever you do not know how to go about your responsibilities.”
Just before he left, he assembled them together again and let each one of them know exactly how they had performed. Their evaluation was determined on a percentage scale, and my wife’s had broken all bounds! Moreover, none of her teammates had come anywhere near hailing distance of her.
It requires a revelation from God to see the light at the end of the tunnel. On the day the official bid my wife’s team goodbye, I was home tending my chickens behind our house when the company car drove up to our house. The gate opened and I heard my wife excitedly inviting someone home. I straightened up to see the very guy who had been treating my wife like trash come walking in through the gate and towards the chicken coop. I had never seen the fellow get out of the car and he had never greeted me in his life. I thought something must be wrong for this guy to get into our compound. But he came straight up, greeted me warmly and allowed my wife to lead him on a tour of my chicken ‘farm’.
In the evening, after we had had our supper, I asked my wife what that was all about. She told me she did not know. She was as much surprised as I was, she told me. But, she said, immediately the assessor had given the team his report, she had noticed a very unexpected change in her colleagues’ attitudes. Instead of an increase in animosity, there was an air of acceptance and respect towards her.
I told her, “God has worked a miracle in their hearts.”
That state of affairs has continued to this day. One day, one of my wife’s tormentors left for a long furlough in a far-off region. We were surprised when she called my wife and asked us to check in on her children.
As I said, it requires a revelation from God to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Neither I nor my wife, not even in our wildest dreams, had ever thought things would end this way.
God said to the Apostle Paul,
“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
In other words, God was telling Paul: “You cannot have my grace without that thorn in your flesh. Unless you allow your flesh to be mocked and destroyed, you cannot have my grace; you will be of no effect in my Kingdom!”
Beloved, what would you rather have? Is it a comfortable, trouble-free life that you desire? If that is the case, you can forget about being of any use in God’s Kingdom. Flesh and the Spirit cannot work together.
1 Peter 2:21 says:
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps…”
Notice the Bible does not say that Christ did not suffer; on the contrary, the Bible says that the example that Christ left us is one of suffering – suffering in the flesh. It was the same thing that Paul suffered: thethorn in his flesh.
The best thing that can happen to anyone that aspires to the high calling of God to become a man or woman of the Spirit; the best thing that can happen to such a person is to have a thorn in their flesh. The thorn is one of the few things that we see this great man of God, the Apostle Paul, rejoicing in in the scriptures:
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (1 Cor. 12:10)
Beloved, as a child of God, what is it that gives you pleasure? Meditate on this, and may God show you the road to true spiritual happiness, a thorn in your flesh.