A Reward Awaits!

Do you know that, right now, as you sit there reading this, something awesome is going on in heaven. In fact, many unimaginably marvelous things are happening in heaven just about right now. Let us read about a few of them.

“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.” (Heb. 12:1-2)

Wow! Notice the second part of this scripture. It is informing us of an incredible fact. That right now, as we speak, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Right now. Wow! How truly awesome! But the reason for this, as we shall be seeing shortly, is due to something that Jesus did while He was here on earth.

But let us read on further about what is going on in heaven with Jesus. Bear in mind this is happening real time.

The Apostle Peter, talking about Jesus, says:

“Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers made subject unto him.” (1 Pet. 3:22)

Wow! Jesus is not only seated at the right hand of God; but angels and authorities and powers have been made subject to Him. As we speak, Jesus wields power and authority over every angel, power and authority, whether in heaven or on the earth.


Let us read a little bit further.

In Acts 7:55-56, as the Jews were stoning Stephen, he lifted up his eyes in the Spirit, and the Bible declares:

“55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”

Again, Wow!

Jesus was not only now seated; He had stood up. He stood for this man Stephen.

Who do we stand for, anyway? We stand for those who are worthy of our respect: the elderly; and those who have accomplished something worthy of our honor. In athletics, as the winner comes round the last bend of the final lap, we all stand to cheer. It is what took us there in the first: to experience the thrill of victory. We cheer wildly for the victor. We cheer wildly for someone who has done well.

I remember one time, during a great football match, that the great master of football, Ronaldinho, playing for the great team of Barcelona, played such a fine game against another great team, Real Madrid, that, at the final whistle, not just the Barcelona fans, but all the Real Madrid fans stood up to honor him. They stood up to honor an opposing player. That was the great maestro, Ronaldinho. He and Pele are the greatest pair who ever touched a ball.

But the Christian believer runs a different race altogether. All these great worldly accomplishments by earthly people are nothing when it comes to what we are called to do in the Spirit. Nevertheless, they are there for us to imitate in the Spirit.

As the man great man of faith, Stephen, made his final victory sprint across the finishing line of eternity, Jesus, seated at the right hand of God, could not bear it; and He stood up. He stood up to cheer Stephen, and to honor him. When the Bible says that Jesus stood up, that means all heaven stood up. All heaven stood up to applaud and honor a great athlete in the Spirit.

Back to Jesus. The Bible firmly affirms that Jesus is set at the right hand of God in heaven. But, as I said earlier, the reason Jesus is seated at the right of God in heaven was because of something He did while He was here on earth. Yes, Jesus did something right here on this earth that earned Him such a great reward from God. What, pray, could one do on this earth that could give one such a mark of distinction in the presence of God? The Bible has the answer. It tells us that Jesus:

“… endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

While He was here on earth, Jesus endured the cross and despised its shame. For this reason, He is seated at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities and powers subject to Him.

You cannot have your cake and eat it. That is a worldly saying; but then God has given men the wisdom to coin such sayings, for their own good.

When He was here on earth, although He was God, and although He was Lord of all and had all power and authority both in heaven and on earth (Mat. 26:53); yet Jesus

“7 … made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:7-8)

Did we read the word “humbled himself” there? Yes, Jesus humbled Himself. He made Himself of no repute. He willingly surrendered all He had. He gave His body to sinful men, to do with it as they wished. And they rent all their anger and rage upon that body. He stood silently as they did so. He did not lift a finger to defend Himself.

This is what the cross is all about. That was Jesus, who was God and who was Lord of all. He endured the cross.

How much more we? How much more ought we to humble ourselves under the cross? How much more ought we to count ourselves as dung in this world, that God might lift us up in the Spirit? How much more ought we to confront situations (and wilful men) with grace in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit in us? For this was exactly what Jesus did.

For this reason God has greatly exalted Jesus.

“9 Wherefore God also hath exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Again, Wow!

What a great calling we have! Yes, right now. What an incredible opportunity we have! What an incredible grace, to be able to follow Jesus in His sufferings and death, that we might enter victorious in heaven, and to be equally exalted?

What is our reward, anyway?

It is to live with Him forevermore. To behold the face of God forever! The Bible in Psalms 16:11 says:

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy: at the right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

We normally associate the word “pleasures” with the worldly pleasures that we know of. But I sure am glad to read that with God there are “pleasures”; which are no mere worldly pleasures! We have no business pursuing worldly pleasures, which are so temporal. God has in store for us eternal pleasures.

The problem is that when our spiritual eyes have not been opened we do not see these things and we therefore live largely for the flesh and its desires.

But if we see these things in the Spirit, we will deny ourselves as Jesus did. That in effect means we will have no rights to fight for. We will endure the cross, and despise its shame.

[The athlete goes to great lengths to achieve his/her goal]


Heavenly, Not Worldly, Stars

I have read that stars die. And that the bigger the star, the quicker it dies, and vice versa. The smaller the star, the longer it lives.

It is comforting in the Spirit to hear that stars die. The only way we can achieve heavenly glory is to die. When we talk of God’s Kingdom, the foremost realization we should have is that it is a spiritual Kingdom, not a material or physical one. That is why many of the true spiritual heroes that we shall find in heaven when we get there will be men and women who were unknown in this world. They were dead to this world, and therefore unsung by it. They were men and women who did things before God, and not before men; who served God in, as the Apostle Peter says,

“the hidden man of the heart” (1 Pet. 3:4).

One of the greatest Books that I have ever held in my hands is the Swahili Bible (1952 Union Version). This particular Bible was translated from the King James Version of the Bible, and it is an incredible translation. There are a number of other adjectives that I would use to describe this Bible: amazing, spectacular, brilliant, magnificent, outstanding. In my assessment, it is one of the truly great literary works alive and deserving of all acclaim.

But there is another remarkable thing about this Bible. In its preface, the translators refer to themselves simply as “We, the translators”. That is all that is written about them: “We, the translators”. There is no mention of their names, nor of anything else about them. If I ever wanted to know who they were, I wouldn’t know where to begin searching.

I have often wondered about these translators. Who were these Swahili men (and women, probably) who were so educated in those early days that they could translate the Bible to such a degree? Colonialism had not even ended; where did they get such an exceptional education? And the truly great question: how did they arrive at the decision to not identify themselves? These two questions bothered me for a very long time.

But, one day, the light broke through. I finally realized that those two questions can be answered very easily when you realize that God was working in and with these men. I realized that, where God is involved, man steps aside. He is not visible because he has died to his natural state.

In that singular Book these people have done a far greater work in the Spirit wherever the Swahili language is spoken than all other works past, present and future combined. For that reason, these men ought to be the stars of our generation. But these men, who handled God’s holy Word firsthand, received from God the greatest gift of all: the wisdom to not leave a record of themselves.

God does not want us to be stars in the worldly sense. He detests the glory of this world which is of the flesh. The only goal acceptable to God in any and everything we do is to bring glory to Him alone, for He alone is worthy. Hallelujah!

Unfortunately, since we are prisoners of the flesh, we find ourselves sorely tempted to flaunt our own glory rather than God’s. In so many ways, we stand accused in this regard. But, interestingly, we are not done yet. That is still not enough for us. We have chosen to take things to another level, so to speak. It is normal nowadays to have superstar preachers, superstar gospel singers, New York bestsellers and all kinds of other superstars within the church. People are even using God’s ministries – the apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist and teacher – to seek for stardom.

So many believers are getting lost in worldly glory. In my country, I have even heard someone tell of how, once they realized they could sing really well, they pulled out of their church choir and started a solo gospel singing career.

Sometimes God’s love for His children leads Him to do things that we think are cruel. But, in actual fact, it is God’s love in action. When gospel stars die young, people are full of grief, not realizing that, in most of these cases, God is saving that person from a dangerous situation. He is saving them from a perilous road they were hurtling down unaware of the consequences to their souls – the road of fame and stardom; the road of certain spiritual ruin and destruction. God decided, “Oh, no, I love this person too much, I am not going to allow them to go down that road” – and He took them home.

In most cases, gospel stars begin their ministry with a lot of humility and with the fear of God attending their souls. Unfortunately, that is the last time God will hear from them, so to speak. After the money begins rolling in and the fame begins surrounding them, they want to become stars in the natural.

But if we are to be stars in the Spirit, we have to die first. We have to die to worldly glory. Many of the gospel music artistes alive today, in my country and elsewhere, need to realize that they are alive because of God’s mercy. They are alive because God is giving them chance after chance to glorify Him alone through the gift of music that He has given them. In other words, God is giving them all the rope He can. It is because He loves them. And when He takes them home at an early age, it is also out of love.

[One day, even the sun will die]


“Death to the Flesh!”

I am currently on furlough in Musoma. At the same time there is a brother from the church in Dar es Salaam who is on leave and, having visited us here, he is keeping me company in my house. We share many stories with Director (that is his real name) particularly in the evenings when we are alone together. Recently, he told me an incident concerning an anthill that he witnessed when he was a small child. He says there was an anthill on their farm and his father thought that it was drying up the crops. He therefore ordered his elder sons to flatten it. They did so but within a week it was back again, big as ever. They flattened it again, but within no time the ants had built it up again exactly as it was before.

One day their grandmother saw them digging up the anthill. She had seen them dig up the anthill again and again without success. On that particular day she called out to the young men: “That anthill will never go away until you dig up and kill their queen!”

The boys seemed to understand her meaning and the next day they attacked the anthill in earnest. It took them two days to excavate the entire anthill. They dug until they reached far down where they found the ant ‘queen’ whom they brought up and laid out in the sun to dry. All the young children, Director included, came to watch the big, fat, shiny object as it lay writhing on the bare ground.

“It was the ugliest thing I ever saw”, concluded Director.

Which brings us to the subject of the flesh. The flesh may appear beautiful and desirable to the natural eye, but in the spirit it is the ugliest thing. Not only so, but it is a silent killer. The flesh will have you hollering “Hallelujah!”, but you are an empty shell on the inside, full of every kind of wickedness. And, as with the ant ‘queen’ it is hidden far deep within us. Comfortably wrapped up in a cloak of religious ‘holiness’ we are hardly likely to realize it when we are walking in the flesh. It requires a revelation from God and a deep work of some sort to uproot it from our system. The bottom line is that there is no way to arrive at true spiritual victory without dealing permanently with the flesh.

That is why we need a spiritual understanding of the Cross of Jesus. Let us see what the Apostle Peter has to say in 1 Peter:

Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” 1:11

“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 4:13

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed” 5:1

Peter talks a lot about suffering in these verses. Suffering is a word we would rather not hear. And yet, a revelation of the Church is a revelation of the Cross of Christ, which in turn points to the sufferings of Christ – and His death. All the men and women whom the Lord used throughout history to bring out His purpose in the Spirit were men and women who saw and experienced the sufferings of Christ in one way or another. Our father, Abraham, obtained his son Isaac when he was “as good as dead” Heb. 11:12. God went beyond there and demanded that Abraham sacrifice Isaac on the altar.

Many of the apostles died in martyrdom. They should have retired with great honor and better ‘benefits’, but they expired in ignominy.

The Bible, however, states that these men experienced a far greater glory in the eternal Kingdom by going through these experiences.

These are things that the Church today ought to consider very carefully. The Church should consider the role of the Cross in their lives. Logically speaking, if there is no revelation of the Cross in our lives, then we might as well forget the life of Christ springing forth from us. Yes, we will still be Christians, but carnal ones.

Nowadays you hear self-styled prophets ‘prophesying’ about this and that successful venture over hapless Christians. These are false apostles, men who answer to the call of the flesh. That is why there are so many manifestations of the flesh – and even demonic ones – in the Church today!

The true ministries of Christ will confront and uproot completely the flesh and all its works in the Church. We need to arrive at the place where we have truly died with Christ (Col.2:20); a place where, since we are still living in this sinful world, of necessity death is daily working in us (1 Cor. 15:31) to bring out that Christ-like character (Php 3:11) that caused the early saints to be called Christians by the Antiochians.