So Much Gain In Suffering!

“So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto the crown. And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself; and he sat down among the ashes. Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” Job 2:7-10

My sights today are set on those words in verse 10:

“What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”

Have you been through some challenges lately? Have I?

Of course, we have. But what, pray, should our attitude be when we go through trials and temptations?

Our attitude should be the same as the one that the righteous men and women of old had. And Job was one of those righteous men of old. The Bible says about Job:

“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” (Job 1:1)

You couldn’t get a more righteous man than that, could you? But God allowed this righteous man to go through the most difficult situations that any man can experience in the natural. Job suffered!

But it is in suffering especially that God can accept or “receive” us, as it says in Hebrews 12:6:

“For whom loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

The olden saints who knew God also knew His ways. To know God is also to know and acknowledge His ways; and the truest sign that we know God is when we can be at peace when we are passing through difficult situations in our lives. There are times in my life, unfortunately, when I have been rudely forced to face up to the fact that I did not know God. A situation will arise, and I will find myself hitting all the panic buttons available, just because I was looking at the situation with my natural eyes. And soon enough God will show me how blind I am because in virtually every one of those stormy seasons where I was panicking and generally behaving like an unbeliever, He was working out things for my good!

Indeed, the Bible says,

“We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)

The flesh would rather not suffer. That’s a fact. For most of us, we would rather be saved and never have a single problem in our lives. We want a smooth ride in life. We would rather not face or experience a single problem, sickness, challenge or difficulty all our lives. How thankful we would feel! But we all can acknowledge that that is the way of the flesh. As long as things are going well in the natural, we are happy and rejoicing.

But even the blindest believer can at least acknowledge also that God’s ways are hardly our ways! If that is the case, therefore, rejoicing and dancing on our part does not necessarily mean that God is happy and rejoicing. God rejoices only in the Spirit. As far as God is concerned, therefore, the important fact is not whether we should suffer or not. The important thing with God is that He is working His good will in and through us. And God’s good will could hardly be the ‘good’ that we know of in the natural.

There is something else we should learn about God in this regard. It is that God is perfect. That means that there is nothing in God that we can criticize or fault. The Bible says there is no “shadow” of turning with Him! (Jam. 1:17)

What does that mean?

This should mean that whatever God allows into our lives, we should not question or feel bad about. As long as our hearts are for God, we should trust Him that all will turn out well for us.

What does the Bible say about Job?

“So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning…” (Job 42:12)

Imagine that! No one would want to go through the hell that Job went through. And yet the Bible says that his suffering turned out his latter end better than his beginning.

Job’s wife did not see this coming. She was blind in the Spirit. So she told Job, “Curse God and die!”

When we, too, are not seeing in the Spirit, we moan and complain and want situations to change for good in the natural. But the spiritual person can allow something to go absolutely bad without protesting for out of it, he knows, more life will come!

Choosing The Cross

7 So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.

8 And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.

9 Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.

10 But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. Job 2:7-10

Sometimes we look at the Word of God and we think, “That’s easy. I can do that.”

But it is impossible to see, much less do, the will or plan of God. It is only when we have been granted grace by God Himself that we can do His will.

So we can see that Job was granted the grace to see and do God’s will. He told his wife:

“What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”

Job, full of the grace of God, realized that ‘evil’ is a part and parcel of the life that a spiritual person must pass through.

The Spirit-less man only wants the good things of this life. That is why the charismatic gospel is so popular. It is popular because people do not like the spiritual life, with all the suffering it entails. But the charismatic gospel has destroyed people’s spiritual lives. Under this gospel, people go to church to be blessed, to receive financial, material and physical blessings.

It is true that when our Lord Jesus Christ was here on earth, He gave all those blessings. But one day, He turned to the very people He had been giving these things and we read in John 6:53:

“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”

Jesus was speaking about sharing in His sufferings and death! He was telling the Jews, “You must partake of my sufferings and death to become true children of God as I am.”

And this was what Job saw in the Spirit. And this formed the basis of His faith. That is why Job’s book is called The Book of Job, and not the Book of Job and his Wife. Job’s wife did not see what Job saw in the Spirit.

It is a grace to see

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)

This is something that the flesh cannot comprehend. That is why we must beware in our spirits when all we want is the good life; and we cannot see God’s hand when suffering is allowed into our lives.

It is a grace from God to share in the sufferings of Christ. This is what forms the basis of  our spiritual lives.

The good life is only a shell of the real spiritual life that we ought to live.

[For Sandra]

Carrying The Heavenly Vision

24 And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
25 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts.
26 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.
27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. Lk. 7:24-28
Just the other day, a brother and I were walking in the hot midday sun and we got so exhausted that one of us quipped, “Sometimes I wish we had a car to move about with!”
To which the other replied, “True. But that’s hardly a priority.”
“Yes”, agreed the former. “A car is hardly a priority with us.”
One of the incredible graces that God has blessed this brother and I with is to discern what God’s real blessings are. I remember there was a time when I used to pray for every material blessing under the sun. I had a long list of things that I wanted God to give me. While some are needful, yet I now realize that most of the things that I used to desire and pray for so vigorously are absolutely insignificant.
When some believers hear me saying that, they deride me.
“It is because you do not have these things, that’s why you talk that way”, they say.
But I know their accusation is not true. On the contrary, it is what is in my heart that makes me to consider material things unimportant in my life.
There are many blessings in my life which that God has granted me. One of the blessings that this brother and I cherish in our lives is the deep contentment we get from each other’s company. We both realize that the grace of God is upon our lives in this regard. This brother’s company is one of the most amazing and important things in my life. He is as I and often I wonder at the blessing of having such a wonderful brother by my side.
Today’s modern gospels want the believer to believe that the comforts of this world are the most important things in their lives. This leads him to compete with the world for the things and comforts of this world. But we ought to realize that, although we are in the world, our Kingdom is not of this world. We should not become materialistic Christians.
Jesus said, “… Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts.” (Lk. 7:25)
These are worldly-minded people, Jesus said. In today’s world, the prosperity gospel has bewitched God’s people.
But the man whom Jesus was about to talk about did not live in kings’ houses.
Now, one the most amazing facts about this account is the fact that Jesus would take such a long time to speak about a man, John the Baptist. This shows us that this man was very important in God’s Kingdom. Jesus Himself said as much.
Jesus began by contrasting John the Baptist with the comfortable lives that earthly kings live. A king’s lifestyle represents the highest standard of living in the land. He lives that kind of life because he holds the ultimate reins of power.
But Jesus went on and told the people that, even though John was so weak in the worldly sense that he appeared like a reed in the wind, yet he represented something which had infinitely much more power and glory than that of earthly kings.
Jesus said, “You went out to see, not a king, but a prophet.”
It is beyond doubt that a prophet is supremely above any king. A prophet is someone who has been sent by God. That in itself sets him far above this world in terms of glory, power and importance, for all earthly kings are subject to God. A prophet carries a message from God. He might be sent to warn, to direct or to comfort, but his message comes directly from God Himself. He is God’s mouthpiece. In spiritual terms, an earthly king in all his glory pales in the face of a prophet of God. The former lacks enduring glory and power, while the latter carries the same in himself.
But, still, Jesus told the crowd, John’s mission was far greater than that of an ordinary prophet. John had a mission that set him apart from other prophets. This is because he came to accomplish the most important task that would ever be accomplished by any man on earth. John was sent to precede and prepare God’s people for the coming of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.
26 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. 27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.”
There could never be a more noble duty assigned to man than this!
For this reason, Jesus said, “… Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist”.
Among those that are born of women, including kings, there never had been, and there never would be, a greater prophet than John the Baptist.
But Jesus had not arrived at the end of what He wanted to tell the people who were listening to Him. In saying all this, Jesus was laying a foundation for the ultimate message that He was about to deliver. All this was a preamble to the important message that He had for His listeners. And it was that, finally, He declared it:
“… but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
Notice there are two “he”s in this sentence. The last “he” refers to John the Baptist, of course, but who does the first “he” refer to? And it is clear that this person is greater than John the Baptist. Who could this “he” be?
It is us, we who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was telling His listeners that anyone who would believe on Him under the New Covenant would be far greater than John the Baptist.
What an awesome realisation! Jesus indicated that John was of another era, the Old Testament era, whose end he was announcing. The Lord Jesus Christ ushered in the new era of the New Covenant. And the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 3 that the New Covenant is far greater than the old one.
Now, if Jesus could contrast, or separate John the Baptist from the world and its comforts, how much more should we be separated from them? Much, much more, I believe.
It is not that we should not have the things of this world; rather, it is that our hearts should never, ever be bound up with these things.
One of the most powerful examples of this in the Bible is Job. Job was one of the most blessed men in his generation. He was extremely rich materially. But Job lost everything, including his children, in just one day. Upon receiving the news of his staggering calamity, however, the Bible says that Job fell down on his face and worshipped God. And the Bible further says:
“21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. 22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (Job 1:21-22)
Clearly, Job’s heart was not on the things that God had blessed him with. Job’s heart was on the heavenly glory; losing, or not having material things was a small sacrifice for him.

[Below: The brother I love and myself]



A Pure Heart

“10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” (Jas. 5:10-11)

Now, you would think that this scripture is about Job. It is all right, but it is more about God than Job. This scripture tells us that God rewarded Job because of His great pity and tender mercy towards him. It does not say that God blessed Job because Job went banging at the doors of heaven demanding he be paid for his patience.

This teaches us that the fact that we have suffered patiently does not give us the right to demand anything from God. He has promised to, and He will. But, that notwithstanding, we should always bear in mind that whatever God does in vindicating us He does on account of His great pity and tender mercy towards us. He can choose not to reward or vindicate us here on the earth, although He will most certainly do so in the world to come. In the meantime, God requires you to maintain a pure heart.

Equally important is the fact that we should always maintain an attitude of humility towards God.

There are doctrines today that teach people to demand things from God. Many years ago I was taught to ‘force’ God into a corner, grab His throat somehow, and demand that He honor my prayers.

But such attitudes show how much we do not know God. God is not required to do anything for us. All that He does comes out of His good heart towards us. We have no right at all to demand anything from God. All our righteousness comes from our Lord Jesus Christ. If we demand things from God, it means we are spoilt children. The Bible calls such believers “bastards” (Heb. 12:8). In other words, they are people who have no discipline.

When Satan persecuted Job, Job kept a pure heart throughout, and this moved God to bless him.

I once heard of a band called “Pureheart”. When I heard it, I said, “What a lovely name!” For Christianity is all about keeping a pure heart. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Mat. 5:8)

To see God! I believe there is nothing more desirable – and certainly more important – for a believer than to see God. Of what use is it to have every other blessing and not see God’s glory? Such a scenario would hardly ring true.

That is why the devil’s most hunted treasure is our hearts. Once he darkens your heart, he has gotten you. It is the reason why we must keep our hearts pure at all costs.

What does it mean to guard your heart, anyway?

One of the things that I have learned about maintaining a pure heart is that it means keeping a blameless heart. That means not blaming people. I am not talking of not blaming good people (that’s hardly likely); I am talking of not blaming, complaining or judging people who do bad deeds to us.

The Bible says: “Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be CONDEMNED: behold, the judge standeth before the door.” (Jas. 5:9)

Now, that is a very specific warning. The Bible says that if we carry grudges we shall be condemned. “Condemned” here means suffering at the hands of God. That is not a place anyone would want to be. We should avoid that spot at all costs.

Much of the time, though, keeping our hearts pure seems to be the hardest of tasks. The flesh has a tendency to react and, if we have not the grace of God in us, we cannot prevent it from doing what it wants.

But the Apostle James, drawing from Biblical experiences, encourages us to maintain a pure heart in the midst of adversity or persecution. He says:

“10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” (Jas. 5:10-11)

The prophets of old were men who endured hardship, depravation and persecution. But they did not blame anyone. They neither blamed God, nor men, nor Satan. This means that these men guarded and kept their hearts pure while they suffered. Chief of these men, James tells us, was Job. And the Bible concludes:

“Behold, we count them happy which endure.”

Why happy?

For, in Job’s case, “Ye… have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”

Now, if when we suffer patiently God rewards us out of His good heart, what do you think will happen when we suffer and are not able to maintain a pure heart?

It means, automatically, that God has no further recourse. He has not the wherewithal to reward us.

There are many believers today who are bitter at heart: some are bitter towards God for failing to answer their prayers, while others are bitter for perceived wrongdoing by men. They think, talk and plot things that are not pleasing to God.

I have often found myself in exactly this same situation. But I have discovered the perfect weapon for fighting such attacks. It is called repentance. Repentance is the perfect antidote for a blameful heart. When men have hurt me and I reacted, the Lord has taught me that I needed to repent of that attitude. Then I became free to serve God and my fellow man.

[Job was an incredibly patient man and he therefore endured affliction]


Job: A Case Study In Total Repentance

5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.

6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. Job 42:5-6

I can’t seem to get away from the topic of repentance. It appears to me as if repentance is the only thing that we can do to make true our relationship with God. We must repent at every cost! If need be we must get on our knees and pray for a heart of repentance. Repentance must be on our top priority as children of God.

In Job chapter 1 verse 1 the Bible says that Job was a man who was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.”

I doubt there are many born-again believers that the Bible can talk about in those same exact words. Job was a truly righteous man. But the Bible here says that when this same Job saw God with his own eyes, he abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes. So what did Job repent of? He repented of sin. When you have no sin you do not need to repent.

Just pause and imagine that. In his perfection, still, when he saw God face to face, Job found he was a sinful man! So much so that he repented in dust and ashes.

That is so powerful! It underlines the fact that God is that much higher than we, even when we are at our most perfect.

If you light a candle and put it next to a burning 10,000 megawatt bulb, I think you will notice the difference. The difference is that there will be not much of a candlelight to notice.

If Job thought he was holy and upright before he had seen God, when he finally did see God, the Bible says, he abhorred himself and repented.

What does it mean when the Bible says that Job abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes?

It means that he utterly despised himself. Now, we take it very hard when other people despise us, how much more difficult do you think it is for someone to despise themselves? This shows the greatness of this man, Job.

“Repent” talks of a broken spirit. In the Old Testament, God commanded Moses to grind fine flour for His sacrifice (Lev. 23:13). Under the New Covenant we do not grind flour. But we humble ourselves and become broken in spirit, broken into many small pieces, which are then continually ground into much finer flour – ready for the King’s sacrifice!!

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)

God looks upon the human heart. There are many things that we do in church seeking to draw the attention of God. But God is like the professional archer: He never misses the mark. You will never do anything to make God take His eyes off the human heart. God will always look upon the heart. And God is pleased with a repentant heart.

Repentance has to become a way of life for the church. We must allow this into our lives at any cost. If we had only one thing to pray to God for, we should pray for a spirit of repentance. Brokenness is a process that has to be a permanent attitude of our hearts. That is why Jesus said,

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Lk. 9:23).

In His love for us God will allow many situations into our lives in order to give us that broken spirit. Daily we must make a choice – the choice to accept to be broken.

[Below: Mwanza is the second-largest city in Tanzania. Mwanza Airport is soon to be upgraded to international status]


Suffering, Patience and “The End of the Lord”

10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.
11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. James 5:10-11
The tribe I come from is universally known for one singular trait: impatience. It is fierce, war-like, and many other things in that direction; but impatience tops the list of its many negative attributes.
In my country, if you tell people that you come from my tribe and you tell them you are saved, they will look at you with a big, silent “Wow!” As far as they know, people from my tribe are un-savable.
My tribesmen do not marry easily from other tribes because they are much feared. When my wife-to-be, who is from a different tribe, announced to her clan that she was engaged to a man from my tribe, you could have heard the “No!” all the way to the North Pole! The news that she was about to be married into my tribe was a disaster that was unparalleled in the history of that clan. They told her, “He will kill you!” That was all they knew about my tribe.
But God intervened and we finally did get married.
But I did not set out to talk about my tribe in this post; I just saw the word “patience” in the scripture above and I immediately thought about my impatient tribesmen. One day, maybe, I will write about the positive aspects of my tribe. You will be surprised to learn what wonderful people they are.
But, let us get to the gist of this post…
I have been saved for many years and, being a slow learner, I am grateful that God has given me those many years to be around. There are many important things that I have come to know very late in my salvation.
One of those things is what we just read in the scripture above, “… the end of the Lord”. You can suffer, and not realize what the end of the Lord is in that suffering.
In my early days in salvation, and even long after, when I was raising my kids and sometimes there was not enough money in the house, I usually suffered panic attacks. I would wake up at night sweating and wondering how I would handle the bag of many crises that seemed a permanent resident in my house.
I never knew that God was teaching me something during those years of lack and hardship. All I knew was that I was suffering. This made me a Christian who was a Christian only by rote, because on the inside I did not believe a word the Bible said about God’s faithfulness.
It took me an awful long time; but one day, not too long ago, I came to understand that in the end God is faithful, just as He says in His Word.
In Hebrews 13:5 God’s Word says: “… I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee…”
God does things any way He wants to do them; and I remember the exact day that He sat me down, so to speak, and He spoke to me.
On that day, the Lord showed me how faithful He had been to me throughout all the years that I walked with Him. In the first place, He showed me how He had answered all my prayers. It transpired that I was so blind I had not noticed some of the answers to my prayers. Some answers had not even manifested themselves in the natural, but it was like the Lord gave me faith on that day to believe that He had answered each and every one of my prayers.
Secondly, the Lord showed me how He had literally borne me on eagles’ wings and seen me through situations that I could never have gone through by my own strength. He showed me the many victories that He had miraculously accomplished on my behalf.
Lastly, He showed me a few things – very few, I could count them on my fingers – things that He had blessed me with in the physical, extremely precious things, just the way He blessed Job in the natural. One of those ‘things’ is my wife.
The Lord showed me all this with a deep clarity.
As I watched this “vision” pass before my eyes, I recall feeling extremely foolish when I realized that I had doubted God’s love for me just because I had gone through some suffering! And yet in the end He had proved more faithful than I could ever have dreamt.
The Bible concludes by telling us about “the patience of Job”, and “the end of the Lord”. The two are bound up together.
That speaks of our patience, and the end of the Lord for us. It is like the Bible gives us a guarantee that if we patiently endure affliction, our end will just be like Job’s.
Do you know what God did for Job as a result of Job’s patience? You can read all about it in the Book of Job, chapter 42. Many years ago I read the story of Job, and when my daughter was born I named her Keren, after one of Job’s daughters that he bore after the Lord ended his captivity.
But God’s faithfulness does not necessarily have to manifest itself in the natural like He did with Job; in the Spirit we will always know it is there. Many heroes of faith died without receiving anything in this world.
And, finally, may we come to understand that God allows suffering for our good: to turn us into men and women of patience, much patience.

[Below: The slow learner; but a learner nonetheless]


Of Worldly Wealth And God’s Kingdom – Part 1

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Mat 19:21

We all know the sad ending to this story. The Bible says that the rich man went away sorrowful, “for he had great possessions.”

Actually, I think Jesus ought to have called that young man back. He ought to have called him back and worked out a bargain with him. That is what I think. I mean, you can’t be too tough on a man! The problem, I think, was that Jesus had never owned wealth, and He had no idea how difficult it was for people to make money. And for Him to casually ask one to go throw all his life’s savings into the lake was a bit insensitive, to say the least.

But, anyway, considering that Jesus did not call the young man back, let us see how we can handle His words. The words appear a bit difficult to carry out exactly as set out here, so let us look at the options. The good thing about scripture is that you can turn it any way you want, so let us turn it slightly sideways and see whether we cannot arrive at the conclusion that probably Jesus wanted this man to sell his property, keep the money, but to make sure no poor soul ever passed by his door without getting help from him? or any other conclusion except that Jesus wanted this young man to go SELL HIS PROPERTY, GIVE ALL THE PROCEEDINGS TO THE POOR AND REMAIN WITH ONLY THE CLOTHES ON HIS BACK – and then he could come follow Jesus.

There is nothing as frustrating as missing the nail’s head when you are hitting it. If you keep missing, the head becomes bent and from there on the hammer will keep slipping off the head.

Jesus never, ever made that mistake. He always made sure to hit the nail on the head.

I remember also one time in school we had an archery competition. I was in one of the teams and as the competition got underway, the situation gradually inched towards the point of near-certainty that none of us would be picking the prize because half the arrows landed everywhere on the target board except where they were needed. The other half missed the target board entirely. The spectators had to be pushed way back to a safe distance when it became clear the arrows could land anywhere!

And then, by a stroke of luck, one of my arrows hit the bulls-eye, dead in the center. The rest, as they say, is history. Had I won the presidency of the United States of America, I doubt I would have won the recognition that I did that day…

It is not easy to hit the bulls-eye. Nor is it easy to hit the spiritual mark, either. But Jesus always hit the mark. In this case He hit it big. In fact, He hit it so big that His disciples, on hearing His words, “were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” verse 19:25. In other words, they were astounded beyond belief.

But Jesus was not seeking to make ‘history’ by His statements. The fact is, He could scarcely have said anything different. He spoke those words only because there was nothing different for Him to say. Had there been, He would have said it. Had there been a ‘softer’ way for Jesus to show this rich, young man into the Kingdom of God, you can bet your last dollar He would have said it.

The lure of money is formidable and few people are willing to tamper with this powerful force! It is not easy to hear these words of Jesus spoken in any pulpit today. That doesn’t mean there are not men of God who can and who do stand up against the god of money. But it is an uphill task.

Jesus’ words are bad news to our flesh, just as it was bad news for the rich young ruler. In essence, Jesus was making the point (both to the young ruler and to His disciples) that worldly wealth has no place in the Kingdom of God. “Go ditch it and come follow me”. That was the unfortunate news He was ‘leaking’ out.

Jesus was showing this young man the way of the cross. But it proved just too hard for him.

And Job said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither… In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (Job 1:21-22).

The Apostle Paul says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Rom. 8:35-36).

Do I see the word “death” there? I am convinced that God has a few more things He wants us to give up in order to gain His Kingdom. Maybe even our very lives! We just aren’t aware.

Alas! I, too, am all too human. There are times when I find myself dreaming of ‘all that money’ and I have to kick myself awake. Money can easily blind one to the things of the Kingdom of God.

It is a great day indeed when I can find myself going through any slight hardship or discomfort for the Kingdom and to rejoice therein. There is no greater indicator for me that I am in the perfect will of God.

If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

“Giving Thanks Always…”

Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. 1 Gen 3:21

Notice that God made and clothed Adam and Eve with the coats of skins after they had sinned against Him. What does this teach us? This teaches us that we live by God’s grace and by God’s grace alone. It is not because we deserve His love or that we are any good. No. But God in His great mercy and love “covers” us.

A brother once came to visit at my house and he remarked on how “well” we lived.

“My brother”, he said, “you eat so well, your children dress so well; and you are so contented!”

There were a great many things he did not know were lacking in that house; but I understood him well enough.

I said to him, “My brother, we live by the grace of God. If you were to ask me today how we manage to survive, I really don’t know. But I know that God in His great mercy and compassion provides for us, even to the extent that you see.”

Many of the born-again believers whom I know of are people whom the Lord brought from a very low state of life. Many were people who were way down in nearly every aspect of their lives. In fact, I can hardly think of any Christian whose life has not been changed for the better after committing their lives to Christ. The Lord not only called them into His eternal Kingdom with the promise of eternal life, but He also blessed them even in this earthly life. Their lives have been changed simply because the grace of God is upon them.

Consequently, the Word of God exhorts us to be a thankful people. We should be people who are continually thankful to God for His great mercy and provision towards us.

There is no place for complaining or grumbling in the life of a born-again believer. It displeases God greatly when a Christian complains or grumbles. Even when things are not going well for us, we still have more than enough reason to be thankful to God instead of complaining.

1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

The Bible here clearly states what the will of God towards us is: it is that we should give thanks to Him in everything. Everything! The Bible does not say that we should give thanks in good things. It says to give thanks in everything, whether good or bad. This was what Job did, and it pleased God greatly.

In the final analysis, I believe God wants us to realize and acknowledge that there can really be no bad news for someone who has the hope of eternal life in them. We are a people of the Good News!

We find this fact beautifully stated in Colossians 1:12: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”

We have been made partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. There are many preachers who teach this scripture with a heavy bearing on the physical and material blessings that God can give to us. But this scripture is talking about the hope of salvation that we have in Christ.

That means that even if we were to live a life of utter want in this world, we still have a larger-than-life reason to be thankful to God for the hope of eternal life that He has granted us in Jesus. In other words, our eyes should not just be on the good life that God gives to us here on earth, but we should focus on that hope, which is the true riches of a born-again believer.

In Hebrews 13:15 it says, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Notice the word ‘continually’ there. It is the will of God that we should be ceaselessly thanking Him.

The Bible tells us how to live a spiritually fulfilling life: “…be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Ephesians 5:18-21

Many Christians easily forget the great provision of God in their lives and allow themselves to slide into a bitter life of complaining and moaning about this and that. The battle is tough, but God provides the grace to rejoice and thank Him even when circumstances are tough.

The Bible says that God was displeased with the children of Israel for their murmurings in the wilderness, and He destroyed them.

Let us take heed, for everything about God comes with a warning.

Suffering Is The Only Way

For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. 2Co 5:14-15 

Did you notice the small print there? It says that Jesus died that we, too, might die. Afterwards we will be able to live a different, completely selfless life. But before we live that life there is a death to undergo.

Salvation is not easy, nor is it comfortable. It is tough – on the body, I mean. No one in their right minds can tell you that suffering or death is easy or desirable. But much is meant to die in us before we can claim to be spiritual. In order for us to stand in the grace we stand in today Someone (Jesus) had to die. Many more joined Him in His suffering and death so that His life could continue flowing to others. The Apostle Paul says of his life: (I) now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col 1:24). Did you notice something else there? Paul had to suffer in the flesh so the Church could benefit in the spirit.

The biggest lie in history is being perpetrated in the Church today. People are being taught that they should not accept trouble or problems. They are taught that suffering is of the Devil and that they should fight it.

It is true that suffering could be from old man Satan himself, but remember that Satan did not trouble Job without God’s permission. At the end of the day, if we are walking in the right spirit, we realize that in all things it is God, not Satan, who is at work. After he had suffered for a brief period of time, Job was immensely rewarded. Many people think that Job’s reward was the material blessings that God blessed him with; but no, the real blessing that Job received as a result of his suffering was that He came to know God better. He said: I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” Job 42:5-6.

We could say that Job grew spiritually through the sufferings that he endured.

The gospel that we hear today preached to the majority of born-again believers is simply misleading. I can listen to any of our local Christian radio stations and I keep hearing the same stuff rotated about in different garb: God loves you and He does not want to see you suffer.

So – how are we going to learn patience if we are not tried in the area of patience? Can we, for example, learn how to defeat anger by attending anger-management seminars? Is it not that we need the Lord Himself to shake us in that area? Remember the Bible says that God used Pharaoh – a ‘type’ of Satan – to trouble the children of Israel for 400 years! (Romans 9:17)

If we want to live the charismatic lifestyle – the emotional/intellectual gospel preached by a large percentage of prominent preachers today – we will live it; but that is not true Christianity.

In Christianity the only way to become spiritual sons and daughters of God is through suffering. That is a Biblical fact. In this blog I keep providing evidence after evidence about our call to suffer. I would be surprised if someone came up to me and told me they were Christians and they have no sufferings in their lives!

Recently, the Devil attacked my family. It was a deadly and vicious attack. Nowadays we live in such an ‘free’ and Godless society that there are things that will simply come as a shock to us. When the attack occurred, I was tempted to react to save my family; but my wife reminded me that although the attack was physical, its roots were spiritual. She said we should pray to God, which we did and He gave us the victory in the spirit. The next day, my family sat together and wondered at the grace God had given us. We prayed that God would deliver us from such attacks; but at the same time we were assured that if God were to allow any such thing to happen again, we felt we would have the grace to face it.

How do you expect God to ‘shake’ us and have us grow if not through suffering? That is the central question that born-again believers ought to be asking themselves.

I have kids and I seriously desire for them to grow up, to mature. If I raise them up on a soft diet they will never become mature. They need some ‘shaking’. That is not good news for anyone to hear, myself included. But there is no other way.

Suffering is the only way for us to become more like Jesus, the only way for us to know God more. We cannot avoid it.

The Apostle Peter, speaking of the glory that would be revealed to us (meaning the gloriously victorious life we ought to be experiencing today) says: Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” 1Pe 1:13.

There are Christians who deride the kind of teaching I am advancing here; they will say, ‘Oh, you are threatening the people of God’; that I am bringing them under law. I am ready to be accused of anything someone feels I am guilty of, but we cannot fight Biblical truth. That truth will set us free, if we are willing to pay the price.

God’s love is tough.

Are We Wise? – Part 2

There are many things I will never know in this world. There are many more I will never become.

In my naivete, I thought I should know everything and I wanted to become everything. I read of Neil Armstrong and I wanted to become like Neil Armstrong. I had read about Abraham Lincoln; I wanted to be that great man. I had also read about Einstein, had even drawn pictures of him and wondered at the composition of the grey matter encased within that skull.

I even wanted to play the piano like Mozart. And I pondered what a great accomplishment it would be to be able to become a symphony conductor. (Today I am learning to play the bass guitar!)

I could spend hours, after a plane had flown by high in the sky, looking up and trying to work out the intelligence behind the kind of workmanship that would put such a thing up there. I became a lover of documentaries about the wonders of nature and the inventions of man.

In my country they dig for gold, diamonds, gas – and now they are prospecting for oil. Big, multi-national companies. I have seen them transporting incredibly big machinery to the mining areas. Huge 18-wheelers would pass by our town, each carrying a single ‘tiny’ component of the drilling machinery. The sight was a wonder to behold and one could not help wondering at the cost involved. (I came to understand why human life in such circumstances quickly becomes of little value. Billions of dollars are at stake and a few ‘worthless’ locals cannot be allowed to stand in the way of such a profitable undertaking in the name of claiming their so-called land rights… Regrettably, as a consequence of this, much of the beauty of the diamonds that the rich and famous people in this world wear is tainted with blood and tears.)

As I grew to know the Lord more, I realized that all this awe-inspiring stuff that I perceived with my five senses was… futile. It was nothing.

I admire Job. He was one of the wisest men who ever lived in this world. A man who would undergo such sufferings as Job went through and who at the end of it all says “blessed be the name of the LORD” is not your average Christian. That is a man in whom the wisdom of God lives. With that in mind, let us have a look at what Job has to say about wisdom.

Job says man has a way of arriving at all the worldly wisdom that he desires to. He can ‘discover’ anything he wants to. He can mine the deepest gold shaft. He can discover space – and beyond. In his ‘wisdom’ man can do many, many seemingly profitable things. That is what Job is saying in all of verses 1 through 11.

But apparently Job sought after another kind of wisdom. He doggedly asks: Where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?”

Job concludes that true wisdom is not found in the things that we perceive with our five senses. He says true wisdom is not found “in the land of the living”. That means that is cannot be found in the humanistic teachings or discoveries of this world. It is neither in macro- nor in micro-biology. It is neither in charting the outer reaches of space. Nor is it in discovering and bringing forth the riches of the earth.

Man can arrive at all these things. But if we want the real thing, we will need to take a different road. He says, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”

That is so far removed from the ‘wisdom’ of this world. No wonder God has a problem with people who think they are intelligent. God has a real problem with ‘smart’ people. Such minds are breeding grounds for worldly, humanistic wisdom or education which cannot make you to depart from evil. On the contrary, it will teach you principles, techniques – and a reason – to rebel against God.

I realize now how futile it was for me to want to know all those things and to become all those things I wanted to be! Had I attained to all of them, it would have been worthless.

Job, one of the wisest man that ever lived, tells us the secret of true wisdom: it is walking in the fear of the Lord, and leaving off from doing evil. That is the only one thing worth attaining in this world…

I no longer hold any grudges against Hercules. In fact, I often wonder what eventually became of him. But I do know that if he never came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior of his life, all his ‘gains’ in this world are so much rubbish.

Knowing and serving God in a spirit of brokenness, that is true wisdom. Desiring to appear wise in this world is folly with God.

I am so glad I am nothing. I have accomplished little in this worldly life. Now, whether that is okay with anybody or not is of no consequence to me. I have my sights on something completely different. In fact, some people think I am smart because I write this blog: I only know too well how worthless I am. And even if I were something in this world, still that has nothing to do with the calling that God has on my life.

I have only one calling in life: to deny myself, take up my Cross and follow Jesus. That is the only thing I have been called to accomplish in this world.