Little Things Matter

12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Jn. 15:12-13

42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Mat. 10:42

[The inspiration for this post came from a sermon given by a very good friend of mine]

I know this might appear like a vain attempt on my part to reach for the stars, and I know it will most certainly sound surreal to my friends and readers. But I will go ahead and make this astonishing claim: that I have met the most beautiful woman in the world. Yes, among the many blessings that God has bestowed upon me, worldly speaking, is that He has granted me to set my eyes on the most physically beautiful woman in the world. For those willing to believe, yes, I have. In the flesh, I mean. And up close and personal, if you will. Now, just to set the record straight, I know it is said that beauty resides in the beholder’s eyes, but with this woman (who I will call D) it is not a matter of the beholder or the non-beholder. It is, simply, that she is the most beautiful woman in the world, period.

But, even a die-hard believer in this blogger might be tempted to stop believing me when I make my second claim, which is that this woman also has the most beautiful heart I have ever seen. How I arrived at the conclusion of the latter is the subject of this post. (The fact of D’s physical beauty, as I indicated, is not up for debate here).

Here is how it all unfolded.

A number of years back I visited the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius to attend the annual Church Team Ministries International (www.ctmi.org) conference. It was my first time to go ‘abroad’ (meaning outside of our two other East African countries of Kenya and Uganda). I met the most wonderful people on this island and I saw firsthand how hearts that have been changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ truly look like. But I had to overcome my personal fears first.

When I arrived there I was taken to one of the elders’ homes where, to my horror, I found many other visitors from different parts of the world also accommodated. Coming from one of the more backward parts of Africa, you can imagine I was not exactly the most inviting sight to see. By the time I arrived in Mauritius after a 4- hour flight, my hair had reverted to its original African state of uncombedness and, even though I had tried my best to really scrub myself, an abrupt landing into a more ‘developed’ environment brought into sharp focus every mis-detail about my physical appearance. Moreover, I was completely uneducated in the art of etiquette and, in a desperate attempt to make an impact, I quickly bungled the few chances I had and I ended up making one wrong impact after another, especially with my mouth. For starters, I called our host’s wife “Mama”, thinking I was being social and polite. But in Mauritius you don’t call women “Mama”, and I later learned that it was simply because everyone in that house was full of the grace of God that I was not immediately tossed out.

But it was a girl who was in that house that really made the difference with me. D took everything to another level, so to speak. But before we get to that part, I cannot help but mention again her incredible beauty. Despite the large number of people there, you couldn’t help noticing her, simply out of the fact that she was the most beautiful young lady anyone could ever have set their eyes upon. The minute I saw her I remember thinking, “This cannot be real. She must be a model.” There are simply no words to describe D’s beauty.

Anyways, the very first evening I arrived, after I made my debacle with the “mama”, D walked up to me and warmly greeted me with a hug and a kiss on my cheek. To this day, I cannot forget her smile as she came towards me. I thought she was greeting me as a formality and I remember wondering whether the next morning she would find the grace to even say hi to a half-moron-looking fellow like me.

But it was what D did next that completely blew me away. During the course of my stay in that house, D literally owned me. She made me her personal responsibility. Every day she would come from work and she would make a beeline for me where she would come up and hug and kiss me. After which she would sit by my side and take her time making small talk. One of the questions that I recall she would ask each time was, “Zakaria, how was your day?”

And I remember thinking: It is me who should be asking her how her day at the office was! It always struck me how energetic and joyful she seemed after a day at the office, a time when most people are so tired they have no energy left to do anything physical, let alone deal with people.

Even when I was transferred to a different residence and we were separated with D, she doggedly followed up on me. We would meet in church on Sundays and she would shower me with her peculiar love and kindness.

Later on, long after I had left Mauritius, D wrote me an email in which she confided to me that, at the time I was in Maurtius she was undergoing a particularly tough phase at her workplace and that soon after I left she had had to give up her job. The realization came to me that, at the very time she was sacrificing her life for me, she was going through hell herself!

My heart broke. To think that it was I who should have been comforting her at the very moment she was comforting me!

But God is incredibly faithful. All that is behind her now. Today, D is a happily married young lady, with an incredibly happy and fulfilling family life.

I remember writing her and telling her about the little things that she did for me while I was in Mauritius. She wrote back, saying, “Yes, sometimes the small things we do without knowing can impact people’s lives”.

Indeed. Jesus gave us the opportunity to use even the little things in life to show forth His love. Remember Jesus spoke highly about giving someone a cup of cold water. There is nothing remarkable about a cup of cold water; but it means the world to a thirsty soul.

There are many little things that we can do with the love of God in our hearts, and these things can bring a difference in people’s lives. Say “hi’ to people. Stop and help (there is much of that on our streets). Visit your neighbor. Visit the sick and elderly. Call back, write back. Go out of your way. Purpose to be a blessing to someone. Above all, don’t think only about yourself.

Loving God’s Son

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… 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jn. 6:53-66

The gospel of the cross can only be accepted and carried out by those who have a true love for the Lord Jesus Christ.  I once watched an Irish movie called “Touch of the Master’s Hand”. In that movie, a wealthy nobleman dies leaving a will wherein he gives instructions for his priceless collection of paintings to be auctioned off. But in the will is a hidden clause that states: Whoever buys the nobleman’s son’s portrait (which has been done by a local artist) will inherit all the nobleman’s wealth, including the massive collection of expensive paintings. His son is already deceased.

The whole world wants these paintings, and art collectors and the elite and moneyed gather from every corner of the world to view and buy the art collection. The first item to be auctioned off is the portrait of the nobleman’s son, a dull and unremarkable piece of art. No one wants to buy the painting; indeed, no one takes any notice of its submission and even as the auctioneer tries to get their attention on it, everyone is busy clamoring for the auction to “get underway”!

The painting is finally bought at a very cheap price by the rich man’s gardener. This was a man who was extremely loyal to his master and who had always admired the young boy. And that purchase brings the auction to an abrupt and unexpected end for, as the auctioneer reads from the will, the nobleman had stated that whoever would buy his son’s portrait would inherit all his wealth, including the paintings.

Benumbed and clueless as to what had taken place, the visitors shuffle away empty-handed.

That is a picture of the church today. Everyone wants all the goodies that God has to offer – the blessings, the healings, the dancing and celebrations, the amens and hallelujahs – but few are willing to love the Lord Jesus Christ to the extent of dying with Him. But, contrary to popular belief, there is no life in these things; the life is in the partaking of the death of the cross. Our calling, therefore, is clearly set forth in both these scriptures which we ought to meditate upon before “believing” anything else:

Philippians 1:29: For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake…”

and 2 Timothy 2:11-12: 11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us”.

According to the Bible, few believers are willing to deny themselves (Mat. 7:14). Denying oneself means forgoing one’s (worldly) rights and being content and happy therein. Denying oneself means taking up our cross daily and following Christ.

To love the Lord Jesus Christ is to die; to die the death of the cross where the flesh with its worldly lusts, have been crucified.

It is to not love the glitz and glory of this world, which today has been comfortably allowed to settle in church. Rather, it is to have our sights set upon the unseen treasures of God’s heavenly Kingdom.

To love the Lord Jesus Christ is to become lowly and humble:

Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits” (Rom. 12:16)

Dead Or Half- Dead? – Part 1

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. Mk. 10:17-21

The reason for the title of this post you will find in Part 2. But first…

My heart goes out to this rich young man. Such a wonderful man, and so zealous for God!

Did you ever notice that this man is one of the very few people of whom scripture states that the Lord loved? Not that Jesus does not love everyone else; but it is notable that scripture could take the trouble to write that the Lord loved this person. I believe the reason Jesus loved this man was because of his zeal for God. This rich young man, who had kept all of God’s commandments since his youth, not breaking any one of them and who had come running to Jesus and who, upon reaching Him he had knelt at His feet… What a heart! I haven’t read in the gospels of many people who did that.

But I also believe there is another more important reason for scripture to write that Jesus loved this man. The reason is, I believe, that God wants us to know how He loves us, or what His love is all about. If someone told me they loved me and then took off their very expensive watch and gave it to me, I would understand that. That is love to me. But, as is so clearly made out here, when God loves us, He does not love us in that way. On the contrary, He calls us to deny ourselves; actually, to deny ourselves, to take up the cross and follow Christ.

That is why the greatest gift that God can give us is a revelation, or a spiritual understanding of, the cross of Jesus Christ. In the cross we find true love, the love that never questions why.

I heard – actually, there is a video of this on Youtube – one of the major preachers of the prosperity gospel say: “I define prosperity as every arena of life… prospering in your spirit, prospering in your soul, prospering in your physical body – that’s healthy; prospering in your relationships, prospering on your job and prospering in your finances.”

It just might be coincidence, but it so happens that this preacher is one of the wealthiest men on the planet. If this preacher were to meet Jesus, Jesus would tell him, “Go sell your private jet, your multi-million dollar houses and your expensive cars and suits and give that money to the poor. After you’ve done that, come, take up the cross, and follow me!”

But, on top of all that he owns, this preacher is currently making plans to purchase a 65-million dollar private jet. Which translates into the fact that he has never met Jesus in his life. A tough conclusion, but true.

When Jesus loved this young man that we read of in the above scripture, he did not tell him, “Friend, I love you so much, which is why I have given you all that wealth. Hoard it well and enjoy it to the full, for that is my blessing to you.”

No, Jesus did not say that. On the contrary, Jesus told him to go sell all that he had and to give the proceeds to the poor and to come follow Him. And nowhere in its entirety does scripture deviate from this stance. For that is how Christ loves us and that is how He calls each one of us. He loves us to the end that we might deny the flesh and its worldly lusts and become like Him. The time for the worldly spirit of wantonly living life as “King’s Kids” is no more. Now is a time to give up our comfort zones and to go share the real life of God with Jesus. As the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 1:29:

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake…”

[Below: “Sell all you have and give to the poor then come, take up your cross and follow Me!” Love doesn’t ask why]

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Photo credit: Carol Lanthier

The Family

18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

4:1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. Col. 3:18-4:1

We should be extremely wary of the flesh, especially in relation to our families. You notice in this scripture that Paul is not talking about relationships within the church, but within the family. And here the Apostle Paul makes it clear that even a servant is a part of the family.

The reason for this need for vigilance is because it is the easiest thing for us to cast ourselves into a mould, where things become ‘normalised’ and we are no longer running the race we have been called to. The whole concept of salvation, including our relationships, is a daily race, and a gritty one. It is a race of the Spirit vs the flesh. But it is with the family that God is most concerned and it is with the family that this race must begin.

My son is a slow learner, and much of the time (at least, according to my estimations) he does things contrary to the instructions I give him.  I am well aware that there was some delay during his delivery and this was what caused his condition. But this knowledge does nothing to calm my high-strung calibre and much of the time, the things that my son does have me clawing up the wall, literally.

And so it was that one day I was watering my garden and I asked him to carefully move the hose for me between the young plants. Instead of picking the part of the hose I had shown him, he picked the wrong one and in the process he ended up breaking one or two of my precious plants.

To talk of a sonic boom here would hardly do credit to the bellow I let out. If you ever saw Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast”, well, the Beast’s roars there are a downgraded version of what occurred that afternoon. My son stood still as I went on the warpath and blasted him into Neverland.

But the Lord is good and I thank Him for His mercy towards me. After my son had left the crime scene, the Lord quietly came to me and showed me the rot that was in my heart. As I lay on my bed that the evening, I called my son.

“Joe”, I said, “I want you to forgive me for what I did to you this evening. I am truly sorry and please know that I love you.”

I was sorely tempted to add, “But please, please try harder at doing things right”; but with all the effort I had I bit my tongue and held my peace.

Notice the Bible says, both in Colossians above and in Ephesians 6:4, that fathers should not provoke their children to anger. The Bible here is not talking of the small children that we in our selfishness are wont to spoil. Rather, when children reach a certain age, when they are in their teens, it is the time that their independence begins to assert itself, and it is here that parents need to be very careful to not to stamp out that independence. It is this independence, nurtured in the love of God, that will lead your child on to maturity.

There are any number of scenarios with regard to our lack of vigilance. It is the easiest thing, for example, for the wife or husband to enter into an adulterous relationship with another person, not for any other reason than that they have not been vigilant in their relationship to their spouse. But it requires a daily death to the flesh for that relationship to stay renewed in the Spirit.

The same goes for every other relationship within the family. The parents need to die for their children; and the children, likewise, for their parents. The servant needs the death of the cross to work in him for him to serve his master as he would serve Christ; likewise, the man and woman of the house towards their servant. If the work of the cross is not in them, they can easily look down on or mistreat their servants.

It is the easiest thing for the pastor to run about pastoring everyone else except his family. He never spends time with his wife or children! It is no wonder, therefore, that many pastors today stand accused of having adulterous affairs with other women, because they were unable to pay the price needed to take time with their wives.

It is the easiest thing for the mother to be busy, oh! inviting over and welcoming all those beloved brothers and sisters in Christ – but never having a thought for her children. And the children become rebellious and she wonders why!

It is the easiest thing, as I said, for us to allow the flesh in its various forms to take over control of our families. It is the easiest thing for us to become selfish and to look only to our own interests: the father, to his own pride; the child, his/her own independence, etc. But the Bible in 1 Peter 5:8 says:

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…”

It talks about the devil there, but it might as well be talking of our flesh. The flesh is always lying in wait for us, ready at any moment to step in and take control the minute we lose our vigilance. That is why we need to be very vigilant in our relations with our family members.

The church setting is meant to overflow with the love and selfless sacrifice of Christ. And it has to begin with the family. As one of my friends used to say, you cannot jump to No.2 before you are done with No.1. The family is the Number One place where we are required to deny ourselves, to take up our cross daily and to follow Christ.

[My family. The highest responsibility I have is both to my wife and children, to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” – Eph. 6:4]

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Our Father’s Love

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Mat. 7:11

Recently, the Lord taught me a powerful lesson about His love for us. On that day, early in the morning as I was working outside, my daughter came up to me and said, “Dad, I have a request to make of you.”

“Say on”, I responded cheerfully.

Now, my daughter is always asking things from me since she is a college student. But on this day, she had something entirely different on her mind.

“Can you give me one of your chickens to prepare for a friend of mine who will be passing by”, she said.

She explained that her friend and a family of four had attended a relative’s funeral in a distant town and they would be passing by our town on their way home in another distant town.

Immediately she said this, I remembered the story of the prodigal son in the Book of Luke chapter 15. I remembered the answer that the father gave to his eldest son when this son complained of how his father had never given him so much as a kid, that he might make merry with his friends. The father had answered his son:

“Son… all that I have is thine.” (v. 31)

I cannot express my feelings when I realized I was reliving a Biblical experience. On TV they call it ‘live’. I was undergoing a Biblical event, live! This one, though, had a vastly different outlook: unlike the son, my daughter was not complaining.

I looked straight into my daughter’s eyes and, my heart bursting with joy, I gave her the biggest “Of course!!” she will ever receive from me.

Taking her by the hand, I led her to the chicken house and asked her to choose the chicken she wanted to prepare for her friend. She chose a good, fat one.

I watched as she joyfully prepared the chicken. She put all her love into the operation, just as I had put all my love in giving her the chicken.

Her friend would not be stopping at our house, so I would not have the chance to meet or know her nor her family. But I knew how overjoyed my daughter would be handing them her gift, and this thought alone filled my heart with inexpressible joy.

Jesus said,

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Mat. 7:11)

There are many times that I doubt the love of my heavenly Father. There are many times that I think He only looks at my mistakes. But my love for my children has taught me something awesome about the love that God has for me.

God loves me with unbounded love and He loves to do good things to me. All I need do is ask.

It is remarkable and awe-inspiring, don’t you think? Just think of how evil we are. And then just think of the love we are willing to bestow upon our children. How much more, the Bible asks, do we think God will bestow His love upon us?!

The fact that God loves us this much is not a licence to sin. But God’s revelation of His love for us is designed to make us cherish that love and to desire to love Him in return and to love our fellow men in like manner.

[Our Father’s love for us is as tight as it gets!]

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The Power Of A Good Name

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. Ecc. 7:1

The things that bring glory to God are not the things that we see in the natural. On the contrary, they are the things that are unseen, the things that are of the Spirit. But, unfortunately, the former is exactly the way many believers think. I remember one time we were at a conference and there walked up this pastor who had a big tummy and a body that appeared to be well fed and well taken care of. He was also wearing a sharp, shiny suit, shoes to match and a (fake) gold wristwatch. By all accounts he was a figure to envy.

A fellow pastor grabbed his hand and, pumping it up and down, exclaimed, “This is the kind of figure that brings glory to God!”

But that kind of thinking is carnal, and of the devil. God is not glorified in the flesh. Otherwise, Jesus would have been a Leonardo di Caprio.

I can tell you exactly what bring glory to God. It is a life that is lived in all Godliness and holiness. It is a life like the one I am about to describe below.

About three months ago, we lost a brother in one of our churches in a town called Mwanza. The brother, a young married man, worked as a construction labourer and on that day he was working on the second floor of a house he and his fellow workers were building. Suddenly, the girding he was standing on gave way and he plunged two floors down and his head ended up hitting the concrete below. His death was sudden and instantaneous.

The brother was a simple man. He was not a great person in any sense of the word. He was a simple construction hand and he had only recently moved into his humble half-finished house. He was the kind of guy who at his death would have had only a few neighbors show up at his funeral and, if anyone cried tears, it could only have been his wife or kids.

But with this brother, things were astonishingly different. The crowds that turned up at his burial attested to something superiorly unique. They were the kinds of crowds that you could only have expected to see at the burial of a very rich or famous person. The brother had died in the city, but he was to be buried in his village. Two funeral services were therefore held: one in the city; and another in the village where he was to be buried. In both services, I saw there multitudes which could not have been expected for a man of this brother’s calibre. In his home village, the entire community attended the burial; all businesses, including bars, closed and every last man, woman and child came to bury Musa.

But it was not just the crowds. The outpouring of emotion was overwhelming. Women cried uncontrollably, and the men could hardly contain themselves.

Musa was a deacon in the Mwanza church, and I had known him for a long time; but I did not know the extent to which he had touched people’s lives. On the day of his burial, even I was overcome with emotion as I witnessed the feedback from the crowds, and I too broke down in tears.

What could possibly have made this poor young man such a hero in the eyes of so many people, including unbelievers?

It was the kind of life that he lived. Musa gave his life to the people around him. He was a brilliant light in the true sense of the word for through his faith he brightened the lives of all he came across. He had brightened mine, too, for during the times when I visited the church in Mwanza, it was Musa who impressed himself on my mind the most. He had a simplicity and a humility that I envied.

It was not the first time that Musa had worked at the site where he died. After his funeral, the owner of that particular property called Musa’s pastor to his office. He said to him, “I cannot say this about everyone who has worked here, but Musa never stole from me. In fact, I could trust him with anything. For that reason, I will support Musa’s wife with exactly the same amount of money that Musa earned monthly.”

In addition, the owner of the school where Musa’s children were studying waived 90% of their school fees.

That was the power of a good name. Musa had lived an exemplary Christian life during his brief lifetime. A life humbly and godly lived; and a reputation that was more solid than a rock star’s. It was as the Bible says about the Prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 12:3-5:

“3 Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you. 4 And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand. 5 And he said unto them, The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found ought in my hand. And they answered, He is witness.”

At Musa’s burial service, the pastor was bold and confident as he proclaimed the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. He had a good reference point. When he made the altar call, nearly every hand was raised in acknowledgement and many people received the Lord Jesus into their lives. In life and in death, Musa reaped a great harvest of souls. Without a doubt, Musa proved the proverb true that says:

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.”

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“Troubled On Every Side!”

8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 2 Cor. 4:8-10

One time, not too long ago, I was in a jam – financially, spiritually and virtually in every area of my life. Spiritually, I was hanging by a thread, literally. I couldn’t pray and I couldn’t read my Bible. I would spend all of my devotion time looking into space. The worst time was when it came to ministering in church. I preached while looking at the clock, willing the time to pass quickly. I reckoned that if I made a lot of ‘spiritual’ noise within the allotted time, no one would notice that there was not a shred of the Spirit in my sermon. (Surprisingly, the services were always extremely lively!)

As my condition worsened, I soon found myself blaming myself for each one of the problems I was facing. As far as I knew I hadn’t done any express sin that warranted this downward spiral in my life. But I couldn’t put my finger on the reason nothing seemed to be working in my life and I could not find anyone else to blame. I was also ‘smart’ enough not to blame the devil.

It was then that the Lord, out of mercy for me, came to my rescue; and He did so in the most unexpected manner.

Early one morning, at exactly 6 o’clock, a brother 600 miles away called me as I lay in bed. For the last three hours, I had been lying on my back worrying about all the problems I was going through. At the exact moment that the brother called me, I was just beginning to doze off in fatigue. I was therefore none too happy as I made a belabored effort to answer his call.

The brother had never called me that early in the morning, so I thought he had something important to tell me. But, as it turned out, he had absolutely nothing of any importance to tell me. After the initial greetings, he told me that he was rushing off to his job. He works as a casual construction laborer. Work was hard to find lately, he intimated to me, and life had become extremely hard.

“But”, he concluded brightly, “we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed!” Then he hung up.

It took me a split second to realize that the brother’s last words were direct scripture. I shot out of bed like a bullet. The good news was that my wife was not at home at that time, she had gone visiting. Otherwise, I would have had some explaining to do.

I hit all the lights in the house as I began making a frantic search for my Bible, which since the last Sunday service I had thrown into no-man’s land. When I finally located it, I almost tore out the pages as I feverishly scrambled to find the scripture. I knew it was exactly as I had heard it on the phone, but I just had to make double sure!

When I finally found it, I sighed with relief – and unbounded joy! The scripture lay there before me, exactly as the brother had spoken it. I trembled as I read the words.

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed” (2 Cor. 4:8).

Even as I read the words, I knew the Lord was speaking to me. I read the phrase over and over again:

“… troubled on every side”.

“… on every side”.

The joy that Lazarus felt after resurrecting from the dead wouldn’t have lighted a candle to the exhilaration I felt as those words rolled about in my heart. I can assure you, beloved reader, that on that particular morning, the biggest cloud ever lifted from my shoulders. I felt indescribably free and relieved! I realized that the devil – whom I had been desperately trying to shield from blame – was he who had actually been telling me that it was my fault that I was undergoing all these negative situations in my life. But the Lord came to my rescue by showing me through His Word that what I was going through was the perfectly normal Christian life! Trouble on every side! I couldn’t’ believe it!

Much of the time, it is like we want to have a ‘hedge fund’ in our spiritual lives. It is like we want to have the rights to lots and lots of breathing space. Somehow, it has been psyched into our minds that the Christian life is a trouble-free life and that, at the very worst, God allows us to encounter a few teeny weeny problems which we can easily brush aside while sucking on our chocolate bars.

But the Bible doesn’t say that. On the contrary, it says that we shall be “troubled on every side”!

I can assure you that if the Bible says trouble, it is talking of more real trouble than all the terror groups in the world can think of. It is talking of everything that the flesh, the world and the devil and all his hordes can throw at you. And, the Bible adds, we shall encounter this trouble on “every side” of our lives.

That is so Biblical. Jesus Himself said,

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)

As children of God, tribulation is our portion in the world. The Bible concludes,

“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind…” (1 Pet. 4:1)