Of Oxen And Cribs

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. Prov. 14:4

A crib here is not the thing where a baby is raised in. According to the context, this particular crib refers to a cow pen or paddock. This is the place where cattle live and sleep. It is their home.

Now, we all know that this is not a particularly clean place. Cattle keep urinating and defecating here all the time. Naturally, this gives the farmer a hard time cleaning out the pens if he has to. In Africa, however, we don’t bother cleaning cattle pens precisely because they are not stationed indoors. The cattle are simply penned in outdoors and there they will comfortably live all their lives. We allow the manure to compact and mature during the dry season and, just before the rains come, we take it out and pile it in the farm to await the planting season.

I have never heard of a clean cattle pen. But, again, the Bible tells us here that a pen can only be clean if there are no cattle living there! In other words, if there are cattle living inside, the pen can never be clean.

The men who wrote the early Wisdom were practical men. They could relate to life in a down-to-earth manner. That being the case, it is true that even in a big house there are bound to be many people, and all these people come with their different habits and characteristics. Without a doubt they are bound to do things that are not pleasing to the owner of the house. But it is also true that they will in turn do many things that are helpful in that house. You cannot have ten people living in your house and it turns out that it is you who is running every errand. The truth is that many, many chores, duties and errands will be accomplished without your knowledge even.

There are many people who opt to live lone lives. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t for one minute defend how we Africans treat our dogs; but I am tempted to believe that many Westerners also have a hidden agenda in their love for their dogs. I think many do so because dogs are easier to cope with than human beings. After all, dogs are so subservient and humans so intractable. But, still, it is human beings that we are called to cope with.

At any rate, most people would rather not dirty their hands or suffer in any way; and yet, with the gospel, we are called to suffer for the gospel’s sake.

That said, notice the word “increase” in that scripture. The Bible says that if the crib is clean, the farmer has no increase or profit; he will experience only loss. Why? It is because there are no oxen in his crib!

These are the same words that our Lord Jesus echoed in Matthew 10:39.

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

In the natural, the more the oxen you have in the stall, the dirtier that stall is bound to get. But then, again, it means you will have more strength in those oxen to accomplish things that will bring you profit.

It is the same in the Spirit.

“… much increase is by the strength of the ox”.

In the Spirit, the more stumbling blocks you meet on your spiritual journey; the more trials and temptations you come across, the more spiritual you are bound to become as a child of God. The stronger spiritually you will become. A weak Christian is one who does not experience challenges to their faith. If you hold onto your life, you will lose it.

It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul said:

“9 … Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

It is only by allowing more trials and tribulations into our lives for the sake of the gospel that we will develop that inner spiritual strength needed to please and serve the Lord in the Spirit.

[It is for this reason that I, too, would not want to know any other gospel than that which was preached by the Apostle Paul: Jesus Christ, and Him crucified]

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“Thank You, Lord”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously”.

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

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

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

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

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

The Value Of Patience

It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. Ps. 119:71

A brother recently called me on the phone and he wanted me to lend him some money. He has a small business in a faraway village and the revenue people here in town had travelled there and given him and his fellow businessmen in the village a deadline to pay for and collect their tax identification licences. But the man did not have the money. He told me his fellows would be leaving the next day to come to town to pay for their licences and he alone would be left behind.

Unfortunately, I did not have the money he needed and I told him so. But I also told him, “Brother, it is not a sin not to have the money. I am sure God has a very good plan for you in the midst of all this.”

The brother did not sound reassured by my words, but still there was nothing either of us could do except to trust the Lord for His intervention. When I cut the call, though, I said, “Thank you, Lord, for those wonderful words that you have given me to give to this distraught brother.”

Very early the next morning my phone rang. It was my brother from the village calling, and he sounded very excited. He said, “Praise the Lord, brother! Brother, the Lord certainly knows how to deliver us from evil. Had I come to town yesterday I would have wasted a lot of money on bus fare, but the Lord delivered me. When my fellow businessmen arrived at the revenue offices yesterday, they were informed that the licences were not ready. They were told to go back at the end of the month, which is OK with me because by that time I will have acquired the money. Thank you so much for your words, they were true!”

I can recall any number of times that I have been afflicted; but I truly cannot say that at that particular moment that I considered the afflictions good for me. No, and in most cases I “kicked against the pricks”, as it were.

Yet King David saw in the Spirit and here he says that the afflictions he underwent were good for him!

We need spiritual eyes to see things as God sees them. Without spiritual eyesight we will forever be fighting God and His good ways.

It is in hindsight that I have come to appreciate and thank God for the valuable lessons that I have learned in the Spirit through the afflictions that I have undergone. I never would have admitted it before but I can now freely confess that there was – and there still is – a lot of folly, stupidity and downright hardheadedness in me that the cross of Jesus Christ needed to deal with. Moreover, I can sincerely thank God for these afflictions. I never would have thought to thank God for allowing things into my life that were so hurtful.

When we are walking with the Lord, we have absolutely no need to fear – or to feel resentful. David said in Psalms 23:4,

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

The reason for this lack of fear is because it is the Lord Himself who is in control of everything. All those circumstances that come our way, whether good or bad, have been programmed and passed by God Himself for a good purpose in our lives. And God is not like us: He is faithful and He will accomplish His good will in and for us.

The problem comes only when we do not allow God to accomplish His purpose in our lives through the afflictions He allows us to go through. The Apostle James says:

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

We need patience in order to have God perfect us.

As for resenting those who do us evil, the Bible tells us to love them instead. Why?

Once again, David gives us the answer in Psalms 23:

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” (v.5)

It is only a matter of time before those who cheered as you were being ‘roasted’realize that it was God who was at work and that He was working, not bad as they supposed, but good for you in all things.

In all cases that pertain to a child of God, evil is like manure. Manure may be distasteful in itself, but what it accomplishes to a plant is life itself. In the same manner, afflictions, tests and trials are the catalyst for our spiritual growth. We should therefore arrive at the place where we can say with David in the Spirit:

“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.”

Patience In Suffering

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. 1 Pet. 2:18-25

The Swahili version of verse 19 reads: “For this is true goodness, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.”

There it is, just in case you were wondering at the exact meaning of the word “thankworthy” in this verse. In other words, there is what we could call ordinary goodness; and there is true goodness. Ordinary goodness is the goodness that responds only to like goodness but cannot endure opposition to self. This goodness is of our carnal nature and it does not please God for it does not respond well to Christian suffering.

True goodness can only be of God. That means that the bar for true goodness is set very high. Remember the girl in Philippi who had a spirit of divination in her and who followed Paul and his team and proclaimed after them:

“These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17)?

Our God is the Most High God and his standards are equally high. True goodness cannot therefore be the feel-good stuff that our flesh craves. As a matter of fact, true goodness can only be something that the flesh detests, and which it desires to run away from.

In the world, our hearts automatically warm towards those who will us no ill. But when we meet people who would do us harm, we close our hearts. It is the easiest thing, even in church, to align ourselves with the people whose hearts are open to us. But we tend to close our hearts to those people who will not open their hearts to us, or to those who criticize and torment or persecute us. And if this is the case in the church, how much more so when this suffering comes from the world? The Apostle Peter here puts his finger on what is probably the most difficult thing for a believer to do: to suffer wrong patiently and to maintain a pure heart when in that situation.

Notice, again, “… but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”

The word “acceptable” here again attests to the high standards of God. “Acceptable” means what is right with or pleasing to God. If it was me, what Peter describes here is not what would be acceptable with me. But this is what is acceptable with God.

On the flip side, it means that if we suffer when we do well and are unable to take that suffering “patiently”, this is not acceptable with God. We have a long way to go in pleasing God!

But the Apostle Peter gives us the example of Christ Himself. Christ endured suffering from sinners, although He Himself was sinless! In that way, Christ did that which was acceptable with God. But even more so, the Bible tells us, it was through this endurance that Christ became the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.

If we are selfish, we cannot take evil, and for that reason can never be of value to anyone from God’s perspective. Jesus said,

“24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (Jn. 12:24-25)

Hence the need for the revelation of the cross in our lives, where “Christ crucified” becomes the foundation of our Christian lives. It is only through a crucified life that we can live this kind of life, the life that pleases God.

[In the midst of suffering may it be well, Lord, with my soul.]

The Power of Love – Part 1

Not too long ago, I was describing to a fellow pastor how the Lord changed my heart towards my daughter. Starting from her teens, my daughter was not always an easy girl to get along with. She was headstrong and stubborn to the core. Her mother and I wanted her to become an obedient little girl, but we got the exact opposite. Needless to say, this state of affairs hurt both me and her mother deeply. In varying degrees of coaxing and coercion, my wife and I would try to make her tow the family line. But she just wouldn’t.

When I was with her, I would rein in all my impatience and try to be as loving as possible as I lectured her repeatedly against her stubborn attitude. That was when I was with her. When alone, however, I would be clawing up the wall in fury and frustration.

I had raised my children with the greatest care and attention to discipline and good morals. Somehow, I had placed a premium on my efforts, which meant that I expected them to tow a certain kind of line. But God never allows our ways to become His ways. No matter how sincere our intentions, no matter how good our plans, we must first acknowledge that it is all by His grace.

My daughter attends one of the colleges right here in our town but she stays on-campus. I was telling this brother how, one time, within a period of one week, I called her on the phone three times in a row, and she wouldn’t pick up her phone. Nor did she bother to call me back.

Ironically, I had initially actually called to say ‘Hi’. I had decided that, as her dad and pastor, I should now shoulder the responsibility of carrying the cross for everyone. But the exercise backfired. Two calls went by without being answered, and I wasn’t taking it nicely. By the time I made the third call, it was just as well she did not answer. Had she answered, the phone lines would have experienced a small atomic tremor.

After the third call, I spent the entire week preparing a doomsday speech – in my mind. She had to know who was boss! Even if it took her a year to come home or to call me, that speech would be delivered. I honed and honed on it until I felt it was as perfect as it could possibly be. Then I stored it in a specific location in my brain.

At the end of that very week, my daughter called me and informed me she would be coming home for the weekend. I answered her with the darkest “Welcome” that will ever grace this world.

I waited for her with mixed emotions. As with all parents, I love my daughter deeply. But, somehow, I could not take her intransigence. She had to learn to obey!

But a miracle took place that night. Yes, a miracle as instantaneous as the miracles that took place during Jesus’ time. That night, as I lay in bed, awake but tense, I suddenly felt an indescribable calm sweeping over me. A strange peace washed all over my heart and even over my body. I lay still and savoured its presence. All of a sudden I felt knots and lumps loosening up in me. At that moment I knew, suddenly, that I was free.

Actually, now, in retrospect, I realize it was the Lord Jesus Christ in person who visited me that night. In an instant, a whole new change occurred in me. I felt an incredible love for my daughter. I realized how she must be suffering also in her inability to obey us, her parents. I knew she wanted to obey, but she just couldn’t. Or, could it be…? All of a sudden, I realized that it was I who had failed her. I had failed miserably in showing her the love and patience she needed.

At that moment I felt I was ready to accept my daughter as she was. And this feeling came straight from my heart. I wondered, What had I been doing, being so hard on her?

She came on the evening of the next day. As luck would have it, it was I who opened the door for her. Upon looking at her face, I found the expected: an expression that indicated she was expecting trouble. Eyes sharpened to a knife-edge; and a mouth that was firmly set.

But she was in for the surprise of her life. I quickly moved out and took her in my arms, hugging her tightly. Then I looked into her face and said warmly, “Welcome!”

Her mother, who was inside preparing dinner, asked, “Is that Keren?”

“Yes”, I said.

Then I turned to her and said, “If you had not come tonight, you would have missed today’s chicken.”

The long and short of it is that, ever since that day, Keren and I, and her mother also, have become the best of friends. The even better part is that nothing she will ever do can take away or lessen the love that the Lord put in my heart that night. My love for her is perfect and unconditional.

Could things get better? Yes, of course. The best part is that Keren has been set free. When she is home, she no longer has the confrontational attitude that she possessed before. Gone also is the hounded look on her face. She has no need of these things because in her heart she can feel that they are no longer needful in our relationship. She can feel my unconditional acceptance of her.

Today, when she is at home, Keren brightens our house.

[Below: An indigenious people of the Manyara region, the Wamang’ati]

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Two Lovely People

8 And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.
9 And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.
10 Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.
11 And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.
12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.
13 And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.
14 And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.
15 And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.
16 And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.
17 And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life. 2 Ki. 4:8-17

In this and the next post I will be writing about two great women of faith. The Old Testament is filled with stories whose incandescent beauty is only surpassed by the glorious revelation of the Holy Spirit who walked in the midst of the experiences that we read there.

As with all scripture, the story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman is full to the brim. I do not know how many books it would take to uncover to any level of satisfaction the riches to be found in this scripture. In this post we will attempt to bare the tiniest glint off of this priceless treasure trove.

What a woman this Shunammite was; and what an incredible man of God Elisha was! In the Spirit, these two fitted together like a glove.

The Shunammite woman was a truly great woman on the earth, and at her death she became a great woman in heaven also. Not too many people can attain to such an achievement, for the Bible says that not many great earthly men will be great in the Kingdom of God.

One of the things we notice in this narrative is that the Shunammite woman welcomed the man of God into her house ‘with no strings attached’. She was self-less, and she loved the man of God for who he was, not for what she could gain from receiving him into her house.

Elisha, on the other hand, felt indebted to this woman for her generosity towards him, and he desired to do her some good in return. But even when he called for her and asked her what favour she would desire from him, she wanted nothing.

“I dwell among mine own people”, she told him. Which meant that she did not have any problem for which she needed his intervention. More to the point, she implied that she was contented with her life.

But this Shunammite woman had a secret need buried deep within her heart. Actually, this need was greater than anything that Elisha had alluded to. This need comprised of the fact that the Shunammite had no child. Moreover, her husband was old, and their hopes of bearing a child had grown dim, if not entirely gone. The Shunammite would not think of burdening the servant of God with such an impossible wish. She therefore refrained from telling him.

Apparently, Elisha had not noticed that his benefactor had no child. But his servant Gehazi had noticed. When Elisha therefore pressed Gehazi for what they could for the woman in return, Gehazi told Elisha, “I know what this woman’s real need is. She has no child, and her husband is now old.”

Immediately Elisha heard that, he knew what he needed to do. He sent for the Shunammite woman again and when she came he told her,

“About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son.”

Her reaction tells us that this was her greatest need in life. In the classic manner of reactive disbelief she told the man of God:

“Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.”

But it came to pass just as Elisha the man of God had said. The woman conceived and, at the time that Elisha had appointed for her, she gave birth to a baby boy.

So what lessons can we learn from this story?

There are many, but the most obvious one is that God will reward us when we bless others selflessly. This woman blessed the servant of God, Elisha, and God blessed her in return. It happened to her exactly as Jesus Himself said,

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Secondly, notice that the Shunammite woman did not go seeking for her blessing. On the contrary, of her own free will and out of her good heart she patiently served God by serving His servant. And it was that God saw it and, in His own time He met her most desperate need in life.

The Shunammite’s heart was filled with giving.

There are people searching for answers to their problems, but they are going about it the wrong way. They do not have the patience of this woman. Were they spiritual people, they would simply serve God and await His deliverance. There is only one way to test God: it is by serving Him, and serving Him wholeheartedly.

Notice also that Elisha tested the woman by asking whether he could intervene on her behalf in very mundane matters.

“If someone has taken your piece of land”, Elisha told the woman (paraphrased), “I could talk to the king and he could help you get it back.”

Today, many people regard men of God as the fairy with the magic wand in their lives. They regard them as the solution to all their earthly problems. This is the reason for most of the long prayer lines you see in many churches. Many people go to church to have their problems prayed for, not to be edified or to learn to love God in the Spirit. There are many people who are believers, not for spiritual reasons, but for earthly, material ones.

But the Shunammite woman was contented with her lot in life.

Thirdly, we learn an important lesson from Elisha himself. In the first place, the way Elisha conducted himself in the Shunammite woman’s house was exemplary. So much so that the woman told her husband,

“Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.”

In other words, the more Elisha passed by, the more she came to realize that this was a holy man of God. I do not think she would have noticed that if Elisha had conducted himself in a disorderly manner.

Unfortunately, it is not so with many preachers of the gospel today. Stories abound of the carriers of the Good News that would make your skin crawl with dread. Today, there are fewer and fewer men of God who are true examples of a Godly, holy life. I know of a certain ‘prophet’ who lodged in a pastor’s house for a time, and he ended up demanding that the ‘spirit’ had told him move into the pastor’s bedroom and the pastor to move out. Unfortunately, the pastor complied. It took a public outcry to reverse the situation; but the damage had already been done.

Lastly, and of equal importance is the fact that men of God ought to be able to sow spiritual things into the lives of God’s people and in that way bring the great blessing of the Spirit into the church.

In Romans 15:27 the Apostle Paul says:

“… their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.”

Elsewhere he tells the Corinthians:

“If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” 1 Cor. 9:11

Notice Paul is not talking of mere preaching of God’s Word. Rather, he is talking about God’s ministers investing in the Spirit into the lives of God’s people. The price that one has to pay for such an undertaking is that he has to die to self. He has to lay down his life for the sake of God’s sheep.

[This morning I woke up with this song on my heart. And I cannot help myself just watching everyone who is in this video!!]

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]

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