Prayer, Faith, And Obedience – Part 4

There is no denying that feeding “five thousand men, beside women and children” with five loaves of bread and two fishes was an incalculably extraordinary miracle. I haven’t heard of such a feat lately; and by lately I mean the fifty or so years that I have been about on this earth.

And now, finally, we can establish the real reason Jesus was so effective in His ministry. By effectiveness, it means doing things according to the will of God. In Jesus’s ministry, prayer was involved, yes. And so was faith. But you can have the gift of faith. This does not necessarily mean you are doing God’s will. Moreover, as we said earlier, when it comes to these things, Satan can turn himself into an angel of light. He can perform counterfeit miracles.

But Jesus performed genuine miracles. A while back I read of a certain preacher in Africa who decided to not let be (as most intelligent ‘power rangers’ do) and waded out into untested waters. He pronounced to his congregation that on a certain day, he would walk on top of the waters of a nearby croc-infested river. He spent the whole week fasting. Come Sunday, and he gathered his entire congregation by the river. It is not reported, but it requires no feat of imagination to surmise that the whole neighborhood had gotten wind of it and that they were on hand to witness the miracle of the century.

After uttering “Abracadabra!” or something, the man stepped onto the water and the last his loving congregation saw of him were two giant crocodiles tearing him to pieces.

Jesus, however, walked perfectly comfortably… on the stormy waters of a raging sea. And after He had entered the boat, He ordered the storm to cease. The storm ceased instantly.

Jesus not only performed these incredible miracles, but He was able to live a life that was fully pleasing to God. So, what was His secret? The reason Jesus was able to do live such a life with ease was because He denied Himself and lived according to the will of His Father. Jesus therefore was able to tell His disciples,

“12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. 15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14:12-15)

The real reason men do not perform effectively in ministry as Jesus did and with the ease with which He did it is because we are not living fully according to God’s will. In other words, our lives are not fully surrendered to God. A man’s effectiveness in ministry cannot surpass his Godly way of life. We are not all called to be miracle-workers, so we cannot measure ministry by miracles. But we certainly can measure effectiveness in ministry. Whether one is called to be an apostle, or in any one of the five-fold ministries; or whether he is called to the ministries that Paul lists in Romans chapter 12, we can only perform effectively to the extent that we have given of our lives, i.e. the extent to which we are dying to self, taking up our cross and following Christ.

That is why the revelation of the cross is so important to the believer. It is in this revelation that the believer learns to die to self and to allow the God-life to reign fully in them.

It is when we are living this revelation that we can live a life of true obedience to God and find ourselves pleasing Him fully.

Christ was the perfect example in this regard. Through crucifying His flesh since before the foundations of the world were laid, Jesus served God perfectly according to the calling that God had placed upon His life.

The Apostle Paul, who followed hard in the footsteps of Christ, wrote:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

[Ministry can be as simple as one-on-one evangelism. Our effectiveness in ministry is measured by our obedience to God through living the crucified life]

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Prayer, Faith, And Obedience – Part 3

There is one thing that was not so simple as the provision of bread, and this is what truly troubles God. Jesus told His disciples:

“Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.”

Now, in those words, there was a work to do! This, finally, is the time for the saint to wake up. A lack of bread is nothing to wake anyone up about. But here – where the leaven of the Pharisees and the Herodians is – here is the place to shake everyone awake. It is the place for the saint to keep his eyes peeled. No time for sleep here!!

Where hypocrisy and every work of the flesh is, that is where the saints are involved. That is what should concern us. Not Burger Kings! Or Kentucky Chicken. Or houses or lands or clothing or cars or private jets. Or even whether our kids go to the best school or not (Today, education for our children, especially here in Africa, is at a premium. It has shot so high in esteem for the children of the Kingdom it is threatening the very throne of God in importance.)

But, in a sense (and this is where Jesus needs us to be mature), God is not too worried about the things of this worldly life as we are. There are examples in the Bible to show that, with regard to this natural life, God is not too worried even whether we live or die! There are instances where God gave up His children to be slaughtered.

What has God truly worried is when we carry the leaven of the Pharisees in our hearts. And here God has set up a whole system – the way of the cross, the singular gospel that the Apostle Paul preached – to ensure that we do not continue carrying this leaven with us. That is the eternal gospel.

Let us have the simple faith to trust God for our needs… and let us move on to seek after the wellness of our hearts for this is what truly matters with God.

Prayer, Faith, And Obedience – Part 1

15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.

16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.

17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.

18 He said, Bring them hither to me.

19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children. Mat. 14:15-21

There is no denying that feeding “five thousand men, beside women and children” with five loaves of bread and two fishes was an incalculably extraordinary miracle. I haven’t heard of such a feat lately; and by lately I mean the fifty or so years that I have been about on this earth. This post endeavors to explore the factors that led Jesus to perform such an incredible miracle.

Not too long ago, a lady from one of our churches paid me a visit, and she had a heavy burden on her heart. Her son, she explained, had come out of college more than two years ago and he had yet to find any form of employment. The young man had therefore resorted to offering tutorials to local students for a fee just to earn a living.

I asked the lady, “Madam, have you tried prayer?”

To which she replied, “Er, yes, but…”

“I mean, the prayer of faith”, I corrected her.

It didn’t take me long to realize that she had spent more time worrying than praying. I therefore took time to speak with her, and I read to her the above scripture in Matthew 15. And it is the gist of my conversation with this lady that I wish to share with my readers here.

Just before I get into what I told this lady, though, I cannot, upon re-reading the above verses, but convey my deep admiration for our Lord Jesus Christ. Though Jesus was capable of doing so, He did not perform great miracles just because He was able to. He did not do anything on a whim, or to impress the crowds. On the contrary, Jesus did everything in perfect accordance with His Father’s will. In other words, Jesus obeyed His Father. God does not do things just to dazzle crowds. On the contrary, He does things according to His Master Plan in the Spirit. His plan and purpose in the Spirit supersedes anything that we might do, and our obedience to that is of supremest importance in our relationship with Him. That is why, in 1 Samuel 15:22, the Lord says,

“Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

Which brings out the fact that not every miracle work – indeed, not every work of ministry – is an indication of its worker’s obedience to the Lord. We as children of God need to get that right, because we have a penchant for cheering at every flash of light. But to obey the Lord is of far greater importance than working of miracles.

Anyways, back to our lady.

The Lord gave me a revelation and I told the lady, “When scripture here says that Jesus ‘blessed’ the bread and fish, that word ‘blessed’ there means He prayed. The Lord prayed for the food to be multiplied and, after He prayed, a miracle of momentous proportions took place. Jesus did not take the fish and bread and throw them at the crowd expecting a miracle to happen. In other words, the miracle that day did not just happen. It happened because Jesus prayed.”

Prayer works. There is so much teaching in the Bible about prayer – and these are all teachings that we can take at face value. The Lord Jesus said,

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Mat. 7:7)

But He did not just end there. No. He girded that instruction with a promise:

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (v. 8)

I know from personal experience that prayer works. There are things I have prayed to the Lord for, both in my personal life and in my ministry, which I have seen the Lord, clear as day, answer. Every one of them.

The Lord said, “Ask”! After you have asked, you can go on to knock; and to seek. Many of the things that trouble our hearts we do not even need to knock or seek for; we only need to ask. They are the things of this material life.

I love what the songwriter wrote: “Is there trouble anywhere? Take it to the Lord in prayer.”

Is there trouble anywhere? Is there a  need anywhere? Take it to the Lord in prayer. A simple prayer: “Lord, here is my need. Please provide.”

And move on in your spiritual life in faith, expecting. There is no earthly need that the Lord cannot, or will not, meet for His children.

A Friend In Jesus

Not too long ago, the Lord impressed upon my heart the importance of prayer. And, although I know it was personal, yet this impression has stuck with me so unrelentingly that I felt I should share it here for the sake of someone who might be in such need as I was. And the way God works is indeed marvellous and strange, for it is not I thought I had a need. But but the Lord impressed upon me that I ought to pray, and it was then that it dawned on me that I truly had a need – the need to pray!

Actually, the impression came in the form of a familiar song. On this particular occasion, the words of a song that I had sang for so long that it had become mundane to me became the sweetest words of any song that I had ever heard or sang! The song took me to a new level of faith, literally. Ultimately, I discovered that I had the truest Friend in Jesus.

Since then, I have shared this song with my family and with some members of my church, and although they are accustomed to singing it every so often, this time round I could see the power it had over their lives. So I thought, There might be someone out there, besides us here, who needs some encouragement in this regard. Hence my decision to share it on this blog. I share it with a prayer.

May the Lord bless everyone who has a need tonight and may He hearken to your cry. And may you discover, like I did, the meaning of the word “friend” in Jesus Christ.

No Righteousness Of Our Own!

9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Lk. 18:9-14

A brother said to me, “I have been saved 20 years, but this morning I woke up with the strangest feeling in my heart. I had this strange desire to say only one thing to God: ‘Lord, here I stand before you, a sinner.’ So I got out from my bed and knelt down and spoke to God those very words. The thought so pressed upon my heart that I was unable to say anything else. I kept saying, ‘Lord, here I stand before you, a sinner.’ And then… the most amazing thing happened. I felt this deep peace and joy within me like I have never felt before in my life!”

I said to the brother, “Actually, what you did was Biblical. Jesus praised the man who said those same words.”

I thought, ‘At 20 years old in our salvation, most of us cannot mouth the words, “I am a sinner.” Nor, “Forgive me”’.

Most of us hold arrogantly to our ‘righteousness’, and we end up self-justifying ourselves and despising others, like this Pharisee. This is especially so if we allow our thoughts to lead us to think we are of value to God in some way. If, for example, we have been saved for a long time, we tend to justify ourselves. We think that with the passage of time, we have become more righteous. But time does not justify us before God. What justifies us is our continued dependence on the righteousness of Christ Himself. That means that at no single moment are we allowed to lose sight of Jesus.

Just to pull the scope further on our attitudes, it is the same when we find ourselves taking up responsibility in church duties (I wouldn’t call them spiritual duties, for our spiritual duty is one: to die to the flesh).

When we become ‘something’ in the church, we think that justifies us before God. Today, some of the most brazenly arrogant people in church are church leaders, including preachers. On another level, people even boast in their hearts because they can pray more hours than others! They are even called ‘prayer warriors’. This same attitude goes for singers, etc.

But these are exactly the kind of attitudes that we ought not to have in our relationship with God. They are all of the flesh, and God hates the flesh. In ourselves, we are not righteous and we are not good. We are lousy and despicable when we are held up to God’s righteousness. It is not a matter of how long we have been saved, nor how good we have tried to be. On the contrary, it is a matter of humbling ourselves and realizing that we are, after all, nothing but sinners who need God’s forgiveness and mercy upon our lives, daily. We come away justified before God when we constantly walk before Him with this kind of attitude.

It is the heart! You can be anything; but watch your heart. Do not ever, ever allow it to rise up. Always make sure your heart keeps a low profile, for your justifier, Jesus Christ, is already standing tall for you.

God’s Protection

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil… Mat. 6:13

The world is an incredibly evil place. People undergo all sorts of tragedies every day, perpetrated upon them either by fellow men or by nature. Every day an incredibly large number of people suffer unspeakable horror and suffering the likes of which many of us would never dream of. But for we believers, the threat is double-edged: the devil would love to see us not just suffer in our bodies; but, even more importantly to him, he would absolutely love it for us to become lost spiritually. It is my firm conviction that the devil would even be willing to forgo harming us physically if that action would lead to our spiritual downfall. For this reason, therefore, the real place we should keep our eyes peeled really hard is in the spiritual realm. We should not be deceived when calamities and other forms of suffering appear to be visiting other people and not us. In the spirit, Satan is as close to us as our skin. That is why the Bible says in 1 Peter 5:8:

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

Satan is a relentless foe. The Bible likens him to a roaring lion who is walking about, seeking someone to devour.

This is why Jesus’ words in this prayer are so important. That God can – and does – deliver us from such an enemy is such a grace.

One time a brother was describing to me how the Lord delivered him from the sin of adultery. This man was an army man and on this particular occasion, he had agreed to rendezvous with a strange woman in a certain location. It was his first time to attempt such a thing and he expected it would go smoothly.

But when the woman arrived, she was dressed from head to toe in a black hijab, the traditional garb for Muslim women here. The man had never seen this woman dressed in such clothes before and when he saw her, his heart was struck with mortal fear. He got so scared that he ran away. Literally. The minute he realized it was her he quickly walked away from the scene and left the woman standing there alone. In our country, many women wear hijabs and this brother told me he could never comprehend why he got so scared of this particular woman.

When I heard that I said to him, “Brother, that was not ordinary fear. That was the Lord. The Lord personally appeared to you and rebuked that sin in the Spirit and His rebuke was what caused that fear in you.”

The Lord works over-time to protect and preserve us against the many different forms of attacks from the devil. We should be constantly praising and thanking God for this inexpressible gift.

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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