A Heart For God’s People

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.

15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. Phil. 4:10-18

Ever heard of aliens? Well, there is no such thing as an alien. At least, that is my belief. But there is a new kind of ‘alien’ that we are going to learn about today.

During our recent regional CTMI conference (www.ctmi.org) in Dar es Salaam, the speaker, Brother Miki, quoting from 1 Peter 2:9 said, “A new race of people arose in the world when Jesus died and rose from the grave. A new race of people, saved by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. It is called the Christian race.”

I was sitting there and my mind was moving super-fast. I began thinking, This was a race that is not white, black, Asiatic, nor Arabic. You won’t find this race among all the races in the world. It will never be found there. It is a race of people that is alien to this world. It is indeed, as the scriptures say, a “peculiar people”.

It is in this light that we can appreciate Paul’s words in the scripture above. It is also in this light that I personally find it hard to count myself as a part of this peculiar race. How could I attempt to compare myself with this man who did something so unbelievably extraordinary?

And what is it, pray, that the Apostle Paul did that was so extraordinary?

The portion of scripture that answers this question is in verse 17:

“Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”

Once you understand what Paul is saying here, you will understand that this was a man who was truly in a class of his own, spiritually speaking. In simple words, the apostle here is saying that he wanted the Philippians to give; but not for the reasons that many of us would be thinking of.

Paul had only one reason to want the Philippians to continue giving. The reason he rejoiced for their giving, he says, was because

“I desire fruit that may abound to your account.” (v. 17)

The reason I say I am not in Paul’s league is because  whenever I have a need I always think of the shortest way to have that need met. And if a brother or sister comes to my aid, I will tell them, “God bless you”. But more often than not my “God bless you” is my selfish way of saying, “Thank God the need has been met” rather than a sincere desire to see the brother or sister blessed in the Spirit.

But God’s sacrificial love is revealed in the Apostle’s life in two ways here. In the first place, even though Paul had needs, he did not think of himself in time of receiving. On the contrary, he thought about the giver. He rejoiced, not on his account, but on their account. He rejoiced, not because he was receiving, but because they would be receiving!

Secondly, the Apostle Paul desired spiritual blessings for God’s people. He rejoiced because he knew that as they gave materially, they would be receiving spiritually.

Today many preachers will tell you to give in order that you might receive a material reward in return. I heard one preacher say, “If you do not pay your tithes, you will not be fed!” Fed, presumably by God. Wow!!

Today, the Name of God is blasphemed all over the world because of preachers of the gospel who do not have a heavenly agenda. A preacher who only has an earthly agenda is the most dangerous living thing alive. Seriously. This man or woman will take God’s people down the road of destruction for he or she will show them only how to prosper materially. Moreover, all he or she is thinking is how he can gain from them. He does not have their spiritual interests at heart.

But the Apostle Paul had the spiritual interests of God’s people at heart. And it is here, in this scripture, that God’s heart for His people is revealed: it is a heart that desires for us to get hold of the heavenly vision, and a heavenly reward, not an earthly one.

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.

My Mother Also

Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. Rom. 16:13

I am sure that Rufus’ mother was not just lounging about singing lullabies for Paul and Co. whenever they would visit her home. She and Paul must have had a relationship that so touched Paul’s heart to the extent that he could say of her, “She is my mother also”. She probably did not do something physical, but that she did something, of that I am sure. Paul would not go about scattering compliments like confetti. (Today we do a lot of that, unfortunately, especially in Pentecostal circles.)

And right here I can tell you exactly what Rufus’ mother did: she gave her life. Many Christians have this idea that ‘giving your life’ to Christ only involves making that initial confession whereby they accept Jesus into their lives.

But actually, giving our lives to Jesus is living a sacrificial life. Rufus’ mother must have given her life to Paul in such a sacrificial manner that he could say of her, “She is my mother”. It was a pricey relationship.

When I began writing this blog about two years ago, I did not have a laptop. I had an old desktop, which gave up the ghost not long after I had purchased it. I would therefore work this blog and do all my other stuff on borrowed computers or in internet cafes.

When our Canadian friends Frank and Carol came over to visit us in February last year, I was asked by my church elders to go keep them company in the house they were staying in in the city of Mwanza. So I travelled all the way from Dar es Salaam to go stay with them.

On arrival I remember noticing Carol using this flashy-looking laptop, and I quickly performed an act of “deliverance” on myself to ward off the spirit of covetousness that I could feel creeping up on me.

After about a week I had forgotten all about the laptop (Carol would use it only minimally). Then one evening Carol got it out and said to me, “Mwita, this computer is for you”, or words to that effect. She then proceeded to tell me how she had managed to purchase it: she had sewn sweaters (she is an expert at the art), and with the money she got from selling them to friends she had bought me the laptop.

As you can expect, I was deeply moved. I will not tire you with the details of the many conflicting emotions that rose up in my heart on hearing this very unexpected news, but suffice it to say that today I write this blog and do many other things for God’s Kingdom on a brand new laptop.

I happen to know that this blog has been a blessing to one or two people, at the very least. And although I might not understand God’s ways very well, I am assured that if even one person might have come to a deeper knowledge of God through what is written herein, that is an incredible blessing.

I know also that Carol did not give me this laptop so I could write about her (she was not even aware that I was running a blog then), therefore I am not blowing anyone’s trumpet here and I am sure her reward is safe in heaven.

But what I want to say here is that whenever I think of any tiny thing that could have been attained for the Kingdom of God through using this laptop, I always think of Carol. I think of the heart that must have gone into doing what she did. Of course, having known each other for more than 20 years Carol and I have much that unites us; and yet it is the work that I do through this laptop that makes me think of her more than anything else.

I consider her my mother in the Spirit, just as much as she is many other people’s mother. I love her with all my heart. And I thank her exceedingly.

It is therefore with a deep sense of gratitude that I write this post and I feel deeply satisfied that I have finally found the grace to do so.

I know also that she and her husband have paid an incredible price in many different other ways for the Kingdom of God. But suffice it here to just mention this little act of kindness which has meant so much for me and, hopefully, for God’s Kingdom.

[Below: My mother, Carol]

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