Looking to Others’ Gain

Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. Phil. 4:17
If you gave me a gift or came to my help in any way, I would feel extremely thankful to you. The reason for me being grateful is because you would have gotten me out of a jam. In other words, I would be thankful for me.
But, clearly, it was not so with the Apostle Paul. When the Philippians came to Paul’s financial and material need, he thanked them. But he thanked them, not for his sake, but for their sake. He had already stated:
“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.” (vs. 11-13)
The Apostle Paul was a true servant of God. He looked not to his own profit, but to the profit of others. He looked to the profit of those whom God had placed him over. And, even more importantly, he looked to their spiritual profit, rather than their material profit.
“Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”
The “account” Paul is talking of here is the heavenly account, not an earthly one.
Most high-profile preachers today are looking to their own profit – material and financial. I have heard of preachers whose congregations have “rewarded” them with Rolls Royces, multi-million dollar mansions and even private jets. The reason these preachers grab at these “gifts” is because possessing them justifies the gospel that they preach – the prosperity gospel. They have, of necessity, to provide the prime example of the gospel that they preach through their lavish lifestyles.
How so noble of them!
In like manner, Paul also became the paramount model for the gospel he preached. But, praise God, Paul’s gospel was not the prosperity gospel. On the contrary, it was the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ. His was a gospel that required total denial of self.
Total denial of self… This reality tops the list, of all time, of things that are easier said than done, by any man anywhere on earth. The fact that Paul could deny himself to the extent of not wanting to receive things from his flock for his own gain speaks volumes about his spiritual character. That is not what a natural man would do.
But, even more astounding is the fact that he saw and desired for the Philippians far into the Spirit, that their fruit might abound in the Spirit on account of what they did in the natural.
“Not because I desire a gift…”
How so telling of the character of a true man of God! But, even more significantly so,
“… but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”
Where are such men of God? Even amongst we who have shunned the false gospels of worldly men, where are the men and women who can run such a distance in the Spirit? Whom among us can deny themselves to such an extent? Where is such love to be found?
Paul’s words are rare indeed in this present world, and they present us with a challenge – a challenge to know and to walk in the true revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Then, the church will have a reason to praise and thank God for the rare gift that such men and women are to the church.

“… Up Where We Belong”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Eph. 1:3

Notice in the above portion of scripture how God’s Word looks only upwards! That’s so powerful. The writer of this epistle could have chosen to look downwards. He could have chosen to talk about all the earthly blessings that we have in Christ. But he chose to look up. He chose to consider the spiritual blessings that we have in Christ. In his discourse he chose to ignore the physical and material blessings of this world.

God, our father, desires to take us up. That is where we belong as His children. He wants us to partake of His spiritual blessings and His spiritual Kingdom. That is our inheritance as His children. And yet, too many believers today have their sights set on the physical and material blessings of this world. Even when the Lord has begun “a good work” in us (Phil. 1:6) it is the most difficult thing for believers to appreciate the spiritual nature of our calling.

But our calling is spiritual. That is why the Bible says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”

It does not say, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual and material blessings in Christ”. That would be true, of course, since God is the God of all blessings, both physical and spiritual. But the Bible in every place makes a distinction between the physical and the spiritual; between the temporal and the eternal. Whatever is temporal will one day pass away. You could not, for example, take your car with you to heaven, even if it was a blessing that was hand-delivered to you by God Himself. When you go to heaven, your beautiful car will be left to rust here on earth. But in heaven you will find love, a spiritual blessing. That is the stark contrast.

The church should therefore focus on God’s “spiritual blessings”. If the Bible can take the time and the effort and the space in its hallowed pages to include the word “spiritual”, I believe we should pay heed to what it is trying to tell us. It could even be a warning. Today you rarely hear the term “spiritual blessings” used in church. You just hear of “blessings”. Everything, the physical and the spiritual, is lumped together.

But if you read the entire Book of Ephesians and, indeed, every other book of the New Testament, you will not find much talk about physical or material blessings. The Bible, especially the New Testament, talks of many things, and nearly all of them have to do with the inner man of the spirit and the work of the cross that is needed to bring about a transformation in his character.

We must once again learn to hear from the Holy Spirit. For the world, riches comprise of material wealth. For the spiritual person, the Bible tells us what comprises true riches:

“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

For the church the true riches are “Christ in you”!

Jesus comes to live in us when we accept Him by faith; and when through that same faith we become partakers of the death of Christ through an understanding of the cross, we become partakers of His resurrection life. The life of Christ in us means we can exhibit, right here on earth, the character of Christ. And this is the whole purpose of the gospel.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23).

These characteristics form the true spiritual blessings that the Bible talks about. Their formation in us is the top priority with God. It is the character that Christ had when He was here on earth, and it is the same character that we will find Him with in heaven. In other words, these are the things that last, for God never changes.

Many believers will be deceived by worldly-minded preachers and worldly-minded gospels. They will be led to prioritize the blessings of this world over the things that would mature their spirits and make them partakers of true “spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”.

But God wants us to move on to perfection in the Spirit (1 Col. 1:28).

Lessons I Learned From Christian and Martine.

We have a lovely couple in our church in Mauritius, Martine & Christian. The husband has been suffering from a kidney problem for a long time and last year his wife offered to donate one of her kidneys. A date for the transplant operation was scheduled, and the whole church, led by Brother Miki, prayed earnestly over the couple. However, when the time arrived for the operation to take place, the doctors diagnosed that Christian’s heart was too weak and he would not survive a transplant operation. So they sent him back home.

On the surface this appeared like a big blow. The Church had prayed fervently, and yet this couple was sent back empty-handed…. The devil must have been wringing his hands in glee!

But in Christ Jesus there can only be victory. Through the CTMI website, the couple’s plight became to all the churches that work with CTMI. What followed was a flood of sympathy…. Brothers and sisters from across the region sent in text messages and emails of encouragement and support, and they prayed. The whole Church rose up to support these lovely brethren.

And in that manner, another of the enemy’s attacks against one of God’s children was neutralized. Love won the day.

Sometimes God allows situations in our lives in order to reveal the far greater treasure that He has deposited in us through Jesus Christ. That treasure is of far greater value than the things that we can see or experience in the natural. “For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” 2 Cor. 4:18.

The last news I received was that Brother Christian is at home now, continuing with dialysis and trusting God.

But this is a couple who have felt the love of God flowing out to them from brothers and sisters probably in a way they might never have been able to experience otherwise.

This incident led me to think about what Jesus accomplished for us on the Cross, and I realized His benefits to us are spiritual. The Bible says that we have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Some people like to twist scripture for their own gain, but here the Bible clearly states that we have been blessed with all spiritual blessings.

The Lord led me to Psalm 103, and I saw what King David saw in the spirit long before Jesus came to earth to accomplish these things. Being a prohet, David could see far into the future, and he saw the many benefits that Jesus would accomplish for us by His death on the Cross. When he saw what he saw, David could only say to himself: “Soul, bless the Lord!”

“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:1-5

But David is also aware of how easy it is for the flesh to completely obscure our vision of the goodness of God towards us. That is why he exhorts his soul to “bless the Lord… and forget not His benefits”.

Were these physical or material benefits, it would probably be much easier for us today to “bless” and thank God, simply because we could see and touch them. But that is the way of the flesh. It rejoices only in what it sees and feels materially. Led down the narrow, spiritual path of sorrow and self-denial, the flesh remains only to demand and complain. And no wonder, for “the carnal nature is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7).

The spiritual world into which we are called, however, is a completely different realm, with different principles of operating and viewing things! All the blessings that David enumerates in that Psalm are spiritual blessings, and if we are not walking in the spirit we will never see them. And they are awesome blessings!

Who forgives all your iniquities. That means our sins have been forgiven. This is the greatest blessing that God could ever give to us. We need to understand the holy nature of God to realize the awfulness of sin – and what His forgiveness means to us. But in Christ Jesus, God has not only forgiven us of our sins, but He has also washed us clean, completely clean. It is not as if He forgives us but keeps a record of our sins so He can look them up any time we displease Him (that is the way of human nature!). With Him it is as if we never sinned before. His grace is that big.

Not only that, but God has given us His Holy Spirit, by whose power we overcome sin. Sin is always hard at work, attempting to ensnare us once again in its deadly grip. But “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” 1 Jn 4:4. Jesus lives in us by His Holy Spirit.

Not only that, but God also makes a way for us to stand again blameless before Him if and when we sin. All we need to do is to repent with a true heart. God’s benefits with regard to our former, fallen nature are incalculable. No wonder forgiveness of our sins is the first benefit that David could talk about.

Who heals our diseases. We need to be spiritual to know that God operates both in time and in eternity. Actually, God is the creator of time. That is what the scripture says in 2 Pet. 3:8: “…one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” God could, and will one day do away with time. We will know only eternity.

We could get sick, and even die, but the Bible looks much further ahead than this worldly life; and it foresees a period when we shall live with no sin and no sickness in our bodies, in the eternal Kingdom. If we are suffering in this world, do we have the faith and patience to trust and wait on God? We need much faith and patience in this regard. When they were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego told King Nebuchadnezzer: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace… but if not, be it known that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up” (Dan. 3:17,18). These men did not simply desire relief from physical pain. They were willing to undergo even that because they knew that in themselves they had a far bigger reward in the spirit.

The flesh sees and wants only that which is temporal! The quicker the fix, the better! Yet we see that the saints of old received these same blessings through “faith and patience” (Heb. 6:12).

Who redeems your life from destruction. We were destined for the eternal destruction of our souls, by the fact that by our very nature we were sinners and therefore enemies of God, and “the wages of sin is death” – Rom. 6:23. But through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, we received mercy, and were delivered from that awful judgment. We could never, in this worldly realm, comprehend fully the magnitude of the salvation that God has wrought for us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Colossians 1:13-14 says, “Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of our sins.”

Not only that, but God gave us the right to become His children, His sons and daughters. How truly amazing! We are not just some beggarly souls whom God has magnanimously saved from the brink of hell, and is there breathing down our necks, holding a warning sign before us that says: “You better behave, or else…”

No! The Bible says in Hebrews 10:19 says that we have the boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. That word ‘boldness’ means ‘the right to’.

Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies. I have a few stories to tell. But no words of mine could capably tell of the love and mercy that the Lord has shown to me, over and over again, particularly when I least deserved it. There are times when my heart has been so twisted that I knew I only deserved judgment from the Lord. But, lo and behold! It was during such moments when I felt that sweet, gentle presence of the Holy Spirit embracing me and loving me; and I knew without a doubt that God was not holding the condition of my heart against me. He was forgiving me – and loving me.

Who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord feeds us with all those spiritual goodies: wonderful, living words of encouragement from His Word, and the daily anointing and working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is so that we may grow spiritually. As the old, carnal man wastes away, so the new spiritual man is renewed day by day.

Not only that, but we grow to become that mature, perfect man of the spirit who shall live eternally with “the everlasting God” (Gen. 21:33). Do you know that before he fell into sin, Adam never grew old? He never knew old age. He never knew what it was to become tired. He was not affected by all the negative forces of this world, spiritual and physical, that beat at us every day. In fact he was living in an entirely different world from our own, the Garden of Eden, which God Himself had created. (Everything in our world today is tainted by sin, and nothing here on earth even comes close to comparing with the Garden of Eden).

God threw Adam out of that garden and put an angel with a flaming sword to guard it, so that Adam would not be able to go back. Had he been able to re-enter the Garden of Eden Adam might have eaten of the tree of life and lived forever in his fallen, sinful condition! Oh, the wisdom and mercy of God!

After Adam sinned, God told him that now the ground would produce all kinds of thorns and thistles – circumstances and situations that would torment him spiritually and in the flesh. But praise be to God because in Jesus we have the victory in every circumstance and situation.

The secret to our being able to thank God fully for His blessings in our lives is our capacity to see into the spirit realm, simply because His blessings to us are spiritual. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” – Eph. 1:3.

Everything that we come into contact with through our five senses is temporal, of this world. Even the most ‘spiritual’ things that we know of down here could hardly compare with the beauty of the reality that is there with us right now in the spirit, and which we shall find in heaven. Let me illustrate. We hear many beautiful gospel tunes sang here on earth. In fact, we pray and wish that these songs will be sang in heaven. They are so beautiful we want to listen to them forever!

Now, many of the things that will be in the world to come are still a mystery to us. But I have heard testimonies of people who heard something like angels singing or a heavenly tune, in a dream or vision; and they all testified that the tunes they heard were infinitely far much sweeter than anything they had ever heard in this world! That reminds us of the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4: “I knew a man in Christ… how that he was caught up into paradise, and he heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter”!

The New Living Translation puts it this way: “…I was caught up into paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be told.” From these scriptures, we just might begin to get a picture of how vastly different things are in the spiritual realm in relation to the physical, material world we live in!

In each aspect of God’s grace that David mentioned in Psalm 103, the most awesome part of it all is that God does everything for us on a scale far above anything that we could ever imagine in our wildest dreams; He adds spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing to us. The purpose of His doing all that is so that ultimately we may arrive at a true understanding of His love for us, as Apostle Paul puts it so clearly in Ephesians 3:17-19: “…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God”.

This realization will cause us to surrender to Him fully, with inexpressible joy. We will rejoice in every situation because we know He is in control of our lives, now and in eternity. And it is His will that we should rejoice in this world just as much as we shall rejoice in heaven.