The Awesomeness of God’s Grace – Part 2

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 1 Cor. 15:10

Notice the wording in this scripture. The Apostle Paul says grace was “bestowed” upon him. We bestow crowns and things like that upon people. In other words, Paul considered it an honor that God would impart His grace to him.

But here, again, notice the word “laboured”. That is talking of responsibility. In other words, grace was given to Paul, not to simply “Sputnik” him to heaven, but so he could do some work first. God’s grace calls us to responsibility! God is looking to making us mature, responsible sons and daughters in His Kingdom.

In Philippians 1:29-30 we read, “29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; 30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”

The call to suffer is a call to responsibility in the Spirit. That is what we call walking in the grace of God. But the invitation to walk in the grace of God is an incomparable privilege rather than an inconvenience, as many of us view it. The invitation to partake of our Lord’s sufferings is something we should eagerly look forward to.

For many of us, though, it is like we would rather believe and then be allowed to go back to our old way of living. Y’know, get saved and continue in sin.

But God calls us to share in His holy nature through “suffering for Christ’s sake”, as we just read in verse 30. Actually, that is one of the reasons that our Lord Jesus came to earth: to show us the way to attaining God’s nature in us. Jesus came to show us the way to the cross, that we may die just as He died, and be raised up in resurrection life.

If you are living a comfortable, trouble-free life, may the Name of the Lord be praised. I am sure that Jesus, Paul and the rest of the early team also had some luxurious moments in their lives. When He was here on earth, our Lord Jesus had women who ministered to Him (Lk. 8:3), and we cannot say exactly that He never once sat down to enjoy a piece of fried chicken!

We even read of one time when Jesus wanted to take His disciples on a picnic… but the crowds came calling with their needs, and He was forced to abandon the excursion (Mk. 6:31).

The Apostle Paul must have known some earthly joy, too, despite all his sufferings, for he writes in Philippians: “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” (Phil. 4:12).

The church in Macedonia, especially, wholeheartedly ministered to Paul’s needs… well, whenever they could, for they were extremely poor.

But the easy lifestyle is not the general picture that we get in the New Testament. The over-riding idea in the gospels is one of suffering – and death.

That is why we need to hear a gospel that encourages us to welcome the sufferings of Christ into our lives with the same readiness with which we are willing to embrace the good life. Fortunately, this was the gospel that Jesus preached. Paul also preached the same gospel, and so did the other early apostles.

The good life will never confront the flesh; and if the flesh is not confronted we will never grow to become mature sons and daughters in the Kingdom of God. We will remain babies forever. That is why the much-loved gospel of prosperity cannot be of God. It is a gospel that appeases the flesh and imprisons God’s people in babyhood.

Contrariwise, the Lord brings us a gospel that crucifies the flesh. Through the adverse situations that He brings into our lives, God calls to each one of us to take up our cross and follow Christ – follow Christ into sonship.

Upon realizing what was expected of him, the Apostle Paul would say in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: “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”.

Our infirmities (the willingness to undergo buffeting) coupled with the sufferings themselves make us partakers of the grace of God in a way that nothing else can. We become mature, responsible sons and daughters in the Kingdom of God.

[Below: A street in Musoma Town]


The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Mat. 5:5

The scripture here says that the meek shall inherit the earth. What does it mean to “inherit the earth”? But first, let us take a closer look at the word “meek”.

My computer’s Thesaurus provides me with a limitless number of synonyms for the word “meek”, but in that list, the two words that I loved most are “submissive” and “weak”.

Incidentally, those are words that no one on this earth wants to hear. No man loves being submissive to another man, and submission in this world is normally obtained at gunpoint, literally. As for the concept of weakness, that is an absolute no-no.

But the believer who accepts these two things into his/her life for the sake of the gospel is the person whom God will fight on behalf of.

Ordinarily, we assume that every born-again believer is meek of spirit. But that is not true; many believers are full of pride in their hearts. They do not give in easily, they harbor nuances and hold onto every little thing done against them. Many believers do not like being touched. If you come at them the wrong way, in their hearts they turn against you. Some will even retaliate. They will not fire a rocket-propelled grenade at you. But they will do things just to show you that they are the bosses of their own lives. They may cut contact with you. They will do many little things against you. This is pride, and such people will not “inherit the earth”.

What does it mean to be meek?

The Apostle Paul had a difficult time learning meekness. You would be surprised to learn that even after he got saved, Paul was still not a meek person – at least, not to God’s standards. So God sent a thorn into Paul’s flesh to weaken him further and make him truly meek. But the thorn was such an overwhelmingly unwelcome intrusion into Paul’s life (read human pride) that he prayed three times to God to have it removed!

It was then that God asked Paul: “What do you want, Paul?”

Paul replied, “I want your strength, Lord.”

God told Paul, “Then let me humble you. Allow that thorn into your life. Then you shall have my strength, for my strength is found in weakness.”

After a long struggle with himself, Paul finally acquiesced. A time arrived when he was ready to be buffeted to submission. Actually, God wouldn’t do the job Himself. Instead, He sent a messenger of Satan, who mercilessly buffeted Paul. But because Paul had allowed himself to be meek, he accepted this situation joyfully. After this, Paul became the greatest apostle who ever lived after Jesus.

The result of Paul allowing himself to become meek for the sake of Christ was that Paul powerfully impacted people’s lives through the gospel of the cross that he lived. I believe that is what it means to “inherit the earth”. The person who inherits the earth is the person who impacts people’s lives through the life that they have lived on this earth. People can come up and say, “I thank God for so-and-so. They have helped me spiritually.”

The Bible says of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass” (Mat. 21:5).

Here the Bible declares outright that Jesus was a meek Man. In other words, He was weak and humble of spirit. But this Man it was who impacted the world in a way no other man ever would. He brought salvation to the world.

Are we weak or are we strong? Are we fighting for and holding onto our rights, or are we allowing ourselves to be robbed of those rights in broad daylight just so we may learn to be meek as our Lord was? Remember they also shamed and crucified our Lord, not at night, but in broad daylight. So next time someone humiliates you in public, do not become agitated. Rather, rejoice and bless them. That will be of far greater effect in the Spirit than holding onto and defending your pride.

[Below: In our relationships, humility is the greatest requirement of all]


Our Struggle…

And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.

Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest?

Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. Acts 23:1-5

There is nothing like a whack in the mouth to bring out the ‘snake’ in us. That was what happened with Paul. This is one of the rare moments when the Apostle Paul is caught breaking God’s laws. He ‘spoke evil’ of a ruler of God’s people, which is against God’s law. Actually, Paul insulted the high priest. That was a sin.

Paul was caught off-guard, which was a very fortunate thing to happen to him. Why fortunate? Because it exposed a fault in him which he probably did not know existed.

In a moment of weakness Paul allowed the flesh to triumph. He gave place to his old anger.

But Paul was quick to repent and move on. His defeat was momentary. He hurriedly stood up, dusted himself, and moved on.

Some of us lie there for hours, days, years even, wallowing in the mud of self-pity, unforgiveness, hard-hearted denial, and pure pride. But God is not going to take a knife and prune back His standards just because we want to nurse our flesh.

I wonder if Paul was embarrassed by the exposure of his weakness. Maybe he was. But again, maybe he wasn’t. Paul was a man who rejoiced in his weaknesses – even the revelation of a fault on his part.

Not that Paul would rejoice in the anger that he manifested here; and yet, I am convinced that Paul was very happy to have any such a failing in him exposed.

It is the hardest thing for a person to admit their weakness. We scramble to hide our nakedness, just like Adam and Eve, our ancestors in the flesh, did. But that is not God’s nature. God is the Great Revelator – and I am not talking about visions and dreams. I am talking about Him revealing our failings, weaknesses, flaws and faults.

Paul knew something about God. He did not waste time thinking, “This can’t be! How can I be caught like that, a great preacher of the gospel like me?” I am aware that there are times when I got angry with God for allowing me to be caught in such ‘embarrassing’ situations. But I am ashamed because that has simply been human pride on my part.

On the contrary, Paul realized that he was only a man and if there was any perfection in him, it was all by the grace of God. He was happy to admit his humanity.

God has never tried to sweep anything under the carpet. He has never spared anyone, not even His best ones. He exposed them all! How much more will He expose us. The things we try our best to hide from people He says that one day He will cause them to be shouted from someone’s rooftop!

You might appear a simpleton by admitting your human-ness. But that is exactly what we should be doing. Jesus said we should be like children! Do you think children are embarrassed when they make mistakes? Hardly! They move on with life as if nothing has happened.

Let us stop being God. None of us is perfect. Only God is; and we are not God. Let us be simple folks like the Apostles were. In that way, we will have much grace upon our lives, for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” James 4:6

We Bring Life By Suffering – Part 1

If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. 2 Cor. 11:30

This is undoubtedly one of the most profound statements in the Bible made by a man apart from Christ.

It is impossible for a person who has not suffered in the flesh to bring life into the Church. He may preach and do many things in the Church; but he will not bring life. I am not talking about this physical life. There are many things that we do, even in church, that bring life to us in the natural. And it is a man’s right to boast in whatever they have accomplished.

Today there are born-again Christians who have been ‘perfected’ in the flesh. They can therefore boast in the things of the flesh. A man was speaking at an open-air evangelistic meeting in one of our major towns and he said, “I have more than one degree. I have more than one car. I am not a thief. I am a big executive in one of the biggest banks in this country. My car that you see parked there is brand new, as you can see; I just removed it from its wrappings!”

Unbelievable, but true. He went on to say that his certificates had been prayed upon by anointed men of God, and that was how his journey to glory began. He was trying to point out that we born-again Christians are not supposed to live low-class lives; that we are to live the high life because we are blessed!

It is unfortunate, but the Church of Christ has been brought to the place where it believes that that is the life God has for them. Today, you are expected to apologise if you touch negatively on this aspect of the Christian life. You are supposed to say, every time, “God is not against us prospering materially, but…”

It is time to stop saying that. It is time to boldly reproof a Church that is clearly becoming more and more materialistic-minded.

When the Bible talks about life, it talks about the life of the Spirit, the life of Christ.

The Bible says we are to be “living stones” (1 Pet. 2:5). That means we have died with Christ and risen with Him. There are no short-cuts to becoming a “living stone” in the Body of Christ. The Bible also says that “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Mat. 7:14. I have asked this question here before, but I will ask it again: How can we believe that the many masses in churches today are truly following that narrow road? Jesus Himself said that “few there be that find it”.

The Apostle Paul was as human as you and I. When therefore God decided to work in him in order for him to become an effective vessel for Him, Paul instinctively tried to resist. It was painful. He says he prayed three times for God to remove the thorn from his flesh. Three times! For a man of the calibre of Paul to pray three times for God to set him free from a certain situation, it shows how difficult it will be even for us to accept the will of God in our lives.

But God was adamant. He told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”(2 Cor. 12:9). In other words, God told Paul, “No, my friend, I want to use you; and that is the only way you can become of any use to me. I have no alternative but to break you down.”

The Apostle Paul received much grace from the Lord. Why? Because he came to understand what the Lord wanted to do and he agreed to align his life with what God wanted to do in his life. He obeyed God. Immediately thereafter, Paul says, “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. 12:10

It is not easy to obey God. It needs the grace of God. I have heard of people saying they obeyed God and He blessed them with this and that material blessing. That is so easy! If someone tells me to “plant a seed” of so much money so that I may “harvest” a hundredfold, that is so easy and comfortable to do.

But it is time to believe and obey God in enduring suffering on His behalf.

The Holy Spirit is Grieving

Jer_9:1  “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”

I now know that all the men and women whom God ever called to Him were men and women of tears. When I say ‘I now know’ that means there was a time when I did not know that. In fact, it has taken me a long time to really appreciate this truth. I have come to know that the Spirit of God is a grieving Spirit. God has nothing to rejoice about in this world. On the contrary, there is much, much to grieve Him, particularly in the days we are living in, and especially within the Church itself.

Some years back, there emerged a wave called “laughing in the presence of the Lord.” I remember participating in one such event. True, we laughed our heads off, but to be honest I felt nothing in my heart. I went home feeling empty and used. These are the kinds of strange, crazy doctrines that the Church today has allowed itself to accommodate!

But no, Sir. That kind of spirit never was, and never will be the Spirit of God. These are demonic doctrines brought in by the enemy to weaken the Church.

Nothing much is written about the Apostle Paul on the topic, but I realize that he also was a man of many tears. When Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10 that  “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake”, I believe it was no laughing matter. It was a breaking experience and it was accomplished with much tears on his part. Of necessity he had to constantly be on his knees, so that he could conclude: “for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

In my humble experience I have come to discover the only place to really meet God is when the tears are flowing from my eyes. Even in the most mundane of my experiences with God I always know it when the Holy Spirit is visiting me. My eyes fill with tears, and immediately I know He is there. I can just be standing somewhere, and all of a sudden I feel my eyes burning, and I have to quickly make sure I am alone because I know He is there and He needs my attention. And when the Holy Spirit wants your attention you need to be alone because no one else will understand what is going on. One time, many years ago, a lady invited us to dinner in her house, and there was a song playing there, and I just began crying. I was naïve, of course, and I should have known better. But I sat there shaking like a rattlebox; and the pastor who was the senior member of our team began laughing and said, “What is this stupid fellow doing?”

When I got saved I was a final year university student. I remember clearly whenever we entered the chapel for a service, even before the service began I would sit down and begin crying silently, the presence of God was so pervasive.

If there is one thing I can thank my God for today, it is that the tears have not dried from my eyes. The day they dry I know I will be a dead man. The one moment when I know without a doubt that “I am weak, but He is strong in me” is when I feel exactly that: weak. The Lord has won many battles for me as the Holy Spirit led me to simply sit in His presence and let the tears flow.

The Bible talks of Jesus in Hebrews 5:7 and Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:4, and I see this was exactly what happened to them. Of course, it is not a principle, or something that you can just decide to do by yourself. It cannot be an emotional thing that you can just work up. But I am sure that this is a grace that God alone can give. He alone knows our hearts and only He can lead us to that place of humbling ourselves before Him; and at the end of it all, we are left praising and thanking Him for such a grace! If anything we do is not initiated by the Holy Spirit, however spiritual it might appear it is of no spiritual value.

The Church is not in a position to laugh now. We are in a position where all we can do is to allow the Holy Spirit to touch our hearts, and we will first allow God to change our lives; then He will commission us to go out and effectively reach out to a dying world. God will come down and He will move on behalf of His Church.

Let us end by seeing what this broken man of God accomplished. “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” verse 12