Lesson no 3
God chooses us whilst still in the fire of affliction.
“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10).
And not everything can pass through the fire and remain the same. Most things would change or be mangled, yet this is where we are chosen.
As in the case of Hezekiah when God pulled back to watch his reaction:
“Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.” (2 Chronicles 32:31).
God watches His children as they pass through the fire to see their reaction.
Would you change as you go through the fire? Would you be deformed or mangled when you come out at the other side of the fire?
This tells if you are matured or not for promotion.
God watched to see if we would allow the enemy take away our joy, our confession, the thought in our hearts.
Would we engage in character assassination, fight tooth for tooth and eye for an eye?
Or would we keep standing holding firmly to His word and praying for those who persecute us and despitefully use us?
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; ” (Matthew 5:44)
Would we change? That is why it is a trial!
Walking with God can be demanding sometimes, especially when it has to do with relating to others; and most especially if they have hurt you so deeply you decide to “avoid” them; not necessarily malice but holding them at arms length, not to be hurt again by them.
After publishing post four of this serial, God spoke to me at five-thirty (5:30) am.
I do morning cry from 4:30am to 5:30am. This day, Thursday 16th of November I spoke from the gospel of Matthew,chapter 25, the Groom and the ten Virgins. I spoke particularly on the trimming of the lamp and the significance of the wick. Rounding up with a prayer at 5:30 the Lord broke forth with a command to go to Judith and pray for her and her house hold!
Ah! Why Lord? With all that she did? Not that I haven’t forgiven but to go there?
My wife and I have learnt over the years to forgive even in advance but not give room to be offended a second time.
But God rules in the affairs of men!
“But God”, I argued, “I have been there twice before and no good came out of it.”
“Go and pray with her.”
“Lord is this really you or is it my mind?”
God will not go into an argument..
Many Christians cast aspersion on the Prophet Jonah for running away to Joppa.
Honestly I felt like running away! What would people in that little community think of me? The flesh was speaking. Especially knowing Judith would announce I came to beg her!
Unknown to me, I was to put in motion that age -old principle that says the way of victory is the way of the cross; the way of shame!
The hurdle is always the flesh!
I told my wife and left to Judith’s. To the glory of God her husband was home but she was not.
He was shocked seeing me. Nevertheless I told him my purpose of coming. I thought he would not accept my prayer. But he did.
As I left their house and started for home, I saw Judith coming so I waited. After praying for her, we had a little discussion. She had gone to call a nurse for her most Junior daughter who was ill.
Asking if they would permit me pray for her, they ushered me into the room where she laid.
Afterwards I said goodbye to them and left.
Back home my joy knew no bounds. I sensed in the spirit that God was up to something!
It is in the darkest hour of the day, that light shines the brightest! God within this season, opened up a door of ministry that we never saw. Details will be given but not now; at the maturity of the testimony.
May we not change but keep doing good. For whatsoever we sow we shall reap.
Coming out of Egypt, Israel encountered peoples and situations that were hostile; like Balak who hired Balaam to curse them.
Unknown to the Israelites, these men and the officials of Moab, were on the hill overlooking the great hoard in the valley and pronouncing curses at them. At seven different locations they raised altars, made sacrifices and Balaam made the curse.
But whom God has blessed, no man can curse!! Every opening of the mouth to curse turned into blessings to the chagrin of the Moabit King!
Indeed God makes diviners mad and frustrates the token of liars!!!
All these were unknown to the Israelites!!!
I wish Christians will focus on following God with undivided heart and stop prying into who is cursing or making enchantments against them! God knows HOW to deliver the righteous.
The bible says God did not allow any man to hurt them. Instead He rebuked Kings for their sake!
“He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes;” (Psalm 105:14).
Evil people, like their master, do not rest. Seeing they couldn’t curse Israel, Balaam advised Balak to introduce strange women into their camp as this would make God angry, remove the protection and turn against them.
And truly, God turned against them! A plague was released; 24,000 men, outside women and children died.
To stop the plague God asked Moses to hang publicly, facing the Sun all the ring leaders who frolicked with the women of Moab and joined in the worship of Baal-peor, that it may be a deterrent to others.
While that was being carried out, Moses, Aaron and the leaders sat mourning in repentance, at the entry of the Tabernacle, and behold an Israeli prince, Zimri, came into the camp with a Midianitish princess named Cozby.
Also seated with them was a young man called Phinehas the son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron the Priest.
Like others he saw the abomination brought into the camp but couldn’t keep still. Though his father was there, his grandfather was there, even his uncle, Moses was there! They knew this was the cause of the calamity yet they sat still crying, nobody moved!!
When he couldn’t contain it any more, he rose, picked a spear and traced the couple to the man’s tent where he killed both.
Instantly the plague stopped and God reacted: He made a covenant of peace with him, and pronounced that he and his descendants would be priests forever.
God had found a servant of honour. How did he become one?
(1) He was in the camp.
Young men are always adventurous, seeking to conquer their environment. Unlike Zimri, Phinehas stayed in the camp, not venturing away and consequently, remained in the will of God. He did not join himself to strangers.
What has Christ with Beliel or the temple of God with idols. What has light with darkness.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
Every sheep that leaves the flock and wanders off, breaks the rule and makes itself an easy target for the wolves. Christians who wander off the fold disobey God!!!
“Be separate, come out from their midst”, He says!
(2) He saw.
There is nothing as hindering as spiritual blindness!!!
Having killed the ringleaders as instructed by God, the plague did not stop! While they all sat crying, it took one young man, possibly not yet of Levitical age (30), to discern why the plague was not stopped!
Obedience to the Word of God should bring good (Isaiah 1: 19). Where and when obedience didn’t bring good, the obedience is not complete.
Phinehas saw what others could not see.
Just as in Exodus 32, when the entire camp of Israel did not see the consequence of making the molten calf and worshipping it, the tribe of Levi saw and abstained. That was how God chose them to be His vessels and representatives in place of the first born, making them a special people of God, an Old covenant “Church of the first born sons”.
Oh that our eyes may be opened that we might see through the eyes of heaven!!! What peace shall be ours!!!
No wonder Paul prayed our eyes be opened!
“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,” (Ephesians 1:18).
(3) He picked the spear.
The spear was a weapon of war, a rod that kills – the Word of God. Paul tells us to pick up the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6) which is the Word of God, Phinehas armed himself with the spear and with it quenched the abomination.
The work of God can only be done right and well when done according to the Word of God. Doing God’s work without His word is not only demonic, it is devilish and deathly.
Some works may be awesomely big and we allude it to the glory of God. But no. The sons of Levi were only a remnant compared to the multitude. Whereas they had the glory, the multitude were “naked to their shame”, stripped of the glory of God. Why? They did not follow God’s will and Way. They did theirs; there is a way that seemeth right unto a man….
“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 16:25).
God has specifications, even where a tiny nail should be, was instructed Noah in the building of the Ark.
Let’s not just do things, let’s do them according to His specification, and we shall be SERVANTS OF HONOUR.
A young man took a lady out to an ice-cream bar, settled at a table, before going to get their order. He returned with two cups of ice-cream, placed one in front of her before sitting opposite, across the table.
They talked a while, eating from their cups of ice-cream, when suddenly, she jumped to her feet, almost throwing out a mouth-full of the cream, in her struggle to bring out whatever she ate with the cream.
That was his cue. The young man was on his knee as she brought a ring out of her mouth.
“Would you marry me?” He asked.
He had asked the bar attendant to bury the ring in the ice-cream.
It was indeed a surprise for her.
That is the kind of surprise God has for us as we pass through trials.
“We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” – 2 Cor 6:1 (KJV)
The third thing to know is that with every package of trial, there is an attachment: grace!
In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul asks us not to receive grace in vain, and encourages that we stand through storms and trials.
There is certainly a connection between grace and trials.
I do not dispute that grace is God’s riches at Christ’s expense, but I believe it is more than that.
Grace is power; the power and ability of God manifested to help us stand and overcome. Like the Holy Spirit raising a standard against the flood of the enemy, grace is stirred up when we go through trials; when we KNOW it exists!!!
However most do no know that grace is available with every trials and persecution. We see and feel only the pain and discomfort. Not knowing grace abounds therein. Satan blinds us from this to make us think God has abandoned us!!!
Paul learned in 2 Corinthians 12, when faced with an infirmity which he prayed thrice to be removed, and thrice too, the Lord Jesus asked him to hold on to the grace which was abundantly available.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Cor 12:7-9 (KJV)
Knowing grace was available, he would then “most gladly rejoice in infirmities”, knowing that in his weakness, God’s power (grace) takes over!!!
Tapping into Grace.
Finally, we need to know how to tap into grace, as it would be available, yet in vain.
In vain because we do not know how to draw from it!
Peter and James agree with Paul that only by humility can we tap into God’s grace.
“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” – James 4:6 (KJV)
“Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” – Peter 5:5 (KJV)
Let us learn not to think too highly of ourselves, so that the power of God would sustain us through trials.
“Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!” – Luke 17:1 (KJV)
Trials are a part of the Christian call; part of God’s will for us.
Promotion comes after successfully enduring trials: when we prove ourselves on top of the trial; when we go through trials without loosing our saltines, our goodness.
To be on top of the trials, you need to know four things.
(1) Know where you are.
You need to do an honest appraisal or evaluation of what has befallen you.
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” – 2 Cor 13:5a (KJV)
Is it possible you are responsible for what befell you? Could you have done something that led to what situation you are in?
“But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” – 1 Peter 4:15 (KJV)
Be honest with yourself.
If you cannot be honest with yourself, you cannot be honest with anyone; not even with God! Self-respect comes from being true to who you are. When you respect yourself others will respect you.
Do not try to be another person or lie to yourself just because you want to avoid being blamed.
Withdraw to the deepest part of you where no man can come: your husband, your wife, your children. A place Jesus would call the “secret place”; and truly examine yourself.
“Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.” – Psalms 4:4 (KJV)
Sometimes the behaviour of people toward us is actually a reaction to what we have said or done! Clear your conscience!
Repent and ask God’s forgiveness, if you find yourself guilty in any way.
But after searching and you find no fault with you, rejoice!
(2) The second thing to know is that a better and greater life is ahead of you!
The sun is always above. After the planted seed has probed it’s surrounding with its roots and settled itself (as in confirming that its darkness experience is not its making), it looks up to the Sun!
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore “ – Psalms 121:1-8 (KJV)
Look up to the Sun of Righteousness!
It shall be well! Everything will turn out to your favour!
……… to be continued.
That was yesterday.
She sat presently in her office, worried to her stomach, hand on chin, eyes glued on the computer screen, yet seeing nothing. Somewhere deep in her heart she knew that the pastor was right. That it was just a passing phase. But the reality of the situation was getting too much for her to bear.
“I could almost hear your work screaming out loud.”
She was startled.
“What’s the matter with you Easter?”
“Oh nothing really. I’m okay.”
“You’ve not been yourself of late”. Harriet stated.
“Just a state of the mind, it will wear off soon”
“I sure hope so”. Harriet turned and walked to their office locker, “you’ll be amazed what worry can do to you”. She turned to Easter. “Want some coffee?”
“Yes please. Thanks.”
Harriet pulled open the locker, brought out a flask and poured two cups of coffee as Easter admired the wine-coloured skirt-suit of her colleague; a beautiful spinster of 31.
“Come to think of it, what could be your worry?” Harriet inquired. “You have a good job, happily married to a very handsome man—“
She started towards Easter who interrupted her.
“That could be my worry; but I have no fear. I have someone greater than all that.”
“You humbug you!” Harriet placed a cup of coffee on her table “someone I know?”
“You’ve heard about Him. But you don’t know Him; yet.”
“Who could he be?” she asked excitedly, leaning closer, eager to hear the name of the new man in her life.
“The living God, He’s more than able”. She smiled.
“Oh come, don’t start this religious thing again!” She turned away in disgust. “I’ve been a Christian all my life; born into a Christian home I should know God!”
“Should? That’s more like it. There’s a whole lot of difference between being born a Christian and being born again”
“You could be impossible sometimes”. Harriet shot her a glance taking her seat at her table close to Easter’s. “But I’m glad you’re out of your worrisome mood”. She started at the computer keyboard.
“Who knows, the Lord could have sent you to pull me out of it. Thanks anyway, I feel better.”
But what has righteousness with unrighteousness? Or light with darkness? Why would a believing child of God go sharing her challenges with an unregenerated person? What kind of advice or counsel will come out of that?
Most often in our desperation to find solutions to the challenges facing us, we veer away from godly counsel and open up a portal or doorway that ought to remain shut. And it is he that opens (breaks) the hedge that the serpent bites.
We feel we can always handle whatever we hear, forgetting that words are spiritual seeds, and as such may not bring forth fruit there and then. But in the long run, after perhaps some months, and even years, bring forth fruits that would threaten our Faith.
Who do you share with? God is interested. He asked Adam
“who told thee thou wast naked?” -Genesis 3:11
“Who have you fellowshipped with?” God seemed to ask. For His name’s sake, He is interested in the company you keep and what information you share.
He asked Hezekiah, through the prophet Isaiah,
“what said these men? And from whence came they unto thee?” -2 Kings 20:14
Who are you speaking with? God is interested! Sometimes we think they don’t matter, yet they do! Man fell when he shared certain information with a stranger. Daniel, Shadrack, Meshach, Abednego and other Jewish children were carried into captivity because their forefather, Hezekiah entertained strangers.
Who are you sharing your deepest challenge with? A work colleague? A neighbour? A relation? Or a God-fearing pastor?
God loves you and has sent you His servant, the Pastor. Share with him. We all need to unburden our hearts sometime,but not just to anybody. That is why God gave you THE pastor, he is the best person to speak to. Take your challenge to God through your pastor, but rest your faith in God.
Christ, the burden bearer will surely, lift the burden off your shoulders.
Meanwhile, a powerful church service was in session with Esther and Deborah in attendance.
After he left that morning, she cleaned up the flour-strewn kitchen. It was then she decided to see her pastor for counselling.
This is one opportunity that believers seldom use. They suffer in silence, not sharing their burdens with anyone; not even with their pastors, but the Bible enjoins us in Galatians 6:2 to bear one another’s burdens thereby fulfilling the law of Christ, which is love.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” – Gal 6:2 (KJV)
However, most Pastors, Elders, Deacon and Deaconesses are so engrossed in their private affairs that they have no time for their brothers and sisters in the Lord. Some that give audience do so in a hurry. And some do so to have tales to tell; to see the skeleton in other people’s cupboard and have what to preach. And things spoken of in confidence, become the root of malign rumors. In the house of God! Where then is the love that Jesus stands for? The love He so preached in the book of John 13:34 and 35, that we should love one another even as He has loved us; for by that love would people know that we are His disciples?
Her pastor was different though; caring, loving; a full time pastor who made time to attend to his flock, individually.
“He hardly gives me money anymore for the up keep of the house” Easter lamented in the pastor’s office.
“How then have you been coping?” Eunice, the pastor’s wife was alarmed.
“Only on my salary but that is not what I’m worried about. He’s getting more and more unattached to the family. He seem not to care anymore”.
“Listen to me Easter”, the pastor started gently. “You have no worries. It is only the devil trying to make you believe you have problems or worries. Put your trust in God and you will overcome.” He studied her a while. “Or have you forgotten His word in Mathew 11:28, ‘come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest’. There is no better place to rest than in the Lord. Just submit yourself totally to His will and commit everything to Him in prayer”.
“I do but it’s taking forever!”
“Don’t despair, Easter, God’s time is the best”. Eunice encouraged. “The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:11, that He makes all things beautiful in His time. Don’t forget you are not the one fighting the battle. He does, but gives you the victory”.
“Precisely, He sees everything that is going on. He knows everything. Just commit all to Him in prayers.”
Today, Christians have become dismembered. We stand alone as individuals, rather than together as a “body”, needing one another. We keep situations of agony and pain to ourselves, and this hurt us. Many are dying in silence.
The command is for us to share with and be interested in the welfare of fellow brothers, that we may perhaps be used by the Lord to bring them solution. But we have everyone, dismembered from others because of the fear that we might be made a laughing stock. This has also further deepened the disunity of Christians brought about by denomination.
Yes, true. Many leaders are flippant with their tongues, but I think we still need to share; else the burden will not only remain but become heavier. God did did not create us, saved us and called us to be “islands” in Christ. No.
Beloved, share your burden with someone: don’t carry it alone! If the person becomes a backstabber, he or she will have the Lord to answer to.
Remember, a problem shared is a problem solved.
To be continued
It was a quiet Sunday morning. One devoid of the usual Lagos noise, as most people were laying in bed, oblivious of the sun shining in all its splendours.
Up with the rising sun was Easter-named after the Christian holiday-whose spirit was high as she sang praises unto God, while fixing breakfast for her family.
She recalled the previous night. A wonderful one she had had in a long time. An experience she had almost forgotten. She knew marriage was not always an easy thing, but never anticipated that it would plunge into the gloom like it did. Not after the promises and vows.
But should man really be trusted to keep promises? Man, a creation that can change with time and tide? Only one is unchangeable; the creator. Glory be, for He is not man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should repent. Has He spoken and would He not bring it to pass?
No doubt, God was still on her side. She sang louder, recalling the intimacy of the previous night and looking forward to a Sunday with her husband. After church service, they would come home and consummate their love life.
Lost in thought, she did not hear the kitchen door open and Richard stepped in. He regarded her spitefully for a while.
“Take care”, He said, “I ‘m going out”.
She turned suddenly, loss of words.
“what?” He asked rather stern.
“I was hoping you’d go with us”
“To Church?” He blurted out as though it was an abominable thing to do. Do I go with you before?” He asked seeing her nod her head, “or is this your new way of making trouble?”
“Honey, God is—“
The hand moved like lightening, striking her across the cheek and shutting her off before she could finish her sentence. The force of the slap sent her staggering unto the bowl of flour on the kitchen cabinet.
“God is what?” He snarled like an enraged animal, kicking her legs off the floor and she fell to the ground with a thud; her face a mask of flour.
“I’ve told you not to mention that name in this house anymore.”
Like the fury of a mad man, he rammed his tennis shoes again and again into her sides as her cries of pain filled the house.
“You can go to your church if you want to, but don’t you ever try persuading me again!” He let up at last, breathing heavily, eyes blood-shot, as he stared at her with disdain written all over his face.
He took a step backward and turned to leave but came face to face with their seven-year old daughter who was glaring at him in fear. He could sense some animousity behind those frightful eyes, as tears built in them.
However, even that could not deter him from going out. He stormed out and Deborah ran to her mother in tears.
They sat in a corner of the little inn; one of their many get away spots. He could afford bigger and better Hotels but chose to meet with her in remote places where their whoredom would not come to light. At least to those who knew him. Places where the deceit and evil imaginations of in their hearts were played out to reality.
He ordered more drinks as excitement or what he thought it was, enveloped his total being. He was a prideful man, unbending in his beliefs and desires, regardless of who gets hurt.
Richard looked across at Ronke. A big, almost massive woman that is ready to do his bidding anytime, anywhere for a few contracts. A woman, who though beautiful enough to have a husband of her choice, chooses to remain single and unattached and even brings other women to him! A married man? He did not understand, nor did he care, so long as she came, when he called.
He had had his heart seared with a hot iron (1 Tim 4:2), leaving the path of uprightness and delighting in the ways of darkness, of ignorance, all in the name of fun.
“Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” -1 Tim. 4:2
She picked her glass of black-foamy-beer, her eyes glistering with the euphoria of the moment.
“When are you going to approve my contract, Richard, I need money urgently”.
“I told you that there is a new company policy that prevents me from awarding or approving new contracts till the backlog of debts are cleared”. He answered, reaching for his drink, “Of course you can be rest assured that yours will be first I’ll approve”.
‘I need money to finish the work in my supermarket”.
“Sorry, my hands are tied there, I can’t help you”.
“Or would you loan me some, handsome” she cooed, robbing her legs against his under the table. He smiled.
“Even if you call me pretty, that will not swell my account”.
“But tell me, Richard,” she started rather seriously, “what do you do with your money, I know you hardly touch your salary; not with the fat bonuses contractors give you?”
“Do you give me? Or are you not a contractor yourself?”
“Ah!” she uttered with a pout. “But I give you more than just bonuses! “she reached across the table and touched his cheek lovingly.
The effect on him was instantaneous.
“How much do you want?”
“Three hundred thousand naira”.
Many men spend more outside , on strangers that would not be there for them tomorrow; especially in their hour of need.
This is also true of some women.
But, is this a manifestation of the untamed greed in all of us?
What do you think?
I would like to hear from you.