Utmost Christian

There is a Faith that Delivers and a Faith that Eventually Destroys the Believer

Many sincere Christians are clinging to a deadly kind of faith.

 

I wonder if there is a more disputed, a more misunderstood subject in Christianity than Faith. Perhaps Grace and Law may be a more discussed and more disagreed on subject, but Faith is certainly the most important and the most consequential of ununderstood and misunderstood subjects among Christians. Because wrong understanding of grace and law will not keep a person from the Kingdom of God, but without faith no one will enter the presence of God.

‘But without faith it is impossible to please Him’   Heb 11:6

Faith is the one of the three greatest and absolutely required qualities in a Christian.  Cor 13:13  Which is why Satan has taken extra efforts to sow confusion among God’s people over this subject.

Let’s consider faith from the viewpoint of various people who think they have faith.

I will start with the teachings of an internationally known preacher and founder of a worldwide church, from whom I received my basic understandings of the Bible. He stands first among all my spiritual teachers. But, sadly, he is also the man who stands first among the teachers of serious doctrinal errors. He wrote a book on this subject titled ‘What is Faith’.  This preacher died 30 years ago, but the heavy legacy of his teaching on faith – and its closely related subject, healing – continues to affect tens of thousands of Christians to this day. His doctrine of faith is very similar to what millions of believers in Pentecostal, Evangelical, and many other denominations believe in.

Faith, according to this church founder, is the absolute belief that something you asked for from God is on its way, or has been answered, even if you cannot see any evidence of it – if God has promised it in his Word.

To give a practical example, if a man has cancer of his lungs, and he is ready to believe what the Bible says – and the Bible certainly says that God heals the sick – he should ask God for healing. And then, he should ensure he does not allow doubt to creep into his mind. Even if he feels and sees the cancer galloping through his body, he should rest assured he is already healed and act and think as if the cancerous tissues have disappeared from his lungs. To quote from his publication:

‘Once you have received the possession, you no longer hope for it. But even before you receive it, you have it in substance; and that substance—that assurance that you shall possess it—is faith.

Then again, faith is an evidence—the “evidence of things not seen.” Faith precedes the actual receiving of what you ask for. And faith is the evidence you shall have it, before you even see it. It is the evidence of things not yet seen. You do not have it. You do not see it, or feel it—yet faith is your evidence that you have, or shall have it. Faith is the substance—the assurance—of receiving that which you still hope for…

Now suppose you ask God to heal you. Naturally, you want some evidence that you are going to be healed. So what is that evidence, that proof? Is it the evidence of the pain ceasing—or the swelling going down—something you can feel, and see? I know a man who said, “When I can see anyone healed by direct prayer, then I’ll believe in it.” This man said he wanted to believe in it—he wanted to have faith in it! He was looking for an evidence that he could see—and he died without ever seeing it!’

What Is Faith’ by Herbert W. Armstrong; originally published by the Worldwide Church of God, and now published by Philadelphia Church of God; also available free on several websites.

That teaching sounds very authoritative and Biblical. But I know of people, including those in the very church of this preacher, who applied this kind of faith and died miserable deaths. I know of others who, when the evidence they believed turned out to be the very opposite in reality, became so disgruntled with God that they quit their ministry and turned against God.

Before I pass on to you what the Holy Spirit has taught me about faith, let me give you one more example of the erroneous – and dangerous – teaching on this subject, from the same book I mentioned above.

‘Set over the affairs of the province of Babylon were Daniel’s three young Jewish friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. One of the commandments of God’s eternal spiritual law forbids such worship of images…But these three young Jews knew the truth—that we should obey God rather than men, that through faith God makes it possible. When they firmly refused to bow down to worship the king’s image, Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded they be brought before him (Dan 3:13).

Listen to the quiet, trusting, unafraid answer of these lads. “O Nebuchadnezzar … our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace”! (verses 16-18).

Sometimes God tries our faith. He tried theirs. You might think He failed them, but He only permitted their faith to be tested.

“Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him”!

There was an example of living faith – a faith that trusted God to make it possible to live the way of His law! Yes, with God, it is possible to keep all His Commandments – don’t let any man deceive you to the contrary!’

So, according to this preacher, because these three young men applied faith – faith that was the evidence that they were already protected, even though their physical eyes were showing they were being flung into the furnace – they were delivered from being burnt alive in the flames.

I wonder what kind of faith another servant of God, whose whole life had been totally devoted to preaching Christ and caring for lepers, was applying when he and his two sons were burned to death when their vehicle was set alight by Hindu mobsters in a village in India. Maybe he didn’t have enough of the faith that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to be rescued from the flames. If you havent yet, read the story of Graham Staines online, and what his widow teaches about faith.

The awesome immortal story of the three young men who were cast into a furnace made seven times hotter, is a favorite with preachers trying to explain what true faith is. In a book published by a different church, another preacher, also a famed one, narrated the same story when he wrote about faith, and quoted the same passage from Daniel chapter 3. The coincidence is that, in both the publications the authors end the quote with the following verse:

‘If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.’

But interestingly, the next verse was not quoted in either of the books. Here are the two verses together:

If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”  Dan 3:17-18 (Emphasis mine]

Those three words, ‘But if not’ are the most important words in the whole story about the faith of those three youths of God. Those three words is the absolute quintessence of what true faith is. Those three words is what every servant of God should preach to God’s people about faith.

But before I tell you about the faith encapsulated in those three words, let me mention two cases where faith, as taught in the above referred booklets, was applied for deliverance. In the first case, it relates to a senior evangelist in the church founded by the first preacher I mentioned, the author of ‘What Is Faith’. The second relates to a prominent pastor who served in another church and who lived by this kind of faith.

The senior evangelist was one of the prominent ministers in the church, which had congregations in many countries, and his name was wellknown to the members around the world. This church did not approve of its members going to doctors. (But they could go to the dentist. They could have dental work done, but for some unexplained reason the other parts of the body were considered more sacred and off limits for doctors.)

Well, this evangelist and his wife were faithful, unquestioning members of the church. Then his wife became ill, and of course, she refused medical treatment because she was a ‘true believer’. By the time her husband realized things were not working as she and he had believed, and tried to get medical help, it was too late. She died at the age of 54. And she was not the first one in the church. Several others like her had died earlier because they refused medical attention.

This evangelist then began to question the teachings of the church, and did his own exploration of the faith doctrine from the Bible. He came to the shocking realization that he had been tragically wrong. Of course, he couldn’t go far in disputing this doctrine with the church’s top leadership, for he was soon disfellowshipped for questioning the teachings of the founder. He lost his wife, he lost his church, he lost all he had believed in his life till then.

His story is just one of the many, many tragedies happening in God’s churches around the world today in every nation, all because of a wrong understanding of faith.

Those three words, ‘But if not’ are the most important words in the whole story about the faith of those three youths of God. Those three words is the absolute quintessence of what true faith is.

The second true story is just as tragic.

In his article, When Cliches Don’t Work, Christian writer Steven Brown recounts his visit to a man who had been one of his ‘heroes’ and a friend. This friend had been the pastor of large churches, an author of some note and a famous evangelical leader. Steven Brown went to visit him because he had just been told that he was dying of cancer.

When he saw his friend, he saw no ‘hero’, but the tragic figure of a man who was “broken, bitter and without any hope”. The pastor who had been encouraging his large congregations Sunday after Sunday with messages of faith, hope and love, now lay dying and embittered, without hope and without faith, and without much of his old fervent love for God either.

What does your faith do to you when all the props that had been steadily holding up your security structure fall together; when you have had every dream you had been excitedly clinging to shattered and every desire you had been cherishing taken away; when you are left with absolutely no more hope, no more years left for this life?

This, child of God, is when you know with absolute certainty if you have true faith or not, and whether the teachings you have received from your church or spiritual leader are wholly based on a correct understanding of God’s Word, or not.

The faith in the two cases I mentioned above ended with the tragic death of the believers. I don’t mean just physical death. I mean also the destruction of the believers’ convictions, their assurance, their sense of security, their happiness, and worst of all, their relationship with God. Everything goes down in the abyss of despair and hopelessness when believed-in faith is revealed to be baseless.

So what is the true faith that always delivers, that never fails?

Please keep it foremost in your mind, Bible believer, that faith is NOT primarily the granting of petitions and desires you made to God. That is the most elementary understanding of faith, but which many of the most senior of God’s servants think is the complete understanding of it. This elementary understanding is based on various promises in the Bible. Here are the most well-known verses relating to God answering our prayers and granting us our desires:

‘Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.’’   Ps 37:4

‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.’   Mat 7:7

‘If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!’   Mat 7:11

‘Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.’   Mark 11:24

‘So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.’   Luke 11:9

‘If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.’   John 14:14

‘If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.’   John 15:7

‘And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.’   John 16:23

‘Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.’   John 16:24

‘And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.’   1 John 3:22

It is absolutely clear to even a little child that these promises mean that God will grant us what we desire and ask him for in faith. Now the little child of God also thinks that while God will grant us whatever we desire of him, the child, for his part, should ask in faith. If he loses faith, he is not going to receive anything from God. If he has faith, he can receive absolutely anything from God – wealth, health, protection, healing, deliverances – if God has promised it in his Word. And God has promised wealth, health, protection, healing, deliverances, and more in the Bible, hasn’t he?

So what’s the catch, what’s the problem, and why am I writing this message?

Because of the naïve assumption of the believer when asking God for something.

According to the teaching of many, perhaps most, preachers, the believer has a vital role in determining if he receives the answer to his prayer.  He should not waver in his faith when he waits for the answer he asked for. If he wavers, then he is rebuked with the verse in James 1:6:

‘But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord’.

So the believer asks and waits in prayer, and he struggles to maintain ‘faith’, that is, not doubt God’s unfailing promise. Doubts would come, naturally, but he wrestles against them, and somehow continues to keep ‘faith’ faithfully.

Isn’t that how many Christians, perhaps even you, exercise faith when they ask God for something? That was how I exercised faith for decades, because I was told by my spiritual teachers that was the only way to receive healing and other promises of God.

Oh, how I struggled with all my mental capacity to maintain faith for the petitions I made to God. I would ask for money for some important desire. I would ask for healing of a painful ailment. I would plead with God to protect me from prison and humiliation. No man could have prayed more and exercised more faith in my kind of situation. But all I got in answer to my tearful supplications in those years were more financial problems, more painful ailments, more imprisonments and increased humiliation.

Then, after 30 years of praying and exercising sincere faith in that manner, I gave up on faith altogether. I gave up on the God who made all those failed promises in the Bible, I gave up my church, my religion, and went searching for a new faith that really worked. I had become like the pastor of the large churches, referred to earlier, who, when God did not deliver him from his cancer as he pleaded for, became embittered, broken and hopeless. But the faithful Christ, who remains ever faithful to us and promised never to forsake or abandon us, even when we give up on him and abandon him for other faiths, rescued me from disaster and self-destruction. And he, through the Holy Spirit, began to personally teach me the true delivering faith. I have been living by that faith, as directly taught to me by my Savior, for many years now.

When God made those promises in the Bible, he made them to people who understood his will for their lives. The promises were made to people who always, consciously or subconsciously, begin their prayers with the words taught by their Lord, ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’. That is their greatest desire above every other desire. That is their one absolutely overriding request to God that supersedes, modifies, magnifies, or even obliterates every other desire in their life so that this one desire – which is, God’s will be done in their lives – can be granted in answer to their prayers.

Those who ask God for something – for health, for deliverance from sickness, for a happy marriage, for children, for a job – and then turn bitter against him for not granting what they desperately and sincerely asked for in faith, forget their master’s first requirement for following him. We cannot hope to receive anything from him unless we are following him. And what did our Master tell us when we made a decision to follow him?

‘Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters – yes, even one’s own self! – can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.’   Luke 14:26. The Message

If you havent yet let go of your own self-desires, if you arent yet ready to even forsake your own family, if they stand in your way, to follow the One who died for you, then you havent qualified to ask him anything.

But the astonishing truth of God’s amazing grace is that even when a nominal Christian, who thinks he is following Christ but is only following his own self-desires, when he sincerely and perseveringly prays, God does grant him many of his requests – even as a physical father would grant some requests of his disobedient son. God may grant him his requests only to a limited extent, but the testimonies of many people I personally know – even those who do not believe in Christ and do not know of a single promise in the Bible – have convinced me that our God is so good that he often answers the prayers of people who have the wrong kind of faith but whose hearts are sincere before God.

I personally know several people of Hindu and Muslim faiths receiving astonishing answers to their prayers, because they prayed with a right attitude and for the right reasons in the sight of their Creator.

But as for you, man or woman of Christ, if you believe God’s promises in the Bible, then it is not enough that just ‘many’ of your prayers are granted, while some, and especially in critical situations, as in the case of the pastor dying of cancer, are not granted. If you are a faithful follower of Christ, then every single one of the promises in the 10 verses I quoted above, and in the numerous other verses in the Bible that I didn’t quote, should be granted to you without fail.

Every prayer of mine is saturated with monotonous requests for granting me this, or that, or other desire. I have hundreds granted already in the past, and thousands of other requests which I have rolled off from my prayer mat onto the foot of God’s throne, and which have not been granted yet, but I know with absolute certainty they too will be granted in God’s own good time.

As I said, God has given these promises for his people who have, or is ever ready, to forsake everything to follow him. These promises are meant for people who want God’s will to be done in their lives above every personal desire.

Now, if that senior cancer-stricken pastor had really given his life over to Christ, would he be in the least bothered when Christ asks him to lay it down for him? Instead of giving it up without a moment’s hesitation, he got bitter and lost his sense of security and his confidence in God. He loved his own life more than his Savior, not realizing that his Savior had first given up his life to save him from his wretched sinful state and from eternal death. That servant of God must have prayed the Lord’s Prayer with his congregations many times during his active pastoral days. But every time he uttered those words ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ he didn’t mean it at all. When that part of the prayer came, he was subconsciously praying, ‘my will be done on earth, as yours is in heaven’.

Every time that a prayer in your life goes unanswered, every time that your prayer brings a silence from heaven, every time it seems God stands aloof from your pleas, remember this: your God who loves you more than your own physical father or mother ever could love you, more than you ever can love your precious little son or daughter, that awesome God of awesome love is ever ready to answer you and grant you your every desire.

Your request has already been registered in heaven, and waiting to be dispatched by angels; it will arrive right at the door of your life when you are ready to receive it. Some arrive within an hour or so, some within a decade or more, and many in between. And some are answered even while you are attempting to articulate precisely what you want of the Lord!

‘For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.’   Is 65:23-25

But as for me, and most other people who have learned what true faith is, what has been granted in answer to our prayers is a fraction of what has not been granted. In my case, I think more than 90 percent of my desires that I have been seeking from God since I was a teen have not been granted. But we know that these desires have not been refused by God, for he cannot refuse them because he has promised them clearly in his Word. We wait in faith for God to grant them to us in his own time, which we are convinced is the best time for us to receive those desires. And we also know that this best time is not in this age, but in the regeneration when we will be resurrected to flesh and bones and live our physical lives for a hundred years. Those who have not been granted a family, or children, or a beautiful house, or property, or anything else, will be granted a hundredfold in the regenerated life. See Christ’s own promise in Matthew 19:29 and Mark 10:29-30. (My book, Regeneration, covers this subject in detail.)

That’s faith! Faith that will grant you everything you ask for. Because whenever you ask God for something, you have this attitude in your heart:

‘Lord, I have this desire and I have your promise in your Word that you will grant it to me. But I also know that you know when best to grant it to me. I also know that sometimes it may be best in your sight that I be granted what you promised only when my Lord comes. Whatever, Lord, let your will, not mine, be done. And now, this is my request…’

‘Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.’   1 John 5:14-15

I continue to pray daily, and have been praying so for decades, for several major deliverances, which have not been granted yet. God has not given me any sign that he is going to grant at least some of them before I die. But as long as he has not answered me with a firm ‘No’ – which if he did, I will be able to sense through his Holy Spirit – I am going to keep asking him perseveringly like the widow did to the judge.

‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.  Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, “Get justice for me from my adversary”. And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.” ’   Luke 18:1-5

Or, like that man in the Bible who woke up his friend in the middle of the night and asked for 3 loaves:

‘ “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him”; and he will answer from within and say, “Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you”? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.’   Luke 11:5-8

I have absolute faith God will grant me what I have asked, because he has said so in the Bible. He has not specifically mentioned among his promises many of the things I have asked for, but he said ‘he will grant me the desires of my heart’. And what I have asked are certainly the desires of my heart, and I am not asking him for things to indulge my lusts.

I never pressurize my Lord with my requests. I never ask him with desperation. I never ask him and then set a mental deadline as to when I should receive what I ask for. I just ask him calmly and perseveringly, without giving up, and always desiring his will to be done in my life – and if that means he cannot grant me what I ask for, praise him for that! I dont get disappointed or discouraged. I dont want any teeny weeny bit of what I ask for if it is going to be against my Father’s will, for I know it will not be good for me.

I have had dozens of major petitions and desires – including deliverance from imprisonment – which were totally ungranted by God. Before I understood what real faith is, when my pleas for certain deliverances brought the opposite of what I asked for, I used to get very disappointed, sometimes very bitter, but years later when I looked back, I stood in stunned amazement at how gracious my Lord was to me by refusing to grant what I had earnestly asked of him. Perhaps one example might encourage you.

At one time, I knew I was sooner or later going to be incarcerated in a land of anti-Christians. I pleaded with God with fastings and intense prayers for months. I asked pastors and evangelists to pray for my deliverance from the dungeons. Some assured me I would be delivered.

Instead, one day I was taken handcuffed, with my ankles shackled with iron chains, to a depressing cell deep in a desert. But, strangely, it was in prison that I felt God’s presence closest to me. I never felt depressed, no, not once (although outside of prison, depression was a serious problem in my life). I could see other prisoners lying down or walking about totally depressed and miserable. I was daily praising God, and writing in a notebook all the new understandings he was giving me inside my prison cell.

The days and weeks passed, and one day, I found myself outside of the iron bars instead of inside. I was a free man again. But my old problems hadnt gone away, and two years later, I was again praying desperately to be spared from the dungeons. Instead, I found myself again in the very same prison, but in a different cell with worse cell-mates – murderers and sychopaths. But the sychopaths and killers were unusually kind to me, and I even shared my excess meals with the most dangerous of them.

Then one day, the worst possible nightmare in prison life happened to me. I became seriously sick. I got diarrhea, and along with it the most agonizing pain in my abdomen. A dagger thrust into my side and twisted left and right would have been more preferable than the pain I endured. Getting a doctor was out of question. It was the weekend and doctors dont visit dungeons on weekends. Once, a fellow prisoner had a heart-attack and the prison guard allowed his cellmates to carry him to the doctor’s room. I saw them returning after a few minutes…there was no doctor available on that day. (The heart-attackee survived though.)

I knew I would die if God did not intervene urgently, but there was no sign of him even reducing my pain a bit. Instead the pain intensified. I could try to end my suffering by doing what Job’s wife urged her husband to do – curse God for failing to keep his promise and just lie back and pass away to oblivion.

In the most agonizing moment of my life, as I lay on the prison floor squirming in pain, I decided to do one last thing before I died. I slowly raised my weakened right hand and holding it high, I gave to heaven, in the sight of the devil and all his hosts that were causing me this torment, a victorious ‘V’ gesture with my forefinger and middle finger. I declared to God in my spirit, ‘Lord, even if you kill me, I will trust you and be faithful to you’. And then I put my hand down and continued to lie on the floor.

That was what God had been waiting to know, I realized later. Waiting to know if I was trusting him even when he was refusing to deliver me. He saw that I was. Almost immediately, my pain started to subside.

The next day, I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance when a kindhearted prison guard on duty that day heard of my situation. But I had no more pain, no diarrhea anymore. The rest of my sentenced term of two months went like a piece of prison cake. I was out…with a far greater conviction of what delivering faith is.

About eight years after I got out of my last prison, God put it into my heart to start a mission with a special focus on reducing the suffering of prisoners. For I have seen with my own eyes the heartwrenching groanings of my fellow prisoners. The mission, World Daily Bread, has relief of prisoners among its greatest purposes (please visit worlddailybread.org). I have no doubt that this mission will be used by God sooner or later to bring his deliverance and comfort to prisoners worldwide. I have put in awesome, literally global-encompassing, requests to God regarding this mission, and I know that every one of them will be granted, in God’s perfect time, because I am not seeking my own will.

I have received the faith that always delivers, that always brings an answer from God. Praise my Lord!

Even in the lighter aspects of life, God rewards me for my faith in him. He grants requests that might sound even ludicrous to nonbelievers.

I wanted to be a lead guitarist when I was about twelve. After persistent requests, my dad bought me a guitar, and I plucked the strings without once learning how to play it. Nobody was available to teach me how. The guitar fragmented after many years of disuse, and I grew up, married, and became middle-aged, and was quickly turning senior…and still there was nobody to teach me guitar.

But my desire to learn to play the guitar never once faded a bit. I never ceased to ask God to somehow make me into a good guitar player. But the decades passed and I was just a few short years away from becoming a senior old man. When I was 56, I bought another guitar, just out of my fascination for this musical instrument. Once, while I was plucking away randomly at my new possession, without the slightest clue how to play it, a concerned observer told me, ‘You need to learn the scales’.

Scales? What are they? I knew of the song in The Sound of Music, which was about the scale – doe, ray, me, far, so, la, tea. That was the closest I knew of scales. But how do I learn the guitar by singing doe, ray, me? But the observer’s remark lingered in my memory.

Then, another two wrinkled years trudged by, and as I approached my 58th birthday, I thought I would look up on the internet to find out what a guitar scale is. I came across a website that taught me the ABCDEFGs of a scale. I tried one of the scales, called the pentatonic minor, on the guitar. Wow, I seemed to be able to produce some harmonious notes finally, which I couldn’t at all for the past 46 years! I kept practicing the scales, and soon I was composing some simple original melodies of my own.

Now, about 4 years after I first heard the word ‘scale’, I can play the guitar with some speed and skill, and I have composed what I think are some beautiful instrumental melodies that I think may inspire listeners to sway their bodies, swing their arms, and praise God. (I am thinking of putting up a few videos of my compositions, just to inspire potential guitarists.)

Beloved son or daughter of God, our Father wants to bestow all the blessings that he as an Omnipotent God can bestow on you. Hand over your life to him wholly, for him to do with it as he wills, to keep it or take it away.

That was what God had been waiting to know, I realized later. Waiting to know if I was trusting him even when he was refusing to deliver me.

My name is Joseph. Joseph means ‘ God adds, or increases’. There is no limit to the increase God gives to the one who asks and perseveres in faith. I am not putting a limit to what I ask God. I ask him for nothing more than his omnipotence can provide, but I ask him nothing less than his omnipotence can give. But I know that no matter how great and how large my request bag is, it still does not come up to the measure our Father wants to give me, in this life and in the regeneration:

‘Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us’   Eph 3:20

Perhaps the most practical way to understand what true faith is, is to replace the word ‘faith’ with ‘faithfulness’. If you are ready to be faithful to God even to the point of death, faith will automatically be there. Being faithful to God in life and death is the true faith, this is the very foundation of every blessing in your life.

‘The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.’   Heb 11:1-2 The Message

If Jesus is your Lord, then don’t limit your asking him in faith. Don’t give up, never give up, if what you are asking for is promised in his Word, even if that promise is generic, and not specific to your case. Absolutely ALL your desires, all that you can ever ask of him fit into his promises in the 10 verses I quoted earlier in this message.

Search the Scriptures, and you will find many other promises, and many specific ones too. Claim them all. But always in faith, always in full submission to his will, not your will. Always willing to wait for God’s own time to grant it to you – perhaps immediately, perhaps after a few decades, perhaps during your 100-year life in the regeneration. Whatever you ask should glorify God in some way or other.

May God, the Giver of every good gift, grant your every desire beyond measure, beyond your present ability to conceive the magnitude of what you are going to receive.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Utmost Christian

How Many of Your Beliefs Are By Your Own Choice?

 

The average South Indian eats so much rice daily that it’s enough to keep a baby elephant alive. For the average North Indian, chapattis is the best staple for him.

Why do they prefer these? Is it because sometime in their young days each of them tasted all the different staples available in India, and one decided that rice and curry was the most delectable of them all, and the other found them not as palatable as meals made from wheat?

To take that thought a few leaps further: why does a typical Christian go to church Sunday morning, a Muslim to a Mosque on Friday, and a Hindu to a temple?

Have you ever paused for a couple of crucial minutes in your life to ponder the vital question of why you do what you do and believe what you believe today? Why really do you eat the kind of food you eat today? Why truly do you worship God the way you do today?

That one section of a population should continue to have faith in and practice what seems so obviously wrong and even ridiculous to another section is because of a strong dark force that began exerting its mindwashing power on a person’s syche from the day of es birth. It is called tradition.

Tradition is literally the most powerful manmade force on earth. Only God’s power and the devil’s temptations have greater impact on a man’s life. And tradition, in the overwhelming number of cases, is allied with the devil in binding man to the most abject forms of slavery. A slavery so insidious and prevalent you would see, if you open your inner eyes to observe it – people everywhere in all walks of life going about their daily activities in abject surrender to this force in their minds.

In my own country, the tragic custom of dowry, which to the eternal shame of the heads of most episcopalian churches and some other denominations, was by tradition enforced upon impoverished fathers of brides when these churches sanctioned the custom in their congregations. And the reason they didnt – still dont – stamp their ecclesiastical foot down vehemently on this shameful practice in Christianity: the generous slice of the dowry they received as mandatory offering. The leadership of these churches, as a whole, did nothing to put an end to the evil custom of the groom’s family demanding a price from the bride’s family, and it was finally left to a secular government to clamp down on this blotch in mainstream Christianity. I still do not hear of any of the heads of the dowry-guilty churches denouncing it in their official edicts, nor proclaiming repentance of their tacit approval of this congregational malpractice which caused, generation after generation, extreme suffering to countless families with marriageable daughters. It is still widespread, except that it is done covertly now. But more and more young people, whose minds have been opened to see the heinousness of this tradition, are resisting it in the present times. [This was written in 2005. More than a decade later, I still dont see any significant changes in the episcopalian church leaders’ attitude about dowry.]

Did you get your religious beliefs by your own study of God’s Word, or blindly from the tradition of your parents?

Take another tradition, this time in the arena of education. Little children from the age of six are daily burdened with homework imposed by their teachers and enforced by their parents, in addition to being daily weighed down with excessive facts and figures in the classroom – knowledge which mostly is forgotten or discarded for its irrelevance in the student’s life a few months after e leaves high school. Academic homework takes away much of the precious time and energy a child needs to engage in activities that will enable em to cherish the fleeting years of childhood. How many are the enlightened teachers and indignant parents who are doing all they can to root out this malignant root out of their children’s lives? Very few indeed, but thank God for there are very few exceptional people who can think for themselves and perceive traditional practices for what they really are.

Consider the tradition of millions of Indian and Sudanese women swirling themselves onto billions of meters of sari, while in the West the men near-strangle themselves every morning with a noose called the tie, and the women perch themselves precariously on stilts called high heels which constrain their movements and constantly expose them to the danger of cerebral damage from a fall.

The tradition of adhering to dispensable routines, silly procedures, and sillier policies in corporate offices, government departments, and institutions, simply because these are what have been traditionally practiced in such places boss after boss.

The tradition of living in the fearful grip of thousands of superstitions that shackle the courage of even highly educated Christians. To mention the churches in my land again, believe it or not, in some orthodox denominations there, the wedding folks would not leave their house porch for the church altar if their departure would be at an ‘inauspicious time’, known in the local language as ‘rahu kalam’. They would linger about the house till the evil hour is past and then step out – a matrimonial practice not originating from the apostles of Christ but from the disciples of fallen angels masquerading as ministers of light who managed to inveigle themselves into the churches.

Today, if you have time to pause for a minute or two in your busy life, let me encourage you to ponder your habits and beliefs to a depth of sincerity your mind didnt dare to consider earlier. Ask yourself, how many of them are a result of your deliberate choice? How many of them are actually the result of traditions and customs imbibed from your parents, peers, church, and society?

It’s those Christians who dare to make bold choices of conscience who really are trustworthy in God’s eyes and who will be used by their Lord to blaze through earth to grant freedom to people languishing under the curse of practices imposed by the devil. The rest of humanity, bound in the chains of traditions and customs, continue to serve the dark spirits in their religious, cultural, social and political beliefs.

Interestingly, the number of the evil Beast mentioned in Biblical prophecy, the world ruler who will arise in the end times, is 666. This was written in the Greek language, which has alphabets that have a numerical value for each. Only two words in this language have letters that add up to 666. One is ‘prosperity’, which according to that earnest servant of God, Derek Prince, is the severest trial a person can go through – a trial not many Christians can handle without personal devastation and which destroyed many great men of God, including Solomon. The other word, interestingly, is ‘tradition’.

Christian, if you desire to be a courageous man or woman of genuine faith in the sight of your God, then dare to base your every belief and practice solely on the Word of God. Never allow the least influence of any profane tradition to affect your thoughts, words and actions.

Tradition binds. Truth sets you free. Freedom is among God’s greatest gift to his people. And the only way to be truly free is to keep the commandments of God.

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.   John 8:32

You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth.’   Ps 119:151

 

Pappa Joseph

 

Utmost Christian

Why temptations dont seem to go away

By understanding exactly how temptations work in your conscious and subconscious mind, you can deal with it more effectively and more quickly.

 

Some years ago, I sat down to counsel a middleaged man whom I have known since his boyhood.  I have personally witnessed his transformation over the past couple of decades, from a young profligate person whose vile life defied description, to someone so miraculously transformed by God’s grace that I have seldom seen anyone else with such great zeal and good works for his Savior.

He confessed to me that no matter how instantaneously he put certain vile temptations out his mind during his waking hours, when he was asleep filthy scenes ran riot in his dreams, and, overwhelming his desire to flee from the filthy scenes, he almost always found himself indulging in the sinful acts his subconscious mind conjured up. The lustful acts he was carrying out in his dreams were just as bad, and often worse than what he had indulged in during his licentious days before his conversion to the Christ life. All his supplications to God to enable him to be rid of these filthy dreams had been futile so far.

As a result he was in constant deep anguish at his impossibility to lead an equally clean life in his subconscious mind as in his conscious.

I asked him, ‘You put away vile thoughts instantly when they come to your thoughts when you are awake. What about the not-so-vile thoughts? Is there a wee little allowance in your mind for a few things in your daily life that you know in your heart are better to give up than to continue in them? Say, eating some food, or drinking some beverage?’

He pondered for a few seconds, and then replied, ‘As far as my conscience knows, the only things I give in to now and then is my yearning for chocolate and ice-cream.’

‘But you are diabetic, aren’t you?’

‘Yes, but I do not take them daily, just when the yearning comes now and then’.

‘But your doctor has advised you even against the occasional indulgence in sweet foods?’

‘Yea, but..’

‘Think, is there another one small yearning you give in to occasionally. Beer?’

I knew he loved beer, and was drinking it regularly though moderately. I have even sat down for beer sessions with him in those days when I too used to take this beverage in the weekends.

‘Oh, yea. You know I don’t take it excessively.’

‘But after drinking beer, how did you find your sleep that night?’

‘Actually, almost every time I have beer during the daytime, I tend to find the vile dreams are more profuse and more intense. I don’t understand why. When taking beer, I allow nothing vile I into my mind.’

‘I believe that. But alcohol had caused you some big troubles in the days before Christ found you, right?’

‘Yea, it was one of my greatest weaknesses, and that which caused me to commit several other sins.’

‘And probably many times after your conversion, you had wanted to stop taking it completely and have nothing to do with something that wrecked so much havoc in your earlier life?’

He was quiet for a while, and then spoke up.

‘Frankly, I made many attempts to stop drinking beer even in moderate quantity, because I saw its association with my filthy dreams. But I never thought it was a serious problem.’

‘No, the drinking in itself is not the problem. But your allowing it, even when you know you shouldnt is the problem. That spirit of moderate allowance in your conscious mind is the intimate little brother of the spirit of free indulgence of filth in your subconscious mind. When you are asleep it is this little brother that always opens the backdoor to your mind to his more wicked sibling, without your knowing it.’

‘But the filthy spirit apparently has another little brother too’, I continued. ‘So even if the beer spirit doesn’t open, the chocolate brother would.’

The man was smiling, but I saw his eyes were widening.

‘You think my drinking and eating chocolate is what is causing my helplessness at my filthy dreams?’

‘It is not your drinking beer and eating chocolates that are causing it. It is your lack of selfcontrol in these two areas. On the day your conscience allows you to take them without feeling the least guilty, you may. But until you exercise absolute selfcontrol in these two areas as well – and if there be anything else in your life you haven’t told me – the door to your subconscious mind will continue to be under the control of these little housekeeping elves of the devil.’

The man returned home with a new perspective of his ‘harmless’ little indulgences.

A lack of selfcontrol in one area of a person’s life is invariably connected to another larger lack of selfcontrol in another area in him. Sexual temptations are the half brother of belly temptations, or beer or gambling.

He who is selfcontrolled in the least is also selfcontrolled in the greatest. And he is not selfcontrolled in the least cannot be selfcontrolled in the greatest. This is a corollary truth of Christ’s statement,

‘He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.’   Luke 16:10

If temptations continue stalking you relentlessly, it is a sure sign that a red light is flashing from heaven in your life.

If you cannot find the answer in the direct temptation, look for it in another area of your life.

Perhaps there is someone you are unable to forgive totally, though you still love him or her, perhaps there is some longstanding offense against a person who had done you a wrong, even if you dont hate him or her, perhaps you occasionally let your eyes linger over a pornographic image for a few seconds instead of turning your eyes off it instantly, perhaps there is thought that you allow lodgment in your mind for a short while, which should not be entertained for even a fraction of a second in a Christian’s life – then that is where the cause lies for your inability to have permanent victory over a far greater area of weakness or temptation.

The way to remove the mountain of temptation in your life is to shovel away with God’s help the little mounds of tempting delights.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Utmost Christian

The Final State of Maturity In A Christian’s Life

A Christian has reached the final state of his spiritual growth when he is able to keep Christ’s ‘command to persevere’.

Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.’   Rev 3:10

Persevere’ in Greek is the same word translated elsewhere as in the Bible as ‘endurance, constancy, enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting)’.

The final state in perseverance or endurance is reached after a person goes through many years of troubles, as in the case of most Christians, or zenithed through a single instance of ultimate testing, as in the case of people such as Abraham and Job, and other ancient servants of God who were tested at some point in their lives by an extreme trouble, and in the case of Christians today who, in unswerving faith, go through severe persecution or personal tragedy – people who are especially selected by God and equipped to fulfill a great and special purpose in Christ’s ministry after they have been tested and proven in the fiery furnaces of affliction.

If this seems a frightening aspect of the true Christian life, then always keep it uppermost in your mind that no believer will ever go through an extreme suffering unless God equips him or her for it, according to his precious promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

‘No temptation has come your way that is too hard for flesh and blood to bear. But God can be trusted not to allow you to suffer any temptation beyond your powers of endurance. He will see to it that every temptation has a way out, so that it will never be impossible for you to bear it.’   JBP

Remember this sentence, especially the word ‘every’, in that verse whenever you think of any Christian’s adversity:

‘He will see to it that every temptation has a way out, so that it will be impossible for you to bear it.’

What greater assurance and comfort do we need to face any trial!

The Greek word for ‘temptation’ is ‘peirasmos’, which means ‘a putting to proof, discipline, by implication adversity’. So when God allows you to be tested, he is putting you to proof, to refine you, so you could come out of the furnace of adversity refined, mature, and steadfast.

This refining process is lifelong. Our entire life is comprised of small, medium and big trails, which are the crucibles of our growth in Christian maturity. The final point of absolute full maturity is reached only when a person finishes his life course and breathes his last.

But there is one particular point in the life of every child of God when he or she crosses the spiritual Jordan, whereby e proves to God that e is now a solid Christian, capable of patiently enduring any trial he or she is put through, capable of serving God in any capacity, a ‘strong-meat’ believer, no more needing the soft milk of a tender and immature child of God, as were some of Paul’s brethren.

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto you were not able to bear it, neither yet now are you able.’ ‘But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age’.   1 Cor 3:1-2; Heb 5:14 KJV

Strong meat’ is the state when a Christian is able to accept and digest every spiritual solid food and every cup of strong drink God gives him for his growth.

Jesus asked James and John, ‘Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to him, ‘We are able” ’.

And Jesus did not doubt their conviction. ‘You will indeed drink my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with’, he responded. (Mat 20:22-23)

When you are also able to drink the same cup of affliction that the disciples did, and be baptized with the same baptism that they went through – which means burying your selfcentered will in a watery grave and raising up to a new life to do only the will of God, whatever that involves – you reach the same state of spiritual maturity as ‘he who endures to the end’ (Mat 24:13). This is the point of growth that Christ desires for every follower of his to reach as soon as possible.

For some, this point is reached imperceptibly, and the person one day wakes up to realize that he or she has already reached this mature state of perseverance after many years of seemingly endless troubles. For many others, this final proving point to God is reached during the severest trial of their lives. This is the point that Abraham reached when he lifted his knife to sacrifice Isaac. This is the point that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego reached when they were cast into the furnace by Nebuchadnezzar. This is the point that many faithful Christians reach when they are faced with the prospect of choosing life and betraying God, or choosing to risk death or great trouble so they can be faithful to God, and they unhesitatingly choose to be faithful to God.

And to those who are ready to choose to be faithful to God at any cost, let me give you this assurance based on my personal experience:

When I came to the excruciatingly painful point that I knew I would be physically devastated or even die if I did not get immediate medical help (in a place, deep in the dungeons of Arabia, where, no matter how critical a person’s physical state, if it was the weekend, no doctor would be available), and the devil wanted me to give up trusting God anymore to deliver me, I forced my right hand, weakened by my affliction, to slowly raise itself up, and pointed my forefinger and middle finger in a victory sign to the devil in the sight of all the heavenly hosts. It was the climax of several weeks of extreme affliction. But that was the turning point. From that moment onward, the devil left me and my pain decreased almost immediately and I was soon able to smile and move around normally, and within a few days I was walking out of my prison cell, to lead a far more active Christian life than ever.

Once you have convinced the devil you would rather die than betray your Savior, he will flee from you terrified, and thereafter, any attacks on you would be from a safe distance and could never be as intense as the one which enabled you to cross the Jordan of your life.

‘Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you.’   James 4:7 AMP

‘And do not [for a moment] be frightened or intimidated in anything by your opponents and adversaries, for such [constancy and fearlessness] will be a clear sign (proof and seal) to them of [their impending] destruction, but [a sure token and evidence] of your deliverance and salvation, and that from God.’   Phi 1:28 AMP

The final state_2

Israel’s troubles and challenges did not end soon after they crossed the Jordan, but they were nothing compared to what they had endured during the 40 year trek through the Sinai desert. Even so, once you reach the maturity point where you have proved to God you will be faithful to him at any cost in your life, all troubles that come to you after that are just finishing touches to your refinement process and seem, by comparison, mild.

There will come times, sometimes lasting a long time, when all the promises of God would seem unavailable, when God himself seems far away from your trouble, and all your cries for help seem to go no higher than the ceiling of your bedroom. You would cry, like David did,

‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping me, And from the words of my groaning?   Ps 22:1

And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, except to ‘be still’ decide to endure and trust God to deliver you in his own time. (Ps 46:10)

These are times in a growing Christian’s life that he will have to endure from hour to hour and from day to day. He becomes an hourly and daily survivor with whatever strength and little reliefs he receives in his misery.

God will not allow a Christian to go through such an intense phase until he or she is ready for it, irrespective of whether the Christian emself feels ready for it. Almost always, the Christian would feel he or she is simply not able to cope with it, but find, on looking back after some months and years of endurance that e has somehow managed to survive through the fire e had initially thought he or she could never go through.

This, faithful follower of Christ, is the most difficult and painful, and ultimately the most rewarding of all Christian experiences. Even the great God in all his omnipotence could not find another way of refining us more perfectly than through severe troubles that require our patient endurance.

It is only when you reach this God-given ability to endure patiently to the end every trouble that you will also have reached the final state of spiritual maturity where there is no more need for your severe testing. You will also have reached the state where you are eligible to be spared from the terrible tribulation coming upon the whole world in the endtimes. I repeat Christ’s personal assurance:

‘Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.’   Rev 3:10

You need not be tested with extreme troubles with the rest of unrepentant humanity. A time of unthinkable tribulation is coming soon upon the whole world ‘such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.’ (Mat 24:21)

To escape the coming tribulation, you have to keep Christ’s command to persevere through your troubles. You have to endure without complaining whatever God allows you to go through today.

But remember always: however severe your present trouble seems to be, however unsolvable your present situation seems to be, God promises you this:

‘I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears…This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.’   Ps 34:4,6

Thank God we have his promise we will come out of every trouble smiling and praising him ever more!


It is only when you reach this God-given ability to endure patiently to the end every trouble that you will also have reached the final state of spiritual maturity where there is no more need for your severe testing.


One vital final point of this message.

The state of patient endurance is reached not by your determination to grit your teeth and patiently endure every trouble that comes your way. When you do that, the pain of your troubles only increases. Just as a patient’s pain is increased when he braces himself and tenses his biceps as the doctor inserts an injection needle into his arm. The least painful state is to lie relaxed and untensed and let the physician perform his job without any effort on your own part to help him reduce your pain. This least painful state is attained not by your struggles and efforts, but only by your belief that whatever is happening now is God’s specific will for you and therefore you willingly and unresistingly accept the work of your heavenly Surgeon in every area of your daily life so he can quickly excise every offending and toxic quality in your spiritual body.

The longer you resist, the longer you will have to go through the cleansing process. It is your belief in God’s personal care of you, your confidence that he will not allow you to suffer beyond the capability he has already given you, and your willingness to submit to whatever he does in you that are the calming factors in all your afflictions.

’When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God – who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty – and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.’   James 1:2-5 JBP

Just run to Christ in sincere desire and persevering prayer for him to help you carry the heavy crosses of your life. When you do that daily, you will soon reach the point where you will have crossed the Jordan and find an amazing change in the way the troubles affect you now: they are so endurable now, so light to bear!

‘Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’   Mat 11:28-30

‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]’   John 16:33 AMP

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Utmost Christian

Yet I will continue to trust my Lord

 

A little while ago, I received a forward in my WhatsApp. It was from a man I know closely, a good man, but who lacks many good things in life. The forward contained a verse from the Bible,

‘Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.’   Ps 34:10

And below the verse was a video of a young lady with a guitar and she was declaring why she was going to sing the song. There was a time when her family lacked bread…I knew the gist of what was coming, which is, somehow the Lord miraculously provided them some bread in time, before they starved to death, and they have been praising God for this bread ever since. I have heard similar stories too many times, and just can’t bear to hear another one. The sight and sound of this milk bread that’s been offered to me makes me sick in my stomach, and I long for some strong meat. Almost always this kind of story brings up in my mind another story I heard long ago:

A widow lacked bread and was praying to the Lord to supply her some. Two little rascals from the neighborhood playing under her window, heard her plea. “Let’s play a trick on her,’ said one. They got a small loaf from somewhere, and as the widow continued her supplications for the life-saving bread, they tossed in the loaf from under the window. The amazed lady praised God for such a sudden and dramatic miracle, and as she began to munch on the loaf, the lads peered in and shouted, ‘It ain’t no God supplied your bread, it’s us threw it in, hee, hee!’. The widow looked up surprised. Unfazed, she replied, ‘Yea, the devil may have delivered it, but all the same the Lord did supply it.’

I didn’t wait to hear how the Lord supplied bread to that singer’s family, but thought I should immediately write about this teaching that’s making many milk-fed Christians undernourished in the Body of Christ.

I have known several men and women in my life, who continue to live since their young days to their present senior age, or who have died, without being supplied many good things in life – people who have always trusted the Lord to supply their needs, who have been good Christians, as good or even more fervent, than the bread-supplied family of that girl in the video. Oh yea, these people lacked many, many good things in life. In fact, if they had chosen to forsake the Lord, and seek refuge in another lord, they might have had better things in life, as many I knew of tragically did.

But the greatest testimony is my own life. To this very day, I lack too many good things in life, even some basic good things, which if I write about would shock you. But, praise my good God, who ensures that though I lack many good things in life, though he refuses to grant me many things that would have reduced the suffering in my life, though he repeatedly says a firm ‘Never!’ to many of my pleas – as he did to Paul three times in response to the fervent pleas of the Apostle to remove something that was constantly a painful part of his life (have you ever had a thorn embedded in the sole of your feet anytime?…imagine walking around with that thorn for the rest of your life) – though my life may end up being slayed by God, yet I will continue to trust my Lord. (Job 13:15)

Indeed, many are the preachers, many are the babes in Christ who pass on testimonies such as the one I received a while ago, who have misinterpreted the Lord’s ways of dealing with his beloved people. And their platitudes about the Lord ensuring that his son or daughter will lack no good thing, including good health, is confusing and undermining the faith of those little ones who are just coming to know the Lord. They are like the three friends of Job, who spoke on and on, page after page, of how the Lord will grant good things to those who love him, and if he didn’t, surely it is because of some fault in them. And what did Job reply to his friends, in the midst of his mental and physical agonies:

‘Your platitudes are proverbs of ashes, your defenses are defenses of clay…“I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are!’   Job 13:12; 16:2

So what is my strength, what is my hope, when the Lord continues to refuse me many good things that would have eliminated, or even just reduced a bit, the sufferings in my life? Why do I and innumerable other suffering Christians, continue to respond, in the midst of our afflictions, with the following words:

‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.’   Job 13:15

Because I know it is only a matter of time, when I and my fellow sufferers in the Lord, will receive a hundredfold of all that we lack in this life – food, home, clothing, job, health, and more. We are among the second category of God’s children who,

‘all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.’   Heb 11:13

We are not counted among those

‘who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.’   Heb 11:33-35

But we are among other who were

‘tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented… having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise’   Heb 11:35-39

I praise my God daily, that though he continues to deny me many good things in my life, I can survive from moment to moment, from hour to hour, from day to day, with the fullness of joy that comes from Christ dwelling in me, from the excitement of waiting for the day of his return, when all that I am suffering now cannot even begin to be compared with what I am going to receive when my Lord comes.

‘For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.’   Rom 8:18

‘For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God’   Job 19:25,26

For this slight, momentary trouble is piling up for me an eternal blessedness beyond all comparison, because I keep my eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.   2 Cor 4:17

So what about the sure verse in Psalm 34:10 which was so lovingly forwarded to me for my encouragement?

As a former English teacher, and present English language reformer, I place a lot of importance on the tense used in a sentence. The verse does not say, ‘those who trust in the Lord lacks no good thing’, but ‘those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing’.

The time is coming – O with what surpassing excitement and joy I wait for it every moment, every day! – when I will lack no good thing.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Utmost Christian

God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career

This is a 3-part message that will provide some deep insights to every young man and young woman pondering their career path, and may even provide a new perspective to people who are already well-established in a profession or business.

 

God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career –  Part 1

Young Christians, Beware of the Glamor Industry

There is a saying in my native language Malayalam, stated when a person wants to send his milch cow to make love to a stud bull, so he can have the continuity of his milk supply assured when the cow calves again. He says, ‘I want to send her among the crowd’. Probably the saying originated from the fact that the cow is released among a herd of horny bulls waiting to pounce on any of their female kind straying into their midst…  READ MORE


God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career –  Part 2

Can A Christian Join His Nation’s Armed Forces?

A pastor I know closely has a son who is in the navy. Now this senior servant of God, every Sunday when he stands in the pulpit, reminds the flock entrusted to his care about their absolute need to keep God’s commandments. This, in essence, is his core message: ‘Don’t covet your neighbor’s donkey, or car, or wife, but love him as yourself; love your enemy, and pray for his protection in the time of war…  READ MORE


God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career –  Part 3

Professions and Businesses that An Earnest Christian Should Avoid

Every profession and every business in this world has been infiltrated by Satan. I do not mean taken over by Satan or run by Satan, but affected and tainted by the devil to a greater or lesser extent. There is deception and evil influence – again to a greater or lesser extent – in every sphere of human endeavor…  READ MORE


 

Utmost Christian

Professions and Businesses That Every Man and Woman of God Should Avoid

God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career – Part 3

The concluding part of a message that will provide some deep insights to every young man and young woman pondering their career path, and may even provide a new perspective to people who are already well-established in a profession.


 

Every profession and every business in this world has been infiltrated by Satan. I do not mean taken over by Satan or run by Satan, but affected and tainted by the devil to a greater or lesser extent. There is deception and evil influence – again to a greater or lesser extent – in every sphere of human endeavor. Listen to these declarations in the Scriptures:

‘that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world’.  Rev 12:9

‘Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” ’  Luke 4:5-7

I suppose not everyone who reads these verses pays close attention to some key words in them. Some of the key words are, ‘Devil, kingdoms, world, authority, glory, worship’. But the key words that tend to be glossed over make, literally, a whole world of difference. These words are, ‘whole, all, whomever’.

First, the Devil deceives the whole world. Second, he has been given all authority and glory of all the kingdoms of the world and he can give it to whomever he wishes to give.

While every profession on earth has been tainted and influenced by Satan to a greater or lesser degree, there are some that Christians should avoid at any cost. I am, of course, not referring to professions involved in illegal business, such as smuggling or dealing in pirated or pornographic goods, and the like, which are obvious to any Godfearing person as downright sinful occupations.

Professions which are not that obvious include those in a nation’s armed forces and in the glamor industry such as acting and modeling (unless one can join them in some aspect that doesn’t involve compromising with God’s law), about which I wrote in part 1 and 2 of this message series. In this message I will mention a few other professions that God would not approve your entering – professions which are even less obvious to many Christians in the sinfulness of their nature than military service or an acting career.

Moneylending Business

God’s people can certainly lend money to whomever they want to. It is when they make it a business that it turns to an unrighteous way of earning an income. No man or woman of God should lend money to anyone in need and then exact interest on repayment. To do so is a direct violation of God’s law. Even working in an organization whose business is making money by charging interest is not a good choice of employment because you are contributing your time and effort to perpetuating an evil scheme in human life.

‘Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.’  Prov 28:8

‘Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right…He does not lend to them at interest or take a profit from them…He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign Lord.’ Ezek 18:5,8-9

I consider moneylending such an accursed profession that I will have nothing to do with even the people associated with it. Some years ago a marriage proposal came for my daughter. It was brought to us by some relatives who knew the boy’s family well. The parents were extremely wealthy and highly respected in my community, and their son was a good looker and well mannered. It would have been the dream proposal for many a parent looking for an ideal husband for their daughter. But the moment I heard the name of the boy’s family, I said sternly to the ones who brought me the proposal that they should not mention this subject to me ever again. The boy’s parents were the founders of one of the largest moneylending institutions in the country. Numerous are the suffering poor who have been left poorer and suffering more because they could never redeem what they had pawned in their dire need, which was then usurped by this family of usury takers. But the relatives who brought the proposal could never understand my stance, and could only shake their heads in disbelief.

Have nothing to do with the usury profession and do not even associate closely with usury takers, and God will delight in you and he will bless you for your faithfulness in keeping all his decrees and laws.

Debt Collection Agency

Now what’s wrong in being employed by a honest-working debt collection agency? There’s nothing wrong with an organization itself that is founded to help other organizations redeem their hard-earned money from elusive clients. The wrong is in the way that an agency uses to collect the debts.

I don’t know if there is anywhere on earth a single collection agency that doesn’t use ungodly tactics to get their money. Companies, when all their reminders, pressures and threats finally exhaust, hand over the bad debt to a collection agency, even if they have to part with half the redeemed amount, which is the usual agency fees.

And how do debt collection agents attempt to get back the money? Would they go to a debtor, sit down with him, sincerely try to find out why he is defaulting, and then work out a solution satisfactory to both parties? Now a solution in most cases would mean either allowing the debtor to repay on a scheme that would not further compound the debtor’s financial misery, or keeping on giving him more time to repay. Is that how most debt collectors act towards the defaulters? They will use every legal, but ungodly, way to retrieve the money. And if they think they can get away with it, they will often use even illegal ways to get it. The degree of oppression they inflict upon the debtor varies from country to country – but the ways of intimidation are almost always those which no true Christian would resort to.

Gambling Industry

The gambling industry is one of the world’s largest sources of corporate and governmental revenue, and one of mankind’s greatest sources of addiction. So great is the revenue it generates to a nation’s exchequer that the government in several countries, including mine, has monopolized the lottery business.

Casinos and horse races are venues where daily millions of people around the world converge to bet their money away. Don’t put your money on the stakes, no, not even occasionally for fun. It is a tool of the devil to destroy God’s people, a tool that the enemy uses just as he uses alcohol, drug, pornography, and other addictions to destroy lives and tear families apart. No follower of Christ should work in an establishment that makes money by gambling in any direct or indirect form.

Even futures trading is a gambling business. This business involves speculating – actually gambling – on the price movement of commodities in the market. How can one conscientiously make money on trading that is based on future likelihoods in the market place when God’s Word states that no one can be sure of even what tomorrow will bring?

Some Other UnGodly Professions

You should be wary even of businesses that involve the ‘pyramid’ scheme of making money. It is not a right scheme for a believer to earn his livelihood.

Selling timeshare properties is another profession you should be wary of.

Research online about pyramid and timeshare businesses and you will see that in many, perhaps most, cases they end up with their customers dissatisfied and feeling cheated of their money. Not in all cases, but enough to dissuade a Godly person from entering these professions.

Under no circumstance should a person who considers himself a true Christian work in an abortion clinic.

Don’t be involved in industries manufacturing or dealing in products that cause human destruction or harm – such as armory and tobacco.

Sometimes a person may take up a safe profession such as teaching, but within that profession there may be aspects of work that promote unGodliness. For example, a believer may have to teach the devil’s lie about evolution to his students in biology class. By doing so, isnt the Godbelieving teacher implanting a there’s-no-Creator teaching into young impressionable minds? So, should a conscientious person never teach biology in a school? Now that would mean such a person is overrighteous and is not using wisdom. Such overrighteousness leads to the person losing his job and destroying his opportunity to be a good provider to his family.

‘Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise – why destroy yourself?’  Eccl 7:16

So should a creationist teach evolution? In all such job conundrums, seeking wisdom from God is the only answer. Perhaps the biology teacher can skip this one subject in their teaching program. Or while teaching this subject, they can remind the students that this is only the opinion of people who do not believe in God’s creation and they are studying it only for the sake of the syllabus. This principle, along with deep pondering and prayer, can be applied to many other dubitable professions, or professions in which exist doubtable practices.

Let me conclude this series of messages with one profession that can be a controversial subject even among faithful people of God. I am mentioning it here only as my personal opinion, and if you disagree with me I am not going to say you are wrong. But I think I too have reasonable guidance of the Holy Spirit and what I say on this subject may not be too far from the truth either.

Male Gynecologists and Obstetricians

‘You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.’  Lev 18:16

Are male gynecologists exempted from this law of God? Or does it mean that they may uncover the nakedness of every woman who is not a brother’s wife in the course of their professional duty? And who, by the way, are the brothers and sisters of a Christian gynecologist?

‘But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.’  Mat 23:8

Of course, the verse in Leviticus refers specifically to uncovering in a sexual context, and not to the case of child delivery or medical care. But for those people who desire to keep God’s law to the utmost even in the least area, this law about uncovering also applies generally to uncovering a woman’s nakedness in any context.

‘Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’  Mat 5:19

Moreover, male gynecologists, even with Christian thought control, may not always be able to view and touch a naked lady, even with a bulging tummy, and not feel carnal sensations on occasion. If I am wrong in my perception of this profession, may the good Lord correct me; he hasnt yet, even though I have been pondering this issue in my spirit for several decades.

If any man of God is pondering the medical profession as his career, and if gynecology is what he thinks is best suited for his aptitude, then I strongly urge him to take this matter to God in fasting and prayer before he decides to follow this course.

What I counsel men of God in this profession, I counsel women also. No woman, if she is a doctor or nurse, should behold a naked man, other than her husband, or probe his private parts for medical examination. Where you are constrained by your profession to do so, then take up the matter earnestly with your Father in heaven, and he will show you a way out that a human mind thinks impossible, so your life can be chaste and without blemish even in the least areas of your conduct.

And to all other Christians pondering their life path, I give the same final counsel. Take up your job preference to your Father in heaven in earnest prayer, and he will surely guide you to the right decision. It is to his glory to lead you to a profession that is pleasing to him and that will glorify him in all that you do in it.

Oh, before I bring this subject to a close, let me share this joke, which if you think beyond the funny aspect, has a most serious matter for everyone to think about deeply about male doctors and female patients.

Teacher, to her elementary grade student :  What do you want to become when you grow up?

Li’l Johny :  Doctor !!

Teacher :  Why?

Li’l Johny :  Coz it’s the only profession where u can tell a woman to take off her clothes and ask her husband to pay for it.

 

Pappa Joseph

P.S.
  The day after I concluded this message, I was given an assignment to compile and edit the contents of an airport magazine for its dutyfree section. One minor, but indispensable, aspect of my editorial work comprised the compilation of tobacco-related content. I was to edit and refine copy that promoted the sale of tobacco products at the dutyfree outlets. If I did not do it, the assignment would be taken away from me, which I couldnt afford since such projects provided the income for my livelihood. So should I have just trusted God and looked for some other editorial work which did not involve any content related to tobacco? This particular source of income was granted to me after many months of specifically seeking it in fervent prayer, and to assume God will quickly give me another if I cast this out is presumptuousness – blatant overrighteousness. I was actually in the same position that Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, found himself. He said to Elisha, ‘From now on I will never again offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the Lord. However, may the Lord pardon me in this one thing: When my master the king goes into the temple of the god Rimmon to worship there and leans on my arm, may the Lord pardon me when I bow, too.” And Elisha’s answer? “Go in peace,” the prophet replied. (2 Kings 5:17-19) I decided I would not write anything of my own to promote tobacco, even if that would cause me to lose this project and my means of livelihood. But since it was only a matter of editing the copy of a tobacco ad written by someone else, I would do it in the same principle of Naaman.

 

 

Utmost Christian

Can A Christian Join His Nation’s Armed Forces?

God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career – Part 2

The second part of a message that will provide some deep insights to every young man and young woman pondering their career path, and may even provide a new perspective to people who are already well-established in a profession or business.

 

A pastor I know closely has a son who is in the navy. Now this senior servant of God, every Sunday when he stands in the pulpit, reminds the flock entrusted to his care about their absolute need to keep God’s commandments. This, in essence, is his core message: ‘Don’t covet your neighbor’s donkey, or car, or wife, but love him as yourself; love your enemy, and pray for his protection in the time of war; don’t resist an evil person, but if he smacks you on the right jawbone, make it easy for him to do it on your left one too’, and other such expounded teachings based on what Jesus exhorted his disciples to do, as recorded in Matthew 5.

Now, I don’t know about the navy and other divisions of the armed forces in his country. But in my country, when a person joins the army or navy or air force, all his training is given with one purpose – to turn him into an effective serial killer, so he can shoot his enemy, or drown him or bring his aircraft down, before the enemy does it to him or to his ship or plane. And when that foe’s down and bleeding, look for another one to bite the dust.

A Christian who joins a nation’s armed forces finds himself in a dilemma not only when his enemy is pointing his kalashnikov at him. He knows very well that Paul has said ‘not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way’. And since he has to love his enemy as himself – which is, in fact, loving him even more than as a brother – he cannot even cast a caltrop on the ground to obstruct the passage of his enemy’s vehicle, lest the enemy fall and be bushwhacked.

There’s yet another area where a Christian in the armed forces will find himself in a quandary. Profanity.

Profanity is the main language of all soldiers. And if they cannot talk dirty, they cannot walk mighty before their mates. A clean-mouthed soldier or sailor, in the eyes of his commanding officer, just couldn’t crawl or swim his way out of any danger. As explained by one of the greatest military commanders in US history, General George S. Patton:

“When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can’t run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn’t fight its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag.’1

Patton was a firm believer in God and in the power of prayer, but he knew his beliefs alone could not make his men fight and kill like they should. He had to go beyond Christian principles if he had to win the war for America. And win mightily he did. So, what’s my point in writing this message, anyway?

That you cannot remain a Christian and an enemy disemboweler at the same time, no matter how patriotic your slaughtering may be in the sight of your nation. So if you cannot kill or even smack your enemy across the cheek, what else can do if you are already in it, or planning to enlist? You need to get down on your knees and pray until God shows you a way out. Perhaps, you can join as a non-combatant recruit…in the engineering, or logistics, or medical corps, or somewhere else where you need only wield a screw driver or a scalpel or a stretcher rather than a sten gun.

Now, someone might ask me, what happens to a nation’s defenses when all men start thinking like you and refuse to take up a bayonet or a gun? How will any nation then be able to have an army to defend itself from being invaded?

When a nation faces such situation that it cannot have enough recruits for its defense because most of its people are on their knees praying or away at church praising God, then that nation has no need of an army in the first place. Indeed, if Biblical examples are of any value for present times, even if there are only 10 true Christians in a city, the Lord God of hosts (meaning, ‘armies’) will guard it himself. But such situation has never happened since the time of ancient Israel – when all that the people had to do was blow trumpets and lift up their banners high and stand still, or walk around the enemy’s fortresses, and their Commander did the rest –  and I don’t think it is ever going to happen to any nation until Christ returns. So, don’t worry about your country not having enough people to shoot down its enemies. They have more than enough citizens any day whose scruples will not stand in their way of taking up arms for their nation.

As for you, child of God, fight all your battles on your knees, including the battle for the protection for your country. Love your enemy, but keep him at bay with your prayers so he doesn’t get your neighbor’s donkey or car or wife.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

1Remark to his nephew about his copious profanity, quoted in ‘The Unknown Patton’ (1983) by Charles M. Province, p. 184

 

CLICK HERE TO GO TO PART 3: ‘Professions and Businesses That Every Man and Woman of God Should Avoid’

 

 

Utmost Christian

Young People of God, Beware of the Glamor Industry

God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career – Part 1
This is a 3-part message that will provide some deep insights to every young man and young woman pondering their career path, and may even provide a new perspective to people who are already well-established in a profession or business. Here is Part 1:  Young People of God, Beware of the Glamor Industry

 

There is a saying in my native language Malayalam, stated when a person wants to send his milch cow to spend some time with a stud bull so it could conceive. He says, ‘I want to send her among the crowd’. Probably the saying originated from the fact that the cow is released among a herd of horny bulls waiting to pounce on any of their female kind straying into their midst.

Many parents, who have not yet received understanding of God’s laws relating to human morality, are unwittingly doing this to their daughters – sending them among ‘the crowd’. Of course not with the same intention as the owner of the milch cow, but often with the same consequences at the end – pregnancy, or at least, pounced upon.

I am starting with the glamor industry because that’s where many young people, deprived of a firm Christian foundation, desire to enter, but on realizing they don’t have the opportunity to pursue this dream career settle for some other profession. But their initial career fantasies continue to have a firm place in their hearts as is evidenced by their keen interest in the lives of the celebrities in this industry.

Oh, how many young women, even faithfully married ones, have I personally seen swooning at the sight of some hunky actor, or describing their meeting with a male celebrity with an intense glaze of adoration in their eyes! How many young men today crave for a close encounter with the beautiful actresses over whom they fantasize lewdly in their imaginations!

Some years ago, my daughter took up, with my approval, some carefully screened modeling jobs. Until recently, if you happen to visit one of the world’s most popular tourist and business destinations in the Middle East, as soon as you emerged from the passport checkpoint in the airport, you will land in a huge lobby where the first thing you would notice was a giant poster with my daughter’s full-length picture – an ad promoting the telecom services of the government. She was winning national beauty contests as well, and there were suggestions that she be sent for global contests.

We knew she was in safe hands, but soon things were getting a little out of those protective hands. She was attracting far greater offers – even to act in movies. And she was beginning to draw unwanted attention, from powerful people in the regal circles. My daughter, trained well in prudence, knew it was time to quit, and she did. She made a decision that unbelievers could never understand, and they could only shake their heads in disbelief. But we rejoiced that her Godly upbringing kept her safe, for she chose not to go among ‘the crowd’. Moreover, she had the benefit of inheriting the spiritual genes of her father who decades earlier had made a similar choice.

My heart breaks when I see parents, especially in the materially advanced countries, sending their daughters among the herds without the least prescience of the consequences. As a young man, I was accepted into the modeling industry and my pictures appeared prominently in newspapers and on posters all over the country for a while. I was quickly making it well into this industry. Once, a father and his daughter came to the agency that had hired me so that the young lady could audition for a modeling career. The father earnestly sought an opportunity for his daughter to enter this glittering profession, and was even ready to allow his daughter to appear skimpily in some bikini ad. As he talked to the agent, his innocent daughter stood coyly near him, like a heifer waiting obediently to be sent by her master in any direction. So what’s the big deal if the young woman takes some risks in entering this industry, the father might have reasoned…there’s money, there’s fame, there’s the fantastic celebrity lifestyle, there’s the whole world to gain if his daughter could get a good opening into the glamor world – even if such opportunity might come at the cost of losing a trifle bit of her soul, and perhaps a little bit of her skin, among the crowd.

I don’t know what happened after that, but I guess with a father like that, she might have been an easy prey to pounce on, unless she was an exceptional woman with a her own strong sense of morality. (By the way, if this is not a movie actor writing this, but a servant of God, then it is because my young prudent wife, on seeing me alongside a curvaceous model in the newspaper, stamped her foot down and put an immediate end to any lingering doubts I had about this profession. Since then, I never went for a single modeling session, although the agency people came running home to plead with me to reconsider, and if I did, they assured they would ease the way for me to act in movies. Thanks, but no thanks, praise God!)

That the glamor industry, especially filmworld, is not a good place for decent young ladies to seek a career is a fact acknowledged by even the more conscientious of parents in that industry. Dharmendra, one of India’s most successful actors ever, has gone on record saying he does not believe that the film industry is a place suitable for girls. He was unperturbed by his sons joining the industry, but was vocal about his displeasure when one of his daughters chose to follow her dad’s footsteps.1 Strangely, there’s no record of him ever being vocal about other’s daughters embracing him in the over 247 films he had acted in his career.

If you are, or will one day be, the parent of a blossoming lady or a burgeoning young man, or if you are a young lady or a young man yourself, remember that there are many professions in this age which your heavenly Father would not want you, or your child, to risk entering. Some are safe to a certain extent. Acting in films with themes that promote sound family values, in which actors do not have to lock mouths or be entwined around each other, or appear as a fully dressed model in some good advertisements, are ok. But there’s always an inherent danger even within the safe limits of these professions. The young person in any such profession is constantly exposed to tempting vibes coming from avenues of golden opportunities alluring them to the glamorous celebrity world, where there are too many avenues for one to sin and too much pressure on one to lay bare the skin.

Listen to prudent counsel, young man or young woman of God – it’s a wise and safe decision for you to steer away from all those professions where there is prevalent risk of compromising your morality and shipwrecking your future happiness. In return for your faithfulness, God will ensure you have a joyous and exciting life, both as a single now and later as a spouse, more than you could ever have as a successful professional in a morally risky industry. A marriage and family life blessed by God is something that even the most sought after and slobbered over celebrity can only dream of but can never attain.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

‘People’ – BBC Asian Network

 

CLICK HERE TO GO TO PART 2:  ‘Can A Christian Join His Nation’s Armed Forces?’

 

 

Utmost Christian

The Way of Acceptance

 

Many, many years ago, when I was a cheery youth, and there was no care in life to weigh me down and no turn of events for me to anticipate except what I dreamed of, I came across an article in the Reader Digest. It was in the late 60s.

The author wrote that at one time in his life, adverse circumstances had so trampled him that he decided the less painful option for him was to take his life away. He devised a failproof way; swim out far into the sea until he ran out of stamina, and then, too exhausted to swim back to shore, sink. As he walked from the beach to the waters, the rushing waves came splashing on his feet. As the water receded, he saw something shining tucked in the wet sand. It was a shell.

While the waves brought in and took away the other shells on the beach, this little one managed to stay in its place through wave after wave. The man stopped. Another wave came, and the mighty waters rushed at the puny shell, then went round it and over it, and the shell continued to remain unmoved from its place.

Something caused the man to stare at the shell and ponder its situation. Here was a tiny presence on earth being continually swamped under by the mightiest force on this planet – the oceans. But as long as it lay low and did not struggle to resist the rushing waters, as long as it allowed the wave to run round it and over it, it was able to survive.

Now here he was, just about to wade into the water and swim to oblivion, because life had continually blasted him off his place. And every time he would regather his hope and set out to live again, the wave would hit him mercilessly again and sweep everything away into the deep. And he could take it no more, and so here he was in his final moments.

He stood there for a while more watching the shell’s calm and unresisting response to the waves, and then turned back to the dry sands. He knew now that this was how he could face and survive every wave of adversity that strikes him. Let the storms of life inundate him and take away everything around him. He isn’t going to resist them in the least anymore but lie low with just his life in his hands. And when the storm subsides, he will go on with just that spared life alone.

The near-suicide had learned a lifesaving lesson from the little shell and the mighty waves, and he went back home with a new attitude. Adverse circumstances did come again, but they could not sweep him off his place anymore because he accepted them and let them pass by him.

As I write this, I have before me a few yellowed pages of another Reader’s Digest article that I just retrieved from my old files. The article is titled ‘The Way of Acceptance’, written by Arthur Gordon, one of the favorite authors of my young adulthood (the other was Dale Carnegie). This article was written in the 60s, but its message is as inspiring to me today as it was four and half decades ago when I first read it.

Gordon wrote:

‘Some years ago, two friends of ours were given the heartbreaking news that their teenage son was going blind, that nothing could be done. Everyone was torn with pity for them, but they remained calm and uncomplaining. One night, as we left their house, I tried to express my admiration for their fortitude.

‘I remember how the boy’s father looked up at the stars. “Well,” he said, “it seems to me that we have three choices. We can curse life for doing this to us, and look for some way to express our grief and rage. Or we can grit our teeth and endure it. Or we can accept it. The first alternative is useless. The second is sterile and exhausting. The third is the only way.”

‘The way of acceptance… How often that path is rejected by people who refuse to admit limitations, who hide behind denials and excuses, who react to trouble with resentment and bitterness. And how often, conversely, when one makes the first painful move towards repairing a damaged relationship, or even a broken life, that move involves acceptance of some thorny and difficult reality that must be faced before the rebuilding can begin. It’s a law that seems to run like a shining thread through the whole vast tapestry of life…

‘ “O Lord,” goes one variation of the old prayer, “grant me the strength to change things that need changing, the courage to accept things that cannot be changed and the wisdom to know the difference.” People have called it the prayer of acceptance.’

Precious child of God, having food and clothing and a place to lay down in peace, be content with them, knowing that the Lord is faithful and that he will not allow you to go through any trouble that is unbearable for you but with the trouble he will provide a way of escape (a way of acceptance) so that you are able to bear it until your Protector leads you out of it.

Yes, be content with such things as you have, for the Lord himself has promised that he will never leave you nor forsake you. Therefore do not fear anything, for the Lord is your helper.  (1 Tim 6:6-8; 1 Cor 10:13; Heb 13:5-6)

 

Pappa Joseph

 

[This message was written at a time I was living in an alien land, and circumstances were becoming so unbearable that I decided to cast away all my works and hopes there and retire to ignominy in my own land. As I pondered ways to leave as soon as I could, the lesson of the shell and the insight from the article on the way of acceptance came to mind. And I decided just that. I was not going to resist in the least anymore the constant barrage of troubles I was facing then, but let them pass by me and take anything they want from me, but I was going to stick to my life with just the barest the Lord would give me daily – even if that might be just my daily basic food, clothing and shelter.]

After reading this message, I urge you to read the unforgettable article I Am Not As Steady At Walking’ by John Elliot in this section. It’s the story of another man devastated physically by adversity and who, by acceptance, now lives a full life. A complementary message on this website which may give you more insights on this subject is ‘Reduce the Pain of the Troubles In Your Life’.

 

 

Utmost Christian

You will remain trapped in your troubles…until you surrender unconditionally – Part 2

 

In Part 1 of this message, I mentioned some of the most prominent fruits of the unsurrendered and of the surrendered life. So, I ask again, where do you stand today in following Christ? Have you completely surrendered your life to Christ, or are you still holding on to some things and refusing to let go of them even if you know they are the very things which are blocking you from the wondrous blessings of God?

My child in the Lord, if you have not completely surrendered your life to your Savior, you will find that certain troubles – certain sins and weaknesses, certain entrapping circumstances – continuing to afflict you mercilessly and prevent you from total peace of mind. All your pleas to God to release you from this prison of afflictions are not to make any difference to your life if you have not made an unconditional surrender. If you are facing serious persistent troubles in your life that never seem to go away, no matter how much you prayed to your Deliverer, then it is only because you want God to deliver while you are still wanting to hold on to something in your life that is detestable to him.

What is keeping you from the peace of Christ? What is that secret sin you may be committing regularly, even though you know in your heart that it is not pleasing to God. Is it pornography that you are secretly watching? Is it a drinking or gambling addiction? Is it stealing from your company, or some other form of dishonesty? Is it fornication or adultery or homosexuality, or some other sexual sin? Many Christians do not indulge in deviate acts in practice but they indulge in them to the full perverted extent in their imaginations. In God’s sight, a person who never commits adultery or any other sin in physical act but entertains it in his thoughts, is just as sinful as the one who practices it outwardly. Is it resentment in your heart toward someone who has done you a great wrong? Or covetousness, which means desiring something that you are not legitimately supposed to desire – perhaps someone else’s property, or his business, or, perhaps, even his wife? Perhaps you are obsessed with making money or becoming successful, which when done without first surrendering your life to God, becomes idolatry? What is the accursed thing in your life that is preventing God from releasing you from your trouble?

Whatever it may be, your God and Savior has only one desire in you: ‘Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings’.

Once you make up your mind to put away that hidden evil, the full force of the Omnipotent Power is released to enable you to surrender it and follow Christ. If you have tried to give it up in the past and could not, there is a definite reason. Here, let me now reproduce for your encouragement one of the greatest insights on dealing with a sinful thing in your life. It’s a passage from the book ‘The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life’, by Hannah Whitall Smith. This is a book which every person desiring to live the abundant life of Christ should read. It is available free online, and you may find it by writing that title in your search engine. But here I want to give you an extract from that book relating to the subject I am sharing with you.

‘And now, having shown the way of deliverance from failure, I want to say a little as to the causes of failure in this life of full salvation. The causes do not lie in the strength of the temptation nor in our own weakness, nor, above all, in any lack in the power or willingness of our Savior to save us. The promise to Israel was positive, “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life”. And the promise to us is equally positive. “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape that ye may be able to bear it.”

‘The men of Ai were ‘but few’, and yet the people who had conquered the mighty Jericho ‘fled before the men of Ai’. It was not the strength of their enemy, neither had God failed them. The cause of their defeat lay somewhere else, and the Lord Himself declares it, “Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them; for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs upon their enemies”. It was a hidden evil that conquered them. Deep down under the earth, in an obscure tent in that vast army, was hidden something against which God had a controversy, and this little hidden thing made the whole army helpless before their enemies. “There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel; thou canst not stand before thine enemies until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.”

‘The teaching here is simply this, that anything allowed in the heart which is contrary to the will of God, let it seem ever so insignificant, or be ever so deeply hidden, will cause us to fall before our enemies. Any root of bitterness cherished towards another, any self-seeking and harsh judgments indulged in, any slackness in obeying the voice of the Lord, any doubtful habits or surroundings, any one of these things will effectually cripple and paralyze our spiritual life. We may have hidden the evil in the most remote corner of our hearts, and may have covered it over from our sight, refusing even to recognize its existence, of which, however, we cannot help being all the time secretly aware. We may steadily ignore it, and persist in declarations of consecration and full trust, we may be more earnest than ever in our religious duties, and have the eyes of our understanding opened more and more to the truth and the beauty of the life and walk of faith. We may seem to ourselves and to others to have reached an almost impregnable position of victory, and yet we may find ourselves suffering bitter defeats. We may wonder, and question, and despair, and pray; nothing will do any good until the accursed thing is dug up from its hiding-place, brought out to the light, and laid before God. And the moment a believer who is walking in this interior life meets with a defeat, he must at once seek for the cause not in the strength of that particular enemy, but in something behind, some hidden want of consecration lying at the very centre of his being. Just as a headache is not the disease itself, but only a symptom of a disease situated in some other part of the body, so the sin in such a Christian is only the symptom of an evil hidden probably in a very different part of his being.

‘Sometimes the evil may be hidden even in that, which at a cursory glance, would look like good. Beneath apparent zeal for the truth, may be hidden a judging spirit, or a subtle leaning to our own understanding. Beneath apparent Christian faithfulness, may be hidden an absence of Christian love. Beneath an apparently rightful care for our affairs, may be hidden a great want of trust in God. I believe our blessed Guide, the indwelling Holy Spirit, is always secretly discovering these things to us by continual little twinges and pangs of conscience, so that we are left without excuse.

‘But it is very easy to disregard His gentle voice, and insist upon it to ourselves that all is right; and thus the fatal evil will continue hidden in our midst causing defeat in most unexpected quarters.

‘A capital illustration of this occurred to me once in my housekeeping. I had moved into a new house and, in looking over it to see if it was all ready for occupancy, I noticed in the cellar a very clean-looking cider-cask headed up at both ends. I debated with myself whether I should have it taken out of the cellar and opened to see what was in it, but concluded, as it seemed empty and looked nice, to leave it undisturbed, especially as it would have been quite a piece of work to get it up the stairs. I did not feel quite easy, but reasoned away my scruples and left it. Every spring and fall, when house-cleaning time came on, I would remember that cask, with a little twinge of my housewifely conscience, feeling that I could not quite rest in the thought of a perfectly cleaned house, while it remained unopened, for how did I know but under its fair exterior it contained some hidden evil. Still I managed to quiet my scruples on the subject, thinking always of the trouble it would involve to investigate it; and for two or three years the innocent-looking cask stood quietly in my cellar.

‘Then, most unaccountably, moths began to fill my house. I used every possible precaution against them, and made every effort to eradicate them, but in vain. They increased rapidly and threatened to ruin everything I had. I suspected my carpets as being the cause, and subjected them to a thorough cleaning. I suspected my furniture, and had it newly upholstered. I suspected all sorts of impossible things. At last the thought of the cask flashed on me. At once I had it brought up out of the cellar and the head knocked in, and I think it is safe to say that thousands of moths poured out. The previous occupant of the house must have headed it up with something in it which bred moths, and this was the cause of all my trouble.

‘Now I believe that, in the same way, some innocent-looking habit or indulgence, some apparently unimportant and safe thing, about which we yet have now and then little twinges of conscience, something which is not brought out fairly into the light, and investigated under the searching eye of God, lies at the root of most of the failure in this higher life. All is not given up. Some secret corner is kept locked against the entrance of the Lord. And therefore we cannot stand before our enemies, but find ourselves smitten down in their presence.

‘In order to prevent failure, or to discover its cause if we have failed, it is necessary that we should keep continually before us this prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any evil way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.

‘Finally, let us never forget for one moment, no matter how often we may fail, that the Lord Jesus is able, according to the declaration concerning Him, to deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, that we may “serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life”.’


But it is very easy to disregard His gentle voice, and insist upon it to ourselves that all is right; and thus the fatal evil will continue hidden in our midst causing defeat in most unexpected quarters.


You may have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, and may be sincerely striving to live a life fully pleasing to him, but at the same time there may be some or many troubles that have been clinging to your life for a long time, which, no matter how sincerely and earnestly you wish to be released from, refuse to leave you. Then, very likely, there is a detestable thing in the sight of God that you are keeping hidden in your heart. And he is not going to lift even his little finger to release you from your persistent problems until you surrender that habit or obsession or whatever that accursed thing may be.

Oh, it may not look that detestable at all to your sight. Perhaps it is just a harmless habit of taking in a few puffs of a cigarette after an enjoyable meal. Or, as was my case, taking some chilled beer in moderation on hot weekend afternoons only. What’s the big deal in having a couple of chilled Carlsberg cans, anyway? Not a big deal for most people. And I reasoned that the Bible does not actually prohibit drinking in moderation – despite what the pentecostals think. And besides, Jesus drank wine so often he gained some notoriety as a winebibber among the teetotaling Pharisees (Luke 7:34).  All true…except that in my specific case I knew deep in my soul that alcohol even in Godly moderation was an unbeneficial habit for me. Alcohol, even in ‘safe’ quantity, produced subtle psychological changes in my thought processes. I was aware of the slight changes in the kind of feelings and imaginations I had when there was alcohol in my blood. But I kept on this seemingly harmless habit for years, using my logical reasoning and the Biblical sanction for doing so. Again and again, God warned me through my conscience that if I don’t stop this habit it could become an unshakeable addiction, or cause me to speak and act in a way I wouldnt when my body is totally alcohol-free, or even lead me to a sinful act.

Let me be more specific. Often when I took alcohol during a social function or even when fellowsipping with my Christian friends, including pastors, I would tend to speak words that I wouldn’t speak when there was no trace of the spirit in my body. Then when I slept that night, strange and disturbing dreams took over my reposing mind. I was finally convinced that drink – even in moderation – was having a reaction in me that it did not in my fellow Christian winebibbers. Now that realization came several years before I actually gave up the drinking habit. For several years after this conviction, I kept postponing stopping this habit, which subtly grew to become an accursed thing in my life. And my spiritual troubles grew, along with a host of physical, mental and financial woes. I realized  with horror that I had become an addict and I just couldn’t stop this habit no matter how hard I struggled to free myself from it – and I had always been absolutely sure I could stop it anytime if I really wanted to. It took me some painful years of fervent beseeching God to enable me to break free from this enslaving spirit of alcohol before God finally gave me the strength to cast off this accursed thing completely from my life.

What is it that is preventing your release from whatever has been afflicting you for long? If you are not sure, go on your knees, and pray like David did, ‘Lord, look deep into my heart, and see if there is any little accursed thing that is offending you, and show me what that is’.

Once you are convinced there is something hidden in your life, or something obvious which you are postponing giving up, then act immediately without a moment’s delay. Make a firm decision then and there to give it up. That is the point you begin to cross the Jordan. Now there is no more turning back. You will soon reach the other side of the great river of your life and be fully liberated. The crossing may take a while, perhaps a few days, a few weeks, a few months, perhaps even a few years in some extreme cases, but the victory is sure. God’s release begins the moment you put your feet into the waters of the transition to the new life.

Hear what Oswald Chambers says to all people of God:

‘But before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives. This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler nudges. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him and we begin to debate. He then providentially produces a crisis where we have to decide – for or against. That moment becomes a great crossroads in our lives. If a crisis has come to you on any front, surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.’

Don’t slacken on your determination to remove that accursed thing. Even if you fall several times during the crossing, do not lie in the waters but get up quickly and keep going. Even if you fall 70 times 7 in a day while crossing the Jordan of your life, God encourages you to get up and get going (Matthew 18:22). The devil will howl at you that it is in vain and you can never give his accursed gift back to him and that you have to carry it with you to your grave. Tell him that your Savior has already carried it to his grave with him and you have been forever released by his blood. You say exactly that to the Great Discourager each time you fall, my child, and see how he flees with his tail (if he has one) flung between his legs at the mention of Christ’s blood.

If you continue to hold on to what you know you have to surrender, God is not going to give up on you. He is even ready to afflict you 2 or 3 times more, if necessary, until you surrender to him unconditionally.

‘Behold, God works all these things, twice, in fact, three times with a man, to bring back his soul from the Pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life.’   Job 33:29-30

Why prolong your suffering and continue your bondage to sin? Surrender absolutely the first time itself, and enjoy your liberation earlier.

Once you have surrendered unconditionally, you have passed the greatest test in your life, and thereafter any trials are just minor finishing touches to your life. This is the point where God releases you from his seemingly heavy grip on your life. Actually it is not God who is keeping captive those who refuse to surrender unconditionally to him, but that great Kidnapper who snares God’s people to make them do his will, not God’s will (2 Timothy 2:26).

When you surrender your life to God without holding on to any accursed object in your thoughts or acts, he immediately liberates you through his Son Jesus Christ.

‘Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’   John 8:36

‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.’   Galatians 5:1

If today through this message our heavenly Father is calling you to surrender your life to his Son Jesus, then, chosen child of God, don’t postpone your decision for another day. That’s exactly what the Enemy wants you to do – postpone your decision – so this message will lose its impact in your consciousness as you go about the cares and chores of your daily life. The seed of understanding you have received today may either be plucked away from you as soon as you finish reading this message and get up to do something else, or it may last for a few hours or days and then be forgotten, or it may from today start to bear fruit in your life (read the parable in Luke 8:5-18). It all depends on how fervently you desire and decide today to surrender your life unconditionally to God.

‘Therefore take heed how you hear.’   Luke 8:18

Lord God, bless this son or daughter of yours who has read this message! Amen.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Utmost Christian

When Someone Does You Dirt, You Never Recover Until…

 

A man did dirt to my family many years ago. Until then he was an amiable neighbor to us. He owned a taxi, and we hired his services whenever we needed a car to go somewhere. Then one day, my mother had an acute heart problem and needed to be taken to the hospital immediately. We called him as usual. But it was an odd hour of the day, and he refused. Somehow, we managed with difficulty to find another car.

Since then, the very sight of him was an abomination to me. If I passed him by, I deliberately ignored him. Over the past one and a half decades, whenever I thought of him, I also thought of how he responded to us that day.

Now, I certainly knew about Christ’s teaching on forgiveness and about praying for those who have wronged us. I agreed with Christ in principle and strove not to hate him. But my natural man continued to abhor him without abatement.

Yesterday, as I write this, another neighbor mentioned to me about this abominable man’s son. Now his children know nothing about this incident and have not partaken of their father’s dirt. Nevertheless, I wanted to have nothing to do with his children either. When the father didn’t drive anymore, one of his sons took over, and once, without knowing who his dad was, I hired the son’s services. Later, when I came to know it was the dirtman’s offspring, I wished I hadn’t taken that car. And since then, there were several occasions that when I needed a car someone would propose the offensive vehicle, and I would immediately decline it with an imperceptible snort.

This morning, I realized my dislike of him and his family cannot continue if I am to grow in the stature of Christ. You just cannot remain in a static state of not loving anyone. As a wise minister once preached to me, you either keep growing in love, or you keep growing colder. In other words, it is not enough not to hate someone. If we do not keep growing in our love for someone, we will eventually grow to hate him.

So I knew it was not only not enough to stop disliking the dirtman, and all his descendants as well, but now I have to deliberately demonstrate my love for him. My natural man couldn’t take it – no way. But by now I know how to handle my natural man. I know, thanks initially to secular sychologist William James, that I cannot control my feelings, but I certainly can control what I think, say, and do. So I went on my knees to God and prayed thus:

‘Lord, you know there is no way I can come to like that man naturally. I suppose I can keep myself from hating him with a deadly hatred, but there’s no way I want to have anything to do with him. I certainly don’t want to see him struck with a bolt of lightning, or see his family suffer a tragedy, but I, that is, my natural man, would certainly enjoy seeing him in a situation where he is having a heart problem and his children are struggling to find a car to take him to the hospital. Now that’s what I feel naturally, Lord, and there’s nothing I can do directly to confront those feelings. But you have shown me what I can do: Ignoring my natural man and his feelings, my spiritual man can pray for him and his family. And I am doing that now. Lord, bless that man and his family. Prosper them…’

As I write this, after having prayed for him, my natural feelings remain stubbornly the same toward the man. No, I can’t say, ‘Hey presto! I prayed for my enemy, and behold, now my love for him is brimful and overflowing in my heart.’ But I can certainly say that I now have a clear conscience before God, and I know that I am on my way eventually to loving him with my feelings as much as with my will. God will grant that change in me in his own time. In the meantime, every time thoughts of the dirt he did to us froth up in my mind, my spiritual man can be directed by my will – against my natural feelings – to immediately ask God to bless him.

Praise God for the spiritual man in me – his Holy Spirit, indeed God himself living in me (Isaiah 7:14. John 14:23).

‘When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive.’   Alan Paton, author of Cry, The Beloved Country

 

Pappa Joseph

 

P.S.  Two years after I wrote the above message, I can say – praise God – that if I were to encounter that dirtman again, I would smile at him from my heart and look for an opportunity to befriend him.

 

 

Utmost Christian

Reduce the Pain of the Troubles in Your Life

 

When we think of trouble and suffering in the Biblical context, the person most likely to come to our minds is Job. This is what Job said,

‘Man who is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.’   Job 14:1

If you are born of a woman, it is guaranteed that your life will be full of troubles. I wonder why prosperity preachers miss this verse. This should be the first thought of the man or woman who is embarking on the Christian journey, or who, having journeyed long, is now deeply in trouble. Having troubles, which means, suffering pain, throughout your lifespan is to be expected as an inevitable consequence of having been born into this evil world.

So, dear follower of Christ, that is the bad news about your life and mine – there is absolutely nothing we can do to avoid pain in our life. There will be many small pains and many great pains, and one or two death pains, that is, pains as agonizing as dying a premature death. So much so, on his deathbed, the person who has lived the full Christian life will look back and say, ‘My life has been full of trouble’. That is what Jacob, one of the greatest of God’s chosen people, felt about his life, when his days were almost over. He said, ‘few and evil have been the days of the years of my life’.   Genesis 47:9

For the true Christian, in addition to the normal amount of troubles in a human life, there will be several extra ones in his life – troubles directly inflicted on him by the enemy just because of the fact that he chose to follow Christ. You want to have a dozen or so fewer troubles in your life? Just stop carrying the cross of Christ and join one of the devil’s religions.

I am giving you the painful news first.

Now, understand something about the levels of troubles you as a child of God will surely encounter in your lifetime.

Trouble comes at two basic levels of pain.

Trouble at the second level of pain is totally beyond any human comfort or solution. The pain at this level cannot be reduced or soothed by anything in this life. The Christian going through this level of pain should not even try to seek comfort from man, and no sensible person should attempt in any way to comfort the sufferer. No sermon, no grief handling program, no human counsel, no human act can do anything to alleviate the pain in the least at this level. I call this level of pain ‘acute suffering’.

Job’s three friends did well for seven days and seven nights when they did not open their mouths once in their attempt to assuage his misery. Agony increased for Job from the minute they tried to comfort him. And the result of their sincere attempts?

‘Miserable comforters are you all!’ moaned Job.

The God’s Word to the Nation version says,

‘You are all pathetic at comforting me’.   Job 16:2

This message is not for those who are suffering or may suffer this second level of trouble. In the life of a child of God, such trouble comes only when God knows that person can go through it safely and come out of it closer to his Savior than ever before. And God takes it upon himself the full job of comforting his child in acute suffering, and all that he expects of his other children to do at this time is to quietly pray fervently for the one afflicted with this level of pain. Do not attempt to do anything beyond this if you don’t want to end up as another miserable and pathetic comforter.

Acute suffering occurs when a spouse or a child dies prematurely. Or when a physical pain occurs with such intensity there is absolutely nothing the sufferer can do except moan and groan continuously. Or when a maiming accident or illness has just left a person blind, or paralyzed or handicapped seriously in some other way. Or when a person is just imprisoned, or in imminent danger of his life. Or some other tragedy from which the victim is still reeling in extreme pain. In all these tragedies, I say again, God will take it upon himself the full job of comforting and giving strength to the one in agony so they can somehow endure the suffering. And remember, God in his great mercy has so constituted the human life that no person will ever go through any suffering that is beyond his physical and mental capability to endure it.

‘No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.’   1 Cor 10:13

The word for ‘temptation’ in the original Greek also means ‘testing’ or ‘adversity’.

Now let me tell you about the first level of pain, which is the level of 99.99 percent of the pains encountered by a person as he follows Christ on the trouble-laden path to the Kingdom of God. As I mentioned earlier, most people have chosen to walk on the broad paths of life, and they have a faster paced walk than those who have embarked on their life journey through the narrow gate.

‘You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.’   Mat 7:13-14 NLT

At this first level of pain, the suffering person can do many things to reduce his pain. And people around him can also do several things to help the afflicted person suffer less pain. This is the level where the sufferer perhaps is settling down after going through the agony of a tragedy, or he or she is going through some personal crisis, but they have enough strength to go about their work and daily routines.

This then, O child of God who may be suffering right now even as you are reading this message, is what you should do as your first act of enduring your affliction.

First of all, never think of embracing the comfort of a coping mechanism. A coping mechanism is a human-contrived method to reduce your immediate suffering to a more endurable level. And it would reduce your pain – for an hour or two – and then plunge you to a depth where you suffer more pain than you had before your resorted to the coping mechanism.

Alcohol was my chief coping mechanism in the earlier years of my Christian life when I was afflicted with severe and continual trials. The pubs had a notice in them which announced the ‘happy hours’ when one could buy liquors at half the regular price. For me, any time I was in the bar was a happy hour. I did not drank excessively or got drunk. I drank just enough so I could get a ‘high’ – a nice warm feeling when all the troubles in the world seem to be at a hazy distance, and I really felt ‘happy’ in the cheery atmosphere of the present hour. This happiness, of course, was nothing but mild intoxication. And then, next day, at around the same time, my need for being comforted in whatever was afflicting me then seemed even more urgent than the previous day, and I would go to my favorite pub like a sheep led to its shearers. Oh, what far greater pains and additional troubles I brought upon myself because of my daily comfort in the embrace of a deceptive spirit! This coping mechanism nearly destroyed my family life, but Christ rescued me in time by his unfailing grace.

Alcohol is the coping mechanism that is probably the most resorted to by people wearied by longdrawn troubles – troubles that continue unabated for months and years. After an initial struggle to surmount them or endure them, the suffering person feels he couldn’t cope anymore and desperately looks for some soothing way out. And what camouflages pain as immediately as alcohol? Even the Bible recommends alcohol for the one – certainly not a Christian – who is about to suffer some miserable form of death. (See Proverbs 31:6-7) I suppose it is ok for such person to drink and forget his misery because his situation is so absolutely hopeless that nothing is going to save him anymore, whether he drinks or not. But for the rest of us, to drink alcohol to tide over our unhappy state, or to try to palliate our suffering by numbing our pain sensors is but sheer folly that surely would lead to an increased intensity of trouble.


‘And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.’


Coping mechanisms come in myriad forms and from a multitude of dark avenues originating from hell. I know a family, where the father and husband, a prosperous banker, lost his job, and unable to accept his new situation and unable to live with his family as a loser, left his four little children and wife, ran away to the arms of another woman, where for some time he found comfort and self-confidence in her embrace. Then, as his troubles increased, he ran away to another country, where he found new soft arms to comfort him. Now, twenty years after he left his family, I heard he managed to get a new job and hence wasn’t running to newer comfort zones…yet.

Running away, pornography, extramarital affairs, foods, smoking, gambling, overworking, partying – all these give a temporary escape, a short ability to cope with the life trouble, and then drag the person even deeper into the pit of misery. It is the surest way to turn a person’s prolonged suffering into lifelong tragedy.

A former colleague of mine suffers a failed marriage. She finds a measure of relief from her constant pain by smoking, overworking, and partying her head and hips off. Today, her life is in a far more pathetic state spiritually and physically than she was in when I first met her. There are strong indications that this woman – once a beautiful, talented and affectionate lady – is now possessed by several demons who have taken advantage of her dissipated state of mind to try to destroy her completely.

Afflicted child of God, as you go through your severe trial, be on your highest alert against being drawn to anything that would serve to allay your pain – anything you know in your heart your Savior wouldn’t recommend in your present situation. If you are not prayerfully alert, you initially wouldn’t even recognize something you do as a harmful coping mechanism. But God has provided innumerable safe ways you can effectively cope with any degree of pain that life’s various troubles lash you with. Instead of calling them coping mechanisms, which has a negative connotation to the term, I prefer to call them ’principles of endurance’.

It is God himself, if you seek it from him on your knees, who will gently show you what principles of endurance you can apply in any particular trouble, which will enable you to endure it patiently until you come out of it. And come out of each trouble, you surely will sooner or later. That’s one of the great promises of God to his people going through all kinds of trials.

‘The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from ALL their troubles.’   Ps 34:17 NLT

For your reassurance, he repeats this promise just a couple of verses later.

‘The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue EACH time.’  Ps 34:19

Each time…every time. Not just the big troubles, but even the little and the middle ones…all your troubles.

Yea, the same God who has promised to deliver you from all your troubles will also show you the best way to endure each trial. Just spend a little more time on your knees, and pray a little more fervently for urgent help to endure your pain. That, Christian, is the first and the most effective principle of endurance – increasing your prayer time on your knees. Even if you apply no other principle, this alone is more than sufficient to see you through your trial. This is how our Godly foreparents endured their troubles. They knew no other coping mechanism, but prayer and just more prayer. And how effectively they were able to endure as a result, and finally emerge from their chamber of affliction smiling each time!

Each person will be given his specific God-ordained endurance principle relative to his particular situation. But in general, I have found the following general principles helpful in my own life, and which I believe may be useful for you to keep in mind.

I took to alcohol to escape for an hour or two the trouble hounding me outside the pub. When God rescued me from this deathpit, I realized I could find equally enjoyable, but totally safe, happy hours outside the pub, if I really looked around.

An activity that can keep your mind fully occupied in it for part of the day is a highly effective principle of patiently enduring a painful trial. During one severe time of trial, I taught parttime at a high school. The smiling and responsive students around me lifted my spirits for several hours each day throughout the duration of my affliction. Interaction with a group of people whom you like and who like you brings comfort during the days of your affliction.

But on some occasions of trouble, it can happen that interaction with people you like to be around when you are not facing a trial is a depressing experience when you in an afflicted state. Once, I stopped attending a prayer fellowship which I had been attending when things weren’t that bad in my life. But in my severest pain, I just didn’t feel like being in the midst of people who were shouting hallelujahs for all the happiness they were enjoying in their lives. But I found my pain was pushed to the back of my cerebrum when I was with a group of my students or with my old schoolmates at an alumni meeting.

Another principle of endurance that may be of help to you: See if you can take up a new hobby or revive one that you had neglected for years. It helps to a significant extent.

I started to learn to play the guitar in my 58th year – during a time of severe trouble in my life. My past follies finally caught up with me, and a person very close to me who was involved with me in a former project, had to go to jail because of me. I would have any day gone to jail instead of that person, but I was inextricably trapped in another country. Worse, that person’s family who had been very close to me and looked up to me for decades, were calling me a blight to their lives. All I could do was fall on the floor and call out to my Comforter to rescue that person. After the initial acute suffering of a couple of days, God enabled me to accept the distressing situation, regather my composure and quietly go about my daily tasks, while keeping a tight rein on my pain inside me.

Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, in the midst of one of the greatest afflictions of my life I was strengthened to go about my daily life by the grace of Christ in me. I even found sufficient calmness of mind to compose some instrumental melodies on my guitar. God intervened and the person didn’t have to complete the whole sentence and was out after a couple of weeks. (By the way, if you happen to come to one of my meetings, ask me to play some of the melodies I composed on my guitar during this trial. I think they are beautiful God-inspired music which may uplift your spirit when you are feeling weighed down by the cares of life.)

That is the key, earnest Christian. In all your severe afflictions, God will keep you moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, till you are out of your trouble completely. He will even give you the grace to do some of your best life works in the midst of your afflictions.


The Lord comes to your rescue each time…every time. Not just in the big troubles, but in ALL your troubles.


As you learn how to endure your troubles, always keep foremost in your mind that all the endurance principles – the props to hold you up while suffering – will go only a short distance unless God himself propped up your props. And the only way you can receive God’s prop to hold you up daily is for you to simply ask him, fervently, daily.

Pour out your heart to God without demanding an immediate end to the suffering. God has never answered my prayer for an immediate deliverance. But he has always answered my prayer for more strength to endure it.

When deliverance does not come within the deadline you set in your mind for your release, remember that setting deadlines for the trouble that God has allowed in your life is not your business. I emphasize again, don’t plead with him desperately to end your suffering. It is useless. That’s not going to happen. Plead for more strength to endure instead.

My friend, George, suffered for 15 years in a prison for a crime he never committed, in a land where a person can go to jail for decades if someone in the regal circles wanted him to. I spent about a month in prison in the same cell with him. Since I knew my term was only a month, I could look forward to my release. But not he; he could never know how long they would keep him. He established a routine. Reading newspaper, comforting fellow prisoners, then eventually finding work in the prison library. Even with all these props, no man can keep up his spirits for 15 years without God’s direct power strengthening him moment by moment, year after year. At least one of our fellow cellmate’s mind had gone cuckoo after spending several years behind bars. But George was the most cheerful person to be around in the prison, and yet among the most suffering. He continued praying, and his people kept praying for him…until the day arrived that God decided to open the prison doors for him, and he was reunited with his family that he hadn’t once seen for 15 years.

While you shouldnt demand or expect an immediate deliverance, you should perseveringly ask God to cut short the length of your afflicted days. There are several examples in the Bible where God intervened and shortened the period of suffering of his servants.

In your time of suffering, it is ok if you don’t feel like talking to anyone, or going anywhere…even to church. Don’t force yourself to act normal. You are not. Cry when you feel you want to cry. Sometimes when the pain seems too much to bear, you will have to grit your teeth and just endure and not try to find something or someone to ease your pain. Such extreme moments will be rare, by God’s mercy, but if they come, just clench your fists and endure, while crying out to God for urgent help. I pass on to you this great assurance I gained from my severe sufferings that afflicted me on and off for 40 continual years: you can endure, and if you keep calling out to God for his strength and keep trusting him to deliver you at the right time, he will give you the strength to endure and he will surely deliver you at the time that only he knows is best for you.

Some Christians may advise fasting when one is suffering. It may be a good idea for some people, who, I suspect, may have a trace of masochism in them. But it is certainly an unpleasant idea for me when I am groaning in pain. Fasting is meant to ‘afflict’ our souls, so we can realize how weak we are as human beings and how dependent we are on God for protection and blessings in this life. A trial is already an affliction, and there is no logic under heaven to afflict your soul further, unless it is an attempt to cajole God into acting sooner than he otherwise would.

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ Is 58:3

The Bible does not tell us to fast (at least I haven’t seen a passage yet) when we are already afflicted by a trial from God, unless of course the trail is a result of our sin, in which case we certainly need to fast to regain our closeness with God. If sin is not involved, James tells us to pray when we are suffering, not afflict ourselves more by fasting.

‘Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.’    Jm 5:13

Fasting is generally for times when we are prosperous and getting distracted by worldly cares, or when we are so engaged in our work that our prayer life is getting affected and we need to get away from it all to regain our closeness with God. In such cases, the person needs to go to a mountaintop retreat, like Jesus did, or to a quiet corner of his house, and fast until he is back in the close embrace of his Father.

Fasting is also recommended when we need to make a major life decision, to humble ourselves, and to know God’s direction and will in a particular situation.

‘Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions.’    Ezra 8:21

Let me add one more thing before I close this message. In your trouble, if you don’t feel like applying any endurance principle to reduce your pain, that’s perfectly ok and normal. Just praying and quietly going about your daily routine – even while suffering the pain – is all that is finally expected of you by God. But for many others, including me, these endurance principles have proven of much help in enduring our trials.

I pass on to you God’s greatest assurance to all sufferers: you will come out smiling in the end. You will emerge cheerful and grateful to God for how he helped you during the period of suffering. You will be able to walk even steadier than before, and your peace and joy will be fuller than ever before. The suffering may have cost you many precious things in life, and broken some of your fondest dreams, but God’s awesome workings in your life will ensure you are able to let go of all those precious things and rejoice in the greater possessions and the grander dreams he has now given you in recompense.

And the thought to keep uppermost in your mind while suffering: Our Father in heaven – who says that even if your own mother forgets you, he will not forget you – is in control and knows exactly to what extent you, his beloved son or daughter, can endure. And he will ensure you have the strength to endure until he delivers you. And deliver you, he will surely, and not one second beyond what he has set for your good.

Let me quote again a verse I had referred to earlier. The paraphrased words in parenthesis and brackets are from the Amplified Bible itself:

‘For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.’   1 Cor 10:13 AMP

‘I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]’   John 16:33 AMP

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Utmost Christian

You will remain trapped in your troubles…until you surrender unconditionally – Part 1

Surrender of Republican Soldiers, Somosierra, Madrid (Spain), 1936

In warfare there is a conditional surrender and there is an unconditional surrender of one party to the other. Conditional surrender is usually called a truce. The two warring factions negotiate a ceasefire by each conceding something to the other, with the stronger faction demanding more concessions than offering.

I don’t know if there is any truce made in the history of mankind which was permanent. Sooner or later, the two parties will resume their hostilities, until one of them reaches such a state of defeat, and the other such a state of conquest, that the latter demands an unconditional surrender and the former is forced to submit absolutely to the other or be further devastated by the enemy. The defeated party realizes that they have only two choices: give up everything to the victor and hope that at least their lives and some basic essentials of their livelihood are spared, or be absolutely destroyed by their enemy.

Many times in history, including in many of the wars mentioned in the Bible, the vanquisher is not willing to accept even the absolute surrender of the defeated party, but destroys them completely. So actually, for the conquered, absolute surrender is a mercy shown by the conqueror. Even if they have left nothing else, the enemy has allowed them to keep their most precious possession – their lives.

The Christian life, says various scriptures in the Bible, is a constant warfare. Against the arch enemy, Satan, and his evil hordes, against his human agents, and against the deadly temptations he throws at God’s people. A person who has decided to follow Christ understands that this is an unavoidable part of his Christian experience and accepts it. This is what our good preachers exhort us to do, reiterating Paul’s admonition to ‘fight the good fight’, and that ‘we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places’.   1 Timothy 6:12; Ephesians 6:12

A serious error committed by many preachers is that their exhortation to fight and wrestle refers, in 99 percent of their messages, to battling the enemy – Satan, the world, and the temptations lurking within us. In my entire life so far, having been exhorted to the brim of my ears with battle messages from the captains of our souls, I have found only four or five preachers who told me that the far greater battle is with God our Savior. The only wrestling with God they sometimes mention is the one where he had to put Jacob’s thigh out of joint to end the bout.

As in all battles that the Lord fights, in victory he is far more merciless and unrelenting in his terms for unconditional surrender than those of most human vanquishers. He demands nothing less than the giving up of all the vanquished’s possessions except the clothes he wears and his daily food, and submitting to him as an abject slave.

Actually, our battle with God, unlike other battles, does not involve defeating the enemy, obviously because God is not our enemy. Let me start from the basics about this battle.

It is not generally emphasized in the Christian salvation message that the first experience of the true Christian life is a tragic death. Too many people of God realize this only years after they repent and are baptized. Sadly, not many baptizers tell them this fundamental fact of the Christian life before they dip the repentant ones into the watery grave. Oswald Chambers, in his widely used inspirational book, My Utmost For His Highest, says,

‘If we get away from dwelling on the tragedy of God on the Cross in our preaching, our preaching produces nothing. It will not transmit the energy of God to man; it may be interesting, but it will have no power.’

It is the same tragedy of God on the Cross that is replayed in the God-child’s life, starting with his repentance. At repentance, a person realizes that he has broken God’s law, and that the penalty of sin is death. But what many who repent do not initially realize is that the baptism that follows his death is the symbol of his inward death – a death that comes at a cost and pain far exceeding the pain of a physical death. No man can naturally die such a death. The man convicted of sin realizes there is absolutely no way he can obey God by the keeping all his commandments. He knows that if he breaks just one of them, he breaks them all  (James 2:10) and is condemned.

‘The moral law…simply demands that we be absolutely moral…The moral law, ordained by God, does not make itself weak to the weak by excusing our shortcomings. It remains absolute for all time and eternity. If we are not aware of this, it is because we are less than alive. Once we do realize it, our life immediately becomes a fatal tragedy. “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.’   Romans 7:9’.

Let me go from the words of that great man of God, Oswald Chambers, to the words of Jesus himself.

What did Jesus say is the first step to following him, to becoming a Christian? Getting prepared to die a painful death! Not a sentimental emotional kind of death, where the repenter feels he is a new person in Christ and his past life with all its sins is now buried under water at baptism. Jesus meant a death that, I repeat again, involves a dying process that is more painful than that of a physical death caused by an accident or illness.

‘Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”.’   Matthew 16:24

‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.’   Luke 14:26-27

If you desire to follow Christ, the first step is to take up the cross. And what does taking up the cross mean? It has come to mean to most people, taking up a heavy burden or enduring a difficult trial. Jesus did not mince his words, ‘whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me…’ Taking up the cross means taking it up exactly in the same attitude as Jesus took it up, and then following in his footsteps until, after a short distance, he gives up his life.

When Jesus took up the cross, it was the absolute confirmation he was going to die in a matter of hours. You don’t take up the cross, then realize you are going to die, lay it down, and go back to your old life. You have to count the cost of what you are about to do. You have to realize that when you repent and are baptized you are confirming to God that, if he so requires, you are willing to give up everything you desired and held most precious in life – even your wife or husband and children – for the one Person who is desirable above all the others in your life. Yes, you have to sit down and literally count the cost of what you are about to do.

‘For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it – lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.’   Luke 14:28-33

In most cases, God does not require the surrendered person to ‘forsake all’ immediately. What he requires above all is an attitude of willingness to give up all. The word ‘does not’ in the original Greek is ouk and it is the same word used a little later in the same sentence for ‘cannot’ in the phrase ‘cannot be my disciple’. So what Jesus meant is that, to follow him, a disciple should always have the attitude that if any of his possessions and relationships is a hindrance to his following Christ, he can forsake all to follow him. This obviously is what Jesus meant, because Peter and some other apostles did not forsake their wives when they went preaching Christ (1 Corinthians 9:5).

As I said, no person can naturally give up all his possessions and hand over his life to Christ in his own strength. But with God’s grace, with his power working in him, all things are possible for him that God requires of him.

‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ‘  Matthew 19:24-26

With God’s help, even the billionaires in today’s world can enter the Kingdom of God. So don’t worry at all about your ability to give up what God requires you to give up to follow  him. If he wants you to give up something most precious to you, but which is hindering you from the Kingdom of God, he will first equip you mentally, emotionally and spiritually to be able to give up that most precious possession and only then ask you to give it up. And remember, whatever precious blessing he takes away from you now – perhaps a relationship, perhaps your family, your house, your land, perhaps even your health – you will inherit that very same blessing a hundredfold some day in your life (Matthew 19:29).

So where do you stand today in following Christ?

Today, you are in one of these two states: you have completely surrendered your life to Christ, taken up his cross and are following him; or you are still resisting giving up certain things in your life which are hindering you from surrendering your life completely to God. And if you are not sure in which state you are now, there are sure ways to know that.


You have to realize that when you repent and are baptized you are confirming to God that, if he so requires, you are willing to give up everything you desired and held most precious in life – even your wife or husband and children – for the one Person who is desirable above all the others in your life.


If your life is not fully surrendered to the will of God, there are definite fruits, or symptoms, of this unsurrender manifesting in your thoughts, words and actions. I will mention some of the prominent ones.

I think, from my personal experience, the most deadly of the symptoms of living an unsurrendered life is fear. Not just fear of one kind or in one area, but fear of every sort in almost every area of your life. It could be fear of premature death happening to you or to your loved ones; it could be fear of being overcome by a powerful temptation; it could be insecurity, that is fear of not having enough resources to support yourself and your family either because of losing your job or losing some other resource that is now serving to prop you up; it could be fear for the safety of your children; it could be…think of the fears lurking deep within you constantly.

For some unsurrendered people, more deadly than their greatest fear is a symptom called depression. In my own life, I cannot tell which was more deadly and frightening – the times I lived in great fear, or the occasions a terrible depression enveloped me in its dark and morbid pits. If depression is not a big symptom in your life, than perhaps its lesser version called ‘having the blues’, or ‘feeling low’ or ‘being down in the dumps’, ‘being moody’ could be a frequent and persistent demon in your life.

Other symptoms could be: short temper or sudden outbursts of rage; some form of addiction from which you could never free yourself so far; some terrible secret sin – perhaps some perversion – you may be committing regularly; resentment and unforgiveness at the people who have done you wrong or hurt you; suspicion; jealousy…and more.

Less obvious symptoms include: suppressed frustration that you life is not moving in the direction you want; tension and pressure in your job; lack of zeal and zest in your daily activities; workaholicism,  lethargy; constant fatigue though there is nothing physically wrong with you.

There are far more symptoms in the life of an unsurrendered person than what I have mentioned above. The symptom, whatever it is, is deadly in its eventual consequences, unpleasant to experience, and unending in its affliction of you.

Now let me mention some of the fruits of a life fully surrendered to God.

Just as the greatest fruit of unsurrender is fear, the greatest fruit of  surrendering your life completely to Christ is freedom from fear. When you are freed from fear, then another fruit keeps growing fast in every area of your life: peace. Just as the entrance of light drives away darkness from every nook and corner of the lighted area, the entrance of Christ’s peace in your life drives away every fear lurking deep in the recesses of your mind.

‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’   John 14:27

A surrendered person can never be overcome by depression. He would certainly gets moments of low feelings, perhaps even actual depressions, now and then – as I have experienced and continue to experience occasionally – but these dark demons are never able to shake the rock base of his daily peace and joy of living. Depression, while it may cast its old ugly shadow over him occasionally, will never again be able to influence the thoughts and actions of one who has surrendered totally to Christ.

Since my surrender to Christ – 12 years ago at the time of writing this – depression stalked me and tried to overwhelm me two or three times, and for a while I could feel the horrible clouds of gloom and despondency hovering menacingly over me, desperate to envelop me. But that’s as far as depression could come close to my life. I know my mind can never be overpowered by depression – and that’s only because Christ, ever shining brightly in within me, can never be overpowered by any dark force.  What affects me from outside actually affects him and he knows how to respond to it effectively. I was three times held for several weeks, once upto 2 months – in some of the dankest and frighteningly depressing places on earth.  In the dungeons of Arabia, where I was shackled along with murderers and psychopaths as punishment for not being able to repay on time some debts I had incurred by my naive financial dealings in those days. Yet, as painful as my experience was, I never felt depressed or frightened, whereas even a fraction of that experience in my pre-surrendered days could have drastically altered my whole personality for worse. I know of one man, a confident and ambitious executive, who had to spend one month in the same prison. He came out a totally different person, totally broken in spirit, his countenance and outlook in life altered, and no more able to speak or deal cheerfully with his wife and other family members like he used to do before he was incarcerated.

Depression,along with fear, is the most deadly fruit of unsurrender to God.

Depression is for those who don’t know what’s happening or what will happen to their lives. I know with absolute certainty what is happening and what will happen in my life at any time. I know with absolute certainty that what is happening each moment in my life is that Christ is living his life in my surrendered body, and I know with absolute certainty that he knows what will happen to my life at any time and I need not worry a bit about it. I would not exchange this peace for literally any other happiness or blessing in this life. Or rather, I would not exchange this peace even for my own life, for I don’t fear death in the least anymore.

This fruit of peace alone is worth all the surrender in a person’s life. But that’s not all.

Another fruit that the person who has handed his life over to God will experience is a growing amazement at and love for the Law of God. The Law of God is summed up in the 10 Commandments and ramified in the various testimonies, statutes and precepts given in the Bible. And this love of God’s Law further reinforces and increases the fruit of peace in him. He will declare, as the psalmist did,

‘Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.’  Psalm 119:97

As he grows in loving and keeping all the laws of God, his assurance of divine protection in all his ways will keep him calm in any adverse situation, which in the case of an unsurrendered person would cause him to stumble and fall into a deep pit of devastation.

‘Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.’   Psalm 119:165

The second part of that verse in the original Hebrew literally is ‘they have no stumbling block’.

The surrendered child of God finds that there is no more room for panic or desperation in his life, no matter how terrifying the outward situation may seem. His confidence in God’s presence always at his right hand is rock firm and he remains unshaken until he is out of the danger.

‘I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.’   Psalm 16:8

He will see that the danger that came to cause him to stumble has stumbled itself and fallen into destruction.

‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me in this I will be confident.’   Psalm 27:1-3

This message, already so long, will not end even after a 100 pages if I were to write more of the fruits of a surrendered life. But I will close this part with one more fruit of the fully surrendered life, a fruit that brings goosebumps and adds immeasurable thrill to my personal life every single day. I don’t have a dictionary name for it, but I call it variously as the ‘Wonder Years’ or the ‘Wonder Moments’.

A child between the ages of 6 and 10 begins to explore and discover all of nature around him. A first sight of a grasshopper, a wild flower in full blossom that he has never seen before, a multicolored bird on the lemon tree outside his bedroom, his first gaze at a star-spangled night sky – everything he sees, hears, and feels is a ‘wonder’ experience for him – that is, it brings an overflowing sense of wonderment in him.

In my younger days, I used to occasionally watch a tv series called ‘The Wonder Years’. It was about a 11 or 12 year old boy discovering one by one life’s wondrous experiences. And that exactly is how a person who has abandoned himself totally to  Christ feels every single day – even when he is going through big troubles. He ponders what he sees and experiences of God’s creation and feels a continual sense of amazement at God’s handiwork. He contemplates the institution of the relationship between man and woman, between parent and child, between God and man, and cannot cease praising God for his creative abilities, and above all for his love that caused him to make all these things for man in the first place.

No matter how old a person is when he surrenders his life to his Creator, he will start feeling the Wonder Years in him from the very year he begins to follow Christ in unconditional surrender. His youthfulness is renewed in his spirit and emotions to such an extent that even physical youths will find it hard to match his zeal and vigor of daily living.

‘Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like an eagle, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.’   Isaiah 40:30-31

Yep, the renewed man or woman feels they are soaring high through life like a swiftly gliding eagle under the skies. Yep, the youthful person, even in his or her senior years, can run and not feel weary, and, oh yes, they can walk with a spring to their steps, and not faint even if they walk seven kilometers without stopping to rest.

The fully surrendered person feels so youthful he wants to take up new hobbies and recreations which seemed daunting or wearisome activities to him in his earlier life. I got a guitar at the age of 13, and I would strum on it now and then and try to learn a few chords. I never could summon the perseverance and stamina to sit through a proper training course to learn this instrument. Then, in my 58th year, I took up the guitar again, which I had taken up in vain nearly half a century earlier. I started literally from scratch – that is, initially the sounds felt like someone scratching on the strings. But this time, with the Holy Spirit as my encourager, I persevered and learned my first scale. Soon, amazing things were happening to my fingers and my muses. I was composing original melodies, and I was trying to imitate the shredding speed of guitar virtuosos like Yngwie Malmsteen. In just two years, in my 60th year,  I have become a reasonably good player who is even considering giving some public performances if I get the opportunity. ‘But those who wait on the Lord shall mount up with’ strings like the Eagles. They shall strum and not be weary.

Praise God for his wonder life in his surrendered children!

 

Pappa Joseph

 

End of Part 1 of ‘You will be trapped in your troubles…until you surrender unconditionally’.  Click here to go to Part 2.

 

 

Utmost Christian

“I’m Not As Steady At Walking”

by John Elliot

 

I love life’s varied pursuits – flying, scuba diving, skiing, sailing, travel, archeology, hiking, producing videos and computing.

I enjoyed these besides being a husband and father and having a demanding career. Life held so many possibilities, so many activities, so many opportunities.

Pursuing an active life had been second nature to me. With my optimism, good health and eyesight and the many opportunities I had been blessed with, I found new challenges a normal part of life. One day I was responsible for several hundred people in a large region, the next I was disabled and replaced.

But things change

Today I live in a retirement community. This period of my life has brought limitations to my participation in many former activities.

I am not steady enough to fly now and problems with vertigo prevent me from scuba diving safely. Skiing causes trauma to a deteriorated back vertebra, as does carrying a rucksack.

I am not as steady at walking and exercise becomes impossible at times. Some days I have had trouble remembering obvious things, like my best friend’s name or the street I live on – and I am only 38.

Disabled (temporarily I hope) from whiplash in a car accident, I find my physical problems have steadily increased in intensity. They came upon me rapidly and at first I rejected them. I viewed them with contempt as I tried vigorously to fight them off.

My approach mimicked that of others I had seen who had fought encroaching limitations, like some who had been placed in old people’s homes, or friends who had become increasingly deaf or blind, or who had contracted a debilitating disease.

When limitations beset us, we often feel as though we are being drawn into a chasm from which we cannot extricate ourselves. Accident victims despair at the permanence of their physical handicaps. The elderly find it intolerable to lose the sharpness of the 5 senses.

Limitations are confused with lack of personal worth. It is hard to resist bitterness towards the hand life had dealt you. The thrill of former victories can transform into the agony of defeat.

The restrictions you find yourself under add to the trauma. These can be the end of a job. The loss of independently moving about and handling one’s affairs, the loss of the privilege to drive a vehicle and even the loss of personal bodily functions.

Now instead of extending helping hands, you are the recipient of helping hands. Your immediate reaction is to reject them, refusing to accept your restricted state.

How often I have heard the elderly and the disabled tell of their anguish over the limitations that gradually overtake them. I have always tried to be understanding of their plight. Now I am experiencing some of it.

Disability, if striking unexpectedly, whether from ageing, disease or accident, can be very unsettling. One moment you are reaching for the stars, then the earth falls away from under you.

Today, as I write, no boss calls to direct what I do or where I go. The pressing day’s activities have been replaced with endless quiet hours to fill.

It reminds me of the retired Navy admiral across the street. One day he directed policy from the top. The next, he was a retired private citizen. How rapid some changes can be.

The real problem

No matter what your limitation, there is only one real problem. Your attitude towards it. You can either be the ‘town grump’ over the disability you have or focus on all the limitations you do not have.

For instance, as the president of a deaf society says, ‘Deaf people can do anything, expect hear’. And, in effect, paraplegics can do anything, except walk; the blind can do anything, except see.

The same is true for you and me. We can do anything, except for the few limitations we have and they often are not totally restrictive. For instance, you are either reading or listening to a tape of this magazine right now.

That means you can pursue a degree or be a counselor to your grandchildren, a big brother to a parentless child, or a volunteer for special services.

A paraplegic has been president of the United States, quadriplegics have written valuable books, among other things. They just removed their biggest handicap – their attitude towards their disability.

Success became reality when they responded to challenges. You and I can too.

I may not be able to drive a car now, but others help me get where I need to go. I cannot work a 12-hour day now, but I can work one or 2 hours.

I may have difficulty with public speaking, but I can write. I am a better listener to others with problems and I have more compassion for and better understanding of the problems so many others face today.

A matter of focus

To focus on your own problems to the exclusion of others’ is destructive. Your condition can be so confounding, so frustrating that it occupies much of your thoughts. Too much in fact, causing you to ignore other important matters of life: interaction with family and friends, or benevolent actions to others facing crises, your personal and spiritual development and your enjoyment of life and the world around you.

I recently realized I had forgotten I was an avid flower gardener. For years I enjoyed raising annuals and perennials. In the frustration of my shackles, I have been too preoccupied to think of such an ‘unimportant’ hobby.

Last week, some blooms caught my eye and I realized I was overlooking some of life’s priorities. I had been overlooking other things too. And other people.

A burden to others?

‘I am just a burden to everyone now.’ Did you ever say that about yourself? We all feel that way sometimes.

Yet, I can tell you who are a burden – people who care only about themselves, or those who intentionally feed off the goodwill of others; or those who are ungrateful, complaining and selfish. Such are burdens to everyone irrespective of their state of health.

Not those elderly who have a story and a smile for children; not those in wheelchairs who help others have a better day; not my nearly deaf friend whose subordinates salute him for making their lives better at work. Nor the person who, even in blindness, added spark to a whole town. No, a giving person is a treasure.

New beginnings

Rather than look back at what we cannot do any more, how about finding things we can do? I am researching a master’s thesis in archaeology. I have taken up a new form of flying and I often try to fly between the radio masts on top of the Word Trade Centre, or under the Golden Gate Bridge. I usually crash, but I did make it once. I fly a computer flight simulator.

If we work around our limitations, life can still be full and rich with purpose and meaning. Life did not necessarily deal us an impossible hand. Oh, it may not be a royal flush, but that just adds to the challenge.

Something else you can do is show off a little. Show your wife or husband, your family, your neighbors what you can do. In so doing, show others an example of how to handle those limitations that eventually come to everybody.

 

 

Utmost Christian

“Help, Lord, For the Godly Man Ceases!”

There are very few good men left in this generation. So choose your paths on earth carefully, and tread with caution where the wicked traverses your path.

Photo Courtesy: bikesandwich – flickr.com

‘Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases!
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.’

I am writing these words of David, after having uttered them myself a little while ago as I rode my motorcycle back home from a trip to the town. I encountered several drivers on the highway who had scant regard for the safety of others; their one intent was to get their own way, even if they have to overtake a vehicle in a dangerous manner though they could see a car heading toward them in the opposite direction, or even if they have to cross a junction in the middle of a red signal, or even if they have to shove this puny bike rider to the side by driving frighteningly close to me so I would move over to the hard shoulder so they could bypass me more quickly.

The highway is one of the most popular grounds for profane people to vent their feelings of hate and anger at others. When a vehicle comes in the way of another, the most common reaction of the latter is an angry honk, or a vulgar finger sign, or some swearing, or usually all of them together. The percentage of drivers, of good people, who don’t have any of these negative reactions when somebody gets in their way, is decreasing dramatically each year.

As the world tailspins into its last days, the lives of ordinary people are becoming the growing target of marauders, assaulters, swindlers, and hostile men. The streets of the cities in many countries are no more safe for women at any time. I wrote in another message of how a group of men abducted a woman from a public transport in India in daylight even though the woman was escorted by a male companion. This is a new phenomenon in my country. Such incidents, say the Bible, are only going to increase each year in our generation which is witnessing the endtime signs.

‘But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.’   2 Tim 3:1-4,12-13

In the workplace, in the shopping malls, in the public parks, in the entertainment halls, in the sports arena – in all these places, if you keep a keen eye, you can observe the growing number of thoughtless and selfish acts by people who show little regard or courtesy to the people around them.

We are living in a dangerous world. God’s people must daily pray for their and their loved ones’ constant protection wherever they go. As each year passes and the world gets even more unsafe, you should exercise great caution if you plan to attend certain public events.

Spectator events such as sports and carnivals are prime places for demons to run riot. Most of the spectators are not Christians who live by what the Bible has instructed them. Most of them live by whatever their emotions urge them at the moment. Where there is a crowd of such people, evil spirits get into a frenzy among them, like sharks get into a deadly frenzy at the smell of blood. Anything could happen then that may endanger your life or modesty. Stampede, riot, fight, molestation, terrorist attack.

My advice to you, child of God, for these last days: avoid spectator events as much as possible. Drive defensively, with constant alertness against some Godless driver ahead of you or behind you who might unexpectedly do something that could risk your life. Walk on the streets with a prayer on your lips, especially if you are a woman. Women should never go alone to a theater or a sports event or carnival. You, if you are a woman, should never travel alone as a tourist in any country, even your own. Do you know what happened to Dinah, the daughter of one of God’s greatest men, Jacob, when she went out alone to visit some women of the new land where she and the rest of her family had recently settled? You may read the shocking story in Genesis 34.

On the road, give way to the other driver, if he seems impatient, even if you have the right of way. Give way, give room, avoid righteous confrontation of any kind, show extra courtesy to the discourteous, return soft words, such as ‘sorry’, for hard obscenities hurled at you.

Above all, daily ask God to preserve you and your loved ones from the acts and devices of the unruly and faithless people in whose midst you live and move around.

‘Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing!
The faithful have vanished from the earth!
Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts.
May the Lord cut off their flattering lips and silence their boastful tongues.
They say, “We will lie to our hearts’ content. Our lips are our own – who can stop us?”
The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do.”
The Lord’s promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over. Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed, preserving them forever from this lying generation, even though the wicked strut about, and evil is praised throughout the land.’   Psalm 12 NLT

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Utmost Christian

Do The Opposite Of What You Naturally Want To Do

 

A Godly old woman I know had a constant problem. She had a maid who came daily in the morning and took care of all the cooking and other home chores. The old woman was fully satisfied with her maid in all aspects of her work, except in one area. Every day when the maid returned to her home, she took away with her a generous portion of the foodstuff she found in the aged woman’s house. Now the maid had all the freedom to eat as much as she liked where she worked. And the kindly old lady had never refused anything that the maid had asked her. So when such generous treatment was given to the maid, it became an unbearable thought that she should want to daily pilfer from her employer.

The Godly old woman began to lose sleep over this problem. Day by day, her thoughts about the maid’s behavior rankled her more and more. After a month or so, she became acutely obsessed with the maid’s behavior and not being able to do anything about it. Of course, she could dismiss the maid, but she didn’t want to do that. Once when I met her, she was in an especial state of dejection. For the maid had now taken away a good chunk of the special cookies the old woman had carefully kept in her biscuit box for visitors. The situation was getting out of hand, and the old woman was ever more agitated.

I told her, ‘Next time thoughts of her pilfering comes to your mind, bless God that you are able to provide her the pilfered food’.

She stared into my pupils. This was obviously an alien concept to her.

‘I will give her all the food she wants if she asks me, but I cannot tolerate her stealing food from me.’

‘Try that solution anyway’, I coaxed her. ‘When next time anger swells up in you at what she is doing to you, suppress that feeling and force yourself to thank God she has taken some food home.’

‘God has blessed you with abundance’, I continued, ‘so much that her pilfering doesn’t make you go hungry. And God is able to return twice as much as she pilfers from you. Enjoy her pilfering in the thought that you can afford to provide her what she wants even if that provision is by her own theft.’

The Godly old woman was confused but bemused at the novel solution I offered. She assured me she will give it a try.

While not many of us have to daily deal with a thief in our home, we encounter situations in our workplace that require a similar solution: Doing the opposite of what our natural inclinations urge us to do.

We realize a colleague has spoken ill of us behind our backs. Rebuke in your mind, or even aloud, the offended emotions that make you resent him and want to get even with him. Force the noxious thoughts to give way to deliberate thoughts of forgiveness, asking God to enable you to do so. Grab your reluctant mind by its scruff and force into it the words, ‘Lord, bless him who did that wrong to me!’ Yes, you have to exert mental and emotional violence against your kicking and struggling thoughts to crucify them and give birth to Godly thoughts. You see, the natural inclination to forgive any wrong done to us is anathema to our original human nature. Which is why James tell us to ‘take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’.1

Or, say, a time waster comes over to where you sit and not only wastes your precious work time but bores you to the core with his babblings. The natural response varies from person to person. Some smile and endure the pain reverberating from their tympanums. Some shoo him or her away at the first opportunity. But the common emotion driving all these responses is the same. It’s dislike, scorn, impatience, hate. Now the Godly solution is to put your precious work aside and take captive the thoughts of scorn and impatience and willfully release the thoughts of goodwill toward the person damaging your aural apparatus.

Thomas, my fellow villager, is a unique character in every sense of the word. He has the capability to never discern even the clearest signs of unwelcome in the person he has managed to stall with his inquisitive words.

Once, very early in the morning, when the birds hadn’t yet tired of their morning chorus, came Thomas over to my place and leaned on the doorbell…until I forced myself to emerge out of my comfy blanket, and groggily headed to the door, thinking that only something of urgent import could announce itself so early in the morning and with such persevering tintinnabulation2.

On opening the door, it was a grinning Thomas. I gave him a piece of my natural mind, and went back to bed.

Photo Courtesy: Ivy Dawned – flckr.com

Over the next few months, I had to undergo further intensive training by the Holy Spirit in dealing with the natural mind. Less than a year later, Thomas, never known to give up a targeted victim, appeared at the door again at around the same time of the morning. This time the spiritual mind was ready, having knuckled the natural thoughts back into the abyss from which they came.

I smiled at seeing the horror. I mean, I really smiled from the heart. Then, opening the door wider, I greeted my tormentor warmly, and sat down to what I thought was going to be an unending hour with him.

Strangely, either because Thomas became uncomfortable with my strange response, or because of my own new mental disposition, the hour quickly came to end, and Thomas bid me good-bye.

I very seldom see him these days, and whenever I do, even my natural feelings naturally give way to my positive thoughts, so that I really look forward to meeting him now. And Thomas himself seems a changed man. He just doesn’t seem such a boring person anymore – and this is the man from whom I had in the past literally hid myself behind a bush or ducked my head whenever I espied him a 100 meters away.

There is a natural man in us which Christ’s followers had renounced and crucified when they accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord. But the natural man, which Paul calls the ‘old man’, is often capable of wrenching himself free and  taking captive our feelings and thoughts of our ‘inward man’ for a short while. This was what Paul experienced often.

‘I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.’  Rom 7:21-23

When we detect the natural man back in our minds, we must put on the spiritual man back with vigor, and we must deliberately and willfully do the opposite of what our old nature instigates us to do. And we can do it only through Jesus Christ – by appealing to our Lord to repossess our minds.

‘O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death [from my natural man]?’ cries Paul. And he answers himself immediately:

‘I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!’  Rom 7:24-25

God’s law of love never fails to eventually work dramatic changes in the affected person – both the one who loves and the one who is loved. When you force yourself to keep giving kind thoughts and kind acts, sooner or later they come back to you in the full measure you gave – plus some.

‘Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you mete withal it shall be measured to you again.’  Luke 6:38 KJV

 

Pappa Joseph

 

1 2 Cor 10:5 NIV
2 A ringing or tinkling sound.

Utmost Christian

“You don’t appreciate a lot of things until you come very, very close to losing them”

Rape victims in Dem. Rep. Congo

That title quote is from the novel The Last Days of America by Paul E Erdman. The book is a frightening tale of how an economic crisis could lead to major political upheavals and shifts in the global balance of powers, and bring civilization as we know it to the brink of extinction by nuclear holocaust. When people realize they don’t have much time anymore to enjoy the everyday mundane benefits and facilities they had always taken for granted, they begin for the first time to realize what precious blessings these amenities had been all along. Open the tap, and there is always water flowing out for use to your heart’s content. Gasoline running low in your car…just take it to the gas station around the corner, and ‘fill ’er up’. Your kitchen cupboard needs to be replenished? Just call the grocery and they deliver it right at your doorstep, until…

Until these seemingly little facilities and services suddenly stop, and people are desperately trying to flee a city to escape impending devastation by invading forces. Or there is a deadly earthquake, and the most pressing thought of the people is not how to best spend the evening out, but how to find some unpolluted water to drink and where to find some safe shelter for the night. Or there is a roaring tide of water heading toward your house and your only thought is how best to keep your children from being swept away in the tsunami. Today, thank God, none of these things are happening to you or me. And we can continue to enjoy our daily blessings to the full. But for millions of others, these daily little appurtenances of modern civilization is the difference between survival and death.

I was in a Middle East country during the first Gulf war. When the conflict broke out, the countries close to the war zone began to quaver in fearful anticipation. Throughout the city, common household commodities like bottled water were quickly swept off the supermarket shelves. My close two colleagues and I made plans to flee to our home countries. One of them, a young man in his twenties had recently married his beautiful sweetheart. All the battle scenes on CNN, and all the usual frenzy of a battle brought in edited form to us through the media somehow made the whole war somewhat surreal for this young colleague. You know how it is…soldiers tat-tat-tatting away their enemies with their AK-47s, the explosions and vehicles thrown twenty feet into the air, a plane on a strafing pass at the convoy below… the sounds and colors can raise the adrenalin level in one who hasn’t actually seen these actions in real life. But when these sounds and sights are happening a few miles outside your door, you have a different perception of them altogether.

To put him in the right perspective, I asked my newly married colleague, ‘Do you know what is the first thing invading soldiers normally do on entering a city?’ He didn’t. So I told him: they enter apartments in groups and gang-rape any woman of any age they find there. My colleague’s countenance dropped. He now seemed more eager than any of us to get out of the country as fast as we could. [As I review this message some years later, I just read on the CNN website of a well-dressed middle-aged Libyan woman who burst into a Tripoli hotel to tell the journalists there that she had been raped and beaten by Gadhafi’s militia. She sobbed and said she was held against her will for two days and raped by fifteen men.]

A few days after the great tsunami of 2004, I visited one of the most tragically devastated areas in India. I met two survivors – a handsome man and his pretty wife, both in their twenties. Six months ago they had the fruit of their love union in their hands, a baby girl. They showed me her photo. Just like any other cute smiling baby you see on a parenting magazine’s front cover. On the day of the tsunami, they were dandling their precious gift in their arms, when the wave smashed through their walls and swept the little one away forever from their arms.

Readers do not usually want to hear these tragic tales. But I have mentioned them here in the hope that at least occasionally you may deeply reflect on the daily prosaic happenings…as daylight gives in to dusk and you reach out to press the light switch and the whole room is lit up in cheerful hues; or as you stroll on the street pavement with your wife and kids and do not have to fear any sniper’s bullet…pause a moment to ponder, and be thankful.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Utmost Christian

Be Always Prepared to Live the Basic Life

What would you do when a disaster strikes your place and there is no electricity, water, basic facilities? No home. No food.

 

We are living in a global civilization today that makes daily living convenient for the average person more than at any other time since the first human community formed. How many of us, on turning a faucet handle, pause to gaze at the wonder that is pouring out of the spout. When I was a teen, such a sight would have been a real wonder for me, at a time when the latest technology in my village was a pulley on my well to make drawing water easy. In those days we never sat on a ceramic commode but over an awesomely awful hole in the ground (which may be a remote reason some babies in the third world, who grew up to be famous people, in those days were named Sithole – to squat over that hole, the depths of which were frighteningly dark and abyssal, required much fortitude).

Decades ago, I was fascinated by the lifestyle of a minister of Christ, who said he began his day at dawn by having a shower. And that minister lived in a cold country! For me, even in a tropical country, taking a bath early in the morning was a shivering experience. It was only when I was an adult and taking early morning showers in a developed country did I realize what the minister meant. He meant a ‘hot’ shower. Now how could a youth in my primitive circumstances ever imagine that steaming sprays of water could be available 24 hours at the mere turning of a knob in the bathroom?

Well, I suppose by now you see what I am getting at. The simple daily appurtenances of modern life are wonders that we have taken for granted and don’t give a thought to…until. Until one of them stops functioning. The handle is turned, and not a drop comes out. The switch is oned, but the room still stays dark. The lift stops halfway down. The car breaks down. And worst of all in this cyber age, the internet is down. As one denizen of the virtual world said, ‘You disconnect from the internet and get this awful feeling, as if you just pulled the plug on a loved one’.

When one of our daily life-facilitators fail, panic strikes and our only thought from then on is about getting back the indispensable facility we hadn’t once thought about until now.

During the first Gulf War when Iraq annexed Kuwait, and bombs starting falling close to the borders of neighboring countries in the region, I was living alone in the United Arab Emirates, while my family was safely away in India. I continued my life as usual. But those with families in the country began to panic. Nobody knew if the war would spill over to the nearby countries. Supermarkets began to run out of bottled water as households stocked up essentials for a siege. But Saddam soon ran out of cartridges in his ammo boxes, and people were all back in their comfort zones as before, wondering what to do with the excess water and grains in the house.

This message is of no relevance to people living in, say, Syria, where, at the time of writing this, Christians are being targeted by both government and rebel forces. Many have fled the country and are barely surviving in makeshift refugee camps. A mattress, just enough water for a full bath, a small bite of something delicious occasionally, a little privacy for the couple to sleep together, a rudimentary school where their little ones can go safely, a few currency bills for a little shopping, a tv to pass their dreary time, some little other facility they had been enjoying all their lives before the war drove them out of their cozy sofas…these are the wonders the refugees are dreaming of at the moment now, even as I am debating with my stomach about lunch – whether I should settle for a tuna salad in the office itself or walk to the food court nearby for a couple of KFCs, which I hadn’t savored in quite a while.

The purpose of this message is not to persuade you to daily gaze in wonder at all the little blessings of daily living that you are taking for granted, although that would be good thing if one could do it. I have given scenarios of surviving without the basic amenities of daily living so that you can be prepared. And I am encouraging you to be prepared only because God first told me through his Word to be prepared, and it is my fervent desire that you too be aware of this fundamental life principle.

Child of God, keep the following basic understanding in your mind always.

‘The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. For man also does not know his time: like fish taken in a cruel net, like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.’   Eccl 9:11-12

A person may be wise and prescient about the state of the world today. He plans his life accordingly and lives prudently. He has everything ready to face any adversity in life and still… And still evil times can overtake him suddenly, like a snare springing out of nowhere upon a bird and trapping it inside.

Time and chance happens equally to God’s people as to those who do not know God. I could give you countless examples of evil times swiftly befalling God’s people throughout history – from the day Joseph was abducted without the slightest indication of prior hostility from his brothers to the moment Job was instantaneously transformed from the most content man in the world to the most afflicted, and from the hour that David knew his family was abducted by enemies, to the days when faithful Christians were dangerously stranded between warring factions in World War I and II.

My relatives in Kuwait, who were Godfearing people and living carefree amidst the luxuries of a rich sheikhdom, were trapped in that country when they woke up one morning to find their city surrounded by Saddam’s forces. By God’s grace, the expatriates were allowed to flee the country without being shot. But none of them were able to take to their native countries anything apart from the clothes they were wearing and possibly one or two suitcases of essentials. But I heard the sorry tales from my kinsfolk of the huge quantities of precious stones, gold, money and other treasures they had accumulated over decades of hard work in that country and of how they had to leave them all behind in the modern apartments they abandoned when they fled the land. Fortunately, none turned back to retrieve a few of their precious stuff, like Lot’s wife wanted to, or they might never have made it safely out of the country. Many of these expatriates when they finally reached their homeland had to start life all over again with the merest basic necessities.

Disaster struck them suddenly. As it does millions of other innocent families and communities around the world every year. It could be a manmade calamity such as war, terrorist attack, persecution, or a natural catastrophe such as earthquake, tornado, tsunami, fire, plague. But the effects are the same: the affected people are left with barely nothing other than the clothes on their bodies. And that is when the difference between survivors who trusted God and survivors who trusted in their own abilities begins to be clearly seen.

So, first of all, understand that time and chance happens to everyone. Destiny’s presently favored children, who are going about luxuriating in their modern lifestyles, will wake up sooner or later to their shocking realization that destiny favors no one, not even the Godliest of people. Our Creator has deliberately made it impossible for any man, even those closest to him, to know if tomorrow adversity would continue to spare him, or if it would strike him without any warning. Let this truth not fade from your mind:

‘When times are good, enjoy them and be happy. When times are bad, think about this: God makes both good and bad times, so that no one really knows what is coming next.’   Eccl 7:14 The Voice

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

‘Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life.’

The Message version says:

‘On a good day, enjoy yourself; on a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days so that we won’t take anything for granted.’


The simple daily appurtenances of modern life are wonders that we have taken for granted and don’t give a thought to…until. Until one of them stops functioning.


The next understanding I wish to share with you is about the state of mind a person should have during both hard times and good times.

The very first principle of Godly survival in a disaster is to maintain a state of mind called ‘basic happiness’ or ‘primary contentment’ constantly, daily, in every situation, under any circumstances.

Actually, a person can never acquire the state of basic happiness by his own diligent application of ways to attain it. But that’s not what secular motivational writers and speakers teach. Their books and seminars expound to their audience how by applying various ‘secrets’ or ‘keys’ or ‘laws’ they can maintain a positive frame of mind in any adverse life situation.

I recall the years when my boyhood favorite band, The Beatles, looked to an eccentric guru, The Maharishi, for their spiritual guidance. The fab four grew up as Christians, at least nominally, but obviously they might not have found Christ charismatic enough to be their guru. The Maharishi had a better message of happiness for them. He wrote: “Being happy is of the utmost importance. Success in anything is through happiness. Under all circumstances be happy. Just think of any negativity that comes at you as a raindrop falling into the ocean of your bliss…within everyone is an unlimited reservoir of energy, intelligence, and happiness”.

Now if celebrities can somehow discover within themselves, through the guidance of their gurus, the reservoir of happiness, why do they need Christ, who has never once mentioned anything about ‘success’ or ‘happiness’ anywhere in his Gospel. He did, however, promise his own peace and his own joy within us though, even when we are going through a lot of unhappy and unsuccessful situations.

‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid…These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.’   John 14:27;15:11

Now, if we look at the fruits of what the celebrities learn from their spiritual teachers, where do you find the unhappiest marriages and the brokenest families on earth today? Don’t most celebrities in Hollywood and other woods have one or more gurus to lead them to the fountain of lifelong cheer? Yet the most successful of them are the most miserable as well. Just a few weeks ago, as I write this, came the shocking news of the suicide of one the cheeriest actors in filmworld, Robin Williams. His gurus gave him everything for the successful life except basic happiness.

Understand that only if God enables you by his Spirit can you be in a state of basic happiness always. This basic state of mind is a pure gift of God, and not the product of one’s effort in keeping any laws of happiness. So ask God regularly and persistently for this gift. And while asking God, there is some groundwork you can do for yourself to be prepared for any eventuality.

A prerequisite of basic happiness is that you should consciously keep reverting your mind to the one overriding reason for your living – to prepare for the incredibly thrilling life in the sooncoming Kingdom of God. No matter how dreary and gloomy the world around you, the clear vision of the joys and pleasures of Paradise should be more than enough for you to tide over every unhappy but temporary circumstance in your life. And then – of even greater encouragement – you have God’s promise that he personally will see to it that you survive through every adversity and be able to stand victorious and faultless before him.

‘Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.’   Jude 1:24-25

Another absolute prerequisite of basic happiness is a determination to delight in and live by The 10 Commandments no matter how bad the times are. God’s Word promises that a person who loves and keeps God’s Laws will never be perturbed by any adversity or unhappiness.

‘Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.’   Ps 119:165

Says the Contemporary English Version:

‘You give peace of mind to all who love your Law. Nothing can make them fall.’

Nothing can make you fall if you love God’s laws and keep them. No electricity, no money, no food, no water, no home – nothing can make a person who loves God’s law be overcome or devastated or panicked by any unhappy circumstance but he is always able to rise above every adversity by holding on to his Helper’s hand which is ever extended to him.

Sudden staggering disaster drives the Christless person, no matter how successful in the world’s estimate, to desperate acts of survival, and if that doesn’t bring him deliverance, he resorts to what he thinks is the only way out of his misery, suicide. But for the man or woman who has an overwhelming love for God’s laws and keeps them with zeal no crisis will overwhelm them.

‘Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life.’   Ps 119:92-93

‘If I had not found happiness in obeying your Law, I would have died in misery. I won’t ever forget your teachings, because you give me new life by following them.’   CEV

Finally, basic happiness is not possible without contentment.

‘Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.’   1 Tim 6:6-8

When bad times fall upon a Christ-based person, he doesnt focus his prayers too much on getting out of the situation immediately, although he would daily be asking God to deliver him as early as God’s will allow. But his greater focus is on asking God to strengthen him to go through the trouble that God has allowed in his life until he emerges out of it smiling. In the meantime, as he waits for his deliverance, he looks around at what remains in his life, and renews his gratitude for each and every one of them. He praises God more than he ever did before that he has the basics to live through each day without his family and he having to suffer acute deprivation.

Now, you can confidently ask God to provide you daily and always – in adversity just as in prosperity – your three essentials for the basic life.  As long as God has given you these three basic blessings, you have no reason in the world to be unhappy or complaining because your some other material desire has not been granted.

You may not have a job, you may not have meat for meals regularly, you may not have matching shoes for your trousers, you may not have a tv, or a car, you may not have even a bicycle to ride on…but you can have basic happiness if you are able to feed your family and yourself two or three meals a day, have at least untorn clothes you can wear without embarrassment in public, and a place to sleep in safely.

Note, that I used the word ‘place’, not home. It may happen in some rare instance that a person may not have a home of his own to sleep in and have to find refuge elsewhere. But God in his great mercy ensures that such periods are very brief, and always restores a home for those who look to him for every need. I speak from experience, dear child of God, as most of my messages are.

One day – suddenly, as a bird caught in a snare, exactly as the Bible mentioned it – I found myself, my wife and tween daughter on the street, evicted from our residence for no fault of ours. (The owner of the apartment we had rented didnt pay his municipality taxes on time, and the officials sealed the entrance to it.) One hour, I was basking in security, the next, I was looking desperately for shelter.

We were in another country, and we had no relatives or friends to go to immediately. And I didn’t have the money to take a hotel room. The nearest person I could get help from was in another state. And night would be upon us soon. But, fortunately (for God-trusters, there is no word ‘fortunately’ or ‘luckily’ in their vocabulary; I use it here just as a common expression), I realized I had my office keys with me. Nobody will be in the office at night. I took my family to the office. And we spent a not-uncomfortable night there, sleeping on the office couches. Next morning, before office staff arrived, I took my family to the next state and put up with a friend for about three days. On the fourth day, we found ourselves in a good hotel room, without having to pay a cent from my side. After about a week, we were allowed to return to our residence.

If God allows you to be without shelter suddenly – say, because a whirlwind blew your roof away, as happens frequently in tornado frequented countries – don’t panic. It becomes God’s responsibility then to provide you temporary shelter until you are back in the comfort of your own home. Such times will be very rare, most likely not more than once a lifetime.

But whirlwind or earthquake or war, one thing you will not be deprived of for even a single day is your daily food and clothing and a place to sleep safely. That’s God’s promise you can count on with your and your family’s whole lives.

You will be wise to be always mentally equipped at all times to face any unexpected change in your circumstances. And when bad times come, understand that the trouble is not a sign that God is not protecting you or that he is not pleased with you. Instead, understand it is the surest sign that God has found you spiritually mature enough and he can now trust you to go through the flood or the fire safely. Let him hold your hand as he gently and steadily leads you out of the danger zone and to safe shore.

‘He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.’   Is 40:11

‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior’   Is 42:1-3

The man gifted with basic happiness will never moan or grumble as long as he has food, clothing and a place for him and his family to lie down safely. Such a man will trust God to supply him with everything else at the right time, but until then he will be content with the barest essentials of life.

If you tend to fret because you are not having a more comfortable life, then God may have a mild rebuke for you, as he had for one of his faithful but complaining servants. In the words below, instead of Baruch, put your name there. God is no respecter of person, and what applies to Baruch applies to every man and woman of God:

‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: You have said, ‘I am overwhelmed with trouble! Haven’t I had enough pain already? And now the Lord has added more! I am worn out from sighing and can find no rest.’ Baruch, this is what the Lord says: ‘I will destroy this nation that I built. I will uproot what I planted. Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don’t do it! I will bring great disaster upon all these people; but I will give you your life as a reward wherever you go. I, the Lord, have spoken!’   Jer 45:2-5 NLT

I have faced a few critical situations in life where I and my family had to live the basic life for several days and even weeks. The latest was about two years ago, but mercifully, it was relatively mild compared to what we had gone through in the past, and it lasted only a few hours.

On that morning I rose from bed tired, having woken up several times in the night to attend to my senile mother’s needs. My first need of the morning was for a cup of refreshing coffee. I turned on the tap to wash my coffee mug. There was no water. I then switched on the water pump, but the pump was silent, and I noticed the electricity meter showed no electricity coming into the house. The meter had conked. I took my mobile to call the electrician. He was not picking up, even after several attempts.

The situation could have been panicky for me had I not known Christ, and had I not some months earlier decided that no matter what acute contingency happens to disrupt my daily life, I will not allow myself to panic or become desperate because I know my God is in total control of everything that happens in my life.

But it was indeed a critical situation. I found comfort in the fact that at least I could get some essential water by drawing it from the well manually. But that would require a bucket and robe, and they were not available. Then, I suddenly remembered with dismay. My income for my monthly needs was totally dependent on my freelance work, for which I was absolutely depended on the computer. And that very day was the deadline to submit an important work. Without submitting this work on time, I would be in financial straits. There was only one thing that could deliver me from this crisis. I appealed to our Father in heaven in my desperate situation. And he sent an immediate answer.

A thought came to my mind seemingly out of nowhere. The thought was, ‘Open the meter box, and check one of the fuses’. I am a greenhorn in mechanical and technical matters. Nevertheless, I opened and pulled out one of the fuses. The fuse wire was burnt out. I was able to replace the wire, and the electricity came back.

But what if the thought of opening the complicated switchbox hadnt come. My whole day would have been one continuous affliction, and if I didnt get the electrician somehow, it could go on to two or more days of severe crisis in several areas of my life together.

If a day ever comes in your life that you have to resort to the three-blessings basic life, here is another of God’s assurances to you and your family for such a time, paraphrased in parenthesis by me:

‘Though the fig tree may not blossom,
(Though the economy of my country has crashed)
Nor fruit be on the vines
(Nor do I have any means of income)
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
(Though all my projects have failed)
And the fields yield no food;
(And my business is yielding no profit)
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
(Though creditors have seized all my assets)
And there be no herd in the stalls—
(And I and my family are left with only our basic lives)
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.’
Habakkuk 3:17-19

Child of God, as long as your Father in heaven has daily provided you all that you need for your basic happiness, rejoice. Rejoice daily.

‘Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!’   Phil 4:4

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Utmost Christian

Because He First Loved Us, Let Us Love Him First

 

If you are a parent, do you recall the time when your eyes first beheld your newborn child lying naked and helpless beside es1 mother?  The child was your own, issued from your own body and that of your wife. Even if the child knew you not then, your love for him or her was beyond words.  This little piece of living flesh had already received the full measure of your love even before e had grown up to know you and love you in return. If need be, you would have even given up your life without a second thought to save your just-arrived baby’s life.

This, beloved child of God, is how our Father in heaven felt toward us in the day that we were first born into the world. In fact, if God’s words are true, he says that his love for man far exceeds the natural and instinctive love of a mother toward her child.2 I am speaking about our physical birth into this world, not our spiritual ‘born again’ experience.

We were born in the filthiness of our sins, inherited from our first parents when they sinned against God and inherited all the curses of life. We were lumps of filthy clay imbued with the life given directly from the person of God. This life is a very part of God himself, and God just cannot help but love you and me from the time of our conception. We could say it is an instinctive and unconditional love comparable and yet far exceeding the instinctive and unconditional love we have for our own children. This is how much God has loved every single child born into this world from the time of Adam and Eve. A beautiful analogy of this incredible love and compassion is given in Ezekiel 16:

‘On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in clothes. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.’

Naturally. We were conceived in sin because of the original sin of our parents that was passed on in our human nature and genes from generation to generation. We were as good as dead – hastening to our grave from the second we were conceived – born into this world for a just a few years before we forever perish from all trace of existence. But the Creator looked on the absolutely helpless tiny life on the day of our birth and his heart overflowed with tender affection and excitement for this new creation of his.

“Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” I made you grow like a plant of the field.’

God wants everyone who was born to live forever – everyone born into this world of every race – Indian, Chinese, African, European, American, Arab, Aborigine, and every other race of mankind. He loves each one of them so much that long before the creation of earth he had already planned a way of redemption for mankind in case they fell into sin. The only way the Creator could redeem his children from eternal condemnation was to give up his own life as a penalty for man’s sin. His one life could redeem the total of humanity, because all humanity have their existence in his one life. And so God, in the person of Jesus Christ, came into this world to die for us and to save us.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’   John 3:16

That’s how much our Father has always loved you and me from our birth, before we ever came to know anything about our Creator.

We who have been called to the body of Christ as firstfruits have been set aside from the rest of the world for an awesome purpose, so that through us Christ may bring his salvation to the rest of the world. And so we the spiritual Israelites grew up in the tender care of God while the rest of the world was allowed to continue in their wicked ways for the time being.

Each of us saved by God received the knowledge of our Savior in our own particular way. Perhaps because our parents were earnest Christians we grew up to be followers of Christ. Perhaps through the influence of a Christian friend. Whatever the manner of our coming to know God, we all came to accept Christ as our Savior and called ourselves by his name, ‘Christian’, which means ‘belonging to Christ’. But like unfaithful Israel and betrayous Judah, most who profess Christianity have forgotten their roots and have turned away to serve other gods. Am I being unfactual in using the phrase ‘most who profess Christianity’? Observe the lives of the ‘Christians’ – people who have been born into Christian families – in your neighborhood, in your workplace, how many of them do you know whose lives are centered around Christ, and who are willing to give up everything in life, even their lives, if necessary, to remain faithful to God?

‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.’  Luke 14:26

‘Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.’    Luke 14:33

What does ‘hate his father and mother’ mean here? Mat 10:37 makes it obvious: ‘Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me…’

This is the absolute condition for being a true Christian. This is the absolute condition for entering the Kingdom of God. This is the only criterion of true conversion. One iota less than this absolute condition will not do.

Do not let any preacher, any church teach you errantly that any condition less than this will enable you to be accepted by Christ as his follower. Just because you have been baptized, because you are an active member of your church, because you believe all the teachings of Christ, and even because you obey him and keep his commandments zealously, you don’t become a Christian. If in your heart and thoughts you are not fully convinced you are willing to give up even your father and mother and wife and children and your own life, if necessary to be faithful to God, you can never be looked upon by Christ as a Christian, as someone belonging to him. Either Jesus meant exactly what he stated, or he meant something else. Let your own understanding and sincerity determine that.

Does then giving up everything in life to follow Christ mean that like Buddha you leave your beloved family and your responsibilities in the family and go away to some remote corner of the earth and proclaim Christ? The Holy Spirit is our true teacher of the Word of God. Let him show us what Christ meant by this condition of discipleship.

Jesus meant that he is a most jealous God and Spouse.3 He will not in the least entertain a rival affection in your heart. His jealousy is like the jealousy of a righteous husband when his wife begins to shower more affection on other men than on him. It is a jealousy based on true unfailing love. A jealousy that is directed for the good of the one loved. God first loved us long before our parents and wife and children were even remotely in our thoughts. He gave us life and eternal hope. He gave himself for us before we even knew about him. And he wants us for himself and himself alone forever. Everything else he allows us to have in this life is like a fringe benefit, like the icing on a cake. Good to be enjoyed and appreciated for their limited value but could never begin to compare with the value of the real thing.

God wants us to make him our first love because he first loved us before everyone else and because he chose to love us unconditionally when we were without hope and squirming in our own filth waiting to perish eternally. If God loved us so much when we were still in our filthiness, how much more must he now love and rejoice over us who have begun to love him in return, though we be full of filthiness still!

O Christian, do you see how you should relate to such a God?  This is how: We should probe our every thought and intent and see if indeed God is our only basic love and happiness. If he allows us to have a little bit of fringe happiness in the form of our marriage and family and other temporal blessings, let’s enjoy them as long as we are given them. But the basis, the foundation, of all our happiness is God himself. Unless we can say with absolute conviction that the basis of all our happiness is God himself, we haven’t reached there yet.

If today all our fringe benefits are taken away from us, and every security structure vanishes from under us and we are left with God and God alone, how will we respond? Is your Christianity steadfast as long as you have certain basic conditions met in your life? Or will you continue to be faithful to him in any and every circumstance that he allows in your life? This is what our Savior desires to know about you above everything else.  And he will withhold every blessing, if need be, and allow you to go through every kind of suffering until he is convinced to his full satisfaction – and you too are in your conscience – that you are his alone.

Every trial, every affliction that comes to a child of God is for the sole purpose of drawing the person closer to God and of causing him to make God his first love and first joy. Remember, the Lord has promised that he will never leave you nor forsake you. He will never allow you to suffer beyond what you are able to endure.4 But that could sometimes mean that you might be left with nothing in this life except your joy in God and the basic material provisions for your survival. You could be left, as Baruch was, with just this one promise of God:

‘I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the land. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For I will bring disaster on all people, declared the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.’ Jer 45: 4-5

When the Lord begins to overthrow and uproot every idol in your life that’s competing with your Savior for your affection, your love and your time, that’s when you begin to see if you really belong to him.

Are you perhaps serving the Lord like an earnest minister of Christ did for many years until the Lord wanted to really know if this minister loved him literally more than anything else in this life? Here, listen to this eyeopening true story of a servant of God, as narrated by a pastor who knew him:

‘When I was a young pastor, I went to visit a man who had been one of my “heroes” and a friend. He had been the pastor of large churches, an author of some note and a famous evangelical leader. I went to visit him because he had just been told that he was dying of cancer.

I was very young and had not, to that point, found out that God’s servants also have “feet of clay”. An older friend who had been to see him almost every day subsequent to the diagnosis of cancer tried to prepare me for my visit. He said, “Steve, have you ever had all your security structure taken away? Have you ever been without any hope? Have you ever had every dream shattered and every desire destroyed?”

I admitted that I had never experienced that kind of pain.

“Then,” he said, “be careful that you don’t judge too harshly when you see one of your heroes broken, bitter and without any hope”.’
Source: ‘When Cliches Don’t Work’ by Steve Brown – The Plain Truth Online, September-October 1998

Is your only security structure your Savior Jesus Christ? Is your only dream to live and die for Christ, who died for you? Is your only hope the eternal joy that awaits you when your Lord comes? If you cannot affirmatively answer from your heart any of these questions, you are at risk of being broken, bitter and without any hope sooner or later.

O Christian, are you willing to forsake everything, even your own life if need be, to follow Christ? Until you are absolutely sure of this, you can never be absolutely sure you are a true Christian in God’s sight. Before you decide to want to be a true Christian, you are told to sit down and count the cost.

‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?…In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.’   Luke 14:28,33

But the most joyful news is, we have a Helper who can and will do for us exceedingly far more than all we ask or imagine.5 We need never fear we will fail to measure up to God’s expectations.  We need never fear if we will be able to cope with all that God would demand of us to be his own.  My life is a great testimony to the tenderness of God.  The harshness of the Christian life is only the initial growth pains. And we ourselves are responsible for prolonging it, because we delay committing our lives wholly to him. When we have proved that God indeed is our first love and have demonstrated it by being willing to give up our happiness based on everything in this life, then we begin to receive our joy from the Lord himself,6 then we begin to receive from him a hundredfold and more of all that we had given up.7

‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us…For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!’  Romans 5:6-10

‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’

‘This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.’

‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’

‘We love him, because he first loved us.’   1 John 3:1,16; 4:10,19

Let us therefore love him first, because he first loved us and gave up his life to save us from eternal death.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

1 Please refer to the English usage page in this website for information about this usage.
2 ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you.’   Is 49:15
3 ‘Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.’   Ex 34:14
4 ‘God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.’   1 Cor 10:13
5 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…’   Ep 3:20
6 ‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.’    John 15:11
7 ‘Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.’ ‘I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age…and in the age to come, eternal life.’   Matthew 19:29  Mark 10:29,30.