What you need today above everything else is peace

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Is there something troubling you today? Is it something to do with your health, or with the health of someone in your family? Perhaps it’s a problem in your job or business? Is it the relationship with your spouse? Or some problem your child is having? Or is it a general anxiety about the world situation today? Or is it that you need money for something urgent, and you just don’t have it and don’t know where you will get it from? Or could it be it is a secret sin you are struggling to overcome?

Listen, dear child of God. If you are going through one or more of the problems I mentioned earlier, I have an encouragement for you today that can bring you what you need above everything else right now. Many preachers give encouragement from their knowledge of God’s Word, but in many cases they do not speak from their personal experience. Which is quite ok. You can’t expect every preacher to experience directly what they preach about. The testimony of God’s Word is more than enough for them. But when a preacher occasionally gives you an encouragement from his direct experience of it, then I think there is an extra dimension of comfort and assurance in it.

I have gone through all the problems I mentioned in the beginning, plus some. And I have gone through them all in severe intensity, sometimes to such an extent that but for God’s timely intervention, death and destruction would have devastated my family. So please listen carefully, for I have an encouragement for you, if there’s something in your life today that is taking your peace away.

Perhaps you had been praying fervently for some time and nothing happened, and you feel it is useless continuing to pray as earnestly as you had been doing. Nothing may have happened in response to your prayer yet, but here’s how you will surely receive your answer — DON’T GIVE UP! Don’t give up praying for a miraculous deliverance. Never, never, never give up praying fervently for a miraculous deliverance! Because that’s exactly what the Enemy wants you to do. If you don’t give up praying for deliverance, then your answer is surely on the way. The delay in God’s answering you is purposeful. It is creating in you a steadfastness that only serious problems can produce in you. Continue asking fervently, perseveringly, and surely one of two kinds of deliverances will come to you.

This is the first kind of deliverance:  God will remove the problem that is troubling you by a miraculous intervention. Your healing will come, or your money will appear from an unexpected source, or something else will happen that will end the problem.

The second kind of deliverance is, the problem will not go away soon, and you will have to just endure it until it goes away by itself. Sometimes the problem may continue your whole life. If you had prayed fervently and the problem continues on and on, then that is EXACTLY what God wants you to go through. Just as he wanted Paul to experience the pain of a thorn in his flesh for his entire life, though Paul prayed for his deliverance from it repeatedly.  2 Cor 12:8-9  When permanent UNdeliverance is God’s answer to your prayer, then keep this truth in the forefront of your mind: He may allow your trouble to go on for a long time, or even for a lifetime, BUT ONLY AFTER HE HAS PROVIDED YOU THE MIRACULOUS STRENGTH FOR IT.

Remember this promise of your Savior whenever you begin to worry that you don’t have the strength to endure your trouble :

No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].   1 Cor 10:13 AMP

When I look back at nearly 50 years of various troubles I and my wife went through, I see that both kinds of deliverances have happened to us. I can’t say the exact proportion, but probably in the case of about half of our troubles, we were delivered out of them miraculously, and in the other half, we were delivered THROUGH them miraculously. Some of the troubles have continued to afflict us to this day even after nearly half a century since they began. But we have perfect peace in these troubles. We can easily endure them.

It is this peace that my wife and I are enjoying today that I want you too to be blessed with.  The way to that peace is simple, but it requires a firm decision on your part.  This is the way: First, don’t give up praying for a miraculous deliverance, and, second, don’t give up expecting God to deliver you miraculously in one of the two ways he always delivers his people from troubles.

Pour out your heart to him. Take ALL your troubles, bundle them into a sack and then, on your knees, throw them upon your Deliverer. That’s exactly the way the Bible tells you to do it. Listen to this verse.

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.   1 Pe 5:7 AMP

The word ‘casting’ in Greek literally means ‘throw upon, place upon’. The trouble that you throw upon him then becomes his personal trouble.

That’s what George Muller, one of the greatest servants of God, did, when he was pressed down with the burden of caring for ten thousand orphans. When asked how he could be so calm in the middle of a hectic day with so many uncertainties at the orphanage, George Muller answered, ‘I rolled sixty things onto the Lord this morning’. Now that great burden was off his shoulders, and was on God’s shoulders.

Precious child of God, who is going through some trouble right now, don’t give up praying for a miraculous deliverance.  Every morning when you get up, and every night before you go to bed, roll all your anxieties one by one into a sack, and then, while on your knees, throw them all upon the Lord. Trust this encouragement from your Lord:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Phil 4:6 NLT

And this is what is going to happen to you if you do that:

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  Phil 4:7 NLT

 

Pappa Joseph

 

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Harmless Objects Or Accursed Articles Which You Keep in Your House?

Let me say at the outset that this message is not about icons and symbols used in worship by certain churches in Christianity, which other denominations consider as idolatrous. The objects used in such worship include statuettes and images of the Virgin Mary, of the saints, lighting of candles, and even the cross. I have my personal views about the use of such representations of God and saints, but presently my message is about objects that every Christian should avoid because keeping them in the home, even as merely decorative items, is a clear violation of God’s commandments.

At my elder son’s wedding, he received a fancy gift from one of his previous employers. A long, elaborately carved wooden mask. My son, in turn, gifted it to us, and we hung it up on the wall of our living room. It was merely a decorative item in our view. As the days passed, whenever I looked at it, I got a slightly uneasy feeling. And then, one day, it suddenly dawned on me. It was an African voodoo mask! I don’t know why this realization escaped me earlier (perhaps God allowed it so the incident could inspire me one day to write this message).

As soon as my eyes were opened to see the decorative piece for what it was, I took it off the wall, and gave it to a neighbor who didn’t have any problem with it . That was about seven years ago, and I hadn’t received as much discernment about such objects as I have today. Had I today’s understanding then, I would not have merely yanked it off the wall and given it away; I would have taken it outside my apartment and flung it down the garbage chute. I would not have considered gifting the accursed object even to a pagan neighbor.

You see, voodoo and all such black magic arts have their origin in one common source – Satan. The ministers of Satan use black magic to deceive the ignorant masses of pagans into committing terrible sins that they would otherwise not do. An example is child sacrifice. Voodoo has caused the death of innumerable infants throughout history. Even as recently as 2001, voodoo claimed the life of a 6-year African boy, whose torso was found in the Thames river in England. The body was without its legs, arms, and head and had been entirely drained of its blood – evidence of a voodoo ritual.

According to Dr Richard Hoskins, a leading expert on African religion, then based at Bath University, and who worked on the case, ‘the sacrifice of animals happens throughout sub-Saharan Africa and is used to empower people, often as a form of protection from the wrath of gods. Human sacrifice is believed to be the most ‘empowering’ form of sacrifice – and offering up a child is the most extreme form of all’.   Daily Mail

That is why God hates everything that has some association with evil practices. And that is why I personally hate to keep a Christmas tree in my house. Now I am not at all saying that those Christians who keep such trees in their homes are committing sin. For them it is an innocent way to celebrate the birth of their Savior (although after decades of research I still can’t figure out the association between a conifer tree and baby Jesus). But the day will come sooner or later when the merciful Lord will open their eyes to how exactly he wants his people to honor the birth of his Son, and then nobody would be singing hymns to trees such as this famous carol:

‘O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
Not only green when summer’s here,
But also when ’tis cold and drear.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging!’

But for me and for many other Christians around the world, a Christmas tree reminds us, not of the unchanging leaves, but of the horrible human sacrifices that were committed under the original tree from which the Christmas tree had its origin. More about this origin in a separate message on Christmas and other Christian holidays of pagan origin. But to summarize here, from various sources:

The earliest reference to Christmas being marked on December 25 comes from the second century after Jesus’ birth. It is considered likely the first Christmas celebrations were in reaction to the Roman Saturnalia, a harvest festival that marked the winter solstice – the return of the sun – and honored Saturn, the god of sowing. Saturnalia was a rowdy time, much opposed by the more austere leaders among the still-minority Christian sect…By 529 AD, after Christianity had become the official state religion of the Roman Empire, Emperor Justinian made Christmas a civic holiday.   The Buffalo News, Nov. 22, 1984

The Roman Saturnalia was a festival that celebrated Saturn – the fire god. And fire gods have an insatiable appetite for child sacrifices. Here is a quote about the terrible practice associated with the worship of the fire god (known by various names such as Nimrod, Saturn, Kronos, Molech, and Baal), from ‘The Two Babylons’ by the late Rev Alexander Hislop, a Free Church of Scotland minister:

Now, this is in exact accordance with the character of the Great Head of the system of fire-worship. Nimrod, as the representative of the devouring fire to which human victims, and especially children, were offered in sacrifice, was regarded as the great child-devourer…he was, of course, the actual father of all the Babylonian gods; and, therefore, in that character he was afterwards universally regarded. As the Father of the gods, he was, as we have seen, called Kronos; and every one knows that the classical story of Kronos was just this, that, ‘he devoured his sons as soon as they were born.’ (Lempriere Classical Dictionary, ‘Saturn’)…This legend has a further and deeper meaning; but, as applied to Nimrod, or ‘The Horned One,’ it just refers to the fact, that, as the representative of Moloch or Baal, infants were the most acceptable offerings at his altar. We have ample and melancholy evidence on this subject from the records of antiquity. “The Phoenicians”, says Eusebius, “every year sacrificed their beloved and only-begotten children to Kronos or Saturn”.

For me, a Christmas tree is an accursed object to keep in my house. But for millions of other Christians, it is not, because they do not know yet. And God is not going to punish them for keeping something detestable in the house without knowing its sinister origins.

Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord: “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good.”   Jer 10:1-5

No Christian should keep an object that has any zodiac signs on it. Neither should they ever keep in their homes any book that espouses divination in the form of horoscope, astrology, numerology, and similar subjects. A Christian who, just for the sake of fun, only occasionally reads his horoscope in a magazine or newspaper just doesn’t understand how strongly God forbids such practice.

Where are all your astrologers, those stargazers who make predictions each month? Let them stand up and save you from what the future holds. But they are like straw burning in a fire; they cannot save themselves from the flame. You will get no help from them at all   Is 47:13-14 NLT

Reiki Healing Rainbow Pendant

No child of God should be deceived into using any article that comes wrapped as a medical device, such as gems for crystal healing, magnetic wristbands for pain relief, negative ion bracelets and necklaces for wellness, and other such objects. There is indeed power emanating out of these objects and users have felt their soothing effect. But it is a power that comes from a deceiving spirit. In the end, the person will be worse off than ever before.

No Bible believer should ever make any tattoo on his or her body. If you had tattooed before you came to Christ, God understands and you don’t have to worry about something you did in your pre-Christ days. But if there is some way you can get them removed, do all that is in your power to erase them from your body which Christ has redeemed with his own blood.

do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord.   Lev 19:28 NLT

No true Christian should keep a dvd or novel, or music that is X-rated in even a portion of its contents.

I love hip hop. And Eminem was my favorite, and I think he is the most gifted of singers in this cadre of music. Now, in listening to hip hop, I focus on the melody, not the words. I had been enjoying Eminem’s music on radio and tv and I hadn’t yet bought any of his cassettes (yes, there were still cassette players around in Eminem’s heydays). So one day, I walked into a music store and got my first audio cassette of his hit songs. I switched my cassette player and started swaying my body to his rhythmic words. Suddenly I stopped. I heard something I hadn’t heard before, because I hadn’t been listening attentively until now. Eminem was rapping unmentionable obscenities in his platinum-winning song. I sadly went to the blasting player, ejected the cassette, walked to the trash bin, and dumped it there, determined never to buy another Eminem music in my life.

Don’t allow even a friend or neighbor to keep an accursed object in your house for even an hour. We had a loyal maid, whose husband annually went on pilgrimage to his god on a high mountain in south India. Every time he returned he would bring home to his family sweetmeats and drinks that had been offered to appease his deity. After the propitiation, the offerings could be taken back home. Once, the maid brought home to us a can of delicious syrup that her husband had brought with precious care from the mountaintop abode of his god. It was her way of showing her appreciation of us. We knew it was accursed stuff, but we didn’t have the heart to decline it outright in her face. So we took it and kept it on top or our fridge, intending to garbage it at the first opportunity.

Some hours later, a heard a scream from my sister who was visiting us from Canada. I rushed to her in the hallway. ‘A huge snake, a huge snake!’ she screamed. I saw the snake sliding down the hallway and heading towards the fridge on top of which I could see the can with an image of a squatting god on it. The snake slithered under the fridge and disappeared. I looked all around the fridge with a long rod in my hand. But the snake was nowhere. It just disappeared. I thought it might have somehow managed to slip inside the fridge through some crevice. So I asked the maid to call her husband, and together we took the fridge outside and dismantled it. But no son of a Serpente anywhere.

Now, this could be a mere coincidence, but a snake entering our house and heading straight for the image of its father on the fridge top was an unforgettably scary experience for me and my sister. As for the serpent’s mysterious disappearance, probably it might have managed to slip out of the house during the few seconds I went to get a rod to break its spine. But we determined, coincidence or not, that we were never going to let into our lives even for a moment any object that is a delight to the devil’s heart.

Don’t take a casual attitude about accursed objects, as some Israelites did, and suffered for it.

And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things   Josh 6:18

There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you…And Achan answered Joshua and said, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them.   Josh 17:13-21

After reading his message, look around in your house and in your personal life. Is every object, small and big, around you a blessing from our Father in heaven, and a delight to him?

Perhaps the object might not be a tangible article in your home. Perhaps it’s something solid in your mind. Is there a little object somewhere in the recesses of your mind you are not sure how our God looks upon it? There is no room for the least doubt in such matters in a true Christian’s life. If you have any doubt, go on your knees and ascertain from God what he thinks about it. If you are fervent about pleasing him in every small and great area of your life, he will surely reveal his thoughts about it to you.

Even years after I had given my heart and mind to Christ, I would discover now and then some small area in my consciousness that I had been harboring within me ignorantly but which was, if not an accursed thing, an object that did not add to my glorifying God in my life. I would then, with Christ’s help, remove it absolutely from my life.

May God keep your life pure from everything that defiles, from everything that does not delight him to the utmost!

 

Pappa Joseph

 

Don’t Settle for Silver, But Be An Utmost Servant of God

 

The extent of the glory of your crown in the Kingdom of God will depend on whether your work for the Lord now is being built with gold, silver, or precious stones.

 

One language usage in the Bible that keeps recurring in reference to the character and actions of people are the three states of an adjective – positive, comparative, superlative. The words most used to denote one of these states are: more, most; good, better, best; mighty, mightier; great, greater, greatest; holy, holier, holiest; less, lesser, least; pure, purer, purest.

A few other forms are also used to show the relative degree of an attribute or state, such as ‘well’ (‘well-pleased’), ‘very’ (‘very good’); ‘much’ (‘much afraid’), ‘greatly’ (‘greatly beloved’), etc.

When these words are used in reference to a man or woman, they show to what extent this person is esteemed, either in the eyes of the people, or of God. Here are a few passages that show that:

for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons   Ruth 4:15

Ruth is not just as good as seven sons in the estimate of Naomi’s friends; she is better than all of them put together.

And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!”   Dan 10:19

Daniel is not merely a man beloved of God, he is someone greatly beloved in his Lord’s eyes.

Now, if you are a Christian who desires to serve God to the best of your capability – to your utmost for his highest glory – there are two teachings of Jesus Christ that should constantly inspire and guide all your thoughts and efforts.

In the first teaching, Jesus describes two categories of people who will be in his Kingdom. One category are those who taught others that they are not under the law but under grace and therefore there is no more requirement for them to keep the minor statutes and precepts given to Israel through Moses. Jesus said that this category of servants will be called ‘the least’ in the Kingdom of God.

Do not think that I came to do away with or undo the Law [of Moses] or the [writings of the] Prophets; I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you and most solemnly say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke [of the pen] will pass from the Law until all things [which it foreshadows] are accomplished. So whoever breaks one of the least [important] of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least [important] in the kingdom of heaven   Mt 5:18-19 AMP

But there is another category of people who will be called ‘great’ in the Kingdom.

but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.   Mt 5:19

In the second teaching, Jesus says the Kingdom of God is like a nobleman traveling to a far country Lk 19, My 25. Before he goes, he delivers a mina each (worth about three months’ salary) to his ten servants. On his return, he rewards each servant according to how well he used the money. The one who made the most profitable use of the mina is made ruler over ten cities, and the one who earned half as much is made ruler over five cities.

We are now not concerned about the one who did not earn anything. This message is for servants of God doing their Lord’s work faithfully on earth – some doing their ten minas’ worth of work, and the others half as much.

Here’s another analogy of how a Christian servant’s work will be evaluated by God:

The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor…I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care…If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 1 Cor 3:8-14  NIV

Again, let us not concern ourselves in this message about the builders who used combustible material such as wood or straw to build their ministry. Let us focus on those three categories of servants whose work survived the fire.

There are Christians today who, in the sight of God are doing their work with gold, some have work that is ‘silver’ in God’s sight, and the work of some others he looks upon as precious stones.

Now the most crucial question every servant of Christ should often ponder in his service to God is, ‘Am I going to be called ‘the least’, or ‘great’ by Jesus? Am I building the work of God with the best material or the second-best material?

Can we really know in which category of faithful servants we are likely to be classified according to our present works? I think we can. At the end of his life, Paul was confident he had done his very best, and that henceforth he could look forward to receiving the crown from his Lord.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.   2 Tm 4:6-8

Based on Christ’s own words, we can be confident we will be called ‘great’ when he comes if we love and keep and teach God’s every little and great commandment in the entirety of his Word.

We know we can not only be in the category of servants who will be called great in the Kingdom, but we can also be counted among Gods’ people who will be called ‘the greatest’ if we will humble ourselves as a little child before God.

Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.   Mt 18:3-4

We can be confident we are building the Lord’s work with the best material, with gold, if we stop trying to build it ourselves and wait on the Lord in faith to provide us the gold in his own time. Any ministry that did not wait fully for the Lord’s direction and timing can be built only with lesser materials. How many great ministries have I seen which, when the fire of testing came, burnt to cinders! One of them badly burnt me personally as well.

Coronation of H.M. George VI and Queen Elizabeth. 1936.

There is one other way, which indeed is the surest way to know if we will receive a good resurrection or a better resurrection Heb 11:35, or if God will call us good, great or greatest, or if at the end of our ministry on earth, our work for God will continue to go on unaffected come inferno or inundation, or if it will be totally or partially consumed when the fiery testing comes.

And that way is to simply go to God on your knees as often as you remember and pray fervently as the psalmist did:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.   Ps 139:23-24  NLT

God’s utmost desire, like that of any good human father, is for you and me to seek from him what’s the very best, and not what’s just good or better; to ask him to mold you so he can call you not just great, but the greatest; that you rely on him like a weaned child relies on his mother for everything you desire to do for him; and that what you do for him will last forever like the mansions in his kingdom.

You would often meditate at night and search your own heart, and implore God to show you if there is any area in your life where you may be presently doing only half as much as you could – or even only 90 percent of what you really could do if you put your whole heart into it. You would cry out to God to reveal to you any shortcoming in your life that may be causing you to build your work with silver and precious stones, instead of gold. You would diligently ask him to equip you with qualities that will qualify you to eventually rule over the maximum number of cities…to your Father’s utmost delight.

May our Lord give you the assurance every day of your life that you are loving God to your utmost, and that you are showing your love for him by doing the utmost you can to share God’s love and blessings with your neighbor.

Then one of the scribes came, and…asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, with ALL your soul, with ALL your mind, and with ALL your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”   Mk 12:28-31. Emphasis mine.

Don’t settle for kingship of just five cities in the Kingdom of God. Go for the utmost God is willing to grant you. And he is willing to grant you more than you can ever ask or think   Eph 3:20.

 

 Pappa Joseph

 

 

The Lover Who Longs to Hear Your Voice First Thing in the Morning

 

Courtesy: Skeeze from Pixabay

 

Have you ever fallen in love? If you have, was it not the most thrilling experience you have ever had until then? Every word your lover speaks to you, every syllable and sigh e utters, every call you get from em, every text you receive from em, they all have your utmost attention and interest, above everything else that happens that day. More than every other desire of the day, you yearn to hear the voice of your lover and feel the passion of es love for you.

With a far greater intensity of desire and thrill of a man or a woman yearning for the sound of es lover’s voice, there is someone waiting to hear your voice and feel your passion first thing in the morning. Our Savior is – more than he is your Lord, more than he is your brother, more than he is your best friend – your yearning lover.

He fell in passionate love with you secretly long before you even knew such a lover existed. And then he began to reveal himself to you slowly, patiently, and you came to see his awesomeness, his power, his glory, his enrapturing beauty. But he was still only your Lord in your heart. Then, over a period of acquaintance, growing companionship, heightening intimacy of friendship, it began to dawn on you he is actually your personal lover, who has been loving you since long before you began to love him. So great is his love for you that he joyfully chose to give up his life to save you from the sentence of eternal death that was pending upon you from the moment of your conception, so that he can enjoy your love for him, your passion for him, and your beauty in his sight, forever and ever.

Look at you, my dearest darling, you are so lovely!
You are beauty itself to me.   Song 1:15 TPT

The one thing I ask of the Lord – the thing I seek most – is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord, filled with awe, delighting in his glory and grace.   Ps 27:4 NLT, NIV, TPT

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Our Feelings Are Often Our Deadliest Enemy

 

Courtesy: Jill Wellington from Pixabay

 

Feelings were created by our Maker for our utmost pleasure. But when man fell into sin, feelings became man’s second greatest enemy, after the Devil himself. It is only when a person has received the Holy Spirit, does the original purpose of feelings work in es life.

Even in fallen man, feelings have a great role in making es life happier and safer. Such feelings are those relating to falling in love, paternal affection, friendship, thrill in wholesome encounters, and many other positive emotions. But overall, the heart, the generator and harborer of all feelings, in such a person is full of deceit, and desperately wicked. Jer 17:9 It is feelings that incite a man or a woman to anger, hate, lust, pride, jealousy, resentment, murder, rebellion, and all other negative emotions.

In a person begotten of the Holy Spirit, feelings are the greatest tool of both the Devil and our natural man to lead us to temptation. Temptation without feeling is no temptation but only a proposition to the soul. When Jesus was tempted with food after his forty days of fasting, his feeling of hunger was beyond human comprehension. But some temptations are not real temptations, but only propositions because there is no feeling involved. Satan’s temptation of Jesus with all the glory of the world’s kingdoms was no temptation at all, but only a silly proposition given in a desperate bid. Because there was no feeling in Jesus to have what was offered. Usually, Satan does not bother to lure a person with a temptation for which e has no feelings. For example, if the Devil were to tempt me with a cool offer of a million dollars by some easy fraud, that’s no temptation at all, but a silly thought to me. Similarly, for any temptation that you do not have a feeling for.

But the Devil knows exactly what are the specific feelings you have submerged in your heart. As a Christian, you don’t allow anymore the evil feelings to override your will and cause you to sin. But often, the negative feelings in a Godly person are strong, and there is a struggle to suppress the feelings and act contrary to the natural feelings. Sometimes, the struggle ends in the failure of the will and in the victory of the feelings. An example is when David was overwhelmed by his feelings for Bathsheba while he was pacing about on the terrace of his palace. Think of a case in your own life, where, after you became a Christian, you yielded to your feelings contrary to the injunctions of your will.

I cannot put even a rough estimate of the percentage of good feelings and evil feelings in a Christian. Perhaps, 50 percent of the feelings in em are good and 50 percent evil. Perhaps only 10 percent of feelings in such a Godly person is positive, and 90 percent evil. The latter is probably the proportion in my case, and probably also in the case of Paul, who cried out against his feelings, ‘O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?’ Rm 7:24 ‘Body of death’ is just another term for the powerful feelings of the natural man buried inside our body.

Often, when a strong feeling fills you, and the Holy Spirit gives you discernment that it is not from your ‘I’ but from the sinful man lurking inside you Rm 7:20, the best response is to act exactly the opposite of what your feelings want you to do.

The Lord give you the discernment and the power to always react toward your feelings in perfect accord with your will, which is always directed by the Holy Spirit.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Are Prosperity Preachers Proclaiming the True Gospel?

 

 

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!   Mt 7:11

If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?   Lk 12:28

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.   3 Jn 1:2

The above three verses from God’s Word should be enough to convince even a diehard of a traditional Christian that the prosperity preachers are preaching the right good tidings.

But these verses aren’t convincing enough for the traditionalists.

Prosperity-promoting evangelists are derisively referred to as ‘health-wealth-stealth’ preachers by the poverty preachers (I don’t have an official term for the non-prosperity preachers). The ‘stealth’ is not verbally articulated by the traditionalists, but it is loudly declared in their attitude toward their fellow evangelists in the prosperity party of the gospel, because they think this is how health-wealth preachers inveigle themselves into the hearts of gullible people looking for some God-divulged way to escape their penury.

I have three children. I want them to be in the pink of health, have elegant homes with ornate stairways in the midst of beautiful surroundings, with lots of money so they need never be in want and get into debt. I want them to wear clothes that are chic, made of the best fabric and styled by the best designers. I want the best of everything in life for my kids. Why? Because I love them more than my life.

But God says he too loves to give my children good gifts, except that in his case he wants to give them ‘much more’ – beyond what I humanly could ever do. And my Father has already proven to me ‘how much more’ he is willing to give good gifts to my kids, and of course, to me as well.

This is exactly the message that prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Jesse Duplantis, T. D. Jakes, Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts, and thousands of others of their preaching ilk, are telling their congregations week after week, telecast after telecast. So why are they attacked en masse by other equally earnest Christians?

So, am I too a prosperity preacher? Not quite.

Is Joel Osteen influencing his congregation to commit sin or is he encouraging them to keep God’s commandments?

What exactly is the ‘prosperity gospel’?

Wikipedia gives a blunt but reasonably factual description of this relatively new theology, which I believe is true in the majority of the cases of prosperity preaching I have observed:

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel) is a Christian religious doctrine that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one’s material wealth. Based on non-traditional interpretations of the Bible, often with emphasis on the Book of Malachi, the doctrine views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver his promises of security and prosperity. Confessing these promises to be true is perceived as an act of faith, which God will honor.

Wealth is interpreted in prosperity theology as a blessing from God, obtained through a spiritual law of positive confession, visualization, and donations. This process is often taught in almost mechanical terms; Kenneth Copeland, an American author and televangelist, argues that prosperity is governed by laws, while other teachers portray the process formulaically. Journalists David van Biema and Jeff Chu of Time have described Word of Faith pastor Creflo Dollar’s teachings about prosperity as an inviolable contract between God and humanity.

The doctrine emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment, proposing that it is God’s will for his people to be happy. The atonement is interpreted to include the alleviation of sickness and poverty, which are viewed as curses to be broken by faith. This is believed to be achieved through visualization and positive confession, and is often taught in mechanical and contractual terms. Positive confession is the doctrine that believers may claim whatever they desire from God, simply by speaking it. Prosperity theology teaches that the Bible has promised prosperity for believers, so positive confession means that believers are speaking in faith what God has already spoken about them. Positive confession is practiced to bring about what is already believed in; faith itself is a confession, and speaking it brings it into reality.

Prosperity churches place a strong emphasis on the importance of giving. Services commonly include two sermons, one of which focuses on giving and prosperity, including Biblical references to tithing; a second sermon on another topic follows the offering. Prosperity church leaders often bestow a specific blessing on the money being donated, some have even been reported to instruct worshipers to hold their donations above their heads during the prayer.

Churches in which the prosperity gospel is taught are often non-denominational and usually directed by a sole pastor or leader, although some have developed multi-church networks that bear similarities to denominations. Such churches typically set aside extended time to teach about giving and request donations from the congregation, encouraging positive speech and faith.

Prosperity theology has been criticized by leaders in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, as well as other Christian denominations. These leaders maintain that it is irresponsible, promotes idolatry, and is contrary to Scripture. Some critics have proposed that prosperity theology cultivates authoritarian organizations, with the leaders controlling the lives of the adherents.

That, in essence, sums up the doctrine and ministry of prosperity preachers.

I have listened to many preachings by such preachers and have studied literature sent out by their churches. In fact, I think God used one of them, Kenneth Copeland, many years ago to warn me of an urgent course of action I needed to take to avoid danger to my health. I enjoyed listening to Jesse Duplantis’ hilarious anecdotes and could never have enough of his messages. Even today, if I had the time, I would enjoy listening to him; I think he is the most entertaining preacher in this generation – one of the extremely few who do not cause me to involuntarily doze off in the middle of their sermons.

From all that I have heard and read from them, I can vouch that to this day I have not found any prosperity preacher teaching a single doctrine that would keep them out of the Kingdom of God.  I have not heard a single one of them condoning the breaking of any of God’s commandments. I have yet to hear any of them condoning, say, abortion, or homosexuality, which some great traditional churches, including the Anglican church and many Baptist churches, condone or even warmly embrace.

In 2002, the Diocese of New Westminster, in the Anglican Church of Canada, permitted the blessing of same-sex unions. In 2003 the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire elected an openly gay priest, Gene Robinson, as a bishop. This came shortly after a similar controversy in England when a gay priest, Canon Jeffrey John, was appointed to become the Suffragan Bishop of Reading. Eventually, however, John agreed to withdraw in order to avoid division. In 2004, in the aftermath of Robinson’s election as bishop, John was installed as Dean of St Albans, the cathedral there being the site of England’s first Christian martyr.

In a 2007 speech to theology students in Toronto, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, argued that conservatives have failed to consider the wider context of Romans 1:27, which states, “and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for error”. Williams pointed out that although St. Paul and his contemporaries viewed homosexual behavior “as obviously immoral as idol worship or disobedience to parents”, the main thrust of this passage is that humans must not judge one another for being sinful.   Wikipedia

When an Archbishop declares from his ecclesiastical high seat that what the Scriptures wrote was St. Paul’s and his contemporaries’ view, and by implication not necessarily the view of all Christianity, and that the main thrust of Paul’s message is not to condemn homosexuality but rather not to judge, we have a terrible Christian situation which the wealthiest of prosperity preachers will never put themselves in.

Now, here is my counsel to all people of God, who ‘desire the pure milk of the word’ 1 Pe 2:2 and who are eager ‘to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints’ Jude 1:3.

Understand that it is not the prosperity doctrine or their preachers themselves that is the problem. We don’t know their motives and only God knows how many of them are preaching out of their lust for wealth and fame, and how many out of their sincere conviction of God’s Word. But we can look at the fruits, and judge the fruits, for only by the fruits we can know if such teachings are good for us or not.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.   Mt 7:15-17

The fact is, the followers of prosperity preachers are producing both good fruit and bad fruit in their lives.

They produce good fruit when they understand that certain decisions and positive courses of action in their lives can lift them from a chronic sense of failure and hopelessness. Many are the testimonies of God’s people, including me, who have benefited from the teachings of these preachers. There is encouragement, there is upliftment, there are positive steps to counter negative influences in a person’s life. If that person sincerely strives to apply the teachings of their prosperous pastors, they too are likely to receive a measure of physical and financial blessings. And some of the more talented ones among their followers can themselves eventually become prosperous purveyors of the heath-wealth gospel.

God has nowhere forbidden his servants from owning one or more of the top of the class executive jets. But, then, Jesus did not prefer a sleek silver chariot to make his celebrated entrance to Jerusalem but chose a young donkey. Shown here a Cessna Citation X, preferred by some of the wealthier prosperity preachers.

Most prosperity preachers today are prosperous servants of God because they learned the art from the pioneers of this modern theology. Perhaps there are some who, after a deep study of the Scriptures and after much fasting and prayer, were given the revelation of the wealth-health gospel by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps.

In my case, after a several-year period of fascination working out the steps and laws and keys to the abundant life as taught by the merry preachers, I was eventually forced to my knees in fasting and prayer to seek on my own the real gospel from God’s Word. And what I write here is the result of what God has given me after I had fully surrendered my life to him.

So, beloved child of God, listen carefully to what I say here, and may God open your eyes as he did mine.

I mentioned that followers of the prosperity preachers can reap good fruits in their lives if they sincerely and consistently apply the teachings. If you are a founder of a company or a ceo, you will definitely benefit much from heeding the management advice of successful entrepreneurs such as Herbert Kelleher, or Peter Drucker, or Jack Welch, Lee Iacocca (to mention a few of the esteemed management teachers). The principles they espouse do bear fruits in the physical and financial spheres.

Kenneth Copeland pointed his finger at me from the TV screen, many years ago, and told me to “stop taking sugar in your life”. Even as I listened to him, I knew in my conscience I should begin to heed his advice immediately, but I postponed. Chocolates and ice-creams and cakes were the favorite foods in my life. Within a couple of years I became a diabetic, and today I have to consume tablets in the morning and pills in the evening to keep my blood glucose level normal. How I wished I had acted immediately on hearing God’s admonition through Copeland.

But many other teachings of the prosperity preachers I listened to in those days proved unfruitful, and had I continued to practice them, they would have had a spiritually disastrous effect on me and my family.

Now let me mention some of the bad fruits of prosperity preaching.

As I mentioned, I could not find one doctrine among the many prosperity teachings I heard that did not have the Bible as its source. That is, they are all factually and technically true.

Yes, the Bible says it is God’s will to bless you with abundant life. Yes, many of God’s greatest servants, like Abraham and Job were highly prosperous people. Yes, the book of Malachi encourages you to prove God’s faithfulness by offering your tithes to him, and you are promised that if you do, you will receive such a measure of blessings you won’t have room enough in your barns to receive them all.

And there lies the crux of the danger of prosperity preaching. It is not the truth or untruth of what is preached, but the focus and defocus of what is given to the congregation.

Have you considered the content of a prosperity sermon? It is 99 percent, probably more so, focused on how to be wealthy, healthy, happy, and successful as a Christian. It is not dissimilar to a self-improvement seminar presenter elaborating to his audience about the seven laws of financial success.

But didn’t Christ come for this very purpose?

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.   Jn 10:10

But there is a path every single born-again Christian has to walk before he or she can enter that abundant life. And no matter how many laws of abundance and success you earnestly apply in your life, that initial path is promised to be full of troubles and difficulties. It is a narrow path on a dangerous ledge, and if you are a normal human being, you are going to slip on that path many times, be badly bruised often, even seriously injured a few times, and perhaps once or twice even totter dangerously on the brink of a precipice. A few, like me, might actually even fall over the ledge into a deep abyss and think they are as good as dead.

If you want the abundant life, you are have to first walk the path that Christ walked.

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.”   Mt 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.   Lk 14:26-27

Maybe some prosperity preachers do quote these verses now and then, but if they want to reap all the benefits of preaching the prosperity gospel, they cannot dwell long on this troubling aspect of the gospel. Who wants to donate a thousand dollars to their favorite evangelist so he could buy a $20 million Cessna Citation X executive jet and go to other nations with the good news, or build a mansion with bathrooms equipped with gold-rimmed washbasins, if he going to keep telling his congregation that to receive this promised life of abundance they have to first give up even the few remaining abundance in their lives before they can follow Christ? If they preach that, they would see their offertories bringing hardly enough tithes even to hire a single-seater Piper aircraft.

What will the prosperity preacher preach to the children or the father of the woman who recently had to give up her life to follow Christ? Just three days before I began to write this message, I got the following news:

A Christian widow has been shot dead in her home in northeast Colombia by guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN).
On 7 January, as the family’s pastor finished an evening devotional in the home of widow, Alicia Castilla, assassins entered the home and opened fire on her with pistols, killing her instantly in front of her three children and her father. The attack occurred four months after the militant group sent Alicia their first demand to abandon her home in Colombia’s volatile Arauca department.
Before leaving the home, the guerrillas told Alicia’s son, 18-year-old Hernán, that the rest of the family had three days to leave the region. After that, the killers warned, they would return and kill other family members one by one.
Alicia’s death follows the murder of her husband, lay evangelist Nelson Ramos, two years before, in January 2011, also at the hands of the ELN. Ramos, who had come to faith in Christ two years before his death, often shared the gospel in Saravena, a town near Colombia’s border with Venezuela. A few months after his conversion, the ELN issued its first expulsion order against him and his family.   World Watch Monitor

What will the prosperity preacher preach to the young woman, Esther, whose father Graham Staines and two little brothers, Philip and Timothy, aged 11 and 9, were burnt alive in their vehicle by a mob of Hindu fanatics because they were preaching Christ to the villagers? Would the abundant life promoters tell her that had her father been applying the laws of visualization and positive confession in his life they could have averted the tragedy?

That greatest of all preachers after Christ…what was Paul’s focus in all his preachings? ‘but we preach Christ crucified’, he declared bluntly. 1 Cor 1:23.

The Christian life begins with not physical and financial euphoria. It begins by taking up the very cross that Christ himself carried and then following the path to Calvary, where you end up being crucified and liberated from your old life.

Sometimes the crucifixion ends with the literal death of the person, as in the case of Ramos and Alicia, and Staines. But far more often, the crucifixion ends with the death of the old self of a person, and this could, in the lives of some people, be as painful as a physical death on the cross.

He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.   Jn 12:25

To give up all your desires in life, and, if need be, even your wife and children if they stand as obstacles in your walk on the Christ path, requires a transformation of your attitude which is possible only by the working of the Holy Spirit in you. No man or woman can naturally die such a death so e can enter the eternally abundant life.

Prosperity preachers are not preaching the wrong gospel. But they are not preaching the full gospel. And they have got the order of God’s blessings in a Christian’s life all mixed up.

Preach the cross of Christ first. Let that be the first and great focus of all your sermons. Preach repentance from the self-life. Without surrendering the self-life, the prosperity gospel serves only to satisfy the cravings of the heart for worldly success and profane pleasures. When you give up all your personal desires to live for Christ and Christ alone, you enter a new dimension of prosperous living – spiritually, physically, and mentally, and, eventually, materially and financially as well.

There is another wonderful truth about the full gospel. Prosperity preachers can preach success and happiness to a person as long as he or she is not under severe affliction. But their teachings become pathetically ineffective in the time of their followers’ adversity. But the abundant life promised by Christ to those who follow him faithfully all the way to his crucifixion is lifelasting and remains steadfast in every circumstance.

Sometimes it takes many years before a true follower of Christ reaps financial and physical abundance. A very few receive it earlier. Many, like my friend, Britto Antony, a Godly quadriplegic and a cretin of about two feet – who had to be carried around like a baby from place to place by a caretaker – never received it in this life and will receive it only when his Lord returns.

But the vast majority will receive many, many blessings in this life itself, some 10 times, some 100 times, more than they had given up to follow Christ.

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold…NOW IN THIS TIME – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life.   Mt 19:29 merged with Mk 10:30. Emphasis mine

And the very few who do not receive back in full or greater measure what they had given up? The loss doesn’t trouble them anymore, for they rejoice over the far greater spiritual blessings they now have, such as joyous family relationships, peace of mind, sense of absolute security that all their needs will be taken care of, good health, work satisfaction, and much more!

In my own life and my wife’s life, which till very recently were filled to the brim and overflowing with troubles of a magnitude that most Christians do not experience, hundredfold is too small a multiple. I think God has given me about 100,000 times what I had to give up for him. And I did give up almost everything that I had been holding on preciously in my life so I could be a faithful follower of Christ. I had to give up my traditional church, my lifestyle, my wife and children (not physically, by God’s mercies, but emotionally and geographically for many years), my reputation, my freedom, my job, my financial security, a glamorous career as a model, an incredible offer to be a movie actor, and more. And I consider them all but rubbish in comparison to what God has given me in their place today.

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ   Phil 3:7-8

Today, this verse that I quoted at the beginning of this message has special relevance to me:

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!

But I still have a lot of troubles and persecutions and expect to have them till my last day on earth. But they do not overwhelm me anymore, for I know I can overcome every one of them as they come up by standing aside and letting the Captain of my life battle them all for me. I just stand on the sidelines holding and waving triumphantly the red banner of victory dyed in my Lord’s blood. I have absolutely no part in this battle against my physical and spiritual adversaries, there is absolutely nothing I can do to contribute to the outcome of the battle, except to keep waving the banner and trusting my Helper’s ability to crush my deadly enemies to dust. After the battle is over, I help my Lord clear the debris strewn on my path as a result of the great conflict that had been waged.

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do NOTHING.   Jn 15:5. Emphasis mine.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies…He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place…You have subdued under me those who rose up against me. You have also given me the necks of my enemies, so that I destroyed those who hated me…Then I beat them as fine as the dust before the wind; I cast them out like dirt in the streets…It is God who avenges me, and subdues the peoples under me; He delivers me from my enemies.   Ps 18

Today, I don’t have yet the material abundance that prosperity preachers exult about – I don’t even own a home of my own, nor have even a car – but I am busy living the abundant life so much that all my days are filled with wondrous excitement and anticipation. I feel I am prosperous beyond measure. And that’s something everyone who has given up given everything for Christ will always feel – that they are prosperous beyond measure – irrespective of the amount they have in their bank account.

Even materially, I am being provided all my needs, and many of my desires – miraculously – even though I personally could not afford any of them by my own income. Someone has taken an elegant apartment for us and paid the rent in advance, without we even mentioning to anyone, except to our Father, our need for a place to stay. And whenever we want to go to a place beyond what our own legs could take us, someone always comes forward and offers to convey us there in his car. Someone even gave me, without my asking for it, this latest expensive Apple computer on which I am now writing this message. Prior to this heavy-duty marvel, I had only a lowcost teeny laptop to do all my vast ministry work.

But the best part is only coming. And I will keep declaring to my brothers and sisters and children in the Lord worldwide all that that our Father is doing for me and through me. I feel in my very cells that the Lord will grant me even the whole world as my field of ministry if I ask him for it.

Most assuredly, I say to you, WHATEVER you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be FULL.   Jn 16:23-24. Emphasis mine.

That’s something everyone who has given up given everything for Christ will always feel – that their joy is full, and that they are prosperous beyond measure.


Prosperity preachers are not preaching the wrong gospel. But they are not preaching the FULL gospel. And they have got the order of God’s blessings in a Christian’s life all mixed up.


Now, lest any child of God fear that he or she does not have what it takes to surrender their self totally to Christ and go through all the initial tribulations of carrying Christ’s cross, here is my testimony for your encouragement and enlightenment.

In over 40 years of my following Christ, I have suffered innumerable trials, about some of which you may read in my other messages in this website. But even as I went through each flood and fire, God was there holding my hand firmly and never letting me go, no, not once. I thought on many occasions he had slackened his firm grip on me, or even abandoned me, only to find later he was there all along holding me as firmly as ever, and sometimes, when I felt too weak to walk, carrying me in his bosom.

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.   Is 43:2

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

He will never abandon you even for a second, no matter what great trouble befalls you either because of your follies and sins, or because of persecutions.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?   Rm 8:35

But the most comforting assurance for me is that he never once let me suffer any trouble that was beyond my ability to endure, but he always provided a way for me to somehow bear it until it was past.

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

As that great woman of God, Mother Teresa, stated it,

I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.

That is the real gospel, the true Christian walk, that is the true abundant life – far more overflowing, far more joyful and peaceful than that any prosperity gospel can offer.

So am I saying never listen to prosperity preachers? Not at all. Listen if you have the time for it, and see if there are any nuggets of practical wisdom you can use to your benefit as you carry the cross of Christ.

But take every care not to be lured by the prosperity promise of immediate wealth and success. God is more interested in your faithfulness to him than your earthly success. For him, faithfulness in the midst of a life of troubles is the greatest success in the universe. Focus your life solely on being daily faithful to him, even in the least areas, and he will take it upon himself to give you success in his own way and in his own time.

But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.   Mt 6:33  AMP

I always keep foremost in my mind what Mother Teresa said and exemplified by her life:

God didn’t call me to be successful; God called me to be faithful.

We cannot know the inner motives of any preacher. He may preach a hundred percent doctrinally sound gospel, and yet be a ravening wolf inside. He may preach many errors, but be highly esteemed in God’s sight. I believe that many, perhaps, most, are earnest and faithful servants of Christ who, for reasons only God knows, have not received the understanding of the full gospel of Christ. Remember what Christ told his disciples about a preacher who was not one of Christ’s known followers:

Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side.”   Mk 9:38-40

If the preacher is on the Lord’s side, if he is not propagating that Jesus is a mere prophet and not the Son of God, if he does not condone homosexuality or any other sinful acts of his people, if he is proclaiming there is only one Way and one Name by which man can be saved – then he is accepted of Christ – whether he is a screaming Pentecostal, or a strange Mormon, or a mitered Orthodox, or even a prosperous plump preacher flying in his own Gulfstream IV jet.

When you give up everything to follow Christ, you will find abundant life and excitement even in the simplest living circumstances.   Courtesy: Namlhots

One of the tragic outcomes of focusing on the prosperity gospel without a far greater focus on the cross of Christ is that followers will embrace with gladness the teachings of the preacher, but when the testings of the true Christian life begin, they draw away, disillusioned not only with the preacher but with Christ and Christianity itself.

These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.   Mk 4:16-18

Prosperity preachers had told me, ‘When God is pleased with you, he prospers you’. After decades of trying to please him in all sincerity and earnestness, and yet sinking further and further into financial debt and personal weaknesses, I gave up altogether not only the prosperity gospel but the entire package, including Christianity and Christ. I tried to find refuge in another religion, and today would have been preaching an anti-Christ gospel instead of this message. But, Christ, who promised that he will never abandon us or forsake us, even when we forsake him, pulled me out of my deadly spiritual situation and embraced me with such intense affection and assurance that I decided I want to do nothing else in life but just tell people around the world what awesome love and mercy, and incidentally, what great prosperity, God is waiting to fill our lives with.

Today I can preach both the cross and the prosperity message because I have received in full measure both the tribulations and jubilations of Christ in me.

Today I can comfort the afflicted and I can also encourage the prosperous, because I have been comforted and encouraged by our Father.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.   2 Cor 1:3-5

As for the prosperity preachers, if you aren’t happy with their gospel, don’t judge them, don’t condemn them. Leave them alone. God will reveal their motives on that day when every preacher will be tested for their faithfulness to Christ.

Thus says the Lord concerning the [false] prophets who lead my people astray;
When they have something good to bite with their teeth,
They call out, “Peace,”
But against the one who gives them nothing to eat,
They declare a holy war.
Therefore it will be night (tragedy) for you – without vision,
And darkness (cataclysm) for you—without foresight.
The sun shall go down on the [false] prophets,
And the day shall become dark and black over them.
The seers shall be ashamed
And the diviners discredited and embarrassed;
Indeed, they shall all cover their mouths [in shame]
Because there is no answer from God.
But in fact, I am filled with power,
With the Spirit of the Lord,
And with justice and might,
To declare to Jacob his transgression
And to Israel his sin.   Mi 3:5-8 AMP

Pappa Joseph

 

 

A Great Leader in the Church, but a Failure at Home

 

Image by Monika Robak from Pixabay

 

Among the greatest Godly leaders mentioned in the Bible are also the greatest failures as fathers. That seems like an impossible paradox. How can a man be great in his relationship with God while he is an utter failure in his home? But the mystery of truth is that such paradoxes do happen.

I haven’t taken a count yet, but it seems to me that there are more failed fathers and husbands among the Bible heroes than there are those who have successfully parented their children and happily spoused their wives.

The greatest failure as a father and a husband is one of the greatest men of God, David. Is there any other Godly man whose many sons, every one of them, turned out to be unGodly? The one seeming exception, Solomon, was an exception only in his younger days, for in his old age he too turned to idolatry. Worse, he fathered children who were even more profane than his brothers.

The second greatest failure as a father, among other Bible greats, is Samuel. This man is so great in God’s sight that he is one of the two persons (the other is Moses) given special mention by the Lord.

Then the Lord said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people”   Jer 15:1

Now let’s hear what God’s Word says about the outcome of Samuel’s parenting ways.

Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”  1 Sam 8:1-5

The wickedness of Samuel’s sons was the direct cause for Israel’s desiring a human king and rejecting God as their king. Israel’s great King had been directly reigning over his people and administering his justice through human ‘judges’ he appointed in each generation. Samuel was the last judge of Israel, the last representative of Israel’s theocracy – the last one only because this great man of God did not have one righteous son to succeed him.

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them”   1 Sam 8:6-7

Samuel’s childhood guardian, Eli, although not mentioned as a great servant of God, was nevertheless a priest and the judge of Israel prior to Samuel. His failure as a father caused the death of his two sons, which brought a tragic end to his own life.

Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord…Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord…Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the Lord’s people transgress. If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the Lord desired to kill them…Then the Lord said to Samuel…In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he DID NOT restrain them…So the messenger answered and said, “Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has been a great slaughter among the people. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead; and the ark of God has been captured.” Then it happened, when he made mention of the ark of God, that Eli fell off the seat backward by the side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.’    1 Sam chapters 1-4. Emphasis mine.

Eli did admonish his sons now and then, but he did not do enough to restrain them. He totally failed in God’s sight as a parent.

As in ancient Israel, many leaders in God’s church in the present generation are so busily and faithfully engaged in doing the Lord’s work they don’t realize their home life is being seriously neglected.

Their children are being slowly lured away by the devil, their wives are secretly sorrowing. And someone or something will have to give way in the family lives of such leaders sooner or later.

In my native country, teeming with itinerant evangelists and local pastors, there is an impression in the general Christian community that many of them have children who are generally more wayward than children of parents not in the Lord’s work. Now this may not be a fair evaluation; perhaps only an infinitesimal fraction of church leaders may have begotten unruly offspring. But it certainly is a significant infinitesimal fraction. Just one pastor or priest failing as a father or a husband is sufficient for the devil to wreck much harm on the reputation of both his particular church and Christians in general in the eyes of the unbelieving public.

About three years ago I read of Benny Hinn’s divorce. A few months after his divorce, Benny Hinn said on his show ‘This is your Day’, that he was oftentimes ‘caught up with the ministry’ so much that he neglected his family. ‘I’ve made mistakes because I wasn’t the perfect husband and the perfect dad because I was always gone traveling the world,’ he remorsed. ‘That’s probably what broke the whole thing up.’

Hinn then told his viewers ‘not to neglect your family’, saying that the call of God should first touch the family.

Then recently I heard that the couple have been reconciled, and I heard Hinn declaring on his show: ‘I always thought that it was God first, then his ministry, and then my family. Now I realize that it is God first, my family second, and then God’s work’.

Benny Hinn is fortunate to have a reconciliation with his wife and the realization of the priorities in a minister’s life. But the tragedy is, too many other church leaders have not realized what Hinn had to discover painfully. Too many of them are unintentionally causing their children to turn to unrighteous ways. Too many of them are divorcing or having an unhappy marriage. I could give many examples, but don’t think that is necessary. You could easily have an idea of the scope of these sad realities in God’s church by an online search. But I wish to give one tragic example, just one that saddens me whenever I think of it.

It is the story of Jim Bakker and his wife, and their son.

Jim Bakker, as many of you may remember, was a famous televangelist in the 1970s and 80s. As has happened to many other faithful people of God, he once succumbed to the devil’s temptation, and his ministry and his reputation were totally destroyed. But worse, his family life was also splintered when his wife divorced him. God forgave his sins the moment he realized it and repented, which might have been immediately after his sinful act, or during his imprisonment. But he did repent.

‘My heart was crushed to think that I led so many people astray. I was appalled that I could have been so wrong, and I was deeply grateful that God had not struck me dead as a false prophet!’ said Jim in his 1996 book ‘I Was Wrong’.

But the public was not as quick to forgive him. And Jim faded from the annals of Christian evangelism. I did not hear of him again for a couple of decades, and then, a few years ago I read that he is back in the Lord’s service, full of the old gusto but with a new heart and a new zeal, and a new Jim Bakker Show – an hour-long daily broadcast that is aired throughout the United States, Canada, and other countries. I was happy for him.

Then, some months ago, I accidentally came across a video of a handsome young preacher and church leader. It was Jim Bakker’s son, Jay, co-founder of Revolution Church in New York City. Out of curiosity, I listened to his message…and I heard tragedy again. I heard him with my own ears declaring in his sermon: ‘I am pro-gay marriage. I don’t think it is a sin’.

Jim Bakker slipped once, repented, and now serves as a faithful minister of Christ. But the most tragic aspect of the story of his life is not related to his fall as a minister, but his failure as a father. His greatest sin may have been that he didn’t restrain his son from attitudes and ways that turned him into rejecting God’s Law relating to sexuality. Perhaps Jim may have restrained his son, I don’t know, but that didn’t prevent his offspring from not just condoning but actually promoting sin (by heading a ‘pro-gay’ ministry) in his congregation through his messages.

If a man desires to be a leader in Christ’s household, he should first prove his capability and earnestness to God by the way he rules his own household.

If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must rule his own household well, keeping his children under control, with true dignity, commanding their respect in every way and keeping them respectful. For if a man does not know how to rule his own household, how is he to take care of the church of God?’   1 Tm 3:1-3 The Message; 4-5 AMP

So, Christian worker – pastor, priest, preacher, evangelist, elder, deacon, Bible teacher, or a servant of Christ in some other field – how faithful have you been in the greatest aspect of the Lord’s ministry through you – bringing up your children in all Godliness and being a wonderful husband to the woman you married?

May the Lord direct your path into serving him both as a great servant of God and equally as a great father and husband.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

God’s Plan for Your Life Today

 

If you love God, and have an innate longing to please him and walk in his ways – no matter how sinful your life presently is – then you belong to the first of the two categories of human beings born since the creation of Adam and Eve.

The first category are people who were predestined – that is, preplanned – long before they were conceived in the womb, to be saved through Jesus Christ, and live forever with him in the Kingdom of God. These people are the ‘children of promise’.  They are born of God’s will. The uniqueness of this category of people is that from birth they have a love of God, or at least they do not have innate hate for God and his ways.

The second category of people are those who are the ‘children of flesh’, born by chance by the will of their human father, or to put it bluntly, they are conceived as a result of the sheer pull of a man’s groins. These children are accursed from the womb, and they are born with a heart that is naturally rebellious against God. Two examples are Cain and Esau. Ponder the following verses carefully:

For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.   1 Jn 3:11-12

“I have loved you,” says the Lord. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated   Mal 1:2-3

The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.   Ps 58:3

Please try to grasp the awesomeness of this truth: God knew you personally even before the creation of the world. The fact that you are inclined to love God is not accidental but providential; that inclination was put in you even when you were in your mother’s womb.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you   Jer 1:5

But You are He who took me out of the womb; You caused me to trust while I was on my mother’s breasts. I was cast on You from birth; You are my God from my mother’s womb  Ps 22:9-10 MEV

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.   Ps 139:16

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself   Eph 1:4-5

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.   Ps 139:16

If you love God, it is the absolute evidence that God was speaking about you to the heavenly host and mentioning your name to them even when you were being formed in your mother’s womb.

The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.   Is 49:1 KJV

You were put on earth for a specific and eternal purpose. Your Creator has laid out a definite and detailed plan for your life, both here in this life on physical earth and in the coming life in the Kingdom of God.

Whatever has happened to you in this life so far – all the troubles, all the sufferings, all the sins you committed, all the failures – happened within God’s specific plan for your life. Not a hair of your head fell to the earth without its fulfilling in some infinitesimal way God’s plan he set for you eons before you were born. Your Father in heaven allowed you to make mistakes, allowed you to fall into sin, allowed sufferings, but only because those failures, sins, sufferings, were molding you and preparing you for the plan he has in mind for you.

The future is already laid out for you. God will ensure that no matter what you do, you will eventually become the workmanship he had planned for you. He will complete the work that he began in your life when you were conceived.

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ   Phil 1:6

Something awesome is destined for you in this life. And what is that? That before you die, your life will be made complete, perfected, so you are ready to enter God’s Kingdom and begin fulfilling your eternal purpose God destined for you when he formed you in the womb. Nobody, not even Jesus knows what exactly is the position or responsibility your Father has planned for you in his Kingdom. In fact, so specific is God’s plan for his Kingdom that he is preparing, or already has prepared, two people to sit on Jesus’ right hand and his left hand when the Lord returns to earth.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”

And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

They said to Him, “We are able.”

So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”   Mk 10:35-40

Whatever you will go through during the rest of your life on earth, literally everything that will happen to you, will be part of the plan God has for you for this life. That includes all the sins you will commit in the future. God is not responsible for the particular sins you will commit, but he is fully responsible for allowing that particular sin to be committed by you, so you can experience the terrible penalty and suffering caused by that sin, and having experienced it, you can repent and grow even stronger than you were before that sin. But if there is an evil event, or a sin, or any other circumstance that will take away in the least from, or do not contribute in some way to, God’s plan for your life, then he will not allow it to happen. What greater assurance can we have of our salvation, of our ultimate success and victory in this life!

Today you are in the right place, at the right time, doing the very thing God has allowed you to do. What’s happening today is happening according to God’s plan. If it is something sinful, then be assured you are going to come out of it spiritually clean sooner or later, and stronger for your experience of that sin.

However, understand this vital truth. God is not creating zombies or robots. Today you can decide whether to facilitate God’s plan for you by yielding sooner to his will in your life, or continue to live as you are in your present state of sin, and after suffering the consequences for a while, yield to him then. If you are wise, you will take the first course. But either way, you are going to end up exactly where God has planned for you in this life. How soon, how smoothly, is all upto you.

Today you can make the decision to make God’s plan for you easier and smoother each day by walking in the path he counsels you to take. This path is shown in the Bible. It’s a narrow path, but it’s the path that will take you soonest and smoothest, and with the least suffering, to the place God has planned for you even before you existed.

Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.   Heb 3:15

Your future is laid out for you. Therefore go forth, child of God, and do all you can to do your little part in God’s plan for you. Keep God’s commandments with all your heart, might, soul and mind. Draw close to God, and your battles against various sin will be won earlier.

Remember, no sin, no evil,  no force on earth or in the heavens will be able to thwart God’s plan for you and his faithfulness toward you. he has for you. Absolutely nothing.

So, go forward, O called of God from the foundation of the world, and live your life to the fullest. All the forces in the universe are with you to help fulfil the plan God has for you.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Rm 8:31-39

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jer 29:11  (For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  NIV)

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.   1 Cor 2:9

 

Pappa Joseph

 

Image Courtesy: Jan Tik-flickr.com/photos/jantik

 

 

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 a 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 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 initial understanding of the Bible. He stands first and greatest 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 haven’t 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 are the absolute quintessence of what true faith is. Those three words are 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 also 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 to 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 are 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, many renowned ministers of Christ think is the complete understanding of it. This elementary understanding is based on various promises in the Bible. Here are the most wellknown 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.   Mt 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!   Mt 7:11

Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.   Mk 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.   Lk 11:9

If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.   Jn 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.   Jn 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.   Jn 16:23

Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.   Jn 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 Jn 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 naive 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 several decades after I decided to follow Christ, because I was told by my church 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 decades 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.   Lk 14:26. The Message

If you haven’t yet let go of your own self-desires, if you aren’t yet ready to even forsake your own family, if they stand in your way, to follow the One who died for you, then you haven’t 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 unwilling 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 may not be in this age, but in the regeneration (the resurrection to the second phase of the human physical life) when we will live again in flesh and bones 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. (Regeneration is too vast a subject to cover in this message. But for now, you may want to ponder the following passages on the resurrection to the physical life of all mankind who died:  Matthew 19:29, Mark 10:29-30, Job 19:26, Ezek 37:11-14, Isaiah 65:20, Matthew 19:28. (The Greek word for ‘regeneration’ – paliggenesia – is not the same word used for the resurrection to the spirit life. My book, Regeneration In Flesh and Bones, covers this subject in detail.)

None of God’s greatest servants was granted what God had promised him. But they all died in the full assurance they will receive what they were promised when their eyes open in the regeneration.

All these whom we have mentioned maintained their faith but died without actually receiving God’s promises, though they had seen them in the distance, had hailed them as true and were quite convinced of their reality.   Heb 11:13

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 am 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 Jn 5:14-15

I continue to pray daily, and have been praying so since my youth, 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.”    Lk 18:1-5

Or, like that man in the Bible who woke up his friend in the middle of the night and asked for three 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.’   Lk 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 don’t get disappointed or discouraged. I don’t 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 hadn’t 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 don’t 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 would continue to trust him even when he was sternly 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 to play the 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, in the 58th year of my life, I thought I would browse the web and find out what a scale is. And there on the net, I came across a website that showed me with simplicity all I needed to know about guitar scales. 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 would continue to trust him even when he was sternly 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, both 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.

Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see.   Heb 11:1-2 PHILLIPS

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, including some specific ones. Claim them all. But always in faith, always in full submission to his will, not in the obstinacy of your will. Always willing to wait for God’s own time to grant it to you – perhaps immediately, perhaps after a few years, 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

 

 

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

 

Why Temptations Don’t 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 middle-aged 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 regularly.

‘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 a 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 shouldn’t 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 who 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.’   Lk 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 don’t 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 instantaneously, 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 of 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

 

 

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 in the promise, especially the word ‘every’, whenever you think of any Christian’s adversity:

He will see to it that every temptation has a way out, so that it will never 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.  1 Cor 3:1-2;

But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age.   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’ Mt 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.   Jm 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 forty 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 e 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.   Jm 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.   Mt 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.]   Jn 16:33 AMP

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

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 the ‘others’ 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 concernedly 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 – Oh, with what surpassing excitement and joy I wait for it every moment, every day! – when I will lack no good thing.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

God’s People, Do Not Choose the Wrong Career

This is a 2-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 Christian, 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

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


 

Professions and Businesses That An Earnest Christian Should Avoid

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 bring 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.”   Lk 4:5-7

I suppose not everyone who reads these verses pays close attention to some keywords in them. Some of the keywords are, ‘Devil, kingdoms, world, authority, glory, worship’. But the keywords 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 and business 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 occupations 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 their intrinsic sinfulness 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.   Pr 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.   Eze 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 an 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 noble profession such as teaching, but within that profession there may be aspects of work that promote unGodly beliefs. For example, a Bible believer may have to teach the devil’s lie about evolution to es students in biology class. By doing so, isn’t the believing teacher implanting a there’s-no-Creator teaching into young impressionable minds? But evolution is an essential part of all secular biology texts, and teaching it is mandatory in most public schools. So, should a conscientious Christian refuse to teach certain sections of the school curriculum that compromise es core beliefs? 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?  Ecc 7:16

So should a person teach evolution and still remain a faithful Christian? In all such job conundrums, seeking wisdom from God is the only answer. Perhaps the biology teacher can skip this one subject in es teaching program. Or while teaching this subject, e 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 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.   Mt 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.   Mt 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 hasn’t 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

 

 

Young Christian, 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 bring a new perspective to people who are already well-established in a profession or business. Here is Part 1.

 

 

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?’

 

 

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 Tm 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 to do 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. And one day, some months later, I emerged completely out of my severe troubles, a stronger and happier man.
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’

 

 

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 – are continuing to afflict you mercilessly and preventing you from total peace of mind. All your pleas to God to release you from this prison of afflictions are not going 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 you 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 you are breaking God’s commandment each time you do it? 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 deviant 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 the physical act but entertains it in es 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, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Jer 3:22

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.

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 seventy times seven in a day while crossing the Jordan of your life, God encourages you to get up and get going Mat 18:22. The devil will howl at you that it is in vain and that 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 two or three 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, through his Son Jesus Christ, releases you from the devil’s inextricable grip on your life.

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.  Jn 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.  Gal 5:1

If today through this message our heavenly Father is calling you to surrender your life to his Son Jesus, then, beloved 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 to surrender your life unconditionally to God.

Therefore take heed how you hear.  Lk 8:18

Lord God, bless this son or daughter of yours who has read this message, and if he or she has been having persistent trouble in es life, then grant em the fervent desire and the power to surrender es life unconditionally to you so that he can be free indeed forever! Amen.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

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…’

After praying for him, my natural feelings remained stubbornly the same toward the man. No, I couldn’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 could certainly say that from that time I had a clear conscience before God. I knew I was on my way eventually to loving him with my feelings as much as with my will. God would grant that change in me in his own time. In the meantime, every time thoughts of the dirt he did to us frothed up in my mind, my spiritual man was directed by my will – against my natural feelings – to immediately ask God to bless him.

Today, many years later, I can say that my natural feelings of dislike for that man has totally evaporated. As Christ grows in me, so does his mercy and love in me toward those who do me dirt.

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

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

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 in some deep 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’.   Gen 47:9

For the true Christian, in addition to the normal amount of troubles in the ordinary human lifespan, there will be several extra ones in es life – troubles directly inflicted on him or her by the enemy just because of the fact that e 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 any comforting source 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 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 to comfort their suffering friend. But from the minute they attempted to assuage his agony, Job’s misery only increased.  And the result of their sincere attempts?

‘What miserable comforters you are!’ moaned Job.   Job 16:2 NLT

The God’s Word to the Nation version says,

You are all pathetic at comforting me.

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 he or she can go through it safely and come out of it closer to es 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. You should not attempt to do anything beyond praying 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 severely in some other way. Or when a person is imprisoned, or in imminent danger of es life. Or when a person is still reeling in extreme pain caused by some other kind of tragedy. In all these extremely agonizing life situations, I say again, God will take it upon himself the full job of comforting and giving strength to the one in pain so he or she 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 or her 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 or she 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.   Mt 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 or her 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 e has enough strength to go about es 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 you 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 drink 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 long-drawn troubles – troubles that continue unabated for months and years. After an initial struggle to surmount them or endure them, the suffering person feels e couldn’t cope anymore and desperately looks for some soothing way out. And what camouflages pain so 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. Proverbs 31:6-7  I suppose it is ok for such person to drink and forget es misery because es situation is so absolutely hopeless that nothing is going to save him or her anymore, whether e 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, drugs, 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, I prefer to call them ’principles of endurance’.

It is God himself who will gently show you what principles of endurance you can apply in any particular trouble, which will enable you to endure the present suffering 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 NLT

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 or her specific God-ordained endurance principle relative to es 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 death pit, 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 are 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 prison for a crime he never committed, in a land where an expatriate man can go to jail for the silliest and flimsiest reason, such as breaking wind in front of a female citizen. I did time in prison in the same cell with him, because I couldn’t repay a bank loan within the allotted period. 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, day after day, 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 shouldn’t 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 the 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 a most unpleasant thing for me to do 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 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 secluded 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.   Ezr 8:21

Let me add one more counsel 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 steadier and stronger than before the trouble, 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.]   Jn 16:33 AMP

 

Pappa Joseph