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Total Surrender

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Total Surrender

Tebogo Maimane

Contents

Foreword

Chapter 1: Journeying into the Unknown

Chapter 2: Secluded for a Purpose

Chapter 3: Be Anchored in Faith

Chapter 4: Hold on to the Vision

Chapter 5: Challenges, Trials, and Tribulations

Chapter 6: Choose God-Ordained Experiences

Chapter 7: Questioning Our Faith

Chapter 8: Waiting on God

Chapter 9: Experience Your Miracle

Chapter 10: Trust God

Foreword

Life is beautiful; it is also a mystery in which every person has to have his or her own journey. There may be similarities along the way, but since we are created as unique beings, we each have a path outlined for us to follow or discover.

Total surrender means to submit to God’s way and his will. To live a lifestyle of total surrender is to embrace that there will be moments when we have to take a step of faith and journey into the unknown. This road will lead to various seasons of trials, challenges, and joyous moments; however, despite the seasons, one needs to remain anchored in faith and hold on to the God-given vision. Let us be motivated by knowing that as long as one makes God-ordained choices, wait upon him, keep on being attached to the vine (Jesus), then reaching the promised land and experiencing miracles are guaranteed.

The intention of this book is to shine a light in someone’s corner. By paging through this book, I hope they will be motivated to hold on and be brave in every season so that they can reach their potential and fulfil their destiny. With the paraphrased words from a song by Jason Crabb, remember that

‘God of the mountain is still the same God in the valley, God of the midday is still God in the night’.

Furthermore, Malachi 3: 6 says

‘I am the Lord, I do not change’.

At the end of the book, I hope every reader would be spiritually empowered.

Chapter 1

Journeying into the Unknown

Life is a gift which we should neither take for granted nor deal with recklessly but rather treasure every moment of it. However, as precious as life is, it has plenty of crossroads which we encounter as we grow and mature. These crossroads are a place where a person needs to take stock of their life, make an introspection, and make decisions that are aimed at his or her betterment. In most cases, it requires a person to change certain things pertaining to how their life functions. This usually includes things, such as a change in ideologies, thought patterns, routine, and habits. As we grow up, there are habits, ideologies, and mannerisms that we might have picked up, which are not necessarily to our best interests; thus, crossroad moments allow us the opportunity to explore our inner core and value system.

Restructuring and transforming our lives is truly not a simple task, and most people become resistant because change is not easy. Various factors play a role in why people are resistant to change, one of them being fear of the unknown. The fact of the matter is that life is made up of components of the unknown. Though we may have routines and habits which may make us think we are in charge, the truth of the matter is that no one has total control of what happens in their lives. What we all have, however, is total control over the choices we make.

No one knows what their tomorrow holds; it is only he who has created the universe who has total control over every dimension of our lives. So as we take the journey of life does it not make perfect sense to partner with him who has total control? As an individual, one may not know what tomorrow holds, but when we have the companion of the one who is in charge of tomorrow, then life promises to be a joy ride, just like a rollercoaster which has ups and downs yet blissful; such is life lived with the consciousness of God.^^1^^

Surrender the Desire

Proverbs 19:21 says

‘many are the plans in a man’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails’.

Yes, it is vital to plan yet as we do, so let it be known in our heart that the purpose of God for our lives supersedes our individual desires. It is also written in John 15: 7 that

‘if you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you’.

This means there is a qualification before we ask what we desire. The prerequisite is that the word of God should be in us and also our lives be in him. When we invest time to seek God by reading his word, it is to our advantage; it helps us as individuals so that the things we aspire will be aligned to his will and purpose for our lives. God has promised to give us the desires of our hearts. However, our shortfall as people is that we have a tendency to fall of the track by having desires that are not aligned to our purpose. We learn this from Jesus. He had to make choices whether to succumb to the pressure and desire of the flesh or to uphold the purpose of God. During the time he was praying in the garden of Gethsemane,

‘My Father if it is possible may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as You will’.^^2^^ His desire was for the cup which was before him to be removed, but the purpose for which God sent him into earth was for him to be crucified so that all mankind may be redeemed and reconciled back to God in accordance with the original plan of creation. The purpose of God takes priority over our individual desires.

Through this example what can best be derived from this is that in all things that God expects from us, he has already shown us the model in which it is to be done. The model is that we should surrender our desire in order for the bigger picture to be fulfilled, to surrender our desire so that the purpose of God can be done through our lives. Our desires are mostly for personal gain whereas God’s purpose benefits more than one person as in the case of Jesus the act of surrendering his desire resulted in a benefit that is available for everyone who wishes the gift of eternal life. When we believe that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and is coming again, we receive the gift of God, which is eternal life. This is why I say the benefit of Jesus’ obedience to the will of the Father is eternal. 1 Peter 2:24 says,

‘Jesus personally carried away our sins in His own body on the Cross so we can be dead to sin and live for what is right’.

Be Resilient

As individuals pursuing our purposes, we need to be properly geared up and being alert that despite having strategies and execution plans, the road may lead to unfamiliar territories, which are bound to bring challenges of various forms. In most cases, when God gives us a vision, he tells us the end result; however, he doesn’t specify what it will take to reach the destination. When I talk about journeying into the unknown, the reference is mainly to instances where the road map was not specified. However, it doesn’t mean all the journey and God given visions are like that.

We are, therefore, fortunate to have testimonies of people who willingly went through such journeys of the unknown and came out victorious.

As such when we look into their experiences, we are also encouraged and strengthened to obey God completely. It is amazing to see the resilience of the people whom Hebrews 12 refer to as the heroes or patriarchs of faith, unlike us who have access to the Bible and are encouraged by their testimony; the fact of the matter is that it was not the same for them as some didn’t have any material to use as reference. All that they had is faith in God. This doesn’t mean that as the current generation, we don’t need faith because without faith it is impossible to please God. When we look at them, we can truly say we don’t have any excuse for not living victorious lives because we have access to all the information to help us do so.

First, we have Abraham, the father of our faith. The part to which we zoom in on is the time when God instructed him to live his country. When he reached the land to which God directed him to, we learn that he found that there were occupants in that land, and second, there was a severe famine in the land.^^3^^ One would think that since Abraham had obeyed and was within the will of God, he should not have been subjected to any challenges. To obey the instruction of God does not necessarily mean that life will be smooth and have no challenges as we see in the case of Abraham. When venturing into the unknown, we must embrace Isaiah 55: 8–9 which says,

‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’.

There are surely encounters that will not make sense along the way, but as long as the words of Isaiah ring in our ears, the challenges will be faced with a sense of hope instead of despair.

To those that follow the stock exchange or are investors of any kind, they will understand the principle used in investment circles that says the higher the risk, the higher the return and vice versa. Sometimes as believers, we also need to take such steps of faith. Risk taking is considered to be the highest form of faith as it requires a person to go beyond their depths, venture into territories, which they haven’t been exposed to previously, and the motive is purely seeking the will of God more than their personal gain. The beauty in this whole situation is that as high as the risk may be, when our ventures are God centred the onus to make them succeed is upon him. It is for that reason that when we invest in God-centred ventures that we experiences peace and calm throughout the journey. When we continue with the life of Abraham, we get an illustration of this type of risk; he became the father of faith because he was willing to sacrifice the life of his son Isaac, despite the fact that he waited twenty-five years before the child was born. Abraham was one hundred years when Isaac was born^^4^^ and seventy-five years when God had made a promise to bless and make him into a great nation.^^5^^ Despite the fact that he had waited so long before the promise of God became true, when God instructed him to take his son and sacrifice him, he obeyed because his desire was to do the will of God.^^6^^ Out of this venture of Abraham, it is crucial that we derive the following lessons: first is the principle of total obedience, and second is the fact that God intervened and provided a ram for the sacrifice because he wanted to send a clear message that he does not approve of human killing.

Submit to God

The other person who also had to undergo a journey into the unknown is Noah; he obeyed when God instructed him to build an ark, yet it had never rained. No one on earth knew what rain was, but because it was God who had instructed him, he chose to do so. As a result of his obedience, a remnant of human race was spared, as well as every type of animal. What Noah had to build was a huge project both in the effort it required as well as the size which God had stipulated. There was no way Noah could obey God in secret; his task couldn’t be done behind closed doors as it was conspicuous for everyone around his community to see. This illustrates that sometimes God can give an instruction which does not make sense according to human standards and not even afford us the privilege to obey him in secret because the task would be so big it would draw people’s attention. Therefore, as Christians our desire should be to please God, whatever it takes because if we care about what people will say we might not obey God. If Noah cared more about what people were going to say about him, he would have failed to obey God.

Embrace His Sufficient Grace

The Israelites also had to take the journey into the unknown when they were freed from slavery in Egypt. This is a group of people who were born in Egypt; the generation of Joseph had already died so these ones didn’t have exposure to any other life other than slavery. It was 430 years from the time Jacob and his family migrated to Egypt, to the time when the Israelites were freed from slavery. This was quite a mammoth task that Moses had to face. Imagine having to convince more than a million people to leave life as they had known it to go to a place they didn’t know. The fact that Moses was successful in the task of mobilising the Israelites to depart from Egypt illustrates that when God gives a task, he also grants sufficient grace to help with the fulfilment of the task. It took an event-filled forty years in the wilderness before the Israelites made it to the promised land. Logistically in the efforts of man, it would have been impossible, but because it was a God-ordained plan it became possible, truly what is impossible with man is possible with God.

So as we journey into the unknown, we might encounter uncomfortable things like Moses did as he led the Israelites to the land of promise. Whilst on the journey, the people were continuously complaining, even accused him that he had brought them out into the wilderness to kill them. He was betrayed by Aaron, who was his co-worker and brother. Aaron made a false god and allowed the people to worship it whilst Moses was away. Despite all that negativity which Moses was subjected to, he continued with the assignment of God. When we serve God, there might be times when people closest to us betray and disappoint us, but that shouldn’t destruct us from fulfilling the assignment of God, we must keep the focus at all times.

Monitor Behavioural Pattern

In addition to the resilience which was displayed by Moses in order to fulfil the assignment of God, the most critical lesson we learn from this is that behaviour and obedience are some of the keys that determines whether one gets to the promised land or not. Out of the generation of the Israelites that left Egypt to go to the promised land, only Caleb and Joshua made it, which means the misbehaviour of the rest of the Israelites who left Egypt was such an abomination to God that he denied them access to the promised land, including Moses their leader because he disobeyed God.^^7^^ The remnant that made it to Canaan was made up of people who were born during the forty years in the wilderness.^^8^^

When we look at how Abraham, Noah, and the Israelites handled their journeys into the unknown, we become empowered. Taking such journeys into the unknown may result in beautiful experiences depending on our behaviour and as such leads to one going into a deeper relationship with God. Also one stops relying on their skills and intellect and becomes totally reliant on God as the Master who has the puzzle to the masterpiece into which one is being formed. Through Abraham, Noah, Moses, and the journey to the promised land, we have seen that this is a journey that is taken purely by faith nothing else. It is in such journeys that one also discovers the abilities and skills that one wasn’t aware of. Moses discovered his leadership skills and Abraham discovered one of the attributes of God because it was on Mount Moriah that he first referred to God as the Provider (Jehovah Jireh). These skills and revelations are given to us through the Holy Spirit as God is the one that equips us for every journey he takes us through.

So when life throws us a curve ball or lands us in an unfamiliar territory, it is vital that we trust in God for direction. We must always remember that just because we are following God’s purpose for our lives doesn’t mean we will not face challenges along the way. In whatever season, we may find ourselves we should always remain obedient to God. Sometimes such experiences are brought about to let us examine our lives to check if we are still in the path which God has purposed for us. Some of us may start on the right track, but somewhere along the line, we divert due to life’s challenges or as a result of keeping wrong associations, which lead us astray. We should also know that when undergoing a season of being in an unfamiliar territory doesn’t mean that God has forgotten about us; it is through such times when we discover other skills that we might not have been aware of.

Count the Costs

In all that we do we must apply wisdom, our decisions must not be haste, journeying into the unknown doesn’t mean we shouldn’t count the cost. There will be tests of our faith. However, if we fail them, it doesn’t mean we commit sin; it only means we will not reach a higher level of glory, which would have been the benefit of passing that test. However, we must be careful not to confuse a test with a temptation. A test comes from God whereas a temptation comes from the devil and our evil desires. James 1:13 says,

‘let no one say when he is tempted “I am being tempted by God”, for God can’t be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires’

Questions to Ponder

*
p<>{color:#000;}. How do you deal with change?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you see change as a threat or an opportunity?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you treat change as a moment of growth or are you resistant to it?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Have you surrendered your desires to the will of God?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Have you presented your desires at the throne of God?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you adhering to any instruction or prophecy he has given you?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you God-focused or man-focused?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. What is your driving force?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. What is your level of trust in God?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you submissive and solely dependent on him or do you mix your faith with other ideologies?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Who or what is your source of strength?

Chapter 2

Secluded for a Purpose

Sometime in life, we are so engulfed in our day-to-day routine, such as work, studies, parenting, and home responsibilities to an extent where we become impartial, apathetic, and untroubled about our surroundings and the needs of others. As a person who grew up in a developing country, I also fell into that trap because the goal was always revolving on how to advance myself to a better economic status. There is nothing wrong in aiming for a better social and economic status; however, my disgruntle is around the fact that whilst pursuing such goals we become uncompassionate, and most of the time, it’s done subconsciously and not deliberately. It is as if we go through life wearing a horse girdle, and we see only what is in front of us in terms of our personal needs. Everything else is not our responsibility. The society has also become accustomed to the selfish nature being displayed by humans in the twenty-first century.

Furthermore, I find it to be a sad state of affairs where we always shift responsibilities to government or business instead of identifying which role we can play in making the world a better place for every person. Someone may say I can’t change the world; yes, that is true. However, what you can do is to make a positive difference where you are able.

Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.

We each can have a part in the eradication of poverty and social injustice as long as we are conscious of the fact that it requires all our efforts. I am reminded of the words someone once said, ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ Most people would answer one bite at a time, but this particular person said, ‘You invite friends and relatives’. The principle behind this is that since the elephant is too big for one person, eating it by yourself is not feasible so to ensure that it doesn’t get rotten, the best way to get the most returns from it is to invite friends and relatives to help you, and that way each person gets a fresh portion for themselves. The same principle applies in fighting poverty and social injustice; when we each do our part, then there will be less challenges for welfare organisations who are faced with low supply of resources and a high demand.

The truth of the matter is that God cares about the needs of all people, including the marginalised and so should we. Since God is Spirit, he has put us on earth as instruments of righteous work which is why

Proverbs 28:27 says, ‘He who gives to the poor will lack nothing but he who closes his eyes to them will receive many curses.’

The challenge comes because of our intriguing human nature. When we are first exposed to something like social injustice, it is amazing how we naturally want to do our part to help; however, what I have observed is that first, the mind is quick to forget hence the saying ‘out of sight out of mind’ and second is that the more a person is exposed to something, the more it becomes normal. To give an example of the first observation, I took notice that when people visit a place like an orphanage in Third World countries, promises are made of how they want to be continuously involved, yet a week after the visit they are back in their personal routine and have forgotten about the plight of others. Why is it that we fail to remain committed in addressing and coming up with solutions? Could it be that such promises are made only at a shallow level? I find it that though the intention is mostly good when such promises are made; it is mostly reactionary instead of a conscious response because the challenge is that most people make such promises before they have fully analysed the how part as in what it would entail for them to be involved. An example for the second observation is that I have seen people who are exposed to people living in poor areas; for the first time, they have such a high level of urgency on bringing the solution to an extent where some even take whatever possessions they have at that particular moment to give a donation as an immediate solution. However, the more they visit such areas, the more they adjust; such living conditions become a normal way of life, and their level of urgency in bringing solutions diminishes.

As previously stated that some of the reasons people don’t remain committed to social justice issues is that they are quick to forget or treat poverty as a norm. It is in light of this that God in his wisdom and sovereignty will handpick individuals to train them so that they learn to empathise from experience instead of head knowledge in order to serve with passion. This is mainly done by secluding those particular individuals for a season until their training is complete. When we look at people working for government’s welfare and social development programme, most of them lack the compassion and other attributes required to be effective at this type of a job, whereas people that work for non-profit organisation are mostly people who have such attributes because a majority of them have a life experience that led them to choose to work in such an environment; hence, they are able to empathise with their clients.

Jane Goodall said ‘only if we understand can we care, only if we care can we help, only if we help shall they be saved’.

Equipping

Moses was handpicked by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt; however, he would have not been fully qualified to do so if he was given the task straight from the palace so he was secluded. He went from residing in the palace for the first forty years of his life, from a life of luxury to being a shepherd in a foreign land for forty years in preparation to be able to lead the Israelites for forty years in the wilderness before they reached the promised land.^^9^^ The forty years he spent being a shepherd prepared him to be able to serve and lead the Israelites with insight and passion gained through his life experiences. The experiences we go through in life are our training ground; the duty is on us as to how do we apply them to improve our lives and those of others. Moses was better equipped to lead the Israelites after spending time as a shepherd compared to if he was given the assignment when he was straight from the palace lifestyle, he would have been out of his depth. Even when we make mistakes like Moses did when he killed an Egyptian, God is able to turn what the enemy intended for bad into something good. Moses flee Egypt from his guilt and to preserve his life, but the experience gained from his time in Midian wilderness equipped him for the wilderness of the exodus from Egypt, a place of oppression, to Canaan, the promised land.

Obey Instructions

The other person who was secluded is Prophet Elijah; his seclusion was mainly to train him on obeying the instructions of God. His private training was a stepping stone to his public ministry. When God instructed him to go stay by the brook, he obeyed and trusted that God will supply all his needs, and God was faithful in doing so. When he received further instruction to go to a place, which was not his hometown he had every reason to object yet he obeyed, out of that came a ground-breaking moment as he got to perform his first miracle. By the time he had to stand in public and call on God to do a miracle, he did so with the knowledge that God was able because he had seen him do the miracles in private.^^10^^ Therefore, we must not the take lightly the instructions which God gives to us in private as they may be a key to something wonderful and beyond what we could fathom.

Preservation

Another person that comes to mind when we talk about undergoing a season of seclusion is Noah.^^11^^ In addition to what was discussed in the previous chapter, Noah had to be bold as he was required to build an ark, yet it had never rained on earth, which though may have subjected him to ridicule from his peers, yet he chose to obey God. The second aspect which I would like to point out is that he had to persevere due to the duration he had to spend in the ark whilst the earth was flooded. God had only told him about the number of days it was going to rain; however, it was not specified on the number of days it was going to take for the water to recede and for the earth to dry up. Noah entered the ark, and the flood started on seventeenth day of the second month of Noah’s 600th year; the waters prevailed on earth 150 days. The ark only stopped on the seventeenth of the seventh month. This means that Noah and his family were subjected to a lifestyle of turbulences for a duration of five months, yet they were within the will of God. For a person who had been sailing or on a sea cruise or worked on a ship that travels intercontinental, this might not sound daunting but can you imagine what it was like for Noah and his family. It was a first-time experience, and they didn’t have an option to get out if they didn’t like it nor were there turbulence and motion sickness medication like we have today to help them endure. So just as Noah and his family had to persevere so should we. When a person finds themselves in a season of seclusion, they should simply embrace the season rather than to look for a way out because exiting might be to their detriment. Imagine if Noah’s family insisted on going out of the ark whilst the waters were covering the earth just because it was uncomfortable in the ark; yes, it sounds like a crazy thing to do, so let the same attitude be applied when undergoing a season of seclusion. Don’t be too quick to look for an exit sign. In the season of seclusion, the first principle we learn is to persevere.

The waters were only dried up on the first of the first month in the 601st year, and Noah and company came out of the ark on the twenty-seventh of the second month. This testimony of Noah illustrates the extent to which God is willing to go to protect those who live righteously; when God decided to cleanse the earth of wickedness, he secluded those who had found favour in his sight in this case being Noah and his family to protect them from his wrath. Second principle we learn is that being counted with the masses doesn’t always result in positive outcome; in this case, only the secluded ones ended up with a positive outcome. In the twenty-first century, we need to ponder on this principle extensively. As followers of Jesus, we need to draw a line when it comes to fame and fortune. As much as God delights in seeing his children prosper, he doesn’t endorse some of the methods being used to acquire the wealth, so it is imperative to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide our decisions because at the end of the day, we don’t want to be counted with the earthly famous and be disqualified for spending eternity in the presence of God in heaven.

Third principle we learn is that though things may start a bit on a small scale it doesn’t mean that their end result will still be on the small scale. We must not despise small beginnings because when we are faithful with the little that we have, God is able to turn that into a great testimony. Noah and his family were only eight when they left the ark; however, they multiplied and became fruitful on earth. As the remnant of humanity, which God had favoured as they had escaped the wrath of God, he further used them in a mighty way, and this we see in that Noah is also part of the genealogy of Jesus.^^12^^ It was the faithfulness of Noah during testing times that showed God that he was worthy to be adorned with the privilege of being amongst the genealogy of Jesus.

Luke 16:10 says ‘he who is faithful in what is least is also faithful in much’.

Boldness

Another person which I would like to discuss is the woman who had the issue of blood for twelve years. According to the then-Jewish custom, her disease made her to be ceremonially unclean, which means that for all those years, she was not welcome in the synagogue or amongst people. She had spent all that she had on physicians, yet could not be healed by any. When she had reached a point when she was aware that all that she had attempted in her intellect had failed, she was willing to do whatever it took to get her healing. She was stripped to a point where all she remained with was her faith. She had to step out and be bold, so she took a risk by going amongst the multitude, which was following Jesus as she knew that her presence was unwelcomed, which might be the reason why she hesitated to admit that she was the one who touched Jesus and was trembling when she declared what she had done. The part that intrigues me is the part of Jesus, which she chose to reach out and touch. The Bible records that she touched the border, which is the hem of Jesus’ garment. The hem of a Jewish garment consists of the tassels hanging from a Jewish cloak to remind the Jews of the Torah. The Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament, which means that this woman reached out to the word of God. It is recorded that she said to herself, ‘if I could touch the border of his garment, I shall be made well’.

Her faith was based on the word of God. She refused to let her twelve years of struggle and being a social outcast to sway her from her belief in the word of God. The best place to put our trust in is the word of God. His word is flawless; everything he has promised in his word, he fulfils. We have sixty-six books of the Bible, which are rich in his promises, so whatever situation we may find ourselves in, let us be like this woman and reach out to the word of God. That’s where our breakthrough is. She had consulted people, and none could help her; it was when she reached out to God that she received immediate healing. Also let us not make God our last resort but rather the first one we consult, and he will give us the solution for our situations.

Rest in God

Another form in which one may find themselves in a place of seclusion, separation, which is common usually manifest in a way where friends and family members may be caught up in the demands of their careers, businesses or academic studies, which may result in scarcity of companionship. This is quite a challenging time as it sometimes results in loneliness. How a person deals with this season is mainly dependent on the personality and temperament of the individual. For example, an extrovert wouldn’t necessarily refrain from going to social events on their own, whereas an introvert would stay indoors and refrain from going to social events mainly because they don’t have someone to accompany them. However, whether one is an extrovert or an introvert, the point that I want to put across is that when one finds themselves in a season of seclusion, first it may be an indication that one needs to make an introspection of their lives and assess if they are still on the right track towards fulfilling their purpose or whether they have sidetracked. Second, it may be an indication that it’s time to transition, to get out of the comfort zone and explore other territories, which are aligned to ones gifts. This season of seclusion can be quite intimidating; it all depends on the attitude of the individual on how they approach it.

Therefore, let us be encouraged that when we find ourselves in a season of seclusion, we find rest in God. He grants us the peace that surpasses all understanding. Also we should persevere during times that are emotionally and physically uncomfortable. God is always in control despite the circumstances. We must not let anything sway us from believing the word of God.

Jeremiah 1:5 says, ‘God knew us before we were even in our mother’s womb’.

So when we encounter seasons of seclusion, most of the time it is to reroute us to God’s original plan and for us to be aware of the treasure contained in his Word as well as to equip us for the next level, which God has predestined for our lives.

Questions to Ponder

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you care for the needs of others?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you concerned about the wellbeing of others beyond your family members?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you the type to shift the blame or do you make a difference where possible?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. How do you use your spare time?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you sulk on self-pity and loneliness or do you look for an opportunity to make a difference?

Chapter 3

Be Anchored in Faith

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

The word ‘substance’, as referenced in the original Greek, is technically used to imply a title deed. It is in our faith in God that we should ground our hope as there is nothing else that can guarantee us a title deed value than what has been promised in scripture. The word ‘evidence’ refers to something tangible, which can be used in the court of law. It simply means that our faith should be tangible and not doubtful. In the justice system, if one brings evidence that is doubtful, the case gets dismissed due to insufficient proof. Our lives and lifestyle should be sufficient enough to be used as tangible evidence that God is real to shut the mouths of those who say God doesn’t exist.

Faith in God requires that we don’t get swayed by new-age ideologies, which insinuate that there is no absolute truth. Faith is a level which is above human intellect as it cannot be explained in words but rather has to be experienced. It is also not a brainwashing mechanism or false indoctrination as other occults or atheists would like to insinuate, merely because they argue that it is foolish to believe in something that cannot be touched or seen. When we consider that air cannot be seen or touched, could the same argument be used to mean that air doesn’t exist? Most of us will answer with an emphatic no because we experience its effect. For those that do not believe in creation, they chose to believe scientist findings to the fact that air exists, even though we don’t see or touch the air. No one had to brainwash us to believe it to be true so how is it that when it comes to believing in God people have a hard time? Let me tell you that faith is not head knowledge or intellectual realisation; it is purely believing in something bigger than a human mind can comprehend. It is a spirit-to-Spirit relationship. John 4:24 says

‘God is Spirit so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth’.

Invest Time in the Word of God

To be anchored in faith requires that one shouldn’t be controlled by circumstances that surrounds them but to simply trust in the promises of God. This brings me to an important point – there is treasure in knowing the word of God because unless one knows what is contained in the scripture, one cannot know what has been promised by God. Just as we deposit money into our bank accounts in order to be financially sound, the same principle applies to our spirituality. We need to deposit the word of God into our spirit in order to grow in our relationship with God. Faith is not a matter of do’s and don’ts; it is not a legalistic system rather it is having a healthy relationship with God. He is the Father, and we who believe that he alone is God are his children. Even though we are all created by God, we should not confuse that to mean that everyone is a child of God. Only those that believe and have accepted Jesus Christ as the only way to the Father are his children.

John 1:12–13 says, ‘But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn this is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, this rebirth comes from God’.^^13^^

As much as it would be easier from a human point of view that there are other avenues to get to heaven, the basic truth is what is written in John 14: 6,

‘Jesus answered: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’.^^14^^

There is a level of liberation that comes when a person gets to a realisation that God does not lie and knowing that his promises will come to pass. That is what faith encompasses to rest in the promises of God and not be anxious. Just like a ship that is anchored at the harbour so that it doesn’t get swayed away by winds and waves, let us also choose to be anchored in faith because when times of trials, tribulations, and hardship comes our way, we know that the one who is mighty and powerful will contend on our behalf. When we come across overwhelming situations that are beyond our control, it is comforting to know that our hope is in the one who is above all situations and nothing is too hard for him. It is awesome to know that we have a Father to which we can run to with all the baggage, frustrations, disappointments, hurts, and he takes care of it. How wonderful it is to have such an open relationship where a person gets to tell it like it is without camouflaging or worrying about being politically correct. God understands our shortfalls and still accept us just as we are; indeed his love is amazing.

Going to church or hearing the word of God being preached does not automatically make us people who are anchored in their faith. This we learn from the parable of the Sower^^15^^ – the person who is anchored in their faith is the one whom when the seed comes is found to be fertile ground. This means that the attitude and manner in which we receive the word of God into our lives determines the outcome. God requires us to be actively involved in our relationship with him, to obey and practice his word so that we become fruitful. Jesus also taught us the strategy of being a person who is anchored in faith. He said when we hear and do his word, we are like a house built on the rock whereas if we hear yet don’t practice what we heard we are like a house built on sand.^^16^^ We know that rock is more stable than sand; therefore, we should choose what we build on depending on its long-term benefits.

Don’t Despair

Also by being a person who is anchored in faith doesn’t mean that things are always smooth sailing; it simply means that when one encounters the storms and valleys of life, then we can draw the strength from the source that never runs dry. Sometimes it may seem as though nothing is going your way, and it may even take years, but when you are a person who is anchored in faith never lose hope. Look at the testimony of Hannah,

‘because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat’. (1 Sam 1: 6–7)

We have a woman who was faithful in worshipping God, yet it seemed as though her prayers were overlooked by God to a point where she was made a mockery of by her rival. Can you imagine her pain and brokenness from the mocking of her enemy as well as feeling inadequate for her husband as she failed to give him children? This was not a short-term thing as it is specified that this continued year after year; irrespective of all this she was not discouraged in seeking God to grant her the desire of her heart. This woman who was in agony for years became a mother of one of the greatest prophets named Samuel. God answered her cries with a special child whom God used to pioneer the new system and regulations of earthly kingship. Samuel was the one to anoint the first king into rulership over the people of Israel. The way God answered her prayer was in a way that exceeded her expectations; our role is not to let go but to be deeply anchored in our faith, regardless of how things may seem.

Even though what Hannah experienced is barrenness, we can all relate to her testimony because in life we each go through a season where we are seeking God for a breakthrough; the principle learnt from Hannah’s testimony is that we should not give up. It can be in a physical way where one could be in need of healing from a particular ailment. You might have gone to doctors and taken various tests, and yet no cure, but as long as you trust in the God who has said by Jesus stripes we are healed, hold on to that promise until you can be a testimony of God’s greatness and how he has granted you the desire of your heart. Maybe you have been going through a rough time regarding your finances, and this has been going on for years. Don’t doubt the fact that God is the provider of all our needs. Continue to put your trust in him until you are living in abundance. Could it be that maybe you have been waiting for a life partner for years. Well, look unto God as he is the ultimate matchmaker. Let us be encouraged by how Hannah remained tenacious and resilient in pursuit of her desire. It makes me wonder as to how many people would have stopped going to the place of worship as a result of not receiving a favourable answer to their prayer. Hannah had the basic principle of faith, which is knowing beyond doubt that God answers prayer, and she did not grow weary of pursuing God until she got what she wanted. Furthermore, in the parable of the persistent widow we are taught that we should always pray and not to give up.^^17^^

Be Alert

To be a person who is anchored in faith doesn’t mean that we don’t make mistakes. When we look at the life of Abraham, we see that even though God had made him a promise to give him a child, he made a mistake by not waiting on God; hence, Ishmael was born. Abraham believed God, yet along the way, he became impatient. Regardless of this mistake, God still fulfilled his promise to Abraham, and Isaac was born through which God established his covenant. The consequence of Abraham’s impatience resulted in one of his sons having to grow up without a father – that is Ishmael. Due to a scoff that arose, Ishmael and his mother were chased away from Abraham’s household.^^18^^

Another person who made a mistake is David, despite the fact that he waited around fifteen years before he ascended the throne to become king. Even though he had proved beyond a shadow of doubt that he was a man anchored in his faith in God, yet he fell into temptation because he lusted over a married woman. His lust led him to devise a plan to kill the woman’s husband. This resulted in him becoming an adulterer and a murderer. God forgave him after David repented but he and his household still suffered the consequence of his disobedience to God.^^19^^

The mistakes which are committed as a result of disobeying God carry a consequence. Let us not grow weary and become impatient. When it gets to a point where it feels unbearable, God will help us to overcome. There is no temptation that cannot be overcome. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

‘no temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it’.

Persecution

Being anchored in faith does not guarantee that one will not be subjected to persecution; however, it guarantees that God will be by your side every step of the way. God promised that neither will he leave us nor forsake us, so even in situations where it seems as though all has been defeated, we must encourage ourselves in the word of God. Stephen who was one of the first deacons was a man full of faith and power. Because of his gifts, some were intimidated and became jealous of him to an extent where they falsely accused him of blasphemy. This spun so much out of control that he was brought before the council to be prosecuted, yet even that didn’t refrain him from telling them the uncompromised gospel. Instead of repenting from their wicked ways which Stephen alluded to, the council members and those who brought the charges opted to stone Stephen to death. In the midst of his persecution, the Bible records that Stephen gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. From the earth’s point of view, it might seem as though Stephen lost; however, from an eternity point of view, Stephen won because he was promoted to a level where he gets to spend every moment in the presence of his creator for eternity.

Revelations 2: 10 says, ‘do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life’.

Just as Stephen was killed because of his faith, the same thing is still happening today. There are nations that oppose the gospel of Jesus Christ, and anyone who believes in Jesus is killed. The amazing part is that irrespective of all this oppression, the church is reported to be growing even in those countries. People are aware of the risk it takes to believe in Jesus, yet they still choose him. Nothing has the power to stop Jesus from transforming lives; people who encounter the truth are not willing to renounce him. No amount of affliction can keep the church from growing, just like in the time when Pharaoh gave an order for the Israelites to be burdened with more work, yet the more they afflicted them, the more the Israelites multiplied and grew.^^20^^ The same thing is happening even today. In countries which are called closed countries because of the government’s resistance to the gospel of Jesus, the church is growing rapidly. The reports are sent through the underground church network so that the believers in free countries may continue to be encouraged as they pray for the persecuted church. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says,

‘therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord’.

Whatever that we do as an act of worship unto God will bear fruits. We are guaranteed to receive our return on investments for every investment made for the sake of the kingdom of God. God is sovereign and powerful so as believers, we must not grow despondent but rather be steadfast in our faith and to pray for all nations because Psalm 24:1 says,

‘the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein’.

Questions to Ponder

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you a person of faith?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you passive or active in your relationship with God?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you invest any other time with God in addition to going to church?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Whose report do you value most?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you believe the promises of God or is your life directed by circumstances?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. How do you encourage yourself?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Have you sincerely repented of any mistakes committed as a result of disobeying God?

Chapter 4

Hold on to the Vision

Basic requirements

Hearing the voice of God is a vital part for every child of God (Christian). John 10: 27 tells us that

‘my sheep listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me’.

Just as it is a prerogative for a child to know the voice of the parent so it is a birth right for a Christian to know the voice of God. A child gets to know the voice of the parent because they spent time in their presence on a continuous basis not on a sporadic basis. As a Christian, the onus is on us to make time to have a one-on-one session with our Father God. The more time we spent in his presence, the more we become familiar with his voice. It is in such a scenario whereby Habakkuk in chapter two received a vision from God with the following instruction:

‘write the vision and make it plain on tablets that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it will speak and it will not lie. Though it tarries wait for it because it will surely come’.

One may ask what are the keys to hearing from God? In addressing this question, I will just quote the notes from the Spirit-filled Life Bible on Habakkuk 2:1–3, which is titled five keys to hearing God’s voice:

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Meet with the Lord regularly in a special place of prayer.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Look to God to speak to you through dreams and visions.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Listen for the word of the Lord.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Keep a journal of things that God says.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Wait for God to bring it to pass.

When we look at this abovementioned passage, it gives us insight on the importance of having a relationship and hearing from God as every person is created with a purpose, and God is the one who reveals this to us at his appointed time.

Whilst we are in the discussion of having a vision for one’s life, let us also be cautioned on the importance of relying totally on God and refraining from composing man-made vision. This process is different from that of developing corporate, organisational, and company vision. With the testimonies in the Bible, it has been seen that some will know their purpose at an early age such as Joseph and David who were teenagers whereas others at a later stage such as Abraham who was seventy-five when he received his. In the fast-paced society of the twenty-first century, each person would want to be part of those that gets to know their purpose and vision at an early age, but we should not despair when it seems as though time is passing, and you don’t know your vision. Life doesn’t always work out the way we plan it as Proverb 19:21 tells us that many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Perseverance

In the passage from Habakkuk, the part that we are focusing on, is the fact that each person needs to have intention in their heart that they will persevere until their vision comes into fulfilment. One will be subjected to times when it seems as though things are not working out as the vision might take long to come full circle, but the encouragement is to hold on to the vision irrespective of the circumstances. This principle may be easily understood if the vision, which one has is entrepreneurial in nature as it is being taught as part of business management courses that in starting a business, it will take between two and three years before breaking even, which means one has to work for all this time without making any profit, and in some cases, it may mean working that long without earning a salary. However, this same principle applies even if ones vision is spiritually inclined, though this one is more difficult to conceptualise as there may not be anything to point at whilst in the waiting season as compared to entrepreneurial where one has a business to point at as a fruit of their labour. There are many examples of people whom we know personally or have read about that illustrate that this principle works. Let us point out two examples from history books and two from the Bible. First, let us look at a missionary such as Robert Moffat. It is said that he spent nine to ten years on the mission field in Bechuanaland (now Botswana) before he could see the fruit of his labour. It was only after a decade that he had his first convert into Christianity. To an outsider, he might have seemed as though he misunderstood God’s calling on his life as there was no fruit for his vision for a lengthy period. Second let’s look at Thomas Edison – it has been recorded that he had more than a thousand attempts before succeeding in inventing a light bulb. To any average person, it would have been acceptable if Thomas Edison gave up on his attempt after tenth or hundredth or thousandth time. However, since he had a driving force in a form of a vision, he kept persevering even when things seemed like he was a failure. Due to his perseverance, many nations are still enjoying the fruit of his labour centuries later.

Let us use Joseph and Abraham again to illustrate this point further. In the life of Joseph, though he received his vision at the age of seventeen, his aspirations only came full circle at the age of thirty when Pharaoh put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt. This came to pass after he was subjected to hardships such as being sold into slavery by his own family members, being exposed to temptation in the house of Potiphar, and being falsely accused, which resulted in him spending time in jail. So when one encounters hardships whilst in pursuit of a vision, they are not to lose heart but should just trust in the sovereignty of God. In the case of Abraham though he was seventy-five when he was told his vision, it was only at the age of one hundred that the first milestone came into fulfilment, and this was after he had made a mistake of trying to take matters into his hands, which is why we are to be cautious of man-made visions and self-made experiences as they end up in a debacle.

Unpopular methods

Pursuing a vision sometimes involve having to use unpopular methods. What this is simply saying is that we shouldn’t be too hasty to compromise, nor settle for less especially on matters that involve fulfilling our God-ordained purpose, maximizing our potential and living life to the fullest. Some of the unpopular methods include breaking-off relationships, which are counter-effective in the accomplishment of our vision. These may be in the form of partnerships, friendships, or romantic relationships. In pursuing ones vision, there is a level of risk involved when it comes to maintaining healthy relationships of a romantic nature; however, that doesn’t mean it cannot be accomplished. The key requirements are to focus on the goal and have clear communication with our beloved so that they don’t feel left out.

The other unpopular method entails putting luxurious lifestyle on hold. As previously mentioned, pursuing a vision is a lengthy process; during this process, finances may be tight. This may mean two to three years of down-sizing and affording only the basic necessities such as food, shelter, and transport. In this season of getting the vision off the ground, one has to do without things such as shopping spree, vacations, and other forms of pampering. It requires a person of determination to be able to wean themselves from such a lifestyle, their only motivation and driving force being the end result in the form of accomplishing the vision. That is why a vision has to be clear because there will be moments when one needs to be encouraged along the way so by looking at the well-articulated vision, one is able to be revived.

Who do you share your vision with?

Being a carrier of a vision first one has to be careful pertaining to the company we keep and second to be selective on who we share the vision with. This principle is illustrated when we look at the life of Joseph. When Joseph had a dream that he was going to become a man of greatness, he shared this dream with his siblings, but that made them hate him instead of rejoicing with him. Joseph was not aware that his brothers hated him; when he shared his dream with them, it drove their hate to a higher level. Their hate was so rife that it even drove them to look for ways to destroy him, so when the opportunity presented itself they sold him into slavery. Being a pure-hearted person, Joseph was not aware that his siblings lacked the same character. Also when he told his father, Joseph was rebuked because his dream seemed to be not feasible, and also the father was trying to keep the peace amongst his children. As much as our parents mean well and have the best intentions for us, sometimes they can be overly protective, which may result in them hindering their children from reaching their full potential. Joseph’s father loved him dearly; his rebuke was from a place of love. However, this might have swayed Joseph from pursuing his dream.

Even though in the case of Joseph, it was his family who was involved, we should be aware that the same thing may happen amongst friends and acquaintances. Joseph was caught up in sibling rivalry, but the same spirit of rivalry, jealousy, and competition is eminent amongst friends and networking groups. Also it may happen that someone you look up to such as a mentor may dissuade you from doing other things because they fail to identify that potential in you; this may not necessarily come from a place of jealousy but rather of being overly cautious. This is not meant to make one overly suspicious and isolate themselves from people; however, it is aimed at alerting us to be more cautious on how we choose our friends and form networks. The other aspect is that when people are not visionaries, they have a tendency to discourage those who are striving for better things; by doing so, they end up quenching and killing ones vision. Sometimes it is because they cannot see you beyond your current status; they fail to see what you can become through the supernatural power of God.

To be able to hold on to the vision, it is important to have a healthy relationship with God as he is the one that guides us through this whole process. It is also evident that self-sacrifice is a major key in accomplishing this. It requires perseverance, being cautious when choosing friends and forming networks; it may even require unpopular methods such as in the example of Robert Moffat and Thomas Edison. Should it happen that we find ourselves in a place where we have a vision and are subjected to opposition and ridicule because there is no fruit to show for our labour, we should just take courage as there have been people in history who made a choice to go against the odds, persevered, and became successful.

Questions to Ponder

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you know the voice of God?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you have a healthy relationship with him?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you have devotional time?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Is your vision God ordained or self-made?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Is it aimed at fulfilling your material gain or glorifying God?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you selective on who you share your vision, dreams, and aspirations with?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Have you considered the characters of your circle of friends?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Are they supportive or discouraging?

Chapter 5

Challenges, Trials, and Tribulations

We are aware that life is full of challenges, trials, and tribulations which are beyond our control. Each one of us wishes we could not be subjected to such encounters; however, that would be an empty wish since it is part and parcel of our journey towards growth. These challenges may result in disappointments, failure, and/or success. The core of the matter on whether we come out bitter or better after such experiences of challenges, trials, and tribulations is on our approach in terms of how we handle such circumstances.

Hugh Downs says, ‘A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes’.

Let us look at the life of David as one of the people who encountered various challenges, trials, and tribulations in his life.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Being overlooked

When prophet Samuel went to the house of Jesse looking to anoint the next king of Israel, it is apparent that David’s family did not consider him a suitable candidate. Jesse paraded all his sons whom he thought were suitable for the role of being a king, but the Lord rejected them all. It took the prophet to enquire if Jesse had shown him all his sons before Jesse could mention David. This illustrates that close people such as family members, friends, and colleagues can overlook and not consider us to be people of any significance. However, we must not be dismayed because it is God who creates us with a purpose already defined; therefore, no one can alter his plan for us.

Job 42:2 says that no plan of God can be thwarted.

In the first chapter of Jeremiah, we are told that God knows us before we are conceived; this also teaches us that it is before conception that our purpose is defined. We learn this through the lives of Jeremiah who was set apart to be a prophet to the nations before he was in his mother’s womb.^^21^^ Also Samson was set apart to be the deliverer of Israel from the Philistines^^22^^, and John the Baptist was set apart to be the messenger to prepare the way for Jesus.^^23^^

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Patience

David was a teenager when he was anointed as king. The bible scholars put him around the age of fifteen to seventeen when this great event took place in his life. However, he didn’t assume his role as king immediately as Saul was still on the throne, even though God had already rejected Saul as a king of Israel. Considering that David was still a young person, his behaviour towards Saul was very impressive; he didn’t treat him in a condescending manner, even though he knew that he was anointed to be the next king of Israel. He continued to serve Saul and waited patiently for his term of office. David was subjected to years of hardship before he ascended the throne to become king of Israel in accordance to his anointing by Samuel. He was thirty years and reigned for forty years.^^24^^

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Maltreatment

When David came to serve in Saul’s kingdom, he was greatly loved by the king; however, that didn’t last for long. He went from being loved to the most hated by the king as Saul became David’s enemy.^^25^^ This change of attitude towards him had nothing to do with anything David had done as he continued to serve the king as always, but it was due to the darkness that had infiltrated the heart of Saul. So the ill-treatments that we encounter do not necessarily mean that we have done something wrong; rather they may be a form of spiritual warfare. As such we must refrain from blaming ourselves when we come across people who treat us with discontent.

The extent to which David was oppressed by Saul became unbearable. Saul gave an order and sent messengers to David’s home to kill him, and this resulted in him having to flee from his home, leaving his wife Michal behind.^^26^^ It is disheartening that the extent of Saul’s hatred made him to even be inconsiderate of the wellbeing of his daughter Michal since she was married to David.^^27^^

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Courage

As a young person, David was exposed to situations that were challenging which could easily defeat anyone; he battled with lions and bears whilst taking care of his father’s sheep in the wilderness, and he conquered them all. He had immense courage and was not easily swayed by what was before him. This he continues to illustrate when he goes visiting his brothers on the battlefield, when Israel was fighting the Philistines. When he arrived there, he found a tense situation, which had put terror in the hearts of men who had gone into battle; however, the intriguing part is the fact that David was not afraid of the champion of the Philistines who had been terrifying the Israelites. When he stepped up to avail himself to take on this champion of the Philistines, the king doubted his capability, but that didn’t sway him from wanting to fight on behalf of his people. He was willing to face up to this giant without even having what was considered to be proper apparel for battle; he decided to depend on what he had tried and tested, which is the faith he had in the God who delivered him from the paw of the lion and the bear.

The giants we face in our lives are aimed at making a mockery of God as they test his power and whether he is able to protect and deliver us as his children from harmful situations. The Philistine cursed David by his gods declaring that this was a war of deity which is why in response David said ‘I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts the God of the armies of Israel’. When we serve God we should not be intimidated by the schemes of the devil, even if they show up disguised as giants. We must have courage and put our confidence in God. Like David, we must use our testimonies of how God has brought us through various situations to encourage us to face the battles and giants we encounter along the way. Let us put our confidence in the all powerful and sovereign God, and we shall come out victorious just like David did.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. The wilderness

David was being pursued by Saul on a daily basis because he was seeking to kill him; as a result, this led to David not having a place he could call home to a point where he ended up staying in the wilderness. In this, we see that there are challenges that come our way, which leads to us being positioned in an uncomfortable place, but due to a lack of choice, we have to endure. It was beyond David’s control; he could not settle down. He was displaced and had to endure the wilderness. Such seasons when they come, they will be facing us alone; those close to us such as friends and family may not be subjected to a similar phase or season. It is recorded that even at the time David made a covenant with Jonathan, he was in the wilderness; however, Jonathan was not confined to the wilderness because when the covenant was sealed, Jonathan went to his own house, whereas David remained in the woods.

When in the wilderness, it is also vital that we have a source of encouragement. In the case of David, God was with him as he shielded him from the rampant Saul, and also he had a sincere friend in Jonathan who also strengthened him to hold on to his faith in God. The people we associate ourselves with contribute towards how we handle the wilderness experience so it is important that we surround ourselves with genuine people. We must ask God to guide us through his Spirit on how to choose friends because it is only God who knows what’s in the heart of people.

Being in the wilderness meant that David had to adjust to the unfamiliar environment, to be alert that those who were in the same vicinity were not necessarily on his side. We clearly see this that whilst he was in the wilderness of Ziph, the Ziphites went to Saul to inform him about David’s whereabouts and to conspire with Saul to deliver David into his hand. You would think that when people see the suffering of one being forced to live in the wilderness, they will show compassion; however, this is clearly not the case with David, and the Ziphites, instead, chose to hand him over to the one who was hunting him down seeking to kill him. Therefore, we must not expect people to show us pity when we are in the wilderness season but rather put our trust in God as James 1:2–3 and 12 says

‘we must count it all joy when we encounter trials knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience, . . . and that blessed is a person who endures testing as they will receive the crown of life which has been promised to those who love God’.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Living as a refugee

With the level at which David had illustrated that he was not aiming to harm Saul in any manner, he had spared his life at the wilderness of En Gedi and at the hill of Hachilah in the wilderness of Ziph; you would think that Saul would let go of his plan to kill David. However, Saul never declared with his own mouth that he was no longer after David; likewise, David feared that he might perish someday by the hand of Saul. He took a decision to escape from Israel. He found himself at the mercy of the Philistines as he went to seek asylum from Achish king of Gath, which is odd as they were regarded as the enemies towards Israel. It was only after Saul was told that David was in Gath that he refrained from pursuing him; this affirms that David was right when he decided to live Israel and that he was only safe as long as he was outside the vicinity of Israel where Saul had no jurisdiction. The six hundred men who were with David, and their families stayed in the land of the Philistines for sixteen months. This period was also full of hardships in the form of attack by the Amalekites as well as being rejected by the kings of Philistine.

It is sad that Saul repaid David evil for good. David had done good unto Saul by serving him faithfully and sparing his life. After everything that David had done for Saul, you would think that Saul would promote him, but nothing of that nature took place. David did not harbour any feelings of resentment in his heart because of the hardships, which Saul had subjected him to. So let us be like David. When we do good, we must do so with a genuine heart and without having any false motives or be expectant of a reward. Saul didn’t reward David the first time he spared his life; despite that fact, this did not prevent David from sparing his life the second time, even though he knew that he was not going to be rewarded in any form.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Rejection

Achish the king of Gath had shown David favour and even allotted a dwelling place for him, which was called Ziklag. With such a good relationship that David had with Achish, you would think that life was going to be smooth sailing for David in this season of his life, after all the man had been through immense hardships for a long time. Unfortunately, the favour which David enjoyed under the king of Gath was not reflected by other princes of the Philistines. When the time for war came and Achish wanted to partner with David on the battlefield, his counterparts were in disagreement with his strategy and were angry at him. The princes of the Philistines gave an instruction to Achish to sent David from the battlefield as they were not willing to accept him as part of their army.

This shows us that when we have found favour with people, this does not automatically become the case among the people they associate with. Though we may be found to be suitable and competent by the one does not guarantee that we are protected from being rejected by others. It is everyone’s prerogative to choose who they include in their network and who they reject, being a good person does not mean you will be liked everywhere. Also being rejected by others does not diminish one’s self-worth; therefore, we must not measure our value by whether people accept or reject us. When David was rejected by the princes of the Philistines, it didn’t diminish the fact that he was a great warrior, and the people who rejected him did so, even though they were aware of his capabilities.

It is also important that as we pursue our ambitions in life, we learn when to accept rejection and when to persist. David queried the decision taken against him, which meant that he was being sent away from the battlefield without being given an opportunity to fight on behalf of the person who had shown him favour. Despite the fact that he had an objection, he had to come to a point where he accepted the outcome, did as he was told and departed from the army of the Philistines.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Immense Pressure

On his way back after suffering humiliation of being rejected on the battlefield by the princes of the Philistines, what awaited him in Ziklag was worse. Upon arrival at Ziklag, they found that their enemy, the Amalekites, had attacked their home, burned it to fire, taken their families captive, and all their possessions were taken away. David and his men were faced with the loss of all that was dear to them, and this led to a deep sorrow to a point where they cried until they were without power to weep anymore.

In the midst of all this chaos, the men decided to turn against David and blame him for their demise; they wanted to stone him for their grief, and this further put David in a state of great distress. With all that was happening to him, David did not curse or blame God; instead, he found refuge in him and strengthened himself in the Lord. In his communion with God, David decided to ask him what he should do regarding the state he found himself in, and God in his mercy gave David a plan on what to do, how to do it, and what was going to be the outcome. It was after David had heard from God that he pursued the enemy. When he had spent time in the presence of God, even the attitude of men changed because they went from wanting to stone him to accompanying him as he pursued the enemy. Whilst the enemy was celebrating thinking that they were clear from any harm, David and his men caught up and fought with them until they were victorious and recovered all that belonged to them.

Situations may occur which put us under immense pressure, but that should not drive us to a point where we lose our faith in God and his power to bring us out from our dilemma. The enemy has no authority on our lives as long as we are anchored in God. Even if what we face may drain us of every strength we have, we must always be aware that God will not let those who trust in him to be put to shame so when we look unto him, we will receive direction and guidance on how to get out of the situation and may even be told of what the outcome will be. Our role is to learn to have faith in God, irrespective of the situations we encounter, be in continuous communion with him for it is only when we spent time in his presence that we are encouraged and our strength is renewed. All of us will go through a season where we are being under the attack of the enemy; however, the choice is ours whether we are defeated or we come out victorious, and the victory is not in human strength but through the strength gained and imparted by the Holy Spirit from fellowshipping with God.

When the enemy had attacked sometimes, it may even result in strife amongst those whom you are closely associated with. In addition to the fact that the men had wanted to stone David, when they came from recovering what was stolen from them, there was division regarding how to split the possession. Only four hundred men fought the enemy as two hundred couldn’t go into battle as they were too weary and were left at the Brook Besor so others felt they were not deserving to receive a share. However, David in his wisdom made the men aware that the only reason they came out victorious was as a result of the mercy of God who had preserved and delivered the enemy in their hand, so the way to honor God in return was to share equally amongst themselves.

Romans 8: 28 says that

‘all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose’.

The thread of this principle is seen in this situation with David. He was rejected by the princes of the Philistines, which meant that he went back home to Ziklag earlier than he had anticipated but that worked out for his good. He found that the enemy had invaded and taken away his family and possessions so this allowed him to go in pursuit of the enemy before there was a great distance between them, and so David and his men were able to overtake and recover all that belonged to them and even more since they took also what the Amalekites had taken from others in Judah and Philistine.

Questions to Ponder

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you holding any bitterness as a result of challenges, trials, and tribulations, such as being maltreated or overlooked for a position?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Have you given up on anything merely because of the challenges you have encountered?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. If ever you have been rejected, did you make time to process and heal from the incident?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. How are you as a person after undergoing challenges, trials, and tribulations?

Chapter 6

Choose God-Ordained Experiences

Our lives are designed in a way that we each undergo different seasons. We are all bound to encounter good and difficult times, irrespective of whether one is a follower of Jesus Christ or not. The good times are to be celebrated and not be taken for granted, and the difficult times are to be endured. No season lasts forever; they all come to an end. The side which will be focused on in this chapter is the difficult moments. The difficult moments manifest differently in each person’s life and may leave individuals despondent, frustrated, hurt, and in pain. They are things such as disease, financial hardship, loss of a loved one, unemployment, being bullied, difficulty to conceive, and being treated as a social outcast. Such experiences would need to be properly dealt with in order for an individual to go from a point of hopelessness, hurt, pain, and frustration to a point of acceptance, hope, healing, and victory. Isaiah 43: 2 says

‘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’.

God-ordained experiences

In my observation, I have realised that most Christians, when they encounter difficult times, quickly assume that it is the schemes of the devil. There are difficult moments that we will come across that are God ordained. Our faith will be tested, and as individuals, we will go through a process of discipline. In John 15, Jesus teaches us that he is the vine, and we are the branches; as branches, we need to be pruned so that we become more fruitful. The pruning stage is an uncomfortable yet necessary season.

The perfect example of such an experience is when Jesus was led into the wilderness. He was led there by the Spirit of God not by the devil.^^28^^ The devil being an opportunist used that time to tempt Jesus. Through this experience, Jesus taught us that as human beings, we have the capacity to resist temptation and live in complete obedience and holiness.

Job is also another example of a person who encountered tribulations, which were God ordained. The Bible teaches us that the devil received permission from God before he could test Job.^^29^^ The first thing we learn with the testimony of Job is that the devil has no jurisdiction over the children of God. He has no authority to do as he wills because God has a hedge of protection around his children. The children of God lives under his protection at all times. Psalm 125:2 says

‘as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time and forever’.

The second aim of putting Job under such hardships was to prove to the devil that there are servants of God who are authentic, blameless, and upright in their faith.

What the devil did to Job is nasty and horrible. Even at present, the devil is still doing nasty and horrible things to the children of God. The comfort is in knowing that God will not allow anything that is beyond our capacity to handle. Even in this testimony of Job, God gave the parameters within which the devil could test him.^^30^^ Most of us know of a child of God who was subjected to the schemes of the devil either by being attacked, robbed, or being involved in an accident. In such instances, one can wonder as to where was God when such things took place, and it’s to be acknowledged that this is a healthy question to pose as it may be part of the process of therapy and counselling in traumatic cases.

These are the moments when flesh cannot fathom the experience; it takes the spirit to bring in the resilience, but only the spirit which is connected to the Spirit of God has the power to fight to a point of victory. Whilst Jesus was being crucified on the cross, the flesh cried out saying, ‘my God, my God, why have You forsaken Me’^^31^^ but the spirit cried out to God saying ‘Father into Your hands I commit my Spirit’. The flesh felt abandoned, yet the spirit recognised God as the only refuge in times of pain. In life, storms will come, and when such happens, it is when it shall be revealed as to how one is constituted. The Bible teaches us to built our houses wisely by building on the rock instead of on the sand. A person built on the rock invests time into their spirit so that they remain connected to the Spirit (God); a person who is built on the sand invests time in fleshly desires and neglects their spirit. The flesh that is pampered more than the spirit, when hard times come, will cry out by blaming God in which the end result will be a person turning away from their faith in God. The spirit into which time has been invested, when hard times come, will run to God knowing that he is the only place of solace; hence, the end result is that of a person who grows from one level of glory to the next, such as Job did.

The true relationship with God is not about materialistic acquisition. Job worshipped God even after he was told that he lost all his children and material possessions. His faith in God did not falter merely because of the hardship he encountered; he endured the suffering and passed the test. After all the hardships that Job encountered, he came out of the situation being better off; he was much wealthier as the Lord gave him twice as much as he had before. The Lord blessed his latter days more than his beginning.^^32^^

The awesome thing about God-ordained experiences is that they are lifelong lessons and lead us to be better and mature individuals than we were before the experience occurred. Another aspect is that these experiences benefit others even beyond our immediate circle of friends; the testimony of Job is still impacting the current generation. This is why it is also vital that as children of God we share our testimonies because we never know who might be in need of encouragement and edification at that particular moment. Testimonies are a tool towards victory. Revelations 12:11 says

‘they overcame by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony’.

Someone may be struggling with an issue so when they hear of a person who was able to overcome that issue their faith get stirred up; they become hopeful that they also have the ability to be victorious. In James 1, he writes that we should count it all joy when we encounter various trials knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience. This patience has its perfect work and makes us perfect and complete lacking nothing.

Self-made experiences

On the opposite side of God-ordained experiences are self-made experiences; these are mainly bad choices and things that we get involved in either by being disobedient to authority (which may entail parents, leaders, or law), taking decisions without seeking proper counsel from God, or without waiting for the proper timing of God. A typical example of a self-made experience was when Moses decided to take matters into his hands trying to deliver the Hebrews from being oppressed by the Egyptians; his method resulted in him killing an Egyptian. This placed him first in a position whereby the Hebrews didn’t recognise that he meant it for their good and second when Pharaoh heard what he had done, he gave a command for Moses to be arrested and killed. This resulted in Moses fleeing from Egypt, and he became a wanderer for forty years. He went from being a prince who had all the luxuries of living in a palace to being a stranger in a foreign land.^^33^^

This principle of self-made experiences can seem to be controversial if one subscribes to secular ideologies, especially in the twenty-first century where most people may regard biblical principles as outdated and stifling. I am of the opinion that biblical principles transcends all generations and should be applied in all spheres of life and that we should always strive for God-ordained experiences instead of self-made experiences.

The major factor in causing people to succumb to self-made experiences in the twenty-first century is mainly due to the fact that people are under pressure to acquire material wealth, to have recognition, and positions of power. There is nothing wrong with material gain as the Bible exhorts us to prosper as our soul prosper and also that Jesus came so that we may have life in abundance. The conundrum is in the methods and strategies used to gain some of this wealth, recognition, and power. Jesus teaches us that we cannot serve two masters; therefore, as his followers, we must have honest conversations with ourselves when taking decisions on business deals because not all of them are aligned with biblical principles, though they may be lucrative, but they may also be a snare to fall into temptation. It is important to seek proper counsel because Proverbs 16:9 says,

‘that a man’s heart plans his way but the Lord directs his steps’.

Therefore, though we may have ambitions, we should rather allow the Lord to direct us in forming partnerships instead of doing things in our human intellect. Furthermore, Proverbs 19:21 says

‘you can make many plans but only the Lord’s purpose will prevail’.

This means that we are susceptible to making wrong investments both financially and by wasting our time when pursuing things that are outside of the purpose of God for our lives. As individuals, we need to rely not only on our intellect as Proverbs 21:2 says

‘every way of a man is right in his own eyes but the Lord weighs the heart’.

God knows the intention and motives of people that we might be forming a partnership or making a transaction with; therefore, by seeking counsel from him, he is able to guide us on matters that are deeper and not revealed by business methods such as doing a due diligence because only the Holy Spirit helps us discern the motives of others.

Another common self-made experience is in the area of romantic relationships. We must question ourselves as to whether are we easily persuaded by our emotions and quick to overrule biblical principles.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Do we opt to be involved with people from other faiths?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Do we opt to compromise on moral issues as taught by the bible such as premarital sex?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Do we opt for cohabiting rather than marriage?

Social pressure is a major culprit that leads people into succumbing to such relationships, more especially in the African context where being single in adulthood, one is treated like a social outcast. People end up being pressurised into making lifelong decisions such as getting into a marriage prematurely and without approval from God. In the long run, such marriages result in divorce because no proper foundation was laid for that relationship. This carries other consequences such as children having to grow up in broken homes, which results in psychological issues in the long run. The effects of the self-made decisions go beyond the person who took the decision; it affects also those within their circle of influence.

The danger and downside of self-made experiences is that they mostly result in disappointments, scars of a lifetime, addictions that may be difficult to break, and destroyed relationships with loved ones. As individuals, we must desire to walk in the will of God; therefore, we must strive for God-ordained experiences, which lead us to be mature and better people as opposed to opting for self-made experiences, which leave us scarred.

Questions to Ponder

*
p<>{color:#000;}. What is your decision-making process?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you seek the counsel of God?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. What is the foundation of your relationship or business partnership?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Have you compromised on any biblical principles?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Is there any remedy to rectify any self-made decisions you might have taken?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Is your life defined by peer pressure?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you pursuing things just because you want to match the standards of your friends?

Chapter 7

Questioning Our Faith

Taking a stand

We are living in a generation where people are seeking the truth yet most value their opinion more than what the Word of God says. 2 Timothy 3: 1–5 says

‘but know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power’.

With the advance in technology what should be appreciated is the availability of information at our finger tips and the ease of communicating globally; however, the danger in it is that if a person hasn’t defined or discovered what their backbone is made up of, they usually become confused as they don’t have a guide on how to decipher all this information. This leads to people committing what I refer to as spiritual disloyalty as they get involved in various religions at the same time; they condone their behaviour by saying that after all there’s one God, and every religion leads to the same God. The others become serial religionists; they go around testing every religion one after the other simply because they get confused with being exposed to all this information. Well the outcome of this is three ways; two of these groups are people who become spiritually blind, and the other is those who get spiritual freedom.

First, you get a group that will totally refrain from spiritual matters because in their journey they get so spiritually contaminated that they end up deciding to concentrate their lives only on tangible things such as material gain and physical wellbeing. This means that they nurture their body and soul but neglect the spirit. This leads to a dilemma because they are always searching for something, but their desire never seem to get quenched; internally there’s something missing in their lives. Most of the time, these type of people are prosperous materially, have a high social status, yet they are miserable. This may manifest in various ways such as broken families, abuse, or addictive substance use.

Second you get a group that starts objecting the validity of the Bible because they compare its content with information from other religions, especially parts that are contradictory or those which are hard to abide to. There is nothing wrong with questioning what is in the Bible when a person is seeking to know the truth, as it says in Isaiah 1: 18

‘come now, and let us reason together says the Lord’.

The type of people being referred to in this second group is those who do so with a condescending attitude, those attempting to label the Bible a fallacy. So you have a group of people attending church because they believe in the existence of ‘a Higher Power’ yet they are selective on which part of the Bible they will follow. You hear such things as people saying they are New Testament believers and disregard everything in the Old Testament. Well 2 Timothy 3:16–17 says

‘all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work’

Therefore, this includes both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus further confirmed this by declaring that he didn’t come to destroy the law or the prophets but rather had come to fulfil them.^^34^^ This type of people become spiritually blind because they refuse the totality of Jesus to abide in them, who is the Word. Jesus said we must abide in him, and he will abide in us in order for our lives to bear fruit.^^35^^

In one of the episodes of Praise the Lord on Trinity Broadcast Network, Pastor Matthew Hagee made reference to a poll, which was done to see how many people believe that the Bible is the absolute truth. The outcome was that only four percent believed that the Bible is the absolute truth, whereas the remaining ninety-six percent said it is not. The most intriguing part of this whole process was that the poll was done amongst people who identify themselves as Christians. So I was left with a question to which I still don’t have an answer to, how can one regard themselves as Christian yet reject the Bible? The word Christian means the follower or disciple of Christ. The Bible is the word of God, and the word is Jesus because the word became flesh as is written in John 1. Furthermore, in the same chapter, it says in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. In my understanding to deny the Bible is to deny Jesus Christ. So how can one be a follower of something which they don’t regard to be absolute truth?

Since no one is forcing anyone to identify themselves to be Christian why settle for something you don’t believe in? God has given us the free will to choose. He has set before us life and death^^36^^ – the choice is left to us to make. His desire is for us to choose life, but he still left the choice to us. In other religions by virtue of being born in a particular country, you are automatically expected to be a member of their religion and, in other extreme cases, forced to be a member of that religion because if you are not, you face the risk of being an outcast or even be killed. With Christianity, it is not so, even though there are cases where parents will force their children to attend church, but the fact of the matter is that attending church doesn’t make one Christian; a Christian is a person who believes in Jesus and has accepted him as their Lord and Saviour. Adherence to legalistic rituals doesn’t make one a Christian; one can know the songs and the terminologies used in prayer; however, God looks at the heart. He is not fooled as he knows the difference between a sincere worship opposed to fake worship. John 4: 24 says

‘God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth’.

The third group of people are those whose sincere search, whilst seeking the truth, God saw and showed them grace by revealing himself to them. This people encounter God in a way that they are left without any doubt about his existence; they reach a level of spiritual freedom. It is written in John 8: 32 that

‘you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free’.

This encounter takes various forms; some are those who have access to the Christian material so whilst reading or listening to a sermon, the Holy Spirit will reveal to them as he illuminate the truth contained in the Bible because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.^^37^^ The others encounter God in supernatural ways such as through visions, dreams, or experiencing miracles. Many believers who are in what are referred to as closed countries because their governments are opposed to Christianity have such testimonies of seeing Jesus in their dreams and visions, and some see miracles, signs, and wonders either from television or internet, and they also start believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Such testimonies show us the sovereignty of God and the fact that nothing, no earthly power, can keep people from knowing the truth. Jesus said

‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’.^^38^^

Total Assurance about the Bible

As a person who has walked this journey of exposing myself to what other religions entail by reading, watching documentaries, and discussing such topics with other Christians, I have resolved in my heart to believe that the Bible is the word of God and that it is absolute truth. I decided to take this bold step first out of curiosity, second because I wanted to have the confidence of saying I am a Christian not because I was born in a Christian family and in a country where the majority are Christian but to know beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus is the only way to the Father. I know that some people discourage Christians to know what other religions entail because it will lead them astray; however, I am of the view that if a person has a genuine relationship with Jesus, nothing can mess up that communion. In John 10:27, Jesus says

‘I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand’.

We may not understand everything nor find it easy to adhere to each principle in the Bible. Sometimes we may be subjected to verbal persecution especially by the new age movement; some even label us religious fanatic because of our faith, but time has come for us to take a stand and decide that only the Bible is the manual which will guide us on how to live our life.

A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.

—Malcolm X

If we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything.

—Peter Marshall, Alex Hamilton

It is amazing to observe the level of persecution and sarcastic remarks one encounters by virtue of believing the word of God (Bible) in its totality. People talk about religious tolerance, but when it comes to Christians taking a stand on what we believe, we are called judgemental. Of course, it goes without saying that if one is living a lifestyle that is contrary to what the Bible say, they will feel as though they are being judged. However, the word of God is like a mirror; it exposes one’s spiritual status so that we can rectify or adjust our lives accordingly. Most of the time when one feels judged is because they are not in the right standing with God. Instead of avoiding or ignoring the issue, it’s advisable to use the opportunity to fix what needs to be fixed.

Do Christians behave better than non-Christians?

Telling people about what the Bible says does not mean that Christians deem themselves to be better than the non-Christians, though there may be a few who think that they are; however, they are mistaken, the aim is to share the good news of Jesus. It also doesn’t mean that Christians regard themselves to be perfect; it simply means that as a person, one has realised their sinful nature and shortfalls so they have become dependent on the Spirit of God to guide their steps, lifestyle, and decision-making process to be in accordance with the word of God. This also does not mean you will not come across a Christian with a bad attitude or behavioural issues. The Bible says it is the sick who needs a doctor not the healthy, so Jesus has come to call the sinners to repentance.^^39^^ Christians are people who by faith have received the gift of eternal life through the salvation of Jesus Christ, though they may have repented from their sins; however, they still undergo a process of purification. This means that you may be a Christian but still have issues and challenges with certain behaviours; the process of transformation is continuous. Purification means one gets better as they learn and practice the word of God. Romans 12:2 says

‘we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we may prove what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God’.

Every Christian is work in progress, regardless of their position in church or the number of years they have been Christian. The reality is that we are all required to grow and be imitators of Christ; no one can be a baby forever and disregard the word, be disobedient, and have bad manners. Each Christian must bear good fruit to reflect that they have been redeemed and washed by the blood of Jesus. Ill-mannered Christians mostly fall into two groups: first are those who are new in the faith so as new-born babies they need to undergo the process of nurturing; the second group are those who do not make time to read the Bible so they don’t get transformed. They may be attending church every Sunday but that is not sufficient. There are only fifty-two Sundays in a year. To know the content of the Bible, one needs to invest more time and can’t just rely on the pastor’s sermons.

As Christians, we are called to be representatives for Christ in the world so our behaviour and attitude must be attractive not repulsive. Actions truly speak louder than what we say so let us take heart to be the light that shines bright and the salt that hasn’t lost its flavour. Nothing justifies why people should feel unwelcomed in the house of God; having said this, I should also caution that in church there are people from all walks of life, some might be first timers in church, some might be undergoing difficult times so just because one comes across rude or unfriendly people in church should not keep people away from church. The grace of God is available to all of us, and he alone has the power to minister to each and every one of our needs. Whether be it during our devotional time or be it in a corporate gathering, God sees each and every one of us and is able to meet all our needs.

Being a Member in a Church

There is power in corporate worship. Although with the advanced technology, some might prefer to stay home and watch from television or stream in via the internet for various reasons, the truth is that there is nothing that matches being amongst other Christians and lifting our voices in worship to God. There is sometimes so much drama in church which may be regarded as negative, but one thing we have to realise is that being amongst other Christians puts us on a training ground for spiritual growth. It affords us to practice living in love and in all other spiritual fruits. The word of God in Proverbs 27:17 says that iron sharpens iron, so to those who don’t have Christian friends or don’t come from Christian homes, there is no better place to find likeminded people other than in church.

There may be barriers trying to prevent us from being part of a church, but we must be resilient. The Bible in John 10:10 talks about the fact that Satan is there to steal, kill, and to destroy, so whatever we do which is God centred becomes a target for the kingdom of darkness. The best part is that

‘God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind’.^^40^^

Furthermore, he gave us authority in the name of Jesus to trample over all power of the enemy, and no harm shall befall us.^^41^^

When a person resolves to become Christian, this angers Satan. Revelation 12:17 says,

‘The dragon (Satan) became angry at . . . all who keep God’s commandments and confess that they belong to Jesus’.

So Satan tries by all means to make us turn away from God such as deceiving us that church is not a good place. It is full of judgemental people and hypocrites. Such deceptions are not a new phenomenon. Even in the time of Jesus, there were many such hypocrites, but that neither stopped Jesus from going into the synagogues nor refrained him from sending his disciples to go share the gospel in the synagogues.^^42^^ Furthermore, Satan even goes to an extent of attacking those in leadership with various temptations so that should they succumb to temptation, people may question the relevance of Christianity. This does not mean only church leaders gets tempted. Every Christian will be tempted by Satan. It is the strategy of Satan to go after those in leadership so that their followers may scatter. He even tried it with Jesus. He thought that he had won at Calvary. Little did he know that the cross was the plan of God to redeem people. So whether pastors, bishops, and church leaders fall into temptation, it does not diminish who God is. Whatever the enemy use to harm us, God is able to turn it into our good. The deception of Satan dates back quite a long way. The Bible records that some angels were thrown out of heaven with Satan.^^43^^ But just because they defected from God, that didn’t stop God from fulfilling his promises and displaying his power on behalf of those who truly trust in him.

By virtue of various things that are happening in church, let us learn not to give more attention to the negative things; rather, let us solely depend on what the word of God teaches us. The Bible teaches us that as Christians, we are the body of Jesus Christ. The body is made up of many parts, and each has a role to ensure that the body is healthy. It is important that we become active members in the church. We need to avail our talents and time to serve the body of Christ. There are different functions, and all of them serve the body equally. No one is better than the other. 1 Corinthians 12:21 says,

‘The eye can’t say to the hand “I have no need for you”, nor again the head to the feet “I have no need for you”’.

Someone once said that when you are in church and identify a gap, the reason you see the gap is because it is meant for you to fill it. The gap is there because you have not taken your position. Instead of complaining to the pastor and the church staff, rather ask how you could be of assistance in that particular department of ministry. In most churches, only ten percent of the members are active in serving, whilst the ninety percent are not willing to serve. They enjoy being on the receiving end, enjoying the fruit without labouring for it. Let us be considerate of each other. People in church suffer from being burnt out because they serve in multiple departments and multiple services. Sunday after Sunday, they are the first to arrive and the last to leave.

Season of Doubt

There comes a time in our journey of faith when things seem to be tough, and God is silent in that season. It is in this season that one is tempted to throw in the towel and give up because things seem not to be working according to plan. It is in this time when one needs to have a word which is a promise from God to hold onto. It is in such times that one needs to be reminded of what God has said about them concerning their purpose. Philippians 1: 6 says,

‘He who has begun a good work in you will complete it’.

The strategies of the devil do not change; he uses the same modus operandi. In the garden of Eden, all he did was to put doubt in Eve and challenging what God said to both herself and Adam. Even today, the devil tempts us as followers of Christ to doubt God’s promises.

Even though John the baptist knew who Jesus was as he was the one who had baptised him, when the time of persecution came because he was in prison, he started to doubt that Jesus is the Messiah. His doubt was so intense that he could not even keep silent about the matter; he went to the extent of sending his disciples to go enquire from Jesus if he is the coming one. This is truly intriguing, the very John, who was filled with the Holy Spirit whilst he was still in his mother’s womb, the very one who preached repentance whom many came to listen to his preaching in the dessert, repented, and were baptised in preparation for the coming Messiah, started to doubt God when he encountered pressure. If a man of his stature and anointing could doubt God, it teaches us that in our walk of faith there will come a point when we encounter such a season of doubt. John the baptist instead of keeping quiet and dying silently about his doubts had the boldness to approach God and reveal his doubt, and God addressed his doubts. Jesus didn’t chase away John’s disciples when they came to him with John’s query. Instead he gave them attention and addressed the query. As Christians, we should not be afraid to approach God with our queries and doubts. Similarly Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus, also had the boldness to ask for evidence that Jesus has truly resurrected. When Jesus had met with his disciples after his resurrection, Thomas was absent. Then when the other disciples told him that Jesus had resurrected, he said, ‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand in his side, I will not believe,’ so the next time when Jesus met with his disciples, he granted Thomas his request.^^44^^

Some of the things that may lead to doubt are unanswered prayers or delayed answers. As Christians, we have a tendency of wanting to have the answers to our prayers immediately after we have prayed. Yes, God is able to answer prayers instantly, speedily, and in the short space of time; however, in other instances, we have to wait before we receive the answers to our prayers. If it happens that the season of waiting seem to be unbearable, let us be honest and courageously approach God with our doubt, rather than stopping to pray about the issue because it looks like God will not grant us the request. God does not mind when we are transparent about our emotions. He actually expects us to be that naked in his presence. Whilst waiting, we should do so in prayer. Some of the answers will come with persistent prayer. So instead of doubting God, let us adopt an attitude like that of the persistent widow. She pursued the judge until she received justice.

The risk of not waiting prayerfully is that when the time comes when God wants to grant us the answers, we would have lost faith that God is able. The parents of John the baptist were in old age when they had him; they were righteous in the sight of God, and the father served as a priest in the house of God, yet it took long for this particular prayer request of theirs to be answered. By the time God sent an angel to John’s father Zacharias that he will have a child, instead of rejoicing because of the news, he didn’t believe the message from God, so he became mute and could not speak until John was born. God in his faithfulness didn’t withdraw his promise. He showed mercy to Zacharias and still granted him a child despite his unbelief. This testifies of how much God loves us and how he is patient with our weaknesses. The testimony of Zacharias and Elizabeth also shows us that delayed answer to prayer does not mean the person waiting has sinned against God because the Bible clearly states that both of them were righteous and blameless before God.

So as a Christian when we come across a season of waiting before our answers to prayer manifest in a tangible form, we have a choice as to whose report shall we believe. It is important to be able to know the promises of God regarding the situation we face. If one is sick, he/she must be able to know the promises of God regarding healing. If one desires to have a child, one must know the promises of God regarding having children. If one is in financial difficulty, one must know the promises of God regarding provision, and so forth.

Faith doesn’t ignore the severity of a problem. It just believes that God has a solution.

Rick Warren

Questions to Ponder

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you have total assurance in your faith?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you believe that the Bible is true?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Is Jesus the only way to the Father?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Have you explored any areas of doubt you might have?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you through this process and lead you to truth.

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Is your lifestyle reflecting the Christ you serve?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Can people see the difference between you and the non-Christians?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you living in total obedience to his word?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you attend church?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you an active member in your church?

Chapter 8

Waiting on God

To wait on God means to stay, be still, and remain in a position until God gives further instructions. Waiting on God is one of the disciplines which we ought to exercise as we mature in our Christian faith; however, sometimes it may be one of the hardest things which we have to go through. Mainly the reason waiting on God is hard is that it entails dying to self and breaking our will so that the will of God may be done. It’s written that

‘Those who are wise will find time and a way to do what is right. There is a time and a way for everything, even as people’s trouble lies heavily on them’.^^45^^

The waiting period varies, may be heavy and tough. Some are short, whilst others are long. In this waiting season, God with his good and gracious nature ministers to our needs in various ways. He might not give us the answer to our prayers when we want, but he will surely hold our hand every step of the way. Whilst we wait, sometimes he will send a word to refresh us. Sometimes he will send a person to encourage us. Sometimes he will send a song to refill us or grant us peace that surpasses all understanding. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He also knows our every need and how best to meet them. He has promised that

‘Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’.^^46^^

Let us look at other people who had their share of waiting on God. We have already mentioned Hannah, Zacharias, and Elizabeth, Abraham, Noah, David, and Joseph in previous chapters.

Elijah^^47^^

Elijah in his capacity as a prophet declared a drought over Israel during the time of King Ahab because they had forsaken the commandments of God and were following false gods of Baal. This led to a great famine in the land of Israel. As a devout servant of God, Elijah didn’t take any action until he received an instruction from God. So he had to wait on God to give him an instruction on when to declare again rain on earth, and this instruction only came in the third year. Elijah resided in the same area which was struck by famine; during this time, people suffered the effects of famine. However, Elijah was taken care of because he had obeyed the word of the Lord. When we obey God, we have a divine advantage. We are not impacted by things that affect others negatively. Even when we find ourselves in the midst of it, God will make a way for our sustenance.

It was in this season of famine that he experienced the supernatural provision of God. It started off in the Brook Cherith where he received bread and meat in the morning and evening from the ravens and drank from the brook. After the brook dried up because of the famine, the Lord instructed him to go to Zarepath where he provided for him through a widow in that city. This was a supernatural provision by God because this widow was not rich; instead she was on her last meal. God used this situation to illustrate that when we trust in him, he is able to do what is beyond our comprehension. It was also in this time of famine that Elijah performed his first miracle; what the widow thought was her last meal was multiplied supernaturally when she obeyed the word of the prophet.^^48^^

This teaches us that when we wait on God, we should not worry about our basic needs. God may not meet our needs according to our expectation, but one thing we are guaranteed is that he will never leave us in dire straits. Jesus taught us not to worry about what we will eat or wear because our heavenly Father knows that we need all these things.^^49^^ Also David writes that both in his youth and adulthood, he has never seen the righteous forsaken nor their descendants begging for bread.^^50^^

Furthermore, the other principle which we learn is that when we wait on God, we should be flexible. Elijah had to relocate twice: first, he had to go and stay by the Brook Cherith; second he had to go and live in another city when God gave him a further instruction to go to Zarepath. The other part is that he had to adjust as he had to stay with strangers because prior to moving to Zarepath, he had never met the widow nor any member of her household.

This season of waiting equipped Elijah to a new dimension of his ministry as it was during this time that he discovered the gift of working of miracles. When the time came when he had a stand-off against the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, he was confident because he had seen God’s supernatural work before. His confidence was not in his ability but in the power of the God he served. God confirms our gifts and ministry in private before we get to minister on public platforms.

Jesus’ Disciples

The disciples were given an instruction by Jesus before he ascended to heaven that they should wait in Jerusalem and not to live until the Holy Spirit came. His ascension was on the fortieth day after his resurrection, and the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost which is fifty days after Passover. This means that the disciples, which were hundred and twenty in number, had to wait approximately ten days in the upper room before the Holy Spirit came. So the disciples had to wait in faith that what He had promised will come to pass as the Holy Spirit did not come immediately when Jesus told them. They also chose to wait despite the fact that they didn’t know how long it was going to be before the Holy Spirit came since Jesus did not specify the duration. All he said was ‘not many days’.^^51^^

What is apparent as they waited is their attitude; they were in one accord, united, purpose driven, and prayerful. These are key principles to learn from them as we wait upon God to fulfil his promises.

Questions to Ponder

*
p<>{color:#000;}. What is your current state of mind?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you have any worries?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. What will it take to be at peace?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you willing to wait on God and obey his instruction?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you confident in God?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Are you a flexible person?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. How is your prayer life?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Are your prayers purpose driven?

Chapter 9

Experience Your Miracle

Some encounters in life have a tendency to leave a person speechless, overwhelmed, or in a state of confusion. In such instances, it is vital to surround yourself with people that can contribute positively towards conquering such situations.

We must make sure that our network contributes to our net worth.

—Simphiwe Masiza

or have something to fall back onto, such as faith.

No one is immune to problems.

Being challenged in life is inevitable but being defeated is optional.

—Roger Crawford

As people, we need to know ways of rising up when we’ve hit a wall, tripped, or fallen. We need to empower ourselves with tools that can take us from a point of disappointment and desperation to a point of victory.

Let us look at people who didn’t focus on their problem but rather on God who opens possibilities to anyone who keeps his Word and put his priorities before their own.

Esther ^^52^^

Here is a young lady who came from an unfavourable background because Jews were not considered to be candidates for royal positions. She was also an orphan who was raised by her cousin. Despite this, Esther was chosen together with other young ladies to be prepared for a role of a queen. This entailed undergoing a beauty preparation which took one year. It was only after this process of preparation that the young ladies would be sent to the king so that he would decide which one he wanted to make queen.

On her arrival at the palace, she found favour with the custodian in charge of women. She received special treatment as she got beauty treatments which were more than her allowance. She got the best place in the house of women and seven top maidservants. With all this favour which she was endowed with, Esther didn’t become conceited she continued to listen to all the advice from their custodian. Her character gained her favour with everyone she encountered. By the time her turn came to be with the king, it was not surprising that he crowned her queen.

When her people were under threat of being destroyed, Esther didn’t act in a selfish manner; instead she put her life at risk for the sake of saving the Jewish nation. Entering the king’s court without an invitation could lead her to death unless he showed her favour. After praying and fasting for three days, Esther went to the king’s court, and he showed her favour because her life was spared. Also she was able to present her petition to the king at a banquet which she had thrown for him, and there also she found favour from him on behalf of her people. Esther and her people experienced a ground-breaking moment because the king had already sent a decree that the Jewish people should be destroyed, and the date was also set, but after she sought God, she managed to convince the king to revoke the decree. Prior to this appeal by Esther, any decree written in the name of the king and sealed with a signet could not be revoked; hence, I classify this as a miracle.

Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, was very instrumental in what became of the Jewish nation. He kept contact with Esther whilst she was in the palace so that she was abreast about what was happening outside in the community. This is a man who also experienced a miracle in addition to his life being saved; he went from a man who was targeted to die by being hanged to a man of authority clothed in royal apparel, honoured, and celebrated in his city and throughout the hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the kingdom of Esther’s husband.

Jehoshaphat ^^53^^

During his reign as the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat faced a major attack from his enemies. Various armies formed an alliance and declared a war against Jehoshaphat; this created a huge fear in Jehoshaphat as the armies coming against him was enormous. He didn’t have any strategy; thus, he turned to God for direction. This turned out to be the smartest move he could have made; in his moment of weakness and desperation, he knew that his rescue could only come from God. Jehoshaphat declared a time of prayer and fasting throughout all of Judah. As they sought the Lord, he gave them a word of encouragement through a prophet and a strategy against their enemies. The strategy given by God was totally strange according to the standards of humankind as it didn’t include using any weapons against their enemies; all that they were instructed to do was to march towards their enemies, position themselves, and stand still. They were instructed to stand still because God had assured them that the battle was not theirs but his. In obedience and faith, Judah got to experience the deliverance of the Lord from their enemies. By the time they got to where their enemies were stationed, they found them already dead. Seeking God, obeying him, having faith, and singing and praising the Lord led Judah to their miraculous victory. On top of their miraculous victory over their enemies, Judah also got treasure that took them three days to collect from the enemies’ camp. After that encounter, not only were they rescued from their enemies, but they also became rich and experienced total peace throughout the reign of Jehoshaphat.

In both the cases of Esther and Jehoshaphat, it is clear that they surrounded themselves with people who sincerely worshipped God and were willing to seek him for guidance through prayer and fasting. No one objected when they gave an instruction to fast and pray; their associates and subordinates supported them completely. The company we keep contributes to how we handle our moments of pressure and personal and collective attacks.

When they found themselves under siege, they were aware that they had no sufficient ability to come out of that situation except if God granted them a miracle. God proved himself to be faithful by granting them victory over their enemies. This shows that in life, we are bound to face situations that would be beyond our capacity to overcome, and as such, we need to have a place where we are guaranteed total refuge and deliverance. In both these cases, it is evident that prayer was not thought off as the last resort but rather as the first resort; this reflects that both Esther and Jehoshaphat were prayerful people and knew the power of prayer. James 5:16 says,

‘The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results’.^^54^^

Cornelius^^55^^

This is the man who was a captain of the Italian Regiment of the Roman army; he is described as a devout man who worshipped the God of Israel, even though he was a Gentile. One of the days whilst he was fasting and praying, he received a vision from God whereby he was instructed to invite one of the apostles by the name of Simon Peter. His sincere worship unto God led to a ground-breaking moment for him, his household, and his friends. This was ground breaking as it was against Jewish law for Jews to visit Gentile households; it was also a moment where the apostles realised that God doesn’t show any partiality, and as such the Gospel was for all nations, not only for the Jewish people.

Even though Cornelius was prayerful, it was vital that he received the gift of salvation; hence God sent Simon Peter. Whilst Simon Peter was sharing the Gospel with them, the same miracle that had happened to the disciples at the upper room on Pentecost also happened to Cornelius and his household. Most instances when people undergo a spiritual regeneration, it is an individual encounter where one needs to explain to family and friends what they had undergone, how powerful it must have been for a group of family and friends to experience this regeneration and baptism of the Holy Spirit simultaneously.

This is proof that our prayers do not go unnoticed by God. According to the religious practices of back then, Cornelius was not considered to be a person who qualified to receive favour from the Lord, but God proved otherwise. It says in Psalm 65:2 that

‘You answer our prayers and to You all people will come’.

This is evident in the life of Cornelius, and furthermore, his prayers and giving to charity didn’t only benefit him but also extended to his family and friends.

Cornelius is also another testimony of the power of prayer and seeking God. It is written that

‘It is impossible to please God without faith, anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that there is a God and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him’.^^56^^

Let us be encouraged by knowing that God is on our side and knows everything that we do for the sake of his name; nothing that we do in his name is vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says.

‘Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord’.

Questions to Ponder

*
p<>{color:#000;}. How do you make decisions during moments of pressure?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Who do you rely on for guidance?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. What type of company do you keep?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you share same values with your peers?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Are your peers reliable and supportive?

Chapter 10

Trust God

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path. (Proverbs 3:5–6)

What does one do when encountering things that are contrary to the word of God? The answer is ‘trust in God’. Yes, it is easier said than done; however, the answer still remains ‘trust in God’. The fact of the matter is that the situations we encounter are bound to change; no season lasts forever, whereas the word of God remains constant. It is therefore to our advantage not to be discouraged by temporal things but to fully rely on the promises of God.

Hardships

Apostle Paul, though he was a persecutor of the disciples of Jesus Christ, himself converted and became a devout disciple of Jesus Christ. He encountered a lot of challenges; the tables had turned, and he was the one being persecuted for his faith, yet he remained resilient and passionate about serving Jesus.

In Acts 27 towards the end of his ministry, Paul became a prisoner because of his faith; whilst being transported to Rome, some more challenges awaited him. In what is referred to as Paul’s fourth missionary journey, he was under the care of a captain of the Imperial Regiment. This captain being influenced by his other companions took a decision to sail, even though it was a high-risk period to be in open sea. Paul had advised against sailing, but he was outnumbered by others. This turned out to be an unwise decision as the ship got caught up in a horrible storm which lasted fourteen days. During this time, there was no light as neither the sun appeared by day, nor the stars by night; it was a period of darkness and turbulence from the rampant storm. Neither were the occupants of the ship able to eat anything for two weeks.

Paul was not spared from this ordeal as he was also subjected to two weeks of hunger and uncertainty as the situation looked hopeless. All this happened to him not because of his own doing but as a result of wrong decision-making by those who were in leadership. This teaches us that there will be experiences of hardship that we encounter which will be beyond our control. Yet when such takes place, we should remain humble and not blame others such as those in leadership positions but rather trust God for a solution. Paul and the entire occupants in the ship were all spared because God intervened, no one perished.

From this encounter, Paul also got to earn respect from those who were in leadership. The first time he advised them not to sail, they ignored his input, but the second time when he advised that all should remain on board, since the sailors contemplated abandoning ship, they adhered to his input. God is able to alter our position even in the midst of hardship and grant us favour.

Hesitation

When the Israelites reached the promised land, the situation didn’t seem to be favourable to them as they found the land already inhabited. In obedience to the instruction from God, Moses sent twelve men into Canaan to spy out the land which had been promised to them. Out of the twelve men that went, only two were confident that they had the ability to overcome the people who were already dwelling in the land, whereas the other ten doubted. The doubt of the ten men was a reflection of their weak faith in God’s ability to deliver them. Their doubt which was apparent because of the bad report which they gave made the rest of the Israelites to be fearful and as such complained against God. This moaning, lack of trust, and complaining against God resulted in the Israelites facing consequences. The reaction of the Israelites angered God because during the forty years which the Israelites spent in the wilderness, God had continuously shown them signs and wonders to prove that he was on their side, yet when they got to the promised land, their faith was still weak. This is the same God that freed them from the land of oppression, the one who had parted the Red Sea so that they could escape from the Egyptians, who fed them Manna, yet they failed to trust him to help them conquer the inhabitants of Canaan.

What is encouraging though is that our individual behaviour matters to God. Caleb and Joshua didn’t suffer the same consequences as the other Israelites because they trusted in the power and sovereignty of God, even when things didn’t look positive. Those who were bold and trusted God made it to the promised land, whilst those who doubted died in the wilderness.^^57^^ God delights in the people who trust in him.

Every obstacle we encounter is an opportunity for God to display he is almighty by doing what seems to be impossible according to the standards of humankind. We must be careful as people that we don’t put limits on God. He is capable to doing all things.

For with God nothing will be impossible. (Luke 1:37)

Godly Process

Mary the mother of Jesus chose to believe the message that was delivered to her by an angel, even though what she was told sounded impossible. It sounded impossible because never before had such a thing happened in the world and never again would it happen, yet she chose God’s way. As a young woman who had not known a man, Mary trusted God to fulfil what the angel had pronounced over her life. Her willingness made her to become a blessed and highly favoured woman who experienced a once in a lifetime occurrence; it earned her a status that will never be matched throughout all history.

Joseph the husband to Mary also had to believe what the angel of the Lord told him – that the woman he was engaged to be married to had conceived a child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph’s willingness to continue to get married to Mary reflects the level of trust which he had in God; he chose to submit to the instruction of God because he was a just, upright, and righteous man. The will of God took Joseph to a place he never anticipated. When he discovered that Mary was pregnant, his initial reaction was to separate from her, yet when he received an instruction from the Lord, he chose to obey God than to continue with his plan.

The concept and phenomenon of step-parenting or adoptive parenting was unknown in the time of Joseph as compared to now; however, he became a testimony that a person can have a positive influence on a child, even if they are not their biological parents. Just as Joseph trusted God, let it be that even now when God gives us an instruction to adopt, foster, or sponsor a child that we obey him, imagine all the positive impact which could be done if stable homes can have willingness to partner in raising these children. Both Joseph and Mary trusted God to an extent that they willingly did things that were never heard off previously. God used them to show that when we partner with his plans he is able to make us trendsetters.

Questions to Ponder

*
p<>{color:#000;}. To what extent are you willing to trust God?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Do you have a stable home?

**
p<>{color:#000;}. Have you ever considered sponsoring/fostering/adopting a child?

*
p<>{color:#000;}.

1 The God I refer to is not the universe. He is higher than the universe because he created the universe. The God I refer to is the triune God, who is God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

2 Matthew 26:39

3 Genesis 12

4 Genesis 17:17, 21:5

5 Genesis 12:4

6 Genesis 22, Romans 4

7 Numbers 20:11–12, Deuteronomy 3:23–28

8 Joshua 5:4–6

9 Exodus 7:6; Deuteronomy 34:7; Acts 7:30

10 1 Kings 17

11 Genesis 6–9

12 Luke 3:23–38

13 New Living Translation

14 New International Version

15 Matthew 13:3–9,18–23

16 Matthew 7:24

17 Luke 18:1

18 Genesis 21:8–21

19 2 Samuel 11 and 12

20 Exodus 1:12

21 Jeremiah 1:5

22 Judges 13:5–25

23 Luke 1:5–25

24 2 Samuel 5:4

25 1 Samuel 16:21 & 1 Samuel 18:29

26 1 Samuel 19:11

27 1 Samuel 18:27

28 Mat 4:1, 3; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1

29 Job 1:6–12

30 Job 1:12

31 Mark 15:34

32 Job 42:10, 12

33 Exodus 2

34 Matthew 5:17

35 John 15:4

36 Deuteronomy 30:15–20

37 Romans 10:17

38 John 14:6

39 Matthew 9:12–13

40 2 Timothy 1:7

41 Luke 10:19

42 The synagogue is a meeting place of worship for Jews, and the church is the meeting place of worship for the Gentiles.

43 Revelation 12:7–9

44 John 20:24–28

45 Ecclesiastes 8:5–6

46 Isaiah 40:31

47 1 Kings 17

48 1 Kings 17

49 Matthew 6:25–33

50 Psalm 37:25

51 Acts 1

52 Esther 2–9

53 2 Chronicles 20

54 New Living Translation(NLT)

55 Acts 10

56 Hebrews 11:6 NLT

57 Numbers 14

77


Total Surrender

Total Surrender is aimed firstly at motivating people to be authentic in their relationship with God. Secondly it is to cheer up followers of Jesus Christ so that they do not allow circumstances to dissuade them from this relationship. At the end of reading this book the reader will be challenged on matters pertaining to faith , will be empowered to grow spiritually and will be enthusiastic about putting God as a priority.

  • ISBN: 9781370456185
  • Author: Tebogo
  • Published: 2017-03-07 13:05:17
  • Words: 24345
Total Surrender Total Surrender