HANG IN THERE

Are you going through an excruciating situation and feeling no one really cares? Are you wondering what to do in that situation? Are you also on the verge of despondency over the besetting issues? Allow me to nudge your attention to reality.

It is a fact that we live in a painful world and so we experience sorrow. This, however, does not mean that our Maker does not care about us. It simply means that He is drawing our attention to the reality that ours is a fallen world but He is still with us in all circumstances. “He whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (Lewis 1957, p.81).

In His love and mercy, He wants us to continue with our lives without allowing anxiety to rule in our hearts. He expects us to move on with life even when we are faced with uncertainty in the same way He instructed Israel of old to build houses, till the land and have families even in the foreign land (Jeremiah 29). It must have been a hard thing for them to do given that they were captives in Babylon.

God had a time plan for Israel. They were to live in captivity for seven decades and would be wiped away if they refused to continue living. He intended to uplift the captivity after the 70 years. In the meantime, they were to hang in there and learn how God operates.

Whenever we are in trouble, ordinarily we tend to give up on a lot of things. God’s will, however, is that we do not throw in the towel but carry on with our lives because His thoughts are not ours (defeatist). He thinks and speaks peace. He cannot be associated with chaos or destruction and when we trust Him and hold on to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, He will finally bring deliverance and prosperity in our lives.

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GO TO ROME, IMITATE THEM?

There is a popular saying across the world that says “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” The implication here is that when you visit a place with a different cultural set up, learn how they do things in that culture and get on the band wagon with them. The fair questions we need to ask ourselves before learning and accepting what the old maxim tells us are these: Who said we must conform to the Romans to live with them? Why can’t the Romans learn from us and accept us as we are? What makes the Roman way of living admirable?

In academia, there is a rule to the effect that all knowledge is provisional. This means that there can be no absolute truth. It is believed that what is held as truth today will be irrelevant tomorrow. However, in the spiritual world, there is absolute truth and this is my guiding principle in life. If it never existed there would be total anarchy in the cosmos. I believe there is an acceptable way of living that we have got to follow wherever we are in the world to be safe and free from condemnation.

I find it nonsensical to hold on to sayings that have been proposed by people who do not recognize that there is one true God who created the heaven and the earth. These are usually individuals who have ignored the truth and settled for other forces of nature that operate in their environments. They have abandoned their reasoning to these forces and cannot even see that some of these cultural norms are antithetical to the absolute truth in the Word of God. Jeremiah 10 makes it quite clear that it is illogical to represent the Living God with a carving. Carved images have no life in them and so it becomes preposterous to claim that such things can stand for God.

ARE YOU IN OR OUT?

In leadership and management there is a vertical dyadic linkage theory that puts leaders and their followers into In-Groups and Out-Groups (Lussier and Achua 2007).

The Out-Group on the other hand has to do with those in the team but not of the same mind/attitude as the leader. Such followers will usually be given specific directives for how to do their assigned duties. The comments and suggestions of the followers will often be ignored and the leaders will tend to come down hard on the mistakes of the followers. The leader in this group will also focus mostly on the followers’ areas of poor performance.

Both attitudes will produce different effects on the leader and the followers. Those in the In-Group will love what they do but the Out-Group members will loathe everything they do.

Now, there is some semblance in the Kingdom of God. We are all sinners but there are religious and irreligious sinners. The religious sinners want to feel part of the In-Group because of their religious deeds such as church-attendance, long prayers and helping the poor in society. The irreligious sinners on the other hand do not care really about prayers and church-attendance. They may engage in a few acts of mercy but don’t bother about religious issues.

It is worth noting that acceptance into the Kingdom of God isn’t dependent on our religiosity or lack of it. It is entirely dependent on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we embrace God’s gift of faith in Christ, we become members of the In-Group and beneficiaries of the fruits of the group. The religious sinner will still miss out because of not trusting in Christ and all who fail to embrace the gift of faith will remain in the Out-Group where their inability to please God remains (Romans 9:30-33).

DISOBEDIENCE UNRAVALLED

There is drought and famine in many parts of the world today and the accompanying anguish is unbearable. The Word of God has promised that those who obey the Lord (Jesus) will be blessed not just spiritually but in their physical lives as well yet we see even believers suffering as a result of these extreme conditions. Has God lied to us? Are biblical passages on blessings for obedience irrelevant today? Aren’t there true believers in the world? What exactly has changed?

The Bible is very clear that God promises rain in due season to the people if they obey Him (Deuteronomy 11:13-16) but we do not seem to see this happening. We tend to use all the right phrases in our prayers and pleas to God but still no rain falls as we would expect. We wonder why we experience erratic weather conditions. We often fail to realize that our disobedience is not so much in our absenteeism in church, less giving to church programmes or praying wrongly but in disobedience to God in environmental matters.

We are constantly destroying forests to give way to construction of huge structures that are not necessarily of value to everyone. Trees are being cut down at an alarming rate in order to make charcoal and timber. Charcoal is certainly good because we use it as fuel but we make very little or no effort to replace the trees or plant many more. Maisonettes are also being put up on beach plots and all the mangroves are totally destroyed. If this isn’t disobedience against God, I wonder what we can refer to as disobedience.

As long as we continue with this wanton destruction of the environment, we will experience trouble all through because flagrant disobedience compels God to give up on us so that we get to discover that when He speaks about obeying (Psalm 81:8-13), He is referring to having faith in Christ and active conservation of the environment.

A well maintained ecosystem will undoubtedly ensure rain comes at the right time and in the right amount. Let all people wake up and participate in environmental conservation for our survival and that of our animals.

RELATING WITH UNBELIEVERS

It is a lot easier for us to associate with fellow believers because we always share a common area of understanding. However, our Lord Jesus expects us to go beyond familiar circles and invest in others. True fellowship comes about when we learn to engage positively with those who may not be of our faith.

Our effectiveness as believers who are out to serve the Lord will be seen when we humble ourselves and associate with unbelievers who feel unworthy before the Lord. It is the best way of drawing them to the gate of heaven. We should show hospitality to those who cannot pay back in response to God’s mercy. Christ reached out to all the people and attended to their deepest needs.

There are many ways we can engage with unbelievers. Praying for each one of them by name, for example, indicates that we are truly concerned about their spiritual wellbeing. We should find time to spend with unbelievers; this will enable us to avoid going back to the comfort of the church and fellow believers. Our love for God and the neighbours will be seen through such gestures as identifying two or more people who do not belong to our churches but with whom we would enjoy spending time together. Listen to their life issues and offer friendly advice devoid of condemnation.

When we have unbelieving family members, it is always good to be close to them and encourage them in their struggles. We should appreciate them and keep praying for their salvation. The best guiding principle should be to allow neighbours to be attracted to us and use that opportunity to share the word of God with them. This should be done in a gentle and friendly manner.

We are never going to win others to Christ by becoming more sinful or lowering our morals to be acceptable to our friends. God does not call us to do that but to be light in a dark world, to stand for truth in a world of lies and to be healing salt in a world of festering filth.

FOLLOW THE TRUTH

Satan has been in the business of opposing the true gospel from the time of the early church. He does this through false teaching within the church. To avoid his tricks, we need to be discerning by abiding in the Word and in Spirit (1 John 2:24-27).

The true gospel is revealed to us through the written word and its central message is the love of God for sinful humanity as opposed to strange revelations by the false teachers. These teachers tend to emphasize instant blessings to those who accept their message. This is contrary to the biblical teaching of waiting upon the Lord and allowing Him to operate within His time frame to provide for our needs.

False teachers start out with orthodox teaching then gradually turn away from the truth. They build up a following to uphold their ideas and are usually motivated by a number of things. There are those who are looking for fame and financial gain. They feel the more famous they are, the more power they wield, and the more people they will get. They will form new groups and throw the entire congregation into confusion as to where the truth is. Others will simply want to bring in a new experience such as spiritualism so that church members may think they are closer to God than others.

True believers know that they have been regenerated by the spirit of God and are not merely corporate church members. They recognize that there is no perfect church and can persevere amid difficulties. They are usually committed to work through the problems that arise in church in the same way a family irons out their issues through constructive dialogue. In instances where there are huge doctrinal differences, true believers recognize the importance of preserving purity of faith in Christ as opposed to unity or church growth.

PATIENCE PAYS

One of the hardest things we face in life is what seem to be the delays in God’s actions. We pray. The answer is delayed. Then we fume and fret and sometimes set about to work out the answer for ourselves. What is wrong when we do this? Simply put: we are not trusting. We doubt either God’s ability to do what He has promised or His timing. We need to trust God and wait upon Him.

Patience is the quality that brings about inner peace, and together with perseverance, brings about success in whatever endeavour we choose to undertake. Impatience causes irritation, imprudence, and wrong decisions and contributes greatly to personal unhappiness. Patience in its deeper sense is rooted in faith, i.e., faith in fellow human beings and faith that divine justice will prevail in the long run.

In life, patience is not something that comes easily to us. We jump the gun on most issues and we question God’s judgement and timing; trying to take matters into our own hands. We convince ourselves that everything happens for a reason and that every opportunity or situation has been the chosen one from God.

We are conditioned in our society to think that everything must be given to us instantly. We want instant answers, love success and comfort. It is like watching the news. A tragedy happens and within minutes, the world is waiting for expert advice (even when the experts are not ready to dish out their thoughts). Some things are better when they are analysed and waited out, rather than given super speedy time. In Philippians 4:6 we read: “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known unto God.”

LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF GOD

I spend much of my free time on social media. There are quite a lot of messages I come across as I click through my accounts. Some of them are dirty. I have blocked and reported a number of them to the authority and am glad the response has always been positive.

I have registered on a few sites that generate godly messages and I receive devotions on a regular basis. These are always uplifting, spiritually and also socially, as I get to interact and share the gospel with a lot of other people in the network. It is through social media that I have been able to reach many people with the message of Christ. My relationship with Christ is very clear on all my social media accounts.

I feel empowered to tell others about the love of God through the latest technology because I believe I have a positive message to share with everyone following me. I set up a blog (www.wagabi12.wordpress.com) to share the good news of Christ with others and know many are blessed through the spiritual gems I post.

In the house, radio and television are mostly tuned into Christian broadcasts where I learn about what is going on in the world. I see the need to pray for Christians being persecuted in the Middle East and ask God to comfort them and also open ways for them to find stability wherever they go.

My decision to stick with the Christian media ensures that I do not give in to the many social and political noises around. Therefore, I can stand in the gap and pray for peace in my country and the world at large.

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

Any adult who has children in his or her care must be responsible for them. If we are in charge of a child in place of its parents, responsibility for the safety of the child and for its behaviour lies squarely on our shoulders. We all need to take our share of responsibility regardless of whether we are in charge of fewer or many children.

Responsibility varies according to one’s position. A team leader, for instance, carries a great measure of responsibility than a member of the team. The biblical principle is: “… for unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).

The easiest way to understand our responsibility is to see it as fulfilling what is expected of us, whether by parents, church leaders, team leaders or other members of the team. To avoid feeling isolated from the rest of the church, it is important to have other people covering for us and they should be ones interested both in what we are doing and in our spiritual welfare. The writer of Ecclesiastes informs us that two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work (Ecclesiastes 4:9). It is always good to work alongside another person.

As soon as someone else does become involved in our work, liaison is needed. It is our responsibility to encourage communication amongst ourselves. Working as a team brings undoubted benefits. It also highlights the fact that certain requirements are necessary if we are going to function well. We should try and draw the team together and discuss what the rest of the members require of us.

What often comes up in such discussions is the need to love and be loved. Love and encouragement are fundamental. We need to remember that we are whole people. We cannot teach the children if we are not right with each other (Matthew 5:23, 24). We need to encourage one another and build each other up (1Thessalonians 5:11). In this respect, we are our brother’s keeper as we work together.

ARE YOU RICH OR POOR?

Oppression and fraud, misfortune, laziness and neglect are the main causes of poverty.  Some of these things can be broken through the political will to reduce suffering among the populace. If governments can establish laws and statutes that prohibit and punish injustice, the poor will be free from exploitation and fraud. Equitable distribution of resources too will ensure they do not go hungry all the time.

However, it is worth noting that poverty cannot be solved just by addressing injustice and misfortune. Christians should reach out to those in poverty by distributing their own financial resources and supporting ministries working in the area of poverty alleviation. Such an outreach provides churches with a mechanism to meet the physical needs of the poor as well as a context to meet their spiritual needs.

Christians should also use their gifts and abilities to help those caught in the web of poverty. Doctors can provide health care. Educators can provide literacy and remedial reading programmes. Business people can impart job skills. This kind of social involvement can also provide opportunities for evangelism. Social action and evangelism often work hand in hand. When we meet people’s needs, we often open up opportunities to reach them for Christ.

Christians, therefore, must recognize the freedom that comes with simplicity. A simple lifestyle can free us from the dangers of being owned by material possessions. It can also free us for a deeper spiritual life. While simplicity is not an end in itself, it can be a means to a spiritual life of service.

To live simply means, among other things, to eat sensibly and eat less. This includes not only good nutrition, but occasional times of prayer and fasting. Use the time saved for prayer and meditation on God’s word. Use the money saved for world hunger and relief.