The Secret of Success? Omo, Na God!

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Sometimes when successful people are asked to give advise to those aspiring to their kind of success, the common response of “it is God” can be very unsatisfying for the listener. In fact, it is often considered insulting.

The audience is typically expecting to hear a number of practical, actionable ideas, not the reference to God that is increasingly considered an annoying platitude. But really, is it?

While it may be hypocritical for people who have simply stolen money to adduce their “success” to God, for people who have really ‘worked’ their way to success, and who have an ongoing relationship with God, “Na God” may be a more practical answer than appreciated.

If you have experienced the crumbling of Jericho Walls as a result of just praising God for instance, what practical guide are you supposed to give to those seeking to know how the wall came down? How would Joshua sound in our woke world if he told you that his strategy for pulling down the wall of Jericho was hiking, and blowing a trumpet?

Could Peter have advised toiling all night as a means to catch net breaking fish, knowing full well that they did that, and came up with nothing. Would he not have been correct to say, “Na God”.

For those whose walk with the Lord is genuine, and close, miracles; small and big, are daily events of life. To then turn around, and sound off on some practical steps will in reality be laughable. If you know full well that the secret sauce to the results you have is that invisible input from God, and not necessarily all the effort, then the truest thing you can say is, “Na God”.

Moreover, it then becomes misleading to dish out even some of those “practical” things people prefer to hear even when they were God’s direct instruction to you. He might say strike the rock today for instance, and speak to it instead tomorrow.

Perhaps thinking about what answer to give for the reason for success, A wise man once commented:

Eccl 9:11 Again I looked throughout the earth and saw that the swiftest person does not always win the race, nor the strongest man the battle, and that wise men are often poor, and skillful men are not necessarily famous; but it is all by chance, by happening to be at the right place at the right time.

“To be in the right place at the right time” is something that is however entirely in the hands of God.

 

And so, knowing that the temptation to assume that our wise decisions/actions are solely responsible for our success and then start to dish out strategic insight will be rife, God reminds us to be humble in success when he says,

Deut 8:11 “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by failing to keep His commandments and His judgments (precepts) and His statutes which I am commanding you today; 12 otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them13 and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have increases, 14 then your heart will become lifted up [by self-conceit and arrogance] and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 15 He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; it was He who brought water for you out of the flinty rock. 16 He fed you manna in the wilderness, [a substance] which your fathers did not know, so that He might humble you [by dependence on Him] and that He might test you, to do good [things] for you at the end. 17 Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ 18 But you shall remember [with profound respect] the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore (solemnly promised) to your fathers, as it is this day. 

 

In the end, nothing we do can achieve any positive outcomes in, and by itself. Even the laws of nature that we rely upon for the our universe to run as it does depend on God: the bible says that he upholds them by the power of his word.

For believers therefore who are in situations where they want to share with others, and guide them to success, I suppose the key is to first establish the fundamental role of God before any other thing. By this I mean, just as the anticipated results of scientific experiments are qualified by that phrase “under standard conditions for temperature and pressure (STP)”,  the believer can qualify his advise with the phrase “God granting”.

In the final analysis, Na God!

 

 

 

image credit: http://www.getdp.net/2014/01/

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Is Prayer Shaming the New Cool?

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I have seen comments on social media poking fun at the Nathaniel Bassey led #HallelujahChallenge. The coolness of deriding prayer, or any hint of spiritual fervour is growing. Like a vortex, it is sucking in folks who have come to believe that being snarky (even about sacred things) is the surest way to grow your personal brand on social media.

Yes, far too many Nigerians treat prayer merely as a means to press God into service as a wish granting genie, money doubler, or even a cold-blooded flame-throwing assassin. Still, the discerning believer must realize that prayer is indeed a powerful means of birthing change.

When we join in laughing at the notion of people praying about the results of poor governance, the joke is on us. We betray our ignorance of the nature of evil, and the power of prayer to overcome it. For sure, prayer is not a substitute for action, but it is an indispensable enabler of the right, and effective action.

Scripture gives us ample and unambiguous directives to pray about governance. It also chronicles for us the experiences of doers who powered their success with deep, discerning prayer.

 

Habakkuk’s  ‘Rant’

Wherever I look I see oppression and bribery and men who love to argue and to fight. The law is not enforced, and there is no justice given in the courts, for the wicked far outnumber the righteous, and bribes and trickery prevail. Hab 1:3-4 TLB

This early portion of the book of Habakkuk actually sounds like a Twitter rant. But if you back up a little, you will see that he was talking to God. It was in some sense, prayer. The consequence of this lament was that God then gave Habakkuk a vision…

[Oh, I know, I have been rash to talk out plainly this way to God!] I will [in my thinking] stand upon my post of observation and station myself on the tower or fortress, and will watch to see what He will say within me and what answer I will make [as His mouthpiece] to the perplexities of my complaint against Him. And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by. Hab 2:1-2 AMPC

The problem is certainly not that we pray too much. We don’t even pray as much as we ought. The problem is that whatever praying we do is often ill-motivated. As it is said, “And even when you do ask you don’t get it because your whole aim is wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure”. James 4:3 TLB

Nehemiah sets us a very sound example of the right approach to deploying the power of prayer to national development.

 

1 The autobiography of Nehemiah, the son of Hecaliah:

In December of the twentieth year of the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia,[a] when I was at the palace at Shushan, 2 one of my fellow Jews named Hanani came to visit me with some men who had arrived from Judah. I took the opportunity to inquire about how things were going in Jerusalem.

“How are they getting along—,” I asked, “the Jews who returned to Jerusalem from their exile here?”

3 “Well,” they replied, “things are not good; the wall of Jerusalem is still torn down, and the gates are burned.”

4 When I heard this, I sat down and cried. In fact, I refused to eat for several days, for I spent the time in prayer to the God of heaven.

5 “O Lord God,” I cried out; “O great and awesome God who keeps his promises and is so loving and kind to those who love and obey him! Hear my prayer! 6-7 Listen carefully to what I say! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you; yes, I and my people have committed the horrible sin of not obeying the commandments you gave us through your servant Moses. 8 Oh, please remember what you told Moses! You said,

“‘If you sin, I will scatter you among the nations; 9 but if you return to me and obey my laws, even though you are exiled to the farthest corners of the universe, I will bring you back to Jerusalem. For Jerusalem is the place in which I have chosen to live.’

10 “We are your servants, the people you rescued by your great power. 11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Heed the prayers of those of us who delight to honor you. Please help me now as I go in and ask the king for a great favor—put it into his heart to be kind to me.” (I was the king’s cupbearer.) (Neh 1:1-10 TLB). Neh 1:1-11

For Nehemiah, prayer wasn’t an end in and of itself. It actually served to spur him to action: he immediately set about mobilizing resources, and marshaling the work. Of course he then went on to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem which had laid in ruins for years; completing the work in record time.

 

Whetting the Axe

It was Abraham Lincoln who is quoted to have said that, given six hours to cut down a tree, he would spend the first four in whetting the axe. For the believer, Prayer is actually whetting the axe. It is the necessary preparation for, and the compass to which we must constantly resort for direction all through execution.

Every trench digger knows that the time and effort spent soaking the ground with water, is actually saved, for he will find the dig a lot easier, and faster.

 

The Deceiver

Importantly, it is critical to understand the nature of evil and how to overcome it. The reality is that the oft pooh-poohed notion that there is a spiritual dimension to the problems that nations encounter is actually a very sound idea. The truth is…

we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. Eph 6:12

God’s desire is “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, and so everywhere you see evil, you will find the devil, if you know how to look.

“But Oyinbo people don’t pray”, comes the counter. On the surface, it sounds like a good counter. In reality, it is only good for those who are ignorant of the devices of the devil. We are not!

Anyone who plays board games that require strategy must know of the idea of a gambit. Growing up, I played draughts a lot, and I know that a maestro is quite happy, ecstatic even to give you the impression that you are out-scheming him when all the time, the opposite is the reality. He might repeatedly offer you pieces for instance and while you are marveling at your luck and his naïveté, you suddenly realize that he gives you three pieces in order to set you up to loose seven.

The devil is the master of gambits. He is more than happy to withdraw his forces that fuel poor governance, if that lulls that society into forgetting its source. He knows full well that a river that forgets its source will dry up ultimately. And so, while on the surface, humans may reckon that all is well, and be rejoicing at their good fortune, God laments their wretchedness.

“You say, ‘I am rich, with everything I want; I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that spiritually you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. Rev 3:17 TLB

 

The Horse then the Cart

Beloved, be not deceived. Prayer is key! To destroy the works of the devil, The Lord has this to say about sequence…

But no one can go into a strong man’s house and ransack his household goods right and left and seize them as plunder unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may [thoroughly] plunder his house. Mark 3:27

 

And so whether for your personal life or the society as a whole, change is birthed by steadfast discerning prayer. You will work, but you must pray. Don’t let the devil use people to deceive you.

 

 

Social Media ‘Rules’ of Engagement for Christians

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Fiery storms break out on Nigerian twitter without notice. The most virulent tend to be those involving social issues with the hot button topics being identity, gender, sexuality, marriage and pastors.

While some pastors find themselves in the eye of a twitter storm for their personal conduct; whether they are buying another private jet (why do we put private before it by the way) or they are plumbing new “levels of grace”, others inadvertently find themselves in the path of the storm for conveying their teachings in ways considered outrightly ignorant, or merely inelegant.

From Pastor Sarah Omaku’s teaching on Oral sex, to Pastor Adeboye’s advice for singles, and more recently Reverend Sam Adeyemi’s tweets on mental health, Nigerian social media space often erupts into a melee fuelled by what sometimes appears like pent up animosity.

For many Christians who retain some measure of respect for these church leaders, there is often considerable confusion, and squirming as they watch the latest public lynching by what is sometimes a hapless mob with no real redemptive agenda beyond earning badges as the most irreverent heckler in the latest episode of hold their feet to the flames.

These storms often do more than just hold this particular pastor to account on their teaching. Too often, the not so obvious sub-script in the sweeping, nuanceless, and quite often ignorant generalizations, is to question the entire idea of faith.

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So I have put together a few rules (principles in reality) to guide Christians who want to engage more effectively on social media without feeling the need to be defensive about their faith or the conduct of their brethren.

 

1.Overcome the need for validation by metrics.

As with all that a believer does, the primary goal for engaging on social media should always remain to honour God and not to build our ‘personal brands’. John the baptist left us a very useful mindset to bring to social media. When told that Jesus was getting more followers than he was, his response was… “He must increase and I must decrease.” John 3:30.

If we are too focused on building our numbers, we may fall into the temptation of pandering to the crowd. If we become too afraid to take a stand because we will lose our ‘friends’ then we are valuing the friendship of the world too highly and that’s courting enmity with God.

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Besides, big numbers are not always a definitive proof that we are on the right track. In fact, there is a  possibility that big numbers mean that we are on the wrong track. Be wary of the popular ideas and don’t follow the herd.

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2. Learn to quickly spot the fake, neo-liberal Jesus

Look out for Team-Jesus-would-have-been-cool-with-that. The people in this team usually profess to be followers of Jesus. The problem is that they often misrepresent him, and misapply his teachings.

By all means, Jesus is the embodiment of love and grace. He will embrace the ‘worst’ of mankind because in reality, we are all needing of redemption. As Apostle Paul once wrote, “Jesus came to die for sinners of which I am the chiefest.”

These often well-meaning people however misunderstand the grace of God. Grace does not pat us on the back for sinning. In fact, the reason grace came was to teach us to reject sin.

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These people have been seduced by this new neo-liberal Jesus who only says “Go” to the adulterous instead of “Go, and sin no more.”

The reality is that believers are not the morality police, nevertheless, they are called to be the salt of the earth, and its light. They are called to take a stand against ungodliness by their personal conduct, and in their public utterances. The key is to do it with humility, realizing as it is written in Titus that…

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3.  Beware of the snare of keeping double standards

I see many believers who are offended when their pastor’s are being publicly chastized on twitter. That’s only natural. But it is also hypocritical for those same Christians to have no qualms in rudely excoriating other people (whether other pastors or even politicians)  on the same platform.

Believers are given a standard for our communication, whether we are talking to revered men of God or ‘mere’ public servants.

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we are commanded to always be gracious in speech, irrespective of who we are talking to. Even to those who are outrightly rude to us. In this, Jesus leaves us his personal example of not retaliating.

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4. Understand that science is not the enemy

Believers can sometimes be uneasy around science, especially when it appears that the findings of science contradict scripture. I think there are two issues that are lumped together in this problem that we need to unpack.

The first is that we think science is conclusive and infallible. That’s wrong. Science is in reality unfolding. With new information, science will update its conclusions. The biggest challenge for the scientific approach is that it currently has no methods for accessing/assessing information of a non tangible nature. For things like emotion for instance, science only measures their impact on tangible and observable matter. Will science overcome this limitation? I don’t know. My take is that, if it ever does gain the ability to, it will happen on a trove of new information of a spiritual nature that will radically alter our understanding of the world.

The second thing is that we think we fully understand the Bible, and what it says about everything. The reality is that

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What this implies is that both science and my understanding of the bible only add up to a fragment of all the information there is out there. Given this reality, it is useful to be humble in our summations, acknowledge that we and our Pastors are fallible and to suspend judgement on matters that are not entirely clear until we receive more clarity.

Rather than get into pointless arguments, It is helpful to focus on what really counts. That sin is a reality, and science cannot solve that problem. Only the saving grace of Jesus can solve the problem of sin, and that is what really counts.

 

5.  Avoid Jumping into every fray

Savvy users of social media have learnt that jumping on trending topics can be quite useful in garnering a following. But as Rule ! says, believers should not make garnering a personal following  a primary goal for being on social media.

It is important to be discerning enough to know when it is appropriate to weigh in, for Scripture says that “in the multitude of words, sin is not lacking. We must therefore be sparing in our words.

 

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Believers need to learn to not meddle in every matter. Indeed if we are as busy as we ought to be, we will have little time to be such busy bodies.

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Final words

Social media offers believers a great platform to live out their faith, and share the love of Jesus. We are not to shrink from the world; we are to engage so that we can salt and give light to the world.

 

 

Don’t Get it Twisted

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It is easy to get comfortable in the keeping of the rules and rituals of our faith, and to then go on and assume that we are doing well spiritually, but are those rules, and rituals an end in themselves?

For most people, after spending sometime in church, we pick up the looks and the lingo, but quite often we are cursing out folks under our breathe while saying “bless you”.

So Apostle Paul writes to Timothy…

1 Timothy 1:5 AMP
Whereas the object and purpose of our instruction and charge is love, which springs from a pure heart and a good (clear) conscience and sincere (unfeigned) faith.

In essence he was saying, the whole point of the instructions I am sending you is to produce sincere love in you.

This is the main point of our Christian experience, and unless God succeeds in pouring his love into the world through us, our faith is worthless. Our works as well are meaningless without love, however impressive they may appear in the sight of men. For it is said in 1 Cor 13…

I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. [2] I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains-but if I have no love, I am nothing. [3] I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned-but if I have no love, this does me no good.

When asked the definitive question about what the greatest commandment was. Jesus said, “it is to love God and to love our neighbour”.

It is so important to not feel validated by anything else in oir walk with the Lord if we cannot see clearly that the love of God is poured out daily from our hearts.

Don’t get it twisted!

Are you a closet Christian?

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Many folks like to keep their faith in Jesus private. They avoid any declarative statements about their faith in public discourse, even if they are some of the most assertive people about every other subject.

They often hide behind a vague phrase like “religion is a personal thing”, but is it? Is it personal in the sense of being secret? I don’t think so.

For many, this insistence on keeping their faith ‘private’ is actually a poor mask for a lack of conviction about what they profess privately. For others, it is to avoid the questions that it will raise about the inconsistency between their so called private beliefs, and their public lifestyle.

For others still, it is the pathetic need to not offend, and to retain public approval with its perks, that keeps them from taking a public stand for the Lord.

It is for this group that Jesus has the sternest warnings. The group of private believers who in wanting to retain their social standing would rather not take the awkward positions that being a believer often demands we take in the public space.

Now, this is not a call for exhibitionism. In fact, there is a measure of discretion that our faith demands. In reality, our faith ought to be more like perfume than neon lights: everyone should be able to sense it without us making a show of it.

What the bible warns against is the desire to keep our ‘public approval’ while expecting the Lord to make do with our private devotion.

It appears this was what Nicodemus (in John 3) was trying to do when he snuck in to see Jesus at night. Being a leader of the synagogue, associating with Jesus in the day might have had consequences.

If we can’t be definite about Nicodemus’ motives,  the bible leaves us no room for doubts when it says…

John 12:42-43 AMP
And yet in spite of all this many even of the leading men (the authorities and the nobles) believed and trusted in Him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that if they should acknowledge Him they would be expelled from the synagogue; [43] For they loved the approval and the praise and the glory that come from men instead of and more than the glory that comes from God. They valued their credit with men more than their credit with God.

Although it may not appear so to you at first, but truth is, if you are particularly cagey about your faith in Jesus, there’s a good chance it is because, like the folks in this verses above, “you love the approval, and praise, and glory that come from men instead of and more than the glory that comes from God.”

Now Jesus leaves us a dire warning on this issue…

Luke 12:8-9 AMP
And I tell you, Whoever declares openly speaking out freely and confesses that he is My worshiper and acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man also will declare and confess and acknowledge him before the angels of God. [9] But he who disowns and denies and rejects and refuses to acknowledge Me before men will be disowned and denied and rejected and refused acknowledgement in the presence of the angels of God.

There’s the temptation after reading this portion to opt for hair splitting, and tunnel into verse 9, from which we can defensively argue that we don’t deny or disown him. That’s futile though, because the standard of proof of not denying him that Jesus accepts is verse 8. To openly declare, speaking freely, and confessing that we are his worshipper and acknowledging him before men.

No. Our faith is not private in the sense that we have come to define it. As Jesus teaches, it is pointless to light a candle and hide it under a basket. When a candle is lit, the proper thing to do with it is to put it on a candle stand so it gives light to everyone.

Take a stand!

@woleolabanji

Gethsemane, Golgotha and Galilee

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While growing up, the joy of the annual Easter celebration was the trip to ‘Galilee’ on Easter Monday.  It was a day of fun and feasting, spent with family and friends by the lake formed by the university dam at Shika. It was our annual family picnic where we frollicked no holds barred, after weeks of fasting during the lenten season, and going through the poignant rituals of the stations of the cross leading up to Easter Sunday.

Growing up has drained Easter of all that frolic. In its place, now dwells a less boisterous but infinitely more satiating joy of salvation. Galilee means much more to me now than a day of gorging and flinging frisbees by the lake side.

As I sat listening to the Easter sermon in church today, the Holy Spirit began to whisper to me about the journey from Gethsemane through Golgotha and to Galilee.

In celebrating Easter today, Golgotha often takes the centre stage, as we bask in the love of Christ that made him go to the cross for us, and in the power of His ressurection. But today, the Holy Spirit began to nudge me to also pay some attention to Gethsemane, and Galilee.

Indeed there couldn’t have been a Golgotha without Gethsemane. Although his body was crucified at Golgotha, it was at Gethsemane that his flesh was crucified.

Matthew 26:36-46 GNT
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” [37] He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee. Grief and anguish came over him, [38] and he said to them, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me.” [39] He went a little farther on, threw himself face downward on the ground, and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want.” [40] Then he returned to the three disciples and found them asleep; and he said to Peter, “How is it that you three were not able to keep watch with me for even one hour? [41] Keep watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” [42] Once more Jesus went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cup of suffering cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” [43] He returned once more and found the disciples asleep; they could not keep their eyes open. [44] Again Jesus left them, went away, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. [45] Then he returned to the disciples and said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look! The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners. [46] Get up, let us go. Look, here is the man who is betraying me!”

The surrendering of the will, the laying down of the life happened at Gethsemane, Golgotha was merely the outward manifestation of a work that had been completed. Understandably, the brutal beating that our Lord endured on the way to Golgotha is more captivating, but you see, as it says in 1 Cor 13:3, it is entirely possible to give ones body to be destroyed in a self seeking way. All of the suffering that Jesus endured on the way to Golgotha is only meaningful because he was victorious over self at Gethsemane.

I find however that like the apostles who slept while Jesus prayed, I also miss the opportunity of Gethsemane many times. Often, in focusing on the power of his ressurection, I miss out on the fellowship of his suffering; his agony in prayer that made his sweat seem as drops of blood. Too often we skip the private crucifxion of the flesh, and therefore when the public crucifixion of the body comes, we fail. Unlike Him that was like a lamb being led to the slaughter, and remained quiet, when we suffer any perceived injustice or deprivation, we lash out.

I find also that it is the skipping of Gethsemane that blinds us to the purpose of our rendezvous at Galilee. If we fail to crucify the flesh at Gethsemane, we often misappropriate the power of His ressurection when we get to Galilee. For the man who bypasses Gethsemane,  Galilee will always be a place of feasting: the entire Christian  experience will mean nothing more than apropriating the sacrifice of Golgotha for personal upliftment.

Yet Galilee isn’t merely a party. In fact Galilee is the place where we receive instruction for the highest use of the power of His resurrection.

Matthew 28:10, 16-20 GNT
“Do not be afraid,” Jesus said to them. “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” [16] The eleven disciples went to the hill in Galilee where Jesus had told them to go. [17] When they saw him, they worshiped him, even though some of them doubted. [18] Jesus drew near and said to them, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. [19] Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, [20] and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”

For many a believer today, Gethsemane, Golgotha and Galilee may be no more than mere stops on a tour trail while performing a tourist’s pilgrimage to Israel. In reality, they are the unmissable  milestones on our paths as pilgrims. To know the fellowship of his suffering, to know the power of his ressurection, and to tell the world of his goodness.

Gethsemane, Golgotha and Galilee
Happy Easter.

@woleolabanji

The Privilege of Suffering

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That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Philippians 3:10 KJV)

Called to Suffer
Like Apostle Paul did, many believers cry out to know the Lord; to know the power of his resurrection, but not as many, very few in fact are interested in the fellowship of his suffering, or being conformed to his death.

We all want to walk in the power; that explosive omnipotence that raised him from the dead, but you won’t find many takers when  what is on offer is the  fellowship fostered by shared suffering.

Why has the gospel come to be associated with the eradication of suffering? It doesn’t appear that this notion can be supported by a correct reading of the bible. Under the new covenant; from the book of Mathew to Revelation, the idea of suffering appears just as commonly embraced as the saving grace of Jesus.

When encountered in the service of Christ, suffering becomes a privilege. As Apostle Paul writes  “…you have been given the privilege of serving Christ, not only by believing in him, but also by suffering for him.” (Philippians 1:29 GNT)

Speaking of suffering as an integral part of our calling, Apostle Peter wrote,.. “For even to this were you called it is inseparable from your vocation. For Christ also suffered for you, leaving you His personal example, so that you should follow in His footsteps.” (1 Peter 2:21 AMP)

In teaching that suffering lines the path that we must follow in the footsteps of Christ, and longing to be conformed to his death, the Apostles invoke the words of Christ himself who says without equivocation,  “…If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself, disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also.” (Luke 9:23 AMP)

Why Suffering?
Is our call to suffering some masochistic fantasy? Do we pursue suffering merely for its own sake?

No. No.

We do not seek suffering, but we cannot escape it. As inevitable milestones, suffering marks the way that we must take, if we are to follow our Lord, and arrive eventually at the home he has gone to build for us.

Suffering is simply a consequence of the decision to live for Christ. Dearly beloved, do not be deceived, even in following the Lord,  Terms & Conditions apply.

Now there are many deceivers who will never mention the terms, and conditions. Like shylocks, they will hide the truth in small print. But be not deceived…

Indeed all who delight in piety and are determined to live a devoted and godly life in Christ Jesus will meet with persecution will be made to suffer because of their religious stand. (2 Timothy 3:12 AMP)

We suffer, not because we want to, but because if we are to live out our convictions in this world, the only response the world meets us with is suffering.

We must beware then that we don’t love the comforts of this life, and trade in our blessing in eternity for them. For such a profane person was Esau, that his belly became his god, and for a moment of respite, he lost an eternity of ease.

“Many”, we are told, “walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: [19] Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18-19 KJV)

Indeed those whose god is their belly are always literally the enemies of the cross of Christ. For a man who worships his belly cannot “deny himself, take up his cross, and follow” as Christ commanded.

The higher purpose of suffering
The believer is not a masochist, and God is not a sadist. There is a higher purpose for the suffering we endure.

There is a deeper understanding that the power of ressurection cannot indeed be known separate from the fellowship of his suffering, and the conforming to his death. For it is written…

We are hedged in (pressed) on every side troubled and oppressed in every way, but not cramped or crushed; we suffer embarrassments and are perplexed and unable to find a way out, but not driven to despair; [9] We are pursued (persecuted and hard driven), but not deserted to stand alone; we are struck down to the ground, but never struck out and destroyed; [10] Always carrying about in the body the liability and exposure to the same putting to death that the Lord Jesus suffered, so that the resurrection life of Jesus also may be shown forth by and in our bodies. [11] For we who live are constantly experiencing being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the resurrection life of Jesus also may be evidenced through our flesh which is liable to death. (2 Corinthians 4:8-11 AMP)

This portion of the scripture makes abundantly clear that…

It is in

“Always carrying about in the body the liability and exposure to the same putting to death that the Lord Jesus suffered,” 

that

“the resurrection life of Jesus also may be shown forth by and in our bodies.”

We are therefore not helpless against suffering. No. We meet it headlong. We meet it triumphantly not reluctantly, for we know that

… our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!, (2 Corinthians 4:17 AMP)

And this is why we are able with the Apostle James to say…

Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. [3] Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. (James 1:2-3 AMP)

@woleolabanji

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