Wisdom for the New Year

I came across a passage of the bible a few hours to the end of last year and it seemed to stand out embossed as I read it. Proverbs 19:3 in the New Living Translation reads “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.” As I pondered on this verse of scripture, I began to wonder how many persons in those few hours left for the year to end were busy blaming God for failing to help them achieve the numerous plans and goals they had for the year, little knowing that they were the architect of their misfortune.

It is always so easy to play the blame game. We see God, our parents, spouse, partners, friends, co-workers, etc as responsible for our failures or inability to achieve certain set goals. Rarely do we turn the searchlight inwards by considering our ways to see areas we had gone out of line, either by acting wrongly or failing to act altogether. Rarely do we place ourselves on the scale and hold ourselves responsible for our foibles. The cycle of blame games have really gotten no one anywhere. The journey to achieving our life goals will always begin with taking responsibility for whatever outcomes we get from our numerous efforts.

From this scripture in Proverbs, it is clear that foolishness always leads to ruin. Irrespective of God’s desire to help, when we walk in foolishness God’s hands are tied because he never violates our volition – our right to choose how to live our lives. But the reality is always that we cannot run away from the consequences of our choices. Living in foolishness and expecting God to do a miracle is like eating our cakes and expecting to have them back.

Nobody is immune from foolishness though. There is always a measure of foolishness in us because we are imperfect and fallible. However, there is always room for constant improvement. You are most likely to act foolishly in the area of your ignorance or recklessness. The cure for foolishness therefore is acquiring the right knowledge and walking in wisdom.

As this new year begins, this is a time for self evaluation and assessment. It is time to take stock of the results we have to show for our labours of the last year. Could it be that in certain areas, we labored foolishly and ended up with no rewards? Insanity has been defined as doing things the same way but expecting a different result. We all have areas of our lives that beg for change. This year will not be so different unless we deliberately choose to be pragmatic and change our lifestyle, our attitudes, our habits, our jobs or vocation, etc where necessary.

So, what am I advocating? I’m simply saying it is time to stop doing things your way and blaming God for the adverse effect. It is rather time to start doing things God’s way. God is interested in every area of our lives and is readily available and willing to play a part in our decision making on a daily basis. Rather than beginning this new year on the gear of self will and turning around mid-way to ask “Oh God, where are you?” it is wisdom to involve God from the beginning.

It will amaze you how concerned God is about the minutest details of your life and affairs. “I know the thoughts that I think towards you; thoughts of good and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 11:29). If God is thinking about you so much, why not give him a chance to play a part in your decision making and goal setting for this new year. It hurts us so much when we make great plans for our wards and loved ones and they turn around to mess up our plans. It hurts even more when at last they begin to blame us for their failures. But that’s exactly how we’ve been treating God.

God is not only thinking about us, He is willing to guide us along the best pathway for our lives. That is what the scripture says in Psalm 32:8 (NLT). It is wisdom to take some time out alone with God and hear what He would say to you and what advice He has for you. There is no better time to learn from the life of Prophet Habakkuk. “I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected. Then the Lord answered me and said:  ‘write the vision and make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.’” (Habakkuk 2: 1-2)

I charge you at this critical time of a new beginning to position yourself alone with God and sincerely seek His face. He will open your eyes to see and capture the right vision for your life. A vision He can be part of; a vision that you can pursue and see tangible results that you will be proud of. I pray that as you take your journey into this new year, you will walk in wisdom by following the divine mandate for your life. May you have no reason to repeat the blame game again this year. God bless you.

 

UNLOCKING GOD’S ABUNDANCE FOR THE DROUGHT SEASON

As the world enters deeper and deeper into a season of economic recession and our country Nigeria is laden with impending fear of drought due firstly to the effect of several years of corruption, economic mismanagement and bad leadership and more recently to the fall in the price of crude oil, which imprudently has become the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, it has become necessary to prepare our minds to face the coming challenge.

What would be the key to staying afloat in the coming flood? What would be the panacea for stemming the tide? Permit me to share with you one indispensable key to a life of victory in the times we are in. It is without doubt an indispensable key to unlocking God’s abundance in a season of drought. This key is to put your trust in God and my text as we meditate on this together is from Jeremiah 17:7 – 8.

It sounds too simple, isn’t it? This isn’t what you expected to hear. Well, it will shock you to know that only very few believers truly trust in God and that in itself is not strange. Jesus looked to our time and asked a vital question in Luke 18:8, “When the son of man comes, will he really find faith in the earth?” Incidentally, one man’s confession reveals the critical situation of many hearts today. He came to Jesus and pleaded, “I believe but help my unbelief(Mark 9:24). How come faith and doubt were residing in the same heart? The man’s saving grace was his humility in admitting the presence of doubt and unbelief and seeking divine help.

We live in times when there is so much of faith talk but less of faith walk. We profess confidence and trust in God but display inadvertently and unwittingly, the abysmal distrust and lack of faith that truly characterizes our hearts. Sometimes the true composition of our hearts is shielded from the discerning eyes of men, but can we truly escape God’s divine searchlight? God will always search our hearts for true, sincere and undiluted faith or trust in Him. God declared in Jeremiah 17:9 – 10 that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” A man can be deceived by his own heart to believe that he has trust in God. However, upon examination, God may only find complaint, murmuring, desperation and the like expressed as trust BUT not trust.

When God finds a heart that trusts Him, there is no limit to what He can bestow. According to Prophet Jeremiah:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.

And whose hope is the Lord.

For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,

Which spreads out its roots by the river,

And will not fear when heat comes;

But its leaf will be green,

And will not be anxious in the year of drought,

Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

  • Jeremiah 17:7 – 8

In several passages of scripture, we are encouraged to put our trust in God:

 

“They that put their trust in God are like mount zion that cannot be moved”

  • Psalm 125:1

 

“Oh, how great is Your goodness,

Which You have laid up for those who fear You,

Which You have prepared for those who trust You

In the presence of the sons of men!”

  • Psalm 31:19

 

To trust God goes beyond words.

  • Our trust is revealed when we deliberately shun ungodly solutions to our perceived problems while we wait earnestly for his help.
  • To trust God involves being patient in the face of delay.
  • To trust God entails laughing and rejoicing in the face of challenges.
  • Trusting God entails seeing God at work in every situation, whether seeming unfavourable and unpleasurable, and thanking God ahead sincerely for His glorious plan.
  • Trust in God is displayed when we step out confidently upon the waters knowing that without God, we will surely sink.

Real “trust” like “faith” is dead without works which serve as a proof. Words alone are too weak and too cheap to express it.

Jeremiah’s description of the man who trusts in the Lord is very apt. He is like a tree planted by the river side whose root reaches the waters. Such a man most definitely:

  1. Will receive continuous supply of nutrients from the well watered river banks;
  2. Stay luscious and fresh all year round;
  3. Live free of fear, worry or anxiety; and
  4. Will bloom and blossom with fruits irrespective of the season.

God is a giver and is constantly in the mood to bless us. It is our hearts that determine our preparedness to receive from Him. What qualifies us to receive from God is the simple quality of trust not just in His ability to meet our needs but also in His willingness to do so.

One fact of life is that seasons of heat and drought will continue to be a recurring decimal from time to time as revealed in Jeremiah 17:8. The present times we live in is characterized by global meltdown, economic recession, credit crunch, rising inflationary trend, currency devaluation of developing countries. With these, all manner of negative publicity and rumours of impending drought pervade our news media targeting our hearts with a view to decimating every ounce of trust in God that is left in us. These events, however, are not strange. No student of the bible will be surprised at the turn of events.

In the same vein, the present times presents us with a veritable opportunity to showcase our trust in God and God will make a clear distinction between those who trust Him and those who don’t. God is eager to show himself faithful but only those who truly trust Him can become beneficiaries of His faithfulness. When we trust God, we can never run out of supplies of whatever it is we need to live life to the optimum because. King David enjoyed this benefit all His life and so was ably qualified to advise us rightly in Psalm 37:3. He said:

“Trust in the Lord, and do good;

Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.”

 I pray that in this season of economic turbulence, your case will be different. Your home will be Goshen as you feed on the faithfulness of God daily. Receive abundant supply in Jesus name. Amen.

 

Pst. Emeje Godwin Aruwa

08066218389

When your desires fight you

Every human being has a heart. The heart is the seat of desires and it is full of all sorts. Desires are very strong cravings or longings of our heart. The dreams and expectations we flirt with hoping to become our realities. We can have desire for fame, wealth, power, influence, women, men, children, love, freedom, fun, alcohol, drugs, etc. The list is endless. Our desires constitute a very powerful force that controls our decisions and ultimately, the outcome of our lives. Hence our desires can either make us or mar us.

Our desires also constitute our source of temptation; the bait that gets us quiet easily. Hence our desire is not only of interest to us, it is also of interest to the devil. The temptations that get our attention and which have the capacity to overcome us are those ones closely related to our heart desires. They undoubtedly court our fancy. We must realize that when we face any temptation, it is actually a test of our love. It is a call to choose between God and our personal desires. That is why Apostle James wrote in James 1:12 – 16 that:

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”

The first point I get from this great exposition by Apostle James is the blessedness of enduring temptation. Each time we win in our daily fight against sin and temptation, there is a blessing attached. We receive God’s approval; His confirmation of our love for Him which entitles us to a crown of life. The way I see it is that our best proclamation of our love for God is not in words but in our daily acts of enduring and overcoming temptations.

One deception from the pit of hell is to get us to believe that God is the source of our temptations. The devil strives to make us shift the attention from ourselves to some other source, when it comes to why we face temptations. James strives to expose this fallacy by disclosing to us the very source of our temptations. It is not farfetched; it is right within us… it is our heart desires. Our desires entice us to sin. You cannot tempt a man with something he hates; No. You only tempt him with something he desires. Every temptation that overcomes us is tied to an unchecked desire!

Every temptation we face is therefore a thug of war between our love for God and our love for our desires, each seeking to gain mastery over us. When the pull and enticement of our heart desires overcome the pull of our love for God, the result will be a certain slide into sin whose ultimate goal or destination is death. It becomes obvious that our ungodly desires fight us with a view to overcome us.

What is then the panacea to avoid such victory of sin over us? The first step lies in having Jesus as Lord of your life. Paul had painted a gory picture with a hopeful end when he said in Romans 7:21 – 25 (NIV):

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature, a slave to the law of sin.”

We are wretched and helpless without Christ. When we have our relationship we Christ settled, we must then give attention to how we treat our hearts and the ungodly desires therein that prey upon us. We must take steps to guard our hearts diligently.

“Guard your hearts with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.”

(Proverbs 4:23)

Guarding the heart is a matter requiring diligence. When diligence is lacking, our effort of many weeks or months at keeping the devil and our ungodly desires at bay can be destroyed by one swift bolt of desire left to roam unguardedly for a short moment. The devil always seeks opportunity to strike in our unguarded moments, when our desires seem to soar without restraint and then the next moment is one of regrets and remorse.

What do we guard our hearts against? We guard our hearts against whatever it is that feeds our ungodly desires. Desires grow when fed and they die when we starve them. Desires feed on information. Hence when we permit information to penetrate our heart through our sense organs; by the things we see, hear, smell, taste or touch. We fill our hearts with what either feeds or kills our heart desires. Hence in guarding our hearts, we must be wary of the friends we keep, the places we go, the movies we watch, the books or materials we read, etc. A man struggling with sexual sin can never overcome it so long as he still goes to clubs, reads erotic materials, keeps the company of friends who find sexual sin attractive, etc. The information, which naturally gets to his heart from these interactions will naturally strengthen his desire for sexual sin to such an extent that his love for God cannot cope with. It’s a natural law of cause and effect.

Starving our desires of what they require to grow is a painful process of depriving our selves (our flesh) what it craves. It is however a worthwhile process as overtime, their grip on our heart is lost and we begin to leave a life free of their entanglements. It is a worthy price to pay for freedom. Paul writing to the Corinthian church said:

“And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

Beyond guarding our hearts against the information that feeds our ungodly desires, we need to strengthen our heart with the right information. James 1:21 and 25 says:

“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves….But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

The word of God planted in our hearts is what saves our souls from the power of temptation and sin. The word of God is the perfect law of liberty. It frees us from bondage to sin. As we look into the word of God and live by it, our victory over sin and temptation is certain. Hebrews 12:1 – 2 admonishes us:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Life is a race. There are weights we must let go… little things that drag us down or slow us down enough for sin to catch up with us. The Christian race, calls for constant endurance, so “let us run with endurance” following Jesus example. He endured the cross. On the cross, his flesh was nailed. We must nail our cravings, desires and dreams which run contrary to our love for God on the cross. We must die to them, because there is a crown of life ahead for only those who endure to the end. Others have run the race victoriously amidst all odds. You will too in Jesus name.

It is my prayer that henceforth, you will walk in victory over the temptations. I pray that you will run a glorious race and obtain that glorious crown of life in Jesus name. I am waiting to hear your testimony.

Pst. (Barr.) Emeje Aruwa

08066218389

 

 

DESTROYED BY A FATHER’S FOOTPRINTS

I had a sermon to prepare on “Forceful advancement of the Kingdom of God through the ministry of House Fellowships”. The first passage of scripture I had to study was 2 Samuel Chapter 6, verses 11 to 14. It is about the story of Obed-Edom and the Ark of God; how that God blessed the House of Obed-Edom to stupor within three months of accommodating the Ark (the very symbol of God’s presence in his day). Obed-Edom’s blessing within the space of three months was noised about so much so that it aroused spiritual envy in the King. King David quickly prepared to welcome back the Ark into the city of David in a lavish ceremony of praise, music and dancing.

I enjoyed the story so well that I proceeded to complete the chapter and therefore came to David’s encounter with Michal, the daughter of Late King Saul who happened to be King David’s wife. I was forced to suspend my study on House Fellowships as I pondered on the life of Michal, laid bare in but a few verses of this chapter, specifically verses 16 to 23. I sat petrified to find that one event of her life consisting of a few thoughts conceived by pride and arrogance, which matured into spoken words (just a few words) dealt a sinister and fatal blow to her destiny.

Wondering how Michal, the wife of David, could become so unspiritual as to disdain David for his unrestrained worship of the Almighty God, my mind came to her background … her upbringing … her father. I quickly realized that the very virus that killed King Saul had attacked his daughter. I discovered that Michal learnt how life “should be lived” by watching her father and so was misled to her destruction. She died barren.

But would it not be a thing of joy for sons and daughters to behave like their father? Would it not be a thing of pride for sons and daughters to learn from the foot prints of parents? Shouldn’t it be a thing of joy for my children to learn the ropes of life and living by following my example? I pondered on to the singular conclusion, that I am living beyond one life…I am replicating my life in my children. In living my life, I either make or mar theirs. I realized that my failure may most likely mean the failure of the next generation.

You may ask, “why should King Saul be held responsible for the attitude or behavior of Michal that cost her her destiny?” The answer lies in looking at a few of the factors that led to the failure of Saul. In 1 Samuel 13: 10 -14; 15:24 – 31 we find out the following about King Saul:

  1. He was more concerned about having the people on his side than having God on his side (1 Samuel 13:11): He saw that while he waited on God for Samuel’s arrival, the people scattered from him and so he could no longer wait.
  2. He was more concerned about the people’s opinion of him and the honour and praise of men than that of God (1 Samuel 15:20 – 22): Saul chose to please the people by allowing them to carry what God had clearly forbidden rather than obey God, forgetting that one with God is majority.
  3. He was moved by his feelings rather than knowledge of God’s clear command (1 Samuel 13:12): He knew that God had expressly instructed him to wait for Samuel to come and offer the sacrifice but when he thought that the Philistines may come down on him, he felt compelled and offered a burnt offering. He was working in disobedience prompted by his feelings and yet was acting spiritual.

You will discover that in two separate events of King Saul’s life (the battle with the Philistines and the battle with the Amalekites), he portrayed himself as someone who was more concerned about the peoples acceptance, their perception of him, the honour they accord him than with pleasing God who had chosen him and made him King. He would rather sacrifice pleasing God for the praise of men. That was his undoing.

My concern now is the fact that Michal his little girl watched him and copied his attitude as the true expression of royalty. Like her father, she was more concerned about having the people on her side than having God on her side. She placed greater premium on the honour accorded her or the King than her honouring God. Her feelings were of greater concern to her than God’s expectation. Like her father, living her perception of royalty was more important than pleasing God.

So when she saw David act differently, she despised him, little knowing that her father was the wrong one. She expected David to carry himself with “dignity” and exercise restraint in his worship, being mindful of “the maids of his servants” who were watching him. He should behave “as a King”… like Saul always did. She looked on David with disdain and voiced out her displeasure only to realize she had followed her father’s footprints to her destruction.

David did not mince words when he responded and said, “It was before the LORD, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the LORD. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maid servants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.”

The point we all must realize is that all parents owe their children a duty; it is the duty to live by godly example. By our very lives, we may well be framing the structure on which our children will build their own lives, either to their glory or to their destruction. We must therefore ensure we point them in the right direction, not just by what we say, but by how we live knowing that we shall one day account for how we handled the children entrusted to our care by God.

Pst. (Barr) Emeje Aruwa

aruwae@yahoo.com

(08066218389)

I NEED YOU – YOU NEED ME (THE POWER OF RELATIONSHIPS)

We all crave relationships. I think that even the cruelest of people still crave the love and affection of others. Relationship is vital for all of us because first God created us for relationship – to relate with him. He then created the woman so that man could be engaged in a meaningful relationship with a woman. A family was born. The first family was a tripartite relationship between God, Man and Woman. It always pays to retain this standard of relationship for a successful home. Even when challenges come, you will easily overcome. (That was by the way) Every other human being on earth came out of the loins of Adam. So, whether we like it or not, if our relationship is traced far enough, we will realize that we are family.

Our success in life is tied to the quality of relationships we have or we keep.  Your relationships can either make or mar you. They that walk with the wise shall be wise but the companion of fools shall be utterly destroyed. (Proverbs 13:20) We see how the relationship between Jonathan. and David enhanced the life of David positively. He had a friend in deed. Conversely, the life of Amnon, David’s son was cut short in his prime because he followed the advice of Jonadab – a bad friend and slept with his step sister. We see also in 1 Kings 12 how Rehoboam the son of Solomon lost control of the Kingdom his father handed over to him simply because he choose to follow the advice of the foolish and inexperienced youths of his day rather than the wise advice of the elders. God called Abraham out of his father’s house. It was Abraham who entered a covenant with God but simply following Abraham, Lot also became wealthy. That is what relationship can do.

The devil knows that two people with a quality relationship have power ten times greater than their individual power. That is the principle of Deuteronomy 32:30. This is the power of synergy. That is why our relationships are a target for the devil. He tries to destroy relationships that will lead to our upliftment. That is why we must be conscious of the devices of the devil in order to overcome them and reap the full benefit of our relationships.

The benefits of a good relationship are endless. They include help, synergy, correction, instruction, advice, motivation, strength, fulfillment, etc.

It is wisdom to properly define and categorize our relationships. Even Jesus had different levels of relationship. His relationship with Peter, James and John was at a different level compared with the other nine disciples. They were with him at the transfiguration. They followed him sometimes to pray. Similarly, his relationship with the twelve disciples was on a different plane from the seventy disciples. We see equally the special attachment he had to Lazarus, Mary and Martha. When we define our relationships, it helps us to know how much attention to devote to them. There are acquaintances that we must relate with from a distance in order not to be influenced negatively by their words and deeds. There are those we must consciously seek to deepen our relationship with – either as a way to derive more benefit from their lives or to afford us an opportunity to be a blessing to them.

For those with whom we are going to relate closely, we need to seek certain qualities. Are they born again? Do they have any strange doctrines? What is the fruit of their lives like? – that is, their Character. Matthew 7:20 says that by their fruits you shall know them. When a person’s speech, attitude or conduct is unwholesome, then you need to keep some distance for what relationship has light with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14). Evil communication, the bible says, corrupts good manners. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Good relationships may never be too much, but one bad one can do much harm.

Defining your relationship will also help you to place value on them. You are not likely to derive much benefit from relationships you don’t value. Most times, what you see in the relationship is what you get.          Life is a network; you are just about two persons away from any person you want to meet. That is why you need to value the people that God brings into your life. He brings them for a purpose. It is up to you to discover why they are in your life and strive to get the purpose achieved.

Strive as a Christian to achieve two major things in all your relationships. Strive to lift people up and strive to draw them closer to God. In striving to lift them up, you ask yourself the question, “how can I be of help or benefit to this person?” Your first aim should not be about what you can get but about what you can give. If our pursuit in a relationship is about what we can get out of it, we are most likely to live a life full of disappointments. That a man has more than enough is not a guarantee that he will give to you. We must also pursue a spiritual dimension, which is to point our friends, family and acquaintances to Jesus. That is the best we can offer them. Even if they are already believer’s, there is a lot we can bring into their lives to enhance their relationship with God. This we must consciously strive to achieve until it becomes our lifestyle.

Of great importance is the need to turn the search light inwards in order to examine ourselves to see that we are not deficient in the qualities that we seek in others. You will need to remove the log from your eyes before complaining about the spek in your brother’s eye. Be the kind of friend that you will love to have. Proverbs 18 verse 24 puts it this way: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Let’s equally bear in mind the golden rule: “Do unto others as you will have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12). Most times, the reaction you get from people is a reflection of your own attitude or approach towards them. When you show people love, they are most likely to respond with love. When you approach them with any negative attitude, it is most probable that they will respond in the same token. What you sow is what you reap.

There are many people in church who complain that there is no love in church simply because no one visited them. However, they themselves have not visited anyone is a very long while. Many people today are like islands. They feel like they don’t need anyone. They are so busy with their job, family and everything else that they don’t want a relationship with the rest of the Body of Christ until they have a need. Then they wonder, “Where is the church?”

To maintain your relationships, there are certain things you must be conscious of. You must choose to be a friend in deed and not a fair weather friend. Stand by your friends in both the good and the bad times. The notion that friends run away in the bad times must not be true of you. If your love and friendship is genuine, it must pass the test of time and adversity. Proverbs 17:17 says that a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

You must equally abhor jealousy, strife and gossip as this is a sure way to destroy your relationship. Proverbs 16:28 says that a perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer seperates the best of friends. Even the best of friendships will break if we allow jealousy or give our ears to gossips. When you are offended, you must be Christ-like about it. Handle offenses rightly and seek reconciliation. Seek to understand the other person; you may realize they were right.

We all need each other. That was why God brought us together. Let’s seek to bring out the best in our relationships to the glory of God. Let me however conclude that, our first and foremost relationship is with God. Our focus must always be on him. Let us not seek to derive from human relationship what only God can give. Hence, we must be prepared to let go of a relationship whose purpose in our lives have been served and let’s keep our focus on God who is our source and sustainer. God bless you.

THE PARABLE OF THE RICH FOOL (PART 1):

“Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (LUKE 12:13 – 21 NIV)

This parable became necessary because a man came to Jesus simply to satisfy the dictates of his greed. Obviously from the reply of Jesus when his intervention in a family squabble was sought, the man’s request was not an honest request for something he was entitled to.  It then means he was asking for more than his rightful share and that is greed. Jesus addressed the real issue that needed to be dealt with. He said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Verse 15) That is the essence of the parable of the rich fool.

The first question that strikes my mind then is, “When we come to God laden with prayer requests of all kinds, what are our true motives?” Jesus looks beyond the request; He sees the motives behind our prayers. That is why He said in James 4: 3 that,When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. Our prayer requests my spring from a genuine need backed up by the right motive otherwise, it will not receive God’s attention. This is a profound lesson we need to bear in mind in our ever needy world. Our motives play a great part in determining God’s response to our prayers. A genuine prayer request sponsored by a negative or ill motive will receive no positive response from God.

I am amazed at the alarmist approach Jesus adopts towards the issue of greed when He said “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed”. It presupposes that if we are not careful and watchful, greed can creep into our lives unawares and taint our desires and request. The phrase “all kinds of greed” equally presupposes that God may see as greed what ordinary you may not consider to be greed. What is greed? It is an excessive or reprehensible desire to acquire; covetousness. Wikipedia defines greed as the inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one’s self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort. It is applied to a markedly high desire for and pursuit of wealth, status, and power. Any desire for something which is intended to be used for a just purpose cannot be inordinate. So it is not in the quantum of the thing requested but in the motive behind the request. When the motive is wrong, the desire is inordinate and therefore tainted by greed.

The next issue Jesus wanted to deal with is the worth of a man’s life. He said, “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” When a man wants to judge his success in life by the quantum of worldly possessions he has been able to acquire to himself, he has only found the wrong parameter for self evaluation. Our worldly possessions are not an end in themselves. They are a means to an end. When our pursuit for them becomes our ultimate aim or goal in life and we feel acquiring them is all that approximates to success, we miss the mark and fulfillment in life will be very far. After acquiring everything possible, one sure emotion that will flood our hearts will be that of emptiness; deed emptiness that will make a man cry out, “vanity upon vanity, all is vanity.” That phrase is attributed to King Solomon the man who went in search of all forms of human possession and having acquired all the delights of men’s heart was amazed at the emptiness of all his enterprise. (Ecclesiastes 2).

What then should be the correct measure of life?  Measure your life by the fulfillment of purpose. All your pursuits and desires in life should be towards the actualization of your divine purpose in life. When our purpose in life is held in proper perspective, we will not misuse or abuse the blessings of God that come our way as worldly possessions. We will see them for what they truly are; raw materials for the enhancement and actualizations of our divine assignment in life. (Watch out for part 2).

THE PERSISTENT WIDOW (LUKE 18:1 – 8)

“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man. And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

The purpose of this parable was first revealed by Apostle Luke before venturing to relay the story itself. Jesus relayed this story in order that his disciples would pray and not faint. In life, times of challenges would always come. We will from time to time be confronted with challenges that seem to surmount us and at such times, our only alternative will be to go to God in prayer. Yes, people pray in times of problem but unfortunately, when it seems their prayers are not answered, they conclude there is no hope for them and they faint. People give up on God when answers to their prayers seem delayed. Jesus told his disciples this story to the end that they pray until their answers come.

I like the way Luke puts it; “to the end that men ought always to pray…” Prayer should not be the last resort after all other things have prayed. God expects us to create a lifestyle of prayer. It reflects our constant dependence on him even with regards to the minute issues of our lives. That means even when we seem to know what to do or to be in control of our affairs, we should pray. And when we are confused or mesmerized by our encounters in life, we should pray. Prayer connects us to God and invites God into the affairs of our lives. No matter how much we think we know, we can never outgrow his grace (assistance that comes when we pray). We have all fainted in our prayers at one time or the other. We prayed but eventually gave up in our wait for the answers. God’s desire is that we will learn to be persistent until in prayer until we have our desires met.

The widow in this parable was confronted with a judge described as an unjust judge. That means he dispensed judgment, not on the basis of justice but bribe. The rich who were ready to bribe him were sure of getting a favourable judgment before him. Beyond this, he was a callous judge that was not moved by anything as he feared neither man nor God. This widow however was poor and had powerful and rich adversaries who were oppressing her. She couldn’t help herself but knew that this unjust judge had all it takes to bail her out of her predicament. Having realized were the solution to her problem lay, she made up her mind to stay there until help comes. This was a display of great faith on the part of the widow. God expects us to approach him in faith. We must come to God with the confident assurance that if only we can pray, we will have our needs met.  Unlike this woman, we come to a God who is just in all his ways. He is a God of justice. Beyond that He is our father and He loves us. That poor widow would surely have envied us. Unfortunately today due to lack of faith, we faint at the slightest delay and begin to seek help in some other ungodly ways. Faith is not knowing that God can help you. Even the devil knows that God can do all things. Faith is knowing that God will help you. That is why when faith is in place, there is no alternative to God. When there seem to be delays, you encourage yourself in the Lord and wait. The bible enjoins us to follow the example of those who through faith and patience obtained the promises. Faith is never faith if patience is lacking. Delay is only a test of your faith. If you can pass the test of patience, you will breakthrough to your desired end. I seriously wish that all in the church today would know that there is no other name given amonst men by which we may be saved. We are often pushed by the circumstances in life to seek help elsewhere outside of Jesus and that is an indication of a lack of faith in God. God’s delay should not be an excuse to seek help anywhere else. His delay is never a denial. Moreover, He is never late. Rather, He is always on time. When he shows up on the scene, he makes everything alright.

Another lesson I have learnt as I reflected on this passage is that even the wicked responds to persistence. What more about a loving God. There is a lot that can be achieved by persistence. “Everything is possible to him that believes” the bible says. However, it takes time – persisting in faith to birth the impossible. That is the element most often lacking when we fail to see the reality of our desires; faith expressed through our persistence. The poor widow did not only know that her solution was in the hands of the unjust judge. She equally knew that all that was required to get him to act was persistence in the place of prayer.

The unjust judge attended to a powerless and poor widow who was a total stranger because of her persistence. The poor widow persisted in her prayers to a heartless, wicked and unjust judge who prided in his wickedness. This should be an encouragement to us because our case is different. We look up to God with whom we have a relationship. On the platform of that relationship, we should trust him better and wait patiently for him to act. God may sometimes delay; that is his divine prerogative. It’s ours to ask, knock and seek. It’s his to answer. When we can ask and keep asking, knock and keep knocking and seeking, he will respond to us. If that poor widow never gave up on an unjust judge then it’s our shame if we give up our loving father. May we learn this great lesson and become men and women of prayer. Let me conclude with this old hymn that just is so relevant to our prayer life; What a friend we have in Jesus.

  1. What a Friend we have in Jesus,
    All our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
    O what peace we often forfeit,
    O what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
  1. Have we trials and temptations?
    Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged,
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful
    Who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness,
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
  1. Are we weak and heavy-laden,
    Cumbered with a load of care?
    Precious Savior, still our refuge—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer;
    Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
    Take it to the Lord in prayer;
    In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
    Thou wilt find a solace there.