Sunday, September 16, 2007

By Innocent Maja

“For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” PSALMS 51: 16 – 17

This is a prayer of repentance which David wrote when he had sinned against God by committing adultery with Bathsheba and orchestrating the death of her husband Uriah. This portion of scripture points Christians to how God does things in a way that is very different from how Christians think. That’s why the word of God says “My ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts”

David is one of my favourite characters in the Bible. He teaches us how a man is like when he walks with God. His life is a mirror of how a believer should react in trouble and right at the summit of success. He teaches us the art of pouring our hearts to God in good and bad circumstances.

This portion of scripture teaches us what it means to be totally surrendered to God. Total surrender to God is the most difficult part of Christianity. It’s harder than preaching, teaching, singing or any form of service because we have the capacity to do all these things without God. We are able to sing without God. All we require to sing is a gift (or just talent) coupled with discipline and practice. You can even preach and teach without God. But there is no way you can live your Christian life successfully without God’s domain over your whole being. Our main problem is that we give God a fraction of our lives. If you really look at the lives of Christians you realize that faith is a philosophy that they have adopted in their minds but it doesn’t govern their life styles. Yet God desires total surrender from us. Some have said “If God is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.” If you are a real Christian faith dictates every aspect of your life;

Why man finds it difficult to be totally surrendered to God

(1) SELFISHNESS – one of the barriers to total surrender is selfishness. Man is naturally selfish. If we are in church and I take a photo of everyone in the church and hand it over to you, the first person you will look for in that photo is yourself. You will then look at other people after identifying yourself. Man is naturally selfish. I thank God that He created man last because if man was made 1st or 2nd or 3rd he would claim that he finished some of the acts of creation. Today man can not claim creation but discovery of the cosmos.

(2) Inability to handle success – there are times when a man becomes successful, he forgets that he’s just man. Saul fell into this trap. In 1 Samuel 13, the Bible records a story about the prophet Samuel being late to offer a sacrifice on behalf of the Israelites befor going for war. Saul, in his arrogance proceeds to offer sacrifice – the duty of prophets. Again in 1 Samuel 15 when Saul was instructed to destroy the Amalekites, he disobeys God and chooses to spare some of them and the fat rams for sacrifice. God then rebukes Saul through Samuel. He clearly tells Saul that “You were small in your own eyes when I made you ruler over my people …” But now you have an exaggerated opinion of yourself. This happens frequently to people who prosper in the things they do. They forget the secret that took them that far. They forget the times when they used to pour their hearts to God, crying and yearning for help. They forget that they are merely hot blooded, toilet visiting man. They begin to have an exaggerated opinion of themselves and think they can do without God. They fail to observe the basic tenets of scripture.

(3) Everything that we do, we struggle hard to make a name and to build a reputation – this ambition has made many to have difficulties to surrender themselves wholly to God. I remember a time I prayed that whenever I preach, the blind eyes would open and the dead to rise. At that time I thought it was desire to serve God but I realized after searching my motives that I wanted to make a name for myself. I wanted to be identified as a dynamic preacher. But I thank God because He normally withholds such things until a time when our motives are clean. He waits until a time when all we are worried about if obeying Him rather than make a name for ourselves. That’s the 1st time when it happens – not when you are trying so hard to parade yourself using the pulpit. So God does things to break us and bring us to a place where we are really given over to him. He does things to humble us; embarrass us – to make us realized that we are just man as Job called us.

A story is told about a man of God, a preacher who developed a throat disease that made it impossible for him to preach. He could not utter a single word or whisper because of the throat disease. Yet he was called to be a preacher of the word of God. For 8 months he could not preach. One day when he was praying in the forest, he committed his life to God. He was in college then doing a degree in mass communications. He then prayed to God that because he understood that he had to preach the gospel even if he had a throat disease, he was going to establish a printing press when he graduates. He would print Christian literature and distribute it to the lost world. After college he was faithful to his promise. One day when he was in the middle of his ministry, he went to a Catherine Coolman meeting. She then prophesied that there was a man in the role where he was seated who committed himself to preaching the gospel even with a throat disease. She said that God has seen his commitment and because he had come to a point of preaching the gospel at whatever cost, God was opening his voice that day. Suddenly his voice opened. God wants us to serve him with purity of heart and purity of motives.

(4) We are propelled by various impure elements and motives - We usually don’t pray with clean motives but with selfish motives। We pray that God may give us what he has for us to create a name for ourselves. We forget that all the glory belongs to God and not us. Consider the story of Jesus riding on the donkey. It would have been very stupid if the donkey thought for one moment that the people of Jerusalem were laying cloths and blankets for it. The people did it for the man riding on the donkey. Had the donkey tried to go into the city the next day without Jesus and expect the same treatment, it would have been disappointed to realize that people did not hold it in high esteem at all. Those that are used of God should realize that all the glory belongs to God. You are what you are not because you are special (on your own right) but because of the anointing and grace of God upon your life. Don’t you dare rob God of the glory that belongs to Him.

God wants believers to succeed but believers should learn to handle success। Your biggest problem isn’t Satan/demons but yourself, your ego and self esteem। You have a serious capacity to destroy yourself – ruin yourself. Your biggest problem isn’t succeeding but handling success. When God gives you all the money, support, great names and friends the opportunity to do what you want, when you want and how you want – when you can be away from everybody and meet the bills; how are you going to handle the fame? Some believers are protected from sin not because they are righteous but because they don’t afford to sin. We have to develop a capacity to handle success before we succeed. That is the reason why Paul tells Timothy “Don’t put novices in leadership.” They are like a tree with big branched but show roots. When trouble comes, they can easily be destroyed.

3 John 2 gives a prescription of prosperity. It says ‘Brothers, I wish above all things that you prosper, even as your soul prospers.” Put differently your financial success has to be governed by my inner spiritual maturity if that success is going to sustain you. You should have the capacity to handle a billionaire lifestyle before you become one so that you don’t become an emotional disaster. I urge everyone to own money – don’t let it own you.

Back to the portion of scripture
In essence, David here is saying “Father God, if all that you ever cared for was sacrifices I would have given you – But I know that the sacrifices of our God are a broken and contrite spirit – only that you won’t despise. All my gifts and talents have the capacity to be corrupted. But a broken and contrite spirit you won’t despise.”

When you look at some of the events in David’s life, you could call him one of the worst sinners. He committed adultery with a married woman and murdered the husband. These are sins that most believers may not commit today. Yet God was well pleased with him. Acts 13 v 22 calls David ‘a man after God’s heart.’ The secret behind this was David’s heart. He was very sensitive to what God said. He would pour his heart; failures and success to God – surrender all before God and yield to God. He was quick to honestly repent whenever he sinned against God. He was a man of character. He knew how to give God glory when things were bad and when he was at the summit of success. I will illustrate this by at least four incidents that happened in his life.

(1) 1 Samuel 18
When David killed the ‘mighty’ Goliath, verse 6 – 7 says that all Israel came to meet him. Women sang songs praising him (not God). I tell you if these songs were sung for some believers today, God knows how they would react. The Bible further records that David was offered “Merab” the King’s daughter to marry. I want you to notice David’s reaction. In verse 18 David says ‘Who am I? and what is my life or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be the King’s son in law?’ Oh such humility!!!

(2) 2 Samuel 7
When David is told that he isn’t going to build the temple of God but Solomon his son was going to do that because David had shed a lot of blood, he does not complain. He does not quarrel with God. I want you to watch his response again. Verses 18 and 22 say “Then David went in and sat before the Lord and said “who am I oh Lord God? And what is my house, that you have brought me this far?’ He is even amazed that God has blessed him and taken his family this far. He is in essence saying that I am even grateful that you have taken me this far Lord.

(3) 1 Sam 24
This refers to incidents when David had the opportunity to kill his enemy who had bee pursuing David for a long time in a bid to kill David. David could not kill Saul – after cutting off Saul’s skirt; Bible says “It came to pass afterwards at David’s heart smote him such that when he had cut off soul’s skirt he said unto his men, The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed” In 1 Sam 26 when Saul was pursuing David, he slept in a trench – exposed – his soldiers around him. David again gets an opportunity to kill Saul. Abishai, one of his soldiers, asks David for permission to kill Saul. But David says in verse II “…. The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth my hand against the Lord’s anointed ----“

(4) 2 Sam 16
When Absalom revolts against his father David and chases David away from Jerusalem, Shimei curses David – he hurls all sorts of insults to the King. Abishal, son of Zerulah – one of David’s finest soldiers - said – “why should this dog curse the King” and asks for permission to kill Shimei. Notice that Shimei was insulting a head of state. I want you to notice David’s reaction in verses 9 and in V10. David said “what have I to do with you sons of Zeruiah? How do you know may be God sent him to say these things to me? But time is the great sanctifier” NB: David does not kill Shimei. Prior to his death as he instructs Solomon on what to do when he succeeds him, David revisits this issue. He tells Solomon of what Shemei did and instructs him not to kill Shimei. No head of state would do such a thing. Oh I admire such man of character

God desires us to be humble both in life, ministry and service. Preachers are warned not to exalt themselves more than God on the pulpit. NB: If you want to preach the gospel, preach it like the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Without the help of history, you won’t know that it was Matthew who wrote the book of Matthew – even when he writes about himself, he write in the 3rd person narrative and the focus is on Jesus. In Matthew 9 v 9, Matthew says “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth and said ‘follow me’ and Matthew got up and followed him ---“ If this story was being told by today’s Christian, it would be awash wish unnecessary redundancy, superfluity and verbiage. It would go like this. ‘One day as I was sitting in my office I was in a contemplative mood. I had a feeling that I was going to receive a visitation from God. I began to search the scriptures and pray. I asked God what it was He wanted me to do. Then God said my Son Jesus is going to visit you. You have been found worthy to be visited by my Son and be recruited into the ministry of the word of God…” It would go on in the I, I, I, narrative. It will be more about the servant than the saviour.

When you get the opportunity to preach, minister Christ. Never spend ¾ of the sermon speaking about yourself and your beautiful wife and children. This does not edify the church. In John 3 v 22, John the Baptist shows us the right attitude that preachers and children of God should adopt. His disciples came to him and reported that Jesus was also baptizing more people than John. John did not try to pull down the ministry of Jesus Christ as other ministers do today. He tells his disciples a fundamental truth that “Beloveds I told you that I only came to prepare the way ---- Now I must decrease and Christ must increase.” Jesus must increase in our ministry and we decrease.

It is quite shocking that some believers are arrogant even in prayer. Jesus gives us an illustration in LUKE 18 VS 9 – 14 about a man who goes to God and begins to parade his works before God as a qualification for God to hear his prayer. The Bible says that the Pharisee ‘beat his chest’ (a sign of pride) as he approaches God. He practically says to God ‘Halleluiah! Dad you know me. I pay my tithes on the 30th of every month – 10% not 9% and I pray - I fast…’ and chronicles his works. He thinks this would qualify him to have his answers heard by God. Jesus further talks about a sinner who couldn’t even look up but bowed down and confessed his sins and asks for mercy from God. Jesus says that the sinner was justified. Arrogant believers should realize that God’s word says that “He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble”. When you pour yourself to Him, He will not despise you broken and contrite spirit.

God expects us to be humble. Humility or character is what determines the success of ministry and life. Ministry grows out of a personality and not only gifting. God can do anything through you – But wants you to totally depend on him. Our level or degree of dependence on God determines the extent to which God is going to use us in the Body of Christ. As such the saying is true that ‘Our attitude determines our altitude.’ This explains why simple boys like Joseph ended up becoming Prime Ministers in Egypt, people of slow speech like Moses ended up as great leaders, timid people like Gideon ended up as bold judges, sheep tenderers like David ended up as great Kings in Israel that even cities are given their names – “City of David.”; simple and timid fisherman like Peter became one of the great pillars of the early church, simple deacons like Stephen did great exploits and even died honourable deaths and murders like Paul ended up being great apostles and even wrote a substantial quantity of the New Testament.

Jesus has to remain Lord over your life everyday – the branch is connected to the trunk and should remain as such. God has no problems with doing what you ask – He even assures us that if we abide in Him and He in us we can ask whatever we want and He will do it for us. That’s maturity – increased dependence on God – a consciousness that you need God. God wants you to be broken – to pour your life to him. The story of the alabaster jar rings true to us today. It had to be broken for the whole room was filled with the good scent. You have to be broken for the good in you to manifest. You have to give yourself over to God totally. There is good in each one of us but there is chaff that God wants to deal with first.

[1] I am indebted to Pastor Cleopas Chitapa who preached this message when I was still in the University. The message touched me so much that I decided to not only document it but also research further on it. This is part of the product of this exercise. All mistakes herein are mine


Anonymous said...

I am challenged by Innocent's frankness in this article. Pride has been a cause of the downfall of most christians I know. Christians should take this teaching very seriously. Remember, God resists the proud

Anonymous said...

Howdy all, I just registered on this brilliant online community and wished to say hiya! Have a great day!