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THE TRUTH ABOUT STRUGGLE
The Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
Copyright © 2006 JOSEPH KING
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Published by: Revelation Christ Publishing House www.josephkingbooks.com Cover Design: Jay Cookingham
It is with great honor that I use this opportunity to dedicate this book to those missionaries of our Lord in Africa who have fallen to the hands of persecution and other mortal tragedies in pursuit of God’s will. The invaluable example of the Ugandan martyrs murdered by their king for refusing to renounce their Christian faith in the 19th century and the more recent loss of Bishop William Waqo of the Anglican Church of Kenya involved in a fatal plane accident together with leading government figures in pursuit of peace offers inspiration to those in our generation to persist in winning Africa for Jesus. In this cause, we have been shown winners never quit.
I must of necessity applaud my Lord and tutor, Jesus Christ. Was it not for His commanding and yet gentle leadership, I would not even be alive to tell this story. When I almost committed suicide on the 2nd of December 1997 because of failure and defeat, He believed in me urging to begin all over again. Over the years I have learnt that none should fail, quit or despair. He made a fighter out of me that has put together this manual on victory. To Him be the glory, honor and power forever, and ever. Amen! I also appreciate the strategic partnerships that He allowed me to work with. This work is a product of these collaborations. For one, my useful wife, Precious has been a pillar of strength constantly reiterating the promises of God whenever I was at difficult points during the writing of this script. I appreciate her gentle company and firm loyalty. There is also the mighty army at The Holy Church of Life who believed in me as I shared with them this vision and teachings. Many of there own personal struggles and accomplishments offer invaluable inspiration to me as I pastor them. I am blessed to be on there side. Of course there are those who are outside my ministry who nevertheless have partnered with us. They are angels of grace. Of particular regard is the family of Professor David and Deborah Koech who have been exceptional in their kindness. Was it not for their generosity it is probable that the books would have had an even more difficult journey to African hands. Elsewhere, the marvelous benevolence of iv
Dorothy Were (my mum) and her Irish and Scottish friends, namely – Bride Divers, Maura O’Brien, Mrs. Peoples and Mary Mc Andrew were the vital tools God used to enable the books attain international publication. I pray that God will share all good things and reward your generosity. No victory in battle is ever possible without kindness from loving quarters. I am glad that God positioned you in my way.
Although he is acquainted with grief and familiar with sorrow (just the previous day his uncle had accused him of theft) yet nothing had prepared him for this moment of reckoning: So, gripped with fear and resigned to fate this middle-aged man considers the on-coming disaster. A danger more severe than any he has faced before. In fact one from which he has run away all his adult life. Fast approaching is an armed multitude of warriors led by his ageold rival – his own blood brother, his twin. Neither his marriages, his fairly large family, servants nor possessions can save him at this critical hour. A quickly hushed up thought informs him that perhaps they may serve to appease the anger of his adversary. So, grudgingly he sends them ahead of him. But what if they don’t? The reality is that in this gamble he could loose it all. His brother is after all a ruthless tyrant with a wicked temper. And the possibility that the wound he inflicted upon him several years ago could still be fresh is not far fetched. To be sure, only divine intervention can save him in this hour. And so, dejected, desperate, afraid, and in real need of help he turns to his God. Needless to say, the last thing he needs at this point is another problem. He wants answers. He wants to be saved. He longs for peace and quiet. God, on the other hand, has different things on His Holy Mind. God knows this troubled man better than he knows himself. He knows the man is a winner. A struggler. A victor. And God is not about to let him miss on this. So, with divine precision He ordains a fight. The stage is set in the night, in the middle of nowhere. With no one to assist or even cheer either of vi
them God shows up in equal shape, seizes his opponent, and fights away. A surprised Jacob reflexes. He automatically assumes his actual self and fights this unwelcome stranger. He fights back with all he can master. The wrangle is intense. The breathing heavy. The match is a long stalemate. It completes the night. By morning God is accomplished in His mission. Assured that dejection has been substituted with defiance, fear with boldness, anxiety with resolve, He readies for the kill: He tears a hipbone off the joint of His opponent and bids to leave. A prevailing Jacob objects unless he is blessed. God pronounces Jacobs victory and even changes his name to Israel. The old identity had suggested he was a fraudster, the new one declared he fought with God and won. Having finished with this bout, and without pausing to relish in his new glory, he arises to grace the next event, for better or worse. He takes a painful step and limps. He shrugs and sighs. But with determination this rugged adventurer faces the morrow, come what or may. Something is different from yesterday. He knows who he is: A WINNER from the word “GO!”
Table of Contents
THE TRUTH ABOUT STRUGGLE ........................................ i JOSEPH KING ......................................................................... i STRUGGLE FOR YOUR LIFE! ................................................. 1 UNDERSTANDING STRUGGLE ............................................ 2 GOD UNDERSTANDS STRUGGLE ..................................... 3 SETTLING THE DEBATE ....................................................... 4 THE STRUGGLE OF THE RIGHTEOUS .............................. 5 THE BOOK ................................................................................ 7 OMNISCIENCE AND DESTINY......................................... 11 MANY ARE CALLED ........................................................... 13 FEW CHOOSE ........................................................................ 14 SEPARATION ........................................................................ 15 COVENANT ........................................................................... 18 VICTORY IS YOURS ............................................................. 21 JACOB KNEW HE WAS A WINNER ................................... 23 YOUR LIFE IS YOUR CHOICE ........................................... 25 IDENTITY ............................................................................... 27 THE VALUE OF A NAME ................................................... 30 REBECCA KNEW JACOB WAS A WINNER ...................... 33 STAKEHOLDERS .................................................................. 33 HERO-ASSISTANTS IN THE WORD................................. 35 ESTIMATE YOUR HELP ...................................................... 39 BEWARE OF FAKES. ............................................................ 41 GENUINE HELP IS AVAILABLE ....................................... 43 OTHER BIBLICAL FATHERLESS VICTORS .................... 49 KNOWING GOD AS FATHER ............................................ 52 BORN TO WIN ....................................................................... 56 WINNER, WELCOME HOME............................................. 62 LABAN NEVER KNEW ........................................................... 64 a
CORRUPTING THE WINNER ............................................ 69 WINNING THE CORRUPT ................................................. 72 NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER ....................................... 80 ALUTA CONTNUA (THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES).... 82 THE STRUGGLE OF HIS WIVES ........................................ 86 THE STRUGGLE WITH HIS CHILDREN.......................... 90 DEAD TO LOSING ................................................................ 96 STAY IN THE GAME: DON’T QUIT! .................................. 98 PAY THE PRICE .................................................................. 101 THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST ............................................. 103 WINNING IN LOVE ........................................................... 106 IS WINNING A GAME OF CHANCE? ............................ 109
STRUGGLE FOR YOUR LIFE!
We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8 The contemporary lesson is simple: All triumphs begin with a trial. Today’s victors are more often than not yesterday’s failures. It cannot be emphasized enough that the world we live in is a harsh one (John 16:33): If we must gain, we must pain. From the time one (or anything) is born to the end of it there will be ups and downs, mountains and valleys, gains and losses, advances and setbacks. The weather is bound to change: There will be sunny days and rainy days, dry and wet seasons. Some days will just be dull. The eloquent philosopher, King Solomon, sums it all up when he declares that there is a time for everything under the sun (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). This punctuation of life with bright and dark shades is regulated by the constant of struggle. The reality is that those who will fight will more than often settle the score while those that idle by will certainly wither the fall. It is this element that distinguishes winners from losers. In this struggle of life winners never quit and quitters never win. This principle is not only universal or secular. It is also divine. Its spiritual utility in God’s purposes cannot be missed in the very words of the Master:
“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”(Matthew 11:12)
And yet, few words or/and experiences bring confusion and require clarity like “struggle”. A lot of saints loose their joy and peace, some even their faith and love for the Lord once they are confronted with a struggle. As a result, many saints, and even ministers of the faith more often than not revile the experience. Sometimes during a crisis when I have prayed with my team I have heard one or two of them say unto the Lord, “Master, you have not called us to struggle.” In some cases, we have all said “Amen!” to that. I am sure you too have done the same. In these cases we hate to struggle. Any struggle evident in the life of a believer has often drawn mixed or/and confusing responses from fellow believers. Sometimes the struggle in ones life has been understood to reveal that one is “operating in the flesh”, or “ doing something contrary to God’s will”, or even being “rejected” or worse still, “punished” by God. Thus, if a believer opened a business or married or bought a car and immediately begun to struggle the expected counsel he/she receives from friends (remember Job) is that he /she is “paying the price” of stepping out of God’s will or time. If one joined a ministry or assumed a new job and had a struggle, more often than not it is assumed that he/she was not called by God or was not planted by the Lord in that vocation. If the struggle is of 2
a financial nature one may be arrogantly reminded, “Where there is a vision, there ought to be a provision.” The financial struggle is pointed out as a disqualifying factor.
GOD UNDERSTANDS STRUGGLE
And on it goes. People never quite seem to know how to respond to others in struggle. Should they embrace them? Or, should they avoid them? Should they join them in their struggle? Or, should they avoid them and their struggle? Fortunately for us, the good Lord understands struggle and how we should respond to it. Evidence is replete all over His word detailing the Lord’s expectations: He requires that we identify with those victimized by circumstances. This was His elaborate point in the story of the Good Samaritan. It was the essence of His Mission. He forsook His royal privileges to identify with a struggling creation (Philippians 2:6-7). And when He met lepers struggling with rejection from their society? He broke the law: He touched them (Matthew 8:2-3). He visited them (Luke 5:12-13). He healed them (Mark 1:40-42). Throughout the bible this seems to be God’s way of doing things. In fact, in Isaiah 58 He castigates those who identify with Him in rituals and sacrifices and yet refuse to relate with those in struggle. Orphans and widows are clearly portrayed as having a soft spot in the heart of God. One can in fact say, herein lies the message of the bible. In it we are shown a God who cares for the underprivileged. A God the 3
struggling nation of Israel counts on in battle, in exile, under siege, as slaves, and in the wilderness. A God that never forsakes. A God that never abandons. In His own words: “I will never forsake you or live you till the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:15, Deuteronomy 31:6) That is the God we serve. The God of every struggle. No struggle can separate you from His eternal love (Romans 8:31).
SETTLING THE DEBATE
Unfortunately, this is hardly the way of men. Most people like it plain easy. No messes. Most hate to struggle and even those who struggle. To be sure, most would discriminate struggle: They can struggle for themselves and not for others. This was the irony Jesus found among religious leaders in His time that would rescue their cow from a pit and care less for the healing of another individual (Matthew 12:9-12). An argument has to be resolved at this point: Those that claim that if God has ordained a path it will be devoid of struggle lie from the most naïve pit of hell. Those that promise that there will only be “peace” for the purposes of God in ones life should find a lot of Jesus’ words quite difficult to receive. It is He who in fact said, “I bring not peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). It is He who admonishes us to each carry his own cross (Matthew 10:38). 4
It is possible that those who guarantee peace would have in fact killed the prophets. Prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel were irked by these kinds of prophets (Jeremiah 14:14-16; 23:16-21; 27:14-18; Ezekiel 13:2). The same deceptive spirit is at work in the church today. Christians need to be careful to receive the full balance of God’s word. Those that promise a clear path to victory without any struggles tell a different testimony from the Prince of Peace. The truth, on the other hand, reveals that more often than not, righteous people, good people, obedient servants of the Lord will struggle. They will experience setbacks. In those difficult times precious saints ought to remember the Masters guarantee: In this world you will have persecution but be of good cheer I have overcome the world! (John 16:33)
THE STRUGGLE OF THE RIGHTEOUS
These immortal words of our savior echo my personal experience since I was called into the ministry in 1986. And in varied ways, it is also the experience of all the wonderful saints and servants of the Lord I know. In fact the story of all the prophets, apostles, the kings, and other scripture heroes/heroines attests of righteous, God-called, divine servants that struggled through while fulfilling the will of God.
This book premises its teaching on the profit of struggle. It is a clarion call to believers, Christians, societies, and all to wake up to the challenge of life. Wake up from fear, compromise, complaint, and excuses, and meet your adversary eye-ball to eye-ball. You will discover that if you looked hard enough your fear is really afraid of your boldness. If you pushed hard enough you may topple your trouble. God has already prepared for your victory because He knows you are a winner just like Him. The chief character from which I derive the lessons I expound here knew he was destined to win. He had the win in his heart before he got it in his hand. Right from the womb of his mother Jacob was conceived in struggle. His mother was barren and she struggled with the Lord for the fruit of her womb. It seems to me that God answered her by providing Jacob and a problem called Esau. God set the stage for Jacob’s first struggle right in the womb of his mother. Before his climatic wrestle with God in Genesis 32 (referred to in the prologue) Jacob struggled with his brother right in the womb. From birth to death Jacob struggled for his life. Even though he was somewhat unaccomplished in the evening of his life with only one son that had really made it, out of a large bunch of twelve children, Jacob was not outdone. He made the best out of a bad situation: He blessed all his sons. He saw a powerful nation emerge from a dysfunctional family that had brought him pain from their deceit, violence, betrayal, and loss. Rather than be afraid for their future he chose to believe the best for them. There is no 6
record that he left them any tangible inheritance. Perhaps we may presume that following the famine in Canaan and world over he had little of substance to bequeath his fairly large family. Nonetheless, he left them something more important, an inheritance whose legacy has survived to this day. He left them WORDS. Words of hope. Words of courage. Words to carry on the struggle. Words to help them overcome. Words that carried what we call blessings. One by one, from Reuben and Judah the eldest, to Joseph, Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh, a determined veteran of struggle spoke victory to another generation (Genesis 49).
As you hold this book you hold immense value. You hold words of blessings. Words that will uplift you. Words of promise and future. Words that will train you in your struggles. From the life of Jacob we learn invaluable lessons. Lessons I have transmitted in words that will speak victory to you and your family, your spouse, your relations, and your community. Embrace these words. Share these words. Use these words. The key focus is really the struggle and its winner. Seven dimensions inform our lessons as I urge you to struggle for your life: a) b) c) d) God knew Jacob was a winner Jacob knew he was a winner Rebecca knew Jacob was a winner Isaac never knew Jacob was a winner 7
e) Laban never knew Jacob was a winner f) Aluta Continua: The struggle continues g) Stay in the game From these struggles you are likely to find out a lot about winning. You will learn that quitters never win and winners never quit. You will discover that God knows you are a winner, that you are not alone in the struggle. God is not far from you. On the contrary, He is with you. He is the everpresent help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). You will find out that he has even ordained someone to support you in your struggle. However, it is also probable that you will meet opposition from others and possibly those closest to you. But this does not dispute the reality, which is – you are a winner. Jacob’s testimony illustrates that you are a winner even when it seems no one knows, and even when you experience setbacks. He teaches that winning is not an event. It is the beginning, it is the process, and it is the end. It is an attitude. It is a belief. You have got to have it in you before you can have it all through and all over you. If you don’t see it no one will. Jacob’s struggles demonstrate firsthand the benefits of endurance, resilience, determination and patience. He shows us the virtues of prayer, faith, and covenants with Almighty God. Truly, Jacob’s school of struggle bears the motto: He who endures to the end will be saved! (Mark 13:13) Beloved, everything you go through – school, family, career, marriage, ministry, or city, nation, and neighborhood, 8
whatsoever – will ask you one question “Are you a winner?” I believe you are. God believes you are. No looser can get a hold of this book. Divine destiny elected you to read a winner book because you like Jacob are a winner from the word go to the grand finale. So, as you struggle reading enjoy winning: I am counting on you. WINNER, DON’T QUIT!
GOD KNEW JACOB WAS A WINNER
From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have planned that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do. Isaiah 46:11 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God be for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:28 What most people never realize and usually take for granted is that races are really not won in the end. They are determined from the beginning. And yet the Olympian sports fan with his holiday mood casual observations celebrates the grand finale in total disregard of the varied efforts of the participants before the race. True as it were that the finish is so vital (after all it tells the last story) it is not the only important aspect of the race. It is for this reason that ambitious Olympians cannot just relax till the next event. 10
They will put more effort at it. They will train for the next race in order to secure another victory. Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that even more important than both the process-to-victory and the event-of-victory is the decision whether or not one will be in the next event. Without this vital decision, the beginning, there can be no process, and no event. Small though it may appear, relative to the climatic euphoria associated with winning, it is nonetheless the little hinge that opens the big door.
OMNISCIENCE AND DESTINY
It is in this regard that we must understand Jacob’s struggle and eventual victory. The beginning was vital, so crucial to the whole process and event(s) of his life. For Jacob’s story begun with God. Important to note therefore is that it was not a famous event that God employed to flag-off Jacob’s success. Instead it was when an obscure battle raged in the womb of a perplexed mother in Genesis 25:22 that the Lord revealed Jacobs eventual fortune. Out of two jostling babies the Lord, who sees the end from the beginning, saw two warring nations and predicted that the younger would emerge the winner. Just how important is it that God knows? For one, you can rely on His knowledge. After all, He is the omniscient one. And if He knows it, that is what it is. He has the benefit of eternal sight unlimited as it were by time dimensions. The scripture declares that He sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). He is the alpha and the omega (Revelation 21:6). The 11
author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Moreover, He is not a liar. There is no lie in Him. The word declares, “Let all men be liars but let God be true” (Romans 3:4). God’s word and knowledge is reliable. He watches over His word to perform it (Isaiah 55:11). His knowledge is sacred and He assures us that if it were not so He would not have told us (John 14:1-2). It means a lot when the scriptures affirm that God has put His word above His impeccable Name (Psalm 138:2). There are a lot of parallels in the scriptures to Jacob’s womb ordination case that confirm the sanctity of God’s knowledge. Like Jacob, Samson and Jeremiah were known while in the wombs of their mothers and their subsequent lives were a reflection of what the Lord had known from the beginning (Judges 13:2-5; 1 Samuel 1:11). Similarly, before a charismatic Jeremiah burned with God’s word, bringing down and raising up kingdoms with his fiery sermons God had astonished him in his youth with these revelations (Jeremiah 1:5). God confesses to have known it all while the prophet was still in his mother’s womb. More recently in the New Testament, both John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ were known while still in their mothers’ wombs (Luke 1:1317; 1:30-33). And the events of their lives agreed with the words declared even before they were in the wombs of their mothers. In the case of our Christ, God foretold his birth and ministry more than a thousand years before His birth (Genesis 3:15).
MANY ARE CALLED
Is this preordination experience peculiar to certain biblical characters? By all means no! God is no respecter of persons and His divine omniscience is certainly universal in its application. If it applied to Samson, Samuel, and others, it is also your portion. Jesus implied this when He remarked that of all men born of women none is greater than John the Baptist. But he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he (Luke 7:28). Are you a kingdom believer? If so, God knew you even before you were in your mother’s womb. I am sure it will help for you to find out what He knew. My other book – The Value of a Name – contains information that is expressly intended to provoke one to inquire of the Lord as to ones identity and destiny. I am forever grateful for all of scripture. But I must confess to a weakness: There are portions of the word for which I have more affection. One of my favorites is the elaboration on destiny by the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Romans in the twenty-ninth verse of the eighth chapter, which for your information is not specialized to a listed category of imminent personalities. Paul speaks for everyone when he asserts: Those who God predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He glorified.(Romans 8:29)
The application is universal: God foreknew everyone. Genesis 1:26 confirms that He predestined that everyone be conformed in the image of Christ. And that image is not a looser image. It is one of a winner, of more than a conqueror. God has planned and purposed for everyone to win. In Jeremiah 29:11, God assures us of His good plans for us. Plans to prosper us and not to bring us any harm. Victory and prosperity is really our manifest destiny, our intended heritage so to say. Sadly, though, few arrive at the place God has prepared from the very beginning. Although many are called, few are glorified (Matthew 22:14).
This selection is not God’s providence as we have seen. Those that suggest that God in some way or the other has chosen some few to be rich/successful while many to wallow in defeat and poverty lie from hell. The reality is that men and women opt out of Gods arrangement. This is what the writer of Ecclesiastes means when in the twenty-ninth verse of the seventh chapter he reminds us that although God made man perfect, he has gone after many schemes. Many hear Gods call but few heed to it. Several times the Lord laments that they hear but do not understand, they see but do not perceive (Isaiah 6:9; Luke 8:10). The Apostle John records how even when God decided to come to His own, they nonetheless rejected Him (John 1:12). Others kill the message of victory. They kill the prophets (Luke 11:48). Yet others purpose contrary to the Lord and loose (Acts 9:1-19). This also seems to have been the fate of King Saul when he 14
chose to sacrifice rather than obey (1 Samuel 15:15-23). As a result, he lost the throne of Israel. Unfortunately, life is littered with too many wanna-be’s and has-beens that loose it just because they reject Gods way. The point they miss is that the Lord is firm on His ways and that they are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8). What many on their way to disastrous failure regard as foolishness is in fact the very wisdom of the Most High (1 Corinthians 1:21). And the purpose they engage in their hearts lead to destruction (Proverbs 14:12). So, the million-dollar question remains: How does a God-known winner remain on the course to ultimate victory?
One of the ways God employs for a winner to remain on course is separation: A difficult but necessary experience. Sometimes you may have to break camp if you must breakthrough. A careful study of Jacob reveals that it was the lonely moments of Jacobs’s life that drew him closer to God, and therefore his victory. It was away from his fathers shadow, running from his brother’s anger, and missing his mother’s counsel and compassion that God opened to him the gates of heaven (Genesis 28:12-17). Again, it was without the comfort of his belongings, the support of his wives, children and servants that God appeared and wrestled with him (Genesis 32:22-30). It seems as if God ordained Jacob’s feet to lonely places reserved just for the two of them. And it
seems that these duo dates functioned as important turning points in the patriarch’s process to victory. It is the way of God that great winners are trained in secret. This method can be observed in the testimony of the great prophet Moses: God was not content to use him while he was still confined in the palatial comfort and favor of Pharaoh’s dynasty. As a result, the author of the book of Hebrews tells us that Moses despised his privileges preferring to identify with the downtrodden of the Lord (Exodus 2:11; Hebrews 11:24-27). Nevertheless, he was equally rejected as a leader among the Hebrews (Exodus 2:14). And so, we witness an elderly, dejected and recluse man forgotten by both Pharaoh and his own kin nevertheless being chosen in the wilderness by God (Exodus 3 & 4). Again, we witness how God was not satisfied to mould a popular David. No sooner than the crowds had finished their chants of praise for the young hero than Saul was on his pursuit (1 Samuel 18:7-11). Alone in the wilderness Jehovah tutored him on leadership. Many would agree that his most inspiring psalms were authored in these trying times. And after all, it was without a cheer that he had learned to kill giants (1 Samuel 17:34-36). All through the scriptures we witness heroes that God carefully chose and processed in secret. The novel account of Gideon is one that provides a lot of inspiration. Here was a young man, cowardly, alone, and helpless in the face of the adversity suffered by his people under the Midianites. All he did was spend the day pondering and dreaming of a God that did great things in the past. He did not even have faith 16
for his day. And yet it is while he was in his own selfsentenced solitary confinement that God calls him to be a leader of his people (Judges 6:11-23). For all the lessons the scriptures provide on this experience yet no one in scripture, and we can assume in life in general, mastered and balanced the art of separation as well as Jesus Christ. So often our Lord abandoned the pressing crowds for the lonely heights of mountains and deserts where He was alone (Matthew 4:111; 14:23; 17:1). The lesson cannot be overemphasized that before He arose to the Highest Throne of Heaven and the worship of angels and the multitudes, He endured the loneliness of the cross (Matthew 27:46). The point is: The further away one is from others the closer one will be to God. Before the reward is the price. Jesus’ words educate us when He cautions us that unless a seed falls down and abides alone, it cannot grow and bear much fruit (John 12:24). Other spiritual generals in the scripture elaborate this principle: Paul spent a number of years after his conversion alone in Arabia (Galatians 3:17); Elijah was alone at Mount Horeb when he heard the whisper (1 Kings 19:7-14); Elisha his servant was without the company of the prophets when he got the double portion (2 Kings 2:9-15). Contemporary world leaders of Gods people all attest to the benefits of separation. The remarkable prophet William Branham that carried the Lord’s healing virtue around America and the world in unprecedented revival meetings in his time regularly spent days and nights in lonely mountain hideouts seeking the face of God. Similarly, the world-healing evangelist Benny Hinn confesses to spending times alone before ministering in any of his world-famous 17
crusade meetings. The results are consistent whether it is biblical characters, medieval ministers or contemporary world-famous evangelists’ separation leads to impartation, which in turn guarantees performance, victory and promotion. A lot of saints like the Lord to saturate them with His anointing and wonder why they never get filled. The answer may well be that before being saturated with the anointing one ought to allow to be separated by the anointing. This was the marvelous experience the Holy Ghost shared with Jesus. After baptizing Him in the Jordan, the scriptures say He was compelled by the Holy Ghost to go into the wilderness. Following which, He returned filled with power (Luke 4:1-15).
The other way God ensures our victory is through the principle of covenants. He is a God of His word. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a covenant making and abiding God. The English dictionary defines a covenant as a binding agreement between two parties. Covenants are commitments made between two or more parties. It is possible that Jacob learned to make covenants with God from his father Isaac who in turn learned from his father Abraham. And with the benefit of hindsight we observe that God honored His part of the covenant. The scriptures declare that God loved Jacob and hated Esau. God’s love for Jacob bound Him to the patriarch. It guaranteed His commitment. And so we observe that at strategic times and 18
places God honored covenants Jacob made with Him. A lot of the victories that laced the life of Jacob can be traced to the fulfillment on God’s part of His covenant pledges. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35). If covenant worked for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it surely will work for us. For one, we are the children of Abraham himself and therefore benefactors of every covenant privilege and blessings our God guaranteed our patriarch and his descendants (Galatians 3:7-9). But what is even more assuring is the fact that God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is not a man that He` should change His mind (1 Samuel 15:29). Once He has spoken His word is sacrosanct. He watches His word and it will not come back to Him void till it has accomplished that which it has been sent to accomplish (Isaiah 55:11). Moreover, He has kept His word above His Name (Psalm 138:2). Believers in this God can be rest assured that if they held onto their part of their bargain God is more than faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9). To be sure, there is no assurance compared with blessed assurance: It is a rock one can stand on (Psalm 18:2); a pillar one can lean on (Psalm 18:2); a refuge for our soul, the righteous run to it and they are safe (Psalm 18:10). It is in this regard that King David assures us; “I was young and now I am old but I have never seen the righteous forsaken and their children beg for bread” (Psalm 37:25). And yet the present day believer stands on an even more assuring covenant than that of our patriarchs and of the prophets. I refer to the covenant God made with His only begotten Son Jesus the Christ (Hebrews 7:1-9; 8:6). In the 19
covenant ceremonies of our fathers they offered animals to the Lord. Jacob is seen offering to the Lord the sacrifice of bulls, sheep, and birds (Genesis 31:53-54). In this latter covenant the Son of God offered His own life (John 10:15). Contrary to some widely held views that Christ’s arrest and crucifixion was beyond His control being as it were that He had been betrayed and handed over to the Romans, Jesus freely offered His life. If He had not desired to die He would have commanded the angels to His rescue (Matthew 26:53). He had avoided arrest before using supernatural means to escape when it was not yet time for Him to die (Luke 4:2930). In other instances He simply avoided places where death awaited Him because it was not yet time (John 7:1; 10:39-40). It must be noted however that no other individual in history and since his death and resurrection spoke of their impending death with the clarity of Christ. Several times He alluded to His death (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31-32; Luke 18:31-34; John 12:20). Everything He said about His death happened as He said it would happen to the extent that one can say He willed for it to happen the way it did. A lot of the details of His death related to scriptural prophecies made long before He was born (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53). His closest aides discouraged Him from considering His death and He rebuked them (Matthew 16:21-22). Others just did not understand Him till after His death (Luke 18:34). After the resurrection of His friend Lazarus He ponders His own death: “Now, my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour’? no, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name! (John 12:27-28) 20
And yet, His death was not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). His death was the sacrificial offering that sealed His covenant with God. That covenant, my beloved friends, was a triad as it was made to ensure our ultimate victory. It was a love truce in which an innocent man subjected Himself to death, even to the cross, so that we would be guaranteed victory in every aspect in life.
VICTORY IS YOURS
Thus said, nothing can defeat the believer if He knows and invokes the terms of this covenant. The truth is astonishing, too good to be true. In this covenant God made a covenant with a looser. And while in the former covenants God made the weak strong and the looser a winner, in the new covenant the dynamics are modified. God actually becomes the other party. He trades places. Instead of only making the weak stronger, God actually made His son weaker – almost unmentionable – so that we assume His strength. Rather than make the looser a winner, in the new covenant God actually weakened His Son so that we may have His victory. That is what the apostle Paul meant when he said that Christ became sin that we may be the very righteousness of God! (2 Corinthians 5:21) Unbelievable, yet it is the very love of God. Surely His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). So beloved, do not be afraid. Your victory is secure. You are a winner in Him. You are a champion in Him. The word actually says we are more than conquerors in Him (Romans 21
8:37). No weapon formed against us can prosper. And any tongue that shall speak against us in divination shall be condemned (Isaiah 54:17). You my friend are awesome. I am glad to be your faithful servant. Please remember me in your kingdom. Are you feeling down and out? Alone and abandoned? Just remember the covenant. Remember the dear price He paid. Moreover, you are not alone because He promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:15). And though it is true that in this world there is no gain without pain, remember He bore the pain. It may also be the case that in this world there is a lot of trouble, remember He overcame the world (John 16:33). Remember He knows who you are. You are engraved on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16) and are the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8). An awesome God has found common ground with you and is mindful of you (Psalm 8:4). Most assuredly, it is the Lords good pleasure that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well (3 John 2). Mercy, peace and love are yours in abundance (Jude 2).
JACOB KNEW HE WAS A WINNER
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 As a man thinks so is he. Proverbs 23:7 Indeed the amazing wonder is that an awesome God has found common ground with man. The first time was way back in the beginning when He created man in His divine image (Genesis 1:27). Perfect man is the perfect imitation of God Almighty. In essence, man is a god (Psalm 82:6; John 19:34-36) with a free will God respects. As such God ponders the mutual creature and so draws near those who draw near to Him (James 4:8). He will simply not impose Himself. He may know that you are a winner but if you refuse to know it too there is very little even in His omnipotent power He can do to make you the winner that you are. In the book of Habakkuk He laments, “My people perish for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). 23
It is not enough that God knows you are a winner. You too ought to know what He knows. Too often believers read the promises but refuse to receive them. They hear but do not perceive, see but do not understand (Isaiah 6:9). Sadly, just too many miss out on what the gracious One has made so available. One of the most tragic references to this failure on our part is captured by the eloquent writer of the book of Ecclesiastes when in the twenty-ninth verse of the seventh chapter he laments, “Though God made man perfect, he has gone after many schemes.” Fortunately for Jacob he decided to return to the plan of God. He embraced what God knew. Rather than just hear and idly wait by He sought to cooperate with the word of God. He struggled for what God had predestined. Once having known what God knew, he was willing to go through the valley of the shadow of death. He abandoned his comfort zone. He bid good-bye to the familiarity of yesterday to confront the uncertainty of his tomorrow. More afraid of the stagnancy he suffered in his father’s house he preferred the perils of going forward. In the depth of him grew a restless nag that continuously bothered him to follow the lofty claims of an invisible God. Once God has spoken, once He has ordained, the Jacobs of this world will simply follow.
YOUR LIFE IS YOUR CHOICE
Whether or not we will follow through on what God knows and has revealed is a matter of choice, plain and simple. Justification is reserved for those who follow through. The Shepherd has a table for only the sheep that will follow through the valley of the shadow of death. Jacob knew the repercussions of stealing Esau’s blessing. He must have weighed the pros and cons. On the pro-side, he would have to give up the comfort of his life with the possible risk of loosing his very life. On the con-side, he could preserve the status quo. He could stay in his mother’s kitchen, unknown to his father. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak: His spirit kicked to run but his flesh counted the cost as he debated his mother’s urgings. In the end, he lost his life and won. The same dilemma dramatically confronted another generation: The Joshua generation. Having wondered in the scorching heat (albeit covered with the cloud of glory) of the wilderness the children of Israel were offered their greatest opportunity: The chance to enter the promise land. Spies were sent to survey the land and report back to an expectant mass of people. The majority of the spies returned with a losers report (Numbers 13:3-20). They conclude on impossibilities (Numbers 13:27-30). They balanced the ledger citing the goodness but exclaiming the danger. With persuasive maneuvers they convinced the entire mass of Israel to backtrack on the venture. But there is another side to the report. Two lone voices, Joshua and Caleb, speaking with fanatic resolve urged the masses with courageous calls 25
to enter the land. They tear the garments and pronounce that the enormity of their ability is more than suited to the task at hand. They assure the masses that God will yield victory to them against the giants in the land (Numbers 14:6-9). In the end, the cowards took the day and God infuriated at their fear and disbelief invoked a cruel judgment: None of them, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, would see the Promised Land. They will all die in the wilderness (Numbers 14:27-30). Just too many die at the valley of indecision. Most losers can trace their misfortune to this point in their life where they failed to make a decision or made the wrong choice (usually presented as the easier choice). The writer of the Proverbs castigates importunity when he observes that the sluggard does not plough in season so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing (Proverbs 20:4). Again he warns that laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry (Proverbs 19:15). In other words, one must avoid the “easy” ways and choose the means that will make a difference in their life. It all comes down to making the right choices. Joshua and Caleb avoided the easy route of complaining, blaming and murmuring and chose the means that would make the difference for Israel. Notice that in their convictions they did not dwell so much on the theology of their convictions. I am convinced that there is a time after walking the talk of faith that one is consumed by the mind of God. At this point, the plan that rules the heart is the purpose that prevails in heaven. Such people know they are winners and no obstacle on their way will convince them 26
otherwise. Having embraced God’s will for their life the rest is left to time and effort. As such, the diligent knows he is a winner. He goes for it. On the other hand, is the sluggard clouded in fear, inertia and defeat. And both are right: The one that says “I can” and the one that says “I cannot.” It is all a matter of choice. They receive their expectations according to their faith.
A comic but profound story is given in the book of Acts concerning the seven sons of a priest called Sceva. Having observed Paul’s ministry and his authority over demons in the name of Jesus they sought to cast out evil spirits from a demoniac. The demons in the man remarked, “Paul we know and Jesus we know, but who are you?” before thoroughly disarming the young imitators and beating them thoroughly (Acts 19:14-16). The lesson in the story is often missed. I do not think the essence of the account demonstrates the knowledge of the demons or any absence of power on the part of the imitators. Rather, the problem was chiefly one of identity. The young men simply did not know who they were. They had no testimony or experience. Real winners may be known by their good scores but that is not their sum total. The latter is where the true identity lies while the former is a publicity façade. As such, what you may know about the winner is only a partial reality of what he/she may be aware concerning themselves. So while we celebrate/envy the triumph the winner knows that his 27
victory is a process and not an event. It is this process that defines his identity and not merely the actual event. The sons of Sceva sought to imitate the accomplishments of Paul and Jesus without carrying their cross. They wanted the triumph minus the trial. In other words, they were faking. And what is amazing is that the devil knows the real from the fake. The Paul they sought to imitate bore both pain and power. He had a testimony. The Jesus whose name they invoked gave up, came down, and gave all, before He arose in great power. Both while focusing on the end pressed through all circumstances to ensure their victory. It is characters like these that own to self. Job in his misery confessed, “I know that my redeemer lives” (Job 19:25). Paul was never shy of an introduction that included both his esteemed position as an apostle of Christ but also the trials of his call among the gentiles (2 Corinthians 6:3-13). And Jesus publicly spoke of who He was (John 8:12). In my other book, “The Value of a Name” I deal exhaustively with the importance of ones true identity and how this facilitates winning in life. For one, knowing ones true identity renders a sense of freedom to an individual. It allows one to freely unlock ones potentials and to pursue ones highest ideals. It also enables one to be free from the trappings of public opinion. Finding out who you are liberates one to explore immeasurable potentials and guarantees one of divine packages God has commissioned to ones true self. I sincerely believe that there is a miracle with your name on it that will only actuate when you find out who you really are.
Jacob learnt this in time. He saw God’s favor on him in spite of negative events. Something profound happened when God named him Israel, which meant he had fought with God and won. From then own, a lone fugitive with a loser mentality ceased to hibernate in fear and insecurities. He became increasingly aware of the significant role God had cut out for him. He sensed destiny and divinity had mingled to transform him from a run away brother to a father of a nation. It did not matter any more that Esau hated him or that he’d been cheated by his uncle or even that his father never cared for him. What was of concern was that he fulfilled the will of the one who had called him. It is that Jacob who at his deathbed sensed the grave need to anoint his sons one by one. Unbothered by the failures of all his children with the exception of Joseph, this veteran of struggle saw his rebirth as a nation according to the promise of God who had revealed to him who he was. Its application to us today can be gathered from the theology of Paul who was an authority in these matters. In his letter to the saints in Rome the apostle states that though God loved Jacob he hated Esau (Romans 9:13). In those times the election was highly restricted. Today, we live in a period of abounding grace – whosoever will (John 6:37). In the new covenant you too can choose. Elect your victory. Elect your triumph. Treasure the score in your heart and move through the events of life assured of your glorious end. Just like in a functioning democracy, after the election the events are secondary. An elected leader rules through his term no matter the events. While the events may sway public opinion the election sustains popular rule. Let the opinions 29
of others change but keep your election. Moreover, your identity has better possibilities under the covenant of Christ. In Him, there is now no more condemnation for all the old passes away and the new comes (2 Corinthians 5:17). Paul was speaking for all believers when he said that we are more than conquerors in Christ (Romans 8:31). My beloved friend, you can be assured that in Him you can do all things as He strengthens you (Philippians 4:13).
THE VALUE OF A NAME
It is amazing that for nearly half his life, the patriarch never really knew who he really was. The name Jacob that his father Isaac had called him had meant he was a fluke, a liar. It did not bear any resemblance with who God had said he would be while he was in his mother’s womb. God had said he would be a victor. So, for about sixty years this great individual went about his life with a wrong identity. Not until God fought with him and changed his name to Israel, which meant he was a victor, did he finally come to terms with who he really was. What is really amazing in this account is the implicit value given to the name of a person. What is in a name? Is there any value in it? Or, was William Shakespeare right when he proposed that there is no value in it cynically suggesting that a rose by any other name would still be a rose? In my other book - The Value of a Name - I beg to differ. I differ because there is critical evidence from the word of God that there is value in a name and in actually knowing who you really are. The scriptures prove this 30
consistently with the most critical reference being the omnipotent name of Jesus as the vital name of the Messiah. On the contrary, what the first half of Jacob’s life teaches us, and also a significant part of the human tragedy, is a lack of knowledge in this regard. So many live in oblivion, marginalized because of a lack of proper understanding of who they are or what they should do or where it ends. I believe that when one finally finds out the truth concerning who they are they cease to be an outcast, a spectator, or a subject of everybody and everything. When you find out who you really are you realize that you are a peculiar person, uniquely designed for greatness. You realize that you are God’s everlasting dream in eternity that takes on reality on earth. And there need not be any difference between what God upholds in heaven and what you manifest on earth. Your name in heaven can be your experience on earth. To be sure, the value of your name is really more than just your identity. It is not merely something by which one can be recognized or referred to. That would be an abuse for what God intended to be a most vital tool for the journey of life. What must also be avoided is the exaggeration of a name. Merely finding out your name does not guarantee a significant difference in your life. It is for this reason that you find people called Victor but in actual experience their life is a long story of defeat. A name is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end. It is a sign, a very essential one, leading to a long-winded road of life. It is the sum total of your genesis, destiny, purpose and life. The account begins long before you are born and may actually conclude long after 31
you are dead. Important to note is the fact that only God knows a names worth. He is after all the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. Without Him there would not be any identities, any names. He is the genesis, determines the destiny, provides the purpose, and sustains the life of all men and women. Seek to know Him, and how He knows you and you will discover that you are really a WINNER from the word GO!
REBECCA KNEW JACOB WAS A WINNER
The Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18 Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is very helpful to me in my ministry. 2 Timothy 4:12 There are no lone heroes. Everyone needs some help. It is always interesting the way the children of this world have employed God’s wisdom for their own ends, many times perverting it. Almost every hero-movie features the star and a loyal assistant, usually a lady (if the action-hero is a man). From James Bond to Rocky Marciano the hero, however potent, is graciously enabled by a loyal lieutenant. Short of the sexual perversions some of these movies employ to help their story is the invaluable lesson: Everyone (even actionheroes) needs some help.
These hero-assistants are stakeholders strategically placed to ensure victory. In Jacob’s case, one of his chief assistants was Rebecca his mother. And she proved vital in imparting the necessary hope in the hero. Usually the assistant will know something the hero or others do not know: A vital piece of 33
information. Rebecca knew Jacob’s end from the beginning. She had the Lord’s word on it. It was she that had inquired of the Lord concerning the jostling in her womb. It was she who the Lord first revealed the destiny of Jacob (Genesis 25:22-23). This leakage of divine providence was God’s ordination of Rebecca as a hero-assistant. And so, when Isaac misfired Rebecca knew better. While Isaac was fascinated with Esau’s athletic prowess in the wilderness Rebecca nurtured a recluse Jacob. To be sure, Isaac was carnal. He was only bothered by what he felt, saw, touched and smelt. On the other hand, Rebecca was prophetic: She knew Jacob’s future was better than the present circumstances. Consequently, she accepted her place as the winner’s assistant according to the future God had predicted. She played the vital role in getting Jacob to receive Isaac’s blessing. Always strategically placed, she overheard Isaac in his dying moments intend to bless Esau as heir (Genesis 27:2-5). She knew this was not the course of destiny. Fitting her bill as assistant she encouraged Jacob to scheme for his rightful heritage (Genesis 27:6-17). It is this effort that resulted in Jacob being blessed instead of Esau (Genesis 27:27-30). And when the repercussions of this development threatened the hero’s life, Rebecca secured a safe haven – her brother Laban (Genesis 27:43-46). Motivated by the revelations of a mighty God, Rebecca sought every means she could figure to ensure the purpose of God. She did not sit idly by. A cadre of struggle, she was determined to help in every way she knew how even when 34
the realities of the day seemed to contradict God’s word. After all, Jacob was not the favorite of his father (who was a prophet of God). It would have made more sense if Isaac had confirmed God’s word. Instead, Isaac named her hero Jacob that meant a fluke, a liar and a supplanter. But Rebecca was unshaken. She held onto the word. She was willing to lose her marriage, risked dividing her small family, and was actually prepared not to see Jacob for the rest of her life if it preserved his destiny. Consequently, we witness how Rebecca held onto the Lord’s choice. It became her choice. She was not just one with Jacob in the flesh they were united in the spirit. I am positive it was her prayer that brought heaven down to a lonely and afraid Jacob when he first reached Bethel. I can see her in the evening of her years still praying for a Jacob she had not seen in decades. It must have been her prayers that joined Jacob’s faith for the opening of Rachel’s womb. Rebecca tells you that someone is praying for you.
HERO-ASSISTANTS IN THE WORD
“Hero-assistant” is really my phrase for what the bible calls a “help-mate”. It was God’s intention from the very beginning that every hero is assigned a “help-mate”. Though Adam reigned supreme on the earth the Lord observed that it was not good for him to be alone. So He gave the man a helper – woman. Those that claim behind every great man is a woman can trace this wisdom to God.
Consequently, one may observe that heroes throughout the scriptures had women assistants. Abraham had Sarah, Moses had Miriam, and Prophet Samuel owed not only his elaborate ministry but his very life as well to a praying mother. The role of women hero-assistants was even more pronounced in the New Testament. The mother of Jesus is perhaps the most celebrated case. We see her loyalty right from the savior’s birth to His wretched death on the cross. And just how did Jesus afford his travels? Dr. Luke reveals in the first verse of the eighth chapter of his gospel recordings that certain women supported the Master from the substance of their means. Among them was another famous hero-assistant in the person of Mary Magdalene. It is forever to be mentioned that Mary was the first person to really believe the oncoming sufferings of the Messiah before His death and even demonstrated this by anointing Him with fine perfume she had saved over a year (John 12:3). And while the Masters friends hid themselves following His death, again it was Mary who had the nerve and love to go to the tomb where they had laid His body. As a result, she delivered the first gospel after the resurrection (John 20:1-2). Apart from women, the scriptures speak of other heroassistants. Notable among which are the angels of Almighty God. Our first introduction to them is following the fall of man when God positions angels at the east side of the Garden of Eden to guard the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). At this point we are made to see angels functioning as God’s assistants. And for the most part of the word of God they are. God has created angels specifically to minister to Him. There are angels that are constantly before Him ministering 36
to Him in worship (Isaiah 6:2-4; Ezekiel 1:5-24; Revelation 4:8). However, angels do also serve God’s people even as they serve the Lord. There are angels that specifically fight for his people (Joshua 5:13-15; Isaiah 37:36). The most notable of these is the arch-angel Michael (Daniel 10:13; Jude 9). There are angels who deliver messages of the Lord to his people as was the case with Jacob while he laid his head at Bethel (Genesis 28:12-14). The most notable of these is archangel Gabriel (Luke 1:11-20; 26-38). Apart from fighting and delivering messages angels can perform other tasks as well such as serving food as was the case with Elijah (1 Kings 19:5-9) or removing obstacles as was the case in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28:2-3). Jesus was indeed familiar with the ministry of angels. During his arrest He mentioned that it was possible, if necessary, for Him to summon 12 legions of angels to His assistance (Matthew 26:53). The point is that angels are available for the service of God’s people. You need not be a lone hero; heaven is at your side to back you up! As moving as it is to consider the divine efforts at our disposal in the person of angels however, the most incredible assistant of God’s people is the Lord Himself. It is amazing to observe God at the service of men. There is an interesting reference to the Lord’s assistance given in the account of the Exodus. Following their successful departure from Egypt the Hebrew are challenged by the Egyptian army which is sent to recapture them. During the experience, the Lord’s angel that had been leading the Hebrews together with the Lord moves from the front of the mass of Hebrew to the back. Amazingly, the Lord follows 37
suit in a cloud (Exodus 14:19). Together with the angel, God positioned Himself for their defense. Throughout that journey God also provided them essential services - shelter, warmth, food and water. Some of the names of God known by the Hebrew relate to the services He provides men. Thus, Jehovah-Jireh means “the Lord who provides”; JehovahNissi means “the Lord who fights our battles”; and, JehovahRapha means “the Lord our healer”. When Jesus was among us He demonstrated God’s ministry to man in the symbolism of washing His disciple’s feet (John 13:4-17). Ultimately, he demonstrated God’s service to man by offering His body as a sacrifice for the remission of our sins (Isaiah 53). Before He returned to be with His Father in heaven, Jesus taught on another sense in which God would be at our service. Speaking to His disciples He introduced the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He mentioned that He would be our “Helper” (John 16:7). As a helper, the Holy Spirit would function as a counselor that would reveal God’s truth to His people. Studying the dynamic book of Acts reveals how the early church witnessed the incredible benefits of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. He was present to heal when they evoked the Name of Jesus (Acts 3:6-8). And when they were afraid, He emboldened them so that they fearlessly ministered in the Name of Jesus (Acts 4:31). There were even instances when He went so far as to transport them to and from places (Acts 8:39). The wonderful ministry of the Holy Spirit is still available for us and we suffer for nothing if we do not call on His assistance. 38
ESTIMATE YOUR HELP
There are times in the struggle for your life that you just need help. Matter of fact, no one ever makes it without any help. It is indeed so wonderful that the Almighty has ordained precious assistants to enable us fulfill His will. We should be able to receive this help and cooperate with the assistants God avails. However, one must not confuse loyalty for perfection. Evidence in the word of God demonstrates that even those persons that God ordains to assist may cause more harm than good. The eternal example of Eve remains with us. Ordained by God to help man rule the earth Eve yet played the crucial role of causing man to lose his place on earth and in God’s plan. I am sure she meant well when she got Adam to eat the fruit but this loyalty was clouded by the imperfection of her counsel. Rebecca too demonstrates the aberrations of hero-assistants. Her loyalty to Jacob involved the hero in deceit, manipulation and fear. She tried to get Jacob accomplish in the flesh what God had prepared for in the spirit. Having heard that her husband intended to bestow his last blessing upon Esau she advised Jacob to disguise himself and pretend to be his hairy brother. She was so eager that Jacob gets Isaac’s blessing. Rather than involving Jacob in seeking the face of God so that this may be done truthfully she relied on deception. The scripture reveals that this was a stronghold in her life, perhaps even a generation curse. Her own brother Laban was a liar and a manipulator too. And it followed through Jacob’s children some of who were terrible liars. Rebecca reminds us that in spite of being loyal, hero39
assistants have weaknesses that may cost the purpose of God. Other hero-assistants in the bible demonstrate this dilemma. Sarah convinced Abraham to lie with her maid in a bid to fulfill God’s promise (Genesis 16:1). The result was a problem called Ishmael. David’s wife Michal who was useful in securing his relation with her father Saul later on criticized David for dancing in the spirit (1 Samuel 19:11). David was a man with loyal but problem – ridden assistants. 2 Samuel 4 details a highly dramatic story of his assistants murdering one of David’s enemies against his will. In verse 39 in reference to what his angry assistants had done he laments: “… though I am the anointed King, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me”. In this case, David suffered the result of failing to correctly estimate the value of his assistants. Fraternizing with assistants must be carefully done. Short of this indiscipline coupled with loyalty is likely to claim the ranks in David’s reign. We observe how this weakness showed up in his family. His own son Absalom who David feared to discipline later on became disloyal and even overthrew him. Jesus must have had His estimations done when at the wedding at Cana He reminded His mother that the time was not right. Later on when she sought to get Him out of the meeting he placed her in proper perspective affirming that his brothers, sisters and mother are those who hear and obey His word. (Mark 3: 34-35). And when a fiercely loyal Peter rigorously objected to the talk of his death, an audacious Jesus responded in a most disciplining manner – “Satan get 40
behind me” (Matthew 16: 23). In receiving the help, we must measure its value and continue to “test every spirit”.
BEWARE OF FAKES.
By now you are aware that the mission is not always easy. And the devil knows it. It is after all his work to make it as difficult as he possibly can. One means he employs is providing fake Rebecca’s, fake assistants. It is one thing for Rebecca to be imperfect. Dealing with a fake Rebecca is quite another thing altogether. They are two different people. For all the inadequacies of Peter and the disciples (many times the Lord wondered at their little faith) they did not measure to the evil of Judas Iscariot. Among them, yet He was never one of them. His mission was an assignment from hell. Fake assistants are dream – killers. They are children of perdition. They will lie and wait, pretend and even help till they bury the mission. Delilah is a good example (Judges 16:21). They will always provide seemingly more satisfactory than the others. Hagar is another: They will even serve you while carefully dropping words of doubt and fear in your life (Genesis 16:1-4). And then, they will be so close as to steal your miracle. Were it not for mercy and God’s grace, Sarah had literally handed over her promise to a fake assistant. Ultimately, they are disloyal. You shall know them by their fruits. Judas was always stealing from the moneybag before he betrayed the Savior. However, “beware” must not be mistaken for “be afraid”. We are more than conquerors through Christ who 41
strengthens us (Romans 8:37). As devious as the fake assistants may be they are limited in their ability. Remember, their father is the devil an already defeated person. Look at the end of Judas. Jesus pitied him saying, “It were better he had never been born” (Mark 14:21). Would have been better for whom? The Church? No. The church grew stronger in spite of his mission. And His absence was so quickly resolved. Better for Christ? No: It was appointed for Him to die for the redemption of man. With Judas or without him, the Lord was prepared to die. It would have been better for Judas because He will forever suffer the shame, the guilt, and the pain of betraying the Master. Jesus was not afraid of Judas, He was aware. Sometimes the Lord allows them to inhabit our surrounding manifesting His glory. However, we must know when they should leave because if they don’t we will. Samson paid the price for failing to dismiss Delilah even after several warning of her intentions. A good indicator of this turning point is when your mistake begins to mock your miracle. When what has been disguised as loyal begins to despise the mission bid it good-bye. The day Sarah found Ishmael mocking her miracle – Isaac – she dismissed her mistake, Hagai (Genesis 21: 8). On the other hand, God is able to turn what was meant for evil to good as the case of David and Absalom demonstrates (2 Samuel 15-18). Absalom was a fake and David spared him because familial ties. His intentions to remove his father from the throne were known and reported to David. He pretended to provide counsel and care to the grievances of the children of Israel yet he used this means to depopularise his father. In spite of several warning and 42
perhaps for very understandable reasons, David waited till Absalom assumed his ambitions. Even then David was at a loss on how to respond. The truth of the matter is that dealing with fake assistants is not always easy that is why they stay as long as they usually do. In the end, the Lord fought for David and smote Absalom even though David still wanted to preserve him. Eventually, the King was restored to his throne. To be sure, good will more often than not triumph over evil. The word of the Lord sums up the plot when it says “Do not lie in wait like an outlaw against a righteous man’s house, do not raid his dwelling place; for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity (Proverbs 24: 15-16)”. Take heart the fake assistant may even have his way but it is limited to a season. After which he /she must face destruction. Ultimately, every winner needs to know that “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord” (Proverbs 21: 30.)
GENUINE HELP IS AVAILABLE
Just the other day, I was musing with my lovely and useful wife, Precious, how difficult it is to find genuine help nowadays. My concern was the result of serving the Lord with an inconsistent set of ministers. In just three years of ministry I had seen five different sets and I was getting rather weary. I wondered why it was difficult for my ministry to stabilize with a consistent set of zealous, focused and humble assistants. At the time, it seemed impossible 43
however much I tried to realize my desire. Fortunately, Precious was not sharing in my despair. She quickly put my concern in its right perspective citing that I was biased in my focus. Accordingly, I was only concentrating on the help that had failed me and was not considering the one that had stood by me. Unfortunately, quite a lot of people are like me in this regard. We spend a lot more time mourning over what has not worked than on what has worked, over what we lost than what we have. As the case of Jacob demonstrates, genuine help is always available. You need not be alone or think there is no one on your side. As long as God has called you, take it for granted, He has ordained sufficient assistance for you. Important to realize is the fact that God has the highest stake on your life and endeavors. Consequently, you are His business. Just when Jacob thought he was alone, far from the help of his caring mother, God opened the gates of heaven and proved that He was with the patriarch. The rest of his life proved as much. More so, long after Jacob had died, God continued to identify with his children and grand children for many generations even to this day. Such is the faithfulness of God and the availability of genuine help. When you see things in this perspective you can not be discouraged. Think about it: You are never alone. At your disposal are a wide range of assistants - some human, some immortal; some weak, some strong. Some may seek to bring your downfall or may unknowingly work against your purpose. And yet, some are entirely perfect and if you pay attention to them you will end up far much better than you 44
set out to be. If the truth is told, the good assistants are overwhelmingly more available than the bad ones. Genuine help, my friend, need not be a myth. It is a divine reality which is so available. Rather than despair in the face of any setback, lean on God and find a friend that is closer than a brother. In Him you will discover so many others He has positioned just to help you keep going. Go on Winner!
ISAAC DID NOT KNOW
For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. John 5:20. "Part therapist, part consultant, part motivational expert, part professional organizer, part friend, part nag -- the personal coach seeks to do for your life what a personal trainer does for your body." -- Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune Victories always conceal a lot of issues that the victors have to endure in the course of their struggle. Whilst friends and strangers alike may herald the climatic triumphs of a victor the course is often a lonelier endeavor. Even the most popular champions will confess to cases of being doubted. To be sure, most underdogs are generally doubted by observers including those close to them and are only accepted as winners when they prove their worth. However, if there is anyone whose opinion the contender will find unwavering it will be the coach. The ideal coach will even have more faith in the outcome of the struggle than the struggler himself. Always a patron, a father figure, the coach prepares his student for nothing less than victory. Needless to say, every champion needs a good coach, a patron that will guide him/her through the trials and preparations necessary for victory. Without one, the possibilities of victory are dimmed and the pathway to victory an even lonelier route. Unfortunately, this is the trial some victors have to contend with. Quite a number of young men and 46
women are dealing with this grave issue because of the degenerating loss of fatherhood, not only in families but also in the church, institutions and in nations as a whole. How does one make it through the vagaries of life to the momentous times of victory without the confident assurances and the excellent trainings of a seasoned patron? The accounts of Jacob tell us it is possible. It may be lonelier or/and difficult, and the journey may even be longer than necessary, but it is possible. It is difficult to figure why Isaac never saw what God had seen from the very beginning regarding Jacob. Perhaps it was the rigid adherence to a tradition that saw the first-born sons in his times as the natural heirs. Could it have been that this man of God was so encouraged in his favoring of Esau because of the latter’s prowess in the wilderness? Or, was it the sin of his own father Abraham that had caught up with him which had led the former to beget Ishmael and not wait for the son of promise? It is amazing that Isaac never sought to know from God concerning the twins and yet from their very beginning God had loved one and hated the other (see, Genesis 25:23 & Malachi 1:2-3). How could this patriarch of our faith have overlooked the opinion of God regarding his family? Whatever the reasons, Isaac’s understanding of his son’s (both their identity and destiny) was carnal. As a result, he misfired in his attention to Esau. He spent more time propping, training and encouraging him while he ignored the son of promise. Relegated to his mother’s kitchen Jacob lacked the assuring guidance of a father figure. He had no coach to take him through the motions and principles 47
needed to make it to victory. Part of the consequence of this omission was that for the most part while in his father’s house Jacob received assistant guidance rather than professional assistance. He relied more on his mother and her own inferior perceptions of how to realize the promises of God. And as we have seen, there were considerable mistakes that he suffered as a result. In the end, he had to endure a rather long approach to the victory God had prepared for him. It is possible that had Isaac known what God and Rachel knew Jacob would not have suffered as much as he did to overcome the tests in his life. To be sure, Jacob’s life is a classic lesson on how to cope with the trials of life without the benefit of a father figure. He proves that even without the assuring indulgencies of a patron God is still able to make a way where there seemed to be no way. Matter of fact, as in Jacob’s case God became his Father. And the absence of his own father made his dependence on God even more critical. Running away from the wrath of his brother brought Jacob to points far away from even his mother. He found himself in places he did not know and afraid for his unpredictable future. Moments like those brought God closer to him. At Bethel, he witnessed a staircase of angels descend and ascend on him. Fortunately, he responded positively making covenant with God (Genesis 28:10-22). For the rest of his life, Jacob learned to have God as Father, patron and coach. What he missed from the flesh he got in the spirit.
OTHER BIBLICAL FATHERLESS VICTORS
The bible is laced with several other accounts of fatherless victors. Men and women who had to endure the lonely loss of a patron figure that would guide them in the difficult paths to victory. One remarkable case is the very promising son of Jacob himself, Joseph. Although loved tremendously by his father (in a sense one may say Jacob avoided the sin of his father in at least recognizing the favor of God upon Joseph and responding to it) yet through situations beyond control Joseph lost the benefit of patron guidance when his jealous and wicked brothers sold him as a slave to Egypt. There, away from the patronage and love he had from his father, God assumed the position of coach and patron to the young man. Amazingly, against very serious odds God was able to see Joseph from the lowest pits of failure and defeat to ensure his place in the highest positions of power. The trying-to-triumphant accounts of Joseph provide yet another classic example of how one can make it without an earthly father figure (Genesis 37:2-36, 39 & 40). Another moving account is the one of David son of Jesse. Like Jacob, David was neglected while he lived in his father’s house. Although he tended the family’s sheep he was never regarded seriously as a son in the house of Jesse. He did not have the favor of his father. Instead Jesse devoted himself to coaching David’s brothers to victory while the shepherd boy relied on the leadings of Jehovah. God became David’s Father. In Psalms 23 David reveals the variant roles as Father the Lord played in his life. He saw the Lord as leader, provider, protector, healer, comforter, inspiration 49
and restorer. And the battle against Goliath demonstrated which of the two fathers had done a better job. It is quite revealing as we observe Eliab, David’s elder brother that enjoyed most favor with Jesse, join the ranks of cowards that were terrified by the ranting and empty boasts of the giant Philistine Goliath. That David, without any prior trainings from an earthly father was nevertheless able to stand against the Philistine fearlessly tells how much He had learned from God. David’s story ought to encourage every one the great profits of relying on God as Father (1 Samuel 17). Sometimes the alternative to an active and compassionate father is simply a father figure that substitutes ones actual father. In some cultures, the term employed for this kind of person is godfather. In spite of David lacking favor in his father’s house he found favor with Saul, the King of Israel, and his household. In fact, after the battle with the Philistines Saul took on David as his own son and it was during this period that David was highly promoted in the army of Israel. He even got so intimately acquainted with Saul’s intended heir to the throne, Jonathan, as well as marrying one of Saul’s daughters, Michal. For lack of a better word Saul was what we may describe as David’s godfather. And in many regards, David was grateful for this favor from the king of Israel. He performed all kinds of roles just to appease Saul’s often-shifting requirements. When Saul needed music David would be available. When he desired victory in the battlefield David was still available. Ironically, Saul misinterpreted David’s persistent loyalty as 50
an ambitious attempt to steal the throne of Israel. Soon he became envious of his own subject and sought to kill him. That is where his role as David’s patron ended. Once again, David was fatherless from a carnal viewpoint. Once again he had to rely on God as his Father. A look at most of the psalms David wrote while hiding from Saul reveals the profound extent David assumed in depending on God as his refuge, shelter and strength. The intimate relation David had with God as Father is not only well documented in the Psalms but it so impressed God Himself. Referring to David’s devotions, Jesus remarked that David had a heart after God (Acts 13:22). And it must be told that God did not disappoint. Every covenant promise God made with him he actually brought to pass. In the end, of the entire three – father, godfather and Father – the last relation proved most vital to David (1 Samuel 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 26). But perhaps the greatest account of complete submission and reliance on God, as Father, in spite of the presence of an earthly father is the case of Jesus Christ. Although it had been arranged for Him to have an earthly father, Joseph, there is very little evidence of Jesus’ reliance on him. In fact the accounts that reveal His dependence on His earthly father in His infant age as a child were really accounts in which even Joseph himself was depending on God as Father. When Herod sought to kill the baby boy Joseph was constantly ministered to by angels on what to do and where to hide and even on when to come from hiding (Matthew 2:13). Later on in the life of Jesus, we see His preference of the two. At the early age of twelve, Jesus was already conscious of the need to serve and depend on His Father in 51
heaven so much that He was willing to do it at the expense of loosing His earthly father. When He told His concerned parents who had lost Him and had desperately been looking for Him that “don’t you know that I ought to be about my Father’s will” (Luke 2:49) He was clearly demonstrating the precedence His heavenly Father took on the family tree. Although it is hardly talked about, but it is indeed significant that there is hardly any reference to His earthly father during His illustrious ministry while pronounced reference is made to His heavenly Father. Several times He consulted with God in long prayers. He even confessed on seeking to do the will of His Father in heaven. When He died, it was not His earthly father that He sought. Instead He cried to His heavenly Father in those immortal words, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”(Matthew 27:46)And He was still at it after He rose from the dead when He prevented Mary Magdalene from touching Him till He had presented Himself to the Father (John 20:17).
KNOWING GOD AS FATHER
The wonderful truth is that you too can really get to know God as Father if you give yourself the chance. He need not be a stranger to you. Matter of fact, He longs to have an intimate relationship with you as His son. The problem has always been that we ignore Him or rebel against Him, usually at our peril. When we do so we are the greater loser. When we are far from His eternal love we expose ourselves to dangers we need not face alone. The entire scripture is 52
really about the love God longs to share with man, as a Father. It was the relationship He had with Adam when He made him and put him in the garden. However, it is Adam’s sin and obedience that first distanced him and all his descendants from this most intimate relationship. The chief reason why most people never sense or experience this relationship with God is because of the effect of sin. It stands as the proverbial barrier between a “lost mankind” and a loving God, between children and their Father. It is, however, also true that quite a number are indeed “distanced” from a loving relationship with God as Father because of the prevailing misconceptions assumed about who God is. Even among His own chosen people, the Jews, the impressions of God tended to be of a very remote and austere personality. They considered God in the highest degree as a person to be approached with extreme caution. It was even unthinkable to mention His name. And although God Himself spoke of His enduring love for them as His beloved children this impression was never seen at an individual context. At most they thought of Him as the Father of the entire nation of Israel. In fact, mention of Him as Father is done only 15 times in the Old Testament. Similarly, pictures of the renaissance period only worsened this impression as they depicted God as an old angry figure, preoccupied with judgmental attitudes. Compounding this legacy are the very available numbers of legalistic religious leaders and highhanded earthly fathers that have only served to elude the true impression of a kind, gentle and loving God as our Father. 53
And yet, if the truth is told God is indeed a very loving Father and everyone is capable of knowing Him that way. He is the kindest, nicest, most loving person anyone can ever meet. It is important that we realize that all persons were made in His image and have in them a void, a hole that only His love can fill. More than anyone ever did, Jesus clarified the image of God. In fact, it can be said that one of the principal reasons, if not the most important motive for His coming was to reconcile us to this wonderful person, God. A closer study of His own relationship with God shows that for all the latter’s many titles and offices yet Father was Jesus’ preferred term for referring to Him. In His immortal Sermon on the Mount of Olives He used the expression 14 times. And that is how He addressed God in prayer (Matthew 6:9). His purpose was to reveal that God was not some unapproachable, remote, and austere figure but a loving, caring and easily accessible person. And in so many ways, He actually revealed the Father. In all that He did, He sought to reflect the very work and image of God. Where God had healed, forgiven sins, and fed His people Jesus demonstrated the same virtues. The gist caught with His disciples who He had taught to refer to God as their Father (Matthew 6:9). They saw his compassion, how He cared and never rejected whoever came to Him (Matthew 18:34-36; Luke 5:12-13, 17-20) and they too knew that they could call God Father. As a result, the term Father appears 245 times in the New Testament. Not only did Jesus reveal the Fathers intimacy and compassion for mankind but also in His death He rendered apart the barrier between people and God. By shedding His 54
innocent blood for the atonement of our sins He in a single stroke made it possible for all mankind to be reconciled to God. Where sin had estranged us from God’s favor and kindness the blood of Jesus dispelled it to legitimize our identity as God’s own dear children. All we have to do to begin sensing and experiencing this privilege and its powerful results is to acknowledge our sins and God’s love for us expressed in the death of His only begotten Son. If we believe in our heart and confess with our lips that Jesus died for us (Romans 10:9)…. Nothing shall ever separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39). What is the privilege of knowing God as “Father” for all who do not have fathers, patrons or life coaches? The benefits are enormous: As the aforementioned cases in God’s word reveal, God is indeed a most vital coach and patron. In fact, He is the most seasoned patron anyone can ever have. His experience has been tested and His loyalty is total. The scriptures confirm that He is a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5) and that He will never leave us, even if our earthly parents do (Psalm 27:10). Short of the love of a father or patron God is indeed that dangerous substitute. With Him, the struggler need not be afraid of the varied challenges on the way to victory. It is in this regard that the Apostle Paul boldly confessed to a terrified church shaken by the persecution they faced that if God be for us who can be against us (Romans 8:31). All men that relied on God as Father were never disappointed. From the patriarchs of our faith – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to the kings, prophets and other servants of God we continuously see men and women that intimated with a loving and compassionate God as their 55
Father overcoming steep opposition. It is this relationship that moved many to make vows and covenants with God and every one of them testifies to God’s faithfulness in keeping His part of the bargain. In these great accounts, we are shown a Father that is very concerned about every detail of the lives of His children. It was not only the broad aspects of a struggler’s destiny that saw God’s intervention but all aspects of their lives were precious to Him. This same Father is still available today and has never changed in His ways. He is not a man that He should change His mind (1 Samuel 15:29). On the contrary, He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)
BORN TO WIN
Jesus tells an amazing story that illustrates the loving nature of God as Father in the face of two sons, one obedient and the other self-conceited. The latter son chose to forfeit the care of his father in preference for the father’s wealth. Rather than depend on the security that his father’s love guaranteed he chose to put all his trust on the property of his father. Asking for his share of his inheritance he departs to a far country where he wastes all of it. Soon he has nothing left. Despairing in a life of poverty, failure and squalor he reflects on the consequence of his wrong choice. He considers returning to his father as a servant convinced that his actions and deplorable status are so dishonorable to be considered a son again. On the other hand, is the father who has continuously awaited the return of his son. Every passing day the father would stand at the gate looking at the 56
direction the son took hoping that one day he would return. When the son returns, while he is still a distance away from the house, the father spots him and runs to him. The son is shocked and seeks to explain his desire to be a servant. The father will have none of it and to the young man’s surprise dresses him, with a robe and ring, and actually throws a party to celebrate his return. The other son hears of it and is angry that the father had never done the same for him and his friends (Luke 15:11). Ranking as one of the great stories of our times, it does contain in its details quite a number of fundamental moral lessons. One that is often overlooked is the guarantee of victory inherent in each and every one of us. Both sons did not realize that they did not need to perform considerable feats to be sons of their father or to even celebrate and have a party. In hoping to return as a servant and in serving at home like a servant both the prodigal son and his obedient brother assumed that they had to “work” their privileges as sons. They missed the point: They were born sons in the house of their father. They did not need to work to be their father’s sons; instead, their father had worked to be their father. The fundamental lesson here is that they had been born sons. Their victory need not be postponed till they had worked it out. They were born victorious. They could celebrate that victory at anytime in their father’s house. A similar misconception dominates most people. They think they are losers until they are able to achieve some attained feat. They will not celebrate anything till they have accomplished some task. And that is how they discriminate 57
others. Those that have evidently accomplished something are heroes while those that have nothing to show are nothing to be taken seriously. God on the other hand, celebrates our victory by virtue of our birth. In His regard, every one is a born winner. You do not have to do nothing for God to know that. Before you were born He knew what you would accomplish (Jeremiah 1:5-6). In my other book, The Value of a Name, I deal exhaustively with this argument. Every one is born for a purpose. There is no one here on earth by mistake. Every one that is born has been born to conquer, subdue and dominate. That is the plan of God. And as far as He is concerned the mission is accomplished. When God looks at all of us He sees winners made in His fantastic image. That is how He made you and what he made you for. You my friend are destined to win. You are a winner from the word go to the grand finale! That was also the fundamental lesson of Jacob and Esau. I always wondered why God discriminated between the two. Why did He love Jacob and hate Esau as the scriptures point out? (Malachi 1:2) The reason may well be found in the omniscience of God who must have known the extent to which Esau would seek to work out his own favor rather than depend on God. A closer observation of the two sons of Isaac demonstrates this. Whereas, Jacob tended to intimate with God in a close relationship Esau owed all his allegiance to his earthly father and never sought a relation with His heavenly Father. Where Jacob eventually sought to please God, Esau’s loyalties ended on Isaac and himself. As a result, we see a hard working Esau in the house of Isaac seeking to earn his status in spite of being first born. Initially, 58
Jacob was also caught in this web when he sought to earn it from Esau (by offering his brother food in exchange for firstborn status) and later on disguising himself as his brother to get his father’s blessing. In the end, it was really the relation that he nurtured with God that God in his omniscience had seen at his birth that guaranteed his victory. It is in this regard that Jacob was a winner from birth. You and I have as much chance as Jacob if we choose to submit to God and cease to depend on our strength. However talented one may be you will never really be a winner without God. You may even accomplish some incredible feats in life but that will never make you a real winner. If you really want to win in life, you must know that winning begins and ends with God. And God has given every one a chance at winning. Being born in itself is the greatest guarantee that you must win. Whether one will or not depends on the extent they will submit and rely on God. I have not said and neither do I imply that we have no role in ensuring victory. I am not in the least persuaded that God would have all of us sit and wait till somehow He avails us with victory. This brings me to the second and probably most vital lesson of the two stories. If anything because God guarantees and has planned our victory we should be motivated to co-work with Him to ensure that we attain this victory. I believe that believers in God as Father and His Christ ought to be the most motivated in achieving success. After all, we ought it to a loving Father who planned it all for us. While it is indeed the case that the sons of the loving father in Jesus’ story did not 59
need to workout their relationship status in the house of their father they nevertheless needed to work as a result of being sons of the father. All that their father had was theirs and they needed to work at prospering themselves. In working for their father they actually would be working for themselves. The same applied to Jacob once God made covenant with him. He did not just sit wishing but sought to make the most of God’s guarantees. If there is a predominant trait in the accounts of Jacob, it will be said that he was a hardworking man. I am even sure that it was this influence of hard work and its divine and virtuous benefits that were passed onto Joseph. So, contrary to what some believers of the Lord assume being chosen by God is not in itself the end of the story. We have to work hard to realize what God has seen in eternity. In this sense, we must realize that while we are born winners we are also made winners. And it is in the pursuit of working the win that one is indeed most dependent on God. I can tell you, people that do nothing, claiming that they are waiting for God to do something really do not depend on God. They are lying in His Name and unless He shows them grace they will wait till they die in vain. This is what the Apostle James was dealing with when he cautioned against faith without action. Such faith is null and void. In fact, whoever does nothing is really depending on nothing and must decease from mocking God’s Name. God is not mocked, neither is he deceived whatsoever a man sows is what he reaps (Galatians 6:7). You sow nothing you reap nothing; nothing in, nothing out. It is just amazing how many people do nothing and yet expect something must happen. On the other hand, people that will 60
pursue a God-given vision and act on it will always depend on God. They will be more thankful when they accomplish most of their divine assignments. When they stumble they will cry out to the Father. They are the ones who know what it really means to depend on God. They are the ones who know what a prayer can do. Even God’s most privileged and only begotten Son never had the “benefit” of doing nothing. Confronted with steep opposition from the leaders of his day (a good excuse to do nothing) he responded thus: …I will drive out demons today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal. In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day …. (Luke 13:32) Later on He is known to have exclaimed, “I see what my Father does and do it also.”(John 5:19). These are not the thoughts of an idle man. In fact, Jesus was so active that were all the things that He did written there is not enough room to contain them on the entire earth (John 21:25). When you consider that He died at 33 years of age it concretizes my claims. The point is, if we really want to have genuine relation with our Father we need to realize that there are a lot of privileges He has already provided for us that should motivate us accomplish what He has determined before the foundations of the world. We need to know that we are born to win. And that is not only a favor; it’s also an obligation. For every win that He has already provided there is a price and God expects that we should pay that price. 61
WINNER, WELCOME HOME
I believer you are a winner. No loser could keep to this track. Your focus on the revelations of God is a significant sign that inherent in your being is the winner seal. Victory awaits you and all you have to do is go for it. However, there can be no real victory without submitting to the Father. In order to do this one has to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And just in case you have not made a decision to follow Jesus I wish to invite you at this moment to this incredible life-changing and victory-assuring decision. He is the way to the Father and there is no other (John 14:6). When you receive Him He does give you the power to become God’s child (John 1:12). The way to go about it is to acknowledge your sins and repent of them. Confess with your lips that you will not set out to commit evil as you now belong to Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9). If you do so, the blood of Jesus will cleanse you from all unrighteousness and purge your conscience from sin and its power (Hebrews 9:14). Then the Holy Spirit will seal you with the seal of God’s eternal love so that from then on you are legitimately a son of God (Romans 8:14). As a son of the Most High God you will find in Him a coach, a patron, a friend, a leader that will nurture and guide you through the vagaries of life’s difficult challenges. He is more than faithful (Romans 3:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:24) and in Him is no lie (1 Samuel 15:29). He is a Father you can fully trust and depend on. He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Joshua 1:5). I am most confident about this: No matter 62
who you are, what you have done, regardless your condition or background you are a winner that needs to come back home. Come back to the Father’s love, you will find that even if it seems you have lost it all He can restore all good things. He who begun a good work in you will bring it to accomplishment! Matter of fact, in His more than capable hands it does not matter where you are coming from because your future is so bright. Winner, welcome back home dad is waiting for you.
LABAN NEVER KNEW
A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. Proverbs 26:24-26 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. Proverbs 21:30 It is one thing to deal with an absentee father, it is quite another when dealing with a fraudulent one. Quite often, the vulnerability of a winner will expose one to predatory guardians. These “fathers” are not in the least interested in the winners’ victory but are preoccupied with their own victory. In any case, their only reason in adopting the winner is to exploit the extent he/she may facilitate their own victory. They pretend to be good but are actually selfseeking tricksters. They have mastered the art of manipulation and employ it without mercy. Always maneuvering, they will masquerade as angels of mercy yet really behind their evil mask is the tormenting ambition to abuse their innocent prey. If they are really good at their game they will even conceal their evil intentions and actually build a reputation as caring and protecting personalities. And more often than not someone desperate, innocent and vulnerable will be referred to their snare and 64
suffer the bitter consequence. A closer study of the plight of child laborers, prostitutes, drug addicts, orphans and other vulnerable children, prisoners, even sports personalities, movie actors, and ministers (yes, ministers) will reveal the extents these fraudsters will go to prey on the lives of winners. Many winners have found themselves “stuck” in the mire of the exploitation they suffer at the hands of such guardians. Quite a number have lost their dream of victory when trapped in the prison of a seasoned con passing out as a patron. To be sure, it is so difficult to keep ones dream once in the firm clutch of these winner predators. They are effective dream killers. Ironically, they seek to prey on the most promising individuals and essentially select the most desperate and vulnerable. Once in their abusive hold, they will proceed to ensure that their subjects dream is only a subset to their overall dream. They will exploit the winner’s talent only insofar as this will enhance their greedy dreams. Short of which, they will seek to destroy any prospects the winner has to make it alone or with someone else. In the end, they never seek to grow, benefit or prosper the winner. After abusing/exploiting their prey they will await the point they are waning of their potential and then dump them.
LABAN THE CON DAD
The story of Jacob and Laban is really the story of a vulnerable winner in the hands of a con dad. Where Isaac’s love had been Jacob’s lost dream, Laban’s “love” was his nightmare. Referred by his mother, uncle Laban was the man to care for Jacob while he ran and hid from the wrath of his brother. Fortunately for the young runaway God reached him before he reached Laban. Just before completing his run from an angry Esau, Jacob is visited by God and actually makes a covenant with him in which God guarantees the young man’s victory where he is going. Given the fraudulent and manipulative qualities of his uncle, it would have been utterly impossible for Jacob to keep the dream of victory were it not for God’s intervention. From day one till the time when Jacob finally picked the nerve to depart Laban sought to trick, exploit and even swindle Jacob to the extent that he almost lost the dream. The accounts of Laban’s game of manipulation are given in the book of Genesis between chapters 29 and 32. It all begun with a twist to a love story; when Jacob was in love with the younger daughter, Rachel, and Laban instead gave him the older one, Leah. To get the love he wanted, Laban made him work at his farm for 14 years. When Jacob wanted to leave following the birth of Joseph, Laban still tricked him to stay by pretending to offer him an outstanding recompense for his work. At least in this instance, he had the sincerity to admit that his prosperity had been the result of God’s favor on Jacob. Nonetheless, he still went on to manipulate Jacob’s wages several times. Fortunately for the winner God was by 66
his side and whenever Laban would change the terms of Jacob’s payments God would intervene through miraculous means to ensure that he got more than his due. Jacob pointed these issues to his wives complaining: You know that I have worked for your father with all of my strength, yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me. If he said, “The speckled ones will be your wages,” Then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; And if he said, “The streaked ones will be your Wages,” then all the flocks bore streaked and young. So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me. (Genesis 31:7) In the end, Jacob prospered in spite of the manipulative hands of his uncle. In fact, he became even more prosperous than his uncle who became jealous of his nephews accomplishments. Soon, a bitter feud grew in the family of Laban against Jacob. It is then that Jacob sought to break ties with his manipulative uncle. What is crucial to appreciate is the incredible role God played in both frustrating the manipulative tendencies of Laban against Jacob therefore prospering him in the end, and finally getting an entangled Jacob to move out of his predators web of exploitation. While still complaining to his wives and enlisting their support in his bid to depart with them from their father’s household Jacob emphasizes the 67
role played by God. He revealed how the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and commanded, thus: Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land. (Genesis 31:12) Therein lays the assurance every winner needs to have in order to accomplish victory in spite of the misfortune of falling in the hands of a manipulative guardian. Nothing escapes the eyes of God. And nothing can thwart His intentions however subtle or powerful they may appear. Two of my favorite scriptures in the struggle read – “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Most High God” (Proverbs 21:30); “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). Winners need not be gripped with fear once they find themselves under the hands of such dubious guardians. Even in their grip, caught in their intricate web of deceit, God is there with you. Even when it may seem that one is losing against the manipulator, stand firm. There is a God in heaven and He has never abandoned the plan He made for you from the foundation of the world.
CORRUPTING THE WINNER
Most winners need to realize that part of the danger of falling into the intricate web traps of devious predators like uncle Laban is the vice of becoming like them. If you stay too long under such an influence one tends to instinctively and subconsciously become like the predator. You learn survival skills of how to beat the game. Over time the innocent, vulnerable and desperate enthusiast is corrupted into assuming skillful survival tactics, usually resembling the ones employed by the manipulative guardian against them. At this point winning within the rules is seen as ineffective and is quickly replaced with the need to win at all costs. Usually this newly assumed behavior will be employed against everyone else but the chief predator. However, few will dare manipulate the chief, especially if they are old timers – those that have dwelled within the chief’s trap for a long time. By the time Jacob first sought to leave Laban’s household he was an old timer. He was an old dog with a pack of tricks. He knew Laban’s game and was even willing to manipulate the master himself. And so when a devious Laban beseeched him to stay offering him to choose his wage in Genesis 29 Jacob moved for the kill. He asked for what seemingly appeared a small wage. Something that Laban would in fact assume was going to keep him firmly over the young man. Jacob proposed that his wage be all the animals that have speckled, spotted or streaked skin, a trait very few of the animals of the time possessed. By this choice of wage, it would seem like Jacob was not ambitious and was in fact 69
content in continuing to be Laban’s servant as it did not seem that from such a wage he could have enough to be free. However, Jacob was cunning. He had no intention of keeping his earnings on the low side as his subsequent actions reveal. For one, he was not going to leave the matter to natural means or chance. Although to appease his uncle, he sought to separate the marked animals from the unmarked, he still endeavored to manipulate the birth results of the unmarked animals. The narrator of the account details how Jacob using marked sticks and water for the animals trying hard to manipulate the results so that the finest of Laban’s single-colored animals nevertheless produced marked animals (that would therefore be his wage). He would wait for the mating season for the strongest of Laban’s animals to be on heat and would make sure he drew them to the water where they would mate while looking at the stripped stick. The trick seems to have worked so successfully since all the animals that he exposed the marked sticks would in fact produce marked animals. In the end, most of the strong animals belonging to his uncle produced marked animals that according to the wage treaty between Jacob and Laban belonged to the former. After a while of these means of payment during which Laban nevertheless changed terms ten times Jacob had the finest flocks of the two and in fact the largest number. The point Jacob argued to his wives is that God had favored him against the tricks of his uncle. And that is indeed the case as it were. However, there is something that quite a number of people that look at this story tend to overlook. 70
And that is, that Jacob had not intended to be fair with Laban in the first place. He took matters in his own hands to manipulate the animals so that he may get a better wage. To be sure, the trick he employed never worked. The means of increase that he had was not so much the results of his tricks as it was really the efforts of God. Later on, when an embittered Jacob is explaining to his wives, he reveals how indeed it all happened as told to him by the Lord. God in His omnipotent power had caused the finest of Laban’s animals to produce marked animals. God had done this by his grace in spite of the manipulative means employed by Jacob. The point is that Jacob need not have done what he did. God had not abandoned him and would still have favored and multiplied him without his trick efforts. The lesson here for all strugglers is plain: You do not have to cheat your way to victory. Once God has marked you, you will win. Instead of depending on human wisdom and ways winners need to look to God and see His salvation. All Jacob’s frantic efforts were a big waste of his own time. And too many of us waste a lot of time and calories trying to sneak our way to victory. God has already provided the victory and if we trust him, no manipulator will ever be able to keep you from attaining the goal. All we have to do is to trust in him and do what we are asked to do within the rules. God knows that the rules are skewed. He knows when we are on the disadvantage. Nothing escapes his eye. However, He also knows that He is above the rules of man. The earth and its fullness belongs to Him (Psalm 24:1) and so do the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). All those who 71
scheme and manipulate the servants or children of God need to know that: He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so their hands achieve no success. He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away. Darkness comes upon them in the daytime; at noon they grope as in the night. He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth; he saves them from the clutches of the powerful. so the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth. (Job 5:12-16)
WINNING THE CORRUPT
Although always a difficult test, it is nevertheless possible: Winners can triumph over the corrupt. It is partly in this context that Jesus made the immortal encouragement recorded in the gospel of John, “In this world you will have trouble. But be of good cheer I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). As long as we live in this world we will always meet someone corrupt. After all, this domain has been taken over by the forces of darkness. The prince of this world is the devil himself. Never mind that he is a thief and a liar and has only taken what really belongs to God and His Christ (John 10:9-10). As such, there are valid lessons for the church of Jesus Christ in the account of Jacob and Laban as Jacob indeed represents the church and Laban represents the world. Jacob demonstrates that winning the corrupt and 72
deceitful is indeed a possible feat. It is important that we observe that while he came to Laban with nothing, but only the assurance of God, he left Laban’s household with a large stock of everything related to success. And this rag-to riches transformation was in spite of the devious opposition of his uncle. To be sure, Laban never desired Jacob’s welfare. Jacob was always mindful of this and even assured him, thus: If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away emptyhanded. (Genesis 31:42) Every way he treated Jacob belied his loath for the young man. And yet, God turned what was meant for evil and turned it for good (Romans 8:28). This account is indeed important for the believer on two grounds: The first one is on a very personal ground and the second is prophetic. On a personal level, believers need to be encouraged by the testimony of Jacob. Many find themselves caught in dealings with dubious persons bent on swindling them. They may be relatives like in Jacob’s case or in most cases employers, friends, ministers, service providers, or even “loved” ones. The point is, many can testify to being cheated or betrayed. Too many times, we will make the fatal mistake to rely or trust in a person in the vain hope that they will be fair enough to be accountable and relate with integrity. Unfortunately, more often than not we get disappointed. To our disappointment, someone who we trusted to keep their word or to hold their side of the bargain will shift goal posts. These times are not easy at all, especially when the stakes are 73
so high and the person involved was someone who we dearly regarded/esteemed. The challenge for most saints is what to do in the face of betrayal. What does one do when subjected to very exploitative manipulation? Do we return evil for evil as Jacob did? Or, should we turn to the Lord in search for vengeance? The dilemma is not always an easy one. Most cases of betrayal tend to leave one despairing and seriously confused. As a pastor, I have had the benefit of counseling married folk that are dealing with betrayal on the part of their partner. In many incidences the temptation to revenge is so real. Some mates have been known to hope that rewarding evil with evil is at least a source of solace if not a reminder to the traitor that two can play the game. Unfortunately, this course has been known to only yield more pain and in some cases the couples have only made an already difficult problem worse. Sometimes an embittered mate seeking to settle the score has ended up acquiring a deadly sexually transmitted virus like HIV that causes AIDS in as much as a single revenging encounter. In cases where employees have been defrauded by manipulative employers or partners, playing the revenge game has been known to bring a sense of guilt on the part of the initial victim. But some cases have actually ended with litigation where a corrupted employee is caught trying to play the game of his master. Real winners need not seek to compromise their integrity in the face of corrupt mentors or leaders. We are well advised in God’s word that this is not the way of God. Jesus 74
cautioned that we reward evil with good (Matthew 5:36-42). The account of Jacob demonstrates that when we are taken advantage of, God is a witness and He will seek our vindication. This may always not seem like the case when we are being swindled off our feet. However, it is true. The word assures that the One who watches over Israel never slumbers (Psalm 121:4). There is nothing that escapes the eyes of God, most especially where justice is concerned. Throughout the scriptures He condemns those that disregard the plight of others. Where injustice is committed He has in several occasions in His word responded by warning or seeking vengeance for the aggrieved. Seeking to encourage the Hebrews who often times would find themselves as slaves, being exploited and abused by a foreign kingdom, He would solemnly promise that justice will prevail (Isaiah 51:4). Similarly, if His own people the Jews did not demonstrate justice in their dealings He would rebuke them and often would threaten to punish the land for such blatant evil (Amos 5:12-27). It was in fact in this regard for justice that the Messiah was expected to come and establish justice among all the kingdoms of the world. Consequently, the believer should have full confidence in all circumstances and even in those circumstances where they are taken advantage of. They should know that God will intervene to ensure justice is done. The winner can rest assured that with God they can overcome the corrupt. In fact Jesus took it further urging us to forgive those who treat us unfairly. Early in His ministry He taught that vengeance was the Lord’s and we should not take matters in our own 75
hands. Instead, we should love and forgive those that seek our loss in any regards. In His own words: You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile go with him two miles. (Matthew 5:38) This caution against seeking revenge was especially a new and radical concept. It was certainly a departure from the ways the previous generations of teachers had instructed their students, including the very tenets of the law. As such they were difficult to receive and still pose a challenge to many today. It is indeed difficult because it goes against our very human nature and principles of natural justice. Many have dismissed its validity in the face of a harsh world that regularly presents us with unfair conditions. They argue that living a life of loving and forgiving everyone that offends us is so naïve and can only be compared to burying ones head in the sand while exposing the behind to mortal danger. They wonder – Can people be victorious simply by loving and trusting? Does it make sense in a contemporary world where corruption is rife and “hearts have grown cold”? Yes they can. The principle works for two reasons. First, the one that suggested it employed it Himself and it worked for Him. Jesus Christ demonstrated first hand by loving those that actually killed Him. When He was arrested at the garden of 76
Gethsemane and Peter struck the ear of one of his arresting officers, Jesus intervened by healing the man (John 18:10). As He died on the cross with His crucifiers below Him, rather than hurl insults at them as was the custom among those being crucified, He prayed for them, asking God to forgive them (Luke 23:34). And after He rose from the dead, He still sought to meet with his very lieutenants that had actually run away from Him at His time of need. He even appointed Peter who betrayed Him, a record three times, to be head of the church (Matthew 16:18). His love and forgiveness demonstrated His humility, which caused God to raise Him from the dead and exalt Him to the highest of heaven. The second reason why it works pertains to the wisdom of God. What many of us do not realize is that God does have a different way of doing and looking at things from all of us. The prophet Isaiah tells us “His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts than our thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). And the apostle Paul tells us that the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world and vice versa (1 Corinthians 1:21). Given that Jesus Christ is indeed God, then His radical counsel was indeed the very wisdom of God. Following it then only makes you wise in His eyes and must surely have good dividends. God would never cause or advise anyone to do something utterly negative (James 1:13). His plans for us are good and they include loving and forgiving those who offend us. This may be difficult to do but it is the right thing to do. We ought to be more careful with our hearts and ways when we are confronted with a testing situation like being defrauded or betrayed. The scriptures warn that the heart is evil and deceitful; no one knows what lies in it (Jeremiah 17:9). The 77
strong warning also given in the proverbs is appropriate here when the writer cautions that there is a way that seems right to a man but the end of it leads to destruction (Proverbs 14:12). To be sure, you can and will win if you employ the attitudes suggested by Jesus in the face of evil. Love and forgiveness are indeed powerful weapons in the hands of a winner. Vengeance and hatred are on the hand, powerful weapons against a winner. In the struggle for life never get bitter, get better. With God on your side you already have the victory (1 Corinthians 15:57). Although, bearing character faults, Jacob demonstrated this so incredibly and received favor from God. He was not afraid to work for Laban and tried so hard to increase his wealth (Genesis 30:27). In spite of the fact that his fraudulent uncle had repetitively cheated him, nevertheless Jacob worked hard to ensure Laban was successful although he eventually sought his own success (Genesis 31:38-42). In doing so, he demonstrated that he trusted in God (Genesis 30:31-33). There is also a profound prophetic value in the testimony of Jacob relevant for the church today. Like I mentioned earlier, the two characters – Jacob and Laban – are types representing the church and the world respectively. Another parallel does exist representing the two and still has a prophetic value for today’s believer and the church: Thus, we observe that the parallels between Jacob’s sojourn in Paddan-aram and Israel’s bondage in Egypt must have been evident to the nation as they first read this account from the pen of Moses. Jacob’s sin necessitated this departure just as 78
Joseph’s journey was the result of many sins. Jacob went to Paddan-aram a poor man, but he left with a large family and great wealth. Joseph was sent to Egypt a virtual slave; but when the nation emerged at the exodus, they were many, and they had considerable wealth. Just as Laban was judged of God by his wealth being given to Jacob, so Egypt was judged by the wealth that was taken out at the exodus. The scriptures declare that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the just (Proverbs 13:22). And I believe that is how it is going to be before Jesus comes back in glory. There is going to be a divine exchange of wealth in incredible proportions from the hands of the world to those of the church. My other book – True Prosperity – is the result of this prophetic assessment of the times we live in as being the beginning of the Lord’s fulfillment of this divine exchange of wealth. God spoke to me at the beginning of this year and told me that it really was not so much the beginning of a new year as it is indeed the beginning of a new season of goodness flowing to the church. This is not the time for one to choose to be in the side of corruption. They are on the loosing side. We, on the other hand, that are servants of our Lord and His Christ, are at the brink of an incredible move of God that will not only be manifested in great spiritual activity but also material prosperity. The Lord is going to prove to the world that the earth and all its fullness belong to Him (Psalm 24:1). Just as Laban thought Jacob was foolish until God proved him wrong, so has the world thought that the church is foolish and God is going to prove them wrong. In fact, while the Lord prospers His people, there will be a contrast in the world and its systems. They will be suffering. The prophet 79
Malachi saw these days and rejoiced. Among his last prophecies he revealed as much: You have said, “It is futile to serve God.” What did we Gain by carrying out his requirements and going about Like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evil doers prosper , and even those who challenge God escape. Then those who feared the Lord talked to each other, and The Lord listened and heard……. “They will be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. (Malachi 3:14) We are living in the days he was witnessing. And anyone that really believes in Jesus will receive this glorious benefit. Winner, do not be corrupted just when we are about to have a total victory over the corrupt. Put your trust in God.
NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER
One of the most amazing stories in the bible is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to Paul the apostle to the Gentiles. Here was this persecutor per vengeance of the 80
church. He was just impossible and his cruel reputation against the saints was widespread. And yet the Lord reached up to him and converted him so that he became a man of great compassion and zeal for the gospel of Jesus Christ. During his conversion on his way to Damascus, Jesus asked him a very profound question. He sought to know why Saul was persecuting Him. The point in that question is the fact that whoever seeks to hurt or treat the church in any derogatory manner is really doing it against the Lord Himself. Touching the anointed is tantamount to touching the apple of His eye (1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm105:15). Believers ought to know that God is touched by our infirmities and is witness to all that we endure (Hebrews 2:14-18). Rather than succumbing to the Laban’s of this world we need to realize that so much power has been arraigned on our side. We cannot and should not retreat or surrender to such negative forces. The force of love, humility and forgiveness is the message of the hour. It is also the ticket to victory.
ALUTA CONTNUA (THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES)
Fall seven times stand eight. Japanese proverb. Though the righteous man falls seven times, he rises again. Proverb 24:16 Life is a continual series of challenges. And our attitude is the lens through which we determine whether we shall see the challenges as springboards or brick walls. The reality is that challenges will always face us. As long as one is living on this earth challenges will always find your address. When a rather naïve Job complained to God for the things he suffered, one of his friends reminded him that trouble is common to man (Job 14:1). Year in, year out there will always be a problem that will knock on our door. The most naïve assurance one can have is to assume that once a challenge has been overcome or a problem has been solved that that is the last time one will face it, or for that matter face any other challenge or problem. Those that assume so underestimate the tenacity of devils and the curse of humankind. They also misunderstand blessed assurance. Although the scriptures guarantee that the blessings of God do not add sorrow (Proverbs 10:22), this does not exclude the prospect of challenges in the blessing. Contesting a challenge need not robe one of joy. On the contrary, witnessing the opportunity for God’s deliverance can be a source of great pleasure and we can trust that the joy of the Lord shall be our strength (Nehemiah 82
8:10). Whether one will have pleasure or sorrow is dependent on their attitude. It is a wrong attitude based on sheer naivety that caused the nation of Israel to curse God and die in the wilderness in the face of the challenges that stood between them and the Promised Land. In their naivety, they never expected that a land flowing with milk and honey would have any inhabitants. And so, having been delivered from the bondage of Egypt they never expected that they would meet any further challenges. When they did, they were not prepared. They complained and murmured against God as if to suggest that they deserved a problem-free promise (Numbers 14:1-4). It is amazing that while they were desperate to depart from the whiplash of their Egyptian taskmasters, they were nevertheless ill prepared for the challenges of confronting the giants that occupied the Promised Land. They did not appreciate that the same God that had delivered them from Egypt would lead them in conquest into the Promised Land. Unfortunately, too many saints seem to be like the Hebrews. They cry to God for deliverance but fail to trust Him in conquest. If you can cry, “Lord, by your power, get me out” I want you to know that you can also shout, “Lord, in your Name, I am going in.” This naivety of Israel cost them dearly. God was deeply frustrated by the ungrateful conduct of His people that He revoked His promise from them, saving it for another generation that had a different mentality (Numbers 14:22). A generation that would look at every challenge as a Godgiven opportunity to witness God demonstrates His power 83
to their benefit. This generation was the Joshua generation. They entered the land of promise not so much because it was promised but because they withstood the challenges of the land. They were steadfast and zealous to stand in the promise. No challenge was sufficient to frustrate their faith so much as to cause them to quit. As a result they were favored by God who fought their battles and gave them great victories (Joshua 23:9-11). Attitude is a very principle value in any prospect. I agree with the anonymous person that convincingly declared: Attitude is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than what other people say or do. It will determine whether we have joy or sorrow, whether we win or cower. One of the most amazing characters in the word of God is David. He was a man that had mastered his attitude. An amazing story is told concerning how at a young age he had gone to the battle field to deliver food to his brothers. Upon reaching them he observes the fear the army of Israel had in the face of the provocative boasts of the fiercest soldier of the enemy. Rather than join in the fear that possessed the Israel army, David saw the matter from a different light. He saw opportunity and asked what would be given to the man who would take on the fierce soldier (1 Samuel 17). While the rest were petrified by the risk of fighting this fierce soldier, David was prepared for the reward. 84
In the end, he was sufficiently motivated to overcome the giant in a classic battle that never left him the same again. The incredible legacy left behind by David and the Joshua generation for the church today is the profit of resilience, boldness and faith in God in the face of adversities. They teach us not to be naïve concerning the promises of God. I am sure they too had learnt these lessons from their father Jacob. They must have witnessed how in spite of the efforts and victories Jacob mastered by the grace of God yet he never quit when problems showed up following a recent victory. After surviving Laban’s fraud, Esau’s wrath, Isaac’s negligence, and Rebecca’s ill-counsel due to God’s assurances, nevertheless the patriarch continued to suffer various setbacks in his life. From the houses of his father and uncle to his own house Jacob struggled for victory. Even after God changed his name and blessed him, Jacob still continued to face challenges. He never had a break. From his superiors to his inferiors, Jacob continued to struggle till his death. In fact the latter problems of Jacob were even more serious than his earlier ones and yet he continued to trust in God through them all. A more critical appreciation of those challenges in the patriarch’s life reveals the role they played in drawing him closer to God. Rather than loose trust in God, and in spite of his own faults, Jacob grew more in his confidence in God and His ability to transcend the steepest challenges. Jacob’s testimony bears the useful lesson concerning the promises and assurances of God. It demonstrates the fact that assurance from God does not tantamount to a problem-free 85
life. On the contrary, it provides the guarantee that whatever the challenge God is present to help you overcome it. And just in case you were contemplating the much hyped total PEACE, Jacob’s testimony is a practical account that tells you aluta continua, the struggle continues. And the good side to it is, the more the struggles the more the victories.
THE STRUGGLE OF HIS WIVES
If ever there was a biblical character that was really tested in his love and marriage it was Jacob. But even here, he demonstrated a confidence in God in spite of his own failings. And in his tests he does offer invaluable lessons to us. His struggles did not begin after his proposal to Rachel, the love of his life. They must have begun in the prospect of marriage while he was still in his father’s house. Unlike his brother Esau who chose for himself wives from among the Canaanites Jacob sought and followed the counsel of his parents who disapproved of his brother’s choice. This decision could not have been an easy one considering that those women were the only ones he knew, and his elder twin had provided an example. It is important that we realize in this struggle over when, who, and where to marry Jacob submitted to finding a wife that would share in his faith and walk with God. He demonstrated the importance of values in selecting a life long partner. Secondly, by choosing to follow his parents counsel instead of the bad example set by his peer Jacob demonstrated respect for the elderly in these matters. The fact that he was 40 years when 86
he finally married testifies to the need for patience in these matters. Rather than rash and regret or stray, Jacob showed how it is vital that we trust God and His timing in our own searches for true love. He proved that true love waits. Even after he found her, he formerly proposed to her and her father. He must have struggled with his passions as she was indeed the finest woman he’d ever seen and she was in love with him too. And yet, he did not take matters into his own hands choosing to formalize his interest. His father-inlaw who was at the same time his uncle made him pay bride price in kind by tending his animals for seven years. While that was the case, he was cheated by his father-in-law into marrying the older less attractive sister, Leah. This setback did not cause him to deviate from his true love. While respecting his father-in-laws dilemma at marrying off a younger daughter while the older one remained unmarried, Jacob still pursued his heartthrob. His love was unrelenting. Even after his father-in-law set a new standard of another seven years of labor, he was persistent to marry his love. As far as he was concerned, the entire fourteen years were nothing compared to the love he felt for Rachel (Genesis 29:16-30). Many today would do well to learn from Jacob to persist in love. Unfortunately, today’s generation just seems to have so many excuses not to be faithful resulting in broken promises and wasted hearts. Too much pain would have been avoided if men today were as persistent as Jacob. You would have thought that given the struggles he endured in getting married he would at least “rest” in marriage. Instead, he faced even more challenges. He 87
struggled with the prospects of two competing wives. The two sisters contested for his love in an epic battle that left no winners but a stressed Jacob and a seriously dysfunctional family. Ironically, God closed the womb of the younger (Jacob’s true love) while opening the one of the older. God was moved with compassion for Leah. It is also possible that He sought Jacob to realize the need of balancing his love in the face of the realities of marrying two wives. Some have even suggested that the deliberate frustration of Rachel’s womb was a good source of demonstrating the failures associated with polygamy. Whatever the case may have been there is no record that Jacob ceased to love Rachel for her reproductive failings. Neither did he blame God. Instead his love for her was consistent provoking an angry Leah who on the other hand hoped in vain that her reproductive abilities would entice Jacob to forsake her sister in her favor. Jacob’s love for Rachel was unconditional; it covered her wrong while patiently waiting on God’s intervention. This is what love and marriage ought to be like. We are to love those whom God has entrusted in our care and love. Too many people have loved one another and never presumed that anything would challenge the love they shared. To their dismay, they have found that marriage does have its challenges or in some more trying cases, they have suffered the misfortune of an accident or a similar failing like Rachel’s. During trying times love must endure. Jacob’s testimony demonstrates that we do not have to change course when confronted with a challenge to our love.
It is also instructive that while loving his wife he did not question or loose trust in God as a result of her weakness. When a jealous Rachel pleaded with him to give her children he referred to God’s sovereignty on the matter (Genesis 30:1). Although he waited patiently for the Lord to intervene on the matter yet his love for Rachel compromised his faith. Rachel suggested that he sleeps with her maid in a compromise means of getting children to cope with the competition she had with her sister. As a result she bore two sons, Dan and Naphtali, through her maid Bilhah. The consequences of such seemingly easy solutions that were also assumed by her sister who also got two sons, Gad and Asher, from her maid Zilphar, was the dysfunctional family of Jacob. Although God was faithful, eventually opening Rachel’s womb giving her two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Jacob paid a bitter price for his mess. Later in his older years his compromises tormented him as his children inherited the rivalry and fell prey to the promiscuity in his house. Matters would certainly have been a lot different if Jacob had just waited. If he had trusted God and endured till God had opened the womb of his love. It is very instructive that Rachel died bearing her last child, Benjamin. It is possible that this was the result of her failure to realize the role God played in the whole matter. In spite of the fact that God had given her favor in the eyes of her husband she corrupted him and in so doing triggering a chain of hatred in his family. In the end she died still trying to make even with her sister rather than being grateful to God. In our own struggles, be it marriage, love, business or whatever, there will always be the proper way of conducting 89
ourselves in order to realize our goals. The lesson we learn from Jacob in his difficult relation with his wives is the need to trust God entirely and stay the course of righteousness. Whichever deviation we commit will definitely cost us dearly. It may seem to be the right thing to do or the more convenient thing but in the end it is always the thing we grievously regret doing. The desperation and strife both wives exhibited demonstrates the need to be more harmonious, even loving, with those that are against us. The two wives would have done well to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44). Rather than device our own means of justice we stand a better chance trusting that vengeance belongs to the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:35). Were it not for God’s divine intervention in the family none would have won. Jacob must have sensed this and pleaded mercy to a God who can bestow a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:3). To be sure, Jacob’s family did indeed suffer for all the rivalry of the two wives and it was only the arm of God that worked their salvation and His own righteousness sustained the family (Isaiah 59:16).
THE STRUGGLE WITH HIS CHILDREN
The struggle continued: The contest of Jacob’s wives provided fertile ground for the struggles he had with his children. Thirteen in total, the patriarch had the largest family in his lineage. Seven were the children he had with Leah, namely – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon and a girl called Dinah. Two were from Rachel, namely – Joseph and Benjamin. Two were from Leah’s maid, 90
Ziphar, namely – Gad and Asher. Two were from Rachel’s maid, Bilhah, namely – Dan and Naphtali. Few parents in the bible suffered as many tests as Jacob did with his children. For one, Jacob’s children were so selfconceited and ill-tempered. Like their mothers they sought to avenge at the slightest provocation. The first time we witness this trait and the trouble it posed to Jacob is in Genesis 34 in the twisted account of Dinah’s marriage to the son of a ruler among the Shechmite. The story is told how the Shecmite’s son, himself called Schecmite, desired Dinah to the extent that he raped her. Having done so, together with his father, Hamon, they seek to persuade Jacob to actually allow the two to get married. Once Jacob’s sons knew what had happened to their sister, they planned to avenge. They tricked the Schechmites into getting circumcised and while they were healing from the wound two of Jacob’s sons moved into their city and killed all the men. The rest of the sons moved in and looted with impunity all the property including women and animals. The whole incident was so brutal and threatened to provoke all the neighboring tribes against Jacob’s family. And yet, in spite of this development Jacob’s sons still felt no remorse content in their revenge for what had been done to their sister. It is important that we realize that the consequence of taking matters into their own hands threatened their very existence. Although they were blinded to this by their bitterness and anger, the realities were clear to Jacob. Probably, he preferred to handle such matters differently. He may have 91
sought for God to deal with those who had treated his daughter with disrespect. Rather than be angry Jacob chose to be meek. Many of us would do well to trust the judgment of God in circumstances like this. Two wrongs never made it right. Part of the danger of revenge is the loss both parties will stand to suffer as a result. It is in this regard that some have taunted the Hammurabian law – an eye for an eye – suggesting that in settling scores, we may all end up blind. In the end, Jacob trusted God who reminded the patriarch of the covenant they shared. God tells him to go to Bethel where he first talked to him and while their build an altar. When this had been done God moved in an amazing way to deal with his enemies. The scriptures record that a terror befell all the neighboring tribes so that they were afraid of Jacob. We too must know that whenever we are aggrieved, God is able to deal with our enemies and bring them to justice. In resolving that problem, we are presented with yet another challenge that Jacob faced with his children; the problem of their faith. When God tells him to go to Bethel to renew his covenant with Him, Jacob asks all his children to consecrate themselves and hand over their idols. This deviation is not made apparent prior to this experience. It must have been something going on in his house that Jacob struggled with. He must have been praying to God that the opportunity will present itself when his children will commit themselves to the One and only true God. And so, Jacob seizes this moment when the foolishness of his sons is endangering the family to evangelize his household. In one moment, he had 92
all of them forsake their idols and submit to his God. It must have been very amazing for them to realize the virtues of their father’s God as their sojourn to Bethel paid off handsomely. I believe that God does use circumstances to minister to his people. In Jacob’s case it was the threat to his family. The patriarch teaches us to use these circumstances to appeal to our loved ones to submit to the One God that is above every circumstance. God Himself uses these circumstances to enlist the commitment of his people throughout His word. Whenever, a rebellious Israel forsook His ways He would warn them of an impending enemy that threatened to wipe them off or take them to slavery. Parents need to be open and bold with their children and tell them in such circumstances to consecrate themselves to the Lord. Similarly, pastors need to be this sincere whenever the ministry is at threat. Business personalities and political leaders too would be amazed if they used threats to the existence of the business or nation to rally their subordinates to consecrate themselves to God. In all these cases, God will respond by showing mercy and giving another chance. Probably the most serious problem Jacob had and the one that brought him the most grief was the one that concerned Joseph, the first-born son of Rachel. In one sense, the problem was as a result of Jacob’s conduct. He favored Joseph over his other brothers which caused them to hate him. Their anger caused them to sell Joseph to slave traders and lie to their father that he’d been killed by an animal. On the other hand, Jacob’s problem was also as a result of God’s 93
intervention in the sense that God too favored Joseph and sought to use him to preserve the family by causing his brothers to sell him to Egypt where he planned to lift him up above all Egypt. The period of Joseph’s absence was probably the darkest times of Jacob. He grieved and pained from the perceived loss of a child that he loved so much. And yet, unknown to him the child was firmly in God’s care. Joseph was riding on the wings of God. The accounts of his episode in Egypt demonstrate the amazing ability of God to secure his purposes in spite of the challenges that may seek to offset His purpose. From the hands of slave traders, Joseph is sold to a senior Egyptian called Potiphar. At Potiphar’s he experiences the same favor he had in his father’s house as his master promotes him to be the chief steward of his house. And yet, even then the opportunity is lost when he is falsely accused for raping Potiphar’s lustful wife. He is then taken to prison from where he is eventually promoted to be prime minister. And it is at this point that during a famine which affects Canaan that he is eventually reconciled with his father and family. Jacob has the privilege of seeing his son again, a prospect that he had in fact given up on. The fundamental lessons for us in this test endured by Jacob are clear. We ought to trust in God no matter how clearly the circumstances are against us. Even when those closest to us confess the worst prospect we ought to let all men be liars and let God be true (Romans 3:4). However, disturbing the issue we ought to know that we can trust in God. I am reminded of the Shunamite woman who had had a child by the power of God when the prophet Elisha had prayed for her. Later 94
on, this child died and she was at a loss. Instead of crying, she trusted that God would restore her child. And so she pursued the prophet of God. Along the way she was met with several people who sought to know how she was. She confidently confessed, “It is well with me” (2 Kings 9:6). In the end, God restored the child’s life. It is vital that we realize that God is able to heal, revive and restore us when we lose someone or something (Hosea 6:1-3). In these struggles, he is not far. He is indeed in them with us. Going through his own grievous loss Job confessed:
I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)
Beloved winner, you too need to know that irrespective of how painful your loss may be it is temporary. If you put your hope in God you will certainly see your victory, you and not another.
DEAD TO LOSING
It must be the total lessons of all his struggles that shored up the confidence that marked Jacob’s departure. Dying in exile away from the land promised to his father’s, with none of his children evidently successful with the exception of Joseph, Jacob prepared one most fundamental lesson for every winner. In my opinion, it does provide the legacy of his life. He called all his children before him. Rather than read out a will declaring the apportioning of his wealth, he left them something more enduring than wealth. He left a legacy. In a prophetic sermon to all his sons he spoke blessings to each of them. He saw mighty tribes grow out of sons that at the time looked set to failure. The words he spoke created the nation of Israel out of a family that had 96
caused him pain, loss, and grief out of their violence, treachery, and deceit. In spite of the grave odds against his family Jacob was confident that the promise of God would cause them to overcome. It is instructive that he prophesied the growth of a nation in spite of the reality that prevailed. At the time, his family was living in Egypt without any clear sign that they would return to the land of his fathers. In doing so, he did not want them to give up the rich heritage they had just because of the kind gestures of Pharaoh. He sought to provoke a yearning in them for what was truly theirs. His words were carefully chosen to pass on the struggle. The struggle of never relenting till the actual promise of God was fulfilled. While all people are really born for victory not all will really die to loss. In his death, that is the powerful legacy he left. Jacob’s death wish tells you never to accept defeat even if defeat is comfortable or seemingly the only option. As you continue in the struggle, bear this in your heart that you never lose. Problems, challenges, setbacks need not be loses. They can be an opportunity for you to witness the power of God. It is truly amazing to observe that out of a dysfunctional family God yet chose for Himself a mighty nation. It is quite unfortunate that many have ruled themselves out just when God was counting them in. Everyone needs to know that in all circumstances you are a winner till the grand finale. And if you must die, as we all will some day, at least die winning! I couldn’t agree more with the famous coach Vincent Lombardi who stated: Winning is not everything – it is the only thing!
STAY IN THE GAME: DON’T QUIT!
Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Revelation 3:11 One of the most inspiring works I ever held in my hands are the moving books of Dr. T.L Osborn. I will never forget a profound remark in a book he wrote for winners called “To Be The Best” in which he clarified that rather than intimidate one from the pursuit of greatness really great personalities make you realize that it is indeed possible to be great. They demystify the elusive prospect of winning. A close relationship with a real champion provokes the notion that winning is not as hard as it seems. In fact, to the uncritical eye of a naïve enthusiast real champions make winning appear so easy. It is in this regard that we must appreciate the requests of the sons of Zebedee when they asked the Master that they be positioned on the right and left of His throne at the time of His Kingdom (Mark 10:37). They sought to rule with Him because they had walked with Him. In their naïve estimation they assumed it was easy to be like Him. As such, really great fathers make fatherhood look easy; really great men make manhood look easy; really great sisters make sisterhood look easy; really great drivers make driving look easy; really great ministers make ministry look easy; really great doctors make healing look easy; and, really great businessmen make business look easy. Apart from making greatness seem easily achievable really great people make one feel really great. They inspire greatness. That is why if you really want 98
to be great one vital requirement is that you hang around someone really great. Short of which, you may study someone really great. Since the prospect of hobnobbing with the really great is not always possible I have endeavored to put together a study on a really great champion in the person of Jacob. In the testimony of Jacob we have sufficient evidence that everyone can be great. Jacob is a lesson par excellence that winning is a possibility. In him, we can identify with greatness even if the circumstances around us dictate a different story. Jacob’s story reveals how winning in the hands of God can be done in spite of ones shortcomings or the challenges one faces. When we observe his fears, his pains, his setbacks, his vulnerability, his trials and how he triumphs in the end, we know that there is no need to throw in the towel. If Jacob made it with God, we too can make it. Jacob’s story is a motivation boost for all who aspire for greatness. He tells you that the nagging sound in the depth of your heart that calls you to a higher calling, to lofty places, need not be a temptation from hell to ruin you. It usually is a divine move pushing you to a destiny God prepared for you before the foundation of the world. A more critical study of great personalities reveals that they come in two kinds: There are those who make winning seem specialized to a unique category of persons and there are those that make everyone around them feel like a winner or at least, a candidate for victory. In my opinion, the true test of a winner goes beyond how many accomplishments one is able to achieve as an individual. It is really not how super 99
one is as much as it is how many others the winner is able to inspire into their own victories. A truly great person must be able to reproduce him/herself in others. That is indeed the testimony of Jacob. He was able to inspire his otherwise dysfunctional family that they were champions in God’s regard. In spite of their failings, his death wish was a call for his children to rise above their circumstances to their true calling of destiny. He was able to pass on the baton. That is also what made Jesus incredibly great. He was able to pick all kinds of diverse persons and inspire them to be just like Him. Within a short time of living with them, He was able to send them to go and do just what He did. In fact when He set out to live them after only three years of being with them He assured them that they would do much more than He had done (John 14:12). Today, He calls all of us to only believe and we too can do what He did (Mark 16:17). He too, passed on the baton to us. Because He is the most inspiring figure that has ever leaved, He is in this sense also the greatest personality in history. Throughout the scriptures are examples of other really great personalities that were able to inspire those close to them to become great. Apart from the apostles, we have Joshua who learnt from Moses to be a leader, Saul who learnt from Samuel, Solomon who learnt from David, Elisha who learnt from Elijah, Mary who learnt from Elizabeth, Timothy who learnt from Paul, and many others. Many in our contemporary times have applied the same principle: I am sure that America’s current President George W. Bush Junior owes both his tenure and political experience to his father the 42nd President. Others in our times that have been 100
inspired by greatness include Prime Minister John Major who was inspired by Margaret Thatcher; Cece Winans and Bebe Winans who picked up motivation for Christian music from their parents; Benny Hinn confesses to being inspired by the maverick evangelist Kathryn Kuhlmann; for Creflo Dollar it was Kenneth Copeland; and Kenneth Copeland himself was inspired by Oral Roberts. The point is that really great personalities make winning seem easy because it is possible. Winning is not some mystery that can only be attained by a magical concoction whose formula is reserved for a chosen category of eminent persons. It is a rather achievable goal for all who are willing to pursue it. You can win, I can win, and everybody can win. In fact, everybody is destined to win. That is the plan of God and the only thing that has caused many to lose is the deception of Satan, the ignorance of men and women to God’s noble intentions, and the refusal to persist till one overcomes.
PAY THE PRICE
To be sure, although great personalities make winning appear easy it is in truth more often than not a difficult exercise. The pursuant of victory must prepare for the challenges that winning requires. Most attempts will be met with challenges, setbacks, even loses in the process to victory. The problem of really great winners is that they have in a sense managed to conceal their struggles. Most never wear their heart on their sleeves; they are not keen to 101
confess their struggles. Most look at the prospect of discussing their struggles so negatively. Some have even been known to suggest that doing so is in itself a sign of weakness. For others, the possibility that their competitors or enemies would maliciously exploit any exposure of their struggles deters them from opening up. And so, to the uncritical observer they appear as though they were invincible. Of course that is not the case. Behind every winner are struggles and their claim to victory was sealed by their persistence in the face of these struggles. They won because they fought the fight and run their course (1 Timothy 1:18). This was the reason that Jesus declined to extend privileges so early in His ministry to the sons of Zebedee. And it explains His rather challenging response to their bold request. In response, He asked if they were willing to partake of the challenges that walking with Him would require. Were they willing to pay the price for their request? In fact, if the truth were told Jesus did not ever seek to make winning easy. Instead, He sought to demonstrate and teach that whatever the challenge winning was possible. In His own experience, He proved that against all odds, even death, you can win. He endeavored to clear the naive illusions of His disciples by regularly preparing them for His own arrest and death. Many of them, especially those closest to Him like Peter, found it impossible to understand the difficult path to victory that He had chosen. Later on, they would be the ones to face these challenges boldly and consistently till they too won their battle in death. Other disciples like Paul became masters of the game of winning. Called by the Lord to know 102
how He will suffer, Paul was never shy to confess his victories in spite of the setbacks he suffered. His sober approach to winning is seen several times in his letters but perhaps his most moving instruction to any aspirant is recorded in his advice to the rather practical and generous church in Philippi when he cautioned them to “forget those things that lie behind and press on reach the goal”(Philippians 3:13-14). Every genuine winner will confess that victory comes at a price. And the highest price one can ever pay is to endure till the end (Matthew 10:22). Winning is never secured because one has begun as much as it is achieved after one has completed. There are no illusions in between. That is why Jesus cautioned that a preliminary evaluation be done before pondering in a struggle lest one underestimates what it would take to accomplish it (Luke 14:28-29).
THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST
It is important that one realizes that it is not always the case that those who begin first or go ahead early are necessarily the winners in the end. If one has not made a correct evaluation of the struggle and what it takes they may begin early or be ahead and still lose the struggle. This is particularly the case for long winding struggles. A clear example in the scripture is the tragedy of Esau, Jacob’s twin. Although he was the first from the womb and begun with the favor of their father, he nevertheless lost the advantage because he underestimated what it took to complete the 103
struggle and achieve the reward. In the end, Jacob was more shrewd and determined for victory. He outmaneuvered Esau to assume the incredible blessing of their father, a result that his brother could not reverse however much he pleaded with his father (Genesis 27:37; Hebrews 12:16-17). It is amazing why we let ourselves be bothered by the successes of those who seem to have gone ahead of us. I will never forget the remarkable visit of the international ministry of Joyce Meyer to our nation two years ago. It had a lasting impact on so many others and me. Our nation will remain forever grateful for her commitment and excellent delivery of God’s word. Among her team was Pastor Muthoni of Kenya who taught on the incredible testimony of Joseph in prison. He told us how at one time in his life he complained to God concerning why his breakthroughs were delaying while those of some newcomers in the Kingdom seemed to be popping like corn. God asked him to look at Genesis 40:11 for the answer. Naturally, the reference did not make any sense to him for it reads, “I was holding the cup of Pharaoh.” However, God proceeded to ask him whether he preferred to hold the cup of Pharaoh or the nation of Pharaoh. Holding the cup of Pharaoh needed only three days in prison as it was for the butler referred to in the story, while holding the nation of Pharaoh would take longer as was the case with Joseph. The profound lesson was that big breakthroughs take longer to materialize than small ones; the bigger the reward, the higher the price. But it does also demonstrate how the last can eventually be the first. That is the same reason God rebuked the prophet Jeremiah for complaining about the prosperity of the wicked. God 104
asked him, “If you cannot walk with footmen how can you race with horsemen” (Jeremiah 12:5). In essence, God was questioning whether the prophet had enough nerve to pay the price for a greater breakthrough than the wicked of his times. God was asking whether the prophet had it in him to endure till he witnesses a mightier blessing for those who pay a higher price. The point is that the winner of a long haul or great reward must never lose the will to win simply because at some point he/she appears to be losing. Rather than quitting, one may need to evaluate the participants in the struggle or ones so-called competitor. You may find that while you are on a long distance haul you are evaluating yourself with someone in a short sprint race. A fate, unfortunately, many in God’s Kingdom find themselves in. We need to know that we are in a different league from the one of this world. The Apostle Paul advised that we do not conform to the standards of this world (Romans 12:2). We are not running the same race and must not measure ourselves with the same standards: While they are keen to make it here, we should be setting our eyes up there (Hebrews 12:2). Their ultimate ambition may be to please themselves, ours is to please our Father and His Christ (Galatians 1:10). They are in a short sprint; we are in for a very long haul. So if we find ourselves every so often seemingly behind we should not get into a panic. In reality, we are really way ahead. For in the end, all our desires will pass away and it is only the will of God that will remain (1 John 2:17). To be sure, we ought to know that we will always win for whatever is born of God overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). 105
So often, the Master sought to clarify on this issue. In His opinion, going ahead was not as important as finishing ahead. This was the important lesson He sought to make in His parable of the workers in the vineyard that received the same reward at the end of a day’s labor irrespective of the time they came. Consequently, He rebuked them whenever they jostled for positions and assumed primary importance over others. It was also the value coded in the advice not to assume senior places when invited in a party and risk embarrassment but to take the humble place and be eventually lifted (Luke 14:8-10). The philosopher of the book of Ecclesiastes echoes the same lessons when he advises: Patience is better than pride. The end of a matter is better than the beginning (Ecclesiastes 7:9) The believer should not despair when seemingly lagging behind. With patience and humility we overcome and win those who may have gone ahead.
WINNING IN LOVE
But how should we handle it when a believer seems to have gone ahead of us? This is a crucial issue in the body of Christ. It is one of those things that promotes division and strife among the saints and is as old as the Church itself. The early church had its fair share of this problem as is clearly evident in their letters (1 Corinthians 3:3-7; 2 Corinthians 10; 3John 9-10). Jesus, Himself faced this issue among His disciples and He rebuked them several times when they jostled for positions 106
in His mission. In all instances, He clearly illustrated that rather than privilege the believer’s race was premised on service (Matthew 20:26-28). Any believer that claims leadership or seniority must be the one that is in fact the least. He/she must be a servant of others. Consequently, if a believer seeks to be ahead of others He/she should be one that is willing to serve all the others. In this regard, it becomes difficult for one to be envious or offended by ones success. It is indeed a tall order for one to be offended when being served. Similarly, as believers we should seek to serve even those offended by us and those ahead of us. It is important that we realize that serving those ahead of us is indeed the highway God has provided for us to reach where they are. So rather than take offense, we should be delighted to be of service. We ought to remember that Elisha served Elijah and so qualified for the double portion of his masters anointing (2 Kings 2:1-14). Similarly, David served Saul before assuming the throne of Israel (1 Samuel 16:21). And Jesus fulfilled all righteousness when He was baptized by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13). In the principles of God, the way up is the way down. This rivalry among believers is indeed an old issue, probably as old as the church itself. Its genesis can be found in the early encounter when both Cain and Abel brought their respective offerings before the Lord and He received one (Abel’s) and rejected the other (Cain’s). Cain was envious of his brother and killed him (Genesis 4:4-8). Before he did, God warned him and instructed him on what to do in the face of his setback. While He rebuked him for being envious, 107
God told him if he had done the right thing his offering would have been accepted, and then warned him of the temptation that had come as a result of his envy. In this account, God clearly shows the prize for doing the right thing and the cost of having the wrong attitude in the face of a setback. He also reveals that we need not see it as competition when we find ourselves in the same activity or struggle with a believer. Instead we should endeavor to please a just God. If we do what is right, His ground is fair and He will reward each one according to his deeds (Ephesians 6:8). Similarly, when an aggrieved Job cried foul to God, he was reminded that God is fair in all His ways and inerrant in His judgment (Job 8:3-6). The Lord Himself rebuked him, citing that he owed no one anything (Job 41:11). It is also important that apart from the wrong attitude, Cain also shows us what not to do when we find ourselves lagging behind a believer. He demonstrates the price we should not pay: We are not to be envious or even hateful. And we are certainly warned that if we are we open ourselves to stronger temptations like murder. It is indeed instructive that later on the Apostle John warns against hatred comparing it with murder (1 John 3:15). Unfortunately, this is where many in the body of Christ are today. I believe we need to return to the winning ways of the Lord founded in love. To be sure, there can never be anything like a believer being ahead or even against you. In fact, when Jesus’ disciples sought to restrain a gentleman from ministering in the name of the Master, He rebuked them. As far as He was concerned, the gentleman was 108
fulfilling the divine will of the Father and therefore a welcome partner in accomplishing the mission (Mark 9:3841). Believers should not compete as much as they should compliment and support one another as we all seek to glorify God. As such, all believers have the same goal – that is to glorify God – and to be against a believer is to fight that goal. Fortunately, Jesus actually premised the identity of those who belong to Him on a cardinal principle that thoroughly eliminates competition – that we love one another (John 15:12). Winning in love is the surest way to total victory. In this regard, we all must assume the same attitude that Paul had thinking only of those things that are noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praise worthy (Philippians 4:8). If we can forget those things that lie behind us and focus not on those against us or even for us, but on those things which lie ahead, then we will surely win our crown (Philippians 3:13). No price is too high for victory if the attitude is right. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).
IS WINNING A GAME OF CHANCE?
I believe and have stated several times in this book that everybody can win. The privilege is everyone’s heritage if only we will take it up and trust God. The reality, however, is that many fall short of the available privilege while a few seize on their heritage. This disparity of victory and defeat can be so puzzling that many wonder whether winning or losing is really not a game of chance. When some attempt to win and employ every principle and advice they can master and still lose, they wonder: Could it be that fate rather than commitment or divine providence is indeed the master of destiny? 109
Some believers even question God as to why they have lost when they were faithful to Him. They query why they lose a loved one, or a job, or a ministry yet in their estimation they are faithful to God. Like Job, they query why God would subject or allow a righteous man to lose. For many in our generation, winning has become an elusive prospect. Too many principles, too many methods, too many philosophies have numbed many to the prospect of a sure means of winning. Having tried everything from witchcraft to new ageism, moved from conference to seminar, from one guru to another, many aspirants for victory have expired. They are tired and resigned to fate. The gleam has burned out of their eye, the drive has waned, and they have lost their tenacity and will to win. Sadly, we are witnessing a very deceived generation resigned to fate and chance as numerous trials have only yielded as many failures. But, can one be sure of winning? Is there a sure way of winning? And just what is this sure way? Where does one turn when so much has been said and tried and so much has failed? This book provides cardinal assurance that winning need not be elusive when it is indeed very possible. I have sought to confirm what was from the beginning, which many have heard, seen with their eyes, which they have looked at and their hands have touched (1 John 1:1). I am aware that many would prefer some more sophisticated design for success or cleverly invented theory for success. Those who have expertise at supplying these human inventions have profited incredibly to the chagrin of a desperate generation. Unfortunately, many have suffered loss as these vain traditions have proven futile. Knowledge has surely 110
increased as the word of God predicted, however, like Solomon, the search for success and a sure methodology for victory has instead brought them much sorrow and grief (Daniel 11:45; Ecclesiastes 1:18). Sadder, are those who should have known better. It is quite disenchanting that many believers have fallen prey to these modern seductive trappings of mere men. Reluctant to find the truth in God’s word they have forsaken their glory for lying vanities (Jeremiah 2:11). But again, we must admit that Solomon could not have been more perceptive when he observed that though times change people remain the same (Ecclesiastes 3:15). Like the scribes and Pharisees who sought success in the days our Savior was among men, they have pursued everything else and ignored the corner stone (Matthew 21:42). The surest way of victory was, remains, and will always be premised on God. Winning begins, is sustained, and is completed by God. Any other way may seem right but the end of it is destruction (Proverbs 14:12). The chief character of this book – Jacob – is a testimony to the assurance of God in the quest for victory. From the beginning to the end, his account reveals the pivotal role God plays in guaranteeing success. The problem for many is how to work together with God in realizing victory. If the truth is told, walking with God is indeed not a path to be taken for granted. It requires a lot that many do not know. In this book I have labored to share some of the critical principles that Jacob and others like him applied in their story of success. Like Jacob, we must learn to trust in God’s word and promises. We must make covenant with God and keep it. We should not be naïve and realize that our faith will be tested. Sometimes we 111
will experience the futility of wrong advice from juniors or assistants or betrayal from those we expect to be our patrons. In all incidents, we should be steadfast in our trust that God will see us through even when we are cheated and suffer incredible setbacks. At no time should we assume that the struggle is over. It’s not over till its over. Short of the victory nothing stops the game. And winning is not a game of chance. It is a game of choice. A game of attitude in which persistence wears out resistance. In this game we should stay and never quit. If we endure to the end, victory will definitely be ours. And, if you made it though this book, you’re definitely a WINNER!
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