Sunday, August 21, 2016

Is it God or the devil that is dealing with us?

Have you ever been in a situation that leaves you wondering how you got there in the first place? Like Jonah aboard the ship being tossed left and right.

Have you ever experienced a life threatening situation that left you gasping for breath? Or had your significant other rising up in your defense? Like Moses, when Zipporah stood in the gap for him.

Last week, I was thinking a lot about spiritual warfare and how we Christians are often told to rise up and arm ourselves in order to overcome, and not fall victim of the devices of the wicked.

You see, reading through the Bible, we are taught how great men and women of faith had to fight their way to victory through the help of the Spirit of God. These men and women fought for their lives, their land, their destinies in order to obtain and enjoy the promises of God concerning them. They fought and conquered. And their gains became a transgenerational blessing, one we still benefit from till date.

When Jesus Christ came into the world, one of His major goals was to reconcile us back to God. Along the way, He won us big victories over sin, sickness, shame, diseases, poverty and death! So, by accepting Jesus Christ as our LORD and saviour and having faith in God, we get to walk in that same level of victory.

BUT. That does not mean that we will not be faced with challenges. It just means that we'll be operating from a different level. When an agent of the devil comes to torment us with any familiar or strange sickness, we are able to rise up and say: The Lord rebuke you satan! And he will flee. We have that power and authority through Christ and the blood that was shed on the cross of calvary.
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will[a] have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 [Bible Gateway]
There are situations, however, when we do not need to raise our fist up in anger against the devil and his agents. There are times when all we need is someone like Zipporah standing in the gap for us because the wrath of God is upon us as a result of an unconfessed sin or a path of disobedience we chose to follow.
Exodus 4:24-26
New International Version (NIV)24 At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses[a] and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it.[b]“Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. 26 So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)
There are times when like Jonah we have to open our mouth and confess our disobedience and reckless living in other to save ourselves and others from destruction. Even if this will land us in the belly of a whale, we know repenting from our evil ways will pay off well in the long run. Sometimes, it looks prettier to cover our sins. But the high road is always better-- confess and repent [turn from the evil way/pleasures of sin].
"Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous. And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.” Jonah 1: 10-12 [Bible Gateway].
We also remember king David. He was confronted by prophet Nathan after he committed adultery and murder, and he repented. Psalm 51 has become one of the most heartfelt repentance many Christians read aloud today because David took the high road and repented before God.

I've been reflecting on some of these cases and the trend of spiritual warfare. What if Jonah, David, Moses/Zipporah had spent more time waging war against the devil and his cohorts instead of humbling themselves and repenting of their own sins? What if they had not been quick to discern that it was God dealing with them and not the devil? It will be a different story we are telling today!

Take a look at Saul! One of the reasons he lost everything was because even after prophet Samuel confronted him about his act of disobedience to God, he gave excuses instead of repenting! He fell from glory [when a genuine repentance would have lifted him out of the rut].

I am not trying to underplay the importance of spiritual warfare. I am just amazed that most times we focus so much on throwing punches at the devil and constantly rebuking him when we should be rebuking ourselves. Like seriously, I've consciously developed a habit of doing spiritual check-up where I have to ask myself whenever I'm feeling a cloud of darkness washing over me: "Is it the devil that is dealing with you or God?"

Take a moment to reflect:

Are the challenges you are going through as a result of a crack you left in your armour that gave the devil the foot-hold to torment your life? Or as a result of a deliberate act of disobedience on your part? Or is it God trying to get your attention over something?

  • Are you facing relationship issues? CHECK-UP: Is the guy/girl you are dating an unbeliever? Are you doing things to honor God or your flesh? Is God calling you to set yourself apart for Him but you are being persistent about wanting a relationship because the world expects you to? Take note, the trouble in the relationship might not be the devil wanting to ruin your union but God trying to get your attention back to that path He wants you to be or God working hard to get you out of that particular relationship to protect you from the danger ahead.
  • Are you facing rejection in your bid to climb up the career ladder? CHECK-UP: Struggling to become CEO under 35 [or the first this and the first that] when deep down within you know God has called you to become a missionary and help build the broken bridges in obscure communities around the world? Or to be that watchman who will sound the warning for others not to perish in their sin?
  • Do you have a disease or sickness that you have been fasting and praying to go away? CHECK-UP: is it a dart from the devil? Or did it start when you deliberately embraced an adulterous relationship? Or cheated that naive customer who was unaware of your manipulative scale?
Fellow soldier in Christ, do not be stubborn. Let us repent and turn our hearts to God. Nothing, no pleasures of sin, can be compared to the bliss of walking in obedience, in line with God's will for our lives. This is not to say that we have to be a "PERFECT T". No. As long as we learn to always be honest with ourselves, others and God, He will always help us get better and better.

Again, some trouble we face aside being devil afflicted or self-afflicted might just be God making us go through them in order to strengthen our faith. The key is patience and discernment. No point running from one deliverance ministry to another when all we need to do is to be still and fix our eyes on Jesus:
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 
1 Peter 5:10 [Bible Gateway]
It is important in this age and time to always discern. Let us always ask the Holy spirit for help. Don't go battling the devil when all you need to do is confront your own sin, repent and walk in the victory that God has given us through Christ Jesus! The sin might just be as simple as a "small" lie that needs to be corrected. Or a "big" sin like murder, stealing or adultery. A sin is a sin.

Of course, there will always be forces trying to truncate our destiny. But with faith in Jesus Christ, we would be confronting those darts with the Light in us and the victory that our Lord already set on our path[s].

Be still. Take your focus off the devil-- he is a loser already. Fix your eyes on Jesus and let Him reveal to you what exactly is the cause or purpose of your pain.

There are cases [will be cases] like Job's, when it is God who will give the devil permission to deal with us [Job 1:6-12]. Or like Peter, whom the devil asked Jesus for permission to sift [Luke 22:31-34]. But it all ended in praise because even though they both went through such painful trial and temptation, they came out of it better --broken, bruised but BETTER.

Job's wealth and family were restored - better than what he lost- and he was given the opportunity to pray for his friends who almost confused his faith [beware of the voices you listen to during your trials and temptation]. As for Peter? He fell. He denied Christ. But he repented and Jesus who already prayed long before Peter's fall empowered him to use his weakness to strengthen others. Peter grew to become a strong apostle whose story is very prominent in the book of Acts.

When next you find yourself walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and it feels like your whole world is caving in, have faith that God who is mighty to keep His promises will pull you out of it. But also be sure that you are not the one fanning the flame of darkness upon you and your loved ones through conscious or unconscious acts of disobedience.

I write this to you as I write to myself as well.

May God have mercy on our generation!


Friday, August 12, 2016

Lord, please close every wrong door in my life!

Today at about 2.24pm, I ran like my life depended on it. I was trying to catch the train to New Carrollton. When I heard a train pull up into the subway while I was still trying to swap my card through the entrance, the rate of my heartbeat doubled. Well, kind of. I was worried that I would miss the train. So the first impulse when I got off the escalator was to increase my speed in order not to miss it. As I got to the front of the door, the train went "panpan-pan pan" and shut the door.

Was I embarrassed! Those who had watched me race down the escalator looked in my direction-- I couldn't tell if it was pity or empathy I saw in their eyes. I looked away quickly. They could have as well been shaming me. I grinned sheepishly, at my own ridiculousness-- I raced to finish but only to miss it. I felt very bad to have narrowly missed the opportunity.

As the train pulled away, leaving me behind, I noticed that it was actually the blue line! A wrong route! In my desperation not to miss the train, I hadn't considered that the train in question could have possibly been heading another direction-- far from my destination. I had been stubbornly persistent. For nothing. 

What would have happened if I had gotten on the train? I might have realized my error and gotten off at the next stop. Or worse, not even paid attention while reeling in triumph for beating the odds only to find myself in an area I didn't plan to be- the wrong spot.

That is how life is sometimes. We are persistent, but about the wrong things. Racing through life at the speed of lightening but towards the wrong direction. In the quest to "make it", we find ourselves chasing the wrong dream, paddling the wrong canoe, punching the wrong bags. Hoping against hope, for the wrong reasons.

If we hit the brake pad of our life, we would save ourselves from much agony. Some seconds pause on that flight of escalator was just what I needed to have noticed that the train I needed to board was a minute away from the station. All I could have done was look up at the notice board, pause and wait. 

Not everyone gets lucky to have a wrong door shut in their faces. Not all of us get to realize that some opportunities we miss or lose are because they are the wrong doors! No matter how hard we work for them or how sweet they appear, I really pray that God Almighty will always shut the wrong doors in our faces when we stubbornly keep chasing them. Have mercy, Yeshua!

What phase of life are you in at the moment? Are you running at a top speed in the wrong direction? Boarded the wrong train while trying to impress folks with your persistence or "can do" attitude? Accepted a wrong job or proposal? Jumped into a wrong/abusive relationship out of loneliness or neediness? It is not too late to hit the brake and make a U-turn. Awareness is the first step to deliverance. If you are aboard already, I wish you the courage to get off and retrace your steps. You may need the help of a peer mentor or a godly counsellor to navigate your way out. Don't be too ashamed or embarrassed to look up at the notice board or ask for a guide.

There is no shame in retracing or repenting. Trust me, there is no shame in setting things right. People will laugh and shame you. But which will you rather have? A long-term applause for being on the wrong route or a short-term shame and ridicule for having the courage to retrace your steps towards the right direction?

An absolute surrender to God is what most of us need to get started, no matter how far we have strayed, or what wrong door we might have walked through, or how discouraged we might feel at the moment for missing that "opportunity". 

Mercy still speaks!! Embrace His mercy, on your knees.

Hear our good, good Father's promise:

"I will teach you in the way that you should go," says the Lord, "I will guide you with my loving eyes and watch over you." Psalm 32:8.

The next verse goes on to counsel us not to be like the mule who needs bridle and rope to keep it on track. In order words, stubborn persistence is unnecessary when we trust and obey His guide.

I hope this blesses you as it has blessed me.

Stop racing in oblivion. Slow down. Focus. Get off the wrong track.


Jennifer Ehidiamen