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Faith Toward God (28)

We shall pick up from where we left off from our last broadcast, in which we considered one of the root causes of fearfulness and faithlessness among many Christians today. Let us quickly recall that the Lord Jesus had chided His disciples in Mark 4:40, saying, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that you have no faith? and this formed the basis on which we determined to seek the answer to these questions. In an attempt to find answers to these questions, particularly, Why are so many Christians fearful? we began to look at the Lord Jesus statement to Peter in Matthew 16:23: Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. and to His other disciples in Matthew 16:24-26: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Hence, the first major reason we saw as to why so many Christians are fearful or lack faith in God, is that they have no interest in doing the Will of God. The Lord Jesus had told Peter that he had no interest in the things of God, but in the things that pertain to men. If we paraphrase the Lord Jesus statement in Mark 4:40Why are ye so fearful? How is it that you have no faith? we will have something like this: Why are you so fearful seeing that I am with you? Why is it that you have no confidence in me? If I wasnt here with you that may be overlooked, but here I am with you in the boat, and you are terrified and fretting! Why are you so timid? How is it that you dont believe who I say I am? From both the original statement, and the paraphrase, we find that there is a link between fearfulness and faithlessness; such that where there is fear, there can be no faith; and where there is faith there can be no fear. And since according to 1 John 4:18, perfect love does not create room for fear, but casts it out; it follows that a persons faith toward God, and his love for God, go hand in hand. And since a persons love for God is measured by his doing the word of God, which is the same thing as doing the Will of God, it follows that where there is fear, there can be no doing the Will of God! So that when the Lord Jesus told Peter in Matthew 16:23, thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men He was inevitably saying that Peter was not interested in the things which God is interested in; and since what God is interested in ultimately, is that we do His Will, it follows that when a Christian is not interested in what God is interested in, he will not be interested in doing the Will of God. His pre-occupation will be with earthly things, and his regard and fear will be of the things that be of men, and not of God.

In our broadcast today, we shall press on to look at another root cause of fear among many Christians today, and that is:
2. Many Christians are unwilling to deny themselves. When the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself He was saying to them that anyone who desires to be associated with Him in an ongoing and vital relationship must be willing to refrain from pursuing his own desires, goals, ambitions, and his personal comforts; and to decline the gratification of his appetites or desires. Many Christians today are unwilling to deny themselves, of not just the pleasures of sin and of this world, but also of their personal dreams, ambitions, and comforts. That is why the messages that are making the rounds now, are messages that tell you to pursue your dreams and destiny, as though destiny is self-determined. Beloved, let me tell you the truth, if you are a Christian indeed, the only dream you should pursue is the vision of God; not your dreams; and, the only destiny there is, is the destiny God has pre-determined for you to step into! In Hebrews 11:24-27 the bible has this to say about Moses: By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. If Moses had agreed to be the son of Pharaohs daughter, he could have actualized the dream of becoming a General in Egypts army, or of being a prince, second only to the Pharaoh, or even of being the Pharaoh; but he refused it. Moses denied himself of the perks that Egypt could have given him. Indeed, the bible says that he forsook all the glories that Egypt was offering himyes! He denied himself of these fleeting and temporal pleasures that would have led him to sin, and away from God; preferring instead to suffer affliction with the people of God. Moses, who could have had anything he wanted in Egypt preferred to be associated with slaves, and as a result, shared in their afflictions and persecution. The bible says further that Moses esteemed or placed a premium on partaking in the suffering of the reproach of Christ, considering it to be of far greater riches or value, than the treasures or wealth of Egypt. Moses had effectively overcome fear in his life. He had been able to conquer the fear of the loss of all things, including his life, because he counted them of little or no value when compared with what he stood to gain in eternity. Little wonder, Moses did not fear the wrath of Pharaoh, but forsook Egypt. This is similar to Pauls statement in Philippians 3:4-8, reading from the Easy-to-Read version of the Bible: Even if I am able to trust in myself, still I don't do it. If anyone else thinks they have a reason to trust in themselves, they should know that I have a greater reason for doing so. I was circumcised on the eighth day after my birth. I am from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. I am a true Jew, and so were my parents. The law was very important to me. That is why I became a Pharisee. I was so eager to defend my religion that I persecuted the church. And no one could find fault with the way I obeyed the Law of Moses. At one time all these things were important to me. But because of Christ, I decided that they are worth nothing. Not only these things, but now I think that all things are worth nothing compared with the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Christ, I lost all these things, and now I know that they are all worthless trash. All I want now is Christ. Friend, this apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, who had every opportunity to advance to the highest office possible in the pursuit of his dream of becoming a governing member of the Sanhedrin, got to a point in his life, where he realized that all such attainment and gratifications for personal glory meant nothing in comparison to being associated with Christ; even though he understood that his association with Christ could mean death for him. Today, many so called Christians berate those who esteem the reproach of Christ, while encouraging those who prefer the pleasures of sin. One wonders how many Christians will resign from a government that is oppressing its citizens, and not say, Well, the only way we can change it is from inside! Or, how many ministers of the gospel will leave the churches they are presently serving in, on the grounds of iniquity in the church and not say, If people like us are not there, then iniquity will fill the whole place and indeed, they have themselves become iniquitous. No, we are yet to deny ourselves the pleasures of this world and all the trappings thereof! There are church leaders who fraternize with governments which are maltreating their citizens. Unlike Moses, they are not prepared to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather, they prefer the safety of friendship with ungodly men who occupy influential positions in the world system. Let us remember how Queen Esther felt safe in the palace of King Ahasuerus while her Jewish people were under the threat of annihilation by Hamanthe prime minister in King Ahasuerus government. It took her uncle Mordecai, behaving like a mad man on the streets of Susa, the capital of the Persian kingdom, to draw Esthers attention to the plight of her people. And when she got to know of the impending annihilation of her people, she told her uncle that she couldnt go before the king without him requesting for her, otherwise she could lose her life. Esther, the queen of King Ahasuerus, was afraid to go to her husband to appeal on behalf of her people, because of the fear of death, until her uncle, Mordecai, told her that she should not think that she would escape the sword in the palace. Then, she sent word that while she fasted in the palace, all her people should fast along, and that on the third day she would go before the king, and, if I perish, I perish. (Esther 4:16). Esther, the queen, arrived at a point in her life, when she had to deny herself the comfort and trappings of the palace of Ahasuerus, and suffer affliction with the people of God. Friend, until you are willing to deny yourself the comfort and trappings of the largesse this world offers, and count all things as trash, preferring to suffer afflictions with other Christians, in the pursuit of your relationship with Christ; you will find yourself always living in fear, and unable to trust God in situations that seem to threaten your existence here on earth, even when there are no grounds for such fears. This is why so many Christians are afraid of witches, mammy water, demons, hired assassins, and the like. Some Christians are even afraid of not having new clothes to wear to church, so much so that they wont go to church if they are unable to buy a new apparel to put on for worship service. Some other Christians, are so fearful of poverty that their giving to God is primarily so that God will not allow poverty in their lives. And to make matters worse, it is some so-called church leaders who are fuelling such fears by their wrong teachings, and, fearful and pleasure-seeking lives. Many so called preachers, even when given an opportunity to preach where government dignitaries are present, will rather shower encomiums on them, than speak the truth in love, about how horrible their policies are, and how their corrupt practices have robbed the citizenry of the true dividends of decent governance. Their reason? They dont want to go to prison; that is, they are not prepared to suffer affliction with the people of God; they are not willing to esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of this world! When church leaders are afraid of imprisonment for the sake of the gospel, where then do the congregants (church members) appear?

Beloved, let us start brazing up to deny ourselves of the fleeting pleasures and comforts this world offers, so that when the time comes to suffer affliction and reproach for Christ, we would gladly do so in faith! The bible records in Acts 5:40-41 that after the apostles were beaten for preaching Jesus Christ they went away rejoicing, because they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the sake of Christ. We are not advocating asceticism which is the deliberate harming of oneself, or of putting oneself through deprivations as a means of gaining favour with God. No! But you should be ready for whenever you would have to suffer any deprivation whatsoever for the sake of Christ and the gospel, to suffer it! For example, when you go to a place where you are told to pay a bribe, otherwise your goods will not be released, do you succumb to the pressure of paying the bribe or do you say If I lose my goods so be it, but I will not pay a kobo more than the official rate! If you are apprehended by local government officials, and told to pay a bribe to them, so that you will not be taken before the council to pay a higher rate, will you be ready to pay the higher rate, or will you succumb to paying the bribe? Do you consider the reproach of Christ something to esteem, or are you ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you ready to suffer persecution even if it means death, for the faith you proclaim? Have you resisted evil and iniquity to the point of shedding blood or the point of death, striving against sin? (Hebrews 12:4). Friend, until you arrive at this point, fear of all sorts will dominate you, and you will not be able to exhibit faith toward God! We conclude todays broadcast by saying, Suffer whatever deprivations you encounter, and dont seek advantages for yourself; this is how to conquer fear!

Let us pray!