Strong Finish

“Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

Jamaican track and field sprint runners have dominated the olympics, over the years in both the one and two hundred meter races. Many Jamaicans remain glued to their televisions during olympics, to see our runners take home gold, silver and bronze in both male and female sprints. We also enjoy the 4×100 meter relays where our runners have generally dominated. Watching and listening to track and field commentators over the years has helped us to develop a greater understanding of the race. Mention is often made about some athletes strong starts compared to the incredibly strong finish of others.

Both of these techniques of starting strong and ending well, seemed to have served these athletes in dominating the sprints. Some critics argue that a strong start is good because when an athlete shoots out of the starring blocks in lighting speed, that it’s hard to catch them down the track. We have seen other athletes start poorly and use their long strides to advance and pass other runners at the finish line. Paul has made many comparisons with running to our Christian journey. “You were running [the race] well; who has interfered and prevented you from obeying the truth” (Galatians 5:7)? In Galatians, Paul was perturbed that some believers who had started well, seemed to have gone astray by false teachings.

The Christian journey isn’t by any means a one hundred meter dash. It is synonymous to a combination of races and obstacle challenges along narrow and windy roads. I’ve watched races such as the hurdles, when athletes banged their legs against the hurdles and crash to the ground. At the end of a race like this, the name of the athlete may appear with did not finish (DNF) on the scoreboard. Other athletes may have a hamstring or other injuries, that are aggravated during running and fail to finish their races. In most races though, only contestants who place first, second or third win a medal or an award. Either way, most athletes aim to complete races, even if they finish behind everyone else.

We have to aim to finish our Christian race and gain our crowns of righteousness. The opposite of this is a crown of eternal damnation. It is sad to see many believers who were once on fire for God, become lukewarm and living in a backslidden state. “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of disaster and collapse” (Proverbs 24:16). Solomon once said that the righteous person falls down seven times, but rises again. Even if we fall, Jesus Christ is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness, when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9). You are one confession away from right standing with God, so don’t tarry in a fallen state. Repent, renounce the sin or failure and continue to run your salvation race, in order to reap an eternal reward.

A.P.-Y.

Overcoming Giants

“Then David ran and stood beside him. He took Goliath’s sword out of its holder and killed him by cutting off his head” (1 Samuel 17:51).

In 1 Samuel 17, the Philistine army came to fight against Isreal. “And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span” (1 Samuel 17:4). This giant sent fear into the soldiers of Isreal, as he challenged any soldier to come out for a duel. “If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us” (1 Samuel 17:9). When David came to bring provisions to his brothers, he heard Goliath’s challenge and he also saw the fear in the soldiers. This situation stirred something in David, so that he challenged the Philistine.

“Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45). David struck the Philistine and sent him to the ground, with one stone and a slingshot. In addition to that, David used Goliath’s own sword to cut off his head. God will give us the wisdom to use our enemy’s own devices against him. At times we have to cut the head off of some situations, to stop it from coming back to haunt us.

There are challenges that we face that resembles a giant or the spirit of a serpent of deception. We do not need to fear but step on its head and crush that adversary by the power given unto us in the name of Jesus. God has given us authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm us (Luke 10:19). No weapons can prevail against us and no one can accuse us falsely. Jesus died to blot out the handwriting of ordinances that was written against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it (Colossians 2:14-15).

God will bring our enemies to open shame and fight against those who fight against us. Who can stand against God and who can stand against us when we come in the power of the name of Jesus.

A.P.-Y.

Spoils of War!

“When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found among them, in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. They were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much” (2 Chronicles 20:25).

We are familiar with the story of Jehoshaphat and the army who won the battle against their enemies. God fought and won the battle for Jehoshaphat and his people didn’t even need to fight. After the battle, the people took the spoils, which included in large quantities, goods, clothing and precious things. My assumption is that the precious things would have included items such as gold and silver. God defeated the armies to give them victory and also gave them a great reward. In 2 Kings 6, the Syrian army had encamped against Samaria so that they were not able to move freely in order to trade. This caused a great famine in the land and people were so desperate that they resorted to cannibalism.

“But Elisha said, “Hear the word of the Lord: thus says the Lord, Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria”” (2 Kings 7:1). God caused four lepers to approach the camp of the Syrians and multiplied their footsteps. The Syrians ran away in great fear leaving behind their tents which was loaded with food, drink, clothing, gold and silver. “Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Syrians. So a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord”(2 Kings 7:16). The possessions of the Syrians was enough to end the famine in Samaria.

There is another story 1 Samuel 30, when the Amalekites raided David’s camp, took all of the people and burnt the camp. David was instructed by the Lord to pursue the army, to overtake them and recover his possessions. “And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?” He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue”” (1 Samuel 30:8). David pursued the army with his men and recovered all that had been taken from his camp. “David also captured all the flocks and herds, and the people drove the livestock before him, and said, “This is David’s spoil”” (1 Samuel 30:20).

God loves justice and hates evil. He also hates it when people decide to gang up on his children and takes pleasure in fighting our battles. Not only does God help us to win, he also wants us to have recompense and restitution. Recompense and restitution for God’s people comes in the form of spoils of war, which is enemy possession taken lawfully. When the enemy comes after us, we pray and allow God to fight our battles. God will give us the strategies to be victorious over the attacks. As we win each battle, there are spoils of war which God will give to us as recompense for damages. “Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you”” (Isaiah 35:4).

A.P.-Y.

Commander of God’s Army

“And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my Lord say to his servant” (Joshua 5:14)?

In Joshua 5, Israel prepared to go to battle against Jericho. God instructed Joshua to circumcise the new generation, before they entered into the promised land. “And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day” (Joshua 5:9). When Joshua was by Jericho, he saw a man with a sword drawn and he questioned the man. “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” The angel told Joshua that he was the commander of the army of the Lord. While Joshua commanded the physical army, the angel commanded the invisible army of angels.

The instructions given to Joshua was to march around Jericho in silence, for seven days. On the seventh day, the Priests blew the ram’s horn, the trumpet and then shouted unto God. Once the people did as God instructed, the walls of Jericho fell flat so that they went in and took the city. The city and all that was in it was devoted to the Lord for destruction. It was not the shout from the people which caused the walls to fall, but the commander of the Lord’s army of angels, manifested the power of God, to give his people victory.

We also saw the army of the Lord surrounding Elisha, when the King of Syria sent a great army with chariots to arrest him. We are not told that the angels went into action, but that Elisha prayed and the soldiers were struck with blindness. He led them into Samaria and then prayed for the Lord to open their eyes. Elisha did not allow the King to strike them down, but fed them and then let them go. This served as a warning as the Syrians never came back to bother Isreal again (2 Kings 6). Later in 2 Kings 18 and 19, the King of Assyria came up against Isreal when Hezekiah was king. He sought the Lord and was reassured by the prophet Isaiah about the Lord’s help.

“And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies” (2 Kings 19:35). That must have been a sight for Isreal to see so many dead bodies. Imagine that these 185,000 men were killed by one angel of the Lord. The Lord is a mighty man of war and a mighty God of battle. He comes to the defence of his children and we do not have to fight when we put our trust in God. It’s tempting to try to fight our battles in our own strength and to try to defend ourselves against attacks. We can save our strength, while we worship God in prayer and watch him fight for us.

“Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle” (Psalm 24:8)!

A.P.-Y.

Year of Abundance-Joseph Years

“Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground” (Genesis 42:6).

When Joseph was only a teenager, he dreamt of doing great things. In Genesis 37, Joseph had dreams of his brothers and his parents bowing down to him. His brothers hated him for his dream and also because he was the favourite of his father. They conspired to kill Joseph but was convinced by Rueben to throw him in a cistern instead. In the end, they decided to sell him to Medianites for twenty shekels of silver and they took him to Egypt. The story told to his Father, was that he had been killed by a wild animal. Joseph found favour in Egypt with his master Potiphar, until his master’s wife started to pursue him. When he maintained his integrity, she lied against him and he was thrown in prison.

Even in prison, Joseph found favour with the guard and he put him in charge. Eventually, two of Pharaoh’s servants were imprisoned and had dreams about their execution and release. Joseph interpreted their dreams and it happened just as the Lord revealed to him. After two years, Pharaoh himself had two dreams concerning seven cows and seven ears of grain. In each vision, there were seven plumb cows and grains that were later swallowed up by seven lean cows and grains. The Magicians could not interpret the dreams and the Cupbearer remembered Joseph and convinced Pharaoh to ask for his help. Pharaoh agreed and Joseph both interpreted the dreams and advised Pharaoh concerning what needed to be done.

“There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land” (Genesis 41:29-30). Joseph advised Pharaoh to appoint Overseers over the land, to collect one fifth of all the produce during the years of plenty. In that way, they would store up enough food during the years of plenty for the seven years of famine. Pharaoh was so impressed by Joseph’s wisdom, that he set him over all the land of Egypt. “During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly” (Genesis 41:47). Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea that could not be measured.

During the years or famine, Joseph sold grain to all the Egyptians and people from all over the world also came to buy grain. Joseph’s own family came to buy grain and given his position in Egypt, they all bowed to him as a fulfilment of his dreams. We are entering the Joseph years of abundance and increase. The elect of God will experience promotion, elevation and exponential growth in their spheres of influence. We have to guard against waste and ensure that we are shrewd in our investments. We need great discipline in this season and we have to establish boundaries in order to keep what we generate. Those who refuse to be disciplined will struggle and can revel in excesses. Maintain godly relationships and ensure that your inner circle includes people with wisdom.

“If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength; but wisdom [to sharpen the axe] helps him succeed [with less effort]” (Ecclesiastes 10:10).

A.P.-Y.