Solomon spoke about the fear of the Lord in Proverbs chapters one and nine. In chapter one, he said that fools despise wisdom and instruction. He spoke about the fear of the Lord again in chapter nine and concluded on the importance of the knowledge of the God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10). The fear which Solomon spoke of is not dread or terror which leads to anxiety. The fear that Solomon spoke about is a reverential fear based on the understanding and knowledge of who God is. I believe that many people make errors of judgement due to ignorance about the things of God.
For example, the knowledge of God and his word, makes us aware of spiritual laws. These include sowing and reaping and the power in the spoken word. So many people speak constantly out of turn and don’t seem to make the connection with the outcomes. “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences” (Proverbs 18:21). Solomon is pointing out that an untamed tongue leads to destruction. We are the same ones who complain when we experience misfortune. Howbeit that many people have exactly what they say.
You speak words daily over your body, health, finances, children, marriage and relationships and then you grieve when you experience what you say. Are we not wise enough to make the connection and why do we allow the devil to keep us slaves to deception? “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap”(Galatians 6:7). You reap the fruits of your words and actions because God’s word cannot lie. He honours his word above his name. God is not out to get you and he is not waiting to punish you. There are spiritual laws that govern the universe and are set in motion by our words and actions.
Some words and behaviours give the devil legal rights to afflict you. Read the word of God, pay attention and try your best to walk in the will of the Lord. Don’t blame God when your actions reap the consequences. It is important to gain wisdom with understanding and show reverence to the things of God. Bitterness, anger, resentment, jealousy, covetousness, back-biting, slander and gossip are all seeds. If you sow seeds to the flesh then you will of the flesh reap corruption, but those who sow to the spirit will reap eternal life (Galatians 6:8).
Perception relates to how we regard, interpret or understand the things around us. This is because two people can look at the same image for example, and see different things. What this means is that perception is subjective to the individual. Each person’s perception is shaped by their experiences, beliefs, values and personality. Our personal choices can also affect what we see in the world around us and what we see in other people. This is why it is important to see the world through the eyes of faith. This requires us to look beyond our physical senses.
Let us look at a story in the New Testament, where Jesus laid his hands on a blind man at Bethsaida. “Taking the blind man by the hand, He led him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything”” (Mark 8:23)? The blind man’s response was that he could see people, but that they all looked like trees. Jesus touched the man again and this time around, he saw everything clearly. I wonder why this man’s healing seemed like a two staged approach? In other scriptures, Jesus touched people and they were healed instantaneously.
The lepers were healed as they went on their way to show themselves to the Priests (Luke 17:14). Either way, in the previous passage, it was not enough for the man to see people walking like trees. Jesus was committed to restoring his sight completely. Like the blind man, many people see a partial picture of what exists and what is possible. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). What Paul was saying in the verse is that concerning the things of God, we only see a glimpse of what is to come. Our sight is often limited by our spiritual capacity and spiritual growth increases the level of our vision and insight. Here on earth, we see and know a partial picture of what will be revealed in eternity.
I pray that God will touch our eyes so that we will see clearly, the things which are necessary for our success and for us to have spiritual insight. Our earthly senses are limited to what is in our sphere of influence. God can reveal deep and hidden things to us if our eyes are trained to see the things of the spirit. We have to also pray against spiritual blindness, so that the god of this world will not blind our eyes to the things of God. We also have to guard our eyes as they are a gateway to our souls. We have to protect our eye sight from things that will not edify us or bring glory to God.
Jesus spoke to his disciples about fruits as a reference, to the behaviours and attitudes of the people around us. The context was in relation to false prophets who outwardly present as sheep. Jesus said that on the inside they are like ravenous wolves. A ravenous wolf would suggest a wild animal with an extreme appetite for prey. What Jesus was saying is that, there are religious leaders who present as prophets. If you observe them, they can seem like leaders and their appetites are for lost souls. This hunger for souls is not to point them towards God or the things of God.
Rather, their appetite and desires lead people towards hell and draw people further away from God. It was in this same chapter that Jesus dealt with the matter of judgement. ““Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). On the one hand, Jesus was saying that we should not judge others, and on the other hand, he cautions us to be aware of false prophets. Jesus does not contradict himself in this teaching. Judgment in this case is casting aspersions against someone without a just cause. Knowing someone by their fruits is observing whether or not they demonstrate Christ likeness. This relates to the matter of discernment.
John further expounded on this matter later on in the New Testament. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). This testing the spirit relates to discernment. It would be unwise to ignore the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit, which says that someone is not of God. Just because someone has the title of minister, does not mean that they have been sent by God. We have a duty to test the spirits and to observe the fruits. Remember that grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles.
What Jesus was saying is that a prophet will demonstrate the image and likeness of God. Ministers and leaders should lead people to God and their lives should be an example of godliness. Similarly, all born again Christians should demonstrate Christlikeness and our lives should point people towards God. The outcome of your life or the fruits which spring from it, are the results of your roots. Bitterness, resentment, strife and envy does not produce good fruits. Examine the fruits of your life to determine what is at your root system. There are some things that are in our root system which needs to be uprooted in order to produce good fruits.
“He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up” (Matthew 15:13).
Sin consciousness relates to the awareness of our sin nature and our propensity to sin. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All of us have sinned, but not all of us are sinners. When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and saviour, we become the righteousness of God. This is not a human righteousness, as we cannot attain righteousness on our own. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Grace is unmerited favour, which we did not deserve, but was given to us as a free gift. Jesus’s death on the cross paid the price for our sins and made us righteous before God. All that is required is for us to confess our sins, as God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9-10). We are then saints who have been saved by the grace of God. Sin consciousness is the devil’s attempt to keep us in bondage. The devil wants us to remain enslaved by sin. “and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18).
I felt enslaved by sin, when I felt like it was up to me not to mess up. I was worried that I needed to remain righteous and remain clean before God. I felt tremendous freedom when I learnt that, it is God who keeps me from falling and presents me faultless before his throne of grace (Jude 24). Learning what this scripture means, helped me to walk in a newer sense of freedom. I recognised that once I surrendered to God, that the Holy Spirit would enable me to live free from sin. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
We do not have the power to keep ourselves from sin. We can practice spiritual disciplines such as prayer, reading the word, fasting and worship to remain connected. We have to guard against a works based lifestyle which focuses on trying to earn our salvation. Salvation and the gift of righteousness is free, when we surrender to God and accept his grace. God knows that we are not perfect but his strength is made perfect in our weakness. Salvation is accepting that we need a saviour and that we cannot make it without the help and grace of God.
Paul spoke to the Galatian church about the freedom which comes with serving God. Paul’s ministry was to the Gentiles and he did not think that it was necessary to burden them with matters such as circumcision. Despite Paul’s efforts, other religious groups were putting pressure on the Gentiles to become circumcised. Paul was very frustrated about the attempt to put the people in religious bondage. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
Paul likened their acceptance of any amount of false teaching, as being dangerous enough to corrupt their entire faith. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). Paul wanted them to continue to live in freedom. His only caution was that they would not use, their freedom as an excuse to commit sin. The main admonition that Paul had for the church was to love and serve one another. Paul later stated that if they bite and devour one another, then they should watch that they are not consumed by one another. Paul was saying that it was important for the church to remain in unity.
The biting and devouring which Paul spoke about related to back biting, criticising and ongoing conflicts. One of the main features of this is slander and gossip. “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: So where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth” (Proverbs 26:20). Similar to Paul’s exaltation, Solomon was saying that talebearing increases strife. Not everything needs to be said and before we have some conversations and divulge information, we have to consider the consequences. Will your conversation paint someone in a negative light?
Are you encouraging bitterness, resentment and animosity? One of the best ways to settle a disagreement is to talk to the person whose behaviour we find offensive. Praying for the person is also a good way to start. Don’t use the excuse of, ‘wanting to pray for someone,’ as an reason to gossip about them. If you do then you are operating under the spirit of deception. If you are serious about wanting to help someone, you will pray before discussing the matter with anyone else. These small nuances can act as a stumbling block towards spiritual growth.
“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom” (Song of Solomon 2:15).
Paul wrote in the book of Timothy, about believers being good soldiers in the army of God. Soldiers who are enlisted, live in confined or designated areas and undergo special training, to prepare them for battle. Similarly, believers have been enlisted into a mission and mandate to advance the kingdom of God. Every one of us has an assignment which we have been born to accomplish. Some of us will use singing and music to draw people to God; other people use preaching and teaching the word; for some people it is acts of service or the gift of encouragement.
Whatever the gift that God has entrusted to you, it is to be used for the establishment of the kingdom of God. Paul was saying that a soldier who is at war, does not have the time to become involved in civilian affairs. In other words, a soldier is focused on their assignment. Our battle and fight is for the faith and against principalities and powers. Our faith and belief in Jesus Christ is constanly under attack by this world system. Contrary ideas and doctrines seek to sway us from the truth of God’s word and to lead us astray with lies.
“But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:16). We have to guard our tongue and watch what we say. The devil is after our words and will try to use what we say to ensnare us. Remember that life and death is in the tongue and we have whatever we decree. We have to guard against deception, pray always and continue to surrender our lives completely to God. A life that is fully surrendered brings glory to God. We are called with a high calling in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). We cannot afford to be distracted by the world’s trials and cares.
Our case is different and things don’t affect the church in the same way that it affects the world. We are set apart for God and his hand of protection is on our lives. We cannot give in to fear, worry and anxiety. Soldiers are trained to run towards situations that other people run away from. War is never an easy situation to experience and enemy fire will always be directed towards us. “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Paul spoke on the subject of faith in his letter to the Hebrew brethren. He described faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). In simple language, faith is believing without seeing the physical manifestation. Faith to the person living in the flesh, can seem like foolishness. Human logic cannot reason out or understand faith and it takes trust to believe in things that we cannot wrap our minds around. We have to guard against spiritual blindness, as the god of this world loves, to pull a wool over the eyes of people.
Our education system teaches us to use deductive reasoning and science looks for facts and empirical evidence. God wants us to develop knowledge and the bible does say that Knowledge would increase (Daniel 12:4). What God wants us to do is to ask him for wisdom and revelation knowledge to understand the deep and hidden things. We have to remember that the bible says, “For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness”” (1 Corinthians 3:19).
Intellectualism focuses on the use of the intellect and uses reasoning and rationale. This can sometimes come into conflict with what the bible says. The devil will find a reason and enough human logic to stifle our faith. He managed to lure Eve in the garden when he engaged her in the exercise of reason. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’”” (Genesis 3:1)?
This is why it is sometimes futile to get into an intellectual argument or debate about matters of faith. When it comes to faith, you choose either to believe that God is who he says he is or you don’t. The exercise of faith produces supernatural results which helps our faith to grow. Faith has to be put the test and exercised in order to grow and develop. Faith requires the innocence of a child to believe what God says to be truth. Too many Christians attend church and read the word, yet their faith is not fully developed. We have to grow and mature into spiritual adults who can master and exercise the things of faith.
Paul wrote to the church in Corinth concerning their offering and collections to further the spread of the gospel. Paul told the church that it was up to each person to decide how much they wanted to give. This way, people would not feel forced or coerced into giving. Paul wanted people to understand that giving was a form of worship and thanksgiving. As people gave from a willing heart, God would bless their seed and provide the increase. The concept centres around the principle of sowing and harvesting. If a farmer eats all of his seed, then there will be no crop for the next harvest season.
I used to watch my parents doing farming and observed their harvest season. Each crop would produce a harvest to sell and for household consumption. My parents would also store up seeds from crops such as peas, tomatoes, corn and mustard. This was because, after the harvest season ended, they would need to make preparation for seed time and planting new seed. These activities kept the farm going, as they understood the need to interchange sowing with harvesting. There would also be seasons when they would allow the soil to turn over, or allow an area to rest before sowing again.
Similar to farmers, believers need to understand that sowing and reaping are interchangeable. You will never lose from giving into the work of the Lord. When you sow a seed, you are guaranteed to reap a harvest. Like most things within Christianity, sowing and reaping requires faith and a heart of thanksgiving. We give to express our thanks to God who provided the harvest. We also trust him that as we sow, he will multiply the seed and produce a greater harvest. “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11).
I am not sure if any of you have ever planted anything, but I have seen one seed produce a tree that has lived for many years. From one seed, many trees have gone on to produce many fruits. A farmer or a sower has to choose whether or not to eat the seed today to satisfy his hunger. The other alternative is to sow the seed and wait for it to germinate and produce an even greater harvest. We also have to become sensitive to the seasons, to know when to sow and when to harvest.
Pray and ask God to provide seed for sowing, so that you too can reap a harvest of righteousness. “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12).
David wrote Psalm 100 to encourage us to give thanks unto God. He encouraged us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. We are to serve the Lord with gladness and come before him with singing. God made us to worship him and we belong to God. We thank the Lord for his goodness and faithfulness. We thank the Lord for his loving kindness which is better than life. God created us in his own image and likeness and he breathed his breath into our lungs. If we are alive today then we have a purpose to fulfil and hope for the future. I read before that gratitude is one of the most powerful human emotions that reduces stress. When we are grateful it takes our minds off our problems and focuses them on what is going well.
The world promotes the concept of optimism and the importance of looking at the brighter side of a situation. Modern thought theory supports the idea of the law of attraction which suggests that people attract more of what they focus on. In essence if we focus on our blessings, then we will attract more blessings. Alternatively, if we focus on our worries then we allow them to multiply. These concepts are not new phenomena and the bible have said from the beginning of time that we should focus on what is positive. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).
The following scripture can be translated to explain optimism. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). In this verse, Paul was teaching us to train our minds to focus on what is good and worthy of praise unto God. There are many other verses that encourages us to allow our minds to be transformed and tells us that we have the mind of Christ Jesus.
No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, there is always something to give God thanks for. Even in death we can rejoice that we are transitioning to be with God in eternal rest and peace. The perspective is that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
I don’t think that at the start of 2020, that anyone imagined that we would still be in a pandemic two years later. Events that were cancelled at the start of 2020, were predicting normality towards the end of the year. I am not sure that many of us alive today have lived through another pandemic. As such, most of us have nothing to compare this to. Perhaps historical chronicles, can tell us how long previous worldwide pandemics lasted. I think that most people have given up on trying to predict when things may return to ‘normal.’
I am not sure if most of us remember what normal is, or if we will ever return to than normal. Some social media influencers have suggested that we are likely to return to a ‘new normal’ instead. Either way, believers must hold in mind that although we are in this world, that we are not of this world (John 17:16). What is happening around the world has some impact on believers. However, being in the world, yet not of this world, means living above the world system. “and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).
Paul also warned that we set our affection on things above and not on things of this world (Colossians 3:2). We also lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven, where no one can break in and steal (Matthew 6:20). As we are not of this world system, we have an inheritance in heaven. What is permitted to affect others, is not permitted to affect us. We are Ambassadors for God with diplomatic immunity. Our God has promised to restore to us, things lost or stolen. God is able to restore time, finances, relationships, missed opportunities and restore health.
We have the opportunity to harvest during the famine and if we keep our eyes fixed on things above, nothing shall by any means harm us. This is our year to rest and be restored in any area where we have suffered losses. Remember that God never restores to exactly what was before. God is a multiplayer and whatever you lost, you can expect to be restored much more. “Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double” (Zechariah 9:12). Start praying into those areas where you have experienced major losses. Ask God for the battle strategy and remember that the faith of a mustard seed can remove a mountain.
“And David enquired at the LORD, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all” (1 Samuel 30:8).