Some ten years ago, I was part of a town Christian fellowship that wanted to invite one of the top names in the evangelistic ministry in this country. One of us informed us that the last time the Evangelist was considered by another Christian group for a meeting, the group could not afford his bill. He asked whether we could and one of us said we should ask him to reduce the price for us. Of course, we laughed, but we were also forced to drop the idea of inviting him.
I have never forgotten that little incidence because the tendency to have preachers state their conditions for preaching in meetings has increased rather than decrease. Could God be comfortable with a billing preacher?
Could the Church be quietly mourning to the Father to tell His servants to please reduce the price of their gospel?
The voice of History says that the gospel comes freely from source. Those, who by their action, say this to our generation heard it declared in the Bible:
“He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Rom.8: 32)
Jesus is God’s gift to us all. In fact, He is the basis of all other gifts of God, After Jesus, it became normal that nothing else would be restrained from us:
” . . . How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
Why give him a cow and insist on selling the rope on the neck of the cow? Jesus is God’s overwhelming free gift to us, and Jesus, God on earth, creator of all, who made all for His pleasure, once here on earth, lived and served on the barest minimum, making little or no demands on the saved. I can only remember hearing Him ask for water for Himself. And He was refused; instead of cursing, He saved her that refused Him water.
This was to pattern God’s service for us who serve Him. ‘This is what Paul lived and taught and was brought down through the years. And this was what also gave birth to missionary hearts and movement. Missionaries who sponsored the gospel to the jungles of our hearts and of Africa with their lives and means, meant to give it to us free of charge.
God’s Provision for Our lives –The Right to live on the Gospel
The common scene witnessed at Mission awareness campaigns is the great sobbing and agony of the soul of the brothers and sisters who responded to the appeal for missionaries. Many of such respondents never make it to the mission field anyway. The great sobbing contains some questions apart from mere tears. There is the fear of the future embedded in those sobbing, the question on the hearts of those who feel convicted to step out for the service of God is whether He, God, is able to take care of their future.
Tears of self-pity then are what we see flow down the cheeks of some of those would-be missionaries and servants of God. Many who hold tight to their jobs, certificates and relations do so for the same reason. And once in ministry, the gimmicks displayed on the pulpit to get money are still due to this question, the reason for the exaggerated stories in Newsletters is the same snake. The twisting of verses to squeeze money out of pockets of men is still due to this fear – that if I should depend on God faithfully and sincerely, without using some deception, nor distorting the Word of God, God may not take care of me. So let me aid Him a little.
Yet, here lies the reason for the lack of several men of God, who will still lack. I know here lies the reason for my own desolation of any sort, spiritual, physical and material. Jesus said:
“Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink: nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat and the body more than raiment?
Matt. 6: 25.
The question that concludes this verse was meant for our reasoning and answer.
More Than Meat . . .
It is not hard to see that life is more than meat (food). There is no man who will give his life for food if he is not tricked. Even when people sign contracts with the devil for money with their lives, it is a desperate attempt to make their living more meaningful and it is due to the deceit of the devil. What is food without life? A dead man has no need of food. Nothing matters without life. Food only supports life, and it is a very small aspect of life.
More Than Raiment . . .
It is true also that the body is more than raiment (clothes). What will you do with clothes without a body to put on? Who will want his legs cut off for clothes? Whenever the body gets sick, no one does care about the dress he puts on whether the bed is well dressed or not. People’s fine dresses are torn off from them to bandage their broken limbs in an accident because the limbs are better saved than clothes. It is obvious that the body is far better than clothes. People will sell their dresses to treat their bodies in the hospital without regrets.
You remember that young man who followed Jesus during Jesus’ arrest. The young man had a linen cloth on his body. Jesus’ persecutors wanted to arrest him. I suppose, they seized him by the dress. Without thinking twice, like Joseph Jacob, the young man left them with the cloth and ran away naked. Once he escaped with his body unhurt, he had made a good escape even if he went away naked. Who will not escape naked if caring for clothes will endanger his body in an attack?
Jesus our Lord will have us so reason because God gives the life and the body to us. Who contributed to the making of his life and his body? If God can freely give a man his life and his body, will it be right for us to imagine that God cannot take care of it well enough for us? Who is the best to manage a machine, the maker or the user of the machine? Even if you have engineers from two companies, one from the company that manufactured your own car and the other from another car manufacturer, which of these engineers will you prefer to maintain your car for you? Obviously from the one that manufactured your car.
How then do we suspect God to be unable to take care of us and so become anxious and worrisome?
Why do we turn to secret and shameful ways, deception and distortion of God’s Words, rather than setting forth the truth plainly as to recommend ourselves to every man’s conscience?
Are You Not Much Better Than They?
In order to show that simple faith in God for the supply of all we need to live, Jesus said:
“Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?”
I consider myself better than the fowls of the air and Jesus so infers. For God’s ability to feed, consider the fowls. For His ability to clothe consider the lilies. And consider that you are better than these. Why is God drawing our attention to them in regard to feeding and clothing? I think God wants to provoke us to jealousy. These things are of no much use to Him, but seeing that they never take thought for what they will eat or what they will wear, demonstrating complete dependence on Him, God just provides abundantly for them and clothes them lavishly in diverse colours for jealousy.
He will do the same unto us if we meet the condition. You may argue that they do not have the sense we have. And that is our trouble – our sense that makes it difficult for us to abandon ourselves to God in a full and complete serene trust is our undoing. Our much anxious struggles and running here and there demonstrate our demand to God, that He can rest for we know better what to do for ourselves. It is a demonstration that though saved, we would operate under the curse terms of “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread…”
“And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these…”
Even Solomon. . . Why compare Solomon to the lilies of the field? He was the only one who went near doing what the lilies do. He was the only one who did what is close to the simple dependence of the lilies on the Maker. God appeared to Solomon in the night and said unto him, “Ask what I shall give thee.” And without thinking twice, Solomon answered, not requesting power, wealth and honour as a sign that he is serving a great God, as we would say. His quick answering without thinking meant this was what had been in his heart. He was neither taking thought of what to eat, what to wear nor how to protect his wealth and position by dealing with enemies.
When God came to answer, He said to Solomon, “Because this was in thine heart…” God had sought his heart to see what was there, whether thoughts of anxiety about his life or not. When he saw a man who was delivered from anxiety about the security of his personal life, God gave him as an addition, riches, wealth and honour incomparable to any man before or after. No man before or after has had such a chance and on close examination of his heart, there was no quiet desire to make it.
Why do you struggle for large congregations? Is it possible that on careful checking of every compartment of your heart, there is no silent thought of the revenue that would come in? When God sees greed as the content of the heart, even if you shout anything on the microphone, He will still say “I can’t do for this man, what I did for Solomon”. But even Solomon, though he was above everybody in this regard, was not like the birds and lilies… because he asked “wisdom and knowledge for thyself’. Note that he asked wisdom and knowledge, first for himself. He still had a consideration for Himself in asking for wisdom and knowledge. You will then see why he finally so indulged that self of his. This limited what God would give him, causing the lilies to surpass him. He did not ask for God himself as Moses did.
Hear, A.W Tozer in “SUCCESS AND THE CHRISTIAN” driving home this point:
“Some young preacher will study until he has to get thick glasses to take care of his falling eyesight because he has an idea he wants to become a famous preacher. He wants to use Jesus Christ to make him a famous preacher. He’s just a huckster buying and selling and getting gain. They will ordain him and he will be known as Reverend and if he writes a book, they will make him a doctor. And he will be known as Doctor, but he is still a huckster buying and selling and getting gain. And when the Lord comes back, He will drive him out of the temple along with the other cattle. We can use the Lord for anything – or try to use Him. But what I’m preaching and what Paul taught and what was brought down through the years and what gave breath to the modern missionary movement that you and I know about and belong to was just the opposite: ‘O, God, we don’t want anything you have, we want you. ‘That’s the cry of a soul on its way up.”
These are what limited even Solomon that the lilies beat him in raiment.
Let’s allow the fowls of the air, the lilies of the field and Solomon of the palace, to challenge our anxious hearts to rest in serene trust in God. Let’s allow them to tell us that all provision had been made ever ready by God, but it cannot be uncovered to troubled doubting hearts (James 1:6-8) of men; because the more loaded the ship the more it must avoid troubled stormy seas.
The provision of God for His worker was thought out and arranged well before the actual work, but it is administered during and after work. My mother used to soak or per-boil “Bush meat” and crack melon seeds for the soup, which heap makers would eat, a day (or night) prior to the day they would work on her yam farm. But she never served them before they started work.
Even for Adam, the first worker of God, God prepared him his accommodation (Gen.2:8), food supply (Gen.2:9) and water supply (Gen. 2: 10-14) before He introduced him to his work (Gen.2:15). But the go-ahead to eat came only after he was given the work (Gen.2:16). It was after he settled into the work that more delicious food – meat – was now given (Gen.2:19), and finally wife to help him do the work more efficiently was also given.
Food Is Coming – Wait For It!
How will the understanding that all our provision has already been arranged, help us? My father once shouted at one of the workers, “Food is coming, do not fill your stomach with raw cassava root; you will have stomach pain”. Well-prepared food from above is coming; don’t develop appetite for the garbage you see around. This understanding must have helped Abraham to know where to direct his hands
“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which had delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from you a thread even to a shoe latchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, Mamre; let them take their portion”. Gen. 14.18-24 (KJV).
Abraham directed his gaze and his hands up to the LORD, the Most High God and so was very selective where he took anything. If the provision were not dropping from above, it would not get into Abraham’s hands. There was no way the offer of the king of Sodom would come near his hands. It was coming from the environment; it was an honorarium to settle him. It was compromise for him to turn away from the most important aspect of ministry – souls, and settle for finance. Abraham fought for souls and saved them but soon after the king of Sodom would have him forget the souls and take money. Money rather than souls should be what he would reach home with and be showing around.
The Lord Is Your Portion!
Sir, what are you excitedly showing around presently – cars, buildings and expensive gadgets – rather than souls? Your hands have come down and your heart has changed direction. I see you taking from the King of Sodom those that run to you only when there is problem. Once you pray and the problem is over, they give you money, carting their souls away to their business and overseas trips sleeping with small girls and cheating men.
What is your excitement? The souls of men or their money?
We must not let the fear for our lives push us to the short cuts men have developed rather than the ways of God. He insists on your discovering Him as your portion first and foremost and not just to be used for food, honor and fame.
“And the LORD spake unto Aaron, thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel”. Num. 18:20
It was the Lord that gave the rest of the Israelites the land. Joshua would soon be dividing the physical land to them. I see the rest of the Israelites dashing for their lands and quietly casting scornful looks at the Levites for seemingly wasting their lives in consecration to the LORD. The opinions and comments of other men are the pains of consecration that make it difficult for many to abandon their lives in the hands of God. For a while the Levites stood stranded, homeless and foolish in their eyes with nothing around them to point at, as their own. God was training them to locate their own source, their portion and inheritance – God Himself. God was dealing with them as He dealt with Abraham, their Father, to know that the direction from where they should expect to receive should be from ABOVE, that their eyes, hearts and hands be lifted up. When God wants to bestow on you a blessing, He cuts off other supplies, so that you can be connected directly to the main.
“And behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance. for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.” Num. 18:21
Having said that in v. 20, God proceeded to give what was due to Him, the tithes (10%) to the Levites as their “inheritance” in lieu of land. They did not get land; did not work on the land, but they got God’s own portion of the harvest from the Land – the best, one without blemish. God did this in order to release them for the work of the tabernacle and so keep the religious life of Israel aflame in true worship. The Levites, like the fowls of the air, planted no fields but ate every type of fruit ever grown in Israel – the best quality ever harvested. Quantity-wise theirs was more than every other man in the land. Spiritually, it showed a deliverance from the curse: “in the sweat of your face shalt thou eat bread.”
God indeed was their portion and source; not the ground because all they ate depended on whether the people remained loyal to God or not. It was the working of the truth of God’s Words and principles in the lives of men that ensured their steady supply. God did not appoint some Levites to be constantly reminding the people of the blessings of tithes and giving. There was no cause for the Levites to promote offering. That did not form part of their service. The abuse of the sacrificial system alone spelt doom for the priests and caused backsliding in Israel. (1 Sam 2:12, 17).
In our days, there are ‘prophets of prosperity’ whose anointing and sole role in a citywide crusade is to promote offering and announce the colour of the polythene bags to be used for collection. This spiritual specialization is akin to the flesh-hooks of Hophni and Phinehas in their days. Even they received what they were given. Hophni lacked the anointing to work on the worshippers to quickly double the number of animals, or quantity of grain they were to bring. If there was no backsliding as when Jesus came, no animals were ever sold on the temple site; so no one could quickly buy one for use. Hence the owner, right at home, before coming to the temple, premeditated and took a decision about what to bring.
And once there was a backsliding in Israel, the Levites if they were to survive were forced back to the field to fend for themselves.
“And I perceived that the portion of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled everyone to his field. Then contended I with the rulers, and said, why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place. Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries.” Neh.13: 10-12
Look at their trouble! They had no portion in the land except few cities given them by the other tribes with their pastureland; beside they were not practicing farmers – what then could they do on the field? That’s how odd it looks for men of God in contract business moving from one office to the other, speaking in tongues to collect contracts. There is profanity in this our priesthood. This need not be so. The various promotions and gimmicks for money that has become the main work of ministry for several men of God are not necessary. God has adequately provided for our needs for living and ministry already. I am sure that if we occupy ourselves with preaching the gospel we can genuinely enjoy His provisions without causing the people to abhor the offering to the Lord because of our selfish greed apparent in our methods.
To Be Continued In The Next Edition.