“What I am anxious to see in Christian believers is a beautiful paradox. I want to see in them the joy of finding God while at the same time they are blessedly pursuing Him. I want to see in them the great joy of having God yet always wanting Him.” A. W. Tozer

Sermon #102: Hope - Life's Driver

I have observed and have become totally convinced that there are just two kinds of people in this world, and the lives of these two kinds of people are as different as day is to night. Only two kinds, not more.

There are various trials and tribulations in this world, but only two kinds of people. There are various levels of poverty, but only two kinds of people. There are various forms of sickness and disease, but only two kinds of people. You put the two groups under exactly the same difficulty and they react in totally different ways. It's amazing!

Whatever situation you might be facing right now, you are either hopeful or hopeless about it.

These are the two kinds of people that I have been referring to - one kind is of the hopeful and the other is of the hopeless, with reference to a specific challenge that they might be facing in their lives. You are either hopeful or hopeless about your current situation; there's no borderline position on this. Some people are hopeful sometimes and hopeless the rest of the time - they switch groups now and then.

A snapshot of society at any point in time will reveal these two kinds of people - the hopeful and the hopeless.

But what is hope?

The Random House College Dictionary Revised Edition defines hope as, “The feeling that what is desired is also possible, or that events may turn out for the best. To look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence. To believe , desire or trust.”

In hope, one has the feeling that what they desire is also possible, or that events may turn out for the best.

In hopelessness, one has the feeling that what they desire is impossible, or that events may turn out for the worst. 

I just cannot try to visualise the status of the hopeless. Hopelessness is a dead end! What would one go on to do if they have the feeling that what they desire is impossible and that events may turn out for the worst? Can such people find the fire of life?

The hopeful look forward in confidence; the hopeless remain in the dungeon of pessimism.

Let me give you some of the characteristics of hope:

First, hope is not passive; it's active, energetic.

Some people think that to be hopeful is the same thing as sitting down on the doorstep, staring at the horizon, waiting for something to pop up. To me that's not hoping at all; it's sheer idleness!

Goethe said, “Sitting and waiting is not my way of doing things.” You surely need the same mindset! If you sit and wait, then you are doing nothing. If I see somebody sitting down, looking sullen, I would think that something would be wrong them. Hope is always active; it does not waste time sitting on the doorstep!

If you hope for something you don't sit and wait for it to manifest; rather, in your hope you bring it into manifestation. Real hope is a turbo-charged motivational force! If it doesn't drive you, then it's not hope; it's something totally different.

Second, hope never relents; it just never surrenders. The hopeful persevere. That's the power of hope. The hopeless never persevere and some of them never even attempt a thing; they simply do not have the energy to.

If you are hopeful, it means you have the feeling that what you desire is possible. Now that's positive thinking. It means that you have a reasonable expectation regarding what you look forward to. This hope then drives you into working towards that which you hope for!

Third, hope does not disappoint, unless it is the 'sitting and waiting' type. The Bible also teaches that hope triumphs over difficulties (Rom. 4:18).

What problems are you facing right now? What difficulties? What ailments? What level of poverty? The impact of these circumstances on your life will depend on whether you are hopeful or hopeless about them.

Mark my words - hopelessness is a killer. It kills the spirit first, then the body follows. So from today, make a deliberate choice to be always hopeful. You've got to learn to look beyond the circumstances. Even in death hope abounds.

God bless!

Sermon #101: Yes, You Can!

I remember when I was still a teenager. I kept grudges; real grudges, I mean. I did not know how to forgive; neither did I have the willingness to do so. If somebody did me wrong they were supposed to pay for it!

I was a stranger to God back then - I had never experienced the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in my life. Any talk about God actually had a jarring effect to my ears; it still does to some folks.

I also would tremble in my anger, sometimes to the point of shedding tears - even against an elder!

I recall a day I got so angry at an elder that he almost fell off the chair on which he was sitting. The elder was evidently wrong; I could not tolerate it anymore - but seething in anger did not make me right either - it's only that I did not know at the time and actually felt justified in my actions.

But then the Lord moulded me. Praise His Holy Name! If you see me now, you see a totally different person. Simple. I now can forgive and do forgive. I associate with everybody, of whatever station in life, without any problem at all. It is now very difficult for anybody to make me angry - and if I do become angry, it will be for only a brief moment.

But it is not my power or genius that is at work in all this. It's simply because He touched me; He continues to touch me up to this day. I give Him all the room to do so.

I really love this life; I just wouldn't function without God!

Here is a lesson that I learnt from my experience: God will mould you only to the extent that you permit Him to - to the extent to which you are flexible in His hand. God cannot and will not mould clay pots from dry clay; no potter I know can. Only wet, 'mouldable' clay will do. So remember this - you are the key to what God can do to and for you.

If you are a Christian, the power to forgive is already in you. Victory over anger has already been deposited in you. But the deciding question is this: Are you willing to forgive? Are you willing to let go of the bitterness? Are you willing to neutralize your anger? It's one thing to be holding a gun and a totally different thing to be willing to fire a shot from the gun, even if the ability to do so is assured!

Is your will subject to God's will? If it is, just say, "I am willing, my Lord!" and you will activate the abilities already resident in you.

In the end it is entirely a personal decision and a personal step to take. It's not the Pastor's, or mine; the decision is entirely yours to make. 

Remember: Willingness and surrender, from the depth of the heart, is the key to unlocking the life and character that you long for.

Think about this during your quiet moments.

Sermon #100: Tithes & Offerings (Giving)

I have, on a number of occasions, listened to preachers teach on tithes and offerings. In the process, I have observed that some preachers encourage members of the congregation to give tithes and offerings in order for them to get something (called a blessing) in return. It sometimes feels like getting a blessing is the only motivation for Christians to give to God! I find this disturbing!

I think that there is need for preachers to go deeper in their teaching on the subject. As far as I am concerned, focusing on "getting something in return" holds immense potential to lead some Christians astray.

A number of Christians now consider the issue of tithing and offering as an economic principle. You put something in, you get more out; what a rate of return! This habit encourages the development of an entrepreneurial mindset, not a spiritual one.

Because of such a mindset, some people have taken the Spirit of God out of their giving; and it's quite unfortunate, in my view. Giving to God should never be taken as a mere physical act; it's spiritual. I do not think that Jesus would be too happy with a Christian who is focussed on "getting something in return"!

My position is that preachers ought to teach their congregations to give in order to support the Ministry of Jesus Christ. If the congregants understand how important the Ministry is to them, why would they not stand ready to support it? 

Look here: We donate to charity because we feel it's a worthy cause. Right? Why then should we insist on "getting more or something back" when it comes to giving to God?

Truly, hasn't God given us a lot already - an overflowing blessing? Is Jesus Christ, the Lamb sacrificed for us, an ordinary gift? Is the life that He has given us of no value?

Won't we just give because we are grateful for what Jesus Christ has already accomplished in us and for us, and what He continues to do in our lives? Won't we just give because it's a pleasure to partner with our Father, One who saved us from the fire?

As far as I am concerned, if anyone would not give to God unless their giving is linked to "getting more or something back" then that person is either not a Christian, or is still an infant in the Kingdom, regardless of the number of years he/she has attended church.

I believe that people ought to be taught more on giving to God and the teaching should not dwell on "getting more or something back". The world is groaning, waiting to see the manifestation of the mature sons of God, and we cannot grow to this level unless we understand the need to give to God without putting a condition to our giving!

What did the early believers do? They pulled everything they had together to further the Ministry of  our Lord Jesus Christ. The bible says, "none of them had something to call his own". What an elevated position!

This is my attitude: I tithe and give my offerings to God because I understand the importance of doing so. I am happy already; I am grateful to God already. So when I give I do not expect anything back - honestly. My giving is just an expression of my gratitude to God. I do not want to see the work of God being hampered by lack of finances and I know that my contribution comes in useful.

One other thing I believe - a forced gift is no gift at all, be it an offering or a tithe. A gift given willingly or cheerfully or wholeheartedly, is what moves the Father's heart. You may disagree with all or part of this statement - that is understandable.Forced giving is a mere physical act, not a spiritual one.

Does God bless me for my giving? Yes, He does, and I am extremely delighted about it! "So what's the difference?" you might ask. The difference is that when I give, my eye is never on the blessing, but on ensuring that whatever needs to be done in the House of God would not suffer due to lack of  financial resources.

Honestly, I will never tie my giving to a blessing. I will never say to God, "I will only give to you on condition that you give me more or something back." I feel it would be highly selfish of me to do so!

When God gave me Jesus, He didn't attach any pre-conditions to it. If He had, I sure would have failed to meet them! So His gift was unconditional. Where then would I get the courage to make demands of Him just because I gave to Him a dollar that He gave to me in the first place!

God is a giver - a cheerful One.

He is a loving, generous, providing God. But I think we need to change our mindsets. If you give according to the will of God, with a cheerful heart, then you've done what you need to do. Nothing would discourage you in future, because your part is done. But if you make unwise demands on God and you see "nothing" happening afterwards, you are bound to be negatively affected, for you will be focusing on the wrong thing.

So be sure of your ground when you give to God! You've to be sure of your motivation. You might be processing a mere business transaction, devoid of the Holy Spirit, and resulting in loss after tax!

This is my position. This is exactly how I approach these issues in my life. 

What's your view?

Sermon #99: 'Little' Habits Do Matter!

Bad behavior remains bad behavior, however much one might try to put some gloss over it. 

On a number of occasions, I have heard people say, “It doesn't matter. It’s too minor a thing to worry about.” Really?

I believe that each of one's actions or omissions has far-reaching impact on their character or reputation.

Everything you do either has a positive or negative effect on your person. The same applies to each of your omissions - the actions that you avoid taking.

So it's not a matter of “is it minor or major?”

If something destroys your reputation, why would you not worry about it? If something reflects positively on you, why would you not be eager to be associated with it, whether it is ‘minor’ or ‘major’?

Our country would certainly be a much better place to live in if only more people cared, or cared more.

Often people think that it is the responsibility of some other people to put things right. They say, “They should do this and that to make things right.” Why “they”? Wouldn't we be much better if we said, “We should do this and that”? or “I should do this and that, or should desist from doing this and that, in order to make things right”?

Let me give you an example. Our streets are filled with litter. It's unimaginable. We never used to see such dirt. Who is to blame?

First to blame is the person who throws garbage onto the streets instead of placing it where it belongs. That's the first culprit.

You find that even where there are rubbish bins close by, some people still choose to throw litter onto the streets, with no remorse at all! What happened to conscience? What happened to hygiene? What happened to civilization?

The second person to blame is the one responsible for ensuring that our streets are kept clean. If you are the one responsible, and you let things go wrong in such a big way, then people start to wonder what you do on a daily basis to deserve your salary! Challenges will always exist, but do people sit and fold hands because of challenges? Isn't it that challenges exist to give purpose to one's mandate?

I feel overjoyed each time I see people on a voluntary clean-up exercise. That's always a remarkable sight, which should provide an important lesson to those who wantonly litter the streets. Just stop for once and reflect on this: somebody litters the streets without even worrying about it; then somebody gets so concerned about it to the extent of cleaning up the dirt for free. This surely is a serious indictment to the careless!

Littering the streets is an act of disrespect – disrespect for oneself, disrespect for other people and disrespect for God who gave you a litter-free environment for your enjoyment. So in a way, a person who litters the streets is telling the world that he/she too is like a piece of trash.

Each time I get a receipt from a shop, I have a tendency of rolling it with my fingers until it becomes a tiny ball. Tiny as it is, which some people would describe as ‘minor’, I always make it a point of placing it in a bin. I just cannot throw it onto the ground, even where there already is ‘major’ rubbish deposited by some other people!

I have seen another evil – spitting. People have a tendency of doing it everywhere, on the tarmac or pathways that people use to get from one point to another. Saliva and phlegm, eish! One has to duck and dive to avoid stepping on such revolting substance.

What exactly is the message that one would be sending by behaving like that? Who would he/she be trying to fix? Would the same person be comfortable stepping on someone else’s phlegm? Absolutely not!

So what happened to love? I visited the offices of The Zimbabwe Standard newspaper sometime. On the staircase was a sign pleading, “Please do not spit on the stairs – By Order”. Imagine that they had to go to this extent to teach people what they should already have learned as kids!

I have also observed another disturbing trend in our society – use of foul words.

One day I said to my wife, “Mai Isaiah, have you by any chance noted that people in this country have become more foul-mouthed than before?” It is unprecedented! Now children have also caught the bug, for they are forced, on a daily basis, to listen to words not meant for public consumption. Some of the words that people speak in public these days are so horrible that I can never utter them even when I am alone!

And some people say, “He is just speaking. He has not hurt anybody. So what’s your problem?” Just speaking? Has not hurt anybody? “Little things”, so people say. But what's the level of the impact of such behaviour?

If you are one of the people who deliberately acts in a bad way or deliberately avoids doing good, then you ought to change your behaviour without delay. It's important.

There is only way to behave - it is called 'the way of love'.

Love should be your behavior, your life, your being, who you are! If you love people, it means you care about them. If you love people, you will not spit on their paths. If you love people, you will not litter the environment they live in. If you love people, you will not say offensive words to them or in their presence.

I have given you just a few examples of wrong behavior that people choose to belittle. There are many facets to this subject. I cannot cover them all in this short installment. What you need to do is to critically examine yourself.

What are the bad 'little' tendencies that still exist in your life? Write all of them down. Now if you look at what you have written, what sort of picture do you think you are portraying to the world? Would one use the adjective ‘noble’ to describe you?

You need to kick out all trash from your life. It has no business being there. And the time is now!

Just like 'big' things, the so-called 'little' things also matter a lot! Always keep this in mind.

Sermon #98: Walk In It

From the time God 'arrested' me I have sought to learn; I have sought to understand the deeper things of God. It’s an endless process; I am still learning.

Over the years, while querying certain things in my mind, I have come to believe that there are two kinds of Christians; just two.

The first group comprises Christians who mean business; Christians who are serious about worship; Christians who are totally focused on the Kingdom life. Such Christians are always alert, always seeking deeper knowledge pertaining to this wonderful life. Above all, such Christians walk their talk. I am sure you have met Christians of this kind. There are not many of them in the world, by my estimation.

On the other hand, there are Christians who appear absent-minded, regardless of the period they’ve worshipped God, to the extent that those who ought to be teachers are still fighting for milk reserved for those in kindergarten. Such Christians are ignorant even of the most basic Christian principles and are not even worried about this. It actually appears as though they are unaware of their new-birth status. This is quite disturbing!

It’s not enough just to be born again. God does not expect us to end at the point of receiving Christ in our hearts. He expects us to go further and live the new life. Yes we are children of God, but we must also walk in the light of our new birth!

Why should Christians live like they are not born again? Why should Christians act like they are still in the world?

Our new birth should burst from the inside and manifest on the outside. We should not just hear the Word and shout, “Praise God!” but we should go on to live it!

Look here: Christians are supposed to be Christ’s ambassadors. Zimbabwean ambassadors abroad are addressed as Your Excellency because they represent the Head of State. They talk the same language as the Head of State, they behave like the Head of State, they do only those things that they know the Head of State would approve; otherwise they would be recalled.

In the same manner we have a Heavenly Head of State, and as Christians we should be representing Him here on earth in the appropriate manner.

People should never see us in us; instead, they should see Christ in us! If people continue to see us in us it means that we are not walking in the light of our new birth. It is just like an ambassador going around claiming to be a Head of State, representing only himself! Would the real Head of State be happy with such an ambassador?

As soon as God 'arrested' me I awakened to His abiding presence. Even as a brand new Christian I became acutely aware of the will of God on various issues pertaining to my life. I believe the Spirit of God started ministering to me right from the time I said, “I do”. I went on to correct whatever I felt needed to be corrected. Wherever I was, I felt like the Father was towering over and in me all the time; I still feel the same way.

God was molding me, just as He continues to do; teaching me to walk in the light of the new birth - teaching me how to be a true representative of Christ on the earth.

There is one verse in the Bible that makes my heart beat a little faster each time I read it. Here’s the verse: Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God (Romans 1:1, NIV).

Each time I read this verse my attention is drawn to two words. These words are “set apart.” Paul was set apart; glory to God! Peter was set apart. I too was set apart. You were set apart.

The striking thing in this verse is that Paul was fully conscious of his calling; this is why he could speak like that. He said, “I, Paul, was set apart for the gospel of God.” Excellent! Paul could live within the confines of his calling because he was always conscious of it. He was separated unto the gospel. His knowledge of this resulted in him living in the light of his separation!

Are you conscious that as a Christian you were separated unto God? If you are, why would you still live like you were separated unto another?

The Bible says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl (Matthew 5:14-15, NIV). This means only one thing; if you are not living in line with your new birth then you are a light located under a bowl. This kind of light is the same as no light, for it benefits nobody, and God would not be too happy with a light that does not serve the purpose He intended for it.

But what’s the Lord’s instruction on this matter? Here goes“…let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16, NIV). Do you see why God gets disappointed when you fail to walk in the light of your new birth? It’s because people will not see any good deeds in you and will therefore not praise God because of what they see in you. But if your light shines as it ought to, then people will see the sparkle in your life and will want the same thing. You will be able to draw them to God so that they praise Him together with you. You see?

You need to be thinking about these issues always. The world is groaning for salvation, but salvation will only come to them if we, as Christians, live lives that will shine over the unsaved. But if our lights are in reality darkness, then how would we succeed in exhorting others to come to the light that they do not see in us?

Here is something to think about always: “…let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16, NIV).

What kind of a Christian are you?

God bless!