Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.
This is a continuation from my past blog, Blessed are you when men hate you.
Jesus is saying rejoice when you are living a life for my sake, when people hate you, when you’re mocked and excluded. Be happy amid persecution. Again, naturally this seems impossible; Spiritually its possible. I can write about this because I have gone through it. Even when my wife and I are going through persecution, the first thing we do is pray, and prayer turns into rejoicing for what He is doing in our lives. When I spend time with God, my heart rejoices and my heart rejoices because I know God is in control.
I rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. He is my strength and Rock. I pray that in all circumstances; God is your Rock, you learn to lean on Him, and be joyful in the middle of persecution.
Rejoicing through persecution is difficult to do. It’s letting go of everything you are. You’re losing your rights to who you are, your emotions, thoughts, actions, beliefs, and you are allowing the Holy Spirit to be in control of your life. I can hear someone ask, how can that be? Why would you not defend yourself for something that someone has done to me?
I’m reminded of when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew what he was about to confront was going to be difficult. He said, “thy will be done”. He was prepared to go through the persecution for His Father and trust Him. Even though Jesus asked God for the cup to pass over, Jesus could have called on the Angels or God to rescue Him. He didn’t! This is what we need to do, we need to work through our persecutions, rejoice in God, and allow God to do His work no matter how much it hurts. It is difficult.
You will know when you have reached a place of joy when you can rejoice in all circumstances, because you have a peace in your heart, and you are allowing God to do His work. You may not see it straight away. God will not take back His promises, and no matter the circumstances, you need to put yourself into His hands. Those who trust in God, God will fight for you. Exodus 14:14.
I remember when I played sport; I received an award. Some work places reward their staff with bonuses and have a work break up to say thank you for a job well done. In this scripture; Jesus said that our reward is in heaven. We will not see it straight away; we will see it when we meet our Lord and Saviour Jesus. How good is that; the reward is everlasting and it will be forever.
Walking in the path of Jesus is no easy feat. Being persecuted isn’t easy. I have spoken about letting go in this blog and in other blogs. It requires us to relent from everything about us; who I am, my ambitions, my thoughts, feelings, emotions and those I am close too. The prophets of the Old testament relented from who they are. They spoke what God told them to speak; they had an obligation to speak the very thoughts of God. Hebrews 11:36-40 states they were tortured, faced jeers, they received a flogging, put in chains, fled to caves, imprisoned, put to death by stoning, sawed in two, and killed by the sword. We need to do what God has called us to do, and that’s to share the name of Jesus with no fear, and live a life that God has called us to.
John 14:27 I am leaving you with a gift, peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. NLT
Everywhere I look, I struggle to see any peace at all. If I watch the news, it is about COVID-19, or a near attempt of kidnapping, murders. Society was already in a mess. I feel it has become worse since the world has been in a pandemic, and in lock down.
Being in lock down isn’t easy. Not being able to travel or go out somewhere at night, being told how to live, feeling like your being dictated too, has put a toll on families. Domestic violence has risen. I have heard too many stories about couples arguing constantly. Then you have families separating or getting a divorce. People are going insane, depression is at a new high, suicide has risen, people have lost their jobs, houses and financial stability. There is also the feeling of loneliness and you may worry about a loved one that you’re not able to visit.
I’m no expert, but it seems all these factors influence our mental state. All you have to do is watch the news and read articles to see the effect of COVID-19. You may have gone through what I have mentioned. The question I ask; where are you finding your peace through this pandemic?
You may ask; how can I find peace through all this? The good thing is Jesus left us with the gift of peace, the peace of mind and heart. It is a peace the world cannot give.
It has taken me a few years to understand the peace Jesus was talking about. God taught me His peace while I was on bail and in prison. If I am struggling, I give it to God. The only way I know I have given it to God is when I feel a peace within my heart.
I have found the following areas have been helpful.
The very first thing I do is pray. I do this to rely on God first rather than man. In the past, prayer was always my last resort. I used to rely on man and man can let each other down, whereas God won’t. In the beginning, we may not like the answers God gives. He knows what we need, and I know from experience, answers will come, and peace will flow through you.
Jesus spent time with His Father in prayer Mark 6:46, and therefore it is important for us to pray. I never used to pray, and when I was alone on bail, all I could do was pray. So I prayed and prayed. It was a struggle at first, because I felt all alone, and I didn’t feel like God was answering any of my prayers. It was through my consistency that I saw break through. I learned to pray through all circumstances, good times and bad times. Jesus taught this in Luke 18:1-7.
Now that I am married, I pray with my wife before we go to bed. We also pray when one of us is struggling, and to give thanks to God for what He is doing in our lives. The saying is, ‘if you pray together, then you stay together’. I believe this is so true. Praying as a married couple strengthens the relationship. It is bringing God into the relationship; the third cord, bringing each other to Himself, to each other, and giving each other over to God.
Read your bible:
2Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. NLT.
A Pastor I used to be under always said to me, “if you don’t read your bible then your walk with God will diminish”.
I never used to believe him. How naïve I used to be! Scripture has changed my life in so many ways; it has convicted me, corrected me, it has shown me how good God is. It has equipped me to fight off the devil, encouraged me, and brought peace into situations.
That last one has been significant over the years. There have been many times when I looked at my circumstances, especially when I was in prison and felt no peace until I read my bible and spent time with God.
As I shared previously, my wife and I read together. I find it encouraging reading scripture together. Again, it brings us closer together and to God. It makes us spiritually stronger as a couple. It also helps us to unite as one.
I’m reminded of Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. NLT.
If you want a change in your life; physical healing, emotional healing, spiritual healing, change in circumstances, I recommend reading your bible. If you have a desire to read, but you are struggling to start, then ask the Holy Spirit to help you or show you why you are struggling. I have had struggles to read my bible. I would ask God, why am I feeling like this? My breakthrough started when I would read a verse at a time. For me, those verses spoke to my heart and God healed me. As I did this. I wanted to know more about scripture. I got a hunger for scripture, so I meditated on scripture, which leads me to the next point.
Many Christians I have come across think meditation is of the devil. God created meditation, and it is how we meditate that is important. I meditate on the word of God, or how good God is. Sometimes I meditate on what He has done for me, which leads to me being thankful to God. When I used to suffer with severe anxiety, I was taught to recognise the anxiety, and then focus on my body, every nerve cell, and feel what my body was doing. What I did was include God into it. I would thank God for creating me in His image, thank Him for creating every nerve, cell and molecule. I will close my eyes and be present with what my body is doing and give thanks to God. It has been amazing how the Holy Spirit moved through me as I did this. Mediation becomes a problem when you try to empty your mind and you exclude God.
One of the most important ways to meditate is on the word of God.
Joshua 1:8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. NIV
I have read this passage many times. I never really understood this passage until I practiced it. Reading scripture and studying it is important to me. It brings me life, draws me closer to God, strengthens my relationship with Him, and gives me the TOOLS to defeat the devil. Ephesians 6 speaks about putting on the full armour of God. Verse 17 talks about taking the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Another words use it like a sword in battle.
You may wonder how can communication bring peace. Communication is like uploading your emotions and feelings to someone. You’re not holding onto them anymore. If they are negative, it can bring destruction into your life. Who said you only have to share your negative feelings and emotions?
When I used to live alone, I would talk to God as if He was in the room. I would tell Him how my day was going, my frustrations, hurts, my breakthroughs, and my joys. I would even ask Him to explain situations I didn’t understand. Sometimes I would hear Him speak, other times was through the word of God, music, a book I was reading or even the tv. For our own wellbeing, it is important to unload to someone. When I was alone, I spoke to God. I found these times helpful. It helped my stresses to dissipate. It gave me a calmness within my heart and mind.
Since being married, I now talk with my wife. I spend time with her sharing how I feel, and how my day has been. I still talk to God, and I now have someone alongside me to share with.
You can also talk with a counsellor or a mature Christian friend or mentor. Counsellors help to bring perspective into situations and give guidance to areas you may not see yourself.
Sometimes people struggle with sharing, they can either lie or tell half-truths. This action is not healthy for yourself, your partner, or your relationship with God. From experience, If I have held back from God, I seem to feel stuck in the same room. It is not until I am honest with myself and God; the door is flung open. It is not open by man but God, there is a difference.
Honesty helps to; unload the burdens you are carrying, it brings the situation into the open so it doesn’t give the devil any leeway, gives you direction, starts the healing and restoration process.
If you haven’t been honest, then it will slowly torment you from within and you won’t be able to have peace until it resolves the situation. It feels like you are carrying a heavyweight within you. It is not until you speak out that freedom will come.
Proverbs 11:3 Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people. Being honest is an attribute. NLT.
Renewing the mind:
Rom 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV.
At the moment, the world is in turmoil with COVID-19. Families cannot see each other, there is no physical contact, people are dying, suicide, depression and anxiety has increased.
It is horrible, there are no words to describe what is happening right now. I know in my heart how good God is. Sometimes I have been stressed. Memories of prison has come to light. The thoughts of loneliness flood in and it causes a state of depression and anxiety.
When those times have happened, I have gone straight to scripture and prayer. If I was to allow those feelings to manifest then it can lead to darker thoughts of suicide. That is not of God. God has given all of us tools to use to be an overcomer. Mostly He sent Jesus to the Cross for us to have life. He has given us freedom through Jesus. We are overcomers and the reason I know this is that I have it living inside of me. It grows because I spend time with God; Reading, studying, meditating, prayer, allowing God to be number one in my life.
Life has many struggles, life can be difficult. Sometimes life can suck big time. I can assure you God is on your side. He is in your corner. For Him to be in your corner, you need to allow Him to be. If you allow Him to be, then you need to listen to Him, communicate with Him and use the tools He has given you. I have lived a life of many hardships. What got me through was God and allowing God to do what He needs to do in my life. It is difficult; it takes humility and trust. I can assure you, if you follow the above steps, over time you will see God stand on His promises. All it takes is a leap of faith and God will do the rest. It may not happen straight away, this is where you need to trust God and have faith.
Last night I was watching the Mandalorian with My wife. In season 1 episode 7, Kruill makes a comment. “Droids are neither good nor bad. They are neutral reflections of those who imprint them”.
The Droid IG-11 is programmed to be an assassin. He is programmed to kill the enemy. He is brutal, without any hesitation IG-11 will kill. The Mandalorian doesn’t trust the droid because they had a shootout. It is after this that Kruill finds him in some ruins and reprograms him to be, quoted by the droid, “a nurse”. The droid still remembers his past, and continues to mention that he is no longer an assassin.
The statement, “Droids are neither good or bad. They are a reflection of those who imprint them” really connected with me. I am reminded of my own personal walk with Jesus. It reminds me of who I once was to who I am now.
When I was at school I didn’t have any friends. I wanted to make an impression, I wanted to be liked, I wanted to be a cool kid. I thought to be a cool kid I had to rebel; rebelling led to bad choices. Those bad choices led to consequences. I didn’t realise at the time how my peers made an impression on me. The impressions went into my adulthood that led to low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, drugs and drinking.
For many years I lived a life trying to impress people. I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. I wanted to be liked, loved and have friends. I struggled because what I allowed to imprint me wasn’t what God wanted.
As I have said in past blogs. My relationship with God didn’t exist. I didn’t know God. I didn’t spend time with Him in reading the bible or in prayer. At times I had encounters with God, however I didn’t allow the encounters make an imprint on my heart.
The droid was rebuilt to be kinder; a nurturer. His imprint changed. His assassin imprint was turned into a kind and nurturing droid. I believe for God to imprint your heart you need to give God permission too. You need to say, “God here I am, imprint my heart”. The only way to do this is to spend time with God and allow Him to start the process of imparting Himself into you. The starting process is to be willing to change and to trust God.
The droid was programmed by bad people, that made him into an assassin. It wasn’t until Kruill who found him, that changed him to be a better droid. At the end of IG-11s’ life, he sacrificed his life to save others.
Impressions can either be good or bad. My example of school was a negative impression. I have had bad impressions from leaders and pastors. I have also made a bad impression on people. So much so I was in Prison. With these impressions it is important which ones we hold onto. It can mislead us.
1 Corinthians 15:33 says, Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” NIV
The word bad translates to rotten, and corrupt to defile. “Rotten company defiles good character”
If you leave a bunch of tomatoes in the fridge and one of them is mouldy. Eventually that mould will carry over to the good tomatoes. It is like us. If we are around people who are always negative, dragging their feet, eventually you will be the same. Be around strong godly people to impress your heart
John 13:15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. NJV
Jesus came to serve the people. He washed the disciples feet, He healed hundreds of people and fed thousands. He also paid the ultimate price; dying on the cross.
Having an attitude of servant hood does not come naturally to man. From experience If I try and serve in my own strength it is difficult, When I serve though Jesus it becomes a natural part of my life, and brings me much joy. Jesus wants us to serve with gratitude, love, and compassion. When I serve others I serve because of what Jesus has done for me, the blessing He is too me. I want to show the love of Jesus through my actions.
We have to remember there is a difference between serving people you love and serving a homeless person. Jesus’ example was serving people who are homeless, hungry, who are poor. He even served sinners. We need to serve with the same eyes Jesus had. If we stop serving with humility and through the eyes of Jesus then I believe pride can set in.
I was in ministry for many years. There was a time I was a deacon. In the beginning, I loved what I was doing, I loved serving people who were in need. Over time my relationship with God started to decline and I started to lose the joy I once had. I stopped spending time with Him, I didn’t pray or read my bible, I had no relationship with God at all. And this is when everything started to feel mundane. Then my church life became a battle. I felt like I was fighting against everyone, and everyone was against me. The love to serve people declined, and so I started to appease man exalt myself; earn brownie points, rather doing it because of what God has done in my life. My serving became habitual and mundane, I served because I felt like it was a requirement, rather than serving unto God.
The scripture I am reminded of is Matthew 23:12 NKJ
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted
Exalting oneself is an attitude of pride and Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18. NIV. This is what happened to me; I was exalting myself, trying to be recognised. It lead to a life of arrogance.
It wasn’t until I went to prison that God showed me the life I was living. It was a life of pride and arrogance. He also showed me I had lived this way out of hurt and unforgiveness.
Once God revealed to me the life I was living and the reasons why, the healing process started to happen. I thank God for being in Prison. I thank God for healing my heart from anger, bitterness and unforgiveness. I thank God He broke old habits and thought processes. For God to heal my heart I had to humble myself before Him and it took me to go to prison to do that.Now, if I’m in the city, I will serve a homeless person. I’ll ask if there is anything I can do. Sometimes I will sit on the ground with them over a cup of coffee and just talk. I will share the love of God with them, show them that God is real and loves them. Sometimes I won’t even say anything about God and they will comment that God has sent me to them. I love serving people, whether it is my neighbours, my colleagues at work or a complete stranger. I do it because God loves them and I love them. I do it not because I have to, I do it because of what God has done in my life.
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. (Matthew 6:33)
Spiritual Hope . Joyful Faith . Trust in God
Trusting the Love of Jesus Christ, One Day at a Time - Psalm 13:5 NIV, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”
The Power of Story