Soul Food 4 U

It addresses itself to every day issues of life from a Christian perspective. You'll be challenged. You'll be rebuked. You'll be encouraged. You'll grow.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

VALIANT, WELL EQUIPPED AND SKILLED SOLDIERS WHO RUN AWAY ON THE DAY OF BATTLE.

June 2, 2006

Reflections:

Standing in the truth and looking to the world or looking into the truth from the world.

Conviction is worthless until it converts itself into conduct (Thomas Carlisle).

There is no lift to success; you have got to take the staircase (Sticker in a matatu).

No one person was ever honoured for what he received but for what he gave (Proverbs 21:26).

TEXT:

Psalm 78:9 -The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle;

10 they did not keep God's covenant and refused to live by his law. 11 They forgot what he had done,

the wonders he had shown them.

2 Kings 19:3 They told him, "This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the point of birth and there is no strength to deliver them.

Luke 8:11-13

The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.14-The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. NIV

The men of Ephraim possessed both skill and supplies, but ran away on the day of the battle. What a tragedy to have warriors who have what it takes to enlarge their territory, yet when the opportunity arises, they show their backs as they run away. These are fair-weather soldiers who boast of the strength of their weapons and probably try to out-do one another as they demonstrate their skills, that is until the rubber meets the road. Soldiers with well-polished shoes and medals lined-up their shoulders to demonstrate their status; daring the enemies to attack them but they lack strength to deliver.

These are born-again, spirit-filled believers who could be choir members, deacons, pastors, elders, intercessors, bible-study leaders among others. On a Sunday morning in the church, they are great men and women of faith. On Monday when a vehicle overtakes them, they curse and burn with fury. They cannot stand a person who does not hold the same view as they hold and they do not give the benefit of the doubt. They are cultural, carnal people in the battle field but saints in the sanctuary. What is the point of being equipped, skilled and a soldier if it is not for the battle field where God's image-bearers rub you on the wrong side? Christian faith is not just for self consumption and protection but it is for service. When the ground on which roots should stretch is rocky, then the joy of Christian faith and walk is short lived.

What would have caused skilled men to become useless when they were most needed? Failing to be available on the day of the battle may be the same as failing to reach maturity. Lacking power to deliver a baby that is due is a deathly experience. We need more that just use of religious language. Not just being at our designated places of meeting or wearing the right attire as we have agreed among ourselves. We have to come face to face with those who have no respect for our faith, our God and our success. In the battlefield, it is when those who were opposed to our view become interested and are won over as disciples of Jesus Christ. To understand the challenge of the men of Ephraim, hear what Jesus Christ revealed as a secret of the kingdom of God. There are four categories of people who are exposed to the word of God (Luke 8:5-15). One category is of people whose mindset is likened to a path, people whose mental set-up does not allow for any new ideas and so the word of God has no impact. These we call non-believers who live by the cultural values even though they may be religious. The second and third categories are those who hear, receive and act on the word. They are excited about the faith. Like the men of Ephraim, these are believers that are equipped and happy in their status but they never reproduce because they do not get to maturity. Just like Ephraimites they do not serve the purpose for which they were equipped. They are choked by worries, riches and pleasures and so never get to maturity. There is no production without growth to maturity. Beliefs that cause rootlessness and choking include:

Ø A compelling desire to meet certain standards. That belief leads to fear of failure, desire to be perfect, manipulate others, and fear risk. Such a belief is like cement, making the ground rocky and not conducive for the Word. The fear paralyses and incapacitates a person from within leading to lack of resolve to serve the cause of Christ. One lives for self.

Ø A desire to be approved by others is what makes you feel good about yourself. That belief leads to fear of rejection. One attempts to please others at any cost. Being overly sensitive to criticism. Withdrawal from others to avoid disapproval. Selecting to hear what agrees with your faulty belief. Inner blockage from that which would bring growth.

Ø A belief that those who fail are unworthy of love, and desire punishment. That leads to fear for punishment and tendency to punish others for personal failure. You cannot walk on water because of fear of risk. Tend to be generally unhappy with a heavy cloud of gloom.

Ø A belief that I am what I am, I cannot change. I am hopeless. That belief leads to feeling of shame, hopelessness and inferiority. A belief that history has designed the future and so you are a victim. Loss of creativity. You isolate oneself from others. Think of the things that cause you anxiety and rob you of joy. The grid of your beliefs inclines you on what to see. You can go to a party and see people as cold and rejecting because you have internalised a belief that you will be rejected. Another person goes to the same party and finds the same people warm and friendly.

There is need to discover the root cause of the feelings that lie behind wrong behaviour. Hurts of the past stimulate bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, or determination to protect the self at all costs. People who have had their emotions wounded see every situation as an attack on them. Deeply hidden hurts make people have misplaced value system where only what has direct benefit is seen as important and they can trample others underfoot in order to get that which is important to them.

Choice of what to place emphasis on from our past experiences is also vital. Through memory, the mind modifies and defines current events by connecting them with earlier thoughts, knowledge, cause or value. Wounded emotions erect a barrier to living making us see dilemmas at every corner. That is what I think Jesus referred to as When the light within you is darkness, how thick is that darkness (Matthew 6:22-23). Erroneous beliefs are sustained by recreating these memories. It is selection of what to recall. Continuing to deny the hurt feelings with the assumption that born-again, Spirit-filled Christians are not supposed to feel that way is a form of untruthfulness. While we are not responsible for the hurts, we have a responsibility regarding choice of response. Thoughtful choices based on trust in the saving grace and the healing power of our Lord is needed.

For us to be ready for the battles of life, changes must be sought at the deeper levels. Beliefs that lead to stagnation of the Church of Jesus Christ even though on the surface all seems to be well should be brought to surface so that they can be examined and reviewed. What the Bible says about the men of Ephraim;

  1. They had selective memory. Psalm 78:11 They forgot what God had done for them, the miracles and the guidance. Might they have spent their time discussing the fearful scenarios in the desert instead of the deliverance of God? When we incline our minds to focus on the giants then it becomes difficult to see the greatness of God. To select to ignore God and fail to appreciate his goodness in our lives makes us run a great risk. Rom 1:21- For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools. To be ready for the day of battle, we need to predispose our minds to see the power of God. As a poster I used to have had the word that All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all that I have not seen. Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
  2. They did not have faith in God's ability. Psalm 8:18-20;22. When the mind is focused on hurts and fears of a repeat, insecurity sets in and that leads to loss of trust. You cannot trust in your own abilities, be defensive and still be dependent on God. Can you trust God to take you through the changes ahead? Are you able to cast your cares on the Lord knowing that underneath are the everlasting arms?
  3. They used God as search light (Psalm 78:34-35). Once there needs were met, they picked the generally accepted communal value system to live by. In the moment of need, they cried to God, repented but once they were on level ground they dumped him. Can you hold on to God even when you have no reason to do so? It is possible to trust God when all is well, until what we value starts to diminish. Habakkuk 3:17- Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. That should be our attitude. There are people that Jesus Christ said that they followed him because of the food he had given them. Such people can get choked by the worries and cares of this life. Maturity is characterised by unconditional love of the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, body and soul, and that leads to trust and obedience. We must remove obstacles that harden us, making us mistrust God and so become poor witnesses of his power.

The Ephraimites just like those who had cares, riches and pleasures, had not taken time to reflect on their beliefs. Beliefs are hidden and sometimes we are not aware of them. It is our responses to life situations that show the values underneath. For example, do you feel fearful when another person is co-opted to the same committee with you or a person with whom you were in school is doing well? Such fears are symptoms of harboured faulty beliefs that choke and hinder growth. You go around feeling like others could easily dominate you and so you have to take care and unconsciously be defensive. We have to continually allow the Spirit of God to work in us, changing our deep held beliefs that negate our desire to serve and worship him. When we trace fears, jealousy, crave for approval, critical, judgemental attitude to others, comparisons with others saying that we are also human beings, and envious attitudes, boredom and lack of enthusiasm, all reflect beliefs that need to be brought to surface, repented, and confessed even when no one else knows about them. Be honest. 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Healing of wounded emotions take time and right action. Transformation is a process not an event and we need to determine to be truthful to ourselves. Time alone does not heal emotions but keeps them in the distant memory like a wound that is unhealed inside though the skin cover is dry, pus develops and it becomes worse. Repentance and realisation of what the grace of God is to us keeps us humble and dependent on the Lord.

May the Lord heal us so that we are the good soil that yielded a hundredfold. In the day of the battle be encouraged by the words that a good friend who has been working for Uchumi until the sudden closure on May 31, 2006, told me; "The waters that drowned the people in the times of Noah are the same waters that kept Noahs ark afloat."