Saturday 18 Nov 2017
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John 3:16

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Delight yourself in the Lord

 A call into Christian living. (Mathew 6:25-34, Philipians 4:4-9)

Perhaps one the biggest challenges facing a number of Christians especially newly converted believers is the question of how they are expected to live their lives after coming to Christ. You see it is one thing to accept the offer of salvation and the commitment to be a follower of Christ, while it is quite another proposition entirely to live as one.

 Perhaps the best illustration that can help us to grasp this dilemma is best narrated by the story of the Israelites when they were led out from the bondage of Egypt by Moses, and into the freedom that came their way soon after. After crossing the red sea and in their sojourn in the wilderness, it was not too long before it dawned on them they were not equipped to deal with the new life which their freedom now ushered them into. It was no surprise therefore that with every challenge they faced, they were bereft of what to do, where they were not moaning and grumbling, they opted to confront the challenges with the very mindset they had about life when they were in Egypt. As a result they found themselves in trouble, they were constantly at odds with God, and could not please him. Ultimately it cost them (those who came out of Egypt with th exception of Joshua and Caleb) the promised land.

I want you to know that the life of a Christian especially new converts is similar in many respect to that of Israel, Paul writing to the church in Colossae drew this parallel for us saying;

Colossians 1:13-14 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The one who was delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, surely must adjust to life in the new kingdom, it would be sheer folly for him to expect that he can continue to live in the new kingdom like he was in the old...he would sooner than later run into trouble.

 

The question of change

Therefore the question arises, how should a Christian live in this world? Some say we are free to live as we ought to since we are under grace and are not called to change much in our lifestyle as long as we continue to believe in Christ. Which begs the question how does such a life imitate that of Christ without making significant changes in their lifestyles? Or are they saying that their lives mirrors that of Christ already? Truth be told those who advocate this position throw away one of the greatest power and blessing promised by our coming to Christ, the power of God's salvation to transform a man, to change him, to redeem him from a worthless cause and pursuit of life.

The truth is, to be saved is to be converted and to be converted means change and change as a Christian means to forsake the ways of the world in pursuit of the knowledge of Christ and being made perfect in him, this is what it means to be born again. Those who are born again seek new pursuits for the rest of their journey here on earth....This was what our Lord hinted when he said to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. The scripture screams the word 'CHANGE' right in our face, not to cause offence or subject us to grief, rather it does so in order to make clear to us both the necessity and mandatory nature of this requirement if the faith we profess and the salvation it delivered unto us is to be of any benefit.

 

Change means challenges

Of course with every change comes its array of challenges, I studied Agricultural extension in the University, the major highlight of the course is that we are meant to be agent of change, people who bring new innovations about farming methods that can enhance productivity to the farmers, while highlighting the need for change and give help to the farmers where necessary.

One of the challenges we identified is that change is not easy, people are not easily open to change, this is so for a number of both obvious and salient reasons.

Many simply fear change and the challenges that comes with it. Truth be told without mincing words, change indeed comes with challenges. But where change is essential and is deemed profitable, then the challenges that comes with change becomes not only worthwhile but one that should be received wholeheartedly.

 

Intimidated by change

A couple of years ago , I was trying to bring a young man to the Lord, I could sense that he was ready to commit himself, but something was still holding him back. I prodded him for answers, then he asked me the very question that many at his age dread when it comes to committing themselves to Christ.....'Would I have to lose my friend?'

The challenge of adjusting to life without his unbelieving friend posed a hindrance, it became a stumbling block to the young man, he simply could not contemplate life without his unbelieving friend. Perhaps the biggest change we are confronted with in our call to live as Christians, is one which challenges us to put our trust in God through Jesus his son, it is an earth shattering change, one which calls for a complete overhaul in our values, mindset, will and perceptions of first ourselves and the life we live in general. It is one which challenges everything we know and everything that has come to define us in life as well as what we have become comfortable with.

 It is an ego and image altering change, and with this change comes an array of intimidating challenges.

 

Facing the challenges brought about by change

Speaking about the challenges of life as a Christian, perhaps one of the mistakes we as Christians do make is to assume wrongly that God is not aware of the challenges that we are confronted with as a result of the changes we are asked to make, we assume wrongly that he must be too busy and cannot be made aware of our day to day struggles, our weaknesses, our innermost struggles as well as the troubles that we appear to have the right of ownership over, as we try to adapt to these changes. We assume wrongly that we are being asked to deal with the challenges that comes with change on our own and with our strength.....how terribly wrong we are!

 

Facing challenges the natural way

How do we as humans tend to react to uncertainties in our journey in life, how do we respond to the circumstances that challenges us, how do we respond to the circumstances that we have no control over? Of course we recourse by instinct to our human nature, may be there is nothing wrong in this, after all we are humans you may say, but this course of action alone from experience breeds either of or combination of the following, resistance, fear, anxiety, worry and even despair. We look to ourselves first and when that fails, we turn to fellow mortals, and when they fail us we become disappointed and frustrated, with despondency not too far off.

You see, it is easy for a man to be in control over the situations and circumstances which he has absolute control over, it not strange therefore for such a man to want to retain the status quo. But it is rather strange to see the same man lose his composure when he is confronted by a different set of circumstances which he has no control over

I remember many years back when I was still actively involved in the world of professional football, I tore my thigh muscle, very close to my groin and every effort to get it healed was proving somehow difficult. I became desperate and  a friend of mine that we went to University together , a medical practitioner recommended and facilitated the opportunity to see an orthopaedic consultant. I knew I would be asked to strip to my briefs in order to be able to assess the affected area, so I was quite prepared for this. On the appointed date, I went in to keep my appointment, by the time I got to the office of the Consultant, he was surrounded by his students, so he asked me to strip and lie done on the examination table behind a screen. No problem I thought, when he had finished talking with his students he came around the screen, saw me in my briefs and he barked at me to strip completely. At this point my confidence was gone, I was horrified, nothing in my life had prepared me for this, here was I being asked to strip in front of about 12 strangers , with females in attendance. If I was not desperate for a cure I would have walked out, nothing prepared me for this. But I needed his help and so I obliged , at that point I was no longer in control, I felt helpless.

Well a man should stay in the environment and within the circumstances he has control over we are tempted to say...well that would be the picture of a man who is hiding from life and has refused to live the manner of life which is on offer by the gift of salvation. Such a man I boldly declare would struggle to come into the fullness of life that our Lord is offering to him as a gift as well the peace which this gift of salvation bequeaths. Such a man would not be able to partake in what being delivered into the kingdom of God has on offer.

 

The rich man – Luke 18:18-24.

The scripture tells us about the parable of the rich man who came to Jesus asking him about what he must do to inherit eternal life. He was asked if he had kept the commandments...He affirmed confidently by boldly declaring that he had kept them since he was a child. Of course they were within his reach and control. One more thing he was told he needed to do...give up your worldly possessions the ones that he uses as facade, 'then come and follow me'... said our Lord. This time we are told he became sorrowful, the contemplation of such a change brought great sorrow to him.

 

Do not be like pagans

As believers we are not left with our human instinct alone in dealing with the challenges of life especially the ones brought about by our beliefs. Instead we are asked to face up to these challenges by applying the principles and the guidelines which the new life we have come into in our relationship with Christ furnishes us with. Simply put, we are not asked to deal with the uncertainties of life in the same way as unbelievers do, the very ones referred to as pagans by our Lord. We cannot do that else we would be unequally yoked with them, we would lose whatever benefit the salvation we have come into is offering to us.

 

Delight yourself in the Lord, the Philippians example.

Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi in their moments of struggles and as they came to terms with the challenges facing them because of their new found faith and the way of life it demands of them.. They were ostracised, cast out of their communities, persecuted and even killed. They lost friends and families, properties and esteem...they were mocked and ridiculed and much more. If they did not know how to cope with these challenges the Christian faith would not have survived. In the midst of their challenges, Paul enjoined them to rejoice in the Lord, to delight themselves in him and to do this always.

 

Reasons to delight in God:

1. We are his workmanship, we are his garden and he is the one who oversees our progress. He is involved in every detail of our existence. - Ephesians 2:10.

2. He is faithful, he who began it will also complete it - Philippians 1:6.

3. Nothing shall be able to separate us from his love in Christ. Romans 8:35-39.

 

The list of why we should rejoice or delight ourselves continually in the Lord cannot be exhausted; these are just a tiny few that time would permit. Another way to think of the instruction to rejoice in the Lord always, is to exercise total trust in him. We can only delight in whom we trust wholeheartedly, we celebrate them, their presence gladden our heart, when we think of them or imagine their presence we are uplifted in our spirit even when we are down. In fact when we are down, such a person is the very person we would love to see or place a call to.

In the light of these Paul instructed the church to do the following regularly no matter what they might be facing. The heart that rejoices in the Lord is given unto these exercises. It is impossible to seek to delight in the Lord while ignoring these exercises, it is like a husband who seeks to delight himself in a wife or a father who seeks such from his children while not having any relationship or any means of consummating his relationship, it becomes a mere wish and we all know that wishes are not horses....Such relationships are bound to suffer. To be able to delight ourselves always, then these must become regular feature in our walk of faith as we embrace the changes required of us and the challenges that comes along with it.

 

A. Prayers

Prayer is the strength of every Christian, it is the staff they lean upon for support, the helpline they have to heaven for help in time of need. Truth be told a Christian who does not pray is a weak Christian. If not eating can lead to need malnutrition and subsequently starvation, then prayerlessness can be likened to this. You don't have to be a prayer specialist to pray. Prayer simply means sharing whatever you are going through with God while asking him into the situation...that is what we do with the people we trust, we share everything with them, we seek their valued and trusted opinions on matters beyond us, including our intimate thoughts. And we can feel immediate sense of relief just from being able to do this.

 

B. Guard your thoughts. -

Whatever is good, whatever is noble, what is edifying and of good report meditate on this. We may not be able to control much of what is going on around us, but we can control what we allow into our minds. One of the ways by which we can continually rejoice in the Lord is to meditate on his goodness, his past deeds as well as what he has promised us in Christ Jesus. When the challenges of life assail us, with the intent of intimidating and sucking the joy of life out of us, we on our part must fight back with this instruction. When I think of the goodness of Jesus and all that he has done for me....my soul rejoices, says the lyrics of a popular song. Count your blessings name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done is what another song informs from such meditational process.. The aim of this exercise is always to be able to say to ourselves. ‘It is well with my soul’.

 

C. Put to practice what you have heard and seen.

The walk of faith is not one where we are simply asked to eat up the word and become walking bibles or story tellers of faith alone. Apostle James in the bible challenged every believer saying :

James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?

In order to overcome whatever challenges that come our way as a result of change, we must be willing to put to practice that which the word instructs. The whole essence of bible study or listening to sermons on Sundays is not for head knowledge or to be entertained alone, rather it is to receive instructions about how to live in the new kingdom which God's salvation has delivered us into.

 

Finally

Paul assured the church that the peace of God which transcends understanding is the outcome of these exercise for those who confront the challenges that comes their way as they cope with the changes brought about by the life they have been called into in Christ. Such would be able to experience the joy and the peace which Jesus promises and brings into the life of those who commit themselves to him. May the God of peace be with you.. Amen.