Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Kingdom Tenacity

Elisha demonstrated a different spirit than the rest of the trainee prophets of his day when he persistently refused to be separated from Elijah. Even when Elijah himself asked him to stay put and stop following him, he cried out to his master, I will not leave you! We understand from numerous Biblical accounts that such "a different spirit" indeed made a difference which ultimately determines the destiny of men and women throughout the ages. In fact, the term "a different spirit" was mentioned in tribute to Joshua and Caleb in contrast to the other 10 spies and the rest of the Israelites who chose to listen to the spies which resulted in their untimely deaths in the wilderness.

I am reminded of a few other characters in the Bible who displayed such a tenacious character, leaving behind an indelible impact for every Bible student. These are men and women from whom we can learn and imitate, especially in their tenacious pursuit of God and their destiny. There is a popular teaching amongst the Christian circles where we are trained to think that if God wants me to have something, I don't have to do anything but to just sit and wait for it to happen. If it doesn't happen, well probably, God didn't want me to have it in the first place. There is no arguing that our God is a sovereign God and He rules, overrules and even intervenes in circumstances that sometimes defy our so-called theological understanding of what He should or should not do. Having said that, it is just pure laziness to say that well if He wants me to have it, I don't have to do anything about it. By looking at the 5 characters below, may we be better armed with a stronger character and attitude in the times we are living in today.

Jabez, whose life contradicted his destiny
There is no necessity to have a long introduction to our famous Mr Jabez. In fact, his prayer has now been one the more popular prayers in the Christian world. But, let not the familiarity of his story robs us of the precious truth we can glean from his tenacious character. Here is a man born with a destiny written over his life from day one of his arrival on planet earth. He was a pain to himself and a pain cum sorrow to every body else. And despite that, it did not deter him from crying out a powerful prayer which God heard and answered. In fact, his life contradicted the destiny which was written over him (his name).

I believe the Spirit of God actually nudged the author of the Books of Chronicles in the Bible to include Jabez's account when he was writing on the descendants of Judah. We can say that nothing would stop this guy from inheriting a great blessing from God. Some may put their blame on genes, their upbringing, their families, etc. etc. but here arose a man who literally cried to God for a destiny of blessings. He did not just say a prayer. It was a tenacious request - I believe he exerted all his strength, emotions and focus in making his request to God. And today we read the glorious testimony that "God granted his request." Today, God is still in the business of granting our requests too. But, too often we are just too busy to let our requests be made known to him or perhaps, we are just happy to be "saying" our prayers or we would rather play the blame game.

Jacob and the wrestling match
A man in the Bible we may not want our children to choose as their role-model would probably be Jacob. Many know him as a schemer, a liar or an opportunist. God viewed him differently - "Jacob, I loved". There would be many reasons why God loved Jacob instead of Esau but the greatest wrestling match that ever took place on this earth unearthed a gem of a character in this man named Jacob.

Probably, that night must have been the most difficult night of his life to find some solace in sleeping. Fears and anxieties filled his mind and heart. He was troubled as the time has come for him to confront his past. How would you feel if you were to be in his shoes? You committed a crime many years ago and now you are going to meet the person whom you have committed the crime against. The death threats issued by Esau many years ago must have found their way back to haunt Jacob. And without any warning, an unexpected visitor got him into a wrestling match. Most would probably jumped at the opportunity of giving up and perhaps die in the hands of this visitor. It could have been a death full of dignity for Jacob. No, he persisted the whole night. And yes, he cried out with loud cries and tears, I will not let you go until you bless me!

Notwithstanding the fears, worries and uncertainties in his heart, he would not miss this opportunity of seeking blessing from this visitor. The mixed emotions within him did not overcrowd his appetite and hunger for the dew of heavens. This is a man who fully appreciated the value of spiritual things. Having heard the many stories about God and His mighty acts from his parents, the seed has been sown within him of the "one thing" in life that matters. At every difficult turn of his life, he cried out to Jehovah God and He has been with him through the ups and downs of life. You may fault Jacob for his many schemes but the tenacity in his pursuit after God must be etched deeply in our minds.

Hannah, who was accused of getting drunk in church
How depressing it must have felt for a wife to endure mockings and criticisms from the husband's other wife? Depression and suicide would have been the easy way out. Not for Hannah. Her very name which signifies "passion" describe the tenacious character she possessed. She was definitely hurt and sorrowful but those negative emotions merely drove her to petition for a miracle from God. The intensity of her request was further underlined by the fact that she vowed to offer the child unto God when the Lord God open her womb. Many people would have left church if they were in Hannah's shoes - imagine the pastor rubbing salt to her wounds when he claimed that Hannah was drunk in the church! What hurt! What shame! No, she did not resort to counselling sessions for healing of her wounded soul. She stated in clear terms what she was doing to the priest and received the priest's blessing in return. Most of the time, we wondered why the breakthrough that we are praying for has not been forthcoming. Perhaps, it is a good time to reflect and meditate on Hannah's tenacious character.

The woman, who talked to herself
She was more known by another nickname - the woman with the issue of blood. According to some teachings today on healing, perhaps a woman in her shoes today would come to the conclusion that healing is not for her, anyway. After suffering for 12 years and having consulted the doctors of her day - probably her friends would not be able to recognize her anymore. She would be a forlorn figure - weak, helpless and poor. What use is there to preach healing to this woman?

She was not invited for a healing meeting nor did Jesus single her out for prayer. Guess what. She went against the laws and customs of her day and pressed in to receive her healing after suffering for 12 long years. Her faith in the power of God to heal was strong and certain. We read from the Scriptures that, "she said to herself - if I only touch His cloak, I will be healed." I do not think there was any teaching on power of confession during her days but out of the abundance of her heart her mouth spoke forth her faith in Christ to heal her. Nothing was in her favour - the crowds, the customs and laws, her past experiences, etc. The tenacity of her faith made a way in the wilderness for her to reach out her hand and received the healing virtue of Jesus flowing through the edge of His cloak.

Jesus set His face like a flint
Last but not least, our Saviour intently set His face to go to Jerusalem despite knowing the type of death which awaited Him. This speaks volumes of the great love He has for each one of us. The tenacity that was exhibited by Jesus was motivated by His love for His father and us. There's no greater love than for Christ to lay down His life for us. He was not reluctant to take the path of the cross but He set His face like a flint (a variety of quartz - a figurative analogy of firmness and hardness of intent) to go to Jerusalem. We can love Him because He first loved us. Therefore, may our love for Him be reflected in our resoluteness to obey, follow and pursue Him all the days of our lives.

Final note
If we are placed in similar trying circumstances such as those surrounding the 5 outstanding characters above, would we have responded in the same manner? How would we respond to the trials that seem so impossible to overcome in our lives? Indeed, there are many other men and women in the Bible that deserve mention with regards to their courageous and tenacious walk with God. However, admittedly, spiritual tenacity is a rare commodity amongst Christians today yet a must-have for all Christians living in such times like these. May the Spirit of God birth such spiritual tenacity in our hearts, especially in our walk with God, pursuit of Him and His destiny for our lives.

Matthew 11:12 12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.

Postcript: -
(From a sermon by the Prince of Preachers - Charles Spurgeon - entitled "The Dawn Of Revival, Or Prayer Speedily Answered" delivered February 10, 1867)

We never do anything in this world until we set our faces thoroughly to it. The warriors who win battles are those who are resolved to conquer or die. The heroes who emancipate nations art those who count no hazards and reckon no odds, but are resolved that the yoke shall be broken from the neck of their country. The merchants who prosper in this world are those who do their business with all their hearts, and watch for wealth with eagerness. The halfhearted man is nowhere in the race of life; he is usually contemptible in the sight of others, and a misery to himself. If a thing be worth doing, it is worth doing well; and if it be not worth doing thoroughly, wise men let it alone.

Especially is this a truth in the spiritual life. Wonders are not done for God and for the truth by men upon their back asleep, or out of their beds, but still asleep. Souls are not saved by men who scarcely know or care whether they are saved themselves. Errors are not dashed from their pedestals by those who are careless concerning truth and count it of little value. Reformations have not been wrought in this world by men of lukewarm spirit and temporizing policy. One fiery Luther is of more value than twenty like the half hearted Erasmus who knew infinitely more than he felt, and perhaps felt more than he dared to express.

A man if he would do anything for God, for the truth, for the cross of Christ, must set his face and with the whole force of his will resolve to serve his God. The soldier of Christ must set his face like a flint against all opposition, and at the same moment set his face towards the Lord with the attentive eye of the handmaiden looking towards her mistress. If called to suffer for the truth, we must set our face towards this conflict as Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem. He who would conquer in this glorious war, and overcome the Lord at the mercy-seat, must be resolved! resolved with his whole soul, resolved after matured thought - resolved for reasons which are too weighty for him to escape - resolved that from the throne of grace he will not depart without the blessing. Never, never shall a man be unsuccessful in prayer who sets his face to win the promised mercy.

1 responses:

  1. This lesson has blessed and ministered to me greatly!
    Thank you