Day 24: The Efficacy of Prayer #28DayChallenge

To pray literally means to make a request or a petition, usually to a higher power. However, the word “prayer” in the Christian sense includes all kinds of communication and interaction with God. Whether we are giving thanks for His goodness to us, praising and worshipping Him for who He is, making requests for ourselves, or interceding on behalf of others, it is all prayer. Prayer also includes just expressing our thoughts or feelings to God, as we see many writers do in the book of Psalms.

The point of this post is to remind you that prayers works, and encourage you to engage in it continuously. The basis of this assertion is two-fold: God is able to answer our prayers, and He is willing to answer them. God’s ability is undisputed, clearly manifested by His works in creation and their sustenance. His willingness to answer is also unquestionable, only limited by His will. God is more eager to answer our prayers than we are to ask Him, but he will not do anything contrary to His Word.

Prayer is a demonstration of faith. If we believe in God, then we will pray. On at least three levels, prayer shows we believe in God. First, it shows that we believe that God exists (Heb. 11:6). Secondly, prayer shows we believe that God has power to answer us. Thirdly, it shows that we believe God is good and kind enough to grant our hearts’ desires. If we lack any of these three persuasions, then our prayer may be ineffective. But if we possess them, then prayer is simply putting our faith to work.

Prayer works in at least two ways. One, in transforming us as we draw closer to God. Two, in granting the desires of our hearts so that we can be full of joy (John 16:24). When we pray, we are interacting with God. That interaction usually makes us more conscious of our own flaws and calls us to a higher standard. He also speaks to our hearts as we pray, impressing thoughts in our minds to direct us. The more we set aside our thoughts, the clearer his voice is to us. Of course, God grants our desires when we pray, and sometimes He leads us to His Word to teach us the right way to pray.

As you come to prayer, it is imperative to ensure there is no obstacle between you and God. This is why we only come to God’s presence through the blood of Jesus, which paid the price for our sins. Through faith, we are declared righteous because of Jesus’ sacrifice, and every prayer we offered according to His will produces power and substantial results. Prayer changes lives and produces results. Take some time to pray today (now)!

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16b

Day 17: Following God into the Future #28DayChallenge

The future: that imaginary place where all our problems are solved and our dreams are fulfilled. The younger we are, the more excited we are about the future. It holds so much promise and possibility that we can barely wait to get there. We make plans and write lists and take steps to get to the future we imagine. And as the future unravels, beginning with the next moment after our dreams and plans, it brings questions, choices, and uncertainties – things we did not plan for or expect. None of us knows what lies ahead of us.

Yet the Almighty God knows what is in our future. He knows all the possibilities that lie ahead of us and the outcomes that correspond to every set of choices or decisions we make. He sees the myriad of possible outcomes for every phase of our lives, including those outcomes we could never imagine or would rather not imagine. With that infinite wisdom, He asks us to follow and obey Him. God clearly indicates in the Bible that he wants to lead us (Psa. 32:8). He wants to achieve the best outcome possible with our lives but we will have to trust and follow Him.

Following God into the future means entrusting our plans to God (Prov. 3:5-6) and depending on Him for guidance. It means committing every thought, plan, or course of action to God in prayer, and being willing to change if we perceive that God wants us to do something differently. Following God calls for faith and humility. We have to be convinced God has a plan for our lives and that our efforts are not enough to live a life of purpose. He alone can guide us to live our best lives here on earth.

Approaching life with this mentality, however, can be challenging. It does not shield us from trials, difficulties, or pain. In fact, following God is often marked with difficult emotional experiences such as fear, anger, sadness, frustration, or anxiety. Many who followed God have experienced rejection, persecution, and loneliness. Some had the option to avoid some of these experiences by taking alternative routes or going their own way. Others had no choice and would have had similar experiences had they gone their own way.

However, the beauty of following God is that He walks with us through those experiences. He transforms our minds using His Word and teaches us how to remain joyful amid sorrow, peaceful during a storm, and loving even when subjected to hatred or wicked treatment. Another benefit of following God is that we avoid costly mistakes and unnecessary battles that could drain us of energy as we run to fulfill our purpose. Most importantly, we live to fulfill the design of God for our lives when we choose to follow God.

The future is always bright and beautiful, no matter what phase of life you are in. Of course, it is never lacking in challenges. This is why God wants you to be deliberate in walking with Him, so that He can lead you to lead an eternally impactful life that maximizes your potentials and fulfills His purpose for your life. My prayer is that you will choose to follow Him every day. Amen.

Day 13: Friday, Good? #28DayChallenge

Good Friday. Was it really good? Definitely not for Jesus or his followers, whose long-awaited Messiah was crucified by the authorities. A little search on the internet suggested that the origin of the word “Good” is an old English word which means “Holy”. If this is correct, then it would be more appropriate to think of the day as “holy” or “hallowed” rather than “good”, which has a completely different meaning in modern English. I also learnt that some other languages utilize a more suitable expression for that day, such as the German expression “Karfreitag“, meaning “Sorrowful Friday“.

In the end, though, the day turned out to be good from the Christian viewpoint, but only in hindsight. Knowing that Jesus’ death atoned for our sins and that he eventually resurrected a few days after complements the sobriety of the Holy Friday with the joy of Easter Sunday. The beatings he took secure our healing and his shame open heaven’s door of mercy to us. However, it was not all joy on that first Easter Sunday, seeing as the disciples were confused and distressed at the disappearance of Jesus’ body from the grave. Only Jesus’ eventual appearance allayed their concerns and revived their hope.

Yet the news was not even sufficient to bring hope to the doubting Thomas, who happened to be unavailable at Jesus’ first appearance to his other disciples. He had to see for himself to truly believe. And so, Jesus declares that those who believe his resurrection without seeing Him are blessed. He knew only a few persons would see him before He ascended to heaven, and so the testimony of His witnesses and the faith of future hearers would be equally important.

The onus then lies on us who have believed to share this wonderful news with everyone who would listen- the blessings that the horrors of pain and death Jesus endured confer on us, and the living hope that his resurrection and ascension to heaven provide for us. Because Jesus lives, we too can live – not just in our natural state, but in a renewed, transformed state of heart. Spreading this good news would be appropriate seeing as we have embraced the use of “Good Friday” and even get an official holiday to mark the day.

If you are reading this and have not embraced the good news about Jesus, what are you waiting for? He died for you and me, so we would no longer live in our sins, but receive forgiveness from our sins and have access to God our Maker. Turn from your sins and call on Him right away! And if you do, you can be sure that you will be saved; He never turns anyone away. This is where I take a pause today – we continue this blogging journey tomorrow. Stay blessed!

Day 12: Judas, Betrayer #28DayChallenge

Thanks for joining me today again. As we come upon Easter, it feels fitting for me to reflect on some of the themes around the death and crucifixion of Jesus. I would like to zoom in on a character that has received extended treatment and analysis over the centuries: Judas. Judas’ role in the arrest of Jesus was prophesied in the book of Psalms, yet it could have been fulfilled by any one of the disciples. Unfortunately, it was Judas Iscariot who made himself available, descending into eternal damnation for thirty pieces of silver.

Have you ever been betrayed? Usually it would be by someone who knows you closely. The person likely gave up important information that could be used against you, or switched loyalties in a very unexpected manner, leaving you vulnerable and exposed. The damage might have been little or huge, but betrayal always feels terrible. So, if you have ever been betrayed, do you know why they did it? Many people betray their allies for revenge over an unforgiven offence. Others just do it for selfish gain such as power, money, or fame. In Judas’ case, we know he did it for the money.

There might also be people who betrayed others because they were blackmailed, bullied, or manipulated. Some secret or failure of theirs could have been weaponized against them so they could give up their loyalty to someone else. While this does not make them innocent (they could choose to face the consequences of their actions), this category of betrayers are most miserable because they get no satisfaction or gain from the betrayal. Eventually, all betrayal leads to regret, or no? Or do all betrayers get betrayed by someone else? In Judas’ case, the weight of his guilt led him to take his own life. I bet he never imagined Jesus would be killed, let alone crucified like a thief.

The story of Peter’s denial of Jesus is often told alongside that of Judas’ betrayal, and some parallels drawn to encourage believers to embrace repentance. But I wonder how close they are. While Peter acted in an instant to selfishly protect himself from whatever they would do to Jesus, Judas was set on a slippery path of no return once he aligned with his Master’s enemies to give him up. I’m not sure the outcome he expected, but things went out of hand as they always do. His greed stole a great spiritual inheritance from him.

Is there a way to predict or prevent coming betrayal? Or knowing who might betray you? I don’t know. All I can offer is Jesus’ counsel that you should “watch and pray”. In his case, he knew what was coming for him, and he was ready for it. Greed, lust and many unchecked excesses are behavioral indicators of many potential betrayers. Yet moderate men too have had their loyalties tested, and some caved when the right price was named. In the words of a former Nigerian Governor and current Minister: “May our loyalty never be tested”.

I’ll see you again tomorrow, have a blessed Good Friday, and enjoy the extended holiday weekend!

Day 11: Faith, Unfeigned #28DayChallenge

Today, I want to share a few thoughts on faith, particularly in connection with the adjective “unfeigned” as used in the King James Version of the Bible. If you use more modern versions such as the NKJV or NIV, the word will likely be rendered “sincere” or “genuine”. In the first chapters of both his letters to Timothy, Paul speaks about “unfeigned faith”. In first Timothy, he speaks of it as a Christian virtue that works together with love. In second Timothy, he recalls Timothy’s unfeigned faith as he (Paul) longs to see him (Timothy). The word is mentioned both in 1 Timothy 1:5 and 2 Timothy 1:5.

Continue reading “Day 11: Faith, Unfeigned #28DayChallenge”

Waiting

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psa. 27:14, NIV)

I don’t like waiting. Whether for a divine promise or a human verdict, I like to see or experience the things I am expecting as soon as I am aware they are on the way. Waiting often feels like a waste of time and emotion. The object of our waiting dwells in our thoughts and stirs our emotions, filling us with longing and desire. Waiting can even make us anxious especially when we are not assured of outcomes.  But we all have to wait, at one time or another. Waiting is not just a part of our human experience; it is also a tool God uses to build our character as believers. So we all need to learn how to wait, and also how to make our waiting seasons count for God’s glory and our good. We should note here that no one waits for what they have the power to do or get; we only wait for things beyond our ability.

Waiting is associated with hope. When we hope for something, we have to wait for it because we do not yet have it. That raises two questions. One: what is the basis of our hope? Two: how we do wait for the things we hope for? The basis of our hope can be our desires, people’s promises, or God’s promises. If we hope for something on the basis of our desires or people’s promises, we have no guarantee that our hopes will materialize, and our waiting may be in vain. But if we hope on God’s promises to us, we have an assurance that it will come to pass. Every other thing for which we hope and wait has to be with caution. People may be willing but unable. We may desire but circumstances may not line up as we wish. God, however, is both able and willing to perform His promises. We only need to wait for Him.

So, how do we wait? We wait with patience. Paul tells us in Romans 8:25, “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently”. Patience is a virtue God develops in us through seasons of waiting. We all need to learn patience in becoming like God. But patience does not come to many of us naturally. In seasons of waiting, God helps us to keep our eyes on Him and not grow anxious or restless while we wait. This helps us to develop the attribute of patience and apply it in the future. When we develop patience as part of our character, we no longer rush to actions or conclusions but always take time to gain understanding before we act so that we can act with wisdom and precision. However, if we are restless while we wait, we may get what we hope for but God’s purpose in building our character is thwarted or deferred till another season of life.

A season of waiting also builds our faith in God. When we have to wait, we often question why we got on to the path of waiting for what we now look forward to. If this reminds us of a divine promise that initiated our hope and on which our faith stands, then we cling more closely to that promise while we wait. We see this when Abraham waited for the promise of a son from God. Every time he recalled God’s promise, he gave glory to God for the promise that would be manifested (Romans 4:20-21), not doubting God’s ability. Waiting gives us the opportunity to reaffirm our faith while we have not yet seen what we hope for. This is what makes faith strong – the ability to stand and continue to hold fast onto God for a long time even when physical conditions contradict what we believe and hope for.

Waiting is never fun, but it builds us up. We learn patience and build up our faith as we trust in God through seasons of waiting. With thanksgiving to God and steadfastness of heart, we demonstrate our conviction that God can do what He promises, and He always honors our faith by bringing to pass the promise for which we fervently waited. So again I say to you who are reading: wait for the Lord!

Idols

You shall make no molded gods for yourselves (Exod. 34:17, NKJV)

Hello! It’s been almost a month since my last blog post and it feels like forever. The interesting thing is that I’ve been writing every day. I have been working on a project that will take me at least one year to complete. So, my focus right now is going at a steady pace. Please spare a moment to pray for me, for wisdom and divine direction as I discharge the trust committed to me, and for strength to finish the assignment I have been given. Thank you in advance for praying.

Continue reading “Idols”

Blessed are those who Mourn

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matt. 5:4, NIV)

Hello! Happy New Year to you. I hope your 2022 is coming along well. I pray it will be a year of growth and maturity in your faith, one without limits and boundaries. I pray that through God’s wisdom you will exceed your greatest imagination in your work and experience God’s fulness in every aspect of your life every day.

I wanted to take a few moments to share some things I have been learning with you. In the first quarter of this year, we have been focusing on “The Beatitudes” in my local church. The Beatitudes reflect the ideals of God’s kingdom. Through them, Jesus teaches us who is considered blessed, lucky, or enviable by God’s standard – and they are opposite to what an average human being would imagine!

For today, I will focus on one beatitude, “Blessed are those mourn”. The mere suggestion that one who mourns is blessed is bizarre to many of us. How should we consider a sorrowful person blessed? We all want to be happy always. Why then does the Lord call one who mourns “blessed”? Because they will be comforted? As sensible as that sounds, being comforted only sounds like a remedy for the problem. Should we not consider one who does not have to mourn blessed? Of course, Jesus is not asking that we create situations where we mourn, he is only speaking to the blessedness of those who find themselves in such experiences (usually, all of us, at one point or the other).

We must recognize that equity and justice are key elements of God’s kingdom. So, God’s purpose is always to give disadvantaged people the opportunity to be restored to a state others exist in. This is the first key message behind this beatitude. The Lord recognizes that human life is often besieged by sorrow, so he reaches out to tell those who mourn or grieve that they will receive comfort. The unique blessedness of such comfort is that it is the Lord Himself who brings them comfort, and this enables them to comfort others (2 Cor. 1:4). Experiencing God’s comfort also brings us into a closer relationship with him, so our lives reflect His wisdom and guidance in our daily choices and decisions.

As humans, we are born naked and possess nothing. We then begin to acquire knowledge, relationships, possessions, and wealth. If we lose any of these during our lives, it brings us grief or causes us to mourn. Especially painful is the loss of a loved one. Yet that very loss is a reminder of whence we came and an opportunity to draw near to God as we attempt to fill the void. Indeed, loss finds a place in God’s plan for our lives – tough as that can be to say or accept. Our drawing near to God in moments of grief is a unique experience that allows God to touch, not just our thoughts or desires, but our emotions, raw as they may be. We experience true divine healing as God opens our hearts to love beyond loss(es).

A second key message tied to the blessedness of mourning is the message of repentance. Sin draws us away from God and leads to the loss of the greatest thing in life – our connection with God. And so, it is those who truly recognize and mourn this unique loss, mourning their depravity and fallen nature, their wickedness, and moral failures, that can truly be considered blessed because then they find divine comfort in forgiveness of sins and restoration to God. (Psa. 32:1-2). Such people arise with zeal for the Lord and with a determination to help restore others to God because they know the difference between darkness and light. One who mourns or grieves for their sins is truly blessed!

Mourning, whether for our natural losses or our sins (the sins of others) is considered a blessing only because it provides an opportunity for God to comfort us and strengthen our relationship with him. In moments of grief, we experience God’s nearness the most, because we are at our most vulnerable. But if we do not draw near to God in those moments, then the mourning goes to waste and there is no blessedness. May God draw our heart to repentance concerning sins we have glossed over, and may He truly bring us comfort if/when we experience natural losses. Amen!

God is near to those who are broken-hearted and saves such as have a contrite spirit (Psa. 34:18, NKJV)

Eyes on the Prize: Persevering to do God’s Will

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. (Heb. 10:36, NIV)

Welcome to the third and final part of this series on fulfilling your purpose! If you have not read the first two posts in this series, you can read them here: The Big Picture & Follow the Leader. Fulfilling purpose is a journey, one that lasts a lifetime. And my prayer is that you, my dear reader, will not be cut short amid your days. Rather, you will live long enough to complete the work the Lord has committed to you and fulfill His purpose for your life. But if you must fulfill your purpose, then you must learn to persevere – that is, to patiently endure every trial or challenge and ensure you do what God desires of you.

Continue reading “Eyes on the Prize: Persevering to do God’s Will”

Follow the Leader: Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus

Hello, friend! Welcome to part two of this series on fulfilling purpose. If you have not, you can read part one here. What I intend to emphasize here is simple – the only way to surely fulfill purpose is to follow the leader, Jesus Christ. The Bible variously commends the Lord Jesus as the “author and finisher of our faith”, “the firstborn from the dead” and “the forerunner”, who has gone ahead of us into the presence of our heavenly Father. There are at least three reasons why you should keep your eyes on Jesus in your pursuit of purpose as a child of God. We will look at each one in turn, briefly.

Continue reading “Follow the Leader: Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus”