By Ezekiel Osei Owusu
Have you ever wondered why many raised in Christian homes are not able to keep to their faith later on in life? And what could be the reason why at the top of the list of scandals in churches today are the people you always see in active service. What about those who flaunt the prestige of being trained under mega ministries with biblical precepts and scriptural doctrines? Somehow this devil of scandalous character is able to break through the defenses of their solidly grounded wall of deep bible teachings.
Those introduced to a strong faith based denomination and culture by birth and upbringing are saved the stress of weighing between the many thoughts and challenges out there and coming to a decision on their own. This is very positive. However, the process of decision and building of personal convictions is an important process if not faced earlier in one’s pursuit of God, would have to be faced later on in life. There is no other option left for us in introducing the people we love to the faith we firmly hold on to. Nonetheless, there is an understanding we have to have as we pursue this wholeheartedly.
The passion and zeal in pursuing our faith and introducing others to it could unconsciously make us turn a blind eye to unavoidable seasons that every Christian would have to personally pass through to build in him/herself the strength and unshakeable convictions needed in pursuing God on a personal and deeper level.
When an egg is ready for hatching, the chick undergoes a period one could consider needless and stressful. It pecks in the shell an area and pushes against the walls for several hours till it finally breaks through. If one would observe such a moment, the obvious thought is to intervene and help the chick hatch with ease. But that would rather be the greatest mistake. This seemingly punishing moment for the chick is of great importance for its strength and stamina in its early life. Helping the chick out is most likely on the contrary going to end up taking the life of the chick entirely.
In one’s decision to follow Christ, there is a hatching period he would have to pass through. This is a period one would have to painstakingly make decisions of separation and encounter trying moments that would affirm his commitment to his newly found faith. It is a period in which a cost would have to be counted and personal price would have to be paid in developing an unshakeable grounded foundation of faith to live for Christ. Even though unpleasant, it is a necessity for a sustaining strength and long lasting stamina. If anyone would have to skip this in his walk with God, that individual is guaranteed for a soon spiritual demise.
Right after the spirit descended upon Jesus and the Father spoke from heaven, “then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” (Matthew 4:1). This account in the gospel according to Matthew obviously brings a question to mind: Why will the Spirit lead Jesus into a secluded wilderness for 40 days and also for the purpose of being tempted of the devil? Does God lead us into such evil? And why will the Holy Spirit seemingly lead Jesus into the hand of the devil?
This is what I would call the hatching period. Jesus being hundred percent man even though God, had just received the Holy Spirit, but in order for him to build adequate strength and stamina through the anointing of the Holy Spirit against his flesh for his ministry he had just received, it would take him a wilderness experience. He had to be tested, he had to hatch. Often times the temptations of the devil are tests of our faith. Once Jesus was in the flesh he had to build through personal experience the strength to tame his own flesh and hence overcome the enemy from without. Surprisingly it was the Holy Spirit that led him into such a situation. The bible said of him in Hebrews chapter five verse eight, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered”. It is a principle in the spirit that Jesus subjected himself to. If Jesus had to learn, we, as servants not greater than our master, would also have to learn.
God’s work of perfection in our hearts involves fortifying us to overcome the flesh and the devil, and that needs our cooperation. The level of our cooperation determines the progress of the learning process. And it is our responsibility to remain obedient to it. This learning process involves a personal experience of facing the world for yourself and through the fight to overcome, we build in ourselves the strength and stamina for a lasting walk with God and more so gain the capacity to help others adequately. This was how Jesus became the savior of the world. He, submitting himself to this process even to the last moment, gained the right and authority to earn us salvation. “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;” – Hebrews 5:9
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:” –Romans 5:3,4
Paul’s exhortation to the Roman church explained the challenges they were going through were going to work in them patience. It’s in this patience they will gain experience, and it’s through the experience they will gain hope. Other versions translate the experience as ‘endurance’ or ‘character’. Moses had to be put through the wilderness for 40 years with sheep to lead the children of Israel for 40 years through the wilderness. Joseph was not immediately sent to the throne after his dream. He went through a journey of the well and prison. David after being anointed had to pass through the tough moment in the wilderness for over a decade to become king. Why was it so? Experience. Its through the personal experiences of life that we build character to stand the purpose God has for our lives ahead. A man full of experience walks with a hope that keeps him going each and every time the road gets tough.
Jesus told Peter “the enemy wants to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith fail not, and when thou art converted, strengthen the others”-Luke 15:31,32. Why wouldn’t Jesus rather pray against the plans of the devil? I thought he would rebuke the enemy and bind all his schemes. But it’s surprising that Jesus said the purpose of his prayer was rather for Peter’s faith not to fail. Through this challenge, he was going to build strength not just meant for himself alone but for the others: “and when thou art converted, strengthen the others”.
For the sake of the purpose of we becoming instruments of change in the lives of others, it requires a personal journey of the rough and smooth. It is through this journey, one experientially gains authority to deal with like situations in other people’s lives. In Revelations chapter 1 verse 18, Jesus said “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” Jesus’s access to the keys of death and hell was not just out of the blue. It was only possible after he had successfully passed through death and hell himself. For him to have had the legal right to earn this authority for our benefit, he had to gain a personal experience and hence overcoming them, would be able to successfully pass on the keys to those who would need it. The abundance of grace for forgiveness and hence freedom from spiritual death and hell is as a result of the keys Jesus won and passed on to us.
There are many men anointed but there are few with spiritual keys. When you have a key to a door, you are at liberty to open and close the door at will. So just imagine having spiritual keys over specific situations of life. You will operate in an authority to stop and nullify attacks of the devil at will and at ease as you set others free. But these are the keys born out of one’s adversity and personal challenges behind closed doors. These keys grant one an easy victory over challenges that are seemingly difficult for others to overcome. The authority Jesus showed over demons and sickness was beyond just a mere anointing. He had keys. These were the keys he accessed through his 40 day and night ordeal in the wilderness. The bible tells of him that immediately after “the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. And Jesus returned IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT into Galilee, and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.” The gory makes the glory.
Jesus subjected his flesh to death throughout his life of ministry, not in spite of the challenges, but through the challenges. And being faithful even through death, he was given a name above any other name, an authority superseding any other, a power unprecedented and a glory unthinkable.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:5-11
I do not seek to imply that God is the author of the problems you might be facing or he is the orchestrator of the temptations you face every now and then. Perhaps I would write another article to elaborate on this. But in summary this is what we know: “…that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” – Romans 8:28
There is something experience gives a man that mere knowledge can never give. An experiential spiritual knowledge carries in itself a commanding spiritual authority. An authority, not just for personal gain but for the benefit of others.
Every Christian would have to hatch on his own. A process if avoided would breed religiously adamant so called Christians who carry an outward form but within are dark, empty and feeble. Such Christians are verbal and loud with their head knowledge. They have piles of stored information in their heads as a result of what they might have heard or read over time but lack inner strength of personally built convictions. They are quick to call others out on their failures and are intolerable to others who might have opinions to perspectives that differ from theirs. They believe they have convictions but it is just a matter of time, they would be shaking at the storms and shivering when situations of life bring them a head on confrontation. This was the case of Peter. He swore assuredly never to deny Jesus, but it did not take so long a time when he was confronted. He swore vehemently denying any knowledge of him. Men who lack convictions may look hard on the outside but on the inside are as brittle as an ancient clay.