Paul Crouch, the founder of TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) and Nelson Mandela, died at just about the same time. But while the world mourned the fallen South African hero, fewer still knew of the passing of Crouch, a man God had had used to bring millions of people into salvation and to the kingdom of God via satellite TV. While Mandela was remembered and honored for the freedom struggle of South Africa, Paul was only known to those who knew of the 20,000 Christian TV channels that were in one way or the other affiliated to TBN after 40 years of dedicated service to his calling. Our very own TV channel Family is one such affiliate. Many can attest of the impact that satellite has brought to their lives and I am one such person for I first heard the Gospel preached to me in a way that made sense through this very channel.
As condolences were sent out to the South Africans as well as to the family of the late Mandela, one question kept nagging at my mind-would God welcome him with words that Apostle Paul spoke of- "Well done good and faithful servant?"
Human beings are capable of achieving much more than they believe themselves capable of. The Bible says that it rains on both the saved and the unsaved. Consequently, we can conclude that those that work hard, regardless of their standing with God, will surely be rewarded for their hard work. Even those that do not know God build empires and make tones of money. Some are widely acclaimed for their achievements even if they have never professed of knowing or serving the one true God. Some win Nobel prices, others never go hungry a day in their lives. Others yet marry and divorce with every promotion they get, yet remain rich. For we are all instruments on God's hands and just as He used Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar, He will and does use whom He determines. The Scriptures declare that the hearts of kings are in His hands to do with them as He wills. Is it a wonder therefore that an American president airlifted military equipment to help a besieged Israel soon after the latter's independence?
God can use anyone He wills. He has given us the courage to accomplish feats, the ability to forget ourselves and serve humanity whether we are religious or not. The Bible says in Philippians 2:13-"For it is God who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose." It is God who decides who, how and when not really us.
We may even be dedicated Rotarians, helping out humanity, feeding the hungry, we may be members of prestigious organizations or renowned clubs that make life easier for society; in all these, God is doing as He wills, using those that He has determined to use because His plans for humanity cannot, and will not, be thwarted. His decrees stand! He even declares that He can raise stones to worship Him if we fail to do so!
What God looks for is availability. What makes Him respond are justice, righteousness, love, fairness and selfless service for His people. Whoever serves others with these qualities that define His very nature, He will truly bless here on earth regardless of who they are. Whether they be the Mandelas, the Mother Theresas, the Wangari Mathais, the Indira Gandhis or the Michael Jacksons of this world or not, He will use those that avail themselves and His purposes for His people will thus be fulfilled. What God looks for is availability.
After all is said and done, however, when can the precious words- "Well done good and faithful servant be used on us?" Will we be judged by how much we have accumulated in banks, how much we will have contributed to charities, how well we have served humanity or how bravely we bore our terminal illnesses? While not belittling what Mandela did or any of the aforementioned, nor deriding anyone else who may accomplish as much or more, I am reminded of certain realities that I have learnt from the Scriptures.
The Bible tells me that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). We are all in need of salvation from the second death that awaits all who fail to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus-those who have failed to believe in Him nor acknowledge why He came to earth. God, in His love, gave us a solution for our falleness while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8) and gave His only begotten Son Jesus Christ so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
This Son Jesus Christ- did not come to condemn the world but rather to save it (John3:17). People had, and still do have a love for evil deeds and resist coming to the saving light that He is because they are afraid of being exposed (John 3:19-20). But Jesus came to give us eternal life and make us candidates for resurrection from the first death on that last day (John 6:40).
Acceptance of this Jesus therefore entails a confession of the mouth that Jesus is Lord and a belief in the heart that indeed God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10) in order that we too may have hope of the same and live with Him in eternity. This is accompanied by repentance, recanting and renunciation of our past sins. 1st John 4:15 expounds, "If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God." Acts 4:12 explains further, "Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."When we are saved, it will be from the hot fire of sulphur that waits all those that live in sin and refuse to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. In this judgment, earthly accomplishments will not matter much.
Many are the avenues that have been proposed as leading to heaven and hence to God. From arguments and practices of meditations that lead to enlightenment, to talks of doing as much 'good' work as we possibly can. But salvation is by grace through faith; grace is unmerited or undeserved favor from God so we can never earn our salvation by whatever we do here on earth. Salvation simply requires child-like faith in Jesus and repentance of our past sins as declared in Acts 3:19, "Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord". It is only after this that we become new creations as the old man goes away and the new one takes over (2Corinthians 5:17).From then on we strive to serve God as He wills and in His way for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for works He prepared in advance for us to do(Ephesians 2:10).
Serving humanity is all good and acceptable to God. But God's ways are not our ways, He has His standards and pre-conditions for eternal life. We cannot for example steal to give to the poor and think we are in God's good books. While the action of feeding the poor is commendable, God has told us in His commandments not to steal. He can therefore not separate Himself from His Word for He is holy. We cannot rob banks and give tithe to the house of the Lord hoping to be absolved form wrongdoing. Yes, our money may assist His people but God will surely catch up with us on judgment day. For are we really doing what He prepared in advanced for us to do in the way and standard that He wants it done?
Moreover, we cannot refuse to help our families because we want to discourage their laziness. Have we now become judges? Has God not commanded us to help the needy in our midst and especially those in our families regardless? For He himself will judge the laziness of those He created with talents and who fail to be fruitful; to their surprise, they will be thrown in the hot lake of fire (Luke 12:48). It is our duty to help the needy for Christ Himself said that they would always be in our midst.
The questions remain therefore- to what extent will God's concern for our lives be? What will be the parameters with which we will be judged? In 2 Timothy 4:7 Paul is sure of what lies ahead of him, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Can we say the same of ourselves or of all achievers of this world?
There are usually many ways of getting anything done. But there is only one way that leads to the bosom of Jesus, who is indeed the only way to the LORD God Almighty and hence to eternal bliss. Our lives should therefore be lived in expectation of the second coming of Jesus Christ, who promised He would be back for the believer, and that He would also come to judge us all.
And after all the money we have made, saved all the lives we could with our finances, given all our time to humanity, donated to all Christian charities of the world, will we then personally qualify to be welcomed into heaven with the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant?" Or we will we be the pastors that led others to Christ but failed to reach our heavenly destination?
We really must know how to fight the good fight- in the way that matters.
Subsequently, words of a song ring in my mind:
"When I stand in glory
I will see His face
There I will serve my King forever
In that holy place.
Thank you Oh my Father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit till
The work on earth is done".
Word count (1690)
May these words (sermons), from various men and women of God be a blessing to all.