After Thanksgiving 2009, Jake Luffy and I departed for Nairobi, Kenya to be with Pastor Joesph Mutua for a few weeks. Niki Marsov from Silistra, Bulgaria joined us when we arrived from Mombassa. We were asked to share in a week-long conference Pastor Joesph was holding and in some local churches during the week-ends. Jake brought a deep mysterious word that left the hearers in quiet contemplation and thought. He prefaced his word by saying, “if you do not understand what I am saying hold my words before the Lord and in time He will give you understanding.” I have known Jake for over 30 years and have had the pleasure of hearing him speak these many years, thus I know the depth of his message and his ability to skillfully weave the scriptures. Niki brought a strong relevant word mixed with humor which the people really responded to. It was his first time in Africa and he was magnificent. Humor sometimes helps the medicine go down. I can see in Niki a Timothy today and a Paul tomorrow, Niki and Lord willing. I brought a more sublime yet simplistic word directed at their hearts that enabled the folks to apply my words to their difficult circumstances and situations in their lives. Unless our words reach their hearts then what we say will profit the hearers little. The heart should always be our target and our goal must always be to see how low we can come down in our self so that the word of God we speak will be able to take root in their heart and lives. Jesus was a master of this, simple in His approach using wine, bread, water as examples to convey deep spiritual meaning that the people understood. I wonder why we try to get so deep and try to unwrap the dark mysteries of the Scriptures. Jesus talked about a corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying (John 12:24) to be fruitful. Maybe we should reevaluate our approach.

From the start of our trip I knew God wanted to do some things in my life, things that needed to be done. At first I was reluctant, because as Karen and I travel and minister from church to church, both in the States and around the world, I hear a great desire to be an “overcomer.” Now this in itself is not a bad thing God desires to bring us to victory in Him, but where we miss the mark is the desiring and all that goes into the presumptive approach to God and not the developing, the way God has designed for us to come into victory. Why there are even conferences and seminars today in the church where the theme is “Overcoming to Fulfill Our Destiny in Christ” (or something like that), but seldom do you hear of the real requirements at conferences and seminars to become an overcomer. John gives us three requirements to become to be an overcome, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelations 21:11) They overcame him, “by the blood of the Lamb,” “by the word of their testimony,” and “they loved not their lives unto the death.” We will talk more about the last requirement in detail. Most Christians will agree today in the church without the shedding of the precious blood of Jesus Christ (the Lamb of God (John 1:29)) we would not be able to overcome anything, so this is kind of a given, but the other two well they will require much more from us if we desire to apply them to our heart and lives to become an overcomer. John said, “by the word of their testimony.” Please know the word of our testimony is not what we say, but what other people see us do. I can tell you swelling words of faith, words that would bring tears to your eyes, words that would manipulate you to do things for me, but if my life does not reflect what I am saying then my words will profit me little to nothing and not benefit you at all. Remember, if you want people to give you money or do things for you just tell them what they want to hear and what they already know. But to be a true overcomer our lives and words must match up in unison with what the Spirit of God is saying. I do not care how many miracles God uses us to perform or how deep our revelation of God and His word is, if the works of God in our lives and the revelation we possess never affect changes to our character then it is all for nought. Make no mistake my friend I am talking about myself here. One thing I have learned at the heart of every issue it is always an issue of my heart. God’s work in our lives is to change us first then others second. Our understanding, wisdom, and knowledge of God must ultimately bring us down into a place of humility and humbleness if not we are no better than sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. Paul shared this critical truth with us in 1 Corinthians when he said, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Now many call 1 Corinthians 13 the love chapter, but Paul does not use the word “love” but uses the word “charity” here and is at the heart of what Paul wanted to convey to us. The word “charity” has been translated agape, but it comes from and gets its root origins from Strong’s #25, “agapao” to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of which has little to do with love and much to do with being a humble and lowly servant. Agape, Strong’s #26, is a stronger mature love that has to do with a dedication of ourselves towards someone, as Jesus dedicated Himself toward the world in John 3:16 or a dedication that a husband has toward his wife for giving him 30 years of her life. Paul was talking about giving help to people in need, a kindness in judging people, and a good will to all other people. It is this heart condition that is greater than faith and hope. Now reread verse 2, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. Do you see the difference? Jesus said it this way, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus was not talking about giving one’s life so another may live, but laying one’s life down as a lowly servant, losing their life so that they may find it in servant hood to the Brethren. It is not about love, but about being a lowly servant like Christ. All throughout Paul’s writing he warns the newly established churches (and us to today) take heed not to think highly of our self. “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3) There is a subtle danger here to exalt our self that can over take our witness and destroy our character. Again I can say amen here. If we desire to become an overcomer we too must lose our life and all those things that we think elevates us above our brothers and sisters. How arrogant we are to think just because God has given us something special it makes us special, oh no my friend anything that God gives us (special or not) should bring us to our knees and make us a servant to the Brethren the more.

Now on this trip to Africa one of God’s main intentions (as I said) was for me to become more of an overcomer in a certain area. I knew right from the start God’s intention for me to be successful during this trip was for me to walk in restrictions and limitations to maintain my health, I could not eat what I wanted to eat and drink what I wanted to drink, but I had to maintain strict adherence to what I knew to do to fulfill what God wanted me to do. As a matter of fact the first opportunity I had to speak I spoke of how restriction and limitations not freedom and liberty bring us to completion and fulfillment in God. And I knew I would have to love not my life unto death. I knew God wanted be to go to Africa, to endure, to preach the word He put within me, and finish the trip strong in Him. Now this was first time I have traveled in the last two years. Before that a few of my trips were cut short due to health problems. For years I have pushed myself (zealousness in God is not what He is looking for) going abroad six to seven times a year, the air miles, stress and strain of ministry took a heavy toll on my health and on my desire to endure in the face of real sickness to the end. Now I will be honest this really bothered me. How could I stand and teach endure till the end and all I could think about was how I could get home sooner. But now on his trip I knew God wanted me to stay the course, finish strong in Him. For God to be able to do this I would have to love not my life unto the death. I would have to come to a place of assurance and rest (beyond what I have experienced before) in God that He will take care of me even if I get sick and He would make sure I get treated and come and go home as scheduled. I know all of this may sound strange, but this is where I found myself. Like Job I had to come to a place where I said and believed, “though God slay me yet I will trust Him.” Or like Esther, “If I perish I perish.” Now that is real faith. If we really desire to become an overcomer we must allow God to work in our lives, through His dealings and judgments, and bring us to the place where we willfully give over our physical life to God. We are not ready to life in God until we are ready to die in God. Each time the airplane lifted into the sky I would say, “Lord I commit my spirit, soul, and life into Your hands.” It is funny how the older we get the more our mortality is ever before us. How we can see our days quickly coming to an end and in our heart we bristle against what we see. The older we get the more we are concerned about our health and develop a desire for ease, good food, and comfort. It seems the older I get the more I enjoy hot water. When I was younger hot water cold water no problem, but now I like hot water. Well, if God will still use me as I feel He desires He will have to work in my life and get me over this desire for ease and comfort. I do not think I am any different than the next man we all are touched by our infirmities and weakness as grass we shall wither away some day to be with Him, but it is wonderful to know God knows our frame and He will work in our lives, if we desire Him to help us become (a process of learning to lean on our Beloved, Song of Solomon 8:5) an overcomer. I leave you with the words Jesus spoke to the disciples before He was taken to the cross to die for you and I, “Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33) Please hear the end of verse 33, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” It is nice to know Jesus too was an overcomer.