My country celebrates a 50-year jubilee of independence this year. Kenyans like myself expect a lot during this anniversary. We expect a new president. We expect a new parliament. We expect a better police force. On a personal level, there are things that I too expect. I expect to get a raise. I expect to be in good health. I expect bigger business opportunities for my art. I expect a lot of good things. However, history has it proven over and over that expectations do fail and fear and discouragement may set in even before January is over. Why? Expectations, however sure we may be of them, are simply hopes. We may back up our expectations and resolutions with the discipline of a thousand Samurai but there is little we can do about the weather, the economy and global warming. I had my book published last year in November 2012. It was part of my 2012 New Year resolution. Two thousand words a day, sleepless nights, lots of money for production, editing and designing were put in the project to produce my maiden fictional novel, The Human Temple. I had pictures on Facebook, updates on Twitter that the book would be out in November 2012. I had bookstores ready, Christmas orders, gift hampers and autographs memorized. I was ready, the readers were ready, the bookstores were ready but the printers weren’t. For two whole months friends and family asked to buy the book and all I could say was “Next week!” Next week came and all that set in my heart was discouragement and disappointment. I missed to participate in the 2012 Commonwealth Novel Competition. I missed several deals to sell the book locally and abroad. I was devastated. Even as I write this, I remain uncertain of the fate of my book in the printers this 2013. Last I checked they hadn’t printed a single copy. Despite constant effort and money and energy, I have learnt, human expectations and resolutions can be hindered. We do not know if the country will get a new president or a giant meteor will kill us first. We do not know that we will get a new parliament or a more disciplined police force. I do not know that malaria may strike me in July or if my boss will give me my raise. I don’t. I only hope.
Be that as it may, I have discovered two things in this painful wait and drudgery to make things work. Firstly, whether I accept it or not, God is sovereign. He sees and he knows that all these things are happening despite my plans. “Well, why doesn’t he make things work for you?” you may ask. I would say, “He already has.” You see God says in his word in Romans 8:28 that all things work for good for Ernest. Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”(NIV) You may say to me, “How can missing the 2012 Commonwealth Novel Competition be a good thing for you Ernest? I mean, that’s bad. How can that be good?” And I would say to you “I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. But I know this. God has never uttered a lie. History has proven that he is faithful to his word always. So when he says it works for my good, I believe him. When he says your novel will be late and it will work for your good, I know it will.” I may not see it now but eventually I know I will. God has an eagle’s view of what’s going on and knows that it is best for Ernest. I may not see it because of a simple reason. I am human. You may say to me again, “Well why won’t he let you see it?” And I would say to you, “If you simply saw the inside of a NASA Rocket engine would you understand the complexities of aerodynamic propulsion against gravity?” And you would answer, “No.” What’s my point? The point is this: The last time I checked, I wasn’t qualified for God’s job so even if he showed me the inside of the rocket’s engine, it wouldn’t alter the fact that I do not know and I simply have to trust him that it works for my good. And unlike NASA scientists, God’s calculations never fail.
The second thing I have learnt in all this is that I cannot control what happens to me but I can control what I can cause to happen to others. Bad days may happen to me but I can give others good days. I can choose to love my wife. I can choose to bring her flowers often and kiss her every morning before I leave the house. I can choose to be faithful to her. I can choose to “let” good happen to her through me. I can choose to honour my boss. I can choose not to revolt when I feel the room needs an aircon. I can choose to ask and not to yell. I can choose to work diligently. I can choose to call discouraged friends and make them smile. I can choose to sacrifice those new sneakers and buy them coffee once every month of the year. I can choose to support them in their new ideas and dreams. I can choose to do something that is not centered on me not because these people are necessarily great (except the wife, hehe!) but simple because I choose to. I don’t expect. I don’t hope. I choose.
Discover the power of choice beloved. It surpasses feeling, emotion, will and mind power. However choice is only an engine and like every machine it requires a fuel. Choice can be run down by slothfulness, negativity, discouragement, fear and lack of tenacity to act. However, choice is the singular most powerful force on this planet if coupled with a secret ingredient. Love.
Choice and love stand unopposed when amalgamated. When fused together they become an invincible coalition. They act on each other and out of each other. Love becomes a choice and choice is out of love. Upon fusion, the new element is still called love. Why? Is it that love is greater of the two? No. Love was originally fused with choice but humanity over time has warped its meaning. Choice and love were never separate. People in the past unlike today never said, “I love you!” and acted contrary. Well some did but the most didn’t. Men said to damsels, “I love you” and never pressured them to have sex before marriage to prove their love. Ladies said to men “I love you” and demonstrated it through service. Mothers said to children “I love you” and spanked them for their mistake. Fathers said to sons “I love you” and taught them how to be gentlemen. Love was always coupled by choice and action. “I love you” was not a magic chant to make a girl blush or boost a man’s testosterone to simply get what you want. Then why did I dissect the two as separate entities? To teach, beloved. Sacrificing a new pair of sneakers to buy friends coffee wasn’t choice alone. Love was coupled in the choice, love for my friends. This is a kind of love that Jesus Christ talked about more than 2013 years ago. The Greeks called it agape love, which means unconditional show of affection. It is a kind of love that is self-driven. It is like a wheel. No matter what point you place it, the wheel will still roll. It’s a kind of love that acts whether you like it or not, feel it or not. It is not driven to act because of fear, revenge, desire for peace, bitterness, hatred for tension, anger or any other human emotion. It is driven by simply one reason. That God showed it first. It’s what Paul the Apostle would later say after Jesus left, “For the love of Christ controls us.” (2 Corinthians 5:14)
For the love of Christ controls us. Now you would say, “What! I don’t want to be controlled!” And I would say to you, “Yes you do!” What do I mean? How is it that we are asked to love our enemies by Jesus? Is it possible? I put it to you that it is not possible. Well if it not possible then it’s impossible right? No. It’s neither possible nor impossible. It is inevitable.
Dear beloved, when you truly accept Christ is your heart, loving people (even your enemies) is inevitable. Apart from God’s affirmation through his words, the inevitability to love is also an assurance of your salvation. The spirit of Christ rests in you the day you abide in him. When you live your life, he directs you or as Paul would say, “he controls you.” You become a slave to righteousness. Does it mean that you never do anything unrighteous? No, it doesn’t. It simply means that even after you fall seven times, you rise again. Jesus said to pray good for our enemies. On our own human nature, we can’t. We wouldn’t. We would actually pray evil for our adversaries. How does one pray for the man that raped his daughter? How does one pray for the girl that broke his heart? How do you pray for the employee who got you sacked yet it was their fault? I put it to you that it is not possible on our own accord. However, I put it to you too that it is neither impossible. There is a force in this universe that fused love and choice for the human race. How?
He was raped for every time every little girl that was defiled and for every little boy that was sodomized. He was cheated for every time every trader was insincere with his goods. He was nuked for every missile that was launched on his once perfect creation. He was ridiculed for every put down individual in school, at home and the work place. He was abused for every vile tongue and angry mind that expressed itself. He was alone for every broken heart and widowed person. He was injured. He was broken. He was pierced for our transgressions and he was crushed on behalf of every liar, thief, adulterer, biased, weak, coward, narcissistic, self-righteous, rude, arrogant, self-absorbed, self-loving, self-admiring human being.
And when all those things had happened to him, he experienced the worst. His Father, the one true Living God forsook him. The forsaking by the Father was the worst of all that he experienced. It was worse than the rape, worse than the victimizing, worse than the abuse and definitely worse than the lonely broken heart experience. He experienced the worst blow so that no human being (wicked or not) should experience it. He experienced the forsaking of the love of God so that no human being on earth would have to endure even two seconds of it, because the forsaking of God is worse than all the nukes hurled in Gaza beloved. It is worse than the Holocaust and it is worse than the millions of cries of aborted babies all around the world. And the man Jesus Christ experienced it all in 3 hours. It was so terrible that it killed him.
“When did this happen?” you ask. “Over 2013 years ago it happened on a wooden cross in Israel for all humanity.” What does that have to do with love and choice? This. He knew he’d be crucified. He knew he would die for people who would still reject him and spend an eternity in hell. He knew he would die for people who would accept him and still stab him in the back severally. He knew yet he still came. He made a choice. What was the fuel for the choice? His love for you and his love for me? No. His choice was his love. He did not only choose to come because he loved us but He also loved us because he chose to come.
Not only is it a great love but it is a great humility too. That God would become man and take up all his mistakes and give him a clean slate. Yet in his humanity Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. He did not use it to show he was superior. He did not use it to show that others were not as good as he was. He used it to show affection to every liar, thief, adulterer, biased, weak, coward, narcissistic, self-righteous, rude, arrogant, self-absorbed, self-loving, self-admiring human being.
There is no love of Christ without his humility. For the love of Christ controls is equivalent to saying for the love of Christ humbles us.
Who does it control? Those it humbles. Who are those it humbles? Those that accept on their own track record even in comparison to moral deviants in society that they are millions of miles from God’s acceptance. That is humility. That a tax-collector has a greater chance of heaven than a Pharisee. That a scandalous prostitute is loved by the maker of the universe as equally as a moral churchgoer. That the Atheist, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist are better and highly chanced as morally superior to the Christian. That we are saved by God’s grace and not by our performance. That is the gospel! God’s Only Son Paying Everyone Love (G.O.S.P.E.L). And by everyone I mean EVERYONE (even the Muslim, the Hindu, the Atheist and the Buddhist are open to experience this love if they come). He is a God of the humble and the love of Christ controls the humble.
Does the fact that Christ’s love controls those who are his nullify the power of choice? No beloved, it doesn’t. It doesn’t nullify the power of our choice. It activates it. It empowers it! Every choice that the true follower of Jesus makes is preceded by either the nudging or the peace of the Spirit of God. We are advised to do so or not to do so. Well, why do many Christians make mistakes? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Even you can. Simple, they choose against the Spirit of God. Choosing what the Spirit of God says doesn’t mean that it is always a good choice for you now. It means that it is a good choice for you eventually. Which brings us back to Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Now you may say, “Hold on a minute! I don’t want Christ to help me make my choice. I want to make my own choices, I want to be free!” And I would say to you beloved, “Are you really free?” The man who cannot control his temper is not free. He is a slave to his anger. He cannot control it. The woman who cannot stop having sex outside marriage is not free. She is controlled by her wanton desire for pleasure. She cannot control it. The man who constantly speaks out of turn is not free despite him stating he has freedom of speech. He is controlled by his emotional outbursts. He doesn’t have freedom of speech. He has slavery of speech. Outside Christ, you are a slave to your feelings and emotions. What about inside Christ? Don’t followers of Jesus do all those terrible things too? Yes they do. However what about true followers of Jesus? Let me let you in on something about true followers of Jesus. They are so weak and terrible that they need a saviour. They rank low in the moral performance record because they are not saved by how they perform religiously but by free undeserving unmerited grace.
Why did I say true believers? I said true because Jesus himself categorically stated in Matthew 7:21 that not everyone who calls him “Lord, Lord!” will enter his kingdom. Not everyone wielding a Bible and wearing a collar will see his glory. Not everyone writing a spiritual blog will taste his goodness. Not everyone who speaks in his name, drives out demons in his name, prophesies in his name, plans church camps in his name, attends the Sunday service in his name will enter his kingdom. Only those that do his will. Those that do his will know that we are not saved by our work. We are saved by his grace and love characterized through choice and humility. They humbly choose to do the will of God. They do not publicly do his will to be recognized to feel good about themselves, to feel deserving, to “earn” his blessings, to be morally superior, to be better people, to be seen by the pastor and the most rampant of them all, to earn money from the people they preach to.
So do true followers of Jesus never sin/ make mistakes? No. They make huge mistakes (the biggest on planet earth actually). They constantly make mistakes but they also constantly grow. They constantly review their speech. They constantly pursue God. They constantly spend time in the word because they know they were the liar, thief, adulterer, biased, weak, coward, narcissistic, self-righteous, rude, arrogant, self-absorbed, self-loving, self-admiring human being. Christ forgave them for being that but Christ is also repairing them after they accepted him. They grow. How? They admit they need a Saviour above their own sense of morality every 24hours. That is the beginning point of their growth and as Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit.” That is humility beloved and he is a God of the humble.
That humility draws me to it. It is winsome! It is radiant. It encourages me to break out this 2013 and do new things. The last time God did a new thing, he saved all humanity. For the unbeliever, I challenge you to embrace his unconditional love regardless of where you have come from and what you have done. Make a humble courageous resolution and accept Jesus as Lord. For the believer, know this: That the same God lives in you and me. His spirit spurs you and me to do new things. To sacrifice more and fear less. That is novelty! To love more and despise less. To give more and receive less. To accept more and condemn less! Humility is the mother of courage. Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. Humility is thinking of yourself less. And that beloved is not only courageous but it is new to the selfish human nature! And in doing the new things I may save a marriage. I may save a friendship. I may save a calling and I may save for a vacation for the end of the year to reflect on the grace and love of the humble courageous King no matter what happens! Blissful 2013!