Strength, power, ability are all God given gifts to man. With the strength in his body, power of his mind and ability to perform man progresses in life doing whatever seems good for his survival. This results in both joy and sorrow as success and failure become part of life. He revels in success, since it is the product of his strength, power and ability. Then again, he cries at his failure, since the gifts he was gifted with failed him at an uncertain time. If his gifts were from the God Almighty, must they not always bring success, since they are good blessings from Him? Consider the man Samson. He had great power, strength and ability in him to destroy any man, city or nation. He was greatly blessed by God and success was the name of his house. He was victorious in every work he did. Yet, he too had to cry at his failure, since the things he was gifted with failed him at an uncertain time. Most of us, if not all, know the life and journey of Samson. It is also made clear to us the reason for his failure. He fell into the hands of his enemies and his eyes were gouged making him blind. It must be obvious by now as to why his strength, power and ability failed him. At the time of success, he was a man of God performing the deeds of God for the sake of God’s people. At the time of failure, he was a man in sin, performed the work of sin and broke the covenant of God. The gifts of God to man really provide success or victory when they are used for the glorification of God. Glorifying God not only demands keeping His covenant, but keeping it without sin.
All people around us possess some form of strength, power and ability. However, not all are filled with contentment. They lack contentment, since their gifts from God could not provide them with it. They use these gifts to do works against God. Hence, though there are many rich and wealthy with immeasurable fame, they still face failure and cry at it. It is a sorrowful state and the reason is they could not find anything better that would give them success or victory than what they already have. If they do not have anything better, they have no hope concerning the things they cannot see. For what purpose did God give man strength, power and ability? To know Him, understand Him, glorify Him and receive from Him; or else, there would not be a need for God to give man a mind to choose. If man does not reach God with these gifts, failure will always be the name of his house. For this reason, the Lord God says, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance” (Isa. 55:2).
Behold what the Lord God is saying! To listen to Him is to see the things present in His covenant and keep them. When Samson could no longer keep God’s covenant, he could not eat what was good nor could he delight in the abundance God had given him. On the other hand, there are innumerable people around us who do not know how to eat what is good and how to delight in abundance. Therefore, though they have bread to eat and wealth in abundance, they still fail profusely. Take any man or woman of God from the Old and the New Testament. Not one ate what was good and delighted themselves in abundance apart from listening to God. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Deborah, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul, Timothy, Lydia – time and space would fail us to speak of all the godly. The keeping of God’s covenant is the secret of knowing to delight in abundance. The evidence is present around us. Many are with abundance, but they do not know how to delight in it. They use their money for what is not bread and does not give satisfaction. These are the things that never provide satisfaction – adultery, lying tongue, envy, greed, hatred, boasting and dishonesty – and all these are sin.
Therefore, it becomes imperative for Christians to listen to God carefully and then flourish. If you have done what God desires, then listen to what He says, “And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD” (Hos. 2:20). O, to what shall one compare God betrothing us to Him! It is second to none. Perhaps, one can perceive it from the joy of a bride as she is about to belong to a man who will keep her, protect her and provide for her all the days of her life. There is a magnificent advantage when God betroths us to Him in faithfulness, and that is – We will know Him! We will know the things He will do in our lives. We will know our purpose on this earth as we seek Him in prayer. We will understand the things He has not done to us, when He pardons us. We will see the deeds He does on our behalf in this obtrusive world. We shall know His guidance from the word that we may walk righteously. We shall see the protection He gives us in the valley of shadow of death, which is the world of Satan. Now, the wages we make in our life will be God given wages. Whatever we acquire by spending these wages will no longer be unrighteous. Truly, we have known where to put our money and how to spend our wages. We have achieved great satisfaction; the satisfaction this world does not know how to receive. This is delighting in our abundance.
O Christian, how rampantly are you progressing in ways unknown to you! When an uncertain time appears, your strength, power and ability will surely fail you. You will cry for your failure, but will find none to help. This is the advice I can give to those who desire to partake in the heavenly blessings: “His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it’” (John 2:5). And if you are a preacher, teacher or a pastor having the authority to stand on the pulpit, do not forget the place you are standing on. Though it is a mere spot on the earth, the work you took upon yourself has called for the heavenly places to define it. It is safe for you and even, to all who believe in Christ, to do whatever He says. He is the authority over death and life, both on earth and in heaven. No man escapes His notice or reaches to the Father’s house without fulfilling His commands. Just as the servants, upon the saying of Jesus, filled the water pots with water, you too hear Him and fill yourself with His words. They filled, because of the need that has fallen upon the wedding. You fill yourself with the words of Christ, because of the need for your betrothal to Him. Just as He turned the water into wine, He will turn His words into life in you. “And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him” (Acts 28:30).
Have we understood the advantage of His words turning into life in us? The problem for many churches is that they have the words, but they haven’t been turned into life. The difference in having the words and words being turned into life lies in belief. Well, one might say ‘I believe,’ but if your belief does not lead you to do whatever He says, then what advantage did your belief provide? The strength, power and ability that God gifted you with have been wasted. Christ is indeed needed if life has to appear in us. When we listen to the words of Christ, what are we listening to – the life present in the words or the words themselves? For this reason, the one who preaches has a greater responsibility. If he speaks the words of Christ without life, those who listen to him will also be without life. But, why was Paul able to welcome all those who came to him? Because he had the life belonging to the words of Christ; not only was he welcoming, but they were welcoming themselves to him. There is certainly a huge chasm that separates the one with life and the one without it. That chasm is holiness! It is clearly known “in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:5). The manner in which we participate in the gospel should be counted more than our participation in the gospel. If our participation is not in holiness, then it is as good as dead. There are many who give great amounts of money to the church and for the gospel. The preachers of the congregations too encourage the members to constantly give to the Lord (many times in pretense for greed) to receive abundantly from Him in return. There are also many who participate in the gospel by doing numerous works in and for the church. All these are good deeds seen from the outside. Yet, what the Lord truly sees is the manner in which these works and contributions are made. The using of their strength, power and ability to know, understand and glorify God gives them the holiness necessary to participate in the gospel. If their works are apart from His life, then they are not any greater than the works of the flesh. If they contribute apart from His holiness, then it is as good as the giving of a harlot.
On the contrary, when Paul stayed in his own rented quarters for two full years, his participation in the gospel was in holiness and his wages were from God. His holiness is understood in the reason present in welcoming all who came to him. You too can be holy as Paul. Do not worry about the wages, but let your worry and any worry be expressed through your prayers to the Lord. The Lord, who always listens, will make you holy. Yet, your prayers must be as good as the prayers of the saints that came before us. Use your God given gifts to pray and this prayer will be the incense complying with the prayers of those gone before us. This has been happening for a very long time and it will be a delight for the Lord if you join His saints. The proof of your joining appears to you when you are able to measure the standard of your prayers. If your prayers are added to the prayers of the saints, the Lord works on your behalf just as He did for them, and you shall realize the standard of your prayers. “Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne” (Rev. 8:3).
It is necessary that our prayers be added to the prayers of the saints for the Lord to perform His works. The works of the Lord are many. However, His first and foremost work is to make us like Him i.e. holy. When we begin to believe in Him with all our strength, power and ability, and seek Him, He makes us holy by causing in us the sorrow that leads to salvation. Consider the man Samson again. When he sought the Lord and repented of his sin, the Lord turned him into a weapon for justice. He was made holy and that which he lost returned to him. Christians too need to repent when necessary and the Lord will perform works for them, not just in making them holy, but much more unimaginable. They shall glorify God by keeping His commands without sin. Then success will be the name of their house. Then again, if they forsake the exhortation heard, they still will be able to live their lives, spend their money, but not for that which gives satisfaction. They live under the one who marks men for eternal death. “And he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name” (Rev. 13:17).