How many of you have experienced trials in your past? If we were in a class and this question was posed, I would see everyone raise their hands.
Well I have been experiencing some persecutions from every angle one can think over the past few months; personal, professional, medical, financial, etc. In no way am I comparing my trials to that of Job and Joseph of the Bible. Almost everyone knows what happened to Job. However, many are not familiar with Joseph of the Old Testament. In Genesis 37–50, Joseph of the Old Testament was sold into slavery by his brothers and sent to prison because of a false accusation. I fully understand how it feels to receive consequences for a false accusation. However, Joseph kept rising through the ranks because of his spiritual gifts. He did try to escape from the situation. In Genesis 40:14, Joseph tried to get the chief cupbearer & newly freed prisoner, help him get released. My flesh had me trying every which way to change my predicament. Unfortunately, nothing was working. Galatians 3:3 poses two questions, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” So I finally surrendered to Lord and stopped trying to let my flesh take over. In Genesis 41, it says that Joseph continued being a prisoner for another two years until he was called by the Pharaoh to use his spiritual gift of interpreting dreams. Now I have been in my most recent trial for going on four months. I don’t know exactly what my spiritual gifts are. But I am doing several things in different ministries and praying in attempts to find out.
Over the number of months, I had explained my situation to some people. A few times, I was told, “you need to fast!” However, I took the message innocuously every time. Finally, this past August while helping and ministering to some disadvantaged adults in a homeless ministry in Trenton, NJ. I was approached by a woman I was actually trying to avoid. However, she had a question that I was called over to provide assistance. During the first half of the conversation, it was all about her and her life decisions that have led to her current predicament. During the second half of the conversation she was speaking to me about what God wants to do in my life. I was taken aback because she didn’t know me. More importantly, I came to feed, talk and witness to people like her. In the end, she told me the Holy Spirit connected us in the most unusual circumstances and wanted to send me a message, “you need to fast!” Once I heed the call, God has a life-altering plan for me.
So I have surrendered and begun a 40 day spiritual fast on August 31, 2017. Drinking water all day long and eating only dinner every day. My fast ends on October 9, 2017. I thought my first day would be very difficult because I am used to eating 3–5 times a day. The first day was actually much easier than I thought. I assumed the remaining days would be the same. Days 2, 3 & 4, were agonizing because my body wanted lunch and if I’m at a place where there is a lot of food, I do get tempted to eat. However, a number of people close to me are aware of the fast and why, so they are fully supportive and help hold me accountable.
The food restraint is only one part of the fast. I am also not watching any TV or movies during these 40 days. In the evenings, it is usually easier for me to just lie down and watch TV and movies for hours on my iPad and waste the night away. Now each night I am gaining hours of productivity to read more consistently and make more time to read the Bible. Additionally, I wake up between 4am and 5am each day to start off with singing, praying, reading the Bible and meditating on the word throughout the day. There are many mornings I find it difficult, especially when I would stay up late handling something. However, I remember that my relationship with the Lord is greater than anyone. If a friend called me to do something or go somewhere with them early in the morning, I would be up early and excited each day. Why don’t I do that for my time with the Lord consistently?
The first description on my Twitter profile is “Man of God”. I realized that I tweet about educational things all night and day. However, there is little to nothing about God. This relationship that I have with Jesus Christ is deeper than me giving Him honor/acknowledgement only at an awards ceremony or after winning a competition. It may cause many to feel uncomfortable because this is not normal and may lead to more persecutions. This is not my first time experiencing persecution, trial or tribulation. So I have to constantly remind myself of 2 Timothy 3:12 “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” I cannot change people’s hearts and minds. However, I can show them an example of God’s love through the way I live and act.
In 2 Timothy 2:10 (ESV) it states “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect so they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory”. So I utilize this verse to say that everything I’m enduring is not in vain. People are watching to see how I react/respond. So I remember one time in the past a supervisor knew false statements were made about me and I was wrongly treated/villifed by people of an organization and he knew that I chose to forgive everyone. I also told this supervisor, “What people meant for evil, I believe and have full faith that God will turn out for the good.” More importantly, I was already in a pattern of praying and reading the Bible consistently so I was in a zone of peace that was difficult for people to understand. My response to everyone that would call and check up on me is “I am at peace!” It was not my battle to fight. I was reminded of Isaiah 54:17 (ESV) “no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”
About the other areas of trials in my life, I rest on the fact that this has not been my first one. With each trial, the stakes get higher. However, The Lord has always seen me through the struggle and temptations. In I Corinthians 10:13 (ESV) it states, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” I believe I am growing stronger spiritually because there are sins that no longer tempt me because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, I am comforted by the message in Matthew 6 versus 25 -34. We are told to not be anxious because the our heavenly Father supplies the birds, lilies of the fields and grass. We are made in His image. Why wouldn’t he take care of us. Matthew 6: 31–33 (ESV) further adds, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
If you were to ask me what has the fasting done for me so far on day 15, it has opened my eyes to stories/events and the significance behind God’s saving grace, selflessness, sacrifice, forgiveness, patience, etc. For example, I have read I and II Timothy many times before. During this time of fasting, the Holy Spirit has helped me better understand what Paul was relaying and sharing with Timothy, while in Ephesus, about the struggle of being a follower of Christ, qualifications of spiritual leaders, condemning false teaching, warning against prosperity preaching and being content, the need for us to endure the suffering to help save the lost during the time of godlessness, fighting the good fight of faith, and guarding the word of God in our hearts because it was breathed out by God. I have just recently started the reading gospel of John yesterday. I am excited to find out what I will learn.
I originally presented the names of two people in the Bible who were persecuted and went through trials but left out the One most persecuted and all He did was love everyone- Jesus. He modeled the greatest form of love, leadership, servitude, humility, service and sacrifice for all to see and read about. I am not sure what will happen with me during these 40 days or after. I seek to be in a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. More importantly, I want to hear Him and see Him guide me towards His will for my life so that He will be glorified. Not sure what you’re going through but are you listening?