(The Faith Forum Series -Batch 3)
On the morning of 6th May, 2016, I was browsing through my Bible when I ended up in the book of Psalms, a book that is VERY close to my heart. I meditated on a few key verses written by David of God’s character and of him being his deliverer, defence, protector and provider.
I had often heard people saying that as Christians, we ought to claim the many promises of God which are recorded throughout the Bible but I had never really searched the Bible to find and extract the list of promises and meditate on them by themselves.
I decide to do that on that morning but only focused on the promises given in the book of Psalms. I got a red-inked pen and to make sure I missed none, I decided I would need to read each and every chapter from the beginning to the end, to do so.
This was going to take longer than I thought.
About ten or so chapters in, I began to feel uneasy. I had highlighted the ‘promises’ beautifully thus far but although I was a Christian, I began to feel that they were not for me. How could that be?
See, David kept referring to two (2) types of people in the book of Psalms: The righteous and the unrighteous, the godly and the ungodly, those who walked uprightly and those who practised wrong, those who did evil and those who eschewed evil, those who were obeying God and those who were disobeying him, those who were lining up with his instructions and those who were walking in a state of rebellion.
Then it hit me: People often say to claim the promises of God over your life, as stated in his Word. In the book of Psalms in particular, they love to refer to the verses there that speak of blessing and prosperity and protection and defence and safety and of a truth, there are definitely several scriptures within the book of Psalms that attest to the blessings of God and that give guarantees of such blessings to those that walk uprightly… but therein lies the problem.
Every person that considers himself to be a Christian, places reliance on these ‘guarantees’ of God’s blessings (I prefer to call them ‘guarantees’ of God’s blessings, than ‘promises’). However, if you read the book of Psalms and I mean, REALLY read the book of Psalms, you will quickly realize, that not every Christian qualifies to benefit from those guarantees.
What am I saying?
I am saying this: The guarantees of God’s blessings ARE ONLY FOR THOSE THAT WALK UPRIGHTLY. In other words, for a person to qualify for and partake of or benefit from these guarantees, he MUST be doing right/walking uprightly. That is, he must be a godly man, which at its most basic means (and in Old Testament times meant) one that hates and avoids the things that God hates and loves and practices the things that God loves.
That means then, that just saying or declaring the ‘promises’ over your life is not some magic formula that once said, releases blessings. Such ‘promises’ (which are really guarantees of God’s blessings) would be to no avail if you are not doing what is right, have not repented, asked for forgiveness and FORSAKEN the wrong things that you have done and have been doing.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not talking about salvation here. We do not have to do anything to earn salvation. Salvation comes freely through our faith in and acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Saviour and nothing else.
However, if professors of Christianity and even genuine Christians want to claim the guarantees of God’s blessings (especially those referred to in the book of Psalms) and want to see those blessings manifested in their lives, then there are no two ways about it: They MUST do right and adopt a lifestyle of doing right.
Adopting a lifestyle of doing right does not mean you never mess up and do wrong but it means that you usually do right and that when you do wrong, you are highly sensitive to the wrong that you have done and you go to God quick and confess it in repentance. That is why I believe, David, who did wrong in his lifetime, was described by God as a man after his own heart. He had a genuine desire to please and obey God, to walk uprightly and he was genuinely sorrowful whenever he failed to do so. He genuinely hated sin and whatever God hated (although there were times when he succumbed to it) and he genuinely loved righteousness.
The very book of Psalms makes a distinction between those that have a lifestyle of doing right and those that have a lifestyle of doing the things that God hates. Those that practice right are given the assurance of the many blessings stated therein. Those that do evil or practice wrong are guaranteed curses and punishment over their lives.
One cannot therefore say, presumptuously, “Well, I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a Christian, I am clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, so even if I don’t do right and I practice what God hates, I can still partake of the guarantees/promises given in the book of Psalms because I am a child of God.”
This may be exactly why some persons that say that they are Christians, have been ‘claiming the promises’ for years but are yet to see them demonstrated or manifested in their lives.
Of course there are those who have a lifestyle of walking uprightly, who have claimed and are yet to see the manifestation of same. However, such cases are rare. God is usually waiting on us to get our acts together. Where such people exist though, in that they are living right and believing on God’s promises but still waiting to see them manifest in their lives, it is either because God has a perfect timing in which to grant them the blessing or it is not his will to do so. In such cases, he will those persons the patience to wait or the grace to do without whatever they are desiring to have.
In other cases though (and this is usually the case), God wants to give us what we are asking for (provided it is a good request) but there are areas in our lives where we are not walking uprightly and he has decided not to do so, UNTIL we forsake these ways and practices. In short, even if you are a Christian, to partake of his blessings, you must repent where you are not walking as God has instructed you to walk, you must change and you must put off wrong behaviours, attitudes, thoughts and actions.
When Christians are rebellious and practice wrong, it is clear from the Psalms that God may not even hear their prayers, a necessary precursor to many of the blessings they hope to get, being bestowed.
When God revealed this to me, I had to examine my own self and practices. Deep down, as people who have professed Christ, we know what God wants us to do, know that he requires obedience in our walk and know that he hates evil. Yet somehow, we take our disobedience for granted and think that we are still qualified as ‘Christians’ to partake of the blessings that flow from obedience.
For example, God says to stop gossiping or speaking ill of that person and we continue. God says to submit to authority and we rebel, feeling justified because they provoked us first. God says to let go of malice and to stop sowing seeds of discord and contention and instead, we get on the phone with a friend or get some people in a corner and do just that.
God says to forgive from our heart, yet we harbour resentment within, waiting for the perfect opportunity, sometimes years later, to lash out at that person when they are down, so that we can settle that score. God says to be kind to others yet we just don’t like that sister or brother for whatever reason and whenever they are down, we secretly delight wickedly in our hearts, making him or her the subject of our conversation with our family members and friends, under the guise of piousness, of course.
God says that our speech should be circumspect, yet we say whatever we please and then go to God at Church services and praise him, from the very same mouth.
God says to get rid of our pride, self-righteousness and love of praise, self-glorification and attention. Yet we hold on for dear life. He says to stop trying to control every one and everything and humble ourselves under his mighty hand so he can exalt us in due season, yet we love having the preeminence over others and to have them do exactly as we want them to do and so we continue.
God says to separate ourselves from that unholy alliance, be it a romantic interest, a lucrative job or an opportunity involving partnering to some extent with an ungodly family member that we love dearly but we pretend we don’t hear and do like Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, foolishly did, clinging to these things and people, in love (1 Kings 11:1-2 KJV).
God says to get up and get busy working for HIS Kingdom but we continue to sit down, doing a little here and there but focusing mainly on our own business, our own jobs, our own lives and our own affairs.
This may sound harsh but some of us need to stop asking God for a spouse, stop asking God for a baby, stop asking God for a good job or more finances or good health or safety or protection or revival or whatever else that is good that we are asking him for, UNTIL and UNLESS we examine our hearts, repent and do what is right by God’s standards.
As I said before and I will reiterate, this has absolutely nothing to do with the issue of salvation. You are saved and a bona-fide child of God, once you genuinely give your heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ and believe on him but there are blessings we hope to attract in this life, that do not come automatically, once we have accepted Christ. We MUST obey. There is no mincing words here. It is either you are walking uprightly or not.
God is not mocked. His Word says that whatsoever you sow, it is ‘guaranteed’ that you are going to reap it. God also says in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways; THEN will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Walking uprightly means putting away everything and every habit that God HATES. No, it is not just a little bit of gossip. It is a wrong practice that God HATES. No, it is not just a little white lie. It is something that God HATES. No, it is not just a little bit of jealousy or non-forgiveness or bitterness or malice or hatred. It is something that God HATES. No, it is not just a little bit of boasting or pride. It is something that God HATES. No, it is not just a little bit of selfishness or manipulation or contention or money-loving. It is something that God HATES.
I know you like meeting with friends and family on the phone or wherever else and dishing on or giving your opinion on the business of others, even enjoying the fact that those you dislike are having trouble or are down and out BUT it is something that God HATES.
I know you like to meddle in the affairs of others and hearing bad news about others because somehow, it brings you a false sense of comfort with all that you yourself are going through BUT it is something that God HATES.
I know you like holding on to that little bit of resentment at what he or she did to you. It was very painful and I agree, very unfair and you feel justified in holding on to it and telling everybody what he or she did to you BUT it is something that God HATES.
I know you like to make people feel miserable and to throw a little insult (not constructive criticism) that is calculated to hurt, here and there and sometimes very subtly BUT it is something that God HATES.
I know you just can’t stand that person because they always appear to be too confident, too happy, too slim, too tall, too successful, too positive, too loved and are achieving too much in life while you are experiencing difficulty after difficulty. BUT it is something that God HATES.
I know he or she did you nothing that you can put your finger on but there is something in your blood that just doesn’t like him or her BUT the blood of Jesus was shed for that person and how you feel is something that God HATES!
Let’s face it: The flesh likes a whole lot of things that God hates. Whatever God hates is the opposite of upright. It is wicked, evil, wrong and iniquity. He cannot bless that.
Then there are those that have the audacity to say, “But look at him or look at her. They practice those things too and look, they are being blessed.”
First of all, not because things seem nice and rosy with someone, does it mean that God blessed them and secondly, do you really want to go down that road with God? What is it that you are really saying? Are you saying that he HAS to bless you although you love your wrong and practice disobedience because in your view, he ‘blessed’ others?
I personally think that that is a foolish and very dangerous way to reason and God can do whatever he wants to do because he is God. It is said in the scriptures that he will be merciful to whomever he decides to be merciful to. You are not guaranteed mercy if you continue in wrongdoing, enjoy it and make no effort to forsake it.
Yes this is a painful truth. It was for me too when God opened my eyes to see how many wrong practices I was engaged in on a regular basis and yet was approaching his throne asking to be blessed with this and with that.
Make no mistake: God wants to bless his children. However, we cannot exploit his goodness. We have to put away the wrong things we love to do and line up with his instructions before we become qualified to receive some of these things that we have been praying long and hard for.
We can’t do it to manipulate him either. So you can’t try it out for a few days, weeks or months and hope to fool God into granting you your request. You have to want to put it away, permanently, even if he decided to take years before he granted you a much desired blessing or never at all.
If you love gossiping, tale bearing, news-mongering (all mentioned as attracting curses in the book of Proverbs), discussing other people and their business and speaking evil or badly of someone else, for example (as is prevalent in the Churches today), know that this is not an upright practice and it does NOT bring blessing. Put it away!
This was a challenge for me but even if you have to distance yourself from those who practice this evil, then do it! The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:33“… Evil communications corrupt good manners.”
If you are around someone that you realize creates discord, confusion and contention in relationships (maybe not because they want to but they just sort of do), then maybe you need to stop being around such a person. Ask God to open your eyes to see what is really happening or just spend more time with him in prayer and fasting and he will show you the troublemakers in your life. He will also show you how the devil used you (yes you), through what you said and what you should not have said, to create havoc in the lives of others.
Proverbs 22:10 states “Cast out the scorner and contention shall go out, yea, strife and reproach shall cease.”
You don’t need to confront troublemakers or treat them rudely. Continue to love them, treat them kindly and most importantly, pray for them but use wisdom in all of your future interactions, make sure your speech is well salted and circumspect, so that you cannot be used by the devil, to promote disunity and trouble.
(Talking about Proverbs, that is another excellent book if you want to learn of some of the behaviours and practices that please and displease God. It is a book that will highlight many of your evil ways (if there are any) and bring you to your knees in repentance. I talk from experience.)
The long and short of it therefore, is that you need to consider your ways. This should be an ongoing experience where we continuously examine our hearts and lives to determine if we are walking uprightly and doing the things that please God. Don’t examine yourself by the way you feel about you. The Bible states in Proverbs 16:2, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits.”
What that means is that we tend to think of ourselves as really good and nice people and are quick to justify everything we do, even our evil ways. However, when we spend time in God’s Word and we compare ourselves to God’s righteous standards (as defined in the Word), we see the scum in our lives and in our hearts. We feel awful but feeling awful is good, if it leads to repentance. For, when we repent, confess and forsake, we line up and THEN, we become qualified for the blessings to flow.
I remember some years ago, I thought to myself, that I could not think of anything more that I needed to work on in me. I had a habit of spending much time over the years examining myself and where I needed to change but I had come to the point where I had worked on so many things with God’s help, that I felt that there wasn’t really much more to work on.
However, maybe because I have witnessed something called spiritual blindness to self-flaws or blind-spots in other people, including Christians, I asked God in humility, to please continue to reveal to me anything in me, in my behavior, in my conduct, that was displeasing to him and did not line up with his instructions, which I was not yet seeing.
I tell you, God showed me such an avalanche of things that, I had to go back to him, in repentance, asking him to give me strength to change the many bad habits/behaviours I had adopted.
Maybe you should do the same. Ask God to show you you, as he sees you and he will. Then be determined, with his strength, to put off the things you practice, that are displeasing to him.
If you find for example, that you are highly critical of others (which is really something people do to take the focus off of themselves and their own shortcomings), then ask God to change that habit and be determined to rid yourself of it.
God wants to take each Christian to a place where he or she becomes more preoccupied with recognizing and changing his or her flaws, than focusing on the flaws of others. It doesn’t mean that we remain silent and say nothing. We are to edify, rebuke, judge righteous judgment and speak forth God’s truth. However, we must be inward-focused when it comes to aligning ourselves with what is right. We must spend the most time fixing our hearts, which the Bible states is “deceitful above all things” and “desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9 KJV)
Cleaning up your heart (where all your disobedient and rebellious behaviours originate) is tough and requires humility, honesty and determination. You may not feel like doing it because you know it is not going to be easy but every true child of God is supposed to have a genuine desire to please God and to put away evil, ALL evil and the Holy Spirit is there to empower you.
Ultimately, you have to decide if you are satisfied with where you are in life or if you want God to take you higher. Make no mistake, he is the God of promotion and the God of blessings. Absolutely nothing is too hard for him to do and it is never too late to start OBEYING him.
In PART TWO of this Article, I will list the practices of the person that walks uprightly, as defined in the book of Psalms. Perhaps there are some that I missed but it is still a good start.
You can check to determine if, according to the book of Psalms (not me) you are walking uprightly/obediently or not and then make a CHOICE as to what you are going to do about it.
Doing nothing is always an option. If you make the choice to do nothing though, then expect nothing to change in your life.
(Written on 7th May, 2016, added to thereafter)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative or edifying, you may also be interested in reading the following:
- Note 50 – ‘Claiming The Promises Of God – Part 2’
- Note 9 – ‘Do You Need A Change Of Garments?’
- Note 14 – ‘Praying – How To Get A Yes From God’
- Note 62 – ‘Are Some Of God’s Children More Loved and Favoured Than Others?’
- Note 97 – ‘Seven (7) Mindsets That Will Keep You Stuck In The Land Of Sterility’
- Note 118 – ‘Could It Be That You Don’t Like Her Because…’
- Note 148 – ‘Just One Thing May Be Holding You Back’
- Note 149 – ‘Suffering? Bad Attitudes That Will Only Make It Worse’
- Note 152 – ‘Symptoms Of A Person Outside The Favour Of God’
- Note 157 – ‘Cliques – An Enemy Of Unity In The Church’