A Need for Spiritual Strengthening
Isolated from ecclesias and mixing daily with those of different faiths, holding on to the Truth became very difficult.
The conflict in Cameroon in west-central Africa has forced brothers and sisters to take refuge in the bush as fighting continues in towns and villages. The following is taken from a longer piece, written by Bro. Emmanuel Wachong Kum, who labored to provide spiritual support to ecclesias that have not only faced physical hardship, but also challenges to their understanding of God’s word. Given the awful trials they endured, some brothers and sisters had become weakened in their faith and distracted from the Truth by those who teach the existence of a malevolent devil, a Satan who is blamed for their suffering.1
Isolated from ecclesias and mixing daily with those of different faiths, holding on to the Truth became very difficult. Basic doctrines were challenged, sometimes overtly. Witnessing to others became weak. Material prosperity was preferred over the Truth. Disloyalty and selfishness grew from living under the pressure of such long-term conflict. As Jesus said, “the love of many will grow cold.” (Matt 24:12).2
The brothers and sisters gathered together, as a mother hen gathers her chicks in the same neighborhood, in the bushes where they were taking refuge. After an appeal was made, and brothers and sisters worldwide supported them with sheets of corrugated iron with which they made semi-permanent shelters. Physically, they were safe, if not comfortable. In this common ground the seeds of rebuilding their ultimate trust in God were sown. It was made known to them that time will see the ultimate resolution of all the traumas which now afflict God’s children. At the moment there are challenges to our safety and our faith.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor 13:12).
The brothers and sisters gathered together in the bushes where they were taking refuge.
Therefore, during Bible talks as well as exhortations, I regularly called on my brothers and sisters under the severe effects of the crisis, to remember how easy it was to be like the Jews at the time of Christ. They appeared to have a great zeal for God’s word. They trusted the Old Testament writings as being inspired (John 5:45). They believed that by studying these Scriptures, they could have hope of eternal life (John 5:39). Every week they publicly read them (Acts 15:21).
New Testament Examples
Some of the Jews around Jesus closely studied these passages. However, they totally failed to grasp the real significance of these Scriptures. They failed to see how they pointed forward to Christ. Jesus told them plainly:
We can imagine the Jews’ indignation: “But we read the Bible! We do believe it!” But, because of their closed minds, truly they did not. They read, but they did not understand. They looked, but they did not see. There are truly none so blind as those who do not want to see. At all stages in our spiritual development, we must be on our guard against false teachers.
Another example used was of the people at Berea, who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11). For there to be a true response to the Gospel, there must be a mind sensitive to the Word, truly desiring to search the Scriptures on a personal level. This is something the preacher of the Gospel cannot necessarily bring about. We can only draw attention to the relevant Bible passages and pray our listeners are like the believers in Rome who were “obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching.” (Rom 6:17).
We will never understand what we do not want to.
Those who stubbornly persist in the ways of the flesh will never be able to grasp the true message of the Gospel properly. They will end up “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” and “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim 3:5, 7). We will never understand what we do not want to. If we have no real love of righteousness, no true desire to bring our lives under God’s control, we will never be able to “arrive at a knowledge of the truth” despite all our Bible reading.
A Recipe for Self-Evaluation of Faith
After several tours in four different ecclesias, I realized how much the sheep needed to be tended and the flock needed to be fed. To do this, I gave every ecclesia a method for self-evaluation, ten ways to know whether you are hot, lukewarm or cold in the Gospel.
- You find yourself in a disagreeable and hypercritical mood.
- You begin to isolate yourself from meetings.
- You begin to agitate against proposals for Bible study.
- You begin to lack the virility to develop a more vigorous attitude of faith.
- You allow domestic or business problems to divert you from ecclesial responsibilities.
- You don’t enthusiastically support the proclamation of the gospel.
- You have no desire to remember God and have no will to pay heed to His wishes.
- You have no interest in Bible reading and no desire to pray.
- Sunday meetings and Breaking of Bread services are not attractive.
- Your labor for the Truth is no longer a yearning.
If this is true for you, then you might rightfully conclude your first principle doctrines have been significantly impacted by this fleshly world. Your faith is in jeopardy, and love and hope in God’s ways and promises are at risk.
But All Is Not Lost
With God as our Almighty and gracious Father, all is not lost. As an answer to the sorry state described above, we need the proper intake of spiritual food. Jeremiah declared, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.” (Jer 15:16). David wrote, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psa 119:103).
The writer to the Hebrews warned against too light of a diet.
But love for the Truth should not preclude our love for our fellows. I warned the brothers and sisters they must not be like the ecclesia in Ephesus and “abandon the love they had at first.” (Rev 2:1-4). The ecclesia in Ephesus would not “bear with those who are evil,” but their defense against “those who call themselves apostles and are not” had been done without agape love. If we are no longer motivated by love, the defense of the faith and our labor for Christ becomes meaningless. As Paul wrote,
As a matter of prime importance, our enthusiasm for the Truth has to be aroused so together, as a group of believers motivated by love, faith, and hope, we can search and read the Scriptures and discover the hidden treasures in the Word to strengthen faith and love.
The True Hope
The focus of the true Christian hope is the coming Kingdom of God on earth. The Lord’s prayer shows this, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10). At Christ’s return, “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” (Rev 11:15) Then God’s will and desire will be completely and openly performed in this earth.
Our Father in heaven takes the responsibility for the crisis that is continuing in Cameroon. He wants His almightiness to be known by people who still think that He has another rival in the affairs of the world which He created. He overtly says, “I make well-being and create calamity.” (Isa 45:5-7) Isn’t this proof enough to show that God’s purpose is to be made manifest in our lives?
During this crisis period, more than 45 men and women in the Benakuma area came to the understanding of the world, that its false religions are “vanity upon vanity” and that a devil or Satan does not bring about the troubles of men, but by man, or even by God himself (Job 42:11-12). They were baptized, and we are encouraging each other awaiting the establishment of God’s Kingdom on the earth.
Emmanuel Wachong Kum, Cameroon
and Steve Jeffries, UK