I Will Give You the Treasures of Darkness (Tanzania Part IV)

Posted on December 31, 2011


Morning in Nairobi, Kenya

Morning in Nairobi, Kenya

The experience of preparing to go to Africa and my time in Africa was revealing to me that the importance we place on our actions is a misleading one. The motions that we externally go through in this life are less meaningful than our reasons and driving motivation for doing them. It is our attitude and the condition of our heart that moves us to action which is the single most crucial aspect of walking out our faith. God is concerned first and foremost about the condition of our soul more than our vain human attempts to deceive others into believing that we are better than we actually are. Is it not from out of the abundance, the overflow of our heart that the mouth speaks? Doing the right things for the wrong reasons earn us nothing except perhaps the deception of others and their misguided praise.

I am reminded of Jesus’ admonition to remember Lot’s Wife. She heard the message of warning from the angels to leave the city before it was destroyed. She acted upon that knowledge and left the city with her family. She was with people being saved, BUT she looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. What’s up with that? It’s not like she didn’t do anything; she at least made an attempt, she went through the motions, she was with others getting saved but in the end she is lost, turned into a pillar of salt. How different is she from the countless folks who dutifully take their seats in the pews of churches each Sunday morning and go through the motions and the rituals of religion without the understanding the spirit behind the actions? They are hearing the message and with others getting saved yet I can’t help but wonder if their fate will be any different than that of Lot’s wife.

I know that may sound harsh, but let’s remember and consider Lot’s wife. She was out of Sodom, yes, but Sodom was not out of her. The treasures of her heart were still back in Sodom; she valued them more than full obedience to God’s command to leave the city and not look back. She loved the things of Sodom more than she loved the things of God. Jesus warns us, that if you love him, you would obey his commandments. Regrettably, Lot’s wife treasured the things of Sodom more than God. Ask yourself, where are your treasures? Because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

For me to go to Africa without a changed heart would have accomplished nothing of significance, regardless if I went through all the proper motions and deceive men and myself. I am reminded of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus tells him to obey the commandments. The young man responds, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”

“Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.”

You see the man was going through all the right motions. He was very religious and to his fellow men, he appeared to have it all together, but internally, there was something wrong with his heart. He cherished the things of this world over true obedience to God. To all external appearances he looked holy but like Lot’s Wife, his heart was not out of this world. He trusted more in his wealth than in his God to provide for him. He may have had the appearance of serving God, but the world wasn’t out of him. It still controlled his heart and he served it first and foremost; but we were warned that you can’t serve two masters.

In the eyes of a child

In the eyes of a child

Going on a mission trip seems like a godly Christian thing to do, but I knew in my heart that unless I was going for the right reasons and with the right heart condition, it was not going to end well. God is so faithful when you finally turn to Him. It’s amazing how much insight and awareness the spirit brings to you, when you begin to schedule in quiet time, to pray and reflect upon what is truly important.

It is easy for us who live in the Western World to buy into the lie that we are doing such a great thing when we donate our time to travel to a country like Tanzania and help locals. Don’t misunderstand me, I think it is a worthwhile thing to do; but don’t let it go to your head. Pride is the killer of all things spiritual. In the back of my mind, I would catch stray prideful thoughts telling me what a good thing it was that I was doing and how valuable it was for me to share my knowledge and experience with my brothers and sisters in Mwanza. The reality is upon later reflection whatever benefit I might have been used to have on the people in Mwanza, it was dwarfed by the impact that they and this experience had on me. I will talk about additional specifics in the upcoming days.

That’s another one of the paradoxes of life, which Jesus speaks of. The more that one serves others and gives of oneself, the more blessed that they become. The one who desires to be the greatest in the kingdom must become the slave of all. Jesus was our example of the ideal leadership style, Servant Leadership. I believe that long before I actually set foot in Africa, God was working through my circumstances to help establish within me a servant’s heart. I wasn’t always helping in the process but God continually strives with us to mold our hearts into the heart of Christ. It would be so much easier if we did not struggle against the work being done, but such is our nature. We like to be in charge and steering the ship and much harder for us to give up control. I was learning that if we want to grow in spiritual maturity and broaden our impact on the kingdom, then we need to let someone else steer the ship and trust that things will work out well, even without us in constant control.

The Holy Ghost Revival Church

The Holy Ghost Revival Church

The short term mission trip to Africa was already starting to test the condition of my heart. We are creatures of habit and don’t take easily to calls to change our way of thinking and dealing with others. Whatever delusions that I might have had about the purpose of this trip being about using me to aid my brothers and sisters in Christ in Mwanza, God had other plans. I was about to discover that His purposes run much deeper and richer than my finite mind imagined. It was part of His plan to not only restore a right relationship between him and I, but also to re-establish me as someone that He could begin using again to advance His Kingdom on this earth. It was not going to be a quick ride to the top for me. Like Jesus training his disciples to become leaders, he knew that they first needed to learn how to be followers.

I had been a leader in the church for awhile, but had willingly walked away from it. The process of restoration to leadership was going to take some time. I would first need to relearn what it was to be a follower but in the process, God was going to establish Himself as the one in control and doing so by continuing to resurrect the original vision and meet me at each step in the process. There were times in the recent past when I had given up on the idea that God could ever use me again and yet God had other plans for me. His ways, thankfully are not our ways and He was going to show that to me in Africa, if I could humble myself and give up the notion that I was in control.

To be continued…