By Femi Aribisala
In Christ, only the last can become first. Only the dead shall be made alive.
Many Christians do not want to go to school. Those inclined to do so would rather all their studies were theoretical. We want to get a degree in French but not know how to speak the language. We want to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering but be unable to change the spark plugs of a car. We eagerly recite scripture but it is clear the word of God has not been made flesh in us.
But the true believer must enroll in the School of the Holy Spirit. He then has to graduate from the University of Hard Knocks. The scriptures say God must be our teacher, for only those who have studied under the Father will come to the Son. (John 6:45). The problem here is that God is a completely different teacher from the average university lecturer. When God gives homework to the believer-student, they are most unpleasant to the flesh. Faced with the God kind of curriculum, many eminent students soon drop out.
Redeemed for all seasons
Some men can only be poor. If they hit the jackpot and become rich they would not be able to handle it. Some can only be rich. If they hit bad times, they will despair for life. Some even commit suicide in the face of adversity. But the man created in Christ Jesus is of much sterner stuff. He can face any situation come what may. He can be rich and he can be poor, without actually experiencing any change in status. He can be abased and he can abound.
The redeemed is a man of many contradictions, but in those contradictions lie the power of God. When he is weak in himself he is nevertheless strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. He has been inoculated from the effects of adversity. He knows the other side of death, which is life. Indeed, he was killed before he was made alive. He has experienced death so now he can live the abundant life, which is life without fear. Unlike Adam and the old creation, he can be blind to his nakedness.
The redeemed is a man of many parts. Although he lives in the body, he also lives in the Spirit. Although he walks in the flesh, he also walks in the Spirit. Unlike the natural man who is only soul and body, he is spirit, soul and body. He is here on earth in the body, but at the same time is seated spiritually in the heavenly places in Christ. For this reason, he has an insight into everything, and that bothers the man of the world who cannot understand him at all. (1 Corinthians 2:15-16).
The redeemed is a man for all seasons, able to enjoy the abundant life without hindrance. He is not subject to situations and circumstances. His welfare has been determined once and for all by the perfected work of Jesus on the cross. Therefore, if he were to win the pools and comes into millions of dollars, his standard of living would not change. He can be whatever God’s providence requires him to be.
Process of salvation
No condition is permanent in life. God’s providence does not provide a steady diet of prosperity or an indefinite dose of adversity. Everything happens in seemingly haphazard fashion. Therefore the School of the Holy Spirit makes sure that the redeemed does not just know how to live in plenty; he must also know how to live in poverty. Conversely, he must not just know poverty; he must also know plenty.
This kingdom dynamic means when God is ready to give a man the godly version of the abundant life, he first impoverishes him. For God, the way up is through the down escalator.
Moses was lavish in presenting God’s promise to the Israelites: “The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountain and hills and springs, that flow out of valleys; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing.” (Deuteronomy 8:7-9).
However, the process was exacting: “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
Last become first
In Christ, only the last can become first. Only the dead shall be made alive. This is because the life Jesus gives is different from the life men are used to living. Unless and until we go for some time in the wilderness without food, we will find it difficult to believe man can actually live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. The abundant life of God is in his word and not in our possessions.
It is the way of God to make poor before he makes rich, and to bring low before he lifts up. (1 Samuel 2:7). In order for us to appreciate true riches, we have to know poverty. Otherwise, we might take riches for granted and abuse it. Or if we were to be rich without being poor first, we might be inconsiderate of the poor out of lack of understanding of their position.
Before God would bless the widow of Zarephath with an unending supply of food through the ministry of Elijah, she was first required to give the prophet the lionshare of her last meal. (1 Kings 17:13). Before the Lord would double all the resources of Job, he first had to lose practically everything. (Job 42:10).
The Holy Spirit schools the redeemed in the University of Life. He takes him through the fire, so that he may know that he cannot be burnt. He takes him through the waters so that he may know that he will not drown. He is made to understand both life and death in order that neither can overwhelm or faze him.
Looking unto Jesus
Some people are killed by death. Others are killed by life. Some are killed by the fear of the present: others by the fear of the future. Some are killed by promotion: others by demotion. But none of these things affects the redeemed. In all these situations he is more than a conqueror because of Jesus’ glorious example.
Adversity and persecution never separated Jesus from the love of the Father. Have you not ever wondered how the king of glory could have lived the life of a servant without having an identity crisis or culture shock? If you think it would be difficult for a man like Moses to adjust from a life in the palace to a life in the wilderness, just think what it must have been like for Jesus to come down from heaven to earth.
It takes a special kind of person to adjust to such overwhelming and dramatic transition. Of such is the redeemed.