A servant or a Pharisee

At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

Daniel 9:23, 10:9-13

 Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground. And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia…

Today’s double theme: The growth of humility. The creation of a Pharisee.

Unless we grow in humility, we will automatically grow as Pharisees.

When a person gets converted, God teaches him to take possession of God’s work.

This principle applies in the world of work. Employers encourage their employees to take responsibility for their work and not just work for a salary.

A simple example demonstrates this principle: When a cup of tea is made for a guest, someone must fetch the saucer; another the cup; another the teabag; another the milk; and another the sugar. The job is not completed until the guest is drinking the cup of tea.

There are different levels of tea-making: the minimum that can be done is just to fetch the sugar because you have been sent for that. There is an even lower level than that: to forget to fetch the sugar, and because it is not your cup of tea, you do not mind. Therefore when the guest arrives, there is no sugar. The person who was responsible for fetching the sugar simply says that he forgot to fetch it. This is the lowest level of commitment – I have forgotten and the guest cannot have tea.
You can, however, feel more responsibility towards the tea. You can go and fetch the sugar but when you get there, you find there is no sugar. So when the guest arrives, you say that there is no sugar. ‘Did you not fetch the sugar?’

‘Yes, I went to fetch it but there was none.’

‘What did you do to get some?’

‘Sorry, I didn’t think of that. I went there but there was nothing.’

Such a person feels a little more responsibility for his task. However, you can be even more committed. You can be asked to fetch the saucer and you check before the guest arrives if everything is there or do you say, ‘It was my duty to fetch the saucer, I went, so do not complain.’

A person who feels responsibility for the task he has made his own would respond: ‘I have done what I was asked to do and what about the rest of the job?’ If there is no sugar, he will do something about it. He will help even if it is someone else’s duty. Such a person has taken possession of the work. He is not working for the money. He feels responsible. That, however, does not mean that he tells everyone how to do their jobs.

In God’s work it is the same. He teaches us to take responsibility for His Kingdom on earth. God’s word speaks about this in Jeremiah 48:10: “Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness…” Friend, how are you doing the work of the Lord? Have you made it your own? Is it more important to you than your own needs? God has taught people to take possession of His work and be responsible.

God did this with Abraham. He first taught Abraham to trust Him. He tested Abraham to see whether he was devoted to Him when He said, ‘Leave everything and follow Me to a place I will lead you to.’ God needed to see whether Abraham was willing to leave all and trust Him. Once God sees that you are willing to put in everything and follow Him, He tells you to stand back and let go of His work. Have you learnt the first lesson of giving everything for God’s work and assisting in every way possible so that it goes forward? Abraham did that. Then God tested him to see whether he could stand back and let go. ‘For 100 years you trusted Me to give you a son, now I want you to sacrifice him to Me.’ He had taught Abraham for 100 years not to let go of the promise of a son then when he had the son, God said, ‘Stand back and let go. Sacrifice him and give him back to Me.’

God treats us in the same way in different aspects. God may speak to a couple and tell them to get married. Then God challenges them about their commitment – are you married with all your heart?

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… Ephesians 5:5. God teaches people to take responsibility for their marriages. You cannot stand back and be irresponsible, you must take care of your family. God speaks to you and challenges you about your family – But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.1 Timothy 5:8 When you have taken the responsibility, God says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26. God says that He must be first, not your wife and children. They must be on the altar all the time.

You die to yourself when you take possession of God’s Kingdom. You let go of your family and give it back to God. God should be first and not them. The Christian life is therefore a continuous process of dying. You die to yourself when you make His kingdom first. You die again when God says let go and follow me.

Another danger when you are in God’s work is that you take honour for yourself. Even if you do God’s work in the right way, you must die to yourself and let go of it.

Daniel is a graphic demonstration of this principle. He was taken captive to Babylon and enslaved. He served God in an outstanding way. He was placed second in charge of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar owned the civilised world at that time and he said that Daniel’s God was his. You could say that Daniel had completed his work but God took all this away from Daniel when Nebuchadnezzar died because Belshazzar, the next king, did not know Daniel at all. He had to walk with God until God used him to interpret the words written by the hand of a man on the wall. Daniel was about to be honoured by this king for the interpretation of the words but that night the king was killed and Daniel started from the bottom again.

Was it easy for Daniel to continue? He reached a high position and then a new king came into power – Darius. Once again, Daniel took possession of the work he had to do there. He did his work so well that together with three others, he was put in charge of the kingdom. Daniel was an old man by this time but again he took possession of his duties and did them so well. His king, King Darius, loved him more than the other men who worked with him. Their jealousy put Daniel into the lions’ den.

Each time he had to do his work excellently and each time he had to let go when a new king came to power. Each time, he took possession of the work he was given but he had to let it go again so that God was first in his life.

Here is the danger if you do God’s work with all your heart and people get to know you as such: you are respected and honoured by others because you have proven yourself to be faithful. The danger is that you take the praise for yourself. You are unwilling to let go when God says let go. You become proud – a Pharisee – and you think you possess God’s work and you forget that God has called you to be a servant. It is God’s work and it belongs to God. This is what happens in revival. Revival is not where the godless get converted but it is where the proud and Pharisees get converted. This has been the foundation since the beginning. This is the testimony of the founder of this work, Rev E Stegen. He was a preacher for 12 years when God started working. God showed him that he was a sinner and a Pharisee. When the Spirit of God came down, a preacher in the congregation said that he was being cut asunder, because he gossiped about others.

There is the danger that you take hold of the gospel the way you like and you do not realise that you are just a servant. You must realize that you are just a servant and you do not own the work. If you do not do this, at some stage darkness will enter your life. You have taken hold of it but you are unwilling to let go.

God did this with Esther. She was a queen and a Jew. She served God in a foreign country. Then God said that she had to put her head on the block and risk her life in service of the King of kings. ‘You’ve been a Jew, a servant in the king’s court but now you must show how committed you are by being willing to give your life.’

This also happened to Judas. I do not think that he ever took possession of the gospel. He went along with the group and helped himself to the money. He never reached a point where he gave his life to the Lord. When the time came for him to prove it, he denied it. We know what happened.

God also tested Gideon. He found it difficult to put his heart into what God expected Him to do. He asked for all the signs as confirmation. He then heard the dream that one of his enemies had. Gideon had to put his life on the altar. But when God humbled him afterwards, he was unwilling to let go. He made an idol for the people to worship so that he could stay in charge. This is what God exposes in revival. He exposes the Pharisee in a person.

Dr Joe Church, speaking about the East African revival said that revival is like an African bush fire where the snakes and rats have to flee for their lives.

Revival exposes the Pharisee in me and the unwillingness to let go. ‘It’s getting too much – I’ve done my work so many times and God continually takes it from me.’ Darkness, mistrust and jealousy enters and eventually we Christians stand in darkness with our fists clenched, both perplexed and confused. We are baffled and we do not know in which direction things are going. This principle of taking possession and then letting go, keeps us humble. This ensures that we serve God in humility. God can give to me when He likes and if He wants to, He can tell us to stand back – it is not yours, it is Mine. If you keep doing that as you continue with God’s work, you will grow in humility. When God gives it to you, you do it with all your heart but when He takes it away again, do you hold grudges? If you do, you will become self-righteous and a Pharisee.

What does God say of you and me? Have we taken possession of His gospel? Do we feel the responsibility? If God takes it away, are we willing to let go?

What was Daniel’s secret?

And he said to me, “O, Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you and stand up right, for now I have been sent to you.”

And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” Daniel 10: 11,19
Friends, for God to call you and me greatly beloved … Among all these people, this man lived a different life. People around him deserted him or went away but Daniel did not give in. He lived a life of communion with God. In the midst of these worldly kingdoms, these honour-hungry people, Daniel was different. He was in prayer. He was aware of what was happening in the heavenly realm. God sent Gabriel, the most senior angel, to him. God listened to Daniel’s prayer and he said to Daniel three times that he was a man who was greatly loved. Why? Daniel lived to serve the Lord and not people, even during the reigns of these three kings. When Daniel served, no one could point a finger at him because Daniel feared God. Daniel had to let go of many relationships God had given him – people whom he loved, and God listened to his prayer.

Humanly speaking, Daniel was going nowhere. He just got somewhere with Nebuchadnezzar and then the king died. Then the next king came onto the scene and he was killed the moment Daniel was about to be honoured. The third king, Darius ascended the throne, Daniel was honoured and then thrown into the den of lions. But God was listening to his prayers. “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia… In God’s eyes, he was the dearly beloved man of God but humanly, he was going nowhere. Can we be called greatly loved? I long for this. No matter what it may cost, whether God gives me responsibilities or wether He takes them away, I must be sold out to Him.

John Wesley said, Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth.

May God grant that we be willing to take responsibility when we are given it. Give me a child if He wants to and take it away if He wants to. Give me a wife if He wants to and take her away if He wants to. Give me money if He wants to and take it away if He wants to. If I learn these lessons, I will grow in humility. If I am unwilling, darkness will enter and confusion will reign. We must serve when given the command and let go when given the command.