Monday, April 25, 2016

JEFF'S STORY

(Jeff's Story is my attempt at writing a biography. It is taking shape and is coming along fine. The following is merely its introductory chapters.)


“A great read (as ever). Fascinatingly educational on a country about which I had known nothing… I wish you all the best with this work with its three strands – the personal, the national and the spiritual. Love it!” William Scobie a.k.a., Alexander Tait, (author of Whisky In the Jar; Upon This Rock; The Cup; Mightier Than the Sword).
 
JEFF’S STORY

Introduction

Jefferson Kollie has a story to tell, a true story, a harrowing story. To meet Jefferson is to like him. His smile is warm and his eyes are bright. His manner is friendly and his voice is quiet. Who could guess the hurt this man carries in his heart or the hellfire he’s passed through? His broad shoulders appear capable of carrying the weight of the world. Let us begin by introducing this remarkable man.

I heard about Jeff from one of his workmates. “This man has an amazing story! Someone should write a book,” he said. I was intrigued. I had bumped into Jeff when I was “scouting” for the work’s soccer team. After a hiatus of many years I had rediscovered and had somewhat recaptured the glory of my youth (at age 59) while playing indoor soccer, which is fast and furious, energetic and frenetic when compared to the outdoor version of the game. Anyway, Jeff expressed super-keenness about becoming involved. Of course, and as these things go, because of busyness at work any participation in “the beautiful game” has yet to happen! “O well then Jeff, in the meantime we can always try to write down your story.

A Bit of Background   

I met with Jeff formally and began scribbling down a pile of notes as we chatted. In soft-spoken tones he began telling me his story. I would interrupt and get him to elaborate on certain points. Upon hearing it from the horse’s mouth I became even more intrigued by Jeff’s story (and also the country of Liberia) as I began piecing it all together.

Jefferson has enjoyed breathing the fresh air of freedom since touching down on the red earth of Australia in 2010. He came as a refugee from his native Africa. Drawing his first breath in 1985 in the West African country of Liberia, both whose flag (which was modelled after The Star-spangled Banner) and his name betray Liberia’s connection with the United States of America. “Jefferson” is a tipping-of-the-hat to one of the founding fathers of America and principle author of the Declaration of Independence, viz., Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). Indeed, as per the line in the American National Anthem, “Liberia” means “Land of the Free” in Latin.

“So you’re named after one of the presidents of the United States of America? I love Thomas Jefferson and all that Declaration of Independence stuff!” “So do I,” Jeff replied. I had noticed that his workmates call him by his last name, Kollie. “Which do you prefer,” I enquired, “Kollie or Jefferson?” “Call me Jeff,” he smiled. After Jeff had left I just had to learn more about Liberia.

Let’s paint a bit more background on the canvas of Jeff’s story. The Republic of Liberia declared its independence from American colonisation on 26 July, 1847. However, it was not until during the America Civil War, (on 5 February 1862), that the United States recognised Liberian independence. From 1822 onwards, and particularly from the time of the War Between the States, Jefferson’s old country began to receive an influx of over fifteen thousand freeborn Black Americans and over three thousand Afro-Caribbeans[1], and also freed slaves. Thus the American influences on Liberia, which included Republicanism and the freedom ideal.

In a letter to James Monroe (1758-1831) Jefferson’s namesake once said,

But it proves more forcibly the necessity of obliging every citizen to be a soldier; this was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state. Where there is no oppressor there will be no pauper hirelings[2]

It seems as if Jefferson has acted upon this free advice of the third President of the United States of America to her fifth president, becoming a private in the Australian Army in February 2015. Jefferson wears his uniform proudly. I saw him marching through Brisbane with his battalion on ANZAC Day.

Annual Patriotism

There is one day of each year when Australians become ultra-patriotic flag-wavers, i.e., ANZAC Day. Apart from that one special day, as a general rule, Aussies tend be somewhat more reserved than, say, the Americans when it comes to visibly expressing love for country.

In some ways migrants, such as Jefferson, can become more patriotic than native born Australians. No doubt this may be because most native born Australians know nothing other than the peace and freedom Australia has afforded them. This creates a tendency to take these things for granted. Whereas the migrant, knowing what he or she has given up and left behind, fully embraces and appreciates the protection and freedom Australia affords them. This in turn gives an added incentive for them to thrive and to prosper as they forge a new life in their new country. But, Jefferson is not just any-old migrant. He is a refugee. He fled to Australia for safety from murderous pursuers…

Fighting For What?

I used to cynically believe that many Australian soldiers fight for the two Ms, viz., money and medals. It seems I need to add a third and more important M to my list, viz., mates. It seems to me that mates are more worthy of fighting for than money and medals.

Jefferson has become a soldier in an army that fights for peace, viz., the Australian Army. One Australian Army General (ret.) wrote a book in which he relates his war experiences and his own subsequent suffering of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Major General John Cantwell stated therein that,

Australian soldiers do not fight for lofty ideals of democracy or freedom. Australian soldiers, it has been said many times and with great truth, fight for their mates.[3]

Though Jefferson no doubt loves his mates, and would zealously fight for them, to the contrary, Jefferson Kollie wanted to sign-up with the Australian Army primarily to fight for the lofty ideals of democracy and freedom. He originally wanted to join as an Infantryman but colour-blindness precluded his fulfilling this ambition. He signed-up on 10 February, 2015. This young man who speaks English with an African accent Рand, while living in Ghana, learnt to speak Ga, Twi and Hausa, and also who understands Kru, Ewé and Fante Рis currently employed as a Storeman, and drives forklifts both great and small.

Thank you for bearing with Jeff’s story thus far. We were about to part company when, thinking of the trauma he must have gone through, I asked him how all of his past had affected him. There was pain etched on windows of his soul. But as a small cloud blows past the face of the sun so his eyes brightened and a wide smile lit up the room. “I’m fine!”

Resilience

Before we enter with him into the valley of the shadow of death Jeff would like you to know (“spoiler alert!”) that his story has a happy ending of sorts – lest he leave you traumatised!

First off, you need to know that Jefferson is unashamedly Christian, (as is his biographer). Indeed, like every good fairytale, Jefferson is now as it were living happily ever after with beautiful wife, and their three lovely children. His wife is originally from Liberia too, but they met in the humble circumstances of living in a refugee camp in Ghana where they subsequently got married. However, just as every good fairytale contains its share of make-believe evil witches and malevolent goblins, so Jefferson’s story describes battles against the evil forces of darkness, only, unlike fairytales, this is in the real world. As Scripture says,

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.[4]

 

Jeff and his family currently attend a church in Brisbane.

During the day sometimes Jefferson is attacked in a surprise ambush by the odd flashback of past traumatic events, and, in bed the occasional nightmare gallops roughshod echoing through the dark alleys of his mind. There is always something panting behind Jefferson, something that darts off into the shadows whenever he turns around to confront it. For one who has experienced trauma stacked upon trauma Jefferson has been remarkably resilient, (a quality the Australian Army craves). When it comes to resilience Jefferson, by the grace of God, is one of the fortunate ones, as General Cantwell writes,

Not everyone who experiences the traumas of war will develop PTSD, but in some people, especially if the trauma is intense, the horror and fear can become imprinted in the memory. This is a natural process; it’s okay not to feel okay.[5]

Thank God Jefferson is safe now and he is feeling okay.


[1] “African-Caribbean” is a term used in Britain.
[2] Thomas Jefferson, in an 1813 letter to James Monroe
[3] Major General John Cantwell, Exit Wounds: One Man’s War of Terror, Melbourne University Publishing, Kindle version 2013.
[4] The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians 6:12 (KJV).
[5] Major General John Cantwell, Exit Wounds: One Man’s War of Terror, Melbourne University Publishing, Kindle version, 2013.
 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Rats of Tobruk 2016

The Rats of Tobruk Annual Luncheon 2016
75th Anniversary of the Siege of Tobruk
 
I read somewhere that,

All that stopped the Germans’ march on Egypt was the defiant garrison at Tobruk. For eight long months, surrounded by German and Italian forces, the men of the Tobruk garrison, mostly Australians, withstood tank attacks, artillery barrages, and daily bombings. They endured the desert’s searing heat, the bitterly cold nights, and hellish dust storms. They lived in dug-outs, caves and crevasses.

As you know, the “Rats” were called ‘rats” by the Germans because “They lived in [those] dug-outs, caves and crevasses.” I don’t know how true it is but it has been said that there are no atheists in foxholes, or, in our case in point, “rat-holes”! Regardless, I’m sure that many prayers, even fervent prayers would’ve been sent up to God from those dugouts, caves and crevasses seventy five years ago during the eight months’ siege of Tobruk! – prayers for personal safety, for mates, for families and loved-ones and prayers for peace.

When you think about it, countless prayers have gone up over the centuries seeking for God to bring about peace among the nations so that we can all live in safety. The so called Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” Those are the words Jesus taught His disciples to pray. Those are the words we have just prayed. Therefore, it is the promise of God that there will be a time of world peace, for God cannot break His Word!

We already heard that “[God] shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

This is the Word of the LORD through His prophet Isaiah. It says somewhat of the same thing as Jesus teaches us in The Lord’s Prayer only using different words: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – an extension of this surely is that “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

To be sure, swords and spears have long given way to more sophisticated instruments of war. It may be true that there are only so many ways you can skin a cat but it seems that they’re always finding new ways how to kill human beings!  Even in the seventy five years since the Siege of Tobruk there has been a significant improvement (if we can call it that) in the efficiency of killing-devices. However, the point remains the same: There is a time coming, and I don’t know when, but there is a time coming when our prayers for peace will be fully answered.

Swords and spears, guns and grenades, bayonet’s and bombs, machineguns and missiles, tanks and torpedos, bombers and battleships, will all be assigned to the great scrapheap of history,  for “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

The Rats of Tobruk at the Siege of Tobruk did their part in defeating an enemy of peace seventy five years ago. To those Rats living and dead we say a grateful thank you! To those who lost their lives at Tobruk Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus ought to know the truth of these words!

Freedom never comes for free. There’s always a price to pay. Let us never forget those who paid the ultimate price in purchasing us the freedom we still enjoy, freedom to come and go as we please, freedom to disagree with our government without being taken away in the middle of the night. Freedom comes in many forms, national and individual, but The Rats of Tobruk helped to purchase our freedom to raise our families under the Southern Cross in our home that is girt by sea.

As we hear the kookaburra laugh on the old gumtree,
As we camp by a billabong in the “lucky country”
As we stroll in the city or we swim in the sea,
Let us never forget those who died to keep us free!

Friday, April 8, 2016

THE WAY WE WERE


The Way We Were

At my ‘farewell do’ back in 1977, as I was saying ‘cheerio’ to Scotland and about to say ‘hi’ to Canada, my sister beautifully sang a popular song, ‘The Way We Were’ – ‘Memories, light the corners of my mind, misty water-coloured memories of the way we were. Scattered pictures, of the smiles we left behind, smiles we gave to one another, for the way we were’ (Barbra Streisand). For years afterwards whenever I heard that song tears of homesickness would freshly bubble up like a hillside spring after heavy rain. Yes, the way we were – I was a slightly melancholic young man heading to the ‘New World’ to start a new life.

Like a Manitoban prairie thunderstorm the ominous dark clouds of depression finally caught up with me and broke on my head some ten years later. I began to drown in a paradox of self-loathing mixed with self-pity. Who am I? What am I? Where am I? What does it all mean? I was sinking deeper into the whirlpool of the abyss. It was then that God rescued me, dragging me onto solid ground, giving me mouth to mouth, breathing new life into me and purging me of all the dirty water I had swallowed.

This year I will be returning to Scotland to celebrate my 60th at a function hall a stone’s throw from where my friends and family farewelled me almost forty years ago. It will be the first time I’ve caught up with a lot of them since then. No doubt there will be some reminiscing about the way we were. How much have I and they changed? Age has dyed my jet black hair light grey. Gravity has sculpted a few lines into the clay of my face giving me a more tired look. So much for my aging body. However, the main changes have been internal. My mind has been renewed. My soul has been restored.

Now I have a completely different relationship with Jesus Christ. I no longer use His name as a curse word. I freely speak of Him with praise. Some of my old friends may be embarrassed to hear me talk about Jesus, just as I was back in the day whenever anyone else would gush about Him. I remember being embarrassed for Cliff Richard whenever he spoke of Jesus as his Saviour on the TV back in the 70s. The way we were and the way we are now. For me it’s defined in terms of pre-conversion and post-conversion.

A Scottish friend of mine moved to New York City for a year. She was homesick. One of her aunts began to email her just one word every Sunday. My friend began to look forward to receiving a word each Sunday. It was her connection with home. She looked forward to Sundays. As I read her recollection of that time I began to be reminded of my life at present: As a church-attending Christian, I receive a word from home every Sunday – in the form of a sermon. It is my connection with my true home. Of course, I fill up from the nosebag of God’s Word every morning, but I really look forward to hearing His Word every Sunday.

Things change. People change. I’ve changed. However, God and His Word remain the same. ‘Memories may be beautiful and yet, what’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget, so it’s the laughter we will remember, whenever we remember the way we were.’

I look to the future; ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away’ Revelation 21:4.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

DONALD TRUMP: Explaining the Phenomenom


Donald Trump is hard to define. Presently he is constantly being attacked left, right and centre but he’s still standing. Why? Well, for a start, the attacks are making him stronger! (not least of all in the eyes of his supporters). It’s like a martial-arts’ expert using his opponent’s force of momentum to his own advantage. Obviously this would be a great quality for any president to have! Resilience. Trump seems to sap his critics of their power. Nay, they are actually feeding power into The Donald’s power-grid! How so?
The West has two lethal enemies working hand in hand at the moment, viz., Islamic terrorism and Political Correctness. The latter means that the Left (primarily) does not allow you even to talk about the former. It’s just “terrorism”. Talk about the blind leading the blind, whether the terrorism is Presbyterian or Islamist is neither here nor there for those who religiously follow the false religion of Political Correctness. One is left to wonder where there are Presbyterians walking around with bomb-vests that we need to be watching out for! Ludicrous! The PC extremists simply spray with vitriol anyone who tries to talk about the-elephant-in-the-room. This insanity is exactly what is feeding energy into the Trump power-grid.
The Left along with the so-called “Establishment Republicans” attack him with the same failed and hackneyed tactics of trying to paint him as some sort of Racist, Islamophobic Misogynist. Talk about “the boy who cried ‘wolf’”? Surely the Trump opponents are not unaware that this just strengthens and adds to Trump’s vast following? This is exactly what the Trump movement is reacting against. For this kind of attempt at ad hominem character assassination through demonization is the application of Political Correctness. Confused? Let me explain further.
 
Politicians use “guarded speech” and "careful language", which is to say that they end up saying nothing of substance by using Political Correctness to avoid attack from political opponents, also including the media. Donald Trump does the opposite of this. He talks like a “normal’ human being would talk about “normal” issues facing the world today, e.g., Islamic Terrorism; Border Control and the interrelation of these to each other among other things. The Left wishes to red-paint him as Islamophobic and Racist etc. and the so-called “Establishment Republicans” portray him as “un-presidential”. They condescendingly wish for Trump to become more “presidential”. However, what the Trump supporters hear the “Establishment” saying by these actions is that Trump needs to become more Politically Correct – with its attendant guarded speech where no one really knows what you are saying exactly). However, they all forget that in the age of the Internet anyone can replay what Trump actually said and not what the Left wants you to think he said. Yes, and Trump’s following can be bothered looking these things up on the Web!) Thus the Trump numbers keep on being added to and his opponents are left wearing the emperor’s new clothes.
The Trump phenomenon is a movement against controlled-thought commonly known as Political Correctness. To his followers Trump represents the removal of that which has shackled free speech in America and indeed the rest of the West for far too long.
Trump politics is an uprising against Political Correctness. The more the Left and “establishment Republicans” use it to try to stop him, the more power they give to Donald Trump and his vast army of believers.
Even if Donald Trump fails to become the next president of the United States of America his run for office will be seen as the beginning of the downfall of that which has caused the West (i.e., Political Correctness) to expose a soft underbelly to all enemies of individual freedom, be they Islamist, Socialist (and its attendant spooky spectre, i.e.,Communism).

Friday, April 1, 2016

ABRAHAM: FOLOWING OUR FAITHFUL FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS


FOLOWING OUR FAITHFUL FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS
 
"I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward" Genesis 15:1

Introduction

In the following we are going to be looking at how God developed Abraham’s faith in Him. We should be mindful that Abraham didn’t become a pillar of faith one morning when he woke up! It was God who shaped and sculpted his faith, the same way He patiently moulds and conforms ours. God takes a lump of dirty old clay, which is you and me, and throughout our lives He gently carves it into a model of His Son. As He did for Abraham so He does for us: God develops our faith.

We’ll see that God develops our faith patiently. He is patient with us because His understanding is so far above ours that we can never learn everything all at once. And because our understanding of God, as individuals, is so sadly lacking we need to listen to what God is saying with extreme care.

God’s Patience

How does God develop an individual believer’s faith? Well, He does it with Godly patience. We see something of God’s love and patience by the way He approaches His children. We never hear Him say to us, “Look! I’ve told you once and I won’t tell you again.” No. He is patient with all of His children. He bends over backwards to demonstrate His trustworthiness. If we can’t trust the One who made us to look after us, then we can trust no one.

God reassures His children just as he reassured Abraham. One way He reassures us of His faithfulness is by His Word. All through Scripture we see God make promises. And all through Scripture we see God keep and fulfil His Word. God is always true to His Word. Therefore, we can have faith in Him because He is faithful to His promises. He is reliable. He perseveres.

Our faithful father Abraham trusted the Word of God as it was spoken to Him. As Christians we find great comfort in the written Word of God because, like the Word of God Himself, it is equally dependable. It was written by our God who is faithful.

Abraham lived in a time long before the Bible, the Word of God, was completed. In those days God spoke to His children mainly in voices and in visions. In Genesis 15:1, as we have already seen, we see that, “The Lord came to Abram in a vision.” There’s Abraham, or Abram, as he was known at that time, sitting in his tent, or whatever. He’s probably thinking about the great victory he had just had over the four kings. He might have been thinking about Melchizedec, the mysterious character who had brought him bread and wine, and had blessed him. Melchizedec reminded Abram that it was God the Possessor of heaven and earth who had delivered his enemies into his hand. And Abram had given Melchizedec the priest of God the Most High a tenth of all he had. We see in this deed that Abram put his faith into action.

God says in Malachi 3:10, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house.” When it comes to giving back to God what He has given to us we are invited to test Him to see, says the Lord of Hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing that there will be no room enough to receive it.” The Lord then goes on to say, “All nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land.” The Lord is faithful and His Word is our constant reminder.

However, the Lord is also patient with us as He develops our trust in Him. “Do not be afraid,” The Lord said to Abram. How many times has the Lord said those words to His children? “Do not be afraid Isaac, Do not be afraid Israel, Do not be afraid Moses, Do not be afraid, Joshua, David, Mary, John” or whoever. Who could forget the words spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “‘Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you,’ says the Lord.” Do you get the impression that God is trying to tell us something? We need to learn not to be afraid but to really trust in God for all things. Jesus says that we are to seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to us. “Do not fear little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

As with all of God's children, Abram's faith in the Lord needed to be strengthened and developed. “The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’” When the Lord’s your Shepherd you shall want for nothing! We have everything in Christ Jesus. But for all that, Abram's heart’s desire is to have his own son. He tells the Lord, “Look, you have given me no offspring.” Here, once again, we see the great patience of the Lord. He promises Abram that he will have a son of his own.

It was the Word of God that came to Abram. And it was by His Word that God assured Abram of His blessings. It’s by His Word that God assures all of His children. That He is the Fount of all Blessings. God is the Possessor of heaven and earth. All of creation belongs to Him. All of creation testifies to God’s faithfulness, The sun faithfully rises and sets on time because God is faithful.

We have assurance of God’s faithfulness by His Word, but also by His creation. Abram wanted God’s assurance that he would have a son. “Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall you descendants be’” Genesis 15:5. The One who is the Possessor of heaven and earth, to paraphrase, says, “Abram, I made all of those stars. Believe Me, you’ll have your son and a whole lot more!”

How many stars can be seen by the naked eye without a telescope, five thousand or more? How many grains of sand are on a beach? More than five thousand? The Word of God elsewhere compares the amount of stars in the sky with the amount of grains of sand on a beach! How could anyone possibly know this before the age of telescopes, even Hubble telescopes? Abraham was unable to number the stars in the sky just as no one can number the grains of sand on a shore. Abraham is the father of the faithful and the faithful are without number! John on the Island of Patmos wrote of his vision, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7:9.

We see that the Lord was patient with Abraham and that His Word is true and dependable. Isn’t it wonderful how the Lord patiently develops the faith of His children?

God’s Promises

God develops our faith patiently because His understanding of things is different to our understanding. God knows that we are fallen, finite and fallible human beings. With our limited knowledge we tend to view everything in human terms and not in God’s terms. In other words, human beings tend to be man-centred and not God centred. God said in Isaiah, “‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9.  Clearly God has a different way of looking at things than you, me and Abraham.

We are never that sure how God will accomplish the things He has promised. We might get the general idea of what God proposes. It’s when we try to figure out how God is going to do such and such a thing that we begin to prove that our ways are not His ways!

Abram perceived a practical problem and focused his attention on it. In fact he was preoccupied with it. “Lord God what will you give me, seeing I go childless?” To paraphrase, “I'm not getting any younger and I want a son so bad!” We know that this was a problem to Abram because of what happened later on with Sarah’s maid Hagar. Abram knew the Lord, and he knew the Lord’s promises. Yet he continued to focus on the thing he wanted most – a child! This is where we can be thankful that God is patient with us because this is where we tend to get side-tracked. We need to realize that our understanding is limited, whereas God has infinite understanding.

We tend to focus on that which directly concerns us, whereas God is unfolding a plan which concerns all of creation. God would have us focus our undivided attention on Him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Yet we take our eyes off of Him whenever we imagine we need something to make our lives more complete. The Lord is everything we need. We are told to, “Be content with such things as you have, for He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” And the Apostle Paul could say, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”

There was nothing wrong with Abram longing for a child, in the sense that it is normal for a married man. The fact is that God has said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” This is all in the context of marriage, of course. Abram’s preoccupation about having a child was causing him to miss the full depth and implication of what the Lord was saying. In other words, Abram was placing too much emphasis on his own ability to produce the offspring that God had promised him. Abram would be thinking, “Lord, You’ve promised to make me the father of a great nation. But don’t we need to hurry things up a little bit? I’m not getting any younger. Look at me, I go childless.”

It was God’s revealed will that Abram have a child, but Abram should have been letting God worry about bringing His will to pass. In this we see how our understanding and God’s understanding differ. We need to understand that God is God. He is not a man like us. He has sovereign control of everything that comes to pass. As the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “With God nothing will be impossible.”

So we see that Abram's faith in God needed further development. However, we also see that God is patient with us. He has a higher understanding. Therefore we need to have faith in Him. We need to trust that He will provide.

God’s Provisions

We need to listen to God with more care because our faith develops the more we understand and experience who God is. Abram was interacting with God. We all need to interact with God, for this is how He develops our faith. As we interact with God we need to listen to Him as he speaks to us by His Spirit with His Word. Why? Because “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”

There are dozens of cults around today all because they are not listening to God! Even in some of the mainline churches people are losing faith in God, because they are not hearing His Word! We can’t expect a person’s faith to develop and grow in strength if that individual does not hear the Word of God. Therefore we must tell our ministers: PREACH THE WORD! If we don't hear the word of God our faith in God, if we have any, remains undeveloped. We need to listen to God carefully. Then we will understand that He doesn’t operate as a man but as God, the Almighty!

Abram was so busy thinking in human terms. So much so that he didn’t seem to quite catch what the Lord was saying. He’s too busy thinking, “Okay Lord, we need to do this and we need to do that. If I'm to be father of a great nation then I need a child. I have a plan! I'll put my plan into action. Then Bingo! –God’s will will be Done!” That smacks of immaturity! That’s running ahead of the Lord. That proves that you haven’t been as attentive to God’s Word as you should have. This is something that we’re all guilty of. But it’s all part of the development of our faith in God.

What we're looking at, by way of an example is how God patiently developed Abraham’s faith in Him. Abraham got his name included among the great pillars of faith, (as listed in Hebrews 11). In Hebrews 11:6 we find these words, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, a rewarder of those who wait on Him – those who listen carefully to Him.

We seek God by trusting Him for who He is. And we discover who He is by carefully listening to Him. When God introduces Himself to you He reveals who He is. If you seek God He won’t come to you and say. “Hi! I'm that warm and fuzzy feeling you’re experiencing.” No, when you diligently seek God He begins to reveal to you who He is. E.g., “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.”

The more you seek Him the more He reveals Himself to you. The more He reveals Himself to you the more He is developing your faith. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Abraham was seeking the Lord. “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” And how does Abram react to this startling revelation from God? “But Abram said…” I think it was the Baptist preacher Spurgeon or somebody who preached a sermon on the word “but” in the Bible! “Yes Lord, You’re my shield, my exceedingly great reward, BUT what about this child you’ve promised me? – I go childless.” In other words, Abram could see no reward greater than that which he at that moment in time desired – a child.

Instead of paying close attention to what the Lord was saying, Abram turned his attention from the Lord and on to himself. He wasn’t quite grasping what the Lord was saying to him, “I [that is Me, God] am your exceedingly great reward!” To paraphrase, “In Me you have everything, Abram. What more do you need? I am your shield, the One who protects you, the One who guards and defends you. Not only do I shield you from your enemies in the physical realm, but I also protect you from your enemies in the spiritual realm. Being your shield means that I am your cover. I am also covering and protecting you with My righteousness. I am clothing you in My righteousness, like a cloak to protect you from you sin. Being your shield means that I have enclosed you, encircled you, as a garden is enclosed, even the Garden of Eden. I am the One who hedges you about. I am the wall which surrounds you. Being your shield also means that I am your deliverer – your Redeemer. I am the shield of faith.”

Scripture says in Proverbs 30:5, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him” And in Proverbs 2:7-8, “He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints.” David says in Psalm 28, “The Lord is my strength and my shield.” Psalm 5:12, “You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favour You will surround him as with a shield.”

“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield. Your exceedingly great reward.’ But Abram said, ‘What will you give me…” “Can’t You see it’s a child I’m needing?”

“I know Abram, I know. Come on outside and we’ll play at counting stars.”

Conclusion

The lord is patient with His children. He patiently develops our faith in Him. He reassures us by His Word, “Don't be afraid, Abram.” And by His creation, “Abram, count the stars I have made if you are able.” He is patient with us because His understanding of things is so high above ours. We are unsure of how God will accomplish His promises, and our tendency is to focus on the perceived problem and not on God. Therefore, we need to listen to God most carefully because our faith develops the more we understand and experience who God is.

The Lord is our shield, our exceedingly great reward. Who could ask for more?