“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8)
These last several months in Haiti have been the most physically demanding up to this point in Charis’ history. We hiked many miles up mountains every week. We rode motorcycles through treacherous and overly-difficult terrain, often in rainstorms. We ate the same food, day in and day out. We contracted illness without adequate or quality medication. We were dehydrated due to extreme heat and humidity, etc. My body and health have definitely taken a hit from this lifestyle. I can honestly say, I would not be doing this if it wasn’t for the call that God has placed on my life. Through God's grace, I continue to experience increasing clarity and affirmation the longer I endure and obey while in Haiti. God is showing me that the Christian life can be represented in a triangular arrangement, with each of the three sides dependent on the others for growth, advancement, reinforcement and continuity, all within the confines of sanctification. The three points of this triangle are: obedience, suffering, and harvest.
The point that sets everything in motion within this ‘sanctification triangle’ is obedience, and this is the only part of the triangle that is completely dependent on our free will.
Obedience is the foundation
Obedience lies at the foundation of this discussion because, without obedience to both God’s Word and the voice of the Holy Spirit, we will find ourselves hopelessly floundering within futile attempts to prove our worth to God as we remain well outside of the Divine confines of His will for us. This is senseless and possibly dangerous. Obedience, by definition, requires knowledge of what one is supposed to obey. I know that this sounds ridiculously intuitive, but with great sadness I say that many Christians today live in willing ignorance of Scripture, as Biblical illiteracy runs rampant amongst those who claim to follow Christ in America today. This results in a lack of knowledge that makes obedience impossible. We must realize that obedience was the driving force of Jesus’ ministry. As He continually stated, He was doing and saying nothing on His own, but only what He heard His Father say. Jesus lived in perfect obedience to God, which resulted in a perfect life on earth. With this in mind, let’s read Scripture that pertains to this.
“By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 John 3:3-6)
This is a tremendous statement. First, if one doesn’t keep God’s commands found in Scripture and claims to be a Christian, the Bible calls such a person a liar who has NO truth in Him. Secondly, if someone says that he abides in Christ, then he should walk (live his life) just as Christ did! So how did Christ live His life? As stated above, He lived it in perfect obedience to God, His Father, and this obedience resulted in the salvation of elect souls!
So how important is obedience to God?
Let’s look at an example from Scripture in which disobedience is set directly against obedience in the cases of Adam and Christ respectively. “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19) This verse reveals the dire consequences of disobedience versus obedience to God. The dire nature of these decisive considerations are no less serious today than they were then. Two of Christ’s greatest commands to us are 1) love our neighbor as ourselves and, 2) go into the world and make disciples of all nations. (Of course, love the Lord your God with all you heart, mind, and strength is the absolute greatest command).
Now these two commands are not mutually exclusive, but rather exist in a symbiotic relationship as they mutually feed each other. The highest display of love for our neighbor is caring where his soul spends eternity. The only way to adequately deal with this eternal issue is to share the gospel with him. If we don’t live in obedience to these mutual commands, the results will be Adamic in severity, and we will fall in line with the negative, disobedient half of the above Scripture reference (Romans 5:19). By not sharing the gospel in God-given opportunities, our disobedience will result in many people remaining in their sinful, fallen, hell-bound state. Additionally, have you ever considered that your disobedience in sharing the gospel functionally robs others (that should have heard the gospel through us) of potential years of spiritual freedom, kingdom building work, and the hope of heaven? Living in disobedience like this will also rob us of rewards in heaven. In His grace, God gave us every opportunity to obtain these rewards, but we will have rejected them. Conversely, and remaining in line with our verse, if we do obey the Great Commission, sinners will hear the saving truth of the gospel and, if He wills, God will regenerate their hearts, the Holy Spirit will enter them, and they will be immediately justified (made righteous) in front of God! As we can see, the result of our obedience to the Great Commission is one of the many ways God, in His Sovereignty, glorifies His name on earth—just as He did through His Son. This is why we are told to obey and live a life just as Jesus did!
Open it, and begin reading
In terms of obedience, many Haitians come to mind that epitomize the type of Christ-centered obedience that we are discussing. I can think of none better than my brother in Christ, Andrelli. Many of you already know who this young man is secondary to my references to him in previous writings. When I first came to the vodou camp that Andrelli was an active part of, he did not like what I had to say about vodou as I was sharing the gospel with him and his father-in-law (an active vodou priest). Andrelli argued vehemently with me. At the conclusion of our verbal jousting I gave him a Bible and told him to start reading in Matthew chapter 5. He begrudgingly took the Bible and I doubted if he would ever read it. I told them I would be back in a few days to continue our discussion that, to this point, had seemed to me to be futile—but God knew different!
When I came back, I could immediately sense a completely different countenance upon Andrelli—a softer, more loving one. Now, I know why. Andrelli has since told me that he took that Bible home and did not want to read it because he was angry about our discussion and he hated me. Something told him to open it though and begin reading where I had marked for him to start—Matthew 5. He said that as he read, something began to happen in his heart that he had never previously experienced and he started to cry. Believe me, if you know Andrelli, crying is the last thing you could see him doing—and he says the same. Andrelli’s heart was being regenerated—completely outside of his own will. God was working a miracle in his heart and this is exactly what Ephesians 2 talks about.
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sin, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience..But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)..” (Ephesians 2: 1-2 and 4-5)
The discussion that day was much different. Andrelli went from hateful and argumentative to inquisitive with a genuine desire to know more about this Jesus. Over the course of the next several months, it became very obvious that Andrelli had been saved and born again into Christ, which he boldly announced to the vodou priest he was working for. This did not go over well and Andrelli was kicked out of the camp.
From our discussions, he knew that saying you are living for Christ while dappling in sorcery, witchcraft, and demon worship was against God's instruction in the Bible. So Andrelli obeyed the Word of God and started working as a motorcycle taxi driver. He was functionally homeless, so he would stay on the street or with friends if they allowed him.
I lost track of Andrelli for this period of time (which was several months), but then, through God’s grace, I randomly saw him in the street in Jacmel (a city in the South of Haiti). I was overjoyed to see him, as he was me. We hugged each other and then had a discussion. He expressed sorrow about not being able to study with me anymore, but he was forced to work every day to make some money in order for him and his daughter to eat. He looked disheveled, sad, and desperate—but he hadn’t returned to vodou which would have instantaneously solved his financial dilemma. (For the record, this is a level of obedience that very few, if any, Christians in America can relate to).
A leader rises up
I was so impressed by his obedience to the Word of God. I was nearly brought to tears thinking about the great cost to his life that came from choosing to live for Christ. I told him to come to our house as soon as he could, and he said he would. When he came, I gave him a substantial amount of money, and a lot of food (boxes of rice and beans). He was very thankful. As he was leaving, God prompted my heart and I told Andrelli what I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me.
I told him that he was meant to be a leader in his community and country—a leader for God—and that he was supposed to share the gospel with others who were trapped in the chains of vodou.
After I said this his reaction and facial expression revealed a mix of joy, happiness, and surprise. As he left, his initial desperation had turned to hope! I went back to the States shortly after this and Joy and I continually prayed for Andrelli. God sustained him during our absence. When we returned, I had Andrelli over to our home, sat him down, and once again told him what the Lord had placed on my heart concerning him. I asked him if he would want to go into full time ministry with me. This would start with him joining me on a daily basis to visit as many vodou priests and priestesses that God would allow. I also told him that studying the Bible would be crucial, but this was something that he had already undertaken on his own.
Andrelli was very excited about this, but not surprised. He told me that he knew I was going to ask him this. When I asked him how, he went on to relay a dream to Joy and I that he had had while we were in the States. Here’s what he said.
He was walking around looking for me and he was sad that he couldn’t find me. Then, suddenly, he was standing in a river and the waters began to ascend rapidly as the current became stronger and stronger. As the water got deeper and the current got stronger, Andrelli said he knew that he was going to die. Then, in his desperation, he looked into the distance and saw me walking with my youngest son, Kanye. He was overjoyed and relieved to see us and started screaming out for me to come and save him.
I turned, saw him, and instructed Kanye to go and pull him out of the water to bring him to me. So Kanye obeyed and went and pulled Andrelli free from the river. Andrelli said that he sat on a rock for a minute to regain his composure, then Kanye told him to come because his dad wanted to see him. So Andrelli and Kanye stood up and walked to me. When they reached me, I extended my hand and asked him to follow me. Andrelli said yes, and then he woke up.
After he had that dream, he said he wasn’t going to tell anyone about it, but that he was going to wait for it to come true—and it did that day in our living room. Since that day, Andrelli has been my greatest ‘student’! He loves the Lord, he loves Scripture, he loves to learn, and he loves to serve for the advancement of God’s Kingdom on earth. In our first two years working together, I had to get him a new Bible because his was so beat up from all the studying he’d been doing! It is not uncommon for me to be talking to a vodou priest about Jesus and Andrelli nudges me and points out a passage of Scripture that is absolutely perfect for the discussion that we are having. Andrelli has obeyed the Lord since the moment his heart was regenerated years ago when he was reading Matthew.
No turning back
Turning to Christ cost Andrelli everything, but he has never turned back. Even when the demons were strongly tempting him. Andrelli is a continual evangelist too. Every time I leave for the States and return to Haiti, he has groups that he has begun to share the gospel with that he wants me to visit. I often wonder if I could be as strong as Andrelli through temptation and adversity as he was. I can’t wait to see what is waiting for him in heaven in terms of rewards. His faith through trials, his obedience through severe temptations, his zeal for the Lord, and His Word is inspirational to say the least. Many Haitians will, and have already, come to know Jesus through this young man. It all started with his decision to obey Christ and fear the Lord.
We can all learn from Andrelli. Thank you Lord for allowing me to know this young man and get the additional honor of getting to spend every day with him! This is an example of real obedience and what the results can be.