By Simon Mafunda
The intriguing and inexplicable ways in which Jesus Christ works reminds me of an incident at my home in Zimbabwe a couple of months ago. I urgently needed to support a couple of my tomato plants which were starting to fall over with fruit. I retrieved a few straight branches of the poinsettia tree that I had pruned and dumped away several weeks earlier. They looked dry but I wanted to be certain to avoid growth competition with my tomatoes as I knew poinsettias grew easily from cuttings, so I drove them into the ground topside down.
To my surprise after just three weeks, all eight “dry” sticks had several healthy new shoots all around them. For me it defied logic that a plant could grow from an upside-down position, but poinsettias do!
We each have our own testimonies of how Jesus has empowered us to do things far beyond our imaginations. “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’ He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do’” (Luke 10:17-21).
Jesus sent his disciples out to teach, preach, heal, free people from demons, and to do anything else that would further the Kingdom of God. When we read this text, we encounter the disciples returning to Jesus with joyful and marvelous stories to tell.
The disciples were clear that the success they witnessed was not accomplished by their own wisdom or authority, but “in Jesus’ name.” The name of Jesus, our Lord, was the reason they were successful.
These disciples reported: “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” If I were one of them, I would have fallen into the temptation of claiming that, “Lord, even the demons submitted to me.” But Jesus’ disciples knew the demons did not submit to them, the demons submitted to the name of Jesus.
Jesus reminds them that he empowered them; they had been empowered to serve in his movement. As empowered people, Jesus said they will do extraordinary things, they may even become insulated against any harm directed at them. These are indications of Jesus’ empowerment.
The Gospel according to Matthew 7:21-23 says that all these extraordinary demonstrations of power and authority will not be enough for us to enter heaven. These acts and deeds need to be accompanied by a faithful obedience to the will of God.
In the text from Luke, Jesus proclaimed some profound truths of our faith: the things of God are hidden to those who want to use human reason, those who claim to be clever or wise according to human standards, and revealed to those who approach the things of God like little children!
Normally, when we speak of empowerment, we do not see the image of a child as a representation of empowerment. We see images of presidents, bishops, business leaders, influencers, armed soldiers, and other powerful people of our times. But Jesus says empowerment is hidden from all these and revealed to child-like persons.
May we shake off the shackles of institutionalism and regain the childlike faith that believes that all things are possible with God. May we have the courage to stand against the powers and principalities of this world knowing that when we stand with Jesus, the battle belongs to him and he wins the battle!
Our world is on its knees because we have divided people into the categories of those who enjoy privileges and those who carry the burden of responsibilities, instead of creating the conditions where everyone might have access to privileges, and the responsibilities that come with them.
We have the privilege of knowing that we belong to Jesus. We have the privilege of being workers in the Lord’s vineyard. We have the privilege of being ambassadors for our Lord. And we have the privilege of the “name of Jesus” to authenticate the Good News that we proclaim. These privileges also bestow on us many responsibilities.
• Spreading the uncompromised “good news” of Jesus to all parts of the world and to all people, irrespective of where they are and who they are.
• Using the authority that comes with our empowerment by Jesus to bring relief and joy to those who have been shunned by this world and pushed to the margins.
• Trusting God like children who trust their parents and always seek to please them.
• Storming the gates of hell and introducing people to Jesus so He can rescue the perishing.
• Being the church Jesus is building.
Aware of our privileges and responsibilities given to us by our Lord, we are indeed more than conquerors!
In my country, Zimbabwe, we have faced many challenges over just my lifetime. I have seen some of the worst cases of drought in where whole valleys were strewn with the carcasses of both wild and domestic animals. Access to clean and safe water became a national challenge for households in both rural and urban areas.
Zimbabwe has also experienced terrible outbreaks of cholera and typhus as the healthcare system nearly collapsed. And perhaps worst of all, hyperinflation has wreaked havoc on Zimbabwe’s economy. A country once considered the breadbasket of Africa was reduced to the continent’s beggar within a few years. Businesses in all sectors closed while shelves were emptied in our stores. Hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs and life savings.
To my knowledge, Zimbabwe is the only country to have issued a 100 trillion dollar bill, but it was practically worthless. We were all billionaires but we could only afford to buy necessities like a loaf of bread. And while we were standing in line to buy the bread, the price would go even higher by the time we got to the head of the queue. Many people fled the country in search of jobs, only to be persecuted and sometimes brutally murdered by people who had developed fear and hatred for my people.
For many days, months, and even years the challenges seemed insurmountable. But I do believe, with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind, that Jesus has called me and many others to teach, preach, heal, and proclaim that Jesus is Lord.
Despite all the challenges and our own limitations, I believe I am – I believe you are – called every day to be about the mission of sharing the Gospel with our words and with our deeds.
And we can go forth to fulfill the mission Jesus has given us because he empowers us. He protects us. He guides us. And he will make us more than conquerors despite all the obstacles we face in in our faith journeys!
When we are transformed by the one who conquerors all things, we can be sure nothing will stand in our way. And when God fills our hearts and minds, we will have some sense of that joy the disciples experienced when they returned to Jesus and shared what had been accomplished by the power of his name.
To be sure, our movement faces great challenges. Right now many of us feel like we have been planted upside down, and so think it is impossible that we will grow roots and sprout new life. But our Gardener is in the business of bringing life from death. He is the miracle worker and the way maker. He is doing a new thing in us and through us, as he empowers us to go forth to be even more than conquerors.
Jesus is calling us and sending us out as an advance team to all the places he plans to visit. We must not tarry consumed by our fears, doubts, or circumstances. Rise up, church!
Simon Mafunda is the Africa Coordinator for the Wesleyan Covenant Association based in Harare, Zimbabwe. Prior to his current role with the WCA, he served as the lay leader of the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference. He was elected by his conference to be a delegate to the 2012 and 2016 General Conferences, and he represented his annual conference at the 2019 special General Conference. This article is adapted from his address to the Wesleyan Covenant Association Global Gathering in Indianapolis in May.