|Satan, Society, and Sovereignty|
Providence and Planning
“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3). It is amazing to see how God sovereignly works by His mighty Hand to bring glory to His Name. Many ministry opportunities for our most recent Zimbabwe mission were cancelled at the last minute. This was rather unsettling as we tried to be diligent in our preparation. Little did our team know that some of the best ministry yet to be done in Zimbabwe would take place.
Police and Protection
The Zimbabwe border always presents a challenge when trying to enter the country. The corruption, confusion, and busyness of the crossing make the task frustrating and intimidating. In many cases, the trouble continues even beyond the border. Multiple police stops between major cities are to be expected, and one never knows when an official will try his hand at bribery. By God’s grace, we were able to cross the border as well as pass over 50 police stops without any serious harassment!
It may take some adjustment for one to find rest when sleeping in a church with rats and mice, or hearing cow-bells outside your window in the middle of the night, yet our hosts were warm, friendly, and sacrificial in serving us. During one of our visits to a rural area, a goat was prepared for us to eat. No doubt this was done at a great sacrifice to the owner of the animal.
Service for the Seasoned
A highlight of our Zimbabwe mission was to deliver Boxes with Love to pensioners who have lost their life savings due to the collapse of the economy. Many elderly people in Zimbabwe had reasonable wealth before the Zimbabwe dollar was abandoned. Some estimates claim that the Zimbabwe Dollar reached inflation rates of about 80 billion percent, but it is difficult to tell because the government stopped filing inflation records during the height of inflation in 2008. Those who had any wealth lost everything. Anyone on pension or anyone with a retirement plan became broke. One woman we spoke to invested in property and sold her investment so that she could retire. After the collapse of the economy all her money became worthless. Part of our ministry is to bring relief aid to these people in need. In each donated package, we distribute food, cream, literature, and other treats. The elderly are always so grateful, and it is a privilege to spend time with them and pray for them.
Preaching and teaching about the doctrines of grace has been a major focus of the Zimbabwe mission team for years. Until now, our labour has not ended. One pastor said that if we come to his church three more times the whole village will come to Repentance. He continued, “If they see you coming here, they will know that this church is serious”. This type of thinking is the result of a low view of God’s saving grace. What men neglect to realise is that every Salvation is a miraculous event; it is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). The sacrificial work of Jesus Christ was a gracious loving gift which cannot be added to. Not only is the atoning work of Jesus Christ an act of God’s love, but the very ability to Repent and believe is a gift from God Himself (Acts 11:18).
Deception and Deliverance
Streaming from a faulty view of Salvation comes a shaky understanding of Kingdom citizenship. “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves” Colossians 1:13. If one believes that Salvation is simply a choice to live a better life or a decision to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ or a kind of club membership that comes with community benefits, the power of God will play no role in the belief system of such an individual. However, if one understands that man is so totally depraved that he cannot save himself, and that God works a mighty miracle in changing a corrupt and evil heart into a heart with new desires, then one will not have such a low view of God’s saving work on a soul. It is common to see people who are persuaded that they are Saved and still believe that they are under the sway of the devil, needing constant deliverance and input into their Salvation. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work” 1 John 3:8.
This flimsy view of the Redemptive work of Christ has led to many dangerous practices. We encountered one such practice during a Discipleship Course we were running. At one point during the day’s preaching, I was asked to sit down while an individual performed “deliverance”. A man, who called himself a priest, stood up to preach a message about God’s wrath. He also shared a story of encountering the demon of the ocean who was the 3rd highest demon from satan. He said that after he found out the demon’s “strategy”, he rebuked it, and it went back into the ocean. After “preaching”, he persuaded the choir to come and sing a repetitive song while he waited for “words of knowledge” to reveal those who had demons, so that he could perform deliverance. He selected only women to stand in front of him while others tied white cloths around those whom he selected. The priest laid his hand on an individual’s forehead and proceeded to pray for the demon to be cast out as he smacked the supposedly demon possessed individual on the forehead. One woman went over backwards and hit the ground with a thud. Another woman seemed to manifest by pulling away from the man. He followed her around hitting her on the head to try cast out the demon. Intermittently, he would walk over to the woman who was on the floor and hit her on the head or give her a light kick. As “the deliverance” progressed, the aggression of the priest grew worse and worse. What I saw was nothing less than spiritual and physical abuse.
The day after “the deliverance”, we went back to the church. I wanted to find out what the people understood about spiritual warfare, so I began the session with asking the people questions. I began by asking if spiritual warfare is necessary, and they said it is necessary because we are fighting against the devil. In response to the question, “what does spiritual warfare look like?” they struggled to answer, but eventually they said that it is prayer and fasting. When I asked how one can become demonised, they said that it is by sin. I asked how a demon leaves a person and they said through Repentance. When asked if they Repented the night before, they said no. I asked those who had the deliverance done to them what had happened, and the first woman said she did not have a demon. The second one said she did not have a demon, but she needed deliverance from her sickness. I asked her if she was delivered and she said yes. I asked her if she was healed and she said no. I asked if a demon made her sick and she was not sure. I asked the third girl and she said that she had a demon because of sin and she did Repent of the sin. As it turns out she Repented of the sin about a month ago. When I asked them to show me this practice commanded in the Bible – including the slapping and kicking, they could not. I even said that the priest could answer and they simply referred me to passages in the Bible where Jesus performed deliverances. I told them that the way Jesus did it was very different to what I saw the night before.
I presented a teaching on the true nature of spiritual warfare and about resisting the enemy by putting on the whole armour of God. At the end of the teaching, I said that their practice was contrary to God’s Word. The priest was degrading women as he kicked and slapped the woman who was rolling around on the floor. The men were challenged to protect their women from being abused. I said that what was happening was not building up the Body of Christ. When I gave them the opportunity to respond they kept referring back to deliverance passages but I responded by comparing it to what happened the night before. Eventually I asked the priest to respond, and he said that in the Book of James, the people were instructed to call for the elders and the elders would lay their hands on the sick. I responded by telling him that was not what I saw the previous night. Another missionary stood up afterward and spoke about Biblical authority and the need for men to look after their own wives and for wives to submit to their husbands and not a spiritual leader. After the whole service, the pastor shook my hand and told me that I had challenged them to critically evaluate what he sees. One of the pastors approached me and said that I have given them homework and now they need to test everything by the Bible. Another man came and thanked me for challenging them with the Word. The girls who had the deliverance performed on them came up to me with shining faces and bright smiles. They said Thank You very much for the teaching. I asked if it was helpful and they said it was powerful. The one girl said that she wanted us to stay for two weeks and teach them every day!
Even though there were some strong confrontations and difficult issues to wrestle with, we had encouraging and effective ministry in one rural area. We were inspired to see the dedication of one pastor who was a very well educated man. He had studied agriculture and he was well read, knowing a lot about history and world politics. He could have easily found work in the city, but he spent his time teaching the people of his rural home area. The people there were full of life and they were eager to hear God’s Word being preached. Every night we went to the church to preach, and the whole congregation of a few hundred people came to listen to all the messages.
At a church service, opportunity to give testimonies was given. One woman came forward and testified that she had understood that when a man is in Christ he has been given a new nature. Another woman came forward and said that she was encouraged by one of our presentations on the Holy Spirit. She said that she knows now that people do not have to abuse other people and hurt them and put on a show. She said that she thinks she will never be deceived by a false prophet again. A man got up and said that he was encouraged to know that God wants His people to work. He said that many people are poor because they invite poverty upon themselves. Many people are in poverty and it is their own fault. Men should help women and not be lazy. Another woman got up and testified that she now knows that abortion and human trafficking is dangerous and that people need to be warned and informed.
God has graciously given us the opportunity to minister to pastors and build relationships with them. With one pastor, we spent 3 hours speaking about Salvation and what we have seen in Zimbabwe and the need to preach solid Biblical faith and Repentance. We pray that God will raise more ministers who are willing to take a sober look at the situation around them and preach the Word of God without compromise.
Many crusades and open-air meetings are done by churches in Zimbabwe. These meetings hold some value, but it seems as though one-on-one witnessing encounters are most effective. A prevalent sin we encountered is alcoholism. Some people, who suffer from this, desire prayer to overcome their addiction, but they do not want to Repent. I encountered one such man, and I told him that he needs to choose between his alcohol and Jesus Christ. I asked if he will die and go to hell with alcohol or Repent and follow Christ, leaving his alcohol. He said that he would Repent sometime in the future. I asked him what would happen to him if he “were to die tonight” and he said that he would go to hell and that was his destiny. He would stay in his sins rather than Repent. He knew that God is real, but he refused to serve God. I encountered a few other men with the same issue. When I showed them what the Bible says about drunkenness, they argued and refused to accept it. Eventually, I had to tell two men that they knew the truth and the only reason they were arguing was because they loved their sin. They laughed and agreed with me. It seems that even in a country which is ravaged with poverty, people can still find the resources to indulge in their sins. This is yet another reason why we teach people to have a high view of Salvation. Unless God saves sinners, granting them new natures, they will find any excuse to remain in their sins, even in the face of clear Biblical condemnation of that sin.
The streets of Zimbabwe have exploded with an increase of street vendors. Grace Mugabe urged authorities to leave street vendors alone last year during her “Meet the People” rallies. Many have chosen to place their stands on the sides of the road, setting up their vending stations in front of already-established shops. One young man I spoke with said that he was there because it was part of an Empowerment Program launched by Robert Mugabe. I asked him if the shop owners who were paying rent were happy with what was going on, and he said that they weren’t, but there was nothing that they could do because the president had spoken. I went to another lady who said that Robert Mugabe was only copying what was already being done in South Africa. Another man said that he was making a lot of money as a vendor because of the amount of traffic which occurred on the streets there. Obviously the vendors are making a lot of money from all the people who are on their way to the hired out shops of which the vendors are standing in front. He said that municipality can’t do anything to them because the people are scared of Mugabe. He said that Mugabe is like a wild beast and that he does not mess around when he speaks. He said that all the vendors know that it is only a ploy to get the people’s vote. He continued to state that the reality of the situation is that the vendors will be chased away like animals. He went so far as to say that the xenophobia in South Africa is better than the treatment people are getting from Mugabe! Ministers of parliament have announced that street vendors need to clear out from the cities and go to designated vending locations, but only time will tell how this whole ordeal will pan out.
Pray for Zimbabwe
During our short time in Zimbabwe, our team went through over 50 police stops and conducted over 40 meetings. God was faithful in keeping us safe and guiding us. We have many reasons to be thankful to God. There are still pastors who are faithful to the Word and faithful to God’s call. While many people are falling into the sway of popular prosperity preaching, there are those who are open to correction when it is clearly presented in God’s Word.
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).