BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“So Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.’ And his brothers listened” (Genesis 37:26-27 NKJV).
Happy New Year! I’m glad to welcome you to the year 2021. As we begin this year, you must make the necessary changes in your life to become all that God wants you to be.
In the scripture above, the Bible records Judah coming up with a proposal to sell his brother, Joseph. He must have thought that his proposal, which could spare the life of Joseph, was relatively better than throwing him into the empty pit without water. He wasn’t aware of the hidden agenda of his eldest brother, Reuben, to come back later and rescue him from the empty pit, which also showed Reuben’s weakness as a leader. Being the firstborn, Reuben should have rebuked his brother for thinking of hurting their brother (verse 22) though he claimed many years later to have told them not to sin against Joseph. He said they would not listen (Genesis 42:22).
Reuben thought he would outsmart his younger brothers but it turned out the other way round. “Then Reuben returned to the pit, and indeed Joseph was not in the pit; and he tore his clothes. And he returned to his brothers and said, ‘The lad is no more; and I, where shall I go?’” (Genesis 37:29-30 NKJV). Reuben’s lamentation was belated; the damage had been done.
Instead of Judah’s proposal to sell Joseph, he should have told his brothers to have a rethink, bring Joseph out of that pit and take him back home to their father. Judah was, therefore, liable as the others for their evil and callousness against Joseph.
Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and conceived a plot to deceive their father that Joseph was dead (Genesis 37:31-35). Joseph’s brother made their father continue to mourn, for years, the death of his beloved son who was still alive!
But over the years, it appeared that the mastermind of Joseph’s sale into slavery, Judah, had become more compassionate, more loving, more caring, more responsible, and more protective of his brother. He was ready to suffer in place of his brother; he was ready to become a slave rather than see his brother being made a slave. That was a manifestation of the leadership responsibility that God had destined to be entrusted to Judah. “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will obey” (Genesis 49:10 NLT). Judah could not be the leader and be selling his brother! He must change, and he did.
We all make mistakes in life, but we must learn from our mistakes and make the necessary changes so as not to frustrate the purposes of God for our lives. Don’t continue in your mistake; don’t persist in error. Don’t sabotage yourself. If you decide to change today and call on Jesus to help you, if you bring yourself under the discipline of the Word of God, no demon can stop you.
Judah changed. During the famine, Joseph had detained Simeon, one of his brothers, and told his brothers to bring Benjamin (his brother by the same mother) next time they would come. That would be the condition for food to be sold to them in Egypt. Joseph claimed he wanted to prove they were not spies. But he actually knew they were not spies.
Their father, Jacob, was however unwilling to release him to go with them because of the fear that a similar evil that befell Joseph might befall him. At this point, the leader in Judah arose. “Judah said to his father, ‘Send the boy with me, and we will be on our way. Otherwise we will all die of starvation — and not only we, but you and our little ones. I personally guarantee his safety. If I don’t bring him back to you, then let me bear the blame forever. For we could have gone and returned twice by this time if you had let him come without delay” (Genesis 43:8-10 NLT). Did you see the selflessness in a changed Judah?
Prior to Judah’s bold assurance, Reuben had tried unsuccessfully to convince his father to release Benjamin – the grain they brought from Egypt had not finished then. He had told his father, “You may kill my two sons if I don’t bring Benjamin back to you. I’ll be responsible for him” (Genesis 42:37 NLT). But his father was not persuaded. He said, “My son will not go down with you, for his brother Joseph is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children. If anything should happen to him, you would bring my gray head down to the grave in deep sorrow” (verse 38 NLT).
However, when it became inevitable to go back to Egypt for more food, Judah spoke up and his father conceded. In Egypt, the seriousness of the assurance Judah had given to his father was put to test, and he told Joseph that he was ready to be made a slave rather than Benjamin being held back in Egypt (Genesis 44:30-34). Judah had changed; he demonstrated love for his brother. God wants us to love our brothers, our neighbours. Love is selfless, not selfish. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says love does not seek its own.
A leader must give of himself to help his people; he must be totally committed to their wellbeing. Judah changed from being the one who suggested the sale of his brother into slavery to someone ready to become a slave to protect his brother. That was a remarkable change and a trait of good leadership.
It doesn’t matter how you’ve lived your life in the past, the atrocities you’ve committed, the crimes you’ve engaged in, you can change. It starts by giving your life to Jesus, by being born again or born anew (John 3:3, 5-8). Then your life will be transformed by the renewing of your mind – changing the way you think as you are exposed to the Word of God daily (Romans 12:2). “The scriptures were not given for our information, but for our transformation.” This is attributed to D. L. Moody, the renowned evangelist. The Word of God you open your heart to and obey will change your life. Are you ready to make the required changes today?
In the book of Philemon, we read about Onesimus, who was a runaway slave of Philemon. He ran away from his boss, Philemon, at Colosse and fled to Rome where he was saved through Paul’s ministry. Paul didn’t want to keep him except with Philemon’s permission; he, therefore, sent the fugitive slave back to his master (Philemon 12-14).
Onesimus means “profitable” or “useful” but he was “unprofitable” or “useless” to his boss before! We don’t know precisely why he fled in the first instance. Probably, he stole from Philemon because Paul, in his letter to Philemon, said, “If he has harmed you in any way or stolen anything from you, charge me for it” (Philemon 18 NLT). An unprofitable servant he was. But having been saved, and with a changed life, becoming a believer like his boss, he would become truly useful.
Paul wrote to Philemon, “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me” (Philemon 10-11 NKJV). The unprofitable became profitable! Onesimus made a necessary change in his life embracing Jesus Christ. He is believed to be the Onesimus that Paul recommended to the church at Colosse, the city he had run away from. He referred to him as “Onesimus a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you” (Colossians 4:9 NKJV). That recommendation was probably to facilitate his acceptance just as he had written to Philemon to receive him (Philemon 12). Maybe Paul didn’t want anyone to look at Onesimus any longer as a runaway slave or thief. He was a new creature, old things had passed away; everything had become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). What a change! No matter how horrible any life is, if it’s turned over to Jesus, He’ll make something beautiful out of it.
The prodigal son changed
In Luke 15:11-32, the prodigal son made the necessary change in his life. He realized his error. “I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants’” (verses 18-19 NKJV). And the next verse says, “He arose and came to his father…” (NKJV). He returned home.
You may have run away from home – return to your father. It may be God the Father or your spiritual or biological father that you need to return to; return now. Return to your parents, wife, husband, or family. Apologize and seek reconciliation; don’t delay further.
Yes, you may have lived your life far apart from God, engaging in cultism, drugs, sexual immorality, kidnapping, armed robbery, fraud, murder, and all forms of sin; you need to return to God today. Don’t just talk about it. Enough of procrastination; take action. Arise, return home today. Don’t wait till things get worse for you than they are currently. God is eagerly waiting for you to welcome you back home where you truly belong.
Make the necessary changes today. Today is the day of salvation; today is the day of restoration. Don’t let your friends, peers, shame, or fear of what people will say hinder you from making these needful changes. It is your life – not their lives. They also have changes they need to make.
Why stay where you are till you die? The four lepers at the entrance of the gate of Samaria asked themselves a similar, powerful question: “Why are we sitting here until we die?” (2 Kings 7:3 NKJV). That question changed their lives and that of the entire city. They entered into a season of abundance of food, drink, gold, silver, etc.
The thief on the cross changed
Look at one of the thieves nailed to the cross with Jesus. When it mattered most, he made the necessary change in his life. While his colleague was mocking Jesus, he was concerned about eternity (Luke 23:40-42). Maybe he had missed several opportunities in the past to repent and live his life in accordance with the Word of God but he took advantage of the last opportunity on the cross, and God didn’t reject him. “And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise’” (verse 43 NKJV). Who knows if what you’re joking with now is your last opportunity to make a particular change in your life. If you waste it, you’ll regret it later.
Saul of Tarsus changed
What about Saul of Tarsus? He was a man totally sold out to the devil, thinking he was serving God. He later explained that he did all in ignorance and unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13). When God eventually encountered him and stopped him on the way to Damascus, he made the necessary changes thereafter. His change began during that conversion experience. While trembling and astonished, he said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6 NKJV). God began to work on him from then on. He began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God and all who heard him were amazed (verses 20-22). What a transformation! He said later in Philippians 3:7 that the things that were gain to him, he had counted loss for Christ.
You can change today
Your heart must be circumcised. This is the true circumcision. “And true circumcision is not a cutting of the body but a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. Whoever has that kind of change seeks praise from God, not from people” (Romans 2:29b NLT). Are you ready to give your life to Jesus and follow Him to the end? Are you ready to forgo some things including things that may not even be sinful but are not right for you? Paul said, “You may say, ‘I am allowed to do anything.’ But I reply, ‘Not everything is good for you.’ And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12 NLT).
Conclusion: What changes will you make this New Year in your walk with God, habits, family, finances, work, etc. for the sake of Christ, your future, and your eternity? Begin now. God is waiting for you.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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