On the first of June this year, I was sitting at the back of the church as the young people bid farewell to their Brazilian Master Guide, Pastor Leandro, and the Susu Project student missionaries. Three months earlier, the young people had asked the church to allow them to use the first Sabbath of June as a special Sabbath for the Pathfinder club incorporation and other ceremonies and to bid farewell to their Master Guide. They took over the entire church program from Sabbath School to the divine service. As these children and their Pathfinder leader were officiating I could see how disciplined and ordered they were. My heart was full of joy as they displayed their dedication and talents.
However, pride began to creep into my happiness. Instead of thanking God for what He had done, I began in my heart to take credit for the changes in the lives of these children. Like Nebuchadnezzar, I began to think how great a work I had done. But God in His infinite mercy intervened through His irresistible Holy Spirit, reminding me that He had done all of this for His glory.
As the youth program continued, a battle was taking place in my mind. Two forces were fighting for supremacy over my heart, mind and soul. Right there during Sabbath worship, the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan was taking place in my life.
The children were sharply dressed in their green and white Pathfinder uniforms with their yellow scarves around their necks. Each of them wore black shoes and white socks; something you don’t often see around here. The church was decorated with AY colors, and the wall behind the pulpit featured the words of 2 Corinthians 5:14: “For the love of Christ constraineth us.” Pastor Leandro and his wife Haline had made the decorations a year ago and given them to the Pathfinder club. I was amazed at how well the Pathfinders had taken care of the decorations. This is not normal for Guinean kids.
Sabbath School started with song service as usual. The youth coordinated the program, and one of them was the Sabbath School teacher. At the end of Sabbath School, they projected a five-minute video showing what they had learned and the badges they had earned.
The divine service started with music from a marching band as the Pathfinders came in. Three of them led with the Guinean flag and two Pathfinder flags. Before the incorporation ceremony, they did a drill demonstration. A Muslim boy from our school and another boy who had grown up in our church were incorporated into the club. After another short drill, they had the badge ceremony.
As I beheld this heart-warming scene, I began to whisper to myself in excitement, “My work here is done!” Instead of giving God the glory, I began to think what a good job I had done in directing this project to the point where it is today. Only God knows how selfish I was at that moment. If it were not for His saving grace, I was set to leave that service glorifying myself—taking home a curse instead of a blessing.
But God intervened with a simple song that we used to sing in my home country. Every Christian and even many Muslims in Sierra Leone know this song based on James 4:10:
He will lift you, He will lift you up
If you only just humble yourself before the Lord
He will lift you up.
I began to mumble the song. Then gently, the Holy Spirit began to bring to mind my weaknesses and my failures over the years of my mission work. He reminded me of how God has glorified Himself in those weaknesses and failures. He also reminded me of how, by His grace, He has turned every one of my weaknesses and failures into object lessons to guide my life going forward. The Holy Spirit even gently reminded me of how uneducated I am. As the battle continued in my head, I could hear God speaking truth to me through 2 Corinthians 12:9 and John 15:4-5 as a father speaks to his child:
“And he said unto me, Fred, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in your weakness. Most gladly, Fred, you should rather glory in your infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon you. Abide in me, Fred, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, Fred, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
In shame and tears, I bowed my head and thanked God for His intervention. I confessed my sin and asked for forgiveness. I prayed for God to come into my heart.
As humans, it is tempting for us to take credit for every successful venture in our lives. Everyone likes to be praised and applauded for a job well done. But even as people offer praise to us, we must remember to give thanks to God for every success.
My experience on this high Sabbath opened my eyes and taught me the following lessons: Without God I can do nothing, therefore my success is from Him. I am a tool in God’s hands, so He is to be praised. My weaknesses and failures are part of my experience as I work with Him, and He glorifies Himself through them. I therefore conclude that success is not by human might nor by human wisdom, but by the Divine Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who impresses our donors to support us and pray for us. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to God’s wandering children, and it is the Holy Spirit who convicts their hearts.