Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pay them half

This account deals with a typical encounter I have had with the living God in addressing a financial situation pertaining to accommodation and sustenance, whilst living in Sea Point, Cape Town, during the mid-1990s.
Prior to moving to Sea Point, I had been renting a room (on a weekly basis) at The Lennox, then still a reasonably appointed residential establishment in Gardens, Cape Town.  I was asked to vacate it at months end as it had been pre-booked by cyclists partaking in the annual Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Race.

As still is the case today, I had been walking out my preordained destiny in Jesus, going to where He was leading, resolving everything in Him, step by step, as I went along.[1]

However, as is perhaps still the case, I was reluctant to commit myself to long-term fixed accommodation, especially to a protracted lease agreement.  I was totally reliant on God for all my accommodation, food, and clothes, which He had faithfully provided[2], albeit always at the very last minute.  Living like this is exhilarating but can also be nerve-wracking, as one has to wait to see how and when He chooses to provide.  Moreover, there always is the possibility that He might choose, for very valid reasons of His own, not to provide.[3]  Safeguarding me against such an embarrassing financial eventuality always seems to cause me to irrationally want to hedge my bets.  Such reasoning, ultimately is, of course, fallacious and perhaps still, to some extent, needs to be worked out of me in my walk with him.[4]  (Unfortunately the lost, but especially believers, often scrutinizes one’s every move/step, to watch to see if one comes undone.  If this happens, it seemingly will validate their own theories or interpretation of Scripture, as apposed to what one is practically walking/working out in Him.)

Whilst seeking God’s face for alternative accommodation, a sister-in-the-Lord one day took me to a residential hotel located in Kei Apple road, Sea Point (not far from where she herself lived), then known as The King David Hotel (previously also known, I was recently told by someone who knew the area well, as The Queens Hotel). 

By God’s grace, I was able to book a room for R700.00 per month (obviously at a more beneficial rate than on a daily, weekly or bi-weekly basis) providing some form of stability, albeit only briefly.[5]

Having recently returned to Cape Town,[6] I looked up the location of the hotel to determine if it still exists.  Where it once stood is now a new development, know as Planet Africa  (However, in case you are interested, it used to be situated within a few minutes’ walking distance from the Checkers Supermarket, located at the corner of Regent street and St Andrews road.)

Planet Africa (ex-King David Hotel
Sea Point, South Africa)
View from King David Hotel
(to local Checkers supermarket)
Google aerial view of above images

Although the hotel offered pre-paid restaurant meals to residents wanting to use such facilities, I chose not to, instead daily visiting the local supermarket for my daily sustenance.

Also staying at the hotel at the time was Dino, a brother-in-the-Lord (of Italian extraction).  By occupation he was a chef who had worked in a guesthouse in the Eastern Transvaal.  After a serious car accident, he moved to Cape Town, hoping to utilise the compensation received (from a personal injury insurance settlement), to set up a coffee shop or similar establishment, perhaps even providing light meals for potential customers.

Having previously been in business for my own account, I assisted him in working through his limited options, mostly trying to prevent him from squandering his cash and by him avoiding costly, irreversible financial mistakes, such as locating it in the wrong area, entering into unfavourable lease arrangements, superfluous or costly expenditure on the wrong items, etc.[7]  He almost daily came to see me to assist him in exploring his options and we got to know each other reasonably well as a result.

Despite my own arrangement, I knew that, at some point, in the near future, I was going to run out of cash, a prospect too frightening to contemplate for most people.  At least I had the temporary “security” of a pre-paid room for a month in advance, providing me with some breathing space—but it was not going to last long, and so, as this day approached, with a little more than R 700.00 to cover my existence, I began seeking God’s face for solutions.

Whilst in prayer one day, He suddenly responded by saying, “Pay them half.”  “I cannot do so Lord,” I protested, “there will be a rate amendment (as if He was oblivious to it).”  My mindless riposte remained unanswered.  In obedience, I eventually went to the receptionist on duty, saying, “I do not know for how long I will be staying with you.  Can I pay you R350.00 in the meantime?”  “I am not sure,” she said.  “When I see the manager again I will ask him and get back to you.”  I nonetheless insisted paying her the R350.00 (as He had instructed), which she accepted, and for which I received a receipt.

When over the next few days no one responded to my request, I approached the manager concerning my situation.  He informed me that the hotel was owned by a Jewish landlord.  The premises had been leased to a Swiss citizen, living in Constantia, operating it as a hotel.  The lease expired at the end of that month but the landlord decided not to renew it.  Instead, he planned auctioning the property.  His intentions totally surprised the lessee, potentially leaving him without his primary source of income.  His staff likewise faced a dilemma, not sure what was going to unfold, with them all ultimately risking loosing the “security” of their jobs.  “As far as I am concerned,” he said, “you can stay on for as long as you like, at no extra cost, until we all have to leave.”

The news quickly spread, especially to the residential tenants, some having lived there for years.  Everyone was forced to hastily try and secure alternative accommodation.

With the upcoming Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycling event, this proved to be almost impossible, as the cyclists have also pre-booked virtually all available residential accommodation in the area.  People were bewildered, left in an extremely vulnerable situation.  Some even approached a local radio station to air their discontent, frustration and anger—but all to no avail.

Dino joined the mad rush to find new accommodation and would check in with me daily, informing me about the prospects he had unearthed.  He was totally oblivious of my circumstances, but made it clear he was trying to find a place “for us both” to stay.  I assume he presumed I could or would pay half the rent.  Given what I had already shared above, I could not commit myself to such an arrangement, but he forged ahead nonetheless, on behalf of us both.

Having become accustomed to seeking God’s Face on everything in life, I once again turned to Him for resolution.[8]  “Lord, what must I do?”  I kept on asking—anticipating a response.

Everyone was doing everything possible to find a place to stay.  I did not.  Instead, I awaited God’s response in the solitude of my room.

Then one day, during all this uncertainty, a hotel staff member knocked on my door, “There’s a phone call for you,” she said, informing me to take it (on what seemed to be a communal line) near the staircase on my floor.  On the phone was an unredeemed, retired coloured[9] schoolteacher whom I had met whilst living in Jerusalem.  (She was on holiday there at the time.)  Having witnessed to her in Israel, I gave her the telephone number of a believer in Johannesburg to contact, when visiting her daughter (who lived and worked there), should she feel inclined to do so.

Before I returned from Israel, she somehow obtained my mother’s phone number from someone and tried to reach me at her retirement home in Vanderbijlpark, leaving a message for me to contact her upon my return (if I ever did).  When I arrived back in South Africa I tried to contact her at the number provided, but learnt she had left, this time for Zambia.  That was the last time I thought I would ever hear from her, but here she now was on the line, this time having heard from another South African (who had also visited Israel at the same time) that I was now living in Cape Town, the city where they both resided.

She suggested we meet for tea at an outdoor restaurant located at the botanical gardens, off the city centre, which we did, soon thereafter.  It was a casual meeting without any agenda or set purpose.  She was inquisitive about my plans.  I said I was between things (not knowing what God had in mind), but that I would soon (given the aforesaid) move, although not sure where to yet.  We parted company and again I truly thought I would never see or hear from her again.

Edna and I had nothing in common.  Our backgrounds differed radically and so did our outlook on life, interests and activities.  Nevertheless, a few days later, she phoned again—this time suggesting that I come and stay with her.  She even suggested Dino do likewise.  I took this as coming from the Lord (Dino had a different view), and soon moved to Grassy Park, a predominantly coloured area, in which she resided.

The flatlet, adjoining her home, consisted of two bedrooms (the one abutting the other), a bathroom and kitchen.  It was freely available to me, for as long as I wanted to stay there.  Although relatively far away from everything, it was secluded, well appointed and comfortable.[10]  Whilst Edna was going about her daily business, most days going off somewhere, I predominantly spent my time in Scripture and simply being with Him.

One day as I sat at the desk in the spare bedroom, studying (the Person of) the Holy Spirit, as revealed in Scripture (particularly in Acts 4), I suddenly heard Him say, “Go look at your passport.”

I got up from my chair and retrieved my passport from my suitcase.  As I opened it, I noticed that it was expiring during that particular week.  When Dino came to visit, and learnt what God had told me, he insisted that we immediately drive to Home Affairs (located) in Wynberg (if my memory serves me correctly) to have it renewed, and so we did.

Not long thereafter God moved me thousands of miles away—his time to Zambia, for which I needed a renewed passport!

I could have solved all of the aforesaid intellectually, by using my God-given mental faculty—and that, I can assure you, is what most Christians would have urged/advised  me to do based on their understanding of God’s word, leaving only that for which they had no answers to Him.

I deliberately chose not to do so.

Among others, Scripture in Proverbs declares, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6  in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”[11]

How true this proved to be the case in the aforementioned incident.

I was not (and no longer am) part of the maelstrom of everyday events in a godless world, primarily obsessed with and serving itself.[12]  I was (and still am) serving Him, walking out my destiny in Him[13], as best I know how, with Him directing my paths superlatively in the midst of untold greed, strive and turmoil—as the aforementioned incident attests.

The manner in which He so graciously dealt with me may not be the way you would have handled it.  So let me ask you this: How would you have resolved my situation and how are you practically resolving the daily issues of your life? 

Do you perhaps still act as if you are wiser than Him, resolving issues, (hopefully/presumably) to your advantage, as you see fit—or do you truly submit to Him, viewing Him as the source of all life, serving His purposes, on His terms?

In my experience, it is best to line up with the revelation of Him; to die completely to self and to find life in Him alone[14] on His terms; as He directs,[15] serving and loving “ the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”[16]

We can delude ourselves, but He cannot be fooled.  He knows who His servants truly are, and those pretending to be (or even those wanting to do “something” for Him), and He deals with them both accordingly.

The daily reality of it will be revealed in whether one clearly encounters the living God (or not) as we grapple (or not) with the issues of life flowing out of His Being. 

This is not an optional process and the consequences, whether one realises/appreciate it or not, are eternal.

Peter wrote, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”[17]

May He bless you abundantly in encountering Him as you diligently seek His word and Face with all your might for a clearer understanding of Him and His ways.

Blessed be His Name forevermore!

[1] In 1 Corinthians 16.6-8 we see glimpses of the same processes in Paul’s life (even though his calling was already broadly defined as can be clearly seen in passages, such as, for example, Acts 9 and 22).
[2] See Matthew 6.24-34
[3] Proverbs 9.11-12 says, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son [in whom] he delights.”
[4] I am doing far better with the fear (or anxiousness) of Him not providing.  This was something I needed to overcome.  God sometimes allow us to come horribly undone—but allows this always for our own benefit and it usually occurs when He needs to deal with something we need to come to terms with doctrinally, relating to misconceptions, etc He wants corrected.  In this respect, Paul says, in 1 Cor 15.31, “I die daily,” i.e. there are aspects of our lives that still need to die, in subjugation, to His Lordship.  In working out our destiny, we are placed in hardship, sometimes totally beyond our control to learn to no longer trust in self, but totally in God, as 2 Cor 1.8-11, for example, teaches.
[5] In today’s terms this is equivalent of roughly R 8,662.82, assuming a growth rate of 15% over that period or  $971.17 pm (converted at R8.92/$1.00 in September 2012)
[6] On 14 August 2012
[7] Thus functioning in the gift of helps, as found in 1 Cor 12.28: “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.” (My emphasis)
[8] Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus,”  (Phil 2.6-7) with “…in Him we live and move and have our being …” (Ac 17.28)
[9] I do not like to refer to people by their race, as it is irrelevant, but this places it in the South African context of the time.
[10] Staying here, you may want to know where I got cash from to sustain myself.  I honestly cannot even remember.  I have long ago taken another text to mind and ceased wondering where my next meal was going to come from, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  (Col 3.1-3)
[11]The New King James Version . 1996, c1982 (electronic ed.) (Pr 3:5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[12] “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one,” (1 Jn 5.19) with “And you [He made alive,] who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [Satan], the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others,” (Ep 2.2-3) with “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 Jn 2.15-17)
[13]For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  (Ep 2.10)
[14] “…if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”  (2 Co 5.14-15)
[15]And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Ro 8.28, NIV)
[16]The New King James Version . 1996, c1982 (electronic ed.) (Mk 12:30). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[17]The New King James Version . 1996, c1982 (electronic ed.) (2 Pe 1:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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