“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10 NIV)
I love spicy food. When we go out for Thai or Chinese or Indian food, I always ask for my food to be prepared with full spice. The spicier, the better, and when they raise their eyebrows and tell me that only natives can tolerate that much spice, I just smile and tell them to double it up.
Through the years people have tried to “out-spice” me, but to no avail. They hand me raw peppers, hot pepper sauces, etc., and then they stand back with eyes wide and mouths agape as I eat them without problems.
And so it was that when my wife handed me a beautiful, red Scottish Bonnet pepper fresh from our garden last summer, my eyes lit up in delight. I took the entire thing and put it in my mouth, bit off the stem with my teeth, and chewed it with delight.
Or at least that was what I anticipated. Little did I realize the potency of that tiny pepper …
I did chew and swallow it without problems, but then I started to sweat profusely. I got the worst case of the hick-ups imaginable, and for a few minutes there, I feared I was at risk of bringing the pepper — along with the rest of my stomach contents — back up! For the first time ever, my mouth was on fire, and that fire burned all the way down my oesophagus and into my stomach. But the worst was yet to come: My stomach immediately cramped up in a painful, burning knot and remained that way for the next several hours…
My wife googled what to do, and then proceeded to give me spoonfuls of sugar and honey, slices of lemon, a cup of yogurt, etc., but it was all to no avail. That painful, burning knot that remained in my stomach was quickly spreading to the rest of my abdomen, and before long, I couldn’t move for the swelling in my intestines.
Now I’ll admit I’m not the best patient in the world. My wife often says that one of her greatest fears is for me to get a cold… I guess she doesn’t know just how bad a “man cold” can be! But this was no “exaggeration”. This was real pain, a real bonfire in my gut. At some point she prayed over me, and shortly after this I was impressed to ask for ice. It didn’t take me long to realize that ice only worsened the problem, and what I really needed, despite the fire in my gut, was heat. My wife heated up a couple of bean bags, and a couple of hours later, I began to feel human again. I didn’t feel good, however, for at least a full day after this incident.
And all because of that crazy Scottish Bonnet pepper!
I have to say that my body’s reaction really took me by surprise. After all, I have eaten so many hot pepper through the years, without even a single consequence. Otherwise I might have been a bit more cautious about eating that new pepper. Some might have called my actions in popping that pepper into my mouth, “cocky”; But in all honesty, I wasn’t being cocky. I just never anticipated having a problem with a pepper!
So often we tend to do habitual things in a mundane manner. After all, we’ve done this so often before, and never have there been any problems. Why do we need to pray about it?
Maybe it is preaching a sermon. Or perhaps leading a discussion or a small group. Or maybe it is running a ministry. Maybe it’s baking cookies for the ladies’ meeting, or mowing the neighbour’s lawn. We aren’t being cocky, it just never occurs to us that there could be a problem. And so we plunge in as it were, head first, totally expecting everything to go as planned, never stopping to ask God to help. We totally forget that it isn’t our efforts that bring about success in ministry, it is God’s Spirit! And when we push on doing things in a routine manner, we never even consider that things could go wrong. We come to depend upon our own experience instead of upon God.
And just like that Scottish Bonnet pepper got me into so much trouble, the moment we stop depending 100% upon God, we risk getting into plenty of trouble as well. And even if there aren’t obvious difficulties, we can be sure that without asking God’s help, our efforts will never achieve their anticipated, optimal outcome.
So it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done it: Always humble yourself before God, submitting the task 100% into His hands. For when you do, you can be assured the outcome will be perfect.
Needless to say, the rest of those crazy peppers stayed on the plant… And the next time someone hands me a pepper I’ve never eaten before, I think I’ll just take a tiny nibble first before chewing it all down. And the next time I’m asked to do any type of ministry, no matter how simple or mundane, I’m going to cover it in prayer!
Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries