Sunday, February 20, 2022

HOW TO MAKE THE COVER OF FORBES - Isaiah 61 Devotional #14

"... The LORD has anointed Me ... To console those who mourn in Zion ... Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks ..."
– Isaiah 61:1b-5
"… According to [Strive] Masiyiwa, a devout Christian, prayers are essential for success in business…. Employees at Econet and people close to Masiyiwa confirm that the tycoon never takes any important business decision before first going on his knees. Judging by Econet’s raving success, Masiyiwa’s prayers actually work. Prayers may work for you as well."
Forbes Magazine, 2/24/2013* (excerpts)
* * *

Who is this Strive Masiyiwa, and what has he accomplished?  Clearly something phenomenal, that the black-tie publication Forbes should feel compelled to reopen the whole discussion about the power of prayer!  (And Forbes Africa did a follow-up article a year later, in February 2014, with Masiyiwa’s picture smack on the cover.)

To further quote the article:

"Today, Econet Wireless is an investor’s delight. It is easily Zimbabwe’s most successful corporation. It is Zimbabwe’s largest mobile telecoms firm, with a subscriber base of over 6 million. Its profits for the year ended February 2011 stood at over $145 million and the Johannesburg-headquartered company has operations in Burundi, Lesotho, Kenya, Nigeria, Botswana and Rwanda. Econet has a market capitalization in the region of $600 million.  Strive Masiyiwa, the unassuming and soft-spoken founder of the telecoms giant, is the richest person to emerge from Zimbabwe. You can glean important business and life lessons by taking a close look at what made Strive Masiyiwa a successful billionaire telecoms tycoon."

Besides Masiyiwa’s success in business, he is known for his longtime friendship with the late Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, as well as his astounding philanthropic acts, such as feeding 40,000 orphans and providing educational scholarships to 250,000 youth in Africa.  

But what’s all this got to do with Isaiah 61, the “Messianic Playbook”?  

Our journey so far through this glorious chapter has been something of a pleasure tour. It began with our Lord unfurling, in first person, His agenda to seek and save humanity.  He then zooms in on the corps of “Blessed Mourners”—those who lament the lost state of their world and say, “Here am I, Lord, send me!”—and switches to third person, describing the magnificent way in which they will carry on His earthly work.

But then, verse 5 … a jump scene!  It’s like you’re drifting serenely along through Disneyland’s iconic It’s a Small World exhibit, when suddenly, “WHAM!”  There’s the T-Rex from Jurassic Park right in your face, with its curly, slimy tongue!  

That’s the effect when our Lord abruptly switches to second person, addressing YOU—"Strangers shall stand and feed YOUR flocks”—and He continues in the second person right into verse 7.  Why?  Well, sure … He wants to get our attention.  But there’s more to it than that.  After all, God isn’t all that into special effects.    

While the preceding verses are a glorious narrative, to be continued midway through verse 7, this particular segment—verses 5 through 7a—is a divine blessing pronounced directly upon the reader.  It’s Christ Himself pouring the holy anointing oil of promise upon the blessed mourner’s head as He utters these words of benediction.

Now, there are two conflicting schools of thought regarding success in life and business in the New Testament age.  While those in one camp maintain that God wants all His children fat and happy, the opposing camp waves the tattered flag of the “holy indigent.”  So, which is right?  Does God want us to prosper, or does He not?  Did the blessings of the patriarchs come with a divine expiration date?

The fact is, we’re asking the wrong question.

As the Apostle Paul explains at great lengths in his writings, the New Covenant ushered in by the Messiah of Isaiah 61 is superior to the Old Covenant in every way.  Which means that our true question should be, “How will the Christian’s material success DIFFER from, and EXCEED, what was promised to the faithful of Israel?”

The answer is simple: “It’s all about Jesus now.”  

And that’s where both schools of prosperity thinking often miss the mark.  Do the writers of Forbes Magazine gush with admiration when they see Christians parading their dazzling opulence?  Or their pious poverty?  Neither, nohow!

But show them a devout, humble, unassuming believer who also happens to be a business genius, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Kofi Annan, while feeding 40,000 orphans and educating 250,000 underprivileged youth—all powered by prayer?  Now we have a story worth printing!

“Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks …”  Yes, we will have “flocks”: in modern terms, “abundance of all we need in life, work, and business.”  And strangers—those who heretofore knew neither us nor the Lord we serve—will be drawn to us, just as God drew the animals to Noah’s ark, to be instrumental in the support and furtherance of all the He’s doing in our lives.

But this only happens when we put God first.  When we come to the realization that all we possess in life is His.  When we hold His blessings in an open hand, ready to give back to our Lord first, and also to those in need that He sends our way.

In Jesus’ first major sermon, the one on the mount, He revealed the eternal principle of provision: that we need not fret and grasp for the things we need in life, but “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,” and then all we need will be given to us.  GIVEN TO US!  Yes, God does indeed want to give us everything we need.  He has flocks to give—the cattle on a thousand hills.  And it’s ALL OURS when we finally realize, deep down, that it’s ALL HIS.

Why not pray ...  

"Dear Father, thank you for raising up shining examples of true, humble, godly success, such as Strive Masiyiwa.  Though I have no aspirations of being a multinational business tycoon, I want what he has—a life of prayer, generosity, humility … and, yes, SUCCESS—so the “strangers” of the world will recognize the power of prayer and be drawn to Your light.  Thank you for Your direct words of benediction in Isaiah 61:5.  I’ll take that!
In Jesus' name. Amen"

Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 2/20/2022. 

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2022 All Rights Reserved

* Full citation for the Forbes clip:
[Nsehe, Mfonobong. “Five Lessons from Zimbabwe's Richest Man, Strive Masiyiwa.” Forbes Magazine. Forbes Media, LLC, February 24, 2013.]