• DRINK JESUS DAILY

    Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, the Chosen One of God, the WORD of God, the Rabbi, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the King of Israel, the Light of the World, the Mediator, the Redeemer, the Revealer, the Mighty Healer, the Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, the Truth, the Way and the Life, the best High Priest. The superiority of Jesus Christ to Melchizedek is evidenced in Cana of Galilee when Jesus turned water into wine. Melchizedek could not do that. He brought bread and wine to Abram and Abram paid for it by giving him 10% of the spoilt of war. What can you pay for the Living Water (Wine) that flows from His innermost being? “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance” (Isa. 55:1-2 NASB).   EAT JESUS (“he who eats this bread will live forever”). DRINK JESUS  DAILY. He is the best of the best wine and the only intoxication we need in our lives. I cannot have too much of JESUS in me. There is no breathalyzer to check if I have drunk too much of JESUS. I need to drink Him daily because this JESUS is “the point of contact between heaven and earth, the locus of the ‘traffic’ that brings heaven’s blessings to mankind” (Beasley-Murray, 1987,p.28).  HE IS MY KING AND MY SAVIOUR—THE RULER OF MY SOUL.

  • GRACE

    Ephesians 1:2 “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Grace is commonly defined as the unmerited favour of God the Creator toward His creatures. In chapter 6 of the Book of Genesis Noah and his family find “favour in the eyes of the LORD” by choosing not to destroy this family while others were condemned to destruction. This “divine grace” has salvation and election and justification and judgment for its regalia. The bible says: “Noah was a righteous man and lived blamelessly in his time. Noah walked with God.” Honestly I did not know how the man managed to live so righteously and blamelessly that he and his family could ‘curry favour’ from God whilst the whole world lived corruptively and wickedly in the sight of God. (God, please forgive my inquisitiveness and implicit meritoriousness.)  God is a watchful master. He watches over all the affairs of His creatures.

    Yes, grace is divine favour; Grace is the goodwill on God’s part which provides and applies salvation (“For by grace you have been saved through faith. . . Ephesians 2:8).  Thus grace is multifaceted and “comes in the form of HOPE to saints in despondency, of JOY to them in sorrow, of PATIENCE to them in suffering, of VICTORY to them under assault, and of that FINAL TRIUMPH to them in the hour of death.”  (John Eadie, “Commentary on Ephesians”, p. 7)

    “Therefore let us draw near with CONFIDENCE to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 NASB).

     

  • ASK GOD IN FAITH

    Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,

    In this particular verse, Apostle Paul unequivocally stated that my God has incomparable power to answer prayers offered to Him in faith. Yes, God is infinitely able to meet us at every point of our need. Paul displays (and exposes us to) the unlimited and illimitable power of God to shower on us all kinds of blessings “in superabundance.”  God is Omniscient—He has the knowledge of what we are going through in life.  God is Omnipotent—He has the grandeur ability to do ALL THINGS for us, things that will bring Him glory and honour.

     God is “the One being able beyond all things to do superabundantly all that we ask or we think according to the power operating in us. . .” (Greek translation).

    Paul, the man who experienced the resurrection power of the Messiah, declares that God is able to do far above what we ask.  Jesus Christ, our LORD, also admonished us: “ Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full” (John 16:24 NASB).

    We may have wide-ranging thoughts that cannot be expressed in words or groanings that we think are too deep or unwholesome to bring before the presence of the Holy God, remember that God is far able to do above and far beyond our widest imaginations. In the words of one commentator: “God’s ability to answer prayer transcends not only our spoken petitions, but far surpasses even such thoughts as are too big for words, and too deep for utterance. And still those desires which are dump from their vastness, and amazing from their very boldness, are insignificant requests compared with the power of God.  For we know so little of His promises, and so weak is our faith in them, that we ask not as we should, for their universal fulfilment; and though we did understand their depth and power, our loftiest imaginations of possible blessing would come infinitely short of the power and resources of the Hearer of prayer.” John Eadie, “Commentary on The Epistle to the Ephesians” (1883), p.261-2.

     

     THE TRIAL OF FAITH

     

    What do we have in this world if we don't have sunshine at all?  TOTAL DARKNESS.    Thus, life without faith is like the world without the sun.  You cannot reach the sun with   your arms and you cannot render it visible to the blind, but who can deny that it shines in the sky, especially during summer time? 

                Jesus, after wrestling with the visitors from Jerusalem - the scribes and the Pharisees - who had come to tell Him and His disciples the need to wash hands before eating, decided to make their way to the territory outside their home-base, to the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, probably, for private meditation and a little bit of rest from His antagonizing people.  

    READ THE TEXT Matthew 15:21-28         

                Let’s get this straight: The nation this woman represented was marked by divine judgment and their nefarious activities had risen to God, crying for justice. She came out of the accursed race - a nation that was supposedly to be utterly, completely destroyed and never shown mercy. (Deut. 7:2).

    This woman claimed nothing for herself but she saw greatness in Jesus the Christ.  She shouted  after  Jesus: "Have mercy on me" - take pity on me. That is, she was not claiming a reward for merit, but looking for a benefit, a favor.  But if she claimed nothing for herself, she discerned greatness in Jesus.  Addressing Jesus as "Lord", she revealed her great respect for Him as a great and superior Being.  In calling Jesus "Son of David", she recognized in this Prophet of Nazareth the great King David, seeing Him as a great warrior like David, one who would establish a mighty kingdom. 

                She went on to give details of  her need.   Meeting the Divine Healer, she presented her requests without mincing words:  "my daughter is suffering  terribly from demon-possession" (NIV).  Probably this agonizing mother was a widow - like my own mother - or already deserted by her husband as a result of this terrible sickness of her daughter. (Who would like to be a father of a demon-possessed child?)  The husband fled and left the woman to carry their burden alone.  This incident of deserted-husband could make the woman all the more desperate to help her child.  In her heartfelt pleas, she revealed her affection for her dear, agonizing little daughter.  The mother was making it plain that the daughter was in a serious condition.

                It will be noted that she seeks mercy first for herself, then for her daughter.  Was it possible that her sin had brought this judgment upon her child, or was she just identifying herself with her daughter's need, implying that deliverance for one would mean mercy for the other?    She was making her child's misery her own.  The two were fondly bound together.  Jesus was the One able to bless both mother and daughter alike.

                Note something here: it is our duty to pray for our loved ones. We must not let them go astray from the Lord. We should bring them to the throne of God daily. Without the prayers of some family members, I wouldn’t know what would have become of me now. I am grateful to the family of faith. And I am very sure many of you are....   

    But what a seemingly cold reception from Jesus she received as she came to Him with her serious need.  Jesus said nothing to her, which was very unusual.  "Jesus did not answer a word" (NIV).  This is very surprising and unbecoming of the Lord and Savior - for Jesus usually responded to any appeal for help, and indeed sometimes He took the initiative and helped before a request was made to Him.  Could this be the gracious Helper and Healer she had heard so much about?

                How this attitude of the ever-merciful Jesus must have shocked her!  This cold reception was far from infinite blessings she had heard of and the miracles of power she had probably witnessed.  Where was Jesus' help now as "the Husband of the widow and the Father of the fatherless?"

                How can we explain Jesus' treatment of this woman?  "He answered her not a word."  Sometimes silence is golden.  At least Jesus did not send the woman away.  He did not say, "Your request is impossible."  Jesus' silence is full of mystery and filled with a temporarily suppressed grace.   The silence of Jesus was seemingly a barrier for the woman. I want us to understand something here. In silence Jesus searches our hearts if we are really genuine in our petition to Him. Thus, the woman kept crying out.  The more she was repulsed, the closer she crept to Him and kept knocking at His door.

                Jesus' disciples, apparently disturbed by her shouting, regarding her a nuisance, came up to Jesus and asked Him to send the woman away - for she keeps "shouting after us."  They were so pompous to make themselves equal with Jesus the Master.  They wanted to be rid of the woman and her embarrassing noise.    But Jesus did not answer His disciples according to their wish . . .  What Jesus did say seems to set the seal of hopelessness upon the woman's plea.  "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel".  To whom is Jesus talking?    It is almost as if Jesus were talking to Himself.  What Jesus said did not speak at all to the woman's painful request though it seems that He was saying "no." My understanding of this statement is that it was a response to the disciples’ suggestion that Jesus should grant the woman her request.

                Faith in Christ knows that the best is yet to come.  Probably over-hearing what Jesus said to His disciples about His exclusive ministry, the woman drew closer to Jesus and worshipped Him saying "Lord", help me."  Faith believes that Jesus is good even when reason is not so sure.  "Lord, help me!" She did not consider Jesus a racist or a sexist.  Her words say, in effect, "I don't quite understand what you are saying when you talk about your mission.  But I sense that you do not feel as bad about me.  Something is troubling you.  But something is deeply troubling me, too - Lord, H-E-L-P  M-E-E!" When Jesus responded, He responded in words that meant, "You are not of Israel, and to them I am sent.  It is the children's bread I have come to give, and you are outside the family circle."  Jesus answer is on the surface a harsh one.

    V.26 It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.

                Perhaps a word is necessary about our Lord's usage of "children" and "dogs".  By "children" of course, He meant the Jews, the children of the Kingdom, while "dogs"  referred  to the Gentiles - which is a proverbial expression used by the Jews to denote a sense of their national superiority over other nations.

                Some find this statement very disturbing, because it seems to present Jesus as responding in an uncompassionate way to the cry for help of a Gentile woman.  Yes, His words strike us as unduly harsh and very insensitive: "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs" (NIV).  The statement is sometimes considered inauthentic, authentic, or chauvinistic, presenting Jesus as a Jewish man of His day. Mind you, Jesus did not call the Gentiles "dogs."  He only applied the sentiment of His time to the case on hand.  Gentiles were called "dogs" by the Jews. Jesus, probably, quoted this racial epithet to test the faith of this woman further.

                It is interesting to note that the word Jesus used for "dogs", kunaria, was a soft one, meaning little dogs, puppies.  "Dogs" here are clearly house pets; they must be fed, but not at the expense of the children.  It is a descriptive word.

                Jesus did not call the woman a "dog."  The tone and the look with which a thing is said make all the difference.  Even a thing which seems hard can be said with disarming smile.  We can be sure that the smile on Jesus' face and the compassion in His eyes robbed the words of all insult and bitterness.  Definitely, this couldn't put off the woman.

                Actually, Christ's reply was enough to put off anyone else but not this woman whose faith in Christ was so strong , and whose love for her demon-possessed daughter was so strong that she turned the seemingly repulsive statement of Jesus into a reason for approaching Him more closely and confidentially.  Jesus said "No", but He looked "YES".  Christ's word is understood by faith.  V.27 "Yes, Lord", she said, "yet even the  dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table."  Behold and behold, the humble spirit of this woman. This is the strength of her faith.  This statement reveals great wisdom and great faith of this woman.  She did not phrase her answer as a counter-attack but as a profound agreement with the Lord.  She never argued that her needs make her an exception or that the mysterious ways of divine election and justice are unfair.  She did not turn away from the divine answer in a rage, as Naman did.  "Yes, Lord, I am a dog; yet as the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their master's table, please, give me the crumbs of your mercy . . . "  She agreed that she and her people were "dogs", outsiders altogether, and therefore had no claim.

     Faith can find encouragement even in that which is discouraging, and get nearer to God by taking hold on that hand which is stretched to push it away. The woman felt no insult in the comparison between children of the household and the pet dogs. Let me tell you, there is no blessing for us when we argue with  God. I remember in my own complacency back home in Nigeria I argued with the Lord when I received the call at the time I was completing my MPA degree.

                The woman agreed with Jesus that she is  not worthy to be ranked among His children, Lord. Nor does she ask for the bread of the children, but the crumbs that fall from the Master’s rich table of mercy. She did not ask for great things: only a crumb of His power.  Like Jacob of old, the woman cried in the very desperation of her faith, "I will not let thee go, until thou bless me (Gen.32:24)."

                Her sense of unworthiness was very deep, but even the dogs eat the scraps, crumbs, and what she sought would never make the children hungry, yet it would enrich herself.   She did not ask that the children should be deprived of their rightful portion. Little wonder Jesus said:  O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.  Taking her place satisfyingly among the "dogs", she could claim Jesus as her Master, and ask for the crumbs of His mercy.   She never asked for the  child's place.  Like Jacob of old, she wrestled with the Divine Man, Jesus, and won.   She knocked, and knocked, and knocked, and knocked at the door of Jesus until it was opened to her. "O woman, great is your faith."  If her attitude teaches us anything, it is  having unshaking and uncompromising faith in Jesus the Lord.

    According to Charles Spurgeon: He tried her faith by His silence and by discouraging replies, that He might see its strength; but He was all the while delighting in it, and secretly sustaining it, and when He had sufficiently tried it, He brought it forth as gold, and set His own royal mark upon it in these memorable words, O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt.             

                My fellow ministers, nothing conquers Jesus’ heart faster than faith that says, Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” When answers to prayers are delayed , what do we do?  Do we give up on God?  Shall we fret? No, we must continue to pray to God to intervene in our situation. And if He does not, His Grace is sufficient for us, for power is made perfect in weakness.  

                My fellow ministers, what type of demon has possessed you? Is it the demon of materialism, the demon of unbelief. I ask you right now to lay that demon at the feet of Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith.  He will surely heal you. Let us not be discouraged by the silence of God. His silence may indicate His desire that we learn the discipline of patient prayer and humble waiting. If God has determined to bless us, nothing can prevent us from receiving the answers to our prayers but our own unbelief, misunderstanding or ignorance of God’s plans.

                What is having a great faith? It involves acknowledging that Jesus is Lord, it is having unshaking trust in Christ, that He has the divine power to help us. When the answers to prayers are delayed, God is thereby teaching us to pray more, and pray better. It is also then the time to search our hearts to find out where we have come short so that what has been amiss may be amended. Difficulties, instead of crushing our spirits, should stimulate our energies to pray more fervently. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16b).  

    Remember, Jesus admires the faith and nothing but the faith of this pagan woman.  Jesus never commended the woman's persistence or humility. It is her faith that is basic. She believed in Jesus and in the end she obtained the desire of her heart.  Faith gets Jesus and His saving power - faith alone, Jew or Gentile, male or female, black or white. 

     PREACHED IN 1994


GOD IS IN THE MIDST OF OUR SUFFERING

Texts: Isaiah 53: 1-6 and John 19:25-31

 

                 

            When our Lord Jesus Christ was hanging on the cross, He made seven remarkable statements. While these statements have a great deal to say about God’s salvation for God’s people, they also revealed something about how we can, because of the Cross, handle human suffering.  Thus, I propose to you this day that God is in the midst of our suffering.

            The first statement our Lord made while he was being mocked, ridiculed, tormented, and while hanging on the Cross is found in the Gospel According to Luke, 23:34. Jesus said; “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

            Most people in pain will hurl curses or abuses on their tormentors, especially when they are  innocent of any crime. We see Jesus here praying for us that God Almighty should forgive us. In doing so He showed love for His enemies and total submission to His Father as He appeals to the Father for our pardon. In this statement Jesus practicalised what He taught us in Matthew 5:44, “I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you.” 

            I tell you what, this is a hard teaching, but that is what Jesus commanded us to do. How can we forgive that drunken driver who killed our loved ones or render them vegetable the rest of their lives with no use to themselves and the society?

That situation can make us bitter for the rest of our lives. But come to think of it, there was no bitterness in the heart of Jesus against those who were causing Him pain. “Bitterness only makes suffering worse and closes the spiritual channels through which God can pour His Grace.”

           

            How can we learn to forgive as Jesus did? We must learn to love our enemies as God loves us when we were His enemies. We must remember that we cannot expect forgiveness unless we forgive others.

            The second statement is also found in Luke 23:43, “I  tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” The circumstances behind the statement is very clear to all of us. But let me give a brief scenario to bring it into perspective. Jesus was condemned to public execution with two harden criminals of his day, one hanging on His right side and the other on the left. Matthew and Mark told us that  the two robbers actually derided and mocked as chief priests and scribes did. Only Luke said that one of the thieves never made fun of Christ.

            To all  people who mocked, Jesus’ helplessness is obvious proof that He is not the Messiah. He saved others, why can’t He save Himself and us too? the first thief reasoned. The other thief rebuked his friend: “Here you are dying for a crime that you and I actually committed. Aren’t you afraid to go before God for judgment with another sin on your head, the sin of poking fun at an innocent man?” Then he turned to Christ; “Lord, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.”

            It is amazing how the man knew that Jesus’ kingdom was “not of this world” (Jn. 18:36).  How much or little this “good” thief  knew about Jesus, at least he knew enough to look to Jesus for salvation at the last minute of his death, and this is the most important thing for any sinner to do. The repentant criminal was the only one who understood and believed that Jesus, who was being rejected and killed, was on His way to messianic power and glory. 

            This perceptive criminal rejects the view that Jesus would save Himself if He were Messiah. And his request of Jesus shows faith that Jesus will receive royal power as Messiah in spite of the death by crucifixion they are sharing.  Jesus’ positive response to the criminal’s request shows that he has correctly understood Jesus.

            The dying criminal who speaks of Jesus entering His royal power is the only person who shows some awareness that Jesus’ death is part of a divine plan that will lead to Jesus’ enthronement. Jesus had tried to inform His disciples about His death  and Resurrection, but they did not understand. The salvation sought by the criminal need not wait until some distant time. “Today,”  “before the sun goes down,” you will be with me in paradise.”

            Once again the last had become the first. The last, who are helpless and without hope, however, can turn to Jesus and find life everlasting. Tax collectors, prostitutes, the poor, the blind, and even the criminals being executed for their crimes are able in the eleventh hour to find Jesus an all-sufficient Savior.

            “Paradise” is a Persian word  and means a walled park such as surrounded a royal palace. It presents the picture of delight. To the Jews of that time, “paradise” meant the place where righteous people went when they died.

            What comes to my mind as I ponder this statement of Jesus to the dying criminal on the cross is the unselfishness of Jesus Christ. Honestly, suffering can make people selfish. Your teenager (son or daughter) was killed in a car accident,  and you are being asked by the attending nurse or medical personnel to donate his or her  vital lively organs while you are still in shock and grieving! Yes, suffering can make us selfish. But Jesus  thought of others in His suffering on the cross. Jesus gave hope to a condemned criminal. Let me confess to you: I used to feel embarrass and helpless when I ’m providing pastoral presence to family members whose loved ones have just died and a nurse walks in to ask them whether the person who has just died is an organ donor or they are willing to donate his or her organ if he or she is not.

Similarly, as Jesus hung dying on a Roman cross, suffering as the Lamb of God, He took thought and made provision for His mother. He spoke the next statements to His mother, Mary, and His beloved disciple, John. “Dear woman, here is your son, . . . Here is your mother” (Jn. 19:26, 27).  Jesus’ thoughts continue to be on others not on Himself.  Even in death, Jesus’ mind and whole being were set on taking care of others. Jesus was touched with the feelings of Mary’s hurt and pain. In the last moments of Jesus’ life in this world, He made arrangements for His mother’s care. This is a powerful lesson from Jesus Christ; that our suffering should not hinder us from caring for normal responsibilities of life, if we can.

We must care for those whom we love. You can see that God is in the midst of our suffering. God is touched with the feeling of our hurt and pain, so He takes care of us. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb.4:15-16).

The fourth statement is “Eli!, Eli!, lama sabachthani” which is “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mat. 27: 46). Jesus cried out these words when he felt abandoned by His heavenly Father. There are times when we experience the abandonment of God. There are times of darkness and loneliness when we suffer. There are hours of anguish and isolation. But they are followed by times of closer fellowship with God.  Jesus was forsaken for a moment so that we might never be forsaken.

The fifth statement is “I am thirsty” (Jn. 19:30). Jesus thirsts for water. A man scourged, bleeding, and hanging on a cross under the Near-Eastern Palestinian sun would be so desperately dehydrated that thirst would be part of the torture. This statement shows that Jesus was truly man, and knew all the experiences which physical organism imposes upon the spirit. The only way to escape the normal human pains of life is to stop being human. 

In this sense, no one can deny the real humanity of Jesus. Jesus experienced need, and others had to meet that need by giving Him a drink. Our suffering often makes us helpless; we resent being cared for like little children. But our Savior was willing for an anonymous bystander to wet His lips. He served others by permitting them to serve Him. When someone gives us a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name, he or she is giving it to the Savior (Matthew 35:40).

The next statement, TETELESTAI, translated “It is finished” was actually a cry of victory, meaning, “It is accomplished!” Jesus’ suffering was not in vain. Jesus’ work is accomplished but nothing was finished. The seed of faith in God sown among men and women would take root and bring forth fruit unto eternity.

This tells me that our suffering in this world is not in vain, if we dedicate it to God Almighty and seek to use it for God’s glory. We may not always understand the purposes God is accomplishing; but if we cooperate and trust, God will achieve His goals, and we will share in the reward.

And finally, Jesus bowed His Head and cried with a loud voice, saying: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk.23:46).  Jesus, knowing that He had completed His task, His mission on earth, willingly  “gave up His spirit” into His Father’s Hands in order to enter  into His glory. Nobody took Jesus’ life from Him; He gave it up willingly. In His crucifixion Jesus was in control of all that was taking place.  Suffering does not last forever, and death is not the end. Jesus came into this world and partook of our suffering, and He lifted our lives from hopelessness and misery to victory and joy. Our suffering may end in death, or it may end in healing. Either way, we are in God’s hands, because God is in the midst of our suffering. I pray that our suffering will not control us. In Jesus’ Holy Name. Amen

 

Excerpts of sermon preached on Good Friday April 2nd 1999 @ Crawford Long Hospital Chapel, Emory University, Atlanta, US.

 


 

THAT I MAY KNOW HIM . . . . 

SERMON on Phil.3:10


          Growing up as a child and a teenager, I never believed in anything except my mother whom I regarded my goddess. Thus, in my dormitory in the High School I drew up an image of a goddess on my cupboard beside my bed and worshipped this image every morning.


As a university student, Professor Wole Soyinka, Africa's first Nobel Laureate in Literature, influenced me to denounce Christian religion. Therefore, I graduated from the University an atheist.


     My journey to conversion started in 1987, when I got transferred to a High School as a Teacher. The principal of that school, Mrs Ogunwuyi, a Baptist, would call me into her office and share the Word of God with me. Initially, I rejected her "preaching" and told her in plain words that my ambition in life was to become famous and wealthy. I had no interest in this Jesus stuff. She persisted in calling me into her office and sharing the Word. After more than six months of being bombarded left and right with the Word of God I accepted Jesus Christ on July 11, 1987.


     My favorite Bible story is that of the prodigal son. I would consider myself a prodigal son by all indications. The father that I hated died during my second year in the University.  After my graduation I needed the legacy left behind for me. All I was interested in was the money and rents accrued from the property. They gave me all the money. I left town, never gave my mother anything, started travelling about visiting major cities and having fun. I lavished all the money on women and came back to my fathered-mother. The same happened to me in my journey before I met the Lord. The prodigal son did not change in order to qualify for his father's acceptance. In my own polluted life, in my nauseating life the Lord God accepted me when I gave my life to His only Son, Jesus Christ. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God."


     My favorite Bible character is Paul. I love the personality of Paul especially his conversion experience because mine was also similar. Most importantly, I cherish Paul's steadfastness to serve the Lord despite all obstacles, and that has made him to be  very dear to me.


     I told you just now that I accepted Jesus Christ in 1987. Yes I did, but I did not allow Him to turn me around.  Although I was attending church sporadically I was still living in sin.  I was still doing what I used to do before I "confessed" Jesus as Lord. The only difference was that I was committing my usual sin with women who considered themselves Christians. One day  after a powerful romance with one beautiful young woman in my bungalow, I said to her that I believed we are committing sin with what we are doing. She retorted sharply: "We are not angels. God knows we are humans."   

The reality of my sin dawned on me one day. I told the story of Jacob last time. That is actually my story. Jacob or James. Pick your choice. When my former fiancee’s father told me that he would make me a seal which I would wear on my neck throughout my life, I was afraid. I rejected the offer and chose to quit the relationship. I came back to my bungalow that day Wednesday Dec, 19, 1990 and I surrendered my life totally to Christ.


This is the setting of my dramatic encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.  I sought solace in a Pentecostal church in order that I can be more powerful in prayer so as to fight off any dangerous consequences that might result from my action. I refused to go to any Magic/Medicine man. Where this might be true, more importantly, I joined this church in order to get a "Holy Spirit-filled woman" to date. I became involved in the church activities and in fact became one of the volunteer worker in the church. I was seemingly zealous for the Lord but, in fact, I was diligently searching for one of the beautiful, highly-educated women in the church.   Something within me continued to wrestle with me that my motive was premeditated. A voice told me (and continued to tell at intervals) to stop attending this church. I never listened to it, and, in fact, I discarded it as a voice of the devil. I gave more than my tithe to the Church.  I attended all the programs and activities of the church just to prove that I was on fire for the Lord. I loved to sit among these colorful ladies during church services. I loved visiting them at homes and was ready to carry out errands for them.  Anytime I was alone or riding in the bus going home after church, a still, small voice would tell me to stop attending this church but to stay home and read "His Word".  I refused to listen because I believed I had no alternative for the Bible says, "Let us not give up meeting together. . . (Hebrews 10:25 NIV).  


     Then Wednesday, August 7, 1991, an incident happened. I rushed in to see my pastor to drop my tithe and my contribution for the program of events coming up. On getting to his residence, he sent down a message that he was in his study and, therefore, he would not see me. This was a few minutes after eight in the evening. I quickly dropped the envelope with a girl to give to him.  Outside the house, it dawned on me that I had been bruised, disappointed, and frustrated.  As I walked on to the main road, I began to think on what made the pastor send such a message to me when I had wanted to see him. All of a sudden I became blind. I meant completely blind. It was a total blackout for me. I could no longer see anything. It was extremely dark for me and I began to grope to find my way. I was staggering along as if I were drunk. I began to shed tears profusely. For the ten to fifteen minutes that I was blind I began to use my hands to feel my way to the bus-stop. By the time my eyes were opened again I found myself on another entirely different road which was far away from the bus-stop.  Seeing this, tears began to roll down my cheeks as I finally decided to walk home instead of riding a bus.


     AS I walked home the questions that bedeviled me were:

1. How did I cross the first busy road without being knocked down by a vehicle or a motorbike?

2. How did I safely cross the major junction?

3. Have I offended God so terribly in one way or the other?


     Suddenly there was a flashback. I remembered the Spirit of God telling me to read God's Word most of the time, meditating it day and night and quit attending weekly meetings of this church. From that night I made up my mind not to attend this church again. I began to read the Word of God voraciously.


     The questions that continue to plaque me are these:

1. What made me to be blind and probably deaf on that fateful night?

2. Why should God have to deal with me in this way in order for me to obey Him?

3. Did God strike me with blindness because of my complaint against God's anointed pastor for not coming down to meet with me?

4. Did God use this blindness so that I would quit attending this church because He knew that my motive was misplaced? 

5. Was this encounter to make me never to doubt the saving grace of God or just to reflect the theophany?

6. Could it be the father of my abandoned fiancee used the dreaded magical spell to destroy me?


The questions are endless but the incident continues to serve as a reminder whenever I'm tempted to commit any sin. He Who did not spare His Son but gave Him up may eventually strike me down if I continue in my sin.


     I was baptized in water on October 26, 1991. I was licensed to preach and preached my first sermon from Phil. 3:1-11.


Please turn with me to Philippians chapter three. We are going to read only verse 10.


     We all know the story of conversion of Paul. However, many books have been written to substantiate his experience as well as to dismiss it as a figment of Paul's infantile imagination. I am very sure some of you listening to me right now would begin to wonder whether my conversion story is not a figment of my own imagination. The fact is that those who dismiss Paul's Damascus' road experience as a wishy-washy have not been able to explain why a persecutor should turn a propagator. The same goes with me. Before I was struck with blindness that night I could pronounce myself a past-master of self-indulgence, a sexual gatronomist, yes, a womanizer of the order of Bill Clinton, if you would say, and a discontinous personality. Before my catastrophic and metamorphic encounter with the Risen Lord, I had lived my life challenging the validity of Christian Faith. I am a Yoruba and I loved my Yoruba traditional religion over and above any other religions in the world. In essence, my experience is a conversion and a total transformation of a degenerate mind.


     I say this to you, the power of resurrection is needed for divine transformation, for spiritual regeneration of every believer. This afternoon, I want to share with you how we can have a closer relationship with Jesus our Lord in order to be filled with the power of His resurrection, yes,  how we can know Jesus and be like Him.


     First, we must prepare to die to sin.  My fellow ministers, sin is real and hell is real. I have heard some ministers saying that God will not punish us for our occasional sexual escapades because He knows that we are weak. To me, that is nonsense. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 5:5 that "no fornicator or impure person" shall inherit the Kingdom of God.


      In the black seminary I attended before I transferred, sexual immorality was the order of the day. One day the SGA president said that he would get me a playmate. I asked him "What is meant by a playmate". After he has explained what he meant, I told him that is fornication.


      I transferred to this seminary Fall 1995, and a very good friend of mine wanted to celebrate his birthday  that October. He invited some of us to celebrate it with him in a restaurant. We got to this restaurant, and what did I see? A group of women almost naked, except for their tiny, scanty underwears and brassiere, were the servers. I was shocked. I told my friend to take me back to the hall because I could not stand these naked women.


      The Bible tells us to flee all appearances of evil. If you want to get closer to Jesus, flee from sin. Many of us have no anointing like that of Joseph who was strolling majestically alone in the presence of Potiphar's wife.


      For more than one year I cohabited with my former fiancee, the daughter of that apostle of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church.  How did I get into that situation, when we claimed to be Christians?, you ask me. I will tell you. To justify our cohabitation, she opened her Bible to Deuteronomy 22:28,29 and read it to me: "If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman's father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives."        


     After my cataclysmic encounter with the Risen Lord and I had been baptized, the Lord revealed to me that fornication is a sin. It dampens my spirit. And I must not grieve the Holy Spirit that dwells in me.


     The Devil is an artist. He paints sin in very attractive colors. Jesus tells us we cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve God and mammon. I don't know what type of sin I might have  exposed in any of you at this moment. Somebody might be saying, I have never fornicated in my life; I do not commit adultery. What of pride, anger, envy or jealousy, embezzlement, backbiting, and what-have-you. Fellow ministers, let me tell you: Pride can destroy all that is good in a man. Similarly, Christians are not to discuss the faults of others in a malicious spirit.


      More importantly, anger can make you not to enter the promised land. It has been my fervent prayer to marry so that I can stop looking at these beautiful American women who walk around like angelic beings. The Lord revealed to me in my dream early morning of GOOD FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 1998, that I am responsible for the delay in my marriage in life. How? The Lord reminded me that I had already destroyed my relationship with the woman I'm dying to marry. I vividly recollect what happened. The Holy Spirit led me to read the journal where I recorded the incident. January 1996, I received a letter from my fiancee in Nigeria. In that letter she asked me this question: "Do you pay your tithe? Remember the Bible says, Try me, prove me in the book of Mal. 3:10-12. If you are not been faithful, why don't you try God, and He will surely bless you." By the time I finished reading what I just qouted I became angry. With the letter in my hand I went in rage to the prayer room at the Honneycutt Center, lifting the letter up, I prayed in agony, shedding tears, to God to severe our relationship. Reason: because at no time did I stop giving my tithe to God even when I picked up food in the garbage in order to have money to make call to her. That letter infuriated me to the extent that I also wrote her a stinking letter after my prayer that day.  She wrote back asking for apology. You know what, the deed is done. The Holy Spirit revealed this past good Friday that I was the cause of the delay in my marriage. I shed tears to God after this revelation. Can you see, anger will make us not to enter the promised land. Moses is a good example. In anger he struck the stone twice, when God told him to do it once. In my prayer of anger I destroyed my relationship with a woman I will give all I have to marry.     


 Please, do not hide from your sins, let them drive you to Jesus.


     Second, after our sins have driven us to the Rock of our Salvation, we must faithfully abide with Christ to know the power of His resurrection. In personal relationships, to "know" is to enter into the deepest personal intimacy and union."Adam knew Eve his wife." This is deep, intimate union. What is this power of His resurrection? It is that victorious power that conquers all the trials and temptations of this life.


     My fellom ministers, resurrection power is the greatest force the universe has ever seen. The mightest miracle God ever performed, His most powerful work, was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead ones. When God brought Jesus out of Hell and grave, He displayed, as never before, the extent of His might and dominion. But this great resurrection power is not just the means of our physical resurrection. It is the spiritual dynamo by which we are to live our lives everyday; ". . . just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might  WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE" (Romans 6:4).


      The Power of Christ's resurrection represents  the sum total of God's power within us. It's the power that enables us to live free from sin. It's the supernatural power that heals our bodies and causes demons to flee in terror when we use Jesus' Name. It's the power that we need to know. How do we know the Power of His Resurrection? We must spend time with God on daily basis.


      If we want to  know Jesus intimately, not only  must we be prepared  to be dead to our sins and be ready to know the power of His resurrection by spending time with God on daily basis, but, thirdly, we must be ready to share in his sufferings.


     The fellowship of Jesus' sufferings include two kinds of affliction: persecution (external conflict) and temptation (internal conflict). The Bible says: "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). There were many things that Jesus suffered before He ever got to the cross, and these are the suffering we share with Him.


     Jesus faced fierced opposition and persecution all during His ministry. The same for Paul. To us Jesus says, "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). The worse persecution I ever faced was from so called Christians. Some of them, who knew my wayward past, could not believe that I can confess Jesus as my Lord and Savior. It was hard for them to believe that a denigrator, a defamer of Christian Faith is now its proclaimer. I remember vividly when I told a former colleague who is also a deacon of a Methodist Church in Nigeria that I am about to retire from the Teaching Service. He asked me why because, according to him, I am too young to retire. When I said: "Because I've received the call and I'm going to the seminary". Come and see the expression on the face of this man!  He said: "You, you-ou, ha, ha, ha." As he said this, he ran away from me as he continued to laugh. Many of you have shared with us how you have been persecuted by believers in your congregation. 


     My fellow ministers, you will agree with me that the worse suffering we will face is that of temptation, which I called internal conflict. I am facing that presently. I continually wrestle within my soul whether to abandon my calling and leave for university to obtain Ph.D in Public Administration. I continually feel incapable, unworthy to preach the Word of God. But anytime I have that thought the story of Jonah in the belly of that big fish always ministers to me.


     I don't know what type of temptation any of you might be facing, but know this for sure: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13 NASB). 


In conclusion, the phrase, “being conformed to his death,” or “being made conformable unto his death” (KJV), or “by becoming like him in his death” (NRSV), gives us insight into Paul’s view of spiritual life. The phrase, to me, is the sum total of Paul’s theology of sanctification.  According to one commentator, Gerald F. Hawthorne, “. . . . it says that Paul, already dead to sin by virtue of Christ’s death, nevertheless strives to make the effects of that death an ever-present reality within himself by his own constant choice to consider himself in fact dead to sin and alive to God, to conform his practice in the world to his position in Christ, to renounce his own selfish desires and say YES to Christ who calls him to take up his cross daily and follow him as a servant of God for the good of mankind.”

 

     This is our metamorphosis, our costly discipleship, our dying-and-rising with the Christ of Glory, our regeneration, our spiritual transformation into the image of Christ Jesus.

 

Finally, I leave you with this cross:

              Never the same again

               All I know I won’t be the same again

               From the moment I met Jesus

               New life for me began

               I won’t be the same again.           THANK YOU.

 

Message shared in 1998 to fellow seminarians.




WHERE IS GOD IN MY SUFFERING?


Texts: Job 42:1-9,  Romans 8: 31-39


             This afternoon I am going to share with you what I have been thinking regarding suffering in relation to God who is good, loving and compassionate. So that when you are faced with the question: “Where is God in my suffering?” you may be able to say “God is right here in the midst of my suffering, working out the best for me.” Remember I did not say “Why?, or Why me?” because I have no answer for that question. When you find yourself fighting an incurable disease or when your doctor has just told  you  have cancer, you or your spouse is HIV+ or your spouse has just died suddenly from cardiac arrest, the question that comes to our lip is “Why me?” We are looking for the reasons. As a little finite human being I cannot figure out any reasons for going through what you are going through.


Read the texts.


            Most of us - if not all of us - believes that sickness or disaster befall us because of unknown terrible sin committed against the Almighty God. We sincerely think that suffering is punishment. I agree to a certain extent. I tell you what:


1. Some suffering is the sad consequences of our own disobedience. The people of Israel suffered greatly, mainly because they disobeyed God’s law and violated God’s covenant. But their suffering was also a revelation to the world that their God cared enough for them to deal with them when they strayed from the truth. Suffering is also a blind revelation of truth that we need to face up to honestly. Yes, we do bring some suffering upon ourselves. Jonah is a good example of this truth. It took a great suffering to bring Jonah back to his senses and back into the place of obedience. Therefore, calamity is often the voice of God shouting to us to turn around and come back.


2. Suffering is punishment, yet some suffering is preparation for future ministry. You all remember the story of Joseph. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him and hated him, so they sold him into slavery.  Joseph’s father, Jacob, thought that his beloved son was dead; but actually, Joseph was serving in Egypt. He spent several trying years in prison, but then, by a series of wonderful circumstances, Joseph was made second ruler of the land. As a result of this, he was able to protect  his father and brothers during the famine.


            From our human perspective, what happened to Joseph was “bad.” Jealousy and hatred are bad. It is a bad thing to be separated from your aged father and sold as a slave. It is a bad thing to be falsely accused and thrown into prison. But, in the end, all of these events worked out for good. Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20)


            We had better be cautious in identifying the experiences of life as “good” or “bad,”  because we might be wrong. For Romans 8:28 tells us, “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.”


3.  Some suffering is simply for the glory of God -  the case of Job.  Job was a moral, religious man with a blameless reputation. God admitted that He had no reason to let Job suffer, and yet  God put him through a trial that would have broken a lesser man like James Adetoro. Job did suffer. He suffered when he lost his wealth. He suffered even more when he lost his family. He cursed his birthday and wondered why he was born at all. Job was perplexed by the tremendous amount of suffering he had to endure. With this burden on his heart, Job cried for a lawyer. “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both.” (Job 9:33). Thanks to God, we have a Great Advocate. He is Jesus Christ who represents us before the throne of God. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransome for all (1 Timothy 2:5, 6).”


            In a very real sense, Job “helped God” to silence Satan and to settle it once  and for all that God is worthy of our worship and service.


CONCLUSION


            I want to conclude by saying that the  Cross of Jesus Christ makes it clear that;


1. Suffering is not always punishment for sin, in spite of what Job’s friends may say.  Sometimes is, but not always. It doesn’t hurt us to examine our own hearts, but we must not get carried away with the mistake of Job’s three friends. Sometimes our suffering is a prunning experience, during which God carefully removes “good” things so that we may become more useful to God and others.


2. Suffering  can accomplish purposes for others, making us to glorify God   The same baby that helps to cause the pain also brings joy. Christ gives us joy by transformation. He does not always take the pain away, but He uses the pain to give birth to joy. How many of you here who do not love to sing  “To God Be the Glory”, “Blessed Assurance”, “I Am Thine, O Lord”, or “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior?”  The woman who wrote all these songs and many more was Fanny J. Crosby. She was born in 1820 and died at the age of 95 in 1915. Because of the stupidity of a doctor she became blind at the age of six weeks. As she grew older, she saw in this accidental blindness the providential hand of God. She wrote her first poem at the age of eight. Her suffering gave birth to a gift of song, a gift that has enriched millions of worshippers in churches throughout the world. Because of her faith in Christ, a so-called handicap became a tool that she used to bring joy and encouragement to millions of people.


            What I’m saying is that today’s suffering can mean tomorrow’s glory.       


Where is God in my suffering?  God is present in my suffering. God is present in your suffering in the Person of Jesus Christ. He hears our prayer as we cry from our pain. In Jesus we have a God who is willing to bear our suffering with us and for us.


 Jesus could not escape this Cross, just as we cannot escape all the sufferings of life.


As Jesus found hope in the presence of a God who was with him in that ordeal, we can find hope in the caring and suffering God who accompanies us in  our moments of suffering that, for one reason or the other, cannot be avoided.


Read Romans 8: 31 to 39 for your meditation. (Preached in 1999 at Emory University Crawford Long Hospital Chapel.)