2015 LAGOS, LAGOS WEST, LAGOS MAINLAND, BADAGRY AND AWORI CLERGIES WORKSHOP, HELD AT CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF ST. JUDE’S
EBUTE META ON TUESDAY 20- WEDNESDAY 21 JANUARY, 2015.
THEME: FAITHFULNESS IN THE MIDST OF UNCERTAINTIES
TOPIC: ABOUNDING IN THE WORK OF THE LORD: THE REWARD IS CERTAIN
TEXT: 1 COR. 15:58, LUKE 10:17-20
It is no longer news that we live in a state of uncertainties in this world of ours. This is a generation someone referred to as “a wasted generation” and I want to believe that the planners of this workshop has Nigeria nation in mind, therefore it’s going to be our focus.
I wish to identify few of Nigeria problems that had created uncertainties.
This is at the root and it takes many forms and it has infiltrated political institutions, economic and all sectors. The most currently released result on the level of corruption in Nigeria has improved when compared to that of 2013 and other years. As at last year 2014, Nigeria is ranked 136 out of 174 surveyed countries. This implies that Nigeria is the 38th most corrupt nation in 2014. Unfortunately, the church is not exempted; it has found its way into our most cherished Anglican tradition. What happened in some companies with a male CEOs when a woman applies for job? Those who do not have connection to the top today remain jobless, even if they’re university graduates with top marks. We live in a society where fake is preferred to original. Fake drugs, fake spare parts, fake pastors, fake prophets, fake governments, fake news, etc. We are really living in the world of uncertainty.
INSECURITY AND INSURGENCY:
Terrorist attacks are on the rise in Nigeria with the increase in activities of Boko Haram over the past years. The kidnapping of hundreds of children – mostly girls – from schools and villages in the Northern Nigeria is still fresh in our memory.. These girls were between 17 and 18 years according to a source. This is a military Islamist movement with ties to Al-Qaeda whose name translates into “Western education is forbidden.” Human Right watch estimated that 2,856 people had been killed in 102 separate Boko Haram-Linked attacks in the first half of 2014 alone, and the number is likely much higher by now thousands more have been displaced by the violence.
We now live most of the time in a sleepless night. In many places, our members feel they can no longer walk around their own neighbourhoods unharmed.
It is disheartening to note that Nigeria has one of the highest murder rate, cases of rape is on the increase, homicides, mugging and piracy are endemic. An overall increase in crime against foreigners in particular led the U. S. State department to consider the situation in Nigeria as ‘critical’ in 2013. People around the world cannot browse the internet without fear of being scammed by Nigerians looking to make money overnight. According to the American FBI, ethnic Nigerians in India, Palestine, and Thailand provide Nigerian gangs with easy access to 90% of the world’s heroin supply.
Is a hot issue in Nigeria and many people are frustrated with wide spread of joblessness. Unemployment is like a disease that the cure is not yet in sight. Official Nigeria statistics says 38% of those under 24 are unemployed, but the World bank estimates this number to be close to 80%. In March 16, 2014, 16 people were killed in stampedes when 500,000 desperate job seekers rushed to apply for under 5,000 vacancies at the Nigeria immigration service.
There is a great challenge in Nigeria Education. Many graduates did not learn good skill during their studies. They were busy reading only Text books without knowing the application of what they read. This negativity is one of the major root causes of crime among young people in Nigeria. Each year, more than 200,000 students graduates from universities without job, some will seek out for less than honourable means of survival.
How can a country progress without a reliable power supply? The power sector is corrupt and mismanaged even after its privatization, many workers in this sector are not well equipped with proper skills and training. Domestic production thereby suffer, many foreign companies also find it difficult to conduct business in Nigeria because of the frequent power failures. This problem keeps Nigeria a third world country from year to year. Also, what do we have to say on the state of Nigerian road networks? Business suffers without a dependable road system. In 2014, the World Bank reported that only 67% of paved roads and 33% unpaved roads were in good condition. Water supply is at the zero level, everyone has to provide water at their own cost.
ENVIRONMENTAL AND PUBLIC HEALTH:
The environmental and health standards of Nigeria are in a bad state. In 2013, Amnesty International reported that Nigeria experiences hundreds of oil spills per year in the Niger delta, largely due to pipe erosion, sabotage and neglect by oil companies. Oil spills weakens the micro-organisms and the soul nutrients. Littered waste is scattered all over the roads and streets. Improper disposal garbage contributes to the spread of diseases. The health system in Nigeria does not adequately serve the population. The average Nigerian life expectancy is 38.3 according to World Health report, one of the lower life expectancy in the sub-Saharah African. Infant mortality has been on the increase and the mortality rate is of the highest in the world. The Nigerian health system is poorly funded and this lack of resources created a “brain drain” talented doctors and nurses find jobs in developed countries, leaving Nigeria hospital in the hands of less-talented colleagues. Within Nigeria, good doctors are dis-proportionally concentrated in cities, leaving rural areas undeserved. In the recent times there was a health challenge in the country resulted by Ebola virus. Many citizens of the country dissolved salt in water and drank and some took bath with it and this led to death of about 18 while many others were hospitalized, this should be attributed to improper dissemination of information or it could be as a result of poverty that is ravaging every community.
There are many uncertainties, many very scaring. All these had made our ministry very difficult and seems ineffective. It seems Satan and all his cohorts are taking over. The environment is becoming too hostile and hot for the word of the Master. You need to take statistic of the number of death everyday. Both young and old. Marriages are crashing in hundreds. Insincerity, falsehood, dishonesty, unfaithfulness had taken over the government of the Church. Because of joblessness and crash in business many of us had turned beggers and even engage in unchristianly behavior to be able to run the Church. No wonder, while Jesus was sending His disciples into the field, He told them in Matt. 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves: so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”
ABOUNDING IN THE WORK OF THE LORD – 1 COR. 15:58
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
The text divides itself into three parts setting. First, the necessity of steadfastness in the faith; secondly, the duty of deliquesce in good works and thirdly, the abundant reward which awaits the faithful labourers in the Lord’s Vineyard.
Be ye steadfast, unmovable, in the faith of the Gospel, this is the exhortation of the Apostle, because he believed in the reality of the world to come. The words ‘steadfast, unmovable’ are used by Paul in his writing to the Colossian Christians in 1:23 “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.” It then means ‘settled in the faith, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel’. There should be no shaking like a reed in the wind. With our feet planted upon the eternal rock of the sure word of God with the heart established by grace. With the mind settled in the verities of the truth as it is in Jesus. We must “stand-fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free” resting our belief on “the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints”. This requires not only doctrinal soundness in the essential of the Christian faith and holiness of life, but compliance with the discipline and worship of the Word. Heb 10:23 “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” We are to be firmly fixed on Christ. We are not to go weary or tired in service to Him but should live a balanced life without reproach. A servant firmly grounded in the Bible’s revealed truth. Because some of us are not steadfast, rather we are like “Children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness” (Eph 4:14.) We lack the qualities associated with “always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
The word “immovable” is used by Paul to indicate that a person is unalterable, firmly secured and not subject to change. It also signifies the quality of being unyielding and incapable of being diverted from one’s purpose of God. He is solid, firm , resolute. We find so many worthy examples in the scriptures. Like Paul the Apostle and many of the Apostles.
The importance of steadfastness and consistency in our spiritual development and our ministerial duties is beautifully illustrated in the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt 25:1-13) Five of the Virgins were wise and took oil in their vessels with their lamps. They were prepared to welcome the bridegroom. The five foolish virgins took their lamb but took no oil with them, but procrastinated and were unprepared and shut out from the wedding feast.
The oil of preparedness and steadfastness is accumulated each day through consistency, wise choices. President Spencer W. Kimball described it this way “It is like a sacrament meeting adds oil to our lambs, drop by drop over the years, fasting , family prayer, home teachings, controlled of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures – each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store. Deed of kindness, payment of offerings and tithes, chaste thoughts and actions, marriage in the covenant for eternity.” In like manner, if you and I are focused on receiving consistent drops of spiritual nourishment, then gospel roots can sink deep into our souls, can become firmly established and grounded and will produce extraordinary and delicious fruit. In a gospel sense, you and I need to implement constant spiritual drip saturation and avoid sporadic and shallow spiritual spurting. We need sturdy gospel roots that go deep into the rich spiritual soil to strengthen and steady us in times of trial and difficulty. The Lord Jesus Christ is the sure foundation, you will not fall if you build upon Him as your foundation.
The great Apostles would not listen to those who in the name of “Science, modernization, skill acusation, civilization or any circumstances tampered with the faith. As he wrote to Timothy, his son in the faith. Paul said to him continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and has been assured of. He also declared to the Galatians “Though we or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal.1:8). In the same vain, Paul wrote to the Ephesians that there is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in the hope of your calling’ one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all, (Eph. 4:4-5). We should recognize our varieties in our gifts and ministries, the Bible says “And he gave some, apostles, and some prophets and some evangelists and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ’; till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph.4:11-14). In this wise, steadfastness, unmovable, refers not merely to holiness of life and the practical duties of Christianity, not only to those doctrines which some consider the essentials of the Christian faith but to everything which is contained in the scheme of redemption, as God has revealed it to us in these last days by His son. He urged us in Jude 1:3 to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. He said further to the Colossian to “beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain, deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ” (Col.2:8) Peter in His first Epistle wrote “Meddle not with them that are given to change, remember that the Gospel is not like human science for ever changing and forever new.” (1 Pet.2:13)
We are to be diligent in good works “always abiding in the work of the Lord”. Even the best of us here present is subject to the corruption of our fallen nature, the numerous temptations of the world (Nigeria in particular), the deceptive habit of measuring ourselves by the conduct of others. All tends to produce from time to time remissness and carelessness in spiritual things. Even those that are the most earnest in the work of the Lord are apt at times to grow weary in well doing and to rest. But true Christianity is so practical that its character must pervade everything that we think and say or do. It is a living principle of love to God, of obedience to His laws, of faith in His word, of charity and goodwill towards men. It is animated by the illuminating influences of the Holy Spirit that must permeate the whole man and manifest its sanctifying presence in his family walk and conversation. As Christians, let your light shine before men, live as a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth and it will be seen that, while you seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, you will look for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God.
The necessity of diligence in the work of the Lord therefore, supply the necessity of obeying our ministerial calling. Without it there can be no growth in grace, no real service, no sure success.
The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence (or is gain by force) and the violent take it by force.” Care and diligence, earnestness and exertion are as essential elements of success in the ministry as in any earthly calling. If there is anyone among us who strive for an incorruptible crown must strive for the mastery as earnestly as those who seek to obtain a corruptible one. Apostle Paul express this more meaningfully in this phrase when he wrote “Always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
Brethren in Christ, keep this and make it ever green in your heart, this great truth, especially in connection with the work which we pledged to do as a minister of God. Let it stir you up to renew diligence in your calling in fulfilling the vows at your baptism and ordination. In keeping the commandment of the Lord; and in the daily exercise of those virtues and charities which belong to the disciples of Christ. Paul wrote to the Romans in Chapter 12:16 “Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate.”
He says also in Romans 12:1 “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service”. In Eph.4:2 the scriptures says “be humble, be patient, be persevering; seek no release from the full measure of your ministerial duties; yield to no compromise with the world of flesh; fear no reproach for the name of Christ but continue to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of God.”
REWARDS THAT ARE CERTAIN
“For as much as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
This can best be described in the word of 1 Cor. 2:9 which says “Eyes hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love” Him. The Scriptures also says “sufficient for us to know, that it will be a state of happiness, unclouded by any shade of sorrow, as infinite in duration as our labours and travail here have been finite and as eternal as the God from whom it all proceeds.” What more can the most exalted imagination desire than to dwell forever with Him who has loved us and given Himself for us and washed us from our sin in his own blood. Keep , therefore, beloved brethren, ever before your minds, the glorious prospect which await the child of God in the world to come. This prospect will illuminate the dark places and smooth over the rough paths of this life. It will uplift your daily toil.
There are promises of eternity for those who are steadfast and whose works are found worthy by the master, the kingdom is more than family as Jesus said in Matt 19:29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”. If by your duty it demands, you suffered thirst or hunger there is a promise in John 4:14; “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” 6:27. “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
Here this also as its recorded in Romans 2:6-7 “who will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honour, and immortality.”
The work we do are seeds that we sow, depending on which soil and the faithfulness in the work, the reward is stated in Gal.6:8 “For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” In our assignment, there may be cases of death like Jesus the master, Paul said to Timothy in his second letter 2:11-12 “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us”. Only those who overcome in this work will be glorified Rev. 2:7; “Do not be afraid what you suffer from the hands of the devil, the reward is surer. Rev. 2:10 “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
The work of the Lord includes all works God has commanded men to do. Jesus during His pastoral ministry, did his father’s work. He said “I must work the works of Him who send me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4) Likewise as Christ was obedient to His Father we must be obedient to all things (godly works) commanded by Christ. When Paul wrote to the Colossians, he said in Col 1:9-10 “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;”
Similar passages that can be noted for the reward of our diligent performance are:
Mark 14:6-9; “But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
Phil 1:6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”
2 Tim 2:21 “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.”
Heb 13:21 “make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
1 Timo. 5:17 “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.”
Blessed are all faithful ministers because even here on earth God says He will keep them in perfect peace, because He trust in you. We read about a man named Jacob who, when he was all alone, wrestled with the Lord all night, held on to him steadfastly and said “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” (Gen.32:36). As a reward of his steadfastness, the Lord bless him abundantly. When we abound in the work and hold on to the Lord, no difficulty, evil or sickness can shake us Hebrews 3:14 says “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” When we are steadfast in our work, the Lord will protect us and grant us complete peace and joy and finally accept us into His kingdom.
The Rt. Revd. Dr. J. Akin Atere
The Lord Bishop, Diocese of Awori