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ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR, DR IFEANYI OKOWA, GOVERNOR OF DELTA STATE, AT THE 14TH SYNOD OF THE ANGLICAN DIOCESE OF ASABA, ON SUNDAY, MAY 14, 2017, AT CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF ST PETER, BISHOPSCOURT, ASABA

 

First, let me thank you for the privilege and honour to address this elite gathering. Indeed it is humbling to be given the rare opportunity to address my lord bishops, distinguished clergy and leaders of our denomination, and I do not take it lightly.

  1. I will focus my thoughts this morning on the theme of this synod, “Of Whom the World was not Worthy.” In a world of trendy religion and revised standard Christianity, I must say I find this topic quite refreshing and welcome. It is one that calls for rigorous examination, sober reflection and deep understanding.
  2. As we all here know, Chapter Eleven of the book of Hebrews is known as the Hall of Fame. Beginning with a definition of what Biblical faith is, the writer of Hebrews goes on to list men and women whose faith, courage and obedience enabled them to do great things and accomplish God’s purposes in their generation. The list begins with the patriarchs Abraham and Moses and goes on to include all those who “conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.”
  3. In modern day parlance, these were great achievers. But then the Holy Spirit through the writer of this epistle goes on to induct in the Hall of Fame others that you and I would never have considered successful. Our foundation text reads as follows:

35And others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword . . . 38 men of whom the world was not worthy.”

  1. Just look at their qualifications. They were tortured. They were mocked. They were scourged. They were chained and imprisoned. They were stoned and sawn into two. What a stark contrast to the exploits of the likes of Gideon, Barak David, Samuel, Jephthah and the prophets. It is instructive we pay particular attention to God’s perception of these anonymous others – “men of whom the world was not worthy.”
  2. In other words, these men were just too good for this fallen world. The world was so corrupt and vile that it had no place for such holy men. This expression, I believe, is the highest accolade we can receive from the Lord. Bible scholar Albert Barnes writes that “these poor, despised, and persecuted people, living as outcasts and wanderers, were of a character far elevated above the world. This is a most beautiful expression. It is at once a statement of their eminent holiness, and of the wickedness of the rest of mankind.”

What lessons can we draw from this Biblical narrative?

  1. The first thing is for us as the people of God to realise that success is much more than physical blessings. In the church today, we have come to equate success with power, money, cars, possessions, children and enjoying the goodies of this world. While God may bless us with these to accomplish His purposes on the earth, we must walk with the consciousness that obeying God and living a life of integrity is not always recognised and rewarded in this broken world.
  2. In fact, sometimes we may have to suffer for doing the right thing. The Lord Jesus Christ was hated without a cause (John 15:25), and He warned us that we are headed down the path of ruin when the world celebrates us (Luke 6:26). Later, Apostle Peter reminded us that trial is normal to the Christian life (1 Peter 4:12).
  3. From the New Testament perspective, it is wrong, as we are prone to do, to regard those blessed with material goods as being more successful than those experiencing pain and suffering. In the kingdom of God, success is measured by obedience to God’s revealed will in scriptures and His specific calling upon our lives. When we adopt the world’s standard of success in the church it inevitably leads to carnality, pride and false teaching.
  4. The second lesson we are to learn from this Biblical narrative is that persecution comes with our calling as Christians. I am bothered when I hear preaching that gives the impression that Christianity is a bed of roses. Jesus Said: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me” (John 15:18-21). To think that living holy in an unholy world will not attract opposition and attack is simply living in a fool’s paradise.
  5. Finally, our ultimate goal as followers of Christ is to seek to please God at all times, no matter our circumstances. Jesus said of Himself: “…. I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29). This should be our focus and desire. At every point in time, we should check and ask ourselves whether our thoughts, actions and speech are in alignment with His will, and will bring glory to God. In practical terms, this is what it means to put God first. Making God our first priority is not in church attendance, as good as that is, but in the fruit that we manifest. And that is why He charged us: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
  6. It is on this note, my lord bishops and distinguished clergy that I wish you fruitful deliberations at this year’s synod.
  7. Thank you for your time and attention.
  8. God bless us all.

 

Office of the Governor

Government House

Asaba

 

May 2017