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The essence of life (3)

by Church Times

 

By Pastor Olatokunbo Odunuga

  • John Sung spent two years for Bachelor’s degree, attained a First Class, spent 6 months for Master’s degree, at the top of his class, obtained Ph.D in 9 months. He proceeded for a 3-year Bible College Course. He was through within 9 months with all round distinctions. He was so much ablaze for Christ that he was thought to be insane, and he was confined in an asylum for 190 days. While there, he said he read the Bible through 40 times using different bible study methods. He was a lecturer in an American university. At a later stage, he resolved to go into full-time Christian ministry and resigned from the University. To make a complete break from the academic world, he threw all his degree certificates and medals into the Atlantic Ocean. He had seen the unseen.

 

  • 77- year old Bro. Zac Poonen at 16 was the overall best graduating cadet at the Indian Defense Academy. In his mid-twenties, he encountered God. He decided to disengage from the Navy to become a missionary. But the military authorities refused to release him because he was being groomed to be a future Admiral of the Navy. He embarked on fasting and prayers for two years until he eventually secured his release. There was something about the essence of life that he had touched that also influenced all his six sons who also became missionaries.

 

  1. THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER

 

“Now all had been heard;  here is the conclusion of the matter : Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man-Ecclesiastes 12: 13

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and he went about doing good….”-Act 10 :38

 

According to Solomon, the humanly wisest person that ever lived, the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments, that is to do His will and that is what can please God. Doing His will is indeed more of walking with Him than working for Him. One can work for someone without reverence or fear of the person. The very first person to fully please God by doing His will unblemished was Jesus. According to Acts 10: 38, He went about doing good. But prior to that, I want us to cast our mind back to Matthew 3: 17, where the Father declared of Jesus, ” this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. This was when He had not yet preached a single message or taught any class, cast out any demon or performed any other miracle. But for 30 years, He had consistently lived a life whose essence was to be well- pleasing to the Father.

The very first sentence to be historically recorded in the Bible was about a man who pleased God by conformity to the whole duty of man. He was Job : blameless, upright, feared God and shun evil. Job 1 :1 was written at about 2,000 B.C., 500 years before Moses wrote, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth……..’  In Ezekiel 14 :14, God further put an endorsement on Job’s life. He was not attached to all he lost by declaring that though He (God) slays him, yet will he worship Him. The experience of Job was replicated by Horatio Spafford. His law practice collapsed, he went bankrupt, his home was razed by fire, and all four daughters drowned in a sea disaster on the same day. After it all, he composed for humanity a timeless hymn, It Is Well With My Soul. Spafford had touched or seen something! May God have mercy on us and spare us excruciating ordeals.

We all desire, wish for and pray for long life, but our times are in His hands (Psalm 31:15). Longevity has a lot of invisible strings attached to it. God promised Solomon long life in 1 king 3: 14 but he bungled it by promiscuity and a life of dissipation, not walking in obedience to God and keeping His decrees and commandments. I can’t  still imagine how he lived up to the 57 years with 700 wives and 301 concubines ( inclusive of the queen of Sheba whom he impregnated). In terms of sumptuous wining and dining  and other worldly pleasures and entertainments, Solomon is unrivalled in human history. Yet later in life he declared them as ’emptiness and emptiness; vexation of spirit’ meaning that the essence of life is not in those things.

 

But years later a new “sherriff” came to town-Paul by name who made the awesome declaration, “…….my interests in all the attractive things of this world died long ago and the world interest in me also long dead”-Galatians 6:14 (Living Bible). He threw away his three Ph.D credentials and high social status along the corridors of power and referred to them as refuse, dung [Phil. 3: 8].

 

Paul had touched the essence of life that no man in Christian history had done. Where is that General Overseer, Bishop or Pastor on this planet today who can dare look at Paul eyeball to eyeball or even at the future general assembly [Heb 12: 23]? Even the reputed Prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon or king of preachers, Stephen Olford or the pastor of pastors Richard Baxter, must all doff their hats before Paul. Yet he seemingly had no wife, no biological children, no home of his own and no chariot (1st century SUV) but he had experienced reality, the  true essence of human existence. He lived a fulfilled life in spite of all the agonising experiences he went through in 2 CorinthIans 11: 22-33. This is evident from 2 Timothy 4: 6-8, “…..  the time of my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.. .”

 

He was the only person in the entire bible who dared to say, “Follow me as I follow Christ-1 Corinthians 11: 1. His counsel to us in 1 Timothy 6: 6-8 is generally unacceptable to the world, and to some extent to the Body of Christ in Nigeria- “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we have brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. I align more with New English Translation which renders it “food and shelter”. It is rare for a human being to lack clothing, but shelter is not within the reach of everyone.

 

A life lived or poured out for God may not necessarily be a very long one even though you and I desire extended life. Jesus touched the essence of life early and departed at 33 and a half. The following who cherished the way of the cross tow His path :

 

  • St Francis of Assisi, one of the greatest Christians that ever lived departed at 45.
  • Sadhu Sundar Singh, the greatest Christian in the history of India departed at 39.
  • Jacob Boehme, the shoemaker of Goelitz, who confounded the theologians of his days, about the next to Paul in spirituality, left at 49.
  • Thomas Aquinas, the pillar of Catholic Church at 47.
  • Augustus Toplady, who blessed humanity with the hymn, Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me at 38.
  • Reginald Heber, the composer of Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty at 37.
  • William Tyndale, the reformer who gave humanity the very first printed Bible left at 44.
  • Frances Havergal, who could recite the Psalms and the entire Matthew to Revelation and gave us Take My Life and Let it Be, left at 43.
  • David Brainerd, the pioneer missionary to India, whose life positively affected his father-in-law to be, Jonathan Edwards and influenced Dr.Edwards Payson and the pioneer missionary to India, William Carey, departed at 29.
  • The composer of my most cherished Daily Devotional, My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers departed at 43.

The list of such can go on and on. But at the same time,  there were others who lived long, such as Fanny Crosby, who departed at 95, but left behind To God Be the Glory among over 8,000 hymns, more than any human being dead or living since Adam, including Solomon, even though she was totally blind from age 12 weeks.

On a final note, let us realise that the outbursts of Solomon- useless, useless-emptiness, emptiness– vanity of vanities were at the point in his life when he had the world at his feet and spontaneous access to virtually everything he desired, but God was not in the equation! A man who has God, with or without these world’s goods has touched the essence of life and would no longer find life meaningless. You might have heard the account of the eight Wall Street top-notch business mongul who held a meeting in a hotel over 50 years ago. It was a big news throughout USA that eight of their wealthiest business magnates were together in one place. But years later, their stories were pathetic. A few of them committed suicide, some bankrupt, others in prisons, etc. In fact, one of them was released from prison so he could die in his home. In his book How To Be Born Again by Billy Graham, where I read of this account, his conclusion was that those wealthiest and most influential among men of that generation had everything else but no God. They touched delusions and illusive dreams but not reality.

 

Friends, Our God is sovereign, supreme, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient and unquestionable. But I pray that He will grant our father, brother and friend, Gbenga Osinaike, his family and all of us here and our dependants the grace to live long to fully explore the essence of life, as we live wisely on a daily basis with eternity in view, to His glory alone. In this type of birthday celebration setting as I can observe, it is obvious that no-one is likely to dance with such frenzy as to ‘deserve’ the head of John the Baptist. The ultimate of celebrations and the reality of merriment is in Christ because we are complete in Him and in Him alone [Colossians 2 :10 ]. Shalom!- ODUNUGA, O.O

 

PAPER DELIVERED BY PASTOR OLATOKUNBO ODUNUGA AT THE 50TH BIRTHDAY OF BRO GBENGA OSINAIKE: CONCLUDED!

 

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