The Obedience of Faith

 Omotayo FAKINLEDE, BAHM Church, Surulere, Lagos, October 26, 2012.

“Today you are being baptized as a Christian. The ancient words of the Christian proclamation will be uttered over you, and the command of Jesus to baptize will be performed over you, without your knowing anything about it. But we too are being driven back to first principles. Atonement and redemption, regeneration, the Holy Ghost, the love of our enemies, the cross and resurrection, life in Christ and Christian discipleship~ all these things have become so problematic and so remote that we hardly dare any more to speak of them … During these years the Church has fought for self-preservation as though it were an end in itself, and has thereby lost its chance to speak a word of reconciliation to mankind and the world at large.”  “a piety that is noisy and loquacious” Bonhoeffer

The tragedy of wasted religious activity. “The familiar phrase, the religious tone, the emotionally loaded words have their superficial and temporary effect, but the worshiper is no nearer to God, no better morally and no surer of heaven than he was before … Back of this tragic waste there is usually one of three causes: The Christian is either ignorant of the Scriptures, unbelieving or disobedient. I think most Christians are simply uninstructed. They may have been talked into the kingdom when they were only half ready. … convert … told that he had but to take Jesus as his personal Savior and all would be well. Possibly some counselor may have added that he now had eternal life and would most surely go to heaven when he died, if indeed the Lord does not return and carry him away in triumph before the unpleasant moment of death arrives. … After that first hurried entrance into the kingdom there is usually not much more said. The new convert finds himself with a hammer and a saw and no blueprint. He has not the remotest notion what he is supposed to build, so he settles down to the dull routine of polishing his tools once each Sunday and putting them back in their box.” Tozer

“Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, …” Rom 1:5

“According to the Apostles’s teaching, no-one really can be regarded as having believed the gospel who has not repented and turned from a life of sin to a life of obedience to God in Christ Jesus. ’Believe the Gospel’, he says ‘the obedience of faith’. Faith is always an obedience. I am not talking about the works to follow all this. I say again, the very process of becoming a Christian is this ‘Obedience of faith’. Because I believe this, and as I believe it, I turn away from sin and I turn to God with grateful thanks, because of what Christ Jesus has done for me. The Apostle tells us that he has received grace and apostleship in order to call people to this obedience of faith.” DM Lloyd Jones

Introduction

In preparing to deliver this message, I had a good reason to read the preface to all the Epistles of the New Testament. I draw the following summary:

These introductions by the various Apostolic writers answer questions such as Who was writing? To whom was he writing? What was the purpose of writing? And to what end was the Epistle intended? Furthermore, it went on to tell what was expected of the readers as a result of reading the Epistle. Notable exceptions to these are the Epistle to the Hebrews and 1st general Epistle of John. It appears here that the Apostles dove into the subject matter with no introduction. When we look at these prefaces, what do we find? “Paul a prisoner of Jesus Christ, Peter A Slave of God, John, the Elder, etc.” These answer Who wrote. “To the Saints at …, The Elect and Faithful brothers and sisters …” These are the recipients. “The Gospel of the Lord Jesus …” was the topic.

Notice that I am only talking here about the first five or so verses in each Epistle. These are facts you can get simply from these introductory verses even without reading the Epistles themselves!

My first quote came from a Pastor, a Teacher and a Martyr who lived in difficult times. In fact, the passage here had to do with the baptism of his nephew, named after him, whose program he could not attend due to imprisonment that later resulted in his hanging by Hitler in 1945. I speaking, as it were, to a little infant, he reached down into the depths of our faith: Its first principles. What are these? “Atonement and redemption, regeneration, the Holy Ghost, the love of our enemies, the cross and resurrection, life in Christ and Christian discipleship”. In his days of incarceration, Dietrich complained that these things are no longer being given sufficient airtime! Other things were deemed more important. He conclude this excerpt by the damning evaluation of the Church of his time in the following words: “During these years the Church has fought for self-preservation as though it were an end in itself, and has thereby lost its chance to speak a word of reconciliation to mankind and the world at large!”

That was from a man living and dying in a terrible war. My second quote also came from another Pastor who lived in peaceful and prosperous times in America. The title of his article, from which I quote, is itself illuminating: “The tragedy of wasted religious activity”. A quotable author any day: It was he that once said that some people’s religion is such a watery solution to the extent that if it were poison, it would not kill anyone; if it were medicine, it would not cure anyone! Here he diagnosed the cause of the waste in religious activity to be ignorance, unbelief and disobedience.

The Gospel & Its Purpose

In the Introduction to the first Epistle, the Paul said that he received “grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations”. The Church itself exists to a reconciliation premised on the atonement, regeneration resulting from the propitiation and redemption as a consequence. Bonhoeffer, with deep thoughts in a prison cell said a Church that seeks its self survival as an end cannot do this! It is incapable of carrying out God’s instructions!

“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” 2 Cor 15.19 Bonhoeffer says we cannot do it. Tozer says that, instead, we are often into the futility of religious activities that are ineffectual. “Unquestionably there is not another institution in the world that talks as much and does as little as the church. Any factory that required as much raw material for so small a finished product would go bankrupt in six months.”

The Guild & Its Challenge

When you look at its mandate and authority, the Guild resembles to me, in new-Testament language “Rulers of the Synagogue”. Thankfully, the church selected a more redeeming name: the Guild of Stewards. “And in a steward, it is required that a man be found faithful” ! Cor 4:2. That faithfulness requires two things: World regarding and self regarding. The Church – represented by the stewards, must know that there is a clear role for the church in its local environment in the world. It must know that, not from the present religious talk but from the scriptures. It must know the preparation is has had to fill that role. It mjust be determined to not only think about it, but to do it.

Matt 21:29-30 “ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.” The Lord asked the Pharisees which one obeyed the father? The problem of doing appears to lie in the understanding. O, if I fully understand my role, I would fulfill it. True? That is why a book titled “How to have a successful marriage will sell quickly. It will sell because we assume that once we understand, we will do! Two renowned Atheists were talking. One said, I hate the Bible because it says so many things that are difficult to understand. His fellow replied him : The parts of the Bible I don’t like are the ones that I understand such as Love your enemies and he that has two coats should give to him that has none!

We have another gem from Dietrich in prison. “We have learnt a bit too late in the day that action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” and “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the Will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7.21) It is our sense of readiness and responsibility rather than mere knowing and understanding.

Faithfulness: God’s and Ours

The Central theme by the Church is “Great is Thy faithfulness”. The faithfulness of God. If I ask, What about our own faithfulness? Most will discount that even some may go as far as saying that it is not relevant. God’s faithfulness is all that matters. After all, compared to God, all our righteousness is like filthy rags compared to His! And the same goes for faithfulness.

This very religious argument is unfortunately in error. If we take a careful look, it may even account for our weakness and failure. It may actually be part of the unbelief that Tozer was talking about. Before I attempt a proof to support my argument here, let me draw attention to a practice the s=church should be aware of:

Watch the behavior of people at work and at Church: I teach at the University so I will use a familiar example which you can extend to your own daily experience. When there is a lecture, due to scarcity of space and the fact that everyone wants to hear the teacher, students rush for the front row seats. Now take the same students to the chapel for a prayer meeting. You start begging people to move forward! Why is this so?

Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and the world go free?
No there is a cross for everyone, there’s a cross for me.

We need to trust God for His faithfulness. That is our theme and our song! God also needs to trust us for our faithfulness. We should not be too humble about this especially if humility will cause us to set the bar and expectations of ourselves too low. How do we want to glorify Christ? By being stupendously wealthy so the world may know our God is not poor. By being in perpetual health and free from all the problems our other fellow travellers have? By being beyond tribulations and trials? “A ship is safe at the harbor, but that is NOT what ships are built for!”  If I am a Lawyer, I will not think it is too much to be introduced as a SAN. Here I am being given the honour of a Professor! That is OK. What about the things of eternal consequences? O, in that, I am willing to be mediocre and a baby all my life! That is wrong, Very wrong. look at the Apostolic example:

Paul was able to tell, how much of the world’s great achievements he lacked: Did not drive a jeep or lived in a duplex an Lekki Phase 2. In fact, he was able to say “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.” I Cor 1:26. “ have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” 2Cor 11:27 and in 2 Cor 6.4 … “ but in everything commending ourselves as [a]servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown [b]yet well-known, as dying[c]yet behold, we live; as [d]punished [e]yet not put to death, 10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing [f]yet possessing all things.”

When it comes to achievements in this world, the Apostle minimizes that and readily says he lacked in many ways including necessary food. Now look again at the same Apostle when it comes to faithful service in the house of God: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” I Cor 15:10. “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.”1Cor 3:10 “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds”2Cor 10:4

What we see here is that, there are some things that the Apostle was not ready to be humble about! He was not just a builder in the house of God, He was a “wise, master builder”! He was an expert! He was faithful! He was not able to say only God can do it. “I can do all things”!

Phillipians 4:13. Paul, are you not being proud”? “I can do all things”! Paul stop boasting”! “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me!” O, I did not know there were two of you there!

 “I, as a wise, knowledgeable and effective steward in the house of the Lord.” Can you say that? If you cannot, don’t force it! Don’t fake it either. But let that be the aim! Paul received grace and apostleship to call the Nations to the obedience of faith. He was steadfast and faithful till he became “a wise master builder”! It is the same God we are serving. He was faithful at Paul’s difficult times. Is he still there today?

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8

“May your life and death supply
Grace to live and grace to die
Grace to reach our home on high
Hear us holy Jesus”

Thoughts on the Baptism of D.W.R.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Teacher, Pastor, Martyr 

You are the first of a new generation in our family, and therefore the oldest representative of your generation. You will have the priceless advantage of spending a good part of your life with the third and fourth generation that went before you. Your great-grandfather will be able to tell you from his own memories of people who were born in the eighteenth century, and some day, long after 2000 A.Dyou will be a living bridge for more than 250 years’ oral tradition, though of course with Jacob’s proviso, “If God will and we live.” So your birth provides a suitable occasion to ponder on the vicissitudes of history and to try to scan the outlines of the future.

The three names you bear are reminders of three houses which are most intimately connected with your life, and which should remain so. Your grandfather on your father’s side lived in a country parsonage. A simple, healthy life, with wide intellectual interests, a zest for life’s little pleasures, a natural and ingenuous companionship with ordinary folk, a capacity for self-help in practical things, a modesty grounded in spiritual contentment-these are the earthly values which were at home in the country parsonage, values you will meet in your father. Whatever may betide you, they will always help you to live together with others, to achieve real success and inner happiness. The urban middle class culture embodied in the home of your mother’s parents stands for pride in public service, intellectual achievement and leadership, a deep rooted sense of duty towards a noble heritage and cultural tradition. This will give you, even before you are aware of it, a way of thinking and acting which you will never lose without being untrue to yourself.

It was a kindly thought of your parents that you should be known by the name of your great-uncle, the Vicar of your father’s parish and a great friend of his, who at the moment is sharing the fate of many other good Germans and Protestant Christians, and who therefore has only been able to participate at a distance in your parents’ wedding and in your own birth and baptism, but who looks forward to your future with great confidence and cheerful hope. He is striving to keep up the spirit he sees embodied in his parents’ home-your great-grandparents, so far as he understands it. He takes it as a good omen for your future that it was in this house that your parents got to know each other, and hopes that sometime you too will be grateful for the spirit of this house, and draw inspiration from it yourself.

By the time you are grown up, the old country parsonage and the old town villa will belong to a vanished world. But the old spirit will still be there, and will assume new forms, after a time of neglect and weakness, of withdrawal and recovery, of preservation and convalescence. To be deeply rooted in the soil makes life harder, but it also enriches it and gives it vigour. There are certain fundamental truths about human life to which men will always return sooner or later. So there is no need to hurry: we must be able to wait. “God seeketh again that which is passed away” (Ecclesiastes 3.15).

In the revolutionary times ahead it will be a priceless gift to know the security of a good home. It will provide a bulwark against all dangers from within and from without. The time when children rebelled in arrogance against their parents will be past. Children will be drawn for shelter to their parents, and in their home they will seek counsel, peace and light. It is your fortune to have parents who know by experience what it means to have a parental home in time of trouble. Amid the general impoverishment of culture you will find your parents’ home a storehouse of spiritual values and a source of intellectual stimulation. Music, as understood and practiced by your parents, will dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and emotions, and in time of anxiety and sorrow will help you to keep going a ground bass of joy.

Your parents will soon be teaching you to help yourself and never to be afraid of soiling your hands. The piety of your home will not be noisy or loquacious, but you will be brought up to say your prayers and to fear God above all things, to love him and to do the will of Jesus Christ. “My son, keep the commandments of thy father, And forsake not the law of they mother: Bind them continually upon thy heart, Tie them about thy neck. When thou walkest, it shall watch over thee: When thou sleepest it shall lead thee: And when thou wakest, it shall talk with thee” Proverbs 6.20-22).

“Today is salvation come to this house” (Luke19.9).

It would be much the best thing if you were brought up in the country. But it will be a very different countryside from that in which your father was brought up. People used to think that the big cities offered the fullest kind of life, and pleasure in abundance. They used to flock to them like pilgrims to a feast. But now these cities have brought death upon themselves, and women and children have fled from them in terror. The age of big cities on our continent seems to have come to an end. The Bible tells us that Cain was the first city dweller. A world metropolis may survive here and there, but their brilliance, alluring though it may be, will have an air of uncanniness about it, for us Europeans at any rate. This flight from the city will bring tremendous changes to the country-side.

The tranquility and remoteness of country life were already being undermined by the advent of the radio, the car and the telephone, and by the spread of bureaucracy into practically every department of life. And now that millions who can no longer endure the totalitarian claims of city life are flocking to the land, now that industries are being dispersed in rural areas, the urbanizing of the countryside will proceed apace, and the whole pattern of life there will be revolutionized The village as it was thirty years ago no more exists to-lay than the idyllic isles of the southern seas. Much as he needs solitude and peace, a man will find them very difficult to come by. But it will be an advantage amid all these changes to have beneath one’s feet a few inches of soil from which to draw the resources for a new, natural, unpretentious and contented day’s work and evening’s leisure.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain . . . but having food and covering, we shall therewith be content” (I Timothy 6.6f.). “Give me neither poverty nor riches: Feed me with the food that is needful for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor, and steal, And use profanely the name of my God” (Proverbs 30.8f.). “Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and save every man his life; be not cut off in her iniquity” (Jeremiah 1.6).

We have grown up in a society which believed that every man had the right to plan his own life. There was, we were taught, a purpose in life, and it was every man’s duty to accept that purpose resolutely, and pursue it to the best of his powers. Since then however we have learnt that it is impossible to plan even for one day ahead, that all our work may be destroyed overnight, and that our life, compared with our parents’, has become formless and fragmentary. Despite everything, however, I can only say I should not have chosen to live in any other age than our own, though it is so regardless of our external fortunes. Never have we realized, as we do today, how the world lies under the wrath and grace of God. In Jeremiah 45 we read: “Thus saith the Lord: Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I planted I will pluck up; and this in the whole land. And seekest thou great things for thy-self? seek them not: for behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey whither thou goest.”

If we can save our souls unscathed from the debris of civilization, let us be satisfied with that. If the Creator destroys his own handiwork, what right have we to lament over the destruction of ours? The task laid upon our generation is not the indulgence of lofty ambitions, but the saving of ourselves alive out of the debris, as a brand plucked from the burning. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” Proverbs 4.23). We shall have to keep our lives going rather than shape them, to endure, rather than forge ahead. But we do want to preserve an heritage for you, the rising generation, so that you will have the resources for building a new and better world.

We have spent too much time thinking, supposing that if only we weigh every possibility in advance, everything will somehow happen automatically. We have learnt a bit too late in the da# that action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility. For you thought and action will have a new relationship. Your thinking will be confined to your responsibilities in action. With us thought was often the luxury of the looker-on; with you it will be entirely subordinated to action. “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the Will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7.21).

Today we have almost succeeded in banishing pain from our lives. To be as free from pain as possible had become one of our unconscious ideals. Nicety of feeling, sensitivity to our own and other people’s pain-these things are at once the strength and the weakness of our way of life. From the very outset your generation will be tougher and closer to real life, for you will have had to endure privation and pain, and your patience will have been sorely tried. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3.27).

We believed that reason and justice were the key to success, and where both failed, we felt we were at the end of our tether. We have constantly exaggerated the importance of reason and justice in the historical process. You are growing up during a world war which ninety per cent. of the human race did not want, yet for which they have to forfeit goods and life. So you are learning from childhood that the world is controlled by forces against which reason is powerless. This knowledge will enable you to cope with these powers more soberly and effectively. Again, in our lives the “enemy” had no substantial reality. You know that you have enemies and friends, and you know what both can mean in life. You are learning from the cradle how to deal with your enemy, which is something we never knew, and you are learning to put uureserved trust in your friends. “Is there not a

warfare to man upon earth?” (Job 7.1). “Blessed be the Lord my strength: who teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight. My hope and my for-tress, my castle and deliverer, my defender in whom I trust” (Psalm 144.lf.). “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18.24).

Are we moving towards an age of colossal organizations and collective institutions, or will the desire of multitudes for small, manageable, personal relationships be satisfied? Must they be mutually exclusive? Is it not just conceivable that world organizations with their wide meshes should allow more scope for private interests? The same considerations apply to the question as to whether we are moving towards an age of the selection of the fittest, i.e. an aristocratic society, or to a uniform equality in all material and spiritual aspects of human life. Though there has been a good deal of equalization in this field, there is still a fine sensitiveness in all ranks of society for such human values as justice, success, and courage, and this is creating a new selection of potential leaders. It should not be difficult for us to forfeit our privileges, recognizing the justice of history.

We may have to face events and changes which run counter to our rights and wishes. But if so, we shall not give way to bitterness and foolish pride, but consciously submit to divine judgment, and thus prove our worthiness to survive by identifying ourselves generously and unselfishly with the life of the community and the interests of our fellow men. “But the nation that shall bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, that nation will I let remain in their own land, saith the Lord: and they shall till it and dwell therein” (Jeremiah 27.11). “Seek the peace of that city . . . and pray unto the Lord for it” (jeremiah 29.7). “Come, my people, enter thou into the chambers and shut thy doors: hide thyself for a little moment, until the danger be overpast” (Isaiah 26.20). “For this wrath endureth but the twinkling of an eye, and in his pleasure is life: heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30.5).

Today you are being baptized as a Christian. The ancient words of the Christian proclamation will be uttered over you, and the command of Jesus to baptize will be performed over you, with-Out your knowing anything about it. But we too are being driven back to first principles. Atonement and redemption, regeneration, the Holy Ghost, the love of our enemies, the cross and resurrection, life in Christ and Christian discipleship~ all these things have become so problematic and so remote that we hardly dare any more to speak of them. In the traditional rite and ceremonies we are groping after something new and revolutionary without being able to understand it or utter it yet. That is our own fault. During these years the Church has fought for self-preservation as though it were an end in itself, and has thereby lost its chance to speak a word of reconciliation to mankind and the world at large. So our traditional language must perforce become powerless and remain silent, and our Christianity today will be confined to praying for and doing right by our fellow men.

Christian thinking, speaking and organizatiorn must be reborn out of this praying and this action. By the time you are grown up, the form of the Church will have changed beyond recognition. We are not yet out of the melting pot, and every attempt to hasten matters will only delay the Church’s conversion and purgation. It is not for us to prophesy the day, but the day will come when men will be called again to utter the word of God with such power as will change and renew the world. It will be a new language, which will horrify men, and yet overwhelm them by its power. It will be the language of a new righteousness and truth, a language which proclaims the peace of God with men and the advent of his kingdom. “And (they) shall fear and tremble for all the good and for all the peace that I procure unto it” (Jeremiah 33.9). Until then the Christian cause will be a silent and hidden affair, but there will be those who pray and do right and wait for God’s own time. “The path of the righteous is as a shining light, That shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4.18).

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The Tragedy of Wasted Religious Activity

AW Tozer, Born After Midnight – Chapter 24, Christian Publications, Harr. PA

There is probably not another field of human activity where there is so much waste as in the field of religion.

It is altogether possible to waste an hour in church or even in a prayer meeting. The popular “attend the church of your choice” signs that have lately been appearing everywhere may have some small value if they do no more than remind a materialistic civilization that this world is not all and that there are some treasures that cannot be bought with money. Yet we must not forget that a man may attend church for a lifetime and be none the better for it.

In the average church we hear the same prayers repeated each Sunday year in and year out with, one would suspect, not the remotest expectation that they will be answered. It is enough, it seems, that they have been uttered. The familiar phrase, the religious tone, the emotionally loaded words have their superficial and temporary effect, but the worshiper is no nearer to God, no better morally and no surer of heaven than he was before. Yet every Sunday morning for twenty years he goes through the same routine allowing two hours for him to leave his house, sit through a church service and return to his house again, he has wasted more than 170 twelve-hour days with this exercise in futility.

The writer to the Hebrews says that some professed Christians were marking time and getting nowhere. They had had plenty of opportunity to grow, but they had not grown; they had had sufficient time to mature, yet they were still babes; so he exhorted them to leave their meaningless religions round and press on to perfection (Heb. 5:11-6:3).

It is possible to have motion without progress, and this describes much of the activity among Christians today. It is simply lost motion.

In God there is motion, but never wasted motion; He always works toward a predetermined end. Being made in His image, we are by nature constituted so that we are justifying our existence only when we are working with a purpose in mind. Aimless activity is beneath the worth and dignity of a human being. Activity that does not result in progress toward a goal is wasted; yet most Christians have no clear end toward which they are striving. On the endless religious merry-go-round they continue to waste time and energy, of which, God knows, they never had much and have less each hour. This is a tragedy worthy of the mind of an Aeschylus or a Dante.

Back of this tragic waste there is usually one of three causes: The Christian is either ignorant of the Scriptures, unbelieving or disobedient.

I think most Christians are simply uninstructed. They may have been talked into the kingdom when they were only half ready. Any convert made within the last thirty years was almost certainly told that he had but to take Jesus as his personal Savior and all would be well. Possibly some counselor may have added that he now had eternal life and would most surely go to heaven when he died, if indeed the Lord does not return and carry him away in triumph before the unpleasant moment of death arrives.

After that first hurried entrance into the kingdom there is usually not much more said. The new convert finds himself with a hammer and a saw and no blueprint. He has not the remotest notion what he is supposed to build, so he settles down to the dull routine of polishing his tools once each Sunday and putting them back in their box.

Sometimes, however, the Christian wastes his efforts because of unbelief. Possibly we are all guilty of this to some degree. In our private prayers and in our public services we are forever asking God to do things that He either has already done or cannot do because of our unbelief. We plead for Him to speak when He has already spoken and is at that very moment speaking. We ask Him to come when He is already present and waiting for us to recognize Him. We beg the Holy Spirit to fill us while all the time we are preventing Him by our doubts.

Of course the Christian can hope for no manifestation of God while he lives in a state of disobedience. Let a man refuse to obey God on some dear point, let him set his will stubbornly to resist any commandment of Christ, and the rest of his religious activities will be wasted. He may go to church for fifty years to no profit. He may tithe, teach, preach, sing, write or edit or run a Bible conference till he gets too old to navigate and have nothing but ashes at the last. “To obey is better than sacrifice.”

I need only add that all this tragic waste is unnecessary. The believing Christian will relish every moment in church and will profit by it. The instructed, obedient Christian will yield to God as the clay to the potter, and the result will be not waste but glory everlasting.

 

Usurpation as a cultural paradigm

OA Fakinlede
September 16, 2012
Dr Alphonse Agbanikaka needed accommodation on Campus. After many years on the queue, he finally got himself a place in the high-density apartments of MauMau University. Apart from the usual neglect over the years, these apartments are really spacious and meet the family’s needs. His wife works in Apapa and the kids are a good Secondary School – a walking distance away from home. He was surprised that for over two months, the parking space for the family’s second car was occupied by a broken down vehicle of a former occupant with no forwarding address and no one seems to know where to find its owner! As he was grappling with that problem, the neighbor just bought a large commercial truck. He finds it difficult to squeeze his Tokunbo Camry into the space left. This “brand new” Tokunbo truck has been parked for three weeks now and he has been having to park his own two vehicles on the street! Dr Agbanikaka is looking for a house afresh! This time, he will accept nothing short of a free standing house with a fence!
Mrs Yatunde Adu has a completely different problem. In the “face me, I face you” block, no one owns a car. Her neighbour’s wife, Mrs Adiele has been unemployed. She has therefore resorted to petty trading and the free space belonging to the six occupants in this block is her shop! On one side is her pepper grinder that uses diesel because there is often electricity shortage. Next you can see Madam Adiele’s pyramid of coal sacks that has completely changed the compound. Everything now wears a tan of coal particles. You bear the noise of generation engine; Pollution from peper grinder noise; smelly, dirty environment – but your neighbor must survive! No one talks about these openly: “What do you want her to do?” Everyone knows how much a market stall or a shop costs in Lagos!
These are just two examples of the usurpation culture we have accepted here in Nigeria. One of the symptoms of a low-trust society like our own is the utter disregard for the rights of others and the constant desecration of unused space. Shot puts made up of human waste wrapped in black polythene bags are just a few of the t=regular items to be found in such spaces. On the stairway to apartment blocks, there will usually be abandoned crates of soda, huge cooking pots, etc. Out of about six tenants, these would usually belong to the most aggressive one or two people in the block. Shared parking lots are often usurped by aggressive co-tenants for keeping their broken down vehicles. Rarely will you find a good neighbor who will take it upon herself to clean jointly-owned space. However, what it comes to claiming such, there are many takers!
The consequence of this attitude is that most of us will prefer to live in self-contained compounds with high fences. The concept of shared facilities is usually too difficult for us to manage. We mostly suffer in silence.
I once lived on the first floor in a block of flats where water supply was a huge challenge. In vain did I try a solution that will earn the cooperation of all three co-tenants. Each preferred a personal solution – using your car to fetch water with jerry cans. As we were all middle-aging, each family had a difficult problem coping. There was a nice houseboy who came one day to tell me he had an urgent call from the village and had to leave. It became obvious later that the water-carrying duties he endured in our house was killing him. That phantom call from home was his last defense. What to do?
After buying sufficient storage to fully take the load of a standard water tanker, I was able to store the monthly consumption of my family which I pumped upstairs as needed. I finally solved my problem! No more depending on the manual lifting of water upstairs!
I discovered that a neighbor considered the top of my tank the ideal space to dry her cassava! Ok we can call that fair. Next, she could forget to remove the cassava until the rain fell upon it! Now I have my water volume in the tank increased by the cassava water! In vain you look for the owner of the cassava!
Eventually, I solved the problem by carrying the cassava into my apartment until the owner came to look for it! That way, we eventually found the owner and after a less-than an acrimonious conversation, we settled for a truce! My neighbor was a nice person! She eventually saw why she should not dry her cassava on my tank and we lived happily thereafter!
The examples I have given here are well known to virtually every adult Nigerian who has lived in shared accommodation. Many people will vow never to share a compound or live in a flat. However, as cities grow large and populations increase, sharing is not an option; it is often the inevitable way to survive in large cities. Nigerians who usurp common spaces at home often find no problems when they travel abroad. They share happily! Why is it possible to share abroad and impossible to do the same at home?
Some of my acquaintances blame this problem on human selfishness! I disagree. The examples of Nigerians who readily share abroad but usurp other people’s spaces at home seem to prove there is some other cause of this cultural paradigm. We must ask ourselves why it is so difficult to respect the rights of others in shared accommodation. This question is not trivial because the solution of it may help us live better lives in affordable shared accommodation when we are not able to pay for free standing buildings.
In my opinion, our problem stems from insufficient delineation of boundaries and enforcement of rights. What are my rights? What are the rights of my neighbor? Who owns the space under the common stair case? Whose duty is it to keep it clean? Who enforces the rights?
Whenever these questions are not unequivocally answered, any perceived breach becomes a quarrel between two people. In higher-trust societies, a breach of a common property will usually become the subject of discussion between a law enforcement officer and the offending party! All that one whose rights have been trampled on needs to do is to report the case to that adjudicating third party. It is the absence of such clear cut processes that allow the most aggressive among us to continue to cheat the rest of us. And our culture of live-and-let-live kills in us the urgency to enforce rights. While this is good for the brotherliness and happy society, it does not create clean, well maintained and efficient environment that can support our comfort and well-being.