Sunday, 07 July 2024 04:42

Article of Faith: One, two, many gods (2) - Femi Aribisala

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Femi Aribisala Femi Aribisala

A distraught Christian laments: “Pastor, I have been so worried, I have not been able to pray.” This is like falling off a cliff, hanging by a shrub and refusing to cry out for help. If there ever was a time to pray, it is in time of trouble. God’s promise is the strength of our hearts:

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalms 50:15).

My brother had left the country unannounced. For years we did not know where he was. But one day my Aunty, who is a Christian, came with a wonderful suggestion.

“I am not saying that God is not powerful,” she said, starting on an apologetic and defensive note. “But what I am saying is that sometimes we need to mix things with our own native and local abracadabra.”

Her suggestion was that we should go to the “babalawo” (the voodoo man or fortune teller), who would be sure to tell us exactly where my brother was. Her logic was impeccable: God sometimes needs local help.

But the message of the Bible is unambiguous:

Why are you trying to find out the future by consulting witches and mediums? Do not listen to their whisperings and mutterings. Can the living find out the future from the dead? Why not ask your God? (Isaiah 8:19 TLB).

A god who needs help is not God. A god who needs help does not deserve our worship. When man decides to help God, he ends up with Ishmael instead of Isaac. When man decides to help God, he arrogates himself as God and sometimes ends up dead like Uzzah, who tried to help the ark from falling and met his end.

When a man decides to help God, he will get a lorry-load of problems. That is how people get children from the god of the river and start eating the bread of sorrows. That is how people make deals with the devil, get rich quickly and within a short time, the god of mammon receives them into his everlasting habitations.

All our lives, we have dealt with men who have disappointed us. We have dealt with men, and they have lied to our faces. We have dealt with men, and they have betrayed us. We have dealt with men, and they have deceived us.

Many have even used God to deceive us. Many use the name of God to defraud us. Many swear by God and then stab us in the back. So, when we deal directly with God, we become hostages of our past. But we need to remember one thing. God is not a man even though He became man.

God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfil? (Numbers 23:19).

Let God be true even if all men were liars. Jesus can never fail us; He can never disappoint us.

A man was on a plane and the plane was having some difficulty. Everyone became anxious. Some were already saying their last prayers. Suddenly, he recognised a passenger sitting several rows ahead of him as cool as a cucumber. He was a renowned man of God. The man relaxed. “If this man of God is on this plane,” he reasoned, “there is no way this plane will crash.”

Our worries and anxieties testify that we have failed to enter into the rest of God. If Jesus is not our Prince of Peace and if we cannot enter into God’s rest on earth, we may not be allowed to enter into His rest in heaven:

Since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest,” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. (Hebrews 4:1-3).

If God is with us, why do we fear? Why are we lonely? Why are we sad? Why are we anxious? Why are we troubled? If Jesus is in the boat, why should we be afraid of perishing? The answer is simple: We fear because we do not know Him. We fear because we do not believe in Him. But eternal life is in the knowledge of God. (John 17:3).

Is God not enough? God says do not worry and we are still worried. Is there any other reassurance that we need? If God cannot reassure us and we keep our peace, then who can?

Are the consolations of God too small for you, and the word spoken gently with you? Why does your heart carry you away, and what do your eyes wink at, that you turn your spirit against God, and let such words go out of your mouth? (Job 15:11-13).

“God, I thought everything would be smooth sailing because I have You. But things were getting worse and worse.” “God, You deceived me,” cried Jeremiah. “You said You would defend me, so why am I here in this dungeon?”

John the Baptist experiences a similar crisis of faith. “Are You the Messiah,” he asked. “Or should we look for another?” If You are the Messiah, why should I end up in prison for doing Your work?

“My case was different,” said one of my parishioners. “I was a faithful servant. I waited for God. But He kept me waiting forever. I had to do something before it was too late.”

I could not but sympathise with the fellow. The problem with God is that He always takes too long. Where was He all this time? Where was He when all those problems were piling up? “I had told Him that I could only wait for Him until eleven o’clock. After eleven o’clock, I had no choice but to look for other options.” 

We have other options because we have other gods. We have gods as insurance policies. We have gods as fallback positions. Just in case God fails to act, let us not be entirely godless. But God is never late with people who truly put their trust in Him. And he that believes never makes haste. (Isaiah 28:16).

Many of us are wonderful starters, but bad finishers. We can build a temple over ten years but destroy it in one day with one missile. We can establish a strong relationship over the long haul but destroy it by one act of frivolity. We can shipwreck it by one casual act of unfaithfulness. Sometimes, we give up at the very last minute. Not knowing the time, we often give up at eleven-thirty.

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now, our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11).

We must be careful not to waste all our effort by running out of patience. Patience is the twin brother of faith. If we cannot be patient, we cannot have faith.

I was a student at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. Oxford University had a strange system. You had to belong to the university, as well as the college. You had to pay fees to the university and then to the college.

I was a foreign student and I objected on principle. As a doctoral student, I did practically nothing in the college. None of my tutors were in my college. I did not live on college grounds. So why should I be paying fees to the college?

Sometimes, I was invited to “wine and cheese” parties in the college. But how much wine and cheese could I consume to justify my fees? So, I refused to pay my college fees. I put the money in a bank account. With every request, I told the college I was from a poor Third World country. How could I be expected to pay double fees when the college had nothing to offer me?

This prevailed for an extended period, while I remained adamant that paying fees to St. Catherine’s College was a rip-off. Then one day, I got a summons. I was ordered to come and see the Master of the College on the question of my outstanding fees.

I panicked. “The Master of the College,” I thought. I did not know it would get that far. I hurriedly wrote a cheque and paid the college fees.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I was required to come and see the Master of the College because a decision had been taken to waive my fees on compassionate grounds. I lost everything as a result of a last-minute panic attack.

The truth is that we were never God worshippers. A God worshipper never has any other option. A God worshipper never has any other alternatives. If we have options outside of God, even though we remain in the church, we are adulterers. Yes, we are faithful to our wives physically but are unfaithful in our hearts. We are faithful to God with our lips, but unfaithful in our minds. (Matthew 15:8). CONTINUED.

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