Pastor Bukola David Olanrewaju, speaks on the retreat of Testimony Chapel International being held in Ibadan for the first time and on various issues affecting the society in this interview by Sam Nwaoko. Excerpts:
YEARLY spiritual exercise has come to Ibadan for the first time, and perhaps the first time outside Lagos. What is the reason, what is the motivation?
The retreat is meant to build people spiritually. This is because many people, Christians especially are encumbered with a lot of activities that hinder them enough time to seek the face of God. People go to church but don’t always have time to seek the face of God, there’s a difference between going to church and really seeking the face of God. The bible in Psalm 91 verse 1 says “he that dwelleth in the secret place of God shall abide in the Almighty,” so that means that there is a secret place, and if God Himself can be in a secret place and ask people to seek Him, then we should do it. “Those who seek me early will find me” is the instruction He gave to us in Jeremiah 29:13. I then ask, why would God want people to seek him if not that it’s important for you to leave where you are encumbered with activities? So, God wants people to seek him and that is what gave birth to our yearly retreat. No one who wants the fullness of God that will not create the time for him.
On fasting, for a Christian, it is one of the pillars of walking with God. Fasting is not an option because Jesus instructed in Matthew 6, from verse 2 that “when you fast…” The word ‘when’ is a function of ‘it has to happen’. It’s not ‘if you fast…’ So, in our own spiritual understanding of the scriptures, the word was not a mistake. When you pray, when you give fast, when you give alms, those three things are key. So we consider fasting as one of the pillars of real walk with God. If you can tame the flesh, which fasting helps to achieve, it really helps in our walk with God. One of the greatest enemies of our spiritual walk is the flesh and if you are not ready to pay the price, forget about rising.
Looking at the timing, doesn’t it seem a bit out of place?
It is a serious approach that gives glorious results. It’s our understanding that when something is important to you, you will leave every other thing and pursue it. This is exactly what God wants people to do. But unfortunately, not many Christians understand that and week coming to church year in, year out, not experiencing the full power of God. In our annual retreat, this is the 11th one, there are loads of testimonies and this is an attestation that the hand of God is here. So we are really grateful to God for confirming his word in our midst. Because of the increasing testimonies, some of our brethren travel from far and wide, even from outside the country to be part of the retreat. There are 365 days in a year and God is seeking that you use just four days out of it all to seek his face. I don’t think that is too much.
What about the COVID-19?
The pandemic has impacted on the number of our brethren who would be joining us for this year’s programme. If not for the COVID-19, the venue we have in Ibadan wouldn’t have contained the number of people that would come. However, we thank God for giving us some faithful hands who have made so much efforts to ensure that things are ready. The annual retreat is to help Christians get connection back to God after giving so much time to work and other activities throughout the year. One of the things we seek for is fellowship. In 2 Corinthians 13:14, says “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit…” That fellowship is what is missing. A lot of people enjoy the grace of God. They enjoy the love of god but they are not ready to give him the fellowship. The first two is a gift, the last one is from you but that which you are supposed to give, we are failing. That’s why we see many people living a powerless Christian life; that is why you see people being subjected to what should have been subjected to them.
Apart from seeking the face of God and growing in spirituality, the retreat will also create time for people to rest. Everytime, it’s all work. This is especially for those of us who stay in Lagos. It’s all work and constant movement. Taking time out to rest is also good for our body. Then, fasting elongates life. When you subject yourself to fasting, it’s good for you. It is argued in a book that when you fast regularly, it adds about 15 extra years to your life. This is because some of the organs of the body would rest and be refined and thus, instead of you aging quickly, you get refreshed. And remember also that it helps you to manage your weight and keeps you fit and reduce the rate at which you fall sick. So, the retreat comes with a lot of advantages, including hearing fro God, which is apart from all that we have stated earlier.
Looking at how Nigeria has turned out to be, some have attributed it to our lack of spirituality; that we are lacking in love and so on. How would you advice Nigerians on the need to regenerate this country and putting it back to where it used to be when people talked about Nigeria being good?
First, we have to be patient and must take the advice of this servant of God very seriously. I know that from experience, a lot of people have been disappointed maybe because of their trust in people who are supposedly, ‘men of God’. But we still have genuine men of God, and when you see men that have good character and are upright, the bible even advised us to follow their example. All the nations that are doing well, we have found that their leaders take advice from men of God. You may be the number one citizen wherever you may have found yourself, but your tenure has an expiry day. You hear from spiritual leaders, your cabinet members, you hear from advisers and so on, but you cannot compare yourself to a man who hears directly from God, and who is not voted into power. So, when leaders begin to give respect to servants of God that have proven respect, they would do well and end well. Why do you have to doubt their instructions? So, my advice, first of all to leaders, because everything rises and falls on the leaders and there is nothing the citizens can do when they say they are not going in that direction; is that they should listen to good pieces of advice.
There are Christians leaders and other religions, there are clerics who are high up there and many of them have good advice for the leaders. But the moment a leader begins to behave like Rehoboam (the story is in the bible), Rehoboam the king went and collected his peers and he started from that as an error. The end of it was that it was through him that the nation of Israel was split. I pray that will not be the portion of Nigeria. I pray because a person that is supposed to be leading with wisdom is leading like a child and it led to the splitting of the country and the nation of Israel was divided right because of that leadership. So, God will help the leaders to humble themselves and let them understand that God is the number one, the overall. If you are not of the Christian faith, you are of the Muslim faith, you can put all of the pieces of advice together, weigh it and use it to lead people.
In the book of 2nd Samuel 23:2-4, the bible says the leader of men must be just and must rule in the fear of God. Anybody that will lead men must be just and must rule in the fear of God, not for your own very selfish purpose and you have to be very fair in your judgement. Everything about the leader, you must be fair, it’s not about you but it’s about the peace and wellbeing of the people. When the right leader is in power, people will rejoice and it is very easy to know that the right leader is in power. When the right people are there, the people will rejoice, they would be happy and things will happen but when it happens otherwise, the people mourn. When people mourn and they are hissing and are in pain, you know that the wrong leader is there. So, it’s very clear and if we can be humble enough, if we can say my people are not doing the right thing, I’d rather resign and make sure that the country does not split in my own time. If you cannot stand your ground and do what is right, then it is honourable to just say let me just do this and save my head because in every leadership, there are forces. So, you have to look for the right men of God for the right leadership and it is humility to go to them, because it’s about the wellbeing of the people.
For the young ones, agitation and shouting and killing one another cannot solve the problems. Don’t take laws into your hands. No matter how wrong a leader or government might be, you cannot take laws into your hands because the bible empowers them to do judgement to those who do evil, Romans 13: 1-4. A leader can be in government either to punish the people or to advance them. Those are the two reasons God permits a leader to emerge. So, to the youths there is no profit in violence.
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