ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR, DR. IFEANYI OKOWA, GOVERNOR OF DELTA STATE, DURING THE AFRICA CONVENTION OF THE FULL GOSPEL BUSINESS MEN FELLOWSHIP INTERNATIONAL, ON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2016, AT THE NATIONAL STADIUM, ABUJA
It is my joy and privilege to be part of this 2016 Africa Convention of the Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship International.
- The theme of this convention, “Occupy Till I come,” is particularly instructive given current happenings around the world. We are witnessing in this age the signs that Jesus Christ said would foreshadow His second coming. Our world is grappling with increase in natural disasters, crumbling political systems, economic crises of such magnitude as has never been seen before and rising apostasy in the church. Without doubt, the stage is being prepared for the second coming of our Lord. But when He comes will He find faith on the earth?
- The text for the theme of this convention is taken from Luke 19: 13, which is an integral part of the Parable of the Pounds, one of the parables unique to the Gospel of Luke. In the context of the Parable, the word “occupy” means to “carry on a business,” as is rendered in some other translations of the Bible. As with all parables, Jesus told this story to illustrate a spiritual truth for His followers.
- We understand that the noble man in the story is Jesus Christ while the servants refer to His ministers and true believers. In charging us to occupy till He comes, the Lord expects us to carry on the business of preaching, teaching and healing as it is written of Him in the book of Matthew Chapter 9 verse 35.
“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”
- The import of the Parable of the Pounds is that our gifts and callings may be different but we all have the responsibility of communicating the gospel message through our words and actions in our different spheres of influence. The goal always is to bring as many as the Lord shall call into the kingdom of God. Here are three ways we can accomplish this assignment.
- By Preaching the gospel – “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Whatever we do in this life cannot replace the actual preaching of the gospel. It is central to our work here on earth. Until we take this commandment seriously we are never going to be able to truly occupy. Our number one priority as Christians is to look for and seize every opportunity to tell the world about the saving grace of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The first century Christians took this commandment to heart and endured much suffering and persecution, and were willing to lay down their lives for the sake of the gospel. And within a hundred years they had carried the message of Christ around the then known world. The modern church is very busy as a whole, but is it fulfilling the Great Commission? Is the church occupying, or is it becoming more like the world it was called to change?
- By Being Good Ambassadors of Christ – 2 Corinthians Chapter 5 verse 20 says: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.” Ambassadors are foreign representatives of a country resident in another country. As citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), we are representatives of the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth. In whatever vocation we find ourselves, we must walk and work with this consciousness in a deliberate attempt to make the gospel attractive to those around us.
As one commentator observed, God has uniquely designed “each of us, fitting us for certain kinds of tasks. He distributes skills, abilities, interests, and personalities among us so that we can carry out His work in the world. That work includes ‘religious’ tasks, but also extends to health, education, agriculture, business, law, communication, the arts, and so on, all of which have their spiritual dimension.” And in the words of British theologian Greg Haslam, “You cannot be reconciled to God without being recruited into His service, so if you are truly a son of God, you also have the privilege of being His servant”
It is part of our calling as ambassadors to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. When the world needs to understand integrity they should look to the church for inspiration and guidance; when they want role models they should run to the church for help. Daniel is a good model of how we can influence the culture in which
we live no matter how terrible the situation may appear. His faithfulness and blameless character enabled him to serve as a palace counsellor to different kings in a heathen kingdom over a seventy-year period.
- Through Social Transformation – It was said of Jesus Christ that he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38). Our world today is confronted with endemic social problems such as HIV/AIDs, poverty, hunger, homelessness, illiteracy, abortion, child slavery, human trafficking, prostitution, and natural disasters. These are problems that demand urgent response from the Christian community.
We are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. He not only preached the gospel, He fed the hungry, gave hope to the hopeless and restored the self-esteem of the social outcasts of His day. For some people, the only time they will believe the gospel is when they see Christians display the kind of love Jesus showed during His earthly ministry. We let our lights shine before men when we speak truth to power, campaign against human rights abuses, fight against oppression and injustice, and render help to the poor and needy of this world in tangible form. We must be to the helpless, a helper indeed. Indeed, we are supposed to leave this world better than when we met it.
- I conclude this address by reminding us that the Lord rewarded two of the servants in the Parable of the Pounds with more responsibilities. God always rewards our faithfulness with more work. So I urge every one of us to brace up and be ready to extend the frontiers of the kingdom in whatever sphere of influence we find ourselves.
- As we occupy, we must watch daily because we know not when the Master cometh (Mark 13:34-35). Out of our lives, may Jesus Shine! May we truly be found worthy when He returns to take His own.
- It is on this note that I thank you once again for the opportunity to address this sacred assembly.
- God bless us all.
Office of the Governor