20th Anniversary And Special Banquet In Honour Of Nigeria Prays

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First, let me say how greatly honoured I am, to have been invited to speak at this gathering of many leaders of the Christian Church in Nigeria. And I want to just thank the organizers, and thank the Almighty God for this very great opportunity. It is very worthwhile to celebrate our very great leader, General Yakubu Gowon.


No question at all, that he is one person who has provided not just leadership in terms of title, and leadership, but also provided moral leadership for our country. I think that whenever you think of the Head of State, and you think of the Head of State who not only while in office, provided guidance for all of us, but out of office, has become a symbol of morality and symbol of integrity. I think that is really deserving of being celebrated. I want to again today, say to you sir that I pray that your years will be long indeed, and that for very long, we will continue to be able to celebrate you in this way, and look up to you for the kind of moral leadership that you have provided for our great country. God bless you sir.


Sitting right next to him is of course, I always prefer to call her Aunty Victoria, because somehow she just looks more like an Aunty Victoria than a Mrs. Yakubu Gowon. She looks about half of General Gowon’s age. So, if General Gowon is 82, she will be roughly something like 41. She has always been there, and I’m sure every one of us remembers her when he was Head of State, we remember that she has such grace and poise, and always a great inspiration to all of us and not just the women.


Let me just say today, I think that as we reflect on the theme of this gathering and also the general theme of Nigeria Prays, and the fact that we want our country to be a prayerful nation. It is very crucial for us to just remember certain things that may attend this whole issue of prayer. I was reflecting on what I thought I should speak about, and of course 2 Chronicles 7:14 is the one that always comes to mind and I’m sure that all of us are very familiar with that particular scripture. And in 2 Chronicle 7:14, we are reminded that this is the one instruction that God gave about praying for a nation in particular. He said “and my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and seek my face and pray, then turn from their evil ways, I will hear from heaven, and I will heal their land.”


I think that it’s so important for us to just bear in mind that the instructions, first of all, is to my people. God was speaking to His people, and His people are all those who are called by His name, those who are called Christians. Scripture reminds us in Acts 11;28, that it was in Antioch that we were first called Christians, that we were first named after Christ. Scripture refers to us also as children of God. So clearly, those to whom reference is made here are those who are called by the name of Jesus Christ, who are called by the name of God.


So it is to us that this is directed, it is not the entire nation. This is directed to those who are called by His name. And if we are called by His name, we are reminded also by the scripture that we are the light of the world, that we are light in our world, in this country, we are supposed to be the light. As scripture says that we are not the light that you leave, we are like a city that is set on a hill, we cannot be hidden. We cannot have our light under the cushion; we are supposed to have it on the lampstand so it gives light to the entire nation, to the entire house.


But I want you to bear in mind with me is that, when the scripture says that we should pray and humble ourselves and that you should seek His face, there is an important part of this, and that is that we must turn from our evil ways. So the question of prayer and fasting is certainly not enough. Turning from my evil ways is perhaps the most critical because we must also continue to remind ourselves that, the gospel of Jesus Christ in many ways is certainly in two parts.


The first part is the gospel of salvation. The gospel of salvation, of course, we know that if you accept our Lord Jesus Christ and believe in his name, you will be saved, and you will go to heaven. Also, the principles of that gospel are the same principles that have made other nations great. The principles of hard work, integrity, justice by the rule of law, the principle of innovation and all of those principles that make a country great. They are contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We won’t have enough time to look at all of them. But the interesting thing is that there are nations of the world that do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ at all. What the scripture says concerning believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is salvation, that’s one part.


The second part of it is that, if you can follow the principle contained in the scripture, our nation can be great. So it is entirely possible for a nation not to believe in Jesus Christ or for people not to be in Jesus Christ, well the scripture says that they will not go to hell, but they can be great, by following the principles. Following the principles is what has made other nation to be great. Muslim nations are great, a nation such as Japan where they worship Shinto are great. Why?  Because, they follow the same principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they may not acknowledge Him, but they follow His principles; principles of hard work, integrity, the principles of justice by the rule of law, principles of justice without fear or favour. Those are the principles. That’s why the scripture says that righteousness exalts a nation. There are nations that follow principles of righteousness and they are exalted, they prosper. The question of whether they will go to heaven or they’ll not go to heaven is a totally different matter.


And this is why this scripture, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is so crucial, where it says that we must turn from our evil ways. Where it says we must point in the direction of righteousness. What our nation lacks is a commitment to righteousness. It’s not a lack of prayer with all due respect. We pray a great deal, we pray and we continue to pray and God has sustained this nation by prayer. But if we are going to take the next step, if we are going to become a truly great nation, a nation that is able to feed its people using its resources to bless its people, resources to do the things that are meant to be done by government. We must take one more step, we must begin to turn from our evil ways and practice righteousness.


Alexis de Tocqueville is a French political scientist; he asked a question in one of his interesting books. He asked the question why was America great? And he said I looked everywhere, their big harbours and everything about America. I couldn’t find anything about their greatness, until I went to their churches. And I heard what was being preached on their pulpits. What was being preached on their pulpit was righteousness. When our pulpits are committed to righteousness, our people will stand out and truly be the light and salt of the earth.


The gospel of Jesus Christ, the most important aspect of it is the preaching of that righteousness, the preaching of the gospel of grace and righteousness. And I very strongly believe that if our pulpits are filled with the preaching of righteousness, Christians will stand out. Christians will be honest; it will be easy for us to be honest.


The truth of the matter is that I was telling my daughter who just graduated from university, I said to her that there’s no one who has ever gone through the Pentecostal tradition who cannot preach about giving. But it is difficult to find those who have gone through our tradition who can preach about honesty, who can preach about truthfulness, who can sight one single scripture about not accepting bribes or taking bribes, very hard to find. And the reason is that we don’t preach it. We don’t tell our people that we cannot give bribes, that we cannot receive bribes. We don’t tell our people that it is wrong for us to accept money that we don’t even know what its source is. We don’t tell our people that they must stand up for truth. Accepting money from government officials when we don’t know the source of it – it’s wrong. We must tell our people the truth. So that truly, we will stand up and be counted as those who are the followers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.


It is my respectful opinion that if we who are called by His name, turn from our evil ways, stand up for truth, stand up for righteousness, stand up for justice. Clearly our country will turn around; our country will be truly great. And this is what I take away from the life and times of General Gowon.


Frankly, the fact that General Gowon prays is very encouraging and exciting. But for me, the most important lesson of his life is his personal integrity. The fact that he can stand today, because I know many people who pray, and are not honest, but for the fact he can stand here today, and we can say he has lived an unblemished life that for me is what stands him out. What stands him out is his exemplary leadership, he stands up there and we can say; we don’t know that General Gowon stole our money, and he didn’t steal our money. That’s what is important, because I know many people in high office today and before whom pray. I know many who can stand and say I did not steal your money, I served this country with all my heart, I served with honesty and righteousness and here I am. That’s why personally I believe that General Gowon deserves to be celebrated.


I believe that all of us and I pray that the Almighty God will continually strengthen this country and strengthen Nigeria Prays. I also very strongly urge upon Nigeria Prays and every one of us associated with the Christian faith that the most important thing our nation wants today, and deserves today is setting the example. The exemplary leadership, setting the example of righteousness that all our country wants today.


Thank you very much