Redeemer’s International Leadership Academy Conference Themed: Winning In Adversity
KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE REDEEMER’S INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP ACADEMY CONFERENCE THEMED: WINNING IN ADVERSITY ON THE 17TH OF JULY, 2021
I must thank the leadership of Redeemer’s International Leadership Academy, RILA, and especially our Acting Rector, Pastor Banky Oladele, for the very kind invitation to me to make a few remarks at this commemorative leadership conference.
I am a proud alumnus of RILA having graduated in the 1995 class with the likes of Pastor Kayode Pitan, and the late pioneer head of RILA, Pastor Ben Ewuzie of blessed memory. I have since then served on the faculty of the institution for years. I make this historical detour because I want to establish with some authority that RILA is not a mere Bible School. It is a school where the Bible, not in its letter, but as the revealed Word of God is also used as an instructional manual for leadership training.
We believe that the revealed word of God is inspired by the Holy Spirit and according to 1 Tim 3: 16 and I paraphrase – is profitable for the revelation of doctrine on all matters, for reproof, and for the correction of error in word thought or deed, so, we believe that it is the best guide for leaders.
There are two crucial points to note; the first is that the leadership principles in our manual, the bible, are often contrarian. By that I mean the principles do not often conform with our desires or for that matter, our flesh. We would explore this point briefly before I end my remarks.
The second is the role of Christian leaders is central to God’s plan for the world, or His plans for a nation, a business or even a family. This is because it is to us (when I say us, I refer to Christians and in particular, Christian leaders), that God looks unto.
According to Matt 5: 13 and 14, I paraphrase, we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Not the salt or light of our church or denominations, or tribes, or even religion, but of the whole earth. We are here to repair the damage done to different aspects of our lives, in business, in politics, in entertainment, education, as well as several other spheres of our lives.
This is not meant to be an easy task because we are faced with a formidable even though defeated foe, who traverses the earth looking for whom to devour, doing all that is possible to steal our joy, to destroy good testimonies and developments, and to kill the destinies of men and nations. The scripture further says that the whole earth groans as it awaits the revealing of the sons of God. We are the answer the world is waiting for. Even for the repentance of the sins of our communities, nations, God expects us to do the repenting.
He says in 2nd Chronicles 7:14 and I paraphrase, it is when His people pray and repent and turn from our evil ways, that He will hear the prayers of our community and heal our land.
It is in times of adversity or difficulty, of hardship that leaders are most relevant and most needed. When all is well there is no need for guidance, encouragement, or instruction. When there are wars, conflicts, insurgency, famines, danger, and fear, is when people look to leadership. We who are instructed by the Holy Spirit through the scriptures are the leaders these times demand or such times demand.
I want us to share a few nuggets from the encounter of Moses and the children of Israel as the armies of Pharoah chased them to the Red Sea. These nuggets show what is expected of leaders who are trained according to scripture in times of adversity. I want us to see what happens at the moment of the greatest threat to the lives of thousands of Jews led by Moses in Exodus 14:10-17:
“10. And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So, they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11. Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12. Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.”
13. And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” 15. And the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. 16. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. 17. And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So, I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18. Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
We see here the major challenge that leaders have in a crisis, especially an existential one – one that is a matter of life and death for many. The people immediately begin to complain, old and young, even men and women of God join the army of complainers.
Of the Jews were priests and wise men and women, but they joined in saying that slavery was better than this freedom. And they also had said that they told Moses to leave them alone to serve the Egyptians, a terrible lie because the bible tells us that they cried out in anguish against the oppression of the Egyptians and the Lord heard their cries which was why he sent Moses to bring them out of captivity.
An interesting point here is that we are told that they prayed in Exodus 14 verse 10, but still grumbled against God in verse 11. So, prayers and fasting do not prevent people from grumbling against God.
The second issue is that fear drives away the faith of the majority, but the leader cannot afford to lose his cool or his focus. He must calm himself down and calm the people down as well. He must look up to God for help. Moses looked up to God for help and God spoke to Him. But note that Moses first gave the people confidence in the power of God to deliver and fulfill His promises. He had not yet heard from God on this particular problem, but because he knew the God he served, he was able to say with confidence. Ex 14:13 – And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
It was only thereafter that he went and cried to the Lord for help and God gave him the specific instructions for the particular occasion. But an important instruction that God gave him was that he should tell the children of Israel to go forward which is in verse 15 of Exodus 14.
This is so important because in adversity, especially where the future looks bleak, people want to give up, retreat, go back and they certainly don’t want to go forward. If you look at this particular situation of the children of Israel, the future in front of them was bleak, it seemed like it was to meet their death inside the Red Sea. Going forward for the children of Israel was like saying, go into the Red Sea and die there, but God said “tell them to go forward!” Why? Because He is the author of all things, He knows all things!
Indeed, a strange thing was that He was even the one hardening the heart of Pharoah. God knows all things; we must obey in faith even when we are afraid. This is the burden of leadership, especially leadership according to the principles of scripture.
To the final point on the contrarian nature of the leadership principle of scripture, I want us to take a few examples. This is very important for leaders because Christian leaders very often want to sound and be like leaders in the world, secular leaders. I want us to take a few examples of the sorts of instructions that God gives us as leaders in the faith.
Scriptures say, for example, to be great you must humble yourself. In 1st Peter 5 verse 6, scripture says humble yourself therefore under God’s mighty hand so that in due time, He may exalt you. In other words, as far as scripture is concerned, the leader must humble himself, or the person must humble him/herself in order to be exalted.
Another example of the contrarian principle is in Matthew 5 verse 44, bible tells us that love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Clearly, that is not the sort of thing anyone of us wants to hear, that is not the sort of thing that secular leadership is made of. But this is the sort of thing leadership in the faith calls for – leadership of men and women who are children of God.
In Matthew 10 verse 16, scripture says, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Clearly being wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove is hardly the sort of thing that seems reasonable but that is the very nature of the principles of scripture – they may not make sense to us, but these are the principles we are required to follow. The source of this wisdom is the Almighty, All-knowing, All-wise God Himself, so we must know as scripture says that even in what appears to be His foolishness, He is still vastly wiser than us. This is why the leadership models of Christ is contrarian, it is the opposite of what our flesh wants or agrees with but these are the winning principles not just in times of adversity but at all times.
Let me congratulate the board of Governance and leadership of RILA on our 25th anniversary. I pray that as our days, so shall our strength be in Jesus’ mighty name.
Thank you very much, God bless you and God bless RILA.