(A LECTURE DELIVERED AT THE CLERGY SCHOOL 2019 OF THE DIOCESES OF LAGOS WEST, AWORI AND ILE OLUJI
BY REVEREND OLALEKAN-JAMES OLUFEMI SAMUEL.
DATE: 8th - 11th July, 2019.)
TEXT - 2Timothy 2:20-21
When an employer of labor, who is serious about his business desires to hire additional hands. What do you think he will do? He searches diligently and his aim is to headhunt for the best hands in the industry or at least trainable, teachable and serviceable workers. Otherwise, he will make a shipwreck of his business. In a certain generation, God sought for a man to stand in the gap and found none. Ezekiel 22:30. Not that there are no men. It s just that when God looked at them, he did not find what he was looking for in such men that could qualify them as useful, usable vessels
A DICTIONARY DEFINITION OF VESSEL
A ship or large boat, a fishing boat. Old use or formal- a container for holding water or liquids. Technical- a tube that carries blood through your body, such as vein, or that carries liquid through a plant. Long man Dictionary of contemporary English.
BRIEF BIBLICAL EXPOSITION OF THE WORD VESSEL:
In a great house, there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay. Some for honorable use and some for dishonorable use. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 2Timothy 2:20-21.
Reading through this text, one may be tempted to believe that to be a Vessel of silver or gold is synonymous to being honorable. And that to be a Vessel of clay and wood translates to being dishonorable. But not so. The submission of Paul is that if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be an honorable Vessel. By anyone , it has included clay, gold, wood and silver. Also by anyone there is a presupposition that the vessels in question are not inanimate but human. More so, it points to the fact that any of this Vessel type can be contaminated for dishonor or cleansed for honor. Therefore God is able to use a Vessel of clay if it is cleansed from all that brings dishonor.
How do I know: We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure? This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT).
Therefore, we can say that in a great house like the house of Jesse, there were eight vessels of divers types. When Samuel looked, he saw and approved Eliab, but God rejected him and chose David. Bringing it home, in a great house called the dioceses of Ile Oluji, Awori and Lagos West, there are various vessels, some to honor and some to dishonor. Where are you in this clear cut divide? Surely there is no way a person can belong to the two categories same time. But you can defect from one class to another.
WHAT DOES NOT ATTRACT GOD TO A MAN
PHYSICAL APPEARANCE: When Samuel saw Eliab, he seemed to be sure that he was the one upon whom the oil will fall. I God did not restrain the prophet; there would have been an error. I am trying to imagine the physical appearance of Eliab that could so easily deceive a national Prophet like Samuel. His cassock and Surplice must have been well ironed; his shoes well polished and a well cut hair. He must have used a scented body and hair cream and his perfume must be designer. His appearance must have been top notched. But God said I have rejected him. God reminded the Prophet about what He looks for in a man, the heart. While Samuel was busy admiring the outward, God had peeped into Eliab s heart and found him unworthy. Does that say something to you, Fathers in God? While it is good to look good, we must strive never to be like the whitewashed tomb, beautiful outside but rotten inside.
Sometimes the secret sins of a man has so much ravaged his life that he has become unusable in God s sight in spite of the ceremonial cleansing. It is true that we cannot take away the place of appointment, approval, ordination and placement of men in the Church. But how I pray that we will all press beyond all these and seek God s face for divine approval.
ABILITY TO TALK TOO MUCH: Most times, those who talk too much tends to do very little. Where there are too much talk, sin is not lacking.
PRIDE AND ARROGANCE: God is never attracted to the man who is possessed with the pride of life. He honors the humble but the ways of the proud, He does not know. Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hands of God and He will exalt you in due season.
THE NEED FOR USABLE VESSELS You may ask why we are over-flogging this issue. The reason is that God wants to pour down His rain of power but he is mindful that if there are no good containers to bear this water, it will not only waste but bring about erosion. Furthermore, God is aware that the created man has an in-built ability to multiply and subdue the land. If he then invests heaven s treasure in an unusable or incorrect Vessel, the treasure will be contaminated and the contamination will spread. In the process, a whole generation will be wasted and thousands of souls will be poured into hell fire.
To avoid such monumental and eternal waste, God takes His time to appoint correct men, His men, to do His work. In this case, the treasure and the vessels are cleansed and ready for the master s use. Ready for every good work. The gospel will spread and it will be preached in purity. Souls will be won into everlasting life and heaven will rejoice.
In July, 2009, during a plenary session of our Diaconate Ordination retreat; I raised an issue. If a young man of 23years, fresh from the Seminary is posted to serve under a senior Priest who is a combination of drunk, womanizer, voodooist, etc. How do you expect that young man to turn out after 5 years of curacy? What kind of a Priest do you think he will become? Now, since no one can afford to give what he does not possess, this young man will grow like that in the ministry and he will mentor younger priest the same way he was mentored by his first Vicar. This is what the English people call a Boomerang. The multiplier effect of one incorrect vessel on the Church is very enormous. Truly, a little leaven, corrupt the whole dough. This is why God is always very meticulous when choosing His men.
WHAT GOD LOOKS FOR IN HIS VESSELS:
There is only one thing that God looks at when he chooses His men and that thing is the HEART. In fact, the heart of this matter is the matter of the heart. All the things God requires to make up His mind whether to reject or accept a Vessel are all located in the heart of the man. The scriptures says to us today as always Guard your heart will all diligence, for out of it flows the issues of life Prov. 4:23.
Bro. Gbile Akanni wrote and I quote: Every time God is looking for a man to use, He does not jump on the first man He sees. He looks first for something in the man He considers valuable.
WILL HE BREAK HIS CONSECRATION ON THE LAP OF DELILAH?
Samson was culpable in this matter. Just because of the enjoyment of few minutes, he caused a major setback to God plan for Israel. The destiny of a nation is lost on the lap of an uncircumcised Philistine woman. The painful part for me is that though he regained this consecration, his ministry was discontinued. At the nick of the moment God heeded to His servant but for the last time. Samson left the stage at his prime. At a time when God was just starting with him. What a waste of heaven s resources. No wonder God is still very reluctant about using some of us optimally. He is watching our heartbeats. I used to have a friend many years ago. We were in our twenties. He had become a vibrant brother doing morning and afternoon cry in the area where he was born and where he grew up. He was such a powerful preacher even at that age. All of a sudden, he went silent. God showed me in a terrifying vision that he died and prompted me to visit him. As I narrated my dream to Emeka, he busted into tears. His confession was that he visited a brothel to preach to the prostitutes and one of them gave him audience. One thing led to another and my friend ended on the bed of this woman of easy virtue. As at the time I was speaking to him, he has become a regular caller at the hotel. He said he did not know how to break free. I prayed with him and left with a heavy heart. It could have been me. It is still the same today. God s generals in Delilah bosom. Heaven s eternal resources are being wasted.
A HEART OF A RULER
Let us consider the life and ministry of Moses. It might be that we would learn one or two lessons from it. There is no doubt Moses had been tutored about God s intention to use him for Israel s deliverance. But knowing alone is not enough. Moses was still going about as a man of many privileges. He thought that attending the best schools in the world, having the status of a Prince to mention a few are the things that qualifies him. In his heart, he thought the Israelites should be grateful for having such a leader and savior as him. So he started off his ministry with murder and then he wanted to become the peoples judge over night. He did not think he should consult God on the matter. His heart was lifted up even against God and His people. Such pomposity exists among the clergy such that is so detestable to God. Moses woke up from his slumber when he was asked this question. Who made you judge over us? Then he fled in search of answers to this one question.
THE HEART OF A SHEPHERD
You must have read that Moses was the meekest of men and that he was a stammerer. He did not start of that way. It was God s dealing with his heart that made him like that. Before then, rather than a stammerer, Moses was a man great in speech and deeds. Acts 7:22
And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. So how can a man be learned and be meek except that God has performed a surgical operation on his heart. If you present your heart at the Potter s house today, it may just be a turning point in your ministry. If He did it for Moses, He can do it for you too, and I mean you.
IS HE A MAN OF ONE THING?
One vision, one purpose, one God, one wife. Paul says I have chosen to know nothing else among you except Christ and Him crucified.1Corinth 2:2. He wrote again:
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before Phili3:13.
Jesus said also:
The light of the body is the eye: therefore when your eye is SINGLE, your whole body also is full of light;...Luke 11:34.
Are you a man of ONE THING?
DOES HE TRAMPLE ON OR TREMBLE AT GOD s WORD
According to Jesus, the ground upon which the sower cast the seed is the HEART and the seed is the WORD of God. The Wayside heart is such that receives the Word but allow the word to be trampled upon and cause the birds to eat it. For such a man, the Word is not so important. He does not strive for the word to take root in the people. He thinks lightly of the word and makes fun of it. Such people will call for a service and invite jesters to crack jokes using the sacred word. When a man handles holy things with such carelessness and contempt, he is likely to end up like Uzzah. How can God look at such a heart and then pour His treasure into it? Hear what Isaiah has to say on this:
Isaiah 66:1-2 (KJV)
Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?
For all those things hath mine handmade, and all those things have been, says the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word.
DOES HE RECEIVES THE WORD WITH TREMBLING OR WITH GLADNESS?
In the parable of the sower, the stony heart receives the word with gladness and not with brokenness. Such heart after receiving the word responds to altar calls by smiling or chatting to the altar. They clap and shout in excitement at the preaching of the Word. The word could not take root in them. Some even stand from their seat to drop seed to receive the blessings of the word. If you are such a Vessel who inspires and encourages such careless living, you are a stony heart and you can beg God to change your heart of stone to a heart of flesh. The power of the word is strange to such heart. Whereas, those who received the word on the day of Pentecost from Peter s mouth where cut to their heart and cried to Peter and the disciples brethren what shall we do. They trembled at the word. The word that came to them did not produce immediate gladness.
It is for this same reason that you see people throw a very big party with great excitement. Church funds are wasted in such occasion. And for others, they go borrowing or begging. For what reason? It may be they have just been made deacons or priest or Canon or Archdeacon. They do not consider or take to heart the weight of the task. For them, when a man becomes a priest especially in the fastest growing Diocese in the Anglican world, all his problem has been taken care of. Like they say Poolu di eru Ijo that is Paul has become the property of the Church. Can I ask you this question, have you ever heard of a Nigerian Soldier posted to Sambisa Forest to combat the blood sucking Boko Haram; throwing a party on the eve of his departure?
DOES HE HAVE CAPACITY TO RECEIVE GOD s TREASURE?
The quantum of treasure God is willing to pour into a Vessel is not in doubt. The issue has always been the capacity of the Vessel to receive and retain the treasure. God looks at a man to check if he is able to receive what God is willing to give. Sometimes the man becomes full of himself and has no more space for grace. At that point, God begin to look for available vessels with capacity to receive.
In 2 Kings Chapter 4, a prophet s widow came to Elisha to complain about her poverty. The instruction is for her to get a lot of vessels and fill them with the bottle of oil in her hands. What I noticed was that there was oil to fill into the vessels as long as they were available. As soon as the widow ran out of vessels, the flow of oil ceased. I believe God is looking for such a man that will continually empty God s oil on him into other vessels without holding back so he can be refilled by heaven. Such a man can never be empty or barren. Are you that man? 2 Kings 13:14-19 (NLT)
When Elisha was in his last illness, King Jehoash of Israel visited him and wept over him. My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel! he cried.
Elisha told him, Get a bow and some arrows. And the king did as he was told. Elisha told him, Put your hand on the bow, and Elisha laid his own hands on the king s hands.
Then he commanded, Open that eastern window, and he opened it. Then he said, Shoot! So he shot an arrow. Elisha proclaimed, This is the LORD s arrow, an arrow of victory over Aram, for you will completely conquer the Arameans at Aphek.
Then he said, Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground. So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times. But the man of God was angry with him. You should have struck the ground five or six times! he exclaimed. Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.
For example, when digging a well with the intention of reaching or achieving a clean, portable, usable and drinkable water, you must be ready to dig very deep. Others may say, we don t have strength or time to dig deeper. After all we have found water already. What water? Any kind of water. They settle for just anything. Anyhow ministry. When God is searching for His men, he does not look at such men, their status in society or church organization notwithstanding. We must be men with capacity to receive more from the Lord.
IS HE A MAN DRIVEN BY HIS STOMACH?
Such men, their stomach are their god. They are grabbers and it s never enough. The devil has thrown them into a cycle and the only race they are running is the Rat Race. They forgot the words of the Lord to the devil; man shall not leave by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from God s mouth. Matt. 4:4. They are men like ESAU. They do not mind to sell eternal treasures for a morsel. How can God commit such treasure into the hands of such men?
In one of the Parish Churches where I served, the wardens came to me with the Cheque book in their hands, shortly after I received my transfer letter. They wanted us to sign out a specified amount the Church was owing me. I turned down their kind gesture in spite of persistent persuasion. My position was that now that I have been transferred, I will not sign any amount for myself except the current month allowances. Someone would say, it s your right now. True. But have you not read in scriptures that all things are lawful but not all things are expedient for me. That same congregation of less than 150 members including children went out of their way outside the church account to buy me a Salon car barely a year, after I left. I served there for a period of eleven months only. I confess here that I have enjoyed the benefits of ministry in this past ten years. But I noticed that most of these benefits have nothing to do with rights or laws. We must become such men who can look at poverty in the eyes without blinking. If I perish I perish.
Sometimes you don t gain materially but you acquire Lorry load of honor; and for me, good name is far better and bigger than all the monies in the Central Bank. Even when we get material benefits, I have observed that they do not come by right but by grace. From experience the latter is always far better than the former. I strongly opines that this will be the testimony of all those who are serious about this ministry.
The issue of who we owe our allegiance to is a serious matter. If you ask a priest, who do you owe your allegiance or loyalty to, he is most likely to mention the Bishop. That is correct but not good enough. What the Bishop can do for you is very minimal. Please join me to count. He prefers you, post you to a station that is Shomshom like they say, he mentions your name in the house of Bishops. All of these without Heaven s approval and endowment will be meaningless. Preferment becomes a curse if the recipient has not been preferred firstly from heaven. I do not have issues with loyalty to the Bishop. We swore to it at ordination. The real issue is whether the man owes and will continue to owe his allegiance to God and not the devil. How do you describe a situation where a priest subscribes to voodooism and patronize Muslim marabouts while still in the vicarage or when he tells lies without blinking. Reverend Father Pathological liar. Now listen to Paul for there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole family by teaching for shameful gain, what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a Prophet of their own, said Cretans are always liars, evil beast and lazy gluttons. This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in the faith Titus1:10-13.
Again Jesus rebuked this way, You belong to your father, the devil and you want to carry out your father s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and a father of lies John 8:44.
How about the priests and Priests in training who cheat shamelessly during examination. At Immanuel College, it s always baffling and appalling to see Priests in training helping themselves in the examination hall and getting embarrassments from lay people, invigilators from the University of Ibadan. Can I ask you sir- if a certain man parades himself as a Surgeon and you know for a fact that throughout his 7 years in the Medical School, he was always absconding from practical classes and cheating during examinations; that he bribed his way through school. Will you allow him to perform surgery on your dog, talkless of yourself? Will you trust him with the life of your sick child?
I hear priests, as a result of anger saying such things as I will go to Ijebu because of you . I will show you that I am from Ekiti... such men, God does not care about. Why? If God pours His treasure into their Vessels, it might be that they will say it was Osun Oshogbo water that is helping them. They may begin to say like Aaron to the people, this is your god who brought you out of Egypt.
God does not want such men. When you see a man who carries on ministry in this fashion, you cannot help but ask where lies his allegiance? Who is he actually working for? How can you be here and be there at the same time. When God looks at me and find all these things, He is not likely to call me His own even if everyone else affirms me.
We must become such men as Peter who answered Jesus this way- to whom shall we go, it is you who has the word of eternal life, when Jesus asked them, will also go? John 6:68
CAN GOD OWN HIM TOTALLY
He wants to be able to own us. It could be very gratifying and rewarding for one to be the Bishop s boy, but it is not good enough. The correct thing is to be God s men. Men that God could boast about. He would say That s my boy .
and the Lord said to Satan, have you considered MY servant Job, that there is none like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil Job 1:8.
...the Lord has sought for HIMSELF, a man after HIS OWN heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be Prince over His people... 1Samuel 13:14.
About Paul it was written also But the Lord said to him (Ananias), go, for he is a chosen instrument of MINE to carry MY name before the gentiles and kings and the children of Israel . Acts 9:15.
It grieves him to share our allegiance to him with mortals. He does not like to hear other men brag about how they made us who we are today. God is reluctant to use a man made by other men. So if you have to take the pain of sharing Ghana must go like Nigerian politician or unbendable envelopes just so you can be made an Archbishop or Archdeacon. Why all that trouble. Is it not God who appoints men to positions? Such men will boast in the future that they made you and that will displease God.
Genesis 14:22-23 (NLT)
Abram replied to the king of Sodom, I solemnly swear to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth,
that I will not take so much as a single thread or sandal thong from what belongs to you. Otherwise you might say, `I am the one who made Abram rich. Yours is to desire the office of a Bishop or deacon and then strive to meet the condition as recommended by Paul to Timothy and Titus. It is left to God to give it to you or not.
WILL HE NOT ARROGATE TO HIMSELF SUCH THINGS THAT ARE EXCLUSIVE TO GOD.
We have been taught severally that we are men of God and not God of men. But I see Priests who are overwhelmed by the privileges and pachusites of the office so much so they assume a stature that is larger than life. Have you considered how many times your pictures appear on the bill boards and postals as if you are Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the church? Your image is permanently registered in the minds of your parishioners and the people in the neighborhood yet you have not cared to labour so that Christ can be fully formed in them. They know and remember what you say but they are oblivious of God s eternal counsel. How do you expect God to continue to use you as His Vessel when all you do is about yourself and not about Him? Why did God reject king Saul?. He was too much in a haste to wait on God and listen for His instruction and verdict. He was a pleaser of men. He committed the sin of presumption and insubordination when he performs the sacrifice meant for the Priest to do.
Some Old Testament Scholars would fault Samuel and they would say he was in a hurry to dethrone Saul. My position is that God had noticed the change in Saul s heart. Were you not little in your own eyes when I made you the captain over Israel?
The humble king has now become arrogant to the extent of playing roles that he should never have played. He played God. The result is that God regretted making Saul king and He rejected him. May we not be rejected by God and may God never regret ever calling us to this sacred ministry. Amen.
Why are you handling eternal matters with such levity. Did you not know that you are a driver of a Lorry loaded with crates of fresh eggs? You can t afford to be reckless. You can t afford any distractions because any accident along this journey will only bring collateral damage with eternal consequences. We are men with blood in our hands. If you are in doubt ask prophet Ezekiel.
Personally, I am still asking God to show me His will for my life. I do not want to miss divine purpose for anything in this world. I ,suspect that if we miss purpose, we miss all.
The earnest expectation of the creatures waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. Romans 8:19.
Did you not know that when a man lives a life of purpose, that same life helps to unveil God s purpose for people around him.
For if we become laid back or reluctant as touching this Sacred Calling, several generations will suffer.
For example, if your purpose is to build a bridge, several people will be stranded if you refused to. And God will hold you accountable regardless of your other great achievements in life such as building event centers, installing air conditioners in the Sanctuary, building state of the heart vicarages, buying shares and bonds.
If your calling is to be the bridge and then you refused, there will arise, a generation that will not know the Lord and the mighty works which He did. And God will hold you responsible.
MY CAVEAT EMPTOR
As I deliver this paper, I want my fathers of faith under the sound of my voice to note that I do not seat on a HIGH HORSE and talking down at you. I am such a man who cries to God daily to help me so that I may not miss my purpose in life. That Christ may be fully formed in me. I am a man on probation just like so many of us. God is watching us. He is watching our hearts. I pray that all of us receive the grace to reach the mark ultimately in Jesus name. Amen.
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