By Femi Aribisala
There was strife between the herdsmen of Abraham and those of his nephew Lot. Therefore, Abraham decided it would be best for Lot and him to go their separate ways. He told Lot to decide which way to go: if he goes left, he will go right; if he goes right, he will go left.
Lot was greedy and impetuous. He did not defer to his uncle to make the first choice as his elder. He quickly chose the better-looking and well-watered land. However, the part he chose turned out to include evil Sodom and Gomorrah. The part he rejected turned out to be the Promised Land.
What is the moral of this story? Do not believe your eyes. The better-looking is not necessarily better. The good-looking man might not turn out to be the better husband. The beautiful woman might not be the better wife.
I was born blind. As a result, I did not know I was lame. From birth, I was using crutches, but I did not know this. Neither did my parents or my colleagues. But one fateful day, God decided to tell me.
What did he do?
He had me waylaid and shot in the leg by armed robbers. Then I had to use crutches for a season. As a result, my spiritual condition from birth became physically manifest. Then he said to me: “Femi, you have been using crutches all your life, but did not know it. The only way I could get you to know it is by making your spiritual condition physical.”
That has become a metaphor for my life. There is so much that I do not know. There is so much that I need to know. But only God knows and only He can reveal this to me. Flesh and blood cannot do this. That is why He says: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6).
God told Abraham He would give his descendants the land that Lot rejected. But first, He would ensure that they would live as slaves in a strange land for over 400 years. Thereafter, He would bring them back to His land of promise.
But why? Why make them slaves in a foreign land? He did this to give them and us the message that we are all strangers in a foreign land on earth. Heaven is really where we belong. When we fail to heed this message, we waste our lives building and amassing wealth on earth, but sooner than later must leave everything behind.
When we do not know this, the focus of our life is here and now. We yearn to be secure in our marriage and our careers. We want to overcome our problems and find fulfilment in life. We want to enjoy life and cling to it for as long as possible. Heaven is not our focus. We see it merely as a nice benefit at the end of the ride. Death is to be avoided at all costs. We do not see it as the gateway to everything we have to live for.
But the fact of the matter is that we are only sojourners on earth. We are only here for a short while. Every day, eternity beckons. Therefore, Paul warns: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
An outsider does not live according to the cultures and traditions of a foreign country. If you live in a hotel, you do not repaint and spend time and money redecorating your room. Howard Hendricks says: “Most people think they are in the land of the living, heading towards the land of the dead. But the truth is, we are in the land of the dying, heading toward the land of the living.”
If we were wise, we would not get caught up in the local lifestyle. We would not imbibe the local value system. Again, Paul counsels: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2).
They were expecting a visiting Head of State from another country. The streets were lined with people. School children were everywhere, holding and waving flags. The roads were completely cleared of all vehicles.
Then suddenly there appeared a raggedy-looking man, riding a bicycle. “Get off the road,” they jeered. “Clear off. Stupid idiot, what are you doing there?”
Little did they know the man they were abusing was the visiting Head of State. “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” (Matthew 21:5).
Jesus was not the person they were expecting for the simple reason that He is from an entirely different kingdom. His kingdom is not of this world.
They were accustomed to the pomp and circumstance of other “kings.” They had seen pastors zooming around the streets of Lagos in their cortege of outriders and expensive limousines. They would have recognised Him if He had shown up with a retinue of fearsome bodyguards. But they did not know what to make of this abject “pretender” from Nazareth.
Who has believed our report that this ordinary man is the King of kings and the Lord of lords? For this reason, those of us who are appointed to salvation must learn not to look at things that are seen, but at things that are not seen: “For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
We must understand that the ways of God are not the ways of men. Jesus says: “What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15).
Collecting bottle tops
When he was much younger, my son Femi Kevin, loved to collect bottle tops. He kept them in an old biscuit tin under his bed. Once you were having a drink, he came for the bottle top to add to his treasured collection. If you took any of those tops, you could expect a fight. If he could not find that biscuit tin because you had hidden it somewhere, he became greatly distressed.
I wonder what happened to those bottle tops. I know for a fact that he no longer has them. I also know that we, his parents, did not throw them away. I believe they simply lost their value to him. They were, after all, bottle tops.
But even if he still has them somewhere, imagine a situation where, some twenty years down the road, a thief breaks into his house and steals his bottle tops. I doubt if it would make any difference to him. The bottle tops were of value to him because he was a child.
Paul says: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11).