Yesterday, I was so deeply moved by the experience I am about to narrate. I attended the funeral of the father of a dear friend in Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria.
Just to give you a bit of a background, my friend’s dad died at 64 years of age. Prior to his demise, he had been ill, but the day he went home, he went from his sleep. He had been an itinerant minister for most of his life and one of his main passions was to see the people from his tribe and place (Ebira land) come to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When he died, his son was very heartbroken. In his own words, ‘if anybody had faith for the man to be healed, I did’. In other words, he so strongly believed God was going to heal his father and restore him to life and ministry, but that was not to be, for reasons best known to God. The burial was fixed for the 22nd of August and preparations began to be made for the funeral ceremony.
Friday, the 22nd of August dawned with very heavy and angry skies. The rain started at about 4am and for some reason, was rather unrelenting. I woke up that morning rather concerned about the journey (safety on the long drive) and then the rain (interfering with the day’s proceedings). As I knelt to pray, mulling over my concerns in my heart, I sensed the Spirit of God ask me why I was unduly concerned about matters for which the outcomes had been determined already. He said, ‘the man you are burying today was a precious servant’. Now, that set an interesting tone for the day.
So, we set out for Okene. It rained all the way (torrentially in some places) from Abuja to Okene and that journey took 5-plus hours to get there (especially because of the rain). By the time we got there, the service had started and a dear preacher was speaking about the life of the deceased, his dedication and service to God, and also preaching the gospel to the large crowd that had gathered from every nook and cranny of this country to honor the life of this great man. The moments leading up to, and the altar call were quite inspiring. Was so glad to see people step up to yield their lives to Christ.
It was still raining…
His last son’s tribute to him nearly moved me to tears. It was genuine, heartfelt and most especially, true. It was the tribute of a child who dearly loved his father and was loved in return.
‘I would like to declare to you, that our mourning is over!’ This was my friend’s opening statement when he was called to give the appreciation and vote of thanks on behalf of the family. ‘My father’s death (paraphrasing to give the general gist) will be the beginning of a revival that will sweep across the length and breadth of Ebira Land…’
The sun was beginning to break through the clouds…
As the coffin was lowered into the grave, the minister broke with tradition and asked that the wife and then his sons (he had 5 boys only) to scoop earth onto the coffin 3 times each in the dust-to-dust rites of the ceremony. His wife did not say anything as she performed the rites (and understandably so). When his first son took the shovel, as he cast the earth upon the coffin, he referred to his father’s burial as a seed being sown into the earth which would spring up to bear the fruit of a revival that would sweep through the whole of Ebira Land. He said that ministries would spring up through this, bringing many to Christ.
It was a powerful and awesome moment. I could sense the Spirit of God at work in that moment. I also in a flash, understood the purpose of God even though His manner of bringing it to pass was quite painful to all of us.
I looked up and the sun was out in all its glory. You would not have imagined that less than an hour before, it was still raining. Indeed there was such a shine that some of us were beginning to feel quite sweaty.
I learned a few things yesterday and had a few lessons reinforced again:
a. The thought rings in my mind so strongly that there is no reason worrying about outcomes that God has already determined.
b. To think that the torrential rain was going to make a mess of the proceedings only to have brilliant sunshine (akin to some sort of endorsement) when it mattered most. God is always in control.
c. That God works His purpose on the earth solely for the glory of His name and that purpose supersedes any desire we may have or express.
d. God’s purpose centers on the bigger picture and beyond what we can even sometimes envision.
e. Heaven most (if not at all) times would require a seed to accomplish its purpose; and there are times when that seed may be our very lives…
I am not sure how many houses he built in his lifetime, how many degrees he bagged, or even the number of cars he owned and drove, or how big his bank accounts were; but one thing I am pretty sure of, this man would have received a ‘Well done you good and faithful servant’, from the Lord Jesus Christ for the work he did while he was still alive. No greater prize in all of the universe than to be welcomed home with those precious words. When all is said and done, that is the only thing that really matters.