Home / Faith / PREPARED FOR CHANGE – A sermon by Professor Anya .O. Anya at the University of Ibadan

PREPARED FOR CHANGE – A sermon by Professor Anya .O. Anya at the University of Ibadan

Prof. Anya
Prof. Anya

(A sermon by Professor Anya. O. Anya at the Chapel of the Resurrection, University of Ibadan on the occasion of the 80th Birthday Thanksgiving of Professor Emeritus D.U.U. Okali, FAS, D.Sc (Hon) on 25th September 2015)


Of the sons of Issachar, who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred, and all their brethren were at their command, 1 Chr. 12:32.

Let me start by thanking the governing authorities of this historic chapel for the opportunity given me to share the Word of God on this sacred pulpit. It is a rare privilege which I would treasure for the rest of my life. Let me also congratulate the exceptional man whose 80th birthday has afforded us the alibi to share fellowship with one another and with the triune God on this day and on this hallowed ground.
The significance of today is gilded in the words of Psalms 90:10 which has been attributed to Moses, the man of God rather than to the famed psalmist David, the man after God’s heart as the scriptures tell us –

The days of our lives are seventy years
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years
Yet their boast is only labour and sorrow –
For it is soon cut off and we fly away.

Despite the mooted note of implied despair in this psalm we must remember that the word of God assures that our allotted span of life could infact be as many as a hundred and twenty years. We are also reminded that at eighty Caleb was as physically strong as the forty year old younger men of his times. So we give glory to God that our celebrant is as fit and as agile as we all can witness today.
When we look around the world or even around our nation Nigeria it is evident that we face daunting challenges. As the Chinese would say these are interesting times. These are times that try men’s heart. In the global environment the pace of change is unprecedented in the entire history of the world. Technology has brought fundamental changes in the way and manner that we live our lives given the speed of communication. Take for example the new global phenomenon of mass migration from one country to another, often seemingly aimless and often against incredible odds. News and events that can make the ear tingle now seem standard fare. In our country, tales of ritual murder, kidnappings, armed robbery and the ravages of Boko Haram dominate the air waves. It is as if there is no security and safety anywhere and nothing is sacred anymore. On the individual level we cannot ignore the tales of fraud, deceit and hypocrisy that dominate our political and public life. It is as if we are witnessing the total collapse of the society – a normless society in which values have vanished and nothing seems to have any value anymore. In such circumstances, the youth can be forgiven if they appear confused and even rebellious.
It is under similar circumstances that David, who had been anointed king of Israel many years before attempted to take charge of the chaotic situation. It was in those circumstances that the tribe of Issachar merited special mention.

Of the sons of Issachar, who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred, and all their brethren were at their command, 1 Chr. 12:32.

If you read the full story of David’s efforts to take charge amidst the social chaos of his times as related in 1 Chronicles chapter eleven to thirteen, you will note that some of the other tribes counted their leaders and army in thousands but with Issachar “their chiefs were two hundred”. But what they did not have in numbers they made up for in quality
– they had understanding of the time
– they knew what Israel ought to do, and
– all their brethren were at their command
Assembled in this church at this time are some of the brightest and the best Nigeria can boast of – what can pass for Nigeria’s “sons of Issachar”. Let me admit that we can easily be intimidated by the magnitude and enormity of the challenges of these times. But let me also add that we all are the inheritors of a fantastic double legacy.
– we are Christians with the awesome power that Christ has entrusted to us
– we are the best educated in this age of knowledge
With our twin legacies, despite the challenges of these times, we can overcome. After all Christ himself has assured us that those He calls, He also equips. So why do we all seem so timid and afraid of these challenging times that we live in? I am told that the symbol in Chinese writing for crisis is exactly the same as the symbol for opportunity. We can see in recent years what the Chinese have achieved by grasping the opportunities in their myriads of crises in the last fifty years. And these are not Christians.
Please permit me to digress. At a public lecture in Port Harcourt a forth night ago our revered elder statesman Chief Emeka Anyaoku, an alumnus of this revered institution told of his experience in Bangladesh many years ago. After he had given a public lecture in Dacca, the capital, during the question and answer session, a scruffy looking and haggard elderly man rose to ask a question. The Foreign Minister who was sitting on the podium with Chief Anyaoku whispered to him that this man was one of the respected professors in their university and had a reputation for asking difficult questions. Our professor rose and true to his reputation, noted Chief Anyaoku, in impeccable English the Professor intoned
How can a country that has produced such distinguished men like you be in such a mess?
I am sure that many of us in this elite congregation have had similar experiences. So we return to the unutterable word: why? The late Chinua Achebe, another alumnus of this great institution answered it many years ago – it is the simple matter of leadership. But what kind of leadership? I am reasonably certain that many of us would gladly echo the sentiment that what we need are Christian leaders. For those who are tempted to follow this path let me remind us that it was the great Gandhi who observed that he would gladly have followed Christ but for the example of the christians in his experience. For the thoughtful Christian such as those assembled here today the servant leadership model of Christ is the obvious template. However, given the fact that Christ was sinless while we all were embedded in our sins until Christ happened to us, so His example cannot be an easy act to follow. So let us look at a more accessible leadership model: David, the son of Jesse.
If we studied the passage in 1 Chronicles 11, 12 and 13 carefully we can distil the leadership principles of David. They were anchored on four pillars
• he built strong relationships anchored on a strong inner circle;
• he was resourceful and thus attracted people with varied gifts and interests
• he rewarded his followers and hence engendered loyalty, and finally
• he was respected and respectable and hence delegated responsibility based on ability.
It is when you looked more closely at the characteristics of those to whom he delegated that a checklist of the qualities of the successful Christian leader emerges.
These were men (and women) who had influence and built a network of individuals around themselves.
They had the capacity to nurture and empower others through their resourceful and character-driven approach to relationships.
Like the sons of Issachar they were discerning and intuitive: they understood their environment, and fine tuned the timing and strategy for their intervention.
Finally they were responsible, competent and loyal.
So the question arises, why have we all seated here, either as the educated leadership of this nation or the Christian apostles of this society failed so miserably? Of course knowledge can be an obstacle in our relationship with God. We cannot forget that the first sin in God’s created world was when Eve tried to procure wisdom against God’s direction. So we have a handicap on the basis of education alone. As Christian leaders our inability to yield the self to the direction of the Holy Spirit is a major impediment to our faith. How then can we fulfil our role as Christian and educated leaders in this time of crises?
In the final analysis, it is when we put David’s recipe for success (despite his adultery and murder) against Christ’s example that we find certain inescapable common features –
– humility driven by passion
– truth anchored on wisdom
– merit built around excellence, and
– justice as the foundation of peace.
On the face of it, this is a tall order especially when we remember that at all times there are alternative pathways available to each of us to exercise our inalienable right to chose
– follow the self
– to follow the devil or
– to follow God
From human experience the first two pathways are in spiritual terms the ways to death. We have been assured that if we follow God, we would never walk alone for the Holy Spirit is within us to guide. It is then that the divine attributes of truth, wisdom and faith become ours to embrace and live. We can embrace our leadership responsibilities as servants and not as Lords, for we have only one Lord – Jesus Christ. It is the pathway of sacrifice, surrender and service. It is the only way. Our David, like the namesake, David the king, has given us intimations of this possibility. We thank God for this fight. That is why Peter encourages us –

– But you are a chosen generation,
A royal priesthood, A holy nation:
His own special people
That you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you
Out of darkness into His marvellous light
Who once were not a people
But we are now the people of God
Who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy,
1 Peter 2:9-10

And now to the only wise God be glory, honour, majesty and excellence, both now and forever more, Amen.

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