By Isaac Asabor
The traditional news media and the social internet sites like Facebook, Twitter and several online portals have been abuzz since the last few days, after the General Overseer of the Omega Fire Ministries International, Apostle Johnson Suleman, says he bought his third jet during the raging COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed the country into economic quagmire. Unfortunately, his testimony could not have being considered to be provocative and insensitive to anyone if he had not said that he was praying for the pandemic not to end because he was prospering and resting. Does this sound altruistic to you?
Without any iota of exaggeration, his sermon must have being soul inspiring to his congregants, and it is understandable as that was what most of them yearned for. However, that he was praying for the pandemic not to end is what can scripturally be considered in this context to be a case of the little fox ruining the vineyard.
The reason for the foregoing view cannot be farfetched as it is paradoxical to hear the man of God say that he was praying for the COVID-19 pandemic not to come to an end. It is paradoxical as it was the period when virtually every Nigerian turned to God as it was considered to be the time of fear and uncertainty. Despite the lockdown measures extended to churches and other prayer houses, not few Nigerians sneaked out to secretly pray for God’s heart of love, mercy, and truth to dwell in them and show them how to face the challenges posed by the new coronavirus in defiance of the social distancing laws put in place at the time to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.
His sermon was not in any way unexpected as it is commonplace in this part of the world for pastors to own mega churches, fleet of cars, private jets and properties all over the world while a majority of their members can barely feed on a daily basis. Understanding his sermon from the perspective of the fact that he was praying against the COVID-19, then it stands to imagine that his prayer exercise which might have being boosted with fasting was ironically exercised at a critical time when Nigerian security forces were struggling to contain increasing cases of looting on government-run warehouses that were secretly stored with Indomie, expired garri and indomie among other Giffen food items across the country. It is surprising to hear that the apostle who this writer holds in high esteem prayed for COVID-19 pandemic not to come to an end at a time when Nigerians were praying against it to go back to Wuhan in China where it came from.
There is no denying the fact that the apostle was paradoxically praying for the pandemic to continue wreaking havocs on the people so much so that the word of Aristotle that says, “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime”, found expression on the situation as the warehouses that held tonnes of relief materials including food meant for distribution during lockdowns were discovered, and looted across the country by hungry Nigerians. It was unarguably a paradox that whilst he was praying for more private Jets, millions of Nigerians were breaking into owned warehouses; stealing indomies and garri.
Without sounding ridiculous in this context, upon taking a deep reflection on this issue that a Nigerian was praying for more private Jets while other Nigerians were praying for, at least, a pack of Indomie at the time COVID-19 pandemic was taking its toll on the lives of the people, it is not a misnomer to conclude that truly, all fingers are alike but not equal. I have been wondering why it is so. I had for the umpteenth time sat and reflected that if fingers were not equal, no man of God would be supercilious enough to intimidatingly resort to flaunting his wealth or rather his achievements before his congregants who are unarguably the ones enriching him through their tithes, offerings and donations for special projects in the church.
To my view, it was not in any way auspicious for a man of God to have resorted to praying for fleet of aircrafts for himself while most of his followers and admirers where scrambling for Indomies, garri, rice among other Giffen foods stored away in many warehouses built across the country. Someone may have asked, “What was expected of such man of God?”
To answer the foregoing question, it is expedient to say that having laid a satisfactory block of argument that it is germane to ask, “How is Apostle Suleiman feeding the Sheep which God has divinely entrusted him with?
It is not an exaggeration to say that Peter was engaged in a dialogue with Jesus Christ before he was fully reinstated as one of the disciples of Jesus Christ. The threads of the dialogue can be found in the book of John chapter 21 verse 15 to 23. No doubt, the kernel of the dialogue was that Peter should feed His sheep. In the same light, Apostle Suleiman is expected to feed the sheep (his followers) under his apostolate.
Permit me to confess at this juncture that this piece is not a sermon but a personal view on how the vices of hypocrisy, deceit, levity, worldliness, materialism and greed have collectively reared their ugly heads into the church. The situation is literarily nauseating at the moment that the sheep are no more being fed. Rather, it is the shepherds (the pastors) that are collecting from the sheep to feed themselves. And they usually justify this action with the scripture in 1 Corinthians chapter 9 verse 7 that says “Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?”
This piece should not be seen as an expression of disrespect but it should be seen as a response to God’s commandment in Proverbs 27 verse 17 that urges us to be supportive to one another. The scripture says “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Our men of God need the intercession of other Christians as it is very obvious that most of them are seemingly racing through the wrong track in the Christian race. An African proverb says “When the elders seem to forget the tenet of the tradition, the younger ones should always remind them on what the tradition says.” It may not be wrong to say that it is expedient to sharpen some of our pastors at this “Jet-age” with the word of God.
This view may sound absurd to some religious zealots but they need to be reminded that falling away from the Christian race is not exclusively a problem for “baby-Christians”. “Big men” in the Christendom can fall as well. In fact, the Bible is replete with stories that revolve on how men of God like Moses, Saul, Samson, Judas Iscariot and David among others disobeyed God. And the Bible told us that they individually paid the costly price of disobedience. The truth in this context is that if great men of God that are mentioned above disobeyed God in their walk with God, on what spiritual pedestal can our men of God stand and boast that they are infallible to fall? It is not an exaggeration to say that the men of God cited above were highly loved by God before they individually disobeyed Him. Moses at various times spoke and heard from God. David was a man after God’s heart. God anointed Saul to the extent that he is today remembered as a warrior. Samson was purposely ordained by God to discomfit the Philistines. Judas Iscariot, as a treasurer, related with Jesus Christ on one-on-one basis. But they all fell at different stages in their respective ministry since there were apparently no younger believers to tell them the truth or sharpen them like Iron. The qualification for telling our fathers-in-the-lord the truth is not that of title but how much word of God one has. The truth is that many religious followers that are close to them would not tell them the truth as some of them are seemingly church scavengers that are searching for miracles.
Still in the same nexus, the Bible in 1st Corinthians chapter 10 verse 12 says “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.” Therefore, our fathers-in-the-lord should be very careful. Most believers erroneously think that the ability to perform miracles is a yardstick for making heaven. It is not. Jesus Christ did not see it as a condition because in Matthew 24 verse 24, His word says “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible.”