By Femi Aribisala
For ten years of married life, my wife and I did not have a child. We did not have one because we did not want one. In my case, I was just not ready.
There was no purpose to my life. I told myself having a child must go beyond the desire to have one. I was searching for something I did not know and had yet to find. I felt it was not right to bring a child into my purposelessness.
In the end, we had a child while I was still confused. But five years later, I finally found meaning for my life. I met Christ; and he gives meaning to everything.
The armed robber offers you a simple choice: “Your money or your life?” But this turns out to be no choice at all because it is all the same to you. “If I lose my money then I lose my life.” Therefore, you adamantly refuse to give him anything. A bereaved wife laments her husband: “This man was my life. He was everything to me. But now he is dead. I have no more cause for living.” What seems to be the problem here? These people had counterfeit lives. They had lives that could be lost; and faced with the loss, they were devastated.
Jesus cautions that the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10). Nevertheless, he does not promise us protection from the thief? The fact is the life that can be lost will be lost. The life that can be stolen will be stolen. The life that can be destroyed will be destroyed. It all depends on what kind of life we have. Do we have one that can be lost, stolen or destroyed?
Everyone desires the good life, but what exactly does it entail? When a man is living the good life, the world expects him to have a powerful and prestigious job; a hefty and sizeable bank account; a few houses in choice locations at home and abroad; some of the finest cars; a beautiful and devoted wife; two or three healthy children.
It is apparent from such expectations that the “good life” is only open to the rich. But Jesus contradicts this by saying: “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15). If so, the life that Jesus promises has been completely misunderstood. Jesus’ “abundant life” certainly cannot be about the abundance of things, and God-given prosperity cannot be about material wealth. What then is our life?
The Lord came to me once and asked me a characteristically loaded question. He said: “Femi, what do you own?” While I was pondering what exactly he meant and how to go about identifying my possessions, he decided to help me out. He said to me: “If what you have can be lost, then it does not belong to you. If it can be stolen, then it has no value. If it can be burnt or destroyed then it is illusory.”
Then he asked me further: “So what do you have left?” I did not know what to say but the Holy Spirit helped me out. He said: “Femi, the only ‘thing’ you have left is Jesus.”
Jesus said: “I am come that they might have life.” (John 10:10). But, were people not alive before he came? No, says the word of God. We were dead. We were dead in trespasses and sins. Life has nothing to do with being alive. Jesus revealed that the dead are walking. They are walking according to the ways of the devil. In effect, Jesus came as the light of the world to reveal to man who was sitting in darkness that although he was alive, he was dead. And he now says that we should receive the true bread of life from him.
But then what kind of life did Jesus himself live? Surely, the giver of “abundant life” must have enjoyed it himself? If so, how did he enjoy it? Once we ask this question, the contradictions to popular thinking become apparent. Jesus did not have many of those things we normally attribute with the good life.
He was born in a manger. He had no formal schooling or education. He had neither chariots nor horses. He did not have a wife or any children. When someone volunteered to be his disciple, Jesus warned him they would not be staying at the Sheraton Hotel. He said: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:20).
How then is a man to enjoy life? Only by enjoying the life Jesus came to give. That life is not the life of the body. That life is the spiritual life. It was the spiritual life that was missing; the physical life existed before Christ came. Before Christ, man was spiritually dead to God. Because Christ came to show us the way to return, we can now be spiritually alive to God. Thanks to Jesus, God says: “This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:24).
Jesus; our life
I am reminded of a possibly apocryphal story a woman trader from Kano told me about a former President of Nigeria who was affectionately called “Maradona.” She said after he became President, he called his best friend and asked him what he could do for him. “I am President now,” he said. “Ask me for whatever you desire.” The friend gratefully declined on the grounds that he was alright. God had been good to him, he said, he had no pressing needs.
When he left, the President called his lieutenants. “Find out what that man is relying on,” he demanded. They came back and gave him details of his friend’s business interests. So the President gave a simple instruction: “Block everything. Make life as difficult for him as possible in every area of his interest.” And his lieutenants set out to the task.
Soon the friend came back to see the President. “See me see trouble,” he cried. “I am having this problem and having that difficulty.” The President was most sympathetic. “What am I here for?” he asked expansively. “Did I not tell you if you have any problem all you have to do is tell me?” So after listening to his friend go over the details of his predicament, he promised to take immediate action. Thereafter, he instructed his lieutenants again concerning his friend. “Unblock everything you blocked.”
You may well ask what the motive of the President was in these machinations. He was not satisfied with being the man’s friend. He wanted to be his life.
After hearing this story, I decided to add to it. What if when the President asked his people to find out what his friend was relying on, they came back and told him: “Sir, he is relying on Jesus.” What do you think the President could do in such a situation? Can he still tell them: “Block everything?” Certainly not! The man’s life would have been impregnable.