•‘Loss of crucial case for Nigeria Airways was part of my punishment’
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Pastor Israel Adam is Senior Pastor, Guiding Light Assembly, Abuja. The lawyer-turned-pastor and wife, Dorcas, are celebrating 25 years of marriage. In this interview, Adam narrates how he opposed God’s call and the consequences that nearly tainted his excellent legal practice. He also speaks on the dark side of marriage that makes people say marriage is for fools.
You are 25 years in marriage. How is the journey so far?
The past 25 years has not been a bed of roses. There are days you are on top of the mountain, there are days you are down in the valley and there are days you are in between. Marriage is not as many people imagine. It requires a lot of intentionality. You have to be deliberate about it. The past 25 years has taught us to know that you cannot take anything for granted. You have to work to get what you want.
Did you marry as a pastor?
I was in legal practice in Lagos before the call came to me to become a full-time pastor.
What was it like convincing your wife to support your divine assignment?
It was something I could not have done myself because she did not marry a pastor. She had no intention of marrying a pastor, but God helped me, we were both born again in the same church. Also, she saw the hand of God upon me. However, I did not just respond to the call; it took a fight between me and God. It was a battle and she stood with me through the experiences and God met us at the point of our needs. God proved himself that he called me and, as such, both of us were satisfied. As a lawyer, you would not want to leave what is in your hand to go into the ministry in uncertainty, but he proved himself that this is an appointment for my life and both of us were convinced and we went into it together.
Tell us more about the ‘battle with God’
I was fulfilled as a lawyer. My dream was to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria before the age of 60. I was with George Etomi & Partners, one of the foremost law firms in Lagos then. Although I was a part-time pastor earlier in life, but when He called me to be a full-time pastor, I declined. That was not my dream. I had my life plan. I wanted to come into full time ministration later in life, maybe at 60, having made so much money from the law profession, so that nobody would think I came in because of tithe and offerings. One morning, I came into the office, prayed as usual and opened the door for clients. As I was sitting down, I heard a voice clearly said to me, ‘look through that door, walk through it and never come back’. But I said ‘no’ literally, and, from that moment, my life was shut down. My law practice ran into trouble and everything I did from that point collapsed. I was the head of chambers and it would be difficult to get to that position if you are careless and if you did not know your onions. But everything I touched collapsed and I made mistakes where I never made mistakes before. My firm was suffering by the reason of my being there. I became the Jonah in the boat. So, my wife and I, not wanting to bring pains to the firm, went to God and asked Him to bring us out of trouble. Afterwards, I repeated all the applications that were refused after I lost a case we were handling for Nigeria Airways, and they were granted, because God agreed to sort me out so that I could rescind my ‘no’ decision. So, when He sorted me out and the court stayed the execution, I accepted to leave practice.
What has been the impact of your pastoral journey on your marriage?
Because of the peculiar experiences we went through together, it was easy to have her by my side although the changes were inevitable. Of course, I was earning more as a lawyer than a pastor. The opportunities I had as a lawyer were more than the ones I now have as a pastor. But we knew that if God showed Himself to be faithful by calling us into the vineyard, it was only a matter of time. We would make the relevant sacrifices but time shall come when we would be able to live as we used to live before and even above that. And it has been 18 years since we became full-time pastors.
What do you think are the causes of failed marriages in spite of the growing Church?
What is happening with marriages is sad. It is one of our pains as a couple. We took a decision to model our marriage in our local congregation. You cannot preach what you do not practice; people are there, watching you. So, there is a deliberate approach in modelling our marriage. Our home is open to every member of our church. I don’t know protocols. They know who I am at home and in the church. I am just one person; no split, multiple personalities. And I always ask my congregation to emulate us. Broken marriages, as we see them today, happen because of tradition – people not wanting to follow the God they profess in the entirety of the word of God – men and women. And one of the major factors that break the home is money. Money is god to some people – Christians and unbelievers. When you allow money to rule your heart, it becomes superior to your spouse. Also, many people enter into marriage out of pressure and without knowing each other. If the foundation is faulty, what can the righteous do? We preach to people not to marry until they are friends. It is not the marriage that should bring you together, it is the friendship that should bring out marriage. When you are both friends, you can always disagree to agree. You will not keep anything away from each other. But if it is the marriage that brought you together, when the marriage scatters, there would be nothing holding you together. Friendship should be the basis for marriage.
Tradition is on both ends, the man is the lord but the woman also has an opinion. She is a human being with her head upon her shoulders. But tradition says she has nothing to contribute other than lie down for her husband, wash his clothes and take care of the home. It should not be so. Tradition should be adjusted with the times. Give respect to your wife. In our 25 years, we discovered that a man must give his wife her rightful place and the wife must also give her husband the rightful place. And what is the rightful place?: ‘My wife before me’ and ‘my husband before me’. When you put the other person as priority in everything, you will live for that person and two of you will live for each other.
Valley of married life
There are times I don’t feel like getting married. There are times I don’t want to see my wife or hear what she wants to say. There are times she doesn’t want to see me too. So, we fight too, but we have a fundamental understanding that we must never touch our marriage. We are pastors, what governs us is the word of God. We are mindful because we know a few things – if you open your door and you go and sleep, thieves will invade your house. And we know the secret thief who has come to steal, to kill and to destroy, and we know his functions. So, we do everything in our power to resolve our issues. It may not be fully, it may be for a day or two but we are mindful that we have to resolve it before the thief enters to steal.
The most challenging period
The first three years of our marriage was a total battle. I am not the type that insists on order. I can let you have your way. I am not for too much details. But my wife likes to play by the rules. As a result of these differences, you know that conflicts are evident. At a time, I actually asked God to kill my wife since I cannot divorce her so that I would be free from the marriage but God did not answer me immediately. After about a week, I was praying over something else and God said, ‘son, do you know that you will die before your wife?’ I screamed and said that I will not pray that kind of prayer again. I prayed to God to change my wife but God changed me rather, because in my liberal life, I could be very resentful and judgmental. I had pride issues and I was always judging and condemning my wife. But God changed me to know that I cannot change her. He taught me that the woman is meant to receive, the man is meant to give. If I give what she wants, she will receive and multiply back to me. That was the lesson I learnt in the midst of those pains and I stopped judging her.
On the present day Church and prosperity message
The gospel is all about prosperity. But prosperity is not what people made it to be. It means to go forward peacefully in life. Money is not the only thing you use to go forward. You have to go forward in marriage, in bringing up your children, in your relationship with people, and concerning the works of your hands. This is where money comes in because you work to get money. So, the entire gospel is prosperity but it is not just money because you can have money and not prosper. On the flamboyant life style of present day men of God, I want to state that because you are a pastor does not stop you from being who you are. Some of us are very flamboyant by nature. So, whether we are pastors or not, we will be flamboyant. And many of us are conservative in nature, whether we are pastors of not, we remain conservative. Many of us were brought up under difficult circumstances; so, we suffer low self-esteem, and when we come into the ministry or other things in life and attend some level of financial comfort, we feel that the only way we can add value to ourselves is to live flamboyantly.
Advice for Christian couples
My counsel is that they should not just be church goers. They should practice what they have been taught and read about in the Bible, because going to church does not make one a Christian. It is when you live the life of Christ that you qualify to be called a Christian. Marriage is a platform that God has given us as couples to preach the love of Christ. You don’t just get married by emotions or societal pressure. There is a bigger picture of marriage, and that is the kingdom. So, marriage is not about you or your spouse first, it is about kingdom. As such, married couples should go through the words and practice what God asked us to do concerning marriage. There are challenges everywhere in marriages, but when you remember that it is first about God, even when you are angry, you will remind yourself that you are in it on an assignment to glorify God so that your marriage can bring healing, light, deliverance and a source of light to your generation. To achieve this, we should not think to be wise but, as the scripture says, we should become fools in order to be wise. You have to put down yourself to accommodate your partner. It will take each partner playing the fool to accommodate the other. We must play the fool to keep our marriage because, at the end of the day, we would be asked what legacy we left behind. Part of our success in marriage could be attributed to our spiritual father, Wale Adefarasin. His marriage was an inspiration to us. His life was an open Bible we can read. He played a major role in our lives, marriage.