Ed. Note: “The Biggest Lesson (TBL)” is a series on the biggest lesson I’ve learned in life written to mark my birthday this year (March 23, 2015). THIS IS THE LAST EPISODE IN THE SERIES (AND MAY BE THE LONGEST, BUT I PLEAD WITH YOU TO READ IT TO THE VERY END). May you be blessed as we conclude the series. Amen.
Opening Question: What are you living for?
Ile-Ife, State of Osun, Nigeria.
At about 2pm that afternoon, I was on my way to my bank. I alighted at Lagere from a commercial vehicle and crossed the road. As I was about to make a left, a young man caught up with me, panting.
“Are you Ola Joseph Kolawole?”, he asked with high optimism plastered upon his face.
“Yes, I am. Pleased to meet you.”
He screamed! Then he hugged me. He couldn’t contain himself.
“Wow! Are you serious! You look a little younger than your profile picture. Oh, pardon my manners—I’m one of your friends on facebook. I follow every of your notes and I’m blessed by each piece. Your status updates, too are great. I’m glad I finally met you!”
I smiled. He was so excited that he forgot to tell me his name. And I was so shocked, I couldn’t ask. If I see him today, I doubt if I’ll recognise him.
By the time we parted ways, I was left with one question: “What’s special about the notes and status updates, anyways?”
Idimu/Ikotun Road, Lagos State, Nigeria.
I was transferred from my former station to an assembly in Ilesa, State of Osun in May 2013 as a Student Pastor. I was posted back to Lagos on the 1st of June, same year. Lots of stuff happened within those three weeks both at Ilesa and in Lagos. But I had an experience I will never forget in a hurry on my return…
Shortly after I returned to Lagos, I visited the filling station close to my church where I used to buy fuel before my transfer. The transfer came rather suddenly so I didn’t have time to bid the filling station attendants farewell. 3 weeks had passed and they had not seen me.
Then one of them spotted me from afar.
She screamed so loud, all their customers thought she was running mad. They traced the direction of her gaze…and there I was. Before you could say “Jack”, the other attendants joined in the scream.
“Pastor! Our very own Pastor!”
“But Pastor you no try o. How you go commot like that, you no fit tell person”
“Pastor, what did you bring for us”
“Pastor, are you finally back, or you are going again?”
They were all talking simultaneously. I was shocked and embarrassed. You would have thought it was an “Area Father” that stepped into the midst of “Area Boys”. I was really embarrassed.
They fought over who will sell fuel to me. I got a more-than-executive treatment at their station. Me? I have no car for crying out loud. Most of the time, I come to the filling station with kegs or ride my Pastor’s vehicle. Yet, I felt like their biggest customer.
As I headed back to church, I was asking myself… “What have I done to deserve this royal welcome-back from, well, from sinners?” The Holy Spirit stopped me in my track and reminded me: “JESUS—your chief example—was called A FRIEND OF SINNERS!”
Like Jesus, like me! Like Father, like son!
In Episode 1 of this series, I asked: What is the one thing separating you from joy? When will you be truly happy? When you are healed? Or promoted? Or married? Or single? Or rich? Then we took it further: What if your ship never comes in? What if the situation never changes? What if your dream never comes true? Could you be happy?
In my experience, the answer is yes! “Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own.” (Luke 12:15 NLT). TRUE HAPPINESS is not gotten from MATERIALISM; true happiness is gotten from expressing your reason for living! True happiness comes from prioritizing souls and investing in them! True happiness comes from reFOCUSing on what’s going to last.
It is called GODLINESS! Godliness focuses our attention on eternity. Godliness reminds us that we shall be accountable to God on the last day. Godliness reminds us that everything earthly is temporary. Godliness urges us to give our attention to permanent values and reorganize our lives around eternal priorities!
For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time; but what cannot be seen lasts forever. (2 Corinthians 4:18 GNT)
Materialism clouds our vision of God, and we begin to think that all there really is to life is getting and enjoying things. Our perspective gets warped. Hence, my opening question in this final episode: WHAT ARE YOU LIVING FOR? How would you want to be remembered 100 years from now? Or, better question—“How would you want to be REWARDED in ETERNITY?”
On this side of eternity, the truth remains that the vast majority of us won’t win a gold medal…and that’s okay! We understand in the economy of earth there are a limited number of crowns. The economy of heaven, however, is refreshingly different! Heavenly rewards are not limited to a chosen few, but “TO ALL THOSE WHO HAVE LONGED FOR HIS APPEARING” (2 Timothy 4:8). The 3 letter word “ALL” is a gem. In heaven, the winner’s circle isn’t reserved for a handful of the elite, but for a heaven full of God’s children that “will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).
For all we don’t know about the next life, this much is certain. The day Christ comes will be a day of reward. Those who went unknown on earth will be known in heaven.
- Those who never heard the cheers of men will hear the cheers of angels
- Those who missed the blessing of a father will hear the blessing of a Heavenly Father.
- The small will be great.
- The forgotten will be remembered.
- The unnoticed will be crowned and the faithful will be honoured…Your day is coming.
What the world has overlooked, your Father has remembered, and sooner than you can imagine, you will be blessed by Him. And when it comes to this eternal reward session, God doesn’t delegate the job. Angel Michael doesn’t hand out the crowns. Angel Gabriel doesn’t speak on behalf of the throne. GOD HIMSELF does the honours. “God will praise each one of them” (1 Corinthians 4:5 NCV).
And what’s more, the praise is personal! Awards aren’t given a nation at a time, a church at a time, or a generation at a time. The crowns are given ONE AT A TIME. God will look you in the eye and bless you with the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23 NIV).
To the person of faith, death is a day of rewards for a life well-lived, a battle well-fought, a faith well kept—not for the gadgets you acquired or the titles you obtained. It is a day when all that has been overlooked and neglected on this earth will be finally awarded.
I can imagine myself… in the great circle of the redeemed. My body has been made new—no more boils or pimple. My mind has been made new—what I once understood in part, I now understand clearly. I feel no fear, no danger, no sorrow. Though I’m just one of a massive throng of people, it’s as if Jesus and I are all alone. And He asks me a question…
“I’m so proud that you let Me use you. Because of you, others are here today. Would you like to meet them?” At that point Jesus might (— remember, this is just some mere speculation)— but Jesus might turn to the crowd and invite them. With His hand on my shoulder, He announces, “Do we have any here who was influenced by this child of Mine?” One by one, they begin to step out and walk forward….
My room mate at Obafemi Awolowo University, a crusty naughty sort who never stopped harassing me with aphrodisiac text messages. To be frank, I didn’t expect to see him. “You never knew I was watching,” he explains, “but I was. And because of you, I’m here.” And then comes a cluster of people, a half-dozen or so. One speaks for the others and says, “You were our teacher at Alheri Model School, Gombe State. Yes, back then we were very unserious and liked making fun of you—but those words of encouragement that you told us after tedious teaching sessions were enough encouragement. We became Christians shortly after you left Gombe State.”
The line continues. A co-worker that noticed how I controlled my temper. A receptionist remarked how I greeted her like she mattered. Someone I don’t even remember reminds me of the time I saw her in the hospital. I came to visit a church member in the next bed, but on the way out I stopped and spoke a word of hope with this stranger who looked lonely.
And then some 2,000 others emerge. I don’t know them but they all had one thing in common: They were my friends on Facebook! One person speaks on their behalf and says, “thanks for those timely status updates, birthday wishes, and facebook notes! Through them, some of us were saved at the brink of committing suicide, some rededicated their lives to Christ after reading one of your notes. And all of us are closer to God because we accepted your friendship request or you accepted ours.”
And on and on and on… It’s not long before my Saviour and I are encircled by the delightful collection of souls I’ve touched. Some I know, most I don’t, but for each I feel the same. But Jesus isn’t finished. He loves to save the best for last, and I can’t help but imagine Him doing the same in heaven. I’ve seen the roommates, the co-workers, the people I hardly knew, the foreigners I never knew, but there is one more group. And Jesus parts the crowd so I will see them. MY FAMILY!
Anu is the first to embrace me. There were times when I wondered if either of us would make it. But now I hear the words whispered in my ear, “Thanks for not giving up on me.” Then my parents—Baba and Mama Ola. Robust and renewed. “We’re proud of you,” they say. Next come my children—children for whom I cared and over whom I prayed. Jemimah, Keziah, Joseph, Jessica…they all thank me; over and over they thank me. They know how hard it was, and how hard I tried together with their mum, and they thank us. And then some faces I don’t recognize. I have to be told—these are my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and descendants I never saw until today. They, like the others, thank me for an inherited legacy of faith.
Will such a moment occur? I don’t know. If it does, you can be certain of two things. First, its grandeur and glory will far outstrip any description these words can carry. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “… no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man IMAGINED, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” Second, if such a reunion occurs, you can be certain you won’t regret any sacrifice you made for the kingdom. The hours of service for Christ. The money you gave. The times you helped the poor and loved the lost. You’d do it all again!
In that moment, when you see the people God let you love, I dare say, you’d do it all again in a heartbeat. You’d change the diapers, fix the cars, write the cheques, prepare the lessons, pray the prayers, teach the Word, and tell others about Jesus. One look into the faces of the ones you love, and you’d do it all again. And your joy will be full … and your suffering will be forgotten. Think about that.
Heaven knows no regret. Our God is too kind to let us face the opportunities we missed. But He is happy to let us see the ones we seized. So, look forward to that time. If you make it there, you will be WINNING WHERE IT MATTERS MOST. What are you living for? reFOCUS on what will LAST!
Now, I know I’ve messed some of you up by these words, but it’s a good mess. Right now, follow your heart! If you feel like rededicating your life to God, pause NOW and do it. If you feel like taking a moment to pray for your unsaved family members, do it NOW. And if you feel like sowing a seed of prayer to the birthday celebrant of March 23 whose fingers typed these words on the keyboard this Sunday evening with a near-empty belly, please do. I really covet your prayers! (It’s the best birthday gift you could give me!)
And finally, if you feel you need to (and you should), appreciate The Inspiration that birthed these words, please do. The Holy Spirit deserves the praise!
Let me urge you, finally, to stay strong. Don’t give up. Don’t look back. Let Jesus speak to your heart as He says, “Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (Revelations 3:11 NIV). And talking about crowns, let's save that for another day!
As I type this, March 23 is just a few minutes away… See you here, soon…with another piece … or over there on the reward stage! “for godliness + contentment = GREAT GAIN!”
With Jesus Joy,
Ola Joseph Kolawole.