Joy from the Ashes

With Archbishop Ben Kwashi

Friday 11 August

Archbishop Ben Kwashi is well known as a preacher and evangelist throughout Nigeria, Africa, England, Ireland and the United States.  He was ordained in 1982 and 10 years later became Bishop of Jos. In January 2008, he was presented as the Archbishop of Jos Province in the Church of Nigeria and is currently moving into a new season of ministry.  He and his wife Gloria have six children but have also adopted over 70 orphans and provide a school for several hundred. Here the New Horizon Media Team brings you a summary of what he had to say at #NH2023.

Reading from Habakkuk 3: 16 – 19

Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!  

In Jos, we grow the best potatoes. If you doubt it, come and see. Actually the potatoes were brought from Ireland. We are blessed in Jos. Sometimes I think that because of God’s blessings, Satan is doing His very best to make sure that we complain and turn away from God. But so far, we have made a choice, we will follow Jesus and we are raising children to do the same.

I want to thank you Paul and your team for asking me to come. I thank God I came. I have learnt so much. I have been blessed and I am going to go back home fired up. Our brother Tony has expounded scripture and fed my soul and spirit.  

We have looked at Habakkuk who is struggling with the situations of the world and with what was happening in Israel. The powers of the world at that time (by the way, things have not changed – people are still motivated and mobilised by wealth, power and the desire to dominate and control. They want to be gods and to dictate what will happen).

The evil one is the same and he uses different tactics. For some people, he makes them so comfortable, that they don’t see their need of God.  He causes so much suffering and pain to others that they despair and reject God.

Habakkuk sees all the evil but he turns to God.  Let us wait on God – they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. Our feelings are real and true. We wish that God would bring an end to all the evil but can we look inside of ourselves and be sure that we are right with God. Habakkuk turned to God with all his problems. He did not complain to people but he complains and cries to God Himself.

He looks upwards. Only a truly righteous person, who waits and watches, can see with clarity what God is doing in the world. But because the prophet is aware of history, he recalls what God has done in the past. This is a recollection and it strengthens his faith. This is one of my big appeals to the church – read your Bibles.

God is in charge of history. God created the heavens and the earth. God has won the victory.  

Habakkuk  looks to history and is strengthened in his faith.  He asks God to do it again.  

Recently I met some fellow bishops after a long separation and we hugged and cried. One of the bishops was in a wheelchair and they were wheeling him. I asked if he was being cared for in hospital. He replied, “Jesus is looking after me.”  They had been wandering in the desert for 17 years – in suffering and hardship but they were not complaining. They were celebrating because, “Jesus is Lord.”

Habakkuk says, “I’ve heard the report of you and  your work… revive it again. In your wrath, remember mercy.”  We are called to wait. We are called to watch and see what God is doing.

There is a change of mood in the prophet. He is no long questioning and challenging God.  He is no longer complaining.  

How often do we complain? When it is raining… “Oh it’s raining, I can’t go to church.”  When the sermon is more than 10 minutes, “Oh the sermon is too long.”  I want to appeal to us, strengthen our personal devotions so that like Habakkuk we prioritise our time with God. How many minutes do I spend studying the word of God.

Please do not neglect your personal devotion. Wake up earlier if you need to to spend time with God. That is where Habakkuk sees the vision about God. He sees God coming to crush the enemies. It may not be in our time but God is going to judge the world. We need to know that God hates injustice and evil. He will crush Satan. Our faith can be strong in Him knowing that at the end we will be victorious.

His splendour is like the sunrise. The Lord is coming to institute justice, righteousness and love. Joy from the ashes.

This gives Habakkuk hope and he begins to rejoice. He wakes up and recognises from God’s word that God is the victorious one and says, “I will wait to see what God will do. Not in hopelessness or helplessness. I will rejoice in the Lord.”

I will rejoice. I will be joyful in God my saviour. Only He can bring joy out of ashes. He alone can do that. No one else.  

A few years after we were married, the Muslims came and burned by house and burnt my church.  My wife Gloria had been away. When she came back, I showed her the ashes. She is very thrifty. I had bought many things for her and now they were all burnt.  She said, “Ben you go preach.  Heaven and earth will pass away…”  

I had escaped with my life and that day things change for me. I said, “Lord I will preach the gospel. Any other day I live is extra time. I was dead on 12 March 1987. I’ve been living on extra time ever since. God is the driving force of my life.”

When you take Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, all other things are sinking sand. Nothing else matters. And that is the only thing you will take to heaven.. .only your faith in Jesus.

Hebrews says this, “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight of sin and let us run we perseverance the race set before us… looking unto Jesus the author and perfector of our faith.”

If you are afraid you will be taken to prison for your faith. Let us fill up the prisons! Even if they kill you, you are set free from mortgages… and all the burdens in life. You go to be with Jesus.

I saw a bumper sticker in America – “In case of rapture, this car is yours.”

Habakkuk understands the victory that God has already accomplished. God knows you are here. He knows what you are struggling with and He has the answers. It is even doubly true for us. Why? We know that Jesus was crucified. The media of that time, reported it. Even the secular media.

I never forget the Jesus film.  Pilate calls Caiaphas and says, “I hear you have a new king in town.” Caiaphas says, “What king? The king of the poor, the outcasts the drunkards…”

That is the speciality of Jesus.  He is anointed to preach good news to the poor. In Nigeria there are 200 million and 80% are under 35. They are poor. They are unemployed. What have they got to lose? Nothing.  Jesus goes to the poor with the gospel of salvation.

In 1907, some young men from Cambridge came to my homeland in a time when there was no government in Nigeria. My grandma was about six years old. They preached to her father who was a king of the kingdom. I want to meet these guys and ask, “How did they communicate with these people?” The king, with all his wives and children, abdicated the throne and accepted Jesus.  These men died. One of the responsibilities, I have now is building the tombstones of these missionaries. These men laid down their lives to bring the gospel to Nigeria.  Their parents donated money to help continue the mission for which they died.

When Gloria brought to me the list of these orphaned children, I didn’t know how many there were.  I met a friend in London – it was a divine meeting. A businessman who is a quiet evangelist. God gave him the wisdom to take the gospel of John to have a bible study with people all over the world. He shared that with me and I took this gospel and now when I teach English in Gloria’s secondary school, I use this Gospel of John with the children. The children take this gospel of John into the community sharing the gospel with others.

These are the opportunities we have in front of us even in the midst of difficulties and challenges. Tonight talk with Jesus. He knows. He understands and He will lift your burdens away.  Listen to what the prophet finally says, “Though the fig tree does not blossom…” even if there is no hope, no food…  Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord. Only God can turn that situation around. Joy out of ashes. Nothing can separate us from the love of God and the wonder of His presence. 

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever, I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.

Let us bow our heads to pray.  The Lord does not want you to go home mourning in ashes tonight. He wants you to come to Him now.  To make a commitment, a re-dedication of your life to Him.  He wants to take you into His eternal joy.  Tonight on this last day of New Horizon, Father we pray that you will bring salvation and joy to many.  Don’t let anyone go back the way they have come, carrying any weight of sin or pain or difficulties. Amen.

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