(BY NGOZI ADIGHIBE)
“There is no storm that can rise without the foreknowledge and providential permission of the Lord….”
This was the submission of the Bishop of Abuja Diocese and Primate of all Nigeria Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh as he delivered his Bishop’s Charge to the First Session of the Tenth Synod of the diocese, which took place at St. Matthew’s Church, Maitama, Abuja. Speaking on the theme, “Teacher, do you not care if we are perishing,” the Bishop of Abuja Anglican diocese pointed out that Christians often come to those times when they are tempted to think that God is either not aware of their situation, does not care or is simply unable to help them; hence, they panic and lose faith and trust in God’s ability to see them through that challenge or problem. He said that storms often expose the inadequate trust believers’ have in God; explaining that storms reveal man’s distorted view of the problem, himself and the person of Jesus Christ.
Primate Okoh defined storm as anything that challenges the faith of a believer and causes him or her to question the loving nature of God; adding that storms are not meant to destroy faith, but to test its authenticity. Thus, according to him, storms should drive Christians to trust God and not away from Him. He stressed that even obedient believers who are serving Christ and perfectly in His will experience storms, because the Christian faith does not only teach about going to heaven but also how to go through storms of life without losing faith in God. Therefore, he urged Christians to learn to trust God, even if their obedience to His will leads them into storms; for God will surely deliver them.
Vividly describing what took place in the passage of the Bible, where the theme was culled from, the Diocesan opined that it is not enough for Christians to merely learn a lesson or be able to repeat a teaching, but that they must also be able to practice through faith the lesson they have learnt; hence, according to him, this is the reason God allows Christians to experience trials and tribulations. The Cleric observed that many times people claim to know that Jesus is Lord, yet do not recognize Him as such, when they are faced with tough situations in their daily lives. He stated that in these times of increasing evil, when man has become the greatest enemy of himself, many wonder if God is still present; adding that some believers’ would much rather attribute the difficulties they face to the devil, who though powerful is not in charge of God’s creation.
The Bishop of Abuja Anglican Diocese mentioned that individuals, families, communities, the Church and even nations experience storms; adding that a storm can be in form of a natural, physical, spiritual, political or economic crises. Citing the divide in the Church as an example of a storm, Archbishop Okoh revealed that “the Anglican Church is globally divided on the grounds of unorthodox interpretation and application of Scriptures on the subject of human sexuality;” emphasizing that the Church of Nigeria is a Bible-based Church that rejects every revisionists’ agenda on human sexuality. In summary, he said that no matter the kind of storm individuals, the Church and nation may be facing, a spoken word from Jesus can fix the situation. Therefore, he charged the Church of Jesus to arise in prayers and call on God for victory in these difficult times.
On the state of the nation, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh commended the efforts of the present administration to revive the nation’s economy through diversification, calling on them to disarm the herdsmen who are attacking the agricultural sector by destroying farms and threatening the lives of farmers. He described the proposed grazing reserve bill as “unfavourable and unkind to the average Nigerian and his community;” explaining that it favours one ethnic group above others and therefore, the Church does not support it. He termed the unemployment situation in the country as worrisome, requesting the government to give it the priority it deserves. He called on the government to revisit the stipulated minimum wage and endeavor to fight corruption with utmost integrity and without bias. Primate Okoh expressed concern about the health of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, calling on Nigerians to join in the prayers for his quick recovery and for the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who has been tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the affairs of the country. Finally, he said that campaigning for 2019 general elections is “too premature” and therefore, politicians should focus on the promises made to the electorates and their communities.