by Pastor Afolabi Oladele
Militants are those who recognize that there is a need for change: they recognize a time for change; a time for something to move in a different direction. And as I move forward into this message, I pray that God will cause you to see not only that a time has come upon our nation for change; but that you as a time militant can seize advantage and manage your time well.
God has given every one of us 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds in every day; and we must account for how we use it.
Permit me to share with you my experiences of life, as a bit of a story about my growing up. I went to secondary school and I was the top of my class, and was also very conscious of it because everybody kept ringing it in my ears – “the boy is good”. In my first year, when others would be studying, I would go with my gang of friends to pluck fruits instead of going for the piano class. I played all kinds of truancy, because I felt “well, the boy is good”. But I want you to know that being good only sends you to mediocrity. When the time of reckoning came, it never really struck me; I felt it was okay for me to be in the 16th or 20th position out of 60 in my class.
Then came my third year, and my position in the class was 30, 35, 41, in a class of 60 students; and it never really sank into me. One day, I went to the hospital because I was genuinely sick, so I got an exit card (because others times we usually bolt – leave school without permission – to go and do other things). That day, a test was given by one of my teachers, Mr. Ogunyemi, and he marked me zero, since I was absent. It had never happened in my life, to have zero marks in one of my subjects. That was really a big blow to me.
The point I am trying to bring home to you is that the power of change is your hands. I hated that teacher for what he did to me, so I determined in my heart to ‘dust’ him in his subject. Nobody taught me, but I sat down one day and drew up a timetable for myself. I had to design that timetable in a balance because I loved to play hockey, and was one of the best two in my school. But I began to recognize setting my priorities right. I looked at the things that were more crucial to my life; and for all that I knew at that time, my life was revolved around books.
I assessed my normal school day, what time school closed, and the time allocated to siesta, prep, games and evening prep. The first issue I had to deal with was my playtime. Our afternoon prep ended at 3.30, and we could play until 6’oclock. That meant we had two and half hours to play. So I sliced the time into two – where the time for prep finished at 3.30, I go out to play because everybody must go out to play; but my playtime finished at 4:30. One and the half hours into the time for games, I sneaked away to find a place to read my books and study.
Classes always finished at 1:15, and lunch will not be ready until 2 o’clock. I understood that the school library was open between that 1:15 and 2 o’clock; so I used that time to read. In the past, we always competed for who would be first to get to the dining hall because that would be the person to dish the food for others and therefore take the largest portion for himself. I stopped going to wait at the dining hall. I would be in the library (since there was nobody there to compete with me for the books), and maximize those forty-five minutes. With those forty-five minutes and the other one and half hours I saved to study, I gradually worked my way up from the 45th position in a class of 60, to 20th, to 15th, and then to 10th position. Within a space of two years, I turned it around; I became 3rd in the class, and then 1st. That was when everybody stood by for me.
Two things that I want to drive home to you are: the power of change is in your hands; and the discipline not to follow the crowd is also in your hands. I obeyed the rules of the school to go out for games when the bell rang, but I knew when to stop and go to read my books, because I had a timetable to follow. By the time we were rounding up our WASC, I had an aggregate of 8 or 9, and I ended up being a national scholar. What being good means to you will turn you to being a mediocre; but when with conscientiousness and discipline you manage your time, you find that you can convert ‘good’ to excellence.
In a descent environment, when somebody steals your car, with a good insurance, you probably would be able to buy another car. Also when your purse is stolen with your credit cards in it, you can still retrieve the things that were stolen from you just by making a number of calls. But who would you call on when somebody (you), steal your own time? Think deep in the use of your time. You need to make a commitment to God in terms of your time use, and be a time-militant in the things that relate to the kingdom.
God in his kindness made my life to happen in a series of stages. When I got out of secondary school, I went back to partying with my gang. When it was time for HSC, I told them I didn’t want to go, so all my friends left in pursuit of HSC. After my friends had gone, I found out that there was always a void in the real me, that none of the things I did with my friends could satisfy. So on the January of the year 1969, when the real questions about life began to disturb my spirit, God took a hold of my life. Thank God for that Presbyterian preacher whose message I listened to on the radio, and gave my life to Jesus Christ that night; that was the beginning of a long journey that has lasted 41years now.
I am not just story-telling, but I want this to spur you to thinking about what you do, what choices you make, and what God expects of you in these days that we are living in; what is important to God, and what is important to you.
Ecclesiastes 11:9 “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.”
We all love the philosophy of enjoying life and youthfulness, but we all forget God will bring us into judgment for all those things. Being young is exciting, but the excitement of youth can become a barrier to establishing your priorities, and in particular, becomes a barrier to closeness with God, because of the focus on the passing pleasures instead of eternal values. Learn from my experience, first of all in understanding that the power of change lies in your hands; and if with all you have heard your heart is still as hard as stone, it remains as hard as stone, but you will pay the price! If you can’t make that difference and choice now, God will call you into judgment; that’s what the scripture says.
Ecclesiastes 11:10-12:1 “Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;”
The ‘evil days’ as referred to in this scripture speaks about the time when you are old and cannot do all that you used to do when you were younger; because the seeds you had sown have begun to germinate. The only comforter at that time is God, but alas, what will be your comfort if have pushed God away, if you never had time for God?
I want you to think: what are the things that steal your time? What are the things that make it impossible for you to establish your priorities? What are the things that are gobbling the time that you can spend in the presence of God, where you can get His wisdom and become an excellent one in His hands? What are those things taking your time? I could give lots of examples, but at the risk of being misunderstood, I would leave you to go and search those things out for yourselves, because each one of you knows what those things are.
For some of you, a little bit of relaxation is your time-stealer, and before you know it, all the time is gone. For others, it is housekeeping; and before you know it, you are wearied and time is gone. Has relaxation now become the most important thing? Has the house that you are cleaning now become the God that you dedicate all the time to? These things are not valueless, but you need to set your priorities right.
How you spend your days is how you spend your life. Life doesn’t consist of anything more than a compilation of the events of each day. Some people keep logbooks of their day-to-day activities so that they can use that to assess themselves at the end of each day. If you think I am trying to make you become a recluse, so be it if you’d be able to achieve the things that are needful.
Ephesians 5:14 “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”
God likens sleep to death. You are a dead man or woman if all your life is just to sleep and sleep. You must realize that you are in darkness first, before Christ will give you light. And that is the whole essence of this charge, to make you a time-militant; one that understands the value of each day, of each 24hrs that God puts in your hands.
Ephesians 5:15 AMP “Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.”
Every day of your life is an opportunity from God. Let there be a difference, set your priorities in line with the opportunities given you. If you cannot identify God-given opportunities, there is already a substitute waiting for you, which is evil. The power of change is your hands, and then God adds His grace on it; but you have to start first. The Yoruba’s say, “A child that stretches out his hands is the one that wants to be lifted up”. When God sees you taking those steps, it will not be hard for Him to help you; because He says “you will find me when you seek me with all your heart”.
Learn to say no, stress is what happens when your gut is saying no and your mouth is saying yes. That sets up a conflict in you; and for those who belong to God, your conscience responds to the motivation of God’s spirit when He is speaking. But when you allow your mouth to say yes when your gut is saying no, it means you are responding to the people and circumstances around you, not to God.
Something struck me in John 17:4 where Jesus said, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” That work was given for a specific time. The public ministry of Jesus was a little above three and half years; the greater part of His life was in the character formation He had been demonstrating for thirty years. If He had missed the time for that public ministry, He wouldn’t say He had finished the work that the Father gave Him. Each day is an opportunity to be redeemed, to be identified and pursued so that you also can say “Lord, I have finished the work that you gave me to do”.
Paul said in Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,”
It is not about joggling so many things together at the same time. Learn from the example of our heavenly Father: was He short of power that He could not do the recreation all in one day? He wasn’t short of power, He could have just said “let everything appear and come into order”; but He took one thing at a time, and He said “it was very good”.
As I was growing up, an unbeliever friend in the business world always said to me, “Afolabi, you get mired in too many things; I’ve always said to you, ‘take one thing, do it well, and then you can move on to do another thing well. Before you know it, you would have had a chain of many things that you have done very well’”. Don’t let the good steal the best from you; back off from some activities, and know the ones that profit God that you want to welcome.
All the things that we spend our time over, that appear to be so important, are things that by properly aligning yourself with God, you will see Him giving you wisdom to do them. I have testified severally, that it is while I am in the bathroom that God gives me inspiration on how to handle different issues, yet people would say that I am brilliant. They don’t know that the real brilliant person is the God who spoke to me. Salt your life in your prayer room; lay the issues before God; use your time right and then you will find how positively things will begin to change in your life.
John 15:4 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” For those of you who are perpetual procrastinators, time-stealers are working on you. Before, I was so sold to football that when it comes to soccer, God can wait. But when I got properly wired, God delivered me and for a long time, I never sat down before a TV to watch a game; until I knew that God had broken the power of football over my life. Some people may call me analogue, but when it comes to management of my time for the things and purposes of God, I am digital, supersonic!
If you cannot manage your time right, you are just a waster. If you are a perpetual procrastinator, James 4:17 says to you: he that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin”. Define what is most important to you – the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing; and the main thing is to let your life align with God and His purposes.
I read a story about a world renowned writer named Dr. Kampolo. He had a friend named Ederle who was a very brilliant man, and knew something about everything. Kampolo was always with him because he knew he would always learn something from him.
One day, Ederle had a stroke, and was hospitalized. Dr. Kampolo came to see Ederle and began to tell him stories of all the places he had gone in the world, speaking to people before he came to see him. Ederle listened to him and when Dr. Kampolo finished, Ed made a statement: “You go all over the world to people who ten years from now won’t remember your name, but you haven’t time for those who really care about you”. Kampolo sat still, he said those words hit him like a thunderbolt; because all that had been compressed into that statement was exactly what Jesus was saying to Martha and Mary in Luke 9. He said Mary had identified the thing that mattered the most. And I ask you, have you identified what matters the most in your life?
I could relate to that statement made by Ederle. In this career path that God gave me, I have sat with different important personalities, but how many of them can even remember me? But the folly of the hearts of the sons of men is that they cannot fully identify what really counts the most. Each time I sit in the presence of my Father, He says “welcome my boy, what we shall talk about today?” That’s the kind of relationship I have with God that I pine when for some days I’ve not had real face time with Him because of hustle and bustle. Do you know that’s the longing that God has for you? Remember, those that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercies. The places you run to, the friends you hang out with and so on, would they even remember you ten years from now?
I am not saying you should not have friends; I do have friends, but my circle of friends is so limited. I used to say this to some people: I don’t go my boss’ house so he doesn’t say I came to lobby him to get something from him; and I don’t also go to my peer’s house so he doesn’t say I am envious of him for what he has. Just like Abraham said, “I will take nothing from you, lest you say you are the one that made Abraham rich”. God lifts me up at His own time, and He does it perfectly. And whatever I need to live by, He will provide it in His own time. But those into whose lives I can pour something into, you will find me there, ready to lift up the one that is fallen. The same principle applies: keep the main thing to be the main thing.
Kampolo continues his story: “it hit me hard what he said and changed my life; I decided not to let all my time be used by people for whom I made little difference, while I neglect those for whom I am irreplaceable”. He then gave a story of a great consultant who got a call from the President of the United States that said, “Can you come and consult with me at the White House?” and the man said to the President, “Sorry Sir, I cannot come, I have a date with my granddaughter”. America didn’t collapse, the event still went on, but this man had a super time with his granddaughter who calls him ‘Top Pops’.
What choices will you make from today in terms of the use of your time, in terms of change that God is calling for, so you can free time to be with your Father, having the right relationship; dwelling in His presence and power, and taking all that you need to make a change in the lives around you?
Matthew 6:24 “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” You can’t serve two masters, so keep the main thing to be the main thing. If you check the root translations, the word ‘hate’ as used in this scripture doesn’t mean hate in the manner of wanting to kill, it just means that you will prefer one above the other. Where is your preference going forward?
Hear the word of the Lord again: Stop, think, plan, and begin to execute the things that are most important to the Lord God, and it will make a difference in your life. You can’t serve God and serve mammon. You need to put God at the top, hear Him out, seek His counsel, and spend time with Him. I don’t read my Bible 24hours a day, but I make sure that when I wake up in the morning, I spend time communicating with God; and I get instructions from Him before I head out of my house. It may tell on my body, but the prospering of it can be seen. There is a price to pay, but the power of that change is in your hands.
Verse 25 “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” I did not say you should not work, but let there be a heavenly-delivered balance in the things that you do. Remember that the temporal is controlled from the spiritual. Worrying will not solve any problem; take every matter to God instead. There is a gem on the inside that speaks better things than the clothing we put on; let that manifest itself in you.
Verse 33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”. Are you wondering what is most important to God? – Seek first the kingdom of God, seek His righteousness; and the kingdom of God is in you making manifest the God that lives in you.
Job 2:13 “And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil”.
Open your heart to God; let Him begin a work in you that will tell a story beyond your fine clothing to demonstrating the excellence that God has put in your life, so that your prospering may seen by all. Will you be time-militant from now onward?