(Written in 2017, for the ninth edition of THE MESSAGE Magazine)
Ever since I learned of the Theme of WEGOM womens’ programme for this year: “Labour To Enter Into The Lord’s Rest” (Hebrews 4: 11), three stories of unique resemblance to the theme came to my mind. I shall therefore briefly narrate them because I am sure they will minister to our readers in very various ways that I cannot describe just as they did to me in relation to this theme.
The White Man’s Rest House
My late father was a building contractor to the European colonial masters and he built court houses, dispensaries and rest houses for the Europeans among others. The white man’s rest house was very much like any other residential house except that it was elevated up to a height of six feet. It was like modern day houses with car parking space provided underneath; it stood on concrete block props too.
The space beneath the white man’s rest house was not meant for cars which were very few in those days but served as shelter for armed security guards for the resident white man and his family. The white man’s rest house building pattern provided the armed guards a clear vision of everything underneath the house and ensured free movement for prompt response in total protection of the residents from intruders of any sorts (man and wild animals). The white men were administrators, counselors, health officers and company executives and their residences were usually out of bounds for the natives / local people.
Now relating this story to the theme, I observe that the resident European left his home and came to Nigeria on the colonial master’s assignment. While in Nigeria, he saw to the furtherance of his home country’s interest in any assigned field of endeavour whereas his personal and family protection was the duty of his nation. Contracting my father to build the specially designed house was part of the effort in meeting the personal safety of those Europeans. The rest house was where the European lived in safety in the foreign land (Nigeria) until when he returned home to his country of origin and reunited with his own people. Like the European officer, every Christian finds rest in Jesus Christ until our days on earth are done and we are called back home to our God where we reunite with our fathers in the Lord and other believers and there remain eternally at rest.
The charred rest house
Not quite long ago I read the story of the charred rest house. It has to do with a shepherd trapped by wildfire in a wood land and there was no escape route at all in sight. And because the animals had become panic stricken, the situation grew so bad that it even became difficult to control or rest the animals and work out a solution. The fire raged intensely and was sustained to the extent that the shepherd and his animals were just as good as dead because it was a wood land and the season was very dry; a rather hopeless situation.
In a frantic search by the shepherd for water (lake or river) to assuage the thirst of his animals, he found the charred remains of a house by an earlier wild fire. That past fire had burnt out the house and there was nothing left of it; nothing useful was left of the house at all. But the shepherd was happy to find it essentially because nothing combustible also was left of the house to attract a fresh fire; just open bare or dead ground was there for him and his animals to rest from the raging wild fire. It was there they found safety.
Every born again child of God is like the shepherd who found the charred remains of the old house, runs into it and remains there for his safety against the raging wild fires of this world. Climbing to the wood land tree top could not have helped him because smoke and heat from the wild fire would have brought him down into the very centre of the fire. Looking for and moving into a house with useable stuff inside would not have helped him because such things would have also fuelled the fire and charred him. Jesus Christ, that lamb of God that came into the world to show us the way to the father; the lamb of God was killed but raised from dead to give men life even life everlasting; His is the charred old house that saved the shepherd and the animals. I urge you to be a committed seeker and follower of Jesus Christ for He will save and secure you on this earth and grant you eternal rest hereafter.
The crowning day of rest
This story was told by my father in the Lord, Rev. Can. Paul Somiari who read it sometime ago in a certain old Christian news letter. It is about some highly committed fire brand Christians in the old Soviet Union who kept their faith alive through underground movements and fellowships in spite of being banned by the then Soviet State until they were arrested. There was no other punishment for the offense than public execution by firing squad. There was no denying of their faith before the judges even though it was the easiest way to free one’s self from execution.
Like Daniel who was cast into the lion’s den, the condemned Christians courageously faced their punishment. And just as it happened when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were cast into the fire, the unchanging and dependable great God revealed from heaven the exceeding truth and beauty of His word written in Psalms 116: 15. To the amazement of all, something uncommon happened on the execution ground. Usually the condemned were executed one by one for maximum effect on the spectators and also to move, offer or urge the next in line to be executed an opportunity to change his mind and deny the faith and be acquitted as such would serve the State’s propaganda purposes against the Christian faith.
On the execution day, the condemned Christians were marched out and tied to the stake and executed one by one as the practice was but just as the execution was going on, one of the executioners — (a high ranking officer) offered to take the place of one of the Christians and die as though he was a Christian; but for what purpose the authorities demanded to know? In reply, the repentant executioner said that he saw something extra ordinary happening to the dying Christians; something he lacked enough words to describe; a crown of glory (a crown of rest) being lowered from above upon the heads of the Christians being executed. The executioner could not describe it but he greatly desired to be so decorated at the risk of his life; it must have been something truly significant and irresistible. A crown of glory! A confirmation of God’s promise / rest as stated in 1 Corinthians 2: 9.
In summary, the stories are all about finding Jesus Christ, holding onto Him (His word) no matter the dirt the world may throw at us. Every believer is running a race to meet the Redeemer and as Apostle Paul said, in any race, there is a price to be won; that price for every believer is to meet with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven: (entering the rest of the Lord).
The first story speaks of the believer as a pilgrim on an assignment to progress and project heaven’s will here on earth; no personal or selfish interest. The second story sees the believer as one who must bring himself and all his possession into and unto Jesus Christ for safety, security and a lasting joy. Anything to the contrary is a wasted effort. And the last story is like giving an expo (a revelation) or a vision of the indescribable glory awaiting all believers on the other side of the great divide
But one may ask why has God told and showed us these things? The answer is not far-fetched. It is found in His wonderful LOVE for mankind which is also Jesus Christ who died to reconcile all to God. In other words, any how you look at it and or turn it, Jesus Christ is in the center of the solution to every problem. Therefore labour on to enter the Master’s rest.
I hope that you have found something in these stories to strengthen and encourage you stay the course of your Christian race while we await the Master’s coming.
This article first appeared in THE MESSAGE.