Exceeding Grace...I hope you attended Faith Tabernacle last Sunday. Did you hook up online? If you are a genuine Winner, you’ll agree with me that each of the four services every Sunday is equally powerful. Well, last Sunday, I attended the 3rd service, and it was a wonderful experience for me. Stay with me for 10 minutes to enjoy the encounter!

You can never know what to expect as the opening message from Papa, each Sunday. At times he begins with a punchy, ‘customized’ quote or a scriptural reference; at other times it is either with a Yoruba worship song or a verse from the hymnal. For last Sunday November 2, 2014, which was the first Sunday of the month, Papa bellowed this to open:

“…Every prophetic word for 2014 is ordained to take place before the next one is declared. Therefore, the balance of your exceeding grace testimonies must land this month.”

The mention of ‘balance’ as it were, gave many discerning worshippers an insight into what to expect for the day. I said more ‘Amen’ than my ‘neighbour’ (I think so). Well, wait till you hear this:

“…This man came to Jesus and said: what shall I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus said, You know the law… ‘What lack I yet’? Asked the man. This is a month where you look at yourself and ask, ‘what lack I yet to enter into the fullness of my own possession for the year 2014?’”

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard this was one of Papa’s quotes (for non-members, we call Bishop David Oyedepo ‘Papa’). The quote: “Any faith that makes God absolutely responsible for the happenings in your life is an irresponsible faith.”
Then he delved into the three forces that rob believers of their inheritance, including Ignorance, sin, and the oppression of the devil.

Thank God I’m a Winner, because Papa mentioned one advantage of being one and what to do when things go wrong:

“This church, by the grace of God, has some working knowledge of how to deal with the devil…but why are still some things happening,” he asked. “It must be largely on the issue of iniquity. That’s what we are addressing this month…one thing thou lackest…it may be painful but until you subscribe to the things you lack, you will never have access to your inheritance…”

Now you know the theme of the month? “Godliness is profitable unto all things”-1 Tim 4:8
Here is my first take-home wisdom:

“When things are not happening, we should ask ourselves questions in the following areas: 1. what are the things wrong with me? 2. what are the things corrupting my relationship with Jesus; 3. I have been redeemed to be free from oppression; I must put up a fight against the wicked one.”

Once again, at the mention of ‘put up a fight’, something came to my mind, a song, an old but relevant song, part Pidgin, and part correct English. Please don’t laugh at me. It was as if I left church for a moment and travelled to where I grew up. Here’s the song:
 “If you are fighting the devil, no carry cutlass, no carry your gun, they will fail you. Put on the whole amour of Jesus Christ…”

Then Papa jolted me back into Faith Tabernacle with this testimony:

“One of us shared a testimony during the 1st service; she had glaucoma for 7 years. And it was getting worse, in a very bad state. She did another test to confirm it…and she went to put up a fight. She tied a mantle to her face, anointed herself for three nights; took communion for three nights, and went back for a test and glaucoma was gone. She put up a fight against the wicked one.”
A typical example of putting up a fight! Doing your part and God faithfully doing His!

Before I had time to digest that, Papa unveiled the various topics for the month, starting from the Saturday fellowship. Indeed ‘everything is done decently and in order’!
-Experiencing the blessedness of godliness (Winners Satellite Fellowship, every Saturday)
- Overcoming Temptations (Every Midweek Service of the month), and
-   Understanding the Wonders of Godliness (Every Sunday in November)

And the prophet quickly followed this with a prophetic prayer:

“And my prayer is that this month, by all means, everyone is walking into new realms. If that’s you, let me hear your amen.”

 Each time you hear “take note of this” from Papa, you had better take him seriously, I have learned. Hear what he said about Pa Sadela (Rev. Samuel A. Sadela, founder of Gospel Apostolic Church) who was the oldest preacher in Nigeria before he died in August this year.

“…note that godliness influences positively all aspects of our life. I was sharing a testimony yesterday at the burial service of Pa Sadela who went home mysteriously on the same date he was born. He was born on August 24, 1900 and went home on August 24, 2014. I was privileged to be very close to him. I never heard him once, for 12 solid years, speak rough or speak against any man or any ministry, under any condition. Precious in the sight of God is the death of saints. During the service on that field, there was no scorching sun, no drop of rain; it was peaceful. People were dancing for about one hour.”

If you truly want long life, hear his prophetic declaration ‘after the order of Pa Sadela’:

“You will end well. I bring you good news, everyone in this church that so desires it, none of you will go before 114 years. If you say what am I doing here, you can go anytime you like. Whosoever desires life and love to see many days…; you have to desire it, to get it.”

Then he revealed how he got to know the late sage

“I saw him on TV one day...as old as he was then, I marveled at his strength and I said I must find out where he got his strength from. I went for a search – not google, I mean leg work. The last Sunday before his death, I asked him, were you in church? And he said, where else would I be? You see, he was in church the last Sunday before he died, and then the following Sunday, he went to do it in heaven.”

Expectedly, such a testimony from Papa will not go without a prophetic declaration…
“I declare that at 114, you’ll still be strong; each of us will be stronger than he was. You will see your children and children’s children.”

Quoting Matt.5:6 and Phil.3:11-14, Papa defined godliness thus:

“Godliness is not a state of sinlessness but a desperation to please God as a lifestyle. It is not a state of perfection but a tireless press towards perfection.” (Matt. 5:6)

Talking about a ‘press towards perfection,’ he shocked the congregation by revealing how long it takes to publish that ‘small’ Bible divider that contains the theme of the month!

“Let me give a little example; you have a paper in your hand that contains the theme of the month. Ask my sons that work in my office, and they will tell you how many times that small paper was written; not seven times, not eight times. After about 8 to 10 times, we still have to cross-check every little detail. Each month, when it is time to work on the theme of the month here, we call it ‘Monthly Period’. We will sweat, sometimes we can’t go home; we spend 8 to 12 hours working on those tiny details. Perfection is not a sprint, it is a marathon.”

Immediately, I checked that ‘tiny’ paper in my hand, rubbed my fingers through it, and neatly placed it inside my Bible with a resolve to value it more and read it daily!

“Perfection is a hunger, a thirst, so when the hunger stops, dryness begins…godliness is a conscious acknowledgement of one’s sins and shortcomings,’” he said, quoting 1Corith.9:24-26, Ps.51:3 and 1Jn.1:8)

A few minutes later, Papa said “Take Note of this”. As I said earlier, when he says ‘take note’, do just that. He gave me something to seriously think about.

“A changed life is the most authentic testimony of new birth. Back in the Old Testament, great miracles took place there. So why did Jesus still have to come?”

“One reason: to destroy the barrier between man and God and bring man back into fellowship with God. And that barrier is sin for ‘His name shall be Jesus because He shall save his people from their sins’ (Matt.1:21). So the testimony of freedom from sin is the most authentic testimony of a believer…at the gate of heaven, our only visa will be that we are free from sin.”

For once, the church was quiet, heads nodded pensively in agreement. But the declaration that followed almost brought down the roof:

“You will be there! I will be there! Heaven will be full of Winners, from generation to generation, and you shall be there.”

I can bet that everybody said ‘amen’ to this, who wouldn’t?

For a few minutes, the apostle of faith dwelt on two characteristics of sin, citing Judas Iscariot, Samson, David, and Gehazi and the long-term negative effect of a few minutes of ‘pleasure’ got from sin.

“Sin is pleasurable…but it is always for a season; sin is deceptive.”

In summary, here are the characteristics of sin as seen in the lives of Judas, Samson and David:
-Judas bought a piece of land from the proceeds of sin and he committed suicide on that same property, after a few years
-Samson enjoyed a few sinful moments with Delilah and he was turned to a toy and eventually died the death of sinners
-One night King David met with Bathsheba, and Israel came under the curse of unending war
-Gehazi took a few things from Naman and collected leprosy unknowingly

Have you ever heard the message of grace…that oft-repeated phenomenon by many a Pentecostal church that in a way suggests a Christian can do anything, just because ‘grace is available’? I have, on several occasions. Papa threw more light on the contentious issue:

“The Bible recognizes the devil as a man of sin…In 2Thes.2:3, it says, “Let no man deceive you by any means.’ There are too many means they use now. There’s a dangerous message of grace going on around the world today. It is platform of apostasy. The devil designed that platform to quench the fire of the move of the Spirit.”

But there is also good news:

“There shall be fallen away, then the man of sin shall be revealed. He will be exposed so he can loose his grip on God’s people. In the name of Jesus, you will not be listed among the fallen away. Your love for God and righteousness will be getting hotter every day.”

If you don’t say amen to this, I really don’t know what else you’d say amen to.

It is my belief that God will not allow a problem to exist if a solution is not already in place. So when I heard from the bishop ‘what to do to destroy the trap of sin,’ I heaved a sigh of relief:

“Whatever God says matters to Him, therefore, must matter to us. Sin matters to God, and it matters to our destiny. We must rise to deal with it.”

Once again, I remembered the “irresponsible faith” analogy, and I smiled, but the smile was short-lived when I heard the “Prescription”. I’ve got to be serious now:

“Jesus prescribed a solution in Matt.26:41…watch and pray, lest you fall into temptation. Not ‘watch and watch’, not pray and pray.”

A little later, he mentioned another prescription, “the revelation of God’s word,’ quoting Rom.13:12, Ps.107:32 and John 1:5

-Peter: was really watching but wasn’t praying when he denied Jesus
-Job was praying every morning but wasn’t watching, until Satan filled his heart with fear. “He didn’t guard the loins of his heart.” See Job 3:24-25)

Papa has a word on almost anything; here’s the one on the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease:

 “Ebola can’t survive in your body because He is the vine and you are the branches. Whatever can’t be found in the tree can’t be found in the branches. Whatever can’t survive in His body can’t survive in your body.” (Prov.19:25)

Then he re-emphasized the importance of, and the best way to ‘watch and pray’:

“It is your thoughts that are at the root of every defilement in your life. So stop the thought and you stop the defilement; watch and pray.”

Are you wondering about the gains of godliness?
1.       It engenders divine favour, and
2.      It guarantees divine health

 “Before the fall, man was absolutely sickness-free. There was no provision for healing for man because he was made in the likeness of God. Man had dominion over all things including sickness. God only prescribed food for man to eat, no drugs! When Jesus came, He knew no sin, so He knew no sickness, disease and pain…so sin is at the root of every sickness; not that everyone that is sick has committed sin but until sin came, sickness didn’t come.” See Jn.5:14; Mk.2:1-12

And then he roared the following prophetic declaration:

“Everybody here, get ready, because you are changing levels permanently. Everybody will know that you have met with God this month.”

That’s it! You see why I was happy I was in church last Sunday? How can I ever forget a prophetic declaration meant to permanently change my level for good? Never!
Well, I almost didn’t want the service to come to an end, but Papa closed the sermon by a note of admonishment to all and sundry as regards the issue of sin:

“Anything that displeases God must be avoided. God can turn at any time when we sincerely repent. Heaven has no shareholders; we can only get there on God’s terms. Nobody can outgrow repentance; your miracle marriage, etc, is just at the door if only you can cleanse your hand from sin.”

All through the remaining part of the service, one thing kept ringing in my head, “It has to be on God’s terms, not on my terms, not on any man’s terms because heaven has no shareholders!” Even as I write this, that statement is still very strong in my spiritual and physical consciousness.

This is why I will never forget Sunday November 2, 2014. Remain blessed. See you on this space next week by His grace! Peace

By Lucky Ihanza

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