Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
My oldest brother, Bayo, left Nigeria without telling anyone where he was going. He did not tell our aged parents, his wife or his children. And he did not tell Biodun and me, his brothers. Moreover, he communicated with no one thereafter, so we did not know his whereabouts. When our parents passed away one after the other, we had no way of reaching him. His safety became a matter of great concern. All we could do was to commit him to God in prayer, which was more than enough.
A wasted trip
Some six years later, we got word that he was sighted in Gambia. I had to attend the funeral of a member of our church in Sierra Leone, so I decided to take the opportunity to go to Gambia to see if I could find him. The person who told us about him gave us the address of a street-corner shop in Serrekunda, Gambia. It was not difficult to find and I was directed to a barbershop where I met a Nigerian man.
He told me my brother had been living with him for years. But several months prior to my arrival, he left Serrekunda for a place called Basse. I thought Gambia was a small country, but he assured me Basse was nine hours from Serrekunda by road. I told him that since I had come all the way from Nigeria, I would have no choice but to go and see him there. But the man said that would not be possible. My brother left no forwarding address. “So where would you look?” he asked.
I concluded that my trip to Gambia was in vain. I checked into a hotel and told the Lord: “It looks like you brought me to Gambia just so I can spend a quiet time with you.”
But the next day, the Lord woke me up early in the morning. Out of the blue, he said: “Femi, let me tell you about the kingdom of God.” Then he started another session teaching me about kingdom dynamics.
I was an intellectual who came to believe in God as a result of a miracle healing from gunshot wounds. As a result, I was afraid that one day my intellect would confound my faith. I did not stop being intellectual because I gave my life to Christ, and in so many ways my faith had confounded my intellect. However, I was afraid that one day I would read something or see something that would contradict my intellect and my faith would be shattered. I was afraid, for example, that I would discover intellectually that some parts of the bible are false or contradictory. How then would I handle it?
I am told, for example, of a man who left the faith because of what he perceived to be conflicting reports on Jesus’ healing of blind Bartimaeus. Mark 10:46 and Matthew 20:29 state that Jesus healed Bartimaeus as he went out of Jericho. However, Luke 18:35 states that Jesus healed him as he came near to Jericho. The man apparently decided that if God could not make up his mind whether he healed Bartimaeus as he went out of Jericho or as he came to Jericho, then God was unreliable.
One of those things I questioned was Jesus’ statement to his disciples that many of them would not die until they saw the kingdom of God. But, I thought, all his disciples are dead. According to church history, all but one was martyred. And yet, the kingdom of God has still not arrived. After all, the church is still following the prayer guide of the Lord, which says: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10).
So, to whom was Jesus referring? Who among his disciples did not taste of death until they saw the coming of God’s kingdom? Could Jesus have got it wrong? How could he have got it wrong? Jesus is not merely truthful; he is the truth. Moreover, he deliberately prefaced his statement by saying: “I tell you the truth.” (Luke 9:27).
So that morning in the Gambia, the Lord brought up this little question of my fears. He said: “Femi, you have been wondering what I meant in Luke 9:27. You have been asking who among my disciples did not die until he saw the coming of the kingdom of God. You said all the disciples are dead and the kingdom of God has still not arrived. So what could I have meant? Let me answer your question now.”
“Those who were alive after my death and resurrection, and who became born again at, or after, the Pentecost, saw the kingdom of God in their lifetime. Look at what I said to Nicodemus: ‘Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Once a man is born again, he can see the kingdom of God. The disciples were born again, so they saw the kingdom of God. What I want to do this morning is to show you the kingdom of God, since you also are born again.”
Miracle of miracles
And so the Lord said to me: “Femi, let me show you the kingdom of God.” And just then, the telephone in my hotel room rang. The Lord said: “Answer the phone.” When I picked up the phone, the concierge said: “Dr. Aribisala, your brother would like to talk to you.” I asked incredulously: “My brother? Where is he speaking from?” The man replied: “He is right here in the lobby.” I told him: “I am coming right down.”
I put down the phone and could not believe my eyes. What just happened here? I saw it, as clear as daylight. The Lord had supernaturally moved my brother all the way from Basse, nine hours away to come down to Serrekunda to meet me. Bayo never knew I was coming. As I said, I had not heard from him in over six years. He had simply decided to come down to Serrekunda to see his friends. Little did he know that that decision was part of the Lord’s plan to bring him to Serrekunda to meet me. When he got to the barber shop, the gentleman I had spoken to the night before quickly informed him that I had come to Gambia to see him. Then he gave him my hotel address.
There was nothing I could do but keep my brother waiting in the lobby, while I went down on my knees in my room and worshipped the Lord.
That is how God works. That is the kingdom of God on the move; in the quiet. The natural man might call it a coincidence, not knowing that it is God that is at work. God is at work, and he is at work spiritually. His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, nevertheless the Most High reigns and rules in the affairs of his children. Jesus says: “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” (John 9:39).