It is with a feeling of profound joy that I stand at this gathering today. I bring to this great audience, the felicitations of the State Executive Council and indeed, the entire members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council.
I count myself loved by the Boys Brigade to be invited to this historic occasion as well as being given the rare privilege to share some thoughts on the way forward as a keynote speaker. I wish therefore to acknowledge the leadership of Elder (Hon.) Godfrey I. Bartapeh, OOW and all the officials involved in the organisation of this event for their worthwhile considerations.
As earlier indicated, my happiness at this forum, is drawn from what the Boys Brigade represents as captured in its stated object thus, “The advancement of Christ’s kingdom among Boys and the promotion of habits of obedience, reverence, discipline, self-respect and all that tends towards a true Christian manliness.”
Since the founding of the Boys’ Brigade in Glasgow by Sir William Alexander Smith on October 4, 1883, it has through the use of a semi-military discipline and order, gymnastics, summer camps and religious services and classes, helped to build our young ones and adults as well, who are involved in its activities.
What is more, as a believer in Christ, I am also thrilled by the Boys Brigade’s motto, “Sure and Steadfast”, which our great pathfinder and founder, Sir William Smith was spiritually guided to source from the holy scriptures to wit, Hebrews 6:19, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…” (KJV).
Clearly, this espouses the contents and philosophical pursuits of Boys Brigade, which it must be admitted, is very laudable and defines the body as a forum to belong, a forum to share Christian values and fellowship, and a forum to contribute to humanity.
I still recall with nostalgia, my induction as a State Patron of Boys Brigade on that glorious day – Saturday, September 5, 2015 at the Union Secondary School, Ibiaku in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area during the occasion of the 12th Annual General Meeting of the Boys Brigade. In the light of that admission, I have come to gainfully understand and appreciate the objectives of the Boys Brigade and its unquantifiable contributions to the larger society.
It must be acknowledged that the Boys Brigade’s global growth, particularly in Akwa Ibom State nay Nigeria, has been quite explosive and very rewarding for both members and the public as a whole. From the perspective of its commitment to moral and attitudinal re-orientation, humanitarian services and spiritual reawakening, Boys Brigade has continued to be a dependable voluntary international institution.
Without equivocation, it has helped to engender peace as well as bring about mutual understanding, unity and oneness amongst people of diverse background across the globe. I wish therefore, to salute all the officers and men of the Boys Brigade for sustaining the objectives of the organisation since its formation.
Let me therefore congratulate the newly elected officers and members of the various committees who have received the mandate to superintendent over the affairs of Boys Brigade in Akwa Ibom State from 2017 to 2020 administrative years. I wish to commend the immediate past leadership for the meritorious services it rendered during their tenure.
Like a relay race, the baton has been passed on to the present Executive.
As vessels rightly chosen to offer services, God will surely equip you to serve diligently. God’s assurances for His elects can be found in the book of Romans 8:30. It says, “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
I wish to refer the officers to the admonitions of Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:4-9. In that context, your offices must speak through landmark services carried out under the ambience of togetherness, and always displaying team spirit in the pursuit of your goals. The impact of every office can only be felt through the conscientiousness and dedication of the holder. Team work is therefore very important.
From the spiritual standpoint, you are all co-labourers joined to effect the objectives of the organisation. And every divine duty takes its root in God. You must compliment each other without disputations. The scriptures says “neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” Positive result should be your target always, because every success recorded comes as your collective glory.
I am invited to this august event as the keynote speaker on the topic, “Breaking Up Fallow Ground” – with the Bible reference taken from the book of Jeremiah 4:3. Let me in addition to the scriptural reference (Jeremiah 4:3), add some additional Biblical passages relevant to the derived passage.
The scripture says in Hosea 10:12, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” Again, it is stated in Joshua 3:5, “And Joshua said to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”
In handling my assigned task, permit me to limit the urge for academic pigmentation, but to focus on some congruent ingredients that may be rewarding to us all, as may be provided through divine insight.
According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, the expression, “Break up your fallow ground” (Jeremiah 4:3; Hosea 10:12 ) means, “Do not sow your seed among thorns”, i.e., break off all your evil habits; clear your hearts of weeds, in order that they may be prepared for the seed of righteousness.
“Land was allowed to lie fallow that it might become more fruitful; but when in this condition, it soon became overgrown with thorns and weeds. The cultivator of the soil was careful to “break up” his fallow ground, i.e., to clear the field of weeds, before sowing seed in it. So says the prophet, “Break off your evil ways, repent of your sins, cease to do evil, and then the good seed of the word will have room to grow and bear fruit.”
The inference first centres on farming (Land, sea, etc.) and then about a man (Life) as a spiritual farm. The Thesaurus.com dictionary views “Fallow” thus, adjective 1. (of land) plowed and left unseeded for a season or more; uncultivated. 2. Not in use; inactive: My creative energies have remained fallow this year. Noun 3. Land that has undergone plowing and harrowing and has been left unseeded for one or more growing seasons. Verb (used with object) 4. To make (land) fallow for agricultural purposes.
Again, a prognosis is offered by Sweet Jesus Miniseries.com. It begins with the question: “What is fallow ground? It is ground that has not been worked; ground that has been left to nature and has become unproductive. It is ground that is un-cultivated, un-plowed, un-prepared. It may be hard or stony, it may have weeds. It does not produce. It is land that could be fruitful, but isn’t. Fallow ground is ground that has potential, but that potential is not being used.
“Stony, hard ground has taken the place of fertile, rich ground because it has not been turned, it has been left alone, scarred from prior plantings and harvests, then left unturned, it becomes hard, dry. But that rich fertile ground still lies beneath the hard, stony surface. It only takes a break, a crack in the surface and the potential can come to fruition.
Sweet Jesus Miniseries.com continues with another interesting poser. “What is the fallow ground of your heart? You know…it’s that thing, that problem, that something God wants that you are holding onto. It’s the thing that you have buried so deep that you may say to yourself you don’t even know what it is, but you do. Pray. Listen.
“He will help you. Help you take a plow to the fallow ground of your heart, turning over every inch of real estate there. Turning the stone like surface of your heart, digging deep and throwing out the rocks, old roots, and the weeds that choke. We aren’t capable of this alone, but when we turn our hearts over to the one our hearts were created for, we can. We can let go of the hard things. We can hold on to Him.”
The centrality of it is that whether of ‘man or land/sea’, there must be preparation for better cultivation. Without equivocation, the correlation of plowing as to land, is sanctification in direct reference to a man.
In a sermon, a cleric, Pastor Shane Idleman of Westside Christian Fellowship, Leona Valley, California, United States, says that “Just like farmers have to prepare the ground to bear fruit, we must prepare our hearts to receive from God.”
I can add that a man who has not given his life to Christ, to wit, yielding his soul to God, has a ‘fallow’ life. And he must rise to ‘break up’ in line with the context of our discussion. A new life begins when we totally surrender to God. As seen in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” The emphasis here is that no good thing happens on its own. There must be a reasonable deal of action to drive good success.
In the light of the above, the choice of the topic, “Breaking Up Fallow Ground” on this occasion of a one day capacity workshop for elected officers is therefore quite apt. As new officers, the fate of the Boys Brigade rests on your capacity. But know it that man’s capacity is meaningless except there’s divine guidance. And divine guidance only comes through a life lived on God’s precept.
The book of 1 Timothy 4:16 deals on this. It states, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” Further elucidation is given in 2 Timothy 2:15. It adds, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Similar Bible verses also lay emphasis on capacity. Romans 14:18 states, “For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.” Also, 2 Corinthians 13:7 adds “Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.”
The capacity of a man to be productive or to yield fruits can be measured from the character of the Godhead, from whom we derive our creation, likeness and representation. This can be deducted from the book of Philippians 4:13 which states, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
The book of Psalms 82:6 further clarifies “I have said, ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High.” So as children of the Most High, we are expected to explore life progressively. God has good lessons for us to learn from and to emulate.
The Almighty God opens unto us His character by dealing with a “fallow” situation at the very beginning of creation. The book of Genesis unveils unto us, the application of action, in this case, the breaking up of fallow ground by God to change a situation. “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep…” – Genesis 1:2. The “breaking up” followed accordingly: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. – Genesis 1:3.
As seen, a fallow situation needs positive attitude to remedy it. When we employ our likeness in God, we stand to change impossible situations into reality. The power to recreate is domiciled within us.
For the officers, I wish to further reiterate that their election is a call to service. No matter the successes gained so far in the 27 years existence of the Boys Brigade in Akwa Ibom State, there are fallow grounds to cultivate, there are fallow souls to win to God, there’s the demand for restitution through evangelism.
A British politician, poet, critic and prolific novelist, Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) stated that “A mind once cultivated will not lie fallow…” Also, in his treatise, John H. Cunningham states that “A fallow mind is a field of discontent.” Just like a fallow ground is not profitable for harvest, so also is a man without soul salvation.
A great point to note is that there is a value always available to add to a life in Jesus Christ. A soul is lifted from the point of ordinariness to a level of relevance and usefulness after being born again and is embellished with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The lives of Peter and John from their association with the Master, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ advanced by the great encounter of the Holy Spirit, vividly gives a cue to godly renewal. This is captured in Acts 4:13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Their association with Jesus lifted them from the status and mental state of fishermen to distinctive personalities and spiritual leaders.
As believers, the difference we can make in our activities, will directly substantiate our depth of relationship with Jesus Christ. As officers and members of Boys Brigade, the world will attest to our work, score us and give glory to God based on our outputs. The driving force is dedication, unity of purpose and sincerity at all times.
In political circles, it is always said that loyalty is total. I think it is more demanding in the Christian fold. A believer must be totally obedient in his faith inGod at all times.
We can learn from personalities like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego on the issue of faithfulness – the book of Daniel.
In Daniel 3:26,it states, “Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.
Again, in Daniel 3:30, we see the reward of faithfulness to faith. The scriptures there states, “Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.”
Standing firm to the end in our drive and service as believers, gives us greater glory in God and makes us vessels for the kingdom.
Thank you all for your kind attention. God bless us all.
-Being a Keynote Address by Elder Patrick Albert, JP, Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council on the occasion of a One Day Capacity Workshop by Boys Brigade Nigeria, Akwa Ibom State Council for its Elected Officers/Inauguration of Committees at the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, 73 Wellington Bassey Way, Uyo on Saturday, October 21, 2017.