‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace…’ (Eccl 3:1-8)
From the ancient words above, we learn that the sovereign God set the times forever so that people will stand in awe before Him. The writer of “Ecclesiastes”, also known as “Qoheleth” and “the Preacher,” wanted to know how to live a meaningful life. He tried all kinds of ways to live a meaningful life. In the text, he talks about how there is a time for everything.
Listen to how the Preacher puts it in Eccl. 3: 9-15, which reinforces the above preface.
‘What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away….’
Doubtless, we live in a time in which people do not stand in awe before God. We are so busy that we forget Him. We are so consumed with our own agenda that we hardly think about God. Even those God has given authorities over people though elections and appointments appear to be doing what they like. They live as if tomorrow would not come. They flout the laws. They don’t allow even the organic laws of the land to rule them. They are the law. They declare themselves as the state. They do not know that there is a time for everything according to the seasons God has appointed for them.
When the Preacher wrote this message to the people of God, they, too, were forgetful of God. They were busy buying and selling, making fortunes and losing them, and without much thought of God. They did not stand in awe before God. The Preacher began to counter this problem by reminding the people of God in his time—and ours—that there is a time for everything.
That is the purpose of this message at this time and season when our leaders and managers are rededicating themselves for service.
Our President wrote a ‘love letter’ to us on the front pages of our newspapers last week, specifically on the first day of the year January 1, 2020: “A Letter from the President: Nigeria’s Decade”.
Our leaders at all levels should at this time reflect on the simple theme of Ecclesiastes: All is vanity. The Hebrew word for vanity means “vapour” or “breath.” It refers to that which is meaningless, futile, ephemeral, and passing. That is what life and political power (leadership) are all about, after all. So the Preacher’s theme is that everything in life is meaningless. For twelve and a half chapters he demonstrates this theme.
However, the Preacher eventually gives a corrective. He says that everything in life is meaningless without God. His ultimate purpose is to show that we can live a meaningful life only when we live it in a right relationship to God. If we don’t live our lives in a right relationship to God, then indeed everything in life is meaningless.
In his continuing quest to find how to live a meaningful life, the Preacher turned his attention to time.
In this passage, the Preacher says that there is a time for every matter in life. He illustrates this truth by juxtaposing fourteen pairs of contrasting activities as examples of how life is comprised of various seasons. A straightforward reading of the passage reveals several concepts, which we as leaders and managers should study as in MBA classes.
First, the timing of our activities is important. Killing someone is generally considered evil and a crime, but that may change during a time of war, when defending one’s country can be considered a noble act. Dancing (verse 4) may be appropriate during a time of celebration, but it would not be appropriate for a funeral. Both our actions and the timing of our actions are important to God.
Second, these seasons in which certain pursuits are proper are appointed by God. His plan for life involves a variety of experiences and activities. Weeping may be part of life, but life is not all weeping; laughter has a place too. Construction is good in its time, but sometimes deconstruction is necessary.
A key to this passage is found a few verses later: “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (3:11). The proper activity at the right time, bringing about God’s purposes, is a beautiful part of God’s overall plan. A tapestry, viewed from the back, seems a chaotic and unlovely work; but the maker of the tapestry has a wise purpose for the placement of each thread.
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Third, 3:1–8 serves as a bridge between the first two chapters and the section that follows. People are to accept each day as a gift from the hand of God. Why? Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 explains that it is because God has a reason and a time for all things. People may be ignorant of God’s timing, but they are called to enjoy life in the present and trust in God’s sovereignty.
God offers much wisdom in the saying, “There is a time for everything, / and a season for every activity under the heavens.” God is sovereign. Our activity in this world is meaningful as we rely on His wisdom, His timing, and His goodness.
Therefore, our leaders and managers need to know that there is and there will continue to be (the) God (factor) in the affairs of men. Power belongs to God, after all. And vengeance belongs to Him. He is sovereign. He sets the time and the season. Even a model, and exemplary leader of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) whose autobiography speakers on leadership in global context would always like to quote, was in office and power for 31 years (June 3, 1959 – November 28, 1990). There was a set time. He had to go eventually after moving his country from Third to First World.
As an ‘Apostle of Hope’ for my great country, yes great country, I will continue with my responsibility to encourage our leaders at all levels to remember that their tenure is not forever. It is for a set time – not more than a maximum of eight years. There is a time for everything (tenure to end too). That is why they need to see the urgency in planning and executing legacy projects that will live after them. We need to encourage the incumbent ones now because since 1999, we have had so many presidents (including senate presidents, speakers), governors, ministers, legislators and judges and justices, yet Nigeria, the hope of the black world, is still not a source of inspiration. From the one they advertised to us as “a leader we can trust” Chief Olusegun Obasanjo through Alhaji Umaru Yar’A’dua/ Goodluck Jonathan, (PhD) to President Muhammadu Buhari, whose integrity we banked on in 2015, we have only seen a glimmer of hope. Nigeria isn’t still a member of G-20 economies in the world. South Africa is. Similarly, Nigeria is still not qualified to be a member of the influential global emerging markets called BRICS – South Africa is again there (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). We can flaunt our credentials as Africa’s richest through some curious rebasing mechanism. We can beat our chest that the richest back man is a Nigerian. But when we get down to brass tacks, we are still not an entrepreneurial nation. Our tertiary institutions including (170 universities) are not in enough good standing to shape our development strategies. Which was why the iconic Google could not find a worthy university to host their Artificial Intelligence Centre in West Africa the other day: they sited it in Ghana. This is a serious issue that didn’t make a front-page news item. It is a tragedy. And the issue we can’t address now is the legendary Chinua Achebe’s 1983 conclusion that: ‘The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership’.
But before the not-too-young-to-rule apostles and 2023 dreamers come to themselves, let’s counsel and remind those in office and in power today that they have barely three and half years to make Nigeria to be a member of G-21 and BRICSN. They also have less than that (three and half years) too to make an already divided Nigeria to be a Somalia and Yemen (and even Hong Kong where citizens will perpetually demand responsibility).
Specifically, this January 2020 is a time to counsel our leaders who do not understand the implications of our complex diversity, our leaders who weaponise religion and ethnicity to rule Nigeria that they have only three more years to change Nigeria. We need to remind our leaders who send their children to world-class schools abroad while destroying schools that the children of the poor and their voters attend at home that after 2023, they will reap the consequences of their official corruption and wickedness. Those who demolish the iconic houses of opponents and perceived enemies today when they are in power will also become targets tomorrow when they are out of office. There is a time for everything, remember.
“We need to remind our leaders who send their children to world-class schools abroad while destroying schools that the children of the poor and their voters attend at home that after 2023, they will reap the consequences of their official corruption and wickedness.”
*Inside Stuff with MARTINS OLOJA published
by ‘The Guardian’, Sunday January 5, 2020.