Do You Understand What You Are Reading — A Call For Black People To Compete On The World Stage

Dr. Mensa Otabil — Ghanian Theologian and Entrepreneur

I attended the West African Faith Believers Convention WAFBEC in January 2020, and Mensah Otabil’s sermon titled “Do you understand what you are reading” completely blew my mind and I posted on IG that he completely shattered and obliterated WAFBEC 2020. Throughout the year, I had been getting a strong sense to go back and watch the sermon on youtube but I kept putting it off until last night when I watched it again and was even more blown away — it was such a prophetic word that speaks to all that’s happened among black people and young people this year and I would like to write a summary of what he shared.

He started the sermon by narrating the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:26–40 and how God asked Philip to leave Samaria where a strong revival was happening and go meet the Eunuch in the desert. According to him, Ethiopia in the bible did not refer to the current nation of Ethiopia but dark-faced people or black people. For God to ask Philip to leave Samaria where a great revival was happening to go meet one man in the desert meant that God had a great plan for that man. In the passage, the Eunuch was reading the part of the book of Isaiah about Christ being led to the cross when Philip walked up to him and asked him if he understood what he was reading to which he replied in the negative. The Eunuch was clearly religious as he was reading the bible, and had just returned from Jerusalem where Christ had just been crucified and resurrected, but he did not understand what he was reading and did not even know who Christ was. He likened the Eunuch to Africa today in a sense and said “you can be a part of history without understanding its significance. You can be in a place of profound impact and have no understanding of where you’re standing.

He then talked about the second world war and how Adolf Hitler was trying to colonize all of Europe and had succeeded in colonizing some European countries including France and was advancing towards England until Winston Churchhill, the British prime minister sought the help of America and together they were able to defeat him. And to prevent any other individual from rising to colonize other countries like Hitler did, they created a document called the Atlantic charter which contained amongst other things the right to self-determination. This means that every country has the right to determine its rulers. It is noteworthy that England and France had colonized several African countries at the time so though the charter said “everyone’ it was referring to Europeans, not Africans.

But, an Indian Lawyer, Mahatma Gandhi read the document, understood what it meant, and based on it secured independence for India after which a young Ghanian student in England also understood the document and along with his allies including Nnamdi Azikiwe fought for Ghana’s independence in 1957. Following this most African countries were also able to secure their independence from Europe as it seemed Europe was powerless to hold on to those countries. From understanding the Atlantic Charter, these men were able to secure Independence for their countries.

He then presented two case studies from the bible to show that by understanding, you can shorten the days of bondage and by a lack of understanding, you can lengthen the days of bondage. The first case was about Daniel. He was taken to Babylon as a captive along with other Israelites when he was a teenager. Before that time, he had heard the Prophet Jeremiah prophecy that Israel was going to be in Captivity for 70 years. He understood by the books (the bible was a bunch of books before it was compiled into one book) that Israel was going to be in captivity for 70 years and in her 68th year of captivity, he began to intercede for Israel to be set free. In that same year, 2 years before the prophecy dictated, the first batch of Israelites returned to Israel and others soon followed. Due to Daniel having understanding and interceding, the Israelites’ years of captivity were shortened by 2.

The second case was about Moses and the Israelites. In Genesis 15, God told Abraham that the Israelites would be slaves for 400 years after which he would deliver them. But the book of Exodus states that God delivered the Israelites after 430 years of slavery. He pondered over this discrepancy in time for several years until he found the reason for it in Acts 7 when Stephen gave his last sermon that was so good, Jesus stood up for him before he was killed. Stephen mentioned that when Moses was 40 years old, 390 years into Israel’s captivity, he saw an Egyptian maltreating an Israelite and killed the Egyptian. And verse 25 which is the key states that “For he (Moses) supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand”. And as a result of their lack of understanding, it would take another 40 years for God to stir up Moses to go and deliver the Israelites, and at that time the people understood and were delivered.

God works in seasons, he said. God started the process of delivering the Israelites 10 years before the time he told Abraham but because of their lack of understanding, they spent an additional 30 years after the 400 years God promised. And that additional 30 years was when they suffered the most under the Egyptians because God had not provided grace for that suffering. He went on to say “there are some sufferings you are going through that isn’t sanctioned by God. When there’s a season of visitation and you miss it, it takes a long time for recovery”. He explained this further using an elevator analogy. If you are standing in front of an elevator and it opens but because you are distracted you fail to enter it when it opens before you, it would continue upwards before it returns to your floor and there’s nothing you can do to hasten its return. He also used the example of some ladies who in their 20s didn’t get married when the opportunity arose and they had lots of suitors and in their mid-thirties are unable to find suitors and are praying and fasting intensely. It could be that they missed the opportunity for marriage in their 20s but of course, it doesn’t mean God wouldn’t provide a husband for them in their mid-thirties. It just means that it would require a lot more effort. The point is God works in seasons and when you miss God’s season the first time, it takes time before the opportunity returns.

He then talked about how in the 1996 Olympics, all the contestants in the 200m race save for one were black and he sensed the holy spirit telling him that it’s time for the black man to compete on the world stage. Shortly after, Kofi Anan became the first black president of the united nations and Barack Obama became the first black president of the US. He said there is an open door for black empowerment but the door would not be open forever because God works with times and seasons. He drove home this point further by saying that a lot of successful preachers globally received their calling around 1978–1998 because there was a window and practically anyone could be used by God as long as they said yes to him. He had friends who were more anointed than he was and knew God was calling them to ministry but deferred answering the call until the 90s but their ministries are still struggling today. In that 1978–1998 window, you could just swim with the current tide of what God was doing and be successful in ministry. He then went on to say that the window of opportunity is once again opening now and there is a grace for those between the ages of 25–35 to do mighty things for God. But you say that if God is working in this season, how come Nigeria and Africa is still the way it is? Well, the church’s responsibility is to open the door BUT the preachers are not transformational nation leaders or policymakers. It’s the young people who would rise up to be used by God to be change-makers, policymakers, and nation builders the same way God raised Nehemiah, Ezra, and Zerubabbel to lead the people back to Israel and rebuild the nation. It is important to note that even though it was Daniel’s understanding that led to him interceding for God’s prophecy to be fulfilled and the Israelites returned to their country, Daniel himself did not return to Judah — all he did was open the door.

The church and its leaders though not without their flaws have shown us how to run systems and structures efficiently and have opened the door, but they are not the ones to rebuild the nations. We must not demand from what’s happening in the church what it cannot give. He then asked all the 25–35-year-olds in the service to rise and prayed for them to rise to be used by God to rebuild Nigeria.

As I was watching the sermon, I was just thinking back to all that’s happened this year. This year, the black lives movement arose and its aftermath led to black people being put into positions and given opportunities that had been denied them for the longest time. Joe Biden has been the Democratic candidate for a while now but it was only in the aftermath of the black lives matter movement that a black, female running mate was chosen for him. In Nigeria, there was the #endsars movement that saw a lot of young people go out to protest, raise funds, and efficiently and transparently disburse those funds and are standing up to oppression and demanding good governance.

A lot of those at the forefront of these accomplishments are under 35. Also, there are so many young people on fire for God publicly and advancing the kingdom of Christ in their various spheres of influence. I really believe that this sermon is a prophecy that is being fulfilled now and would continue to be fulfilled for years to come. As a believer, this is the best time to be intentional about your relationship with God, yield completely to his Lordship, and align with his plans and purposes. As a young person, this is the time to develop the competence, character, and capacity to take up those leadership positions that would be opening up. We are in the era of the Technology Revolution and everyone who would do anything meaningful and impactful needs to be technology-savvy. Everyone can become technology savvy. I sincerely believe that if you are alive in this era, it means your brain can understand how to use, adapt, and leverage technology in whatever field you are in. Remember the sons of Issachar? They understood the times and knew what Israel ought to do. The times we are in require an understanding of Technology I believe. The biggest companies are Technology companies. Trust me, I am talking to myself here before anyone else. I just pray that we make history and won’t just be spectators while history is being made.

You can listen to the entire sermon here starting from the two hours, 12 minutes mark (2:12:00).

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