I was reading the Times one morning over breakfast, and there were three obituaries. One moved me greatly. It was of a Nigerian singer and political activist named Fela Kuti who died three days ago, August 2nd. I had never heard of him, and would have taken little notice of the account of his life except for one thing, that he was born on the same day I was born, October 15, 1938.
I have written down that date of birth hundreds of time in my life, and then to see it attached to someone else’s life was arresting. We were born within hours of one another, I in a terraced house in Penydarren, Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales, with Mrs Drew from across the street in Pembroke Place assisting my mother. I was an only child, an older sister was still-born. My father was a railway clerk, and his twin brother was a minister. My mother loved the Lord Jesus Christ, and I was raised in a home atmosphere of her quiet hymn-singing. It accompanied every task. She took me to her Baptist church, and I became a Christian in 1954. I read Whitefield, and Ryle, and Lloyd-Jones and became a Calvinist while I was studying liberal Biblical Studies at the University of Wales, Cardiff. Then in 1961 went to Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia and sat at the feet of John Murray, Cornelius Van Til and Edward J. Young for three years. In 1964 God gave me Iola as my wife, and then three girls, all of whom now serve God.The husband of one, a school-teacher, was in camp as an officer last week, the husband of another is a preacher, and the third is in charge of the taping and CD ministry in his local church.They are all in membership in 1689 Confession Baptist Churches. God has given them eight children.
Fela Kuti was born that same day as I was in Abeokuta, a small town in Ogun province, western Nigeria. His father was an Anglican minister and school-teacher, and Fela had four brothers and sisters. His mother taught him radical politics, and these views were confirmed when he came to study music in London in 1960 and felt in England the lack of liberty in Africa. He married a Nigerian whom he met in London. Then he went on a music tour of the USA in 1968 and met the Black Panthers and read Malcolm X. In the 1970’s in Nigeria he had become a star, singing and protesting, criticising the military rule in Nigeria (which used to be known as the most corrupt nation in the world). There was a spectacular clash with the authorities in 1977 when his house was surrounded by soldiers and his mother was thrown from an upper storey window and died six months later of her injuries. His arms and leg were broken. He recovered and continued to campaign against social injustice.
The Times says, "He also won a reputation for smoking marijuana, sleeping with hundreds of women and dressing only in his under-pants. Earlier this year he was held by the drugs squad and appeared on TV in handcuffs. He died of an Aids-related illness and left 27 wives and 3 children."
Our life’s journeys began the same day. What made the difference between us ? He was a wealthier man than I am, and he had fame and beauty, all of which I do not have. He showed greater courage than I have ever displayed, and maybe my own heart is far more evil than his. Yet by his life-style asa serial adulterer he contacted an incurable disease, and no doubt there were poor women to whom he passed it on. He is now in hell, while I live in a day of grace and have hopes of heaven, if I persevere to the end. What made the difference between us ? He had a clergyman as a father, and so knew of the Lord Jesus Christ and the need to follow him, yet he said no to the Saviour. What made the difference ? His rejection ? Certainly. Fela freely refused Jesus Christ’s salvation and his lordship over his life.
But why did I say yes ? "God set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, and was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him" [Galatians 1:16]. That is the difference. Esau and Jacob were twins also born upon the same day. "Yet before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by Him who calls – she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’."
[Romans 9:11&12]. Do you believe words that God the Holy Spirit has written ? That is the difference between Fela Kuti and Geoff Thomas (if I persevere in trust and repentance until the end). "What shall we say ? Is God unjust ? Not at all ! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’. It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy" [Romans 9:14&15]. Two reasons for the eternal difference between us: Fela Kuti freely said no to the Lord Jesus. God, in his immense mercy and grace, set me apart at birth and called me by his grace. So I have nothing to glory in for my salvation, and a privileged duty to tell the world of that grace.
My friends, do not despise the gift of the son of God. It is still day. We may still work. Close with his mercy,and give God no rest until Christ is reigning in your heart. Sue him for his grace, and serve him with your life. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen