By Femi Fani-Kayode
Today I shall go down memory lane. Life can be so complicated and sometimes we are forced to ask and answer some difficult questions. Permit me to ask a few in this contribution. Why do so many people suffer so much in life and why is this particularly so in Nigeria? Is God punishing us for our sins? Is God the source of all this evil that we see in our lives and in our land? Just look at all that is happening?
The best are crucified, tormented and persecuted whilst the wicked are celebrated and exalted. Many of our leaders are a plague and an affliction with dark hearts and many of our followers are ignorant ingrates and traitors. What is wrong with us? Why is God punishing us like this? Why has He forsaken us? Why has He visited so much evil on us? For millions of people each day is a struggle. There are so many shattered dreams and there is so much sadness, failure and sorrow in this land.
Worst still, in Nigeria when someone is good he must be punished and when he is bad he must be rewarded. That is our record and that is our delight. One wonders why God has afflicted us in this way? Why all this evil, poverty, failure, injustice, persecution, shame, pain, cruelty and wickedness? Is He not a God of love? Why does He allow this evil to thrive in our lives and in our nation?
We are a sick nation with a sick leadership. A nation of small minds governed by small minds. A nation where the sons of slaves ride around on horseback and the sons of kings walk around barefoot. A nation where the rich and powerful lack sensitivity, compassion and humanity and where the poor have little hope, eat from the dustbins and wear second hand clothes.
A nation where truth is mocked, ridiculed and treated with contempt and where falsehood, hate, deceit and misrepresentation is exalted. A nation where light is described as darkness and where darkness is described as light. A nation where eighty year old men are described as promising and dynamic leaders, where fifty year old men are described as youths, where thirty year old men are described as children and where seven year old girls are taken as wives. This is evil.
Is it because of our sins that God has visited all this on us? Consider our quality of life and our numerous challenges? Is God the source of all this evil? Many are suffering, are in despair and are badly weighed down by their unsavoury circumstances. Yet there is still hope and the purpose of this contribution is to encourage the broken, the wounded and the disheartened and to answer some of these complex questions.
Permit me to start by saying that God is a God of love and not the author of evil. It is our enemy and adversary, Satan, that delights in wickedness and he alone comes to kill, steal and destroy. He alone brings evil, sorrow, discord, fear, poverty, want, failure, death and shame wherever he goes. The bible says ”the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” and cruelty is the devil’s stock in trade. He alone is the merchant of misery and the dealer of suffering. God is not the source of any of these terrible things. Rather He brings life and He is full of grace, compassion, love, blessings and mercy.
He allows negative things to happen to us and to our nation only because He has given us the power to deal with them ourselves and the grace to come through them and have a great testimony at the end of it all. His word says “the righteous shall live by faith” and that “He has given us power to tread on scorpions and serpents and all the power of the enemy and none shall by any means hurt us”. That is why if only we can believe, stand firm and not allow such challenges to cause us to derail or to despair, we shall always be victorious at the end of the day and His promises for our lives shall surely come to pass.
As regards sin, we thank God that there is no condemnation for those of us that are in Christ. He shed His blood and He paid the price. Once we have confessed and truly repented of our wrongdoings the power of sin and death is completely broken in our lives. He has bought us eternal life through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ and His resurrection and ascension. All we need to do is to claim it and just believe.
That blood brings grace and mercy and it cleanses away ALL our sins. So the source of the pain that you are feeling, and that we are all feeling, is not God but rather the devil, our collective enemy. And thank God that we have overcome Him and that we will always overcome him by the blood of the lamb and the testimonies of our lips.
God loves you very much and He is with you and not against you. You are not a loser but a winner. You shall certainly overcome. Just continue to believe and to do good. And believe and pray for our fatherland Nigeria too: one day things will change in this country and that is God’s promise. Be rest assured that our Father in heaven has a plan for Nigeria too. It is that assurance from God that we are all holding on to: that is our hope and that is our strength.
He will surely deliver us one day and the yoke of the devil and his children, the Amalekites and the Midianites, over our nation shall be broken forever. I assure you that these vicious oppressors and Egyptians that we see today, the time is coming when “we shall see them no more”.
So fear not and despair not: just hold on, just watch and just pray and you will see the salvation of the Lord in this land. The accusers will soon become the accused and the oppressors will soon become the oppressed. Despite all the evil, false accusations, wickedness, treachery, injustice, persecution, marginalization, brutality, callousness, greed, bloodshed, hatred, idolatry, murder and deceit that we see around us and in this nation, we must continue to do good and to stand firm.
We must continue to exalt fairness and righteousness and we must continue to love even the unlovable and to see the best in even those that hate us and that seek to destroy our lives, our future and our country. God will deliver and in the end He will make ALL things beautiful in our land and in our lives. The Lord has spoken it and so it shall be. May God continue to be with us all and may He give us strength even in these difficult and lonely times.
Yet we must never forget the place of prayer because there is nothing that prayer cannot do. It is the engine room of all that is. It is the unseen spiritual force that makes things happen in the physical. It is the catalyst for a meaningful and positive change and without it nothing good can come. We need to appreciate the fact that the countries that are advanced today originally had their roots and foundation in God and at some point in their various histories went through periods of massive revival having experienced immense suffering.
When one third of all the people in Europe dropped dead as a consequence of the ”black death” (the bubonic plague) in the Middle Ages they did not stop praying or turn their back on God. They held on to their faith, called on God, received a word from Him and the evil cycle stopped. When the Pilgrim Fathers founded America they prayed her into greatness and made God her foundation: that is why she is what she is today. Prayer and faith is the key to all things, coupled with hard work, an understanding of the times and good old-fashioned hope.
When 20 million people were killed in the First World War and 50 million were slaughtered in the Second, it was prayer and faith in God that enabled the world to survive it and move on to build a better world. It was prayer and faith in God that pulled down the Berlin wall and that destroyed the evil and godless empire of Soviet communism. It was prayer, faith in God and the ability and courage of righteous men and women that were filled with the Holy Spirit, to rise up and say NO. That destroyed the evil that was Hitler and Nazi Germany and the vicious and racist system of government in apartheid South Africa. The Book of Job in the Holy Bible teaches us that oftentimes God allows the devil to touch us in order to test our faith in Him.
Yet He can change our fortunes in the twinkle of an eye, either for good or for bad: that is His prerogative and His nature. He can make a promise and honour it at once or wait 400 years to do so, as was the case with the children of Israel when they were in exile in Egypt. That is what makes Him God. The most important thing to appreciate is that through good and bad, through night and day, through thick and thin and whether as individuals or nations, He is with us every step of the way, He loves us deeply and He is eagerly waiting to see our reactions to our various challenges and circumstances. His word says “the righteous shall live by faith” and that is, indeed, the cornerstone of the Christian faith: total faith in God and trusting Him to deliver us and help us in our time of need. This is because it is in our weakness and helplessness that He shows and proves His strength.
Now that does not mean that we should do nothing else. That does not mean that we should not, at the same time as praying, work hard, fight hard and shout loudly to make our country a better place. After all the bible says “faith without works is dead”. This means that we must work hard at the same time as we are praying and exercising our faith, otherwise we will fail. It means that whatever we are doing we must do it with prayer. As a matter of fact it is that prayer that will guarantee the success of the relevant venture- It is our strength and hope for a better tomorrow. Thank goodness that it actually works and, by God’s grace, it will do so for Nigeria no matter how bad things may appear to be today.
Permit me to end this contribution by considering the words of Queen Victoria which were at the height and power of the British Empire and in the days when the United Kingdom was truly “Great Britain”. During the Scottish rebellion in the late 19th century she said “I do not fear the armies of Scotland but I fear the prayers of John Knox”. John Knox was the spiritual father of Scotland and one of the greatest prayer warriors and intercessors that ever lived. The Queen’s words smacked of deep wisdom and she did well to fear John Knox’s passionate and powerful petitions to the Lord.
You see prayer delivers the captives, protects the weak, humbles the powerful, heals the brokenhearted, breaks down the strongest walls, brings tyrants to their knees and causes kings to weep and tremble. It shapes the destiny of nations and restores and rebuilds the lives of men. There is still hope for Nigeria as long as we have faith in God and we continue to pray. And why not? He is, after all, ”our shield, our glory and the lifter of our heads”. He is ”the Author and Finisher of our faith”. God bless Nigeria.
(THIS PIECE WAS WRITTEN AND FIRST PUBLISHED IN 2009)