by Zontong, Kigai Mandey
In the build-up to the 2015 general elections in Nigeria, unlike ever before, there was an undisguised disapproval of the ruling party in the country which swept across most states in the country including Plateau State. Slogans and chants like ‘Change’, ‘Chanji dole’, ‘Sai Baba’, ‘APC SAK’; became the order of the day, among Muslims and Christians alike. At the root of the struggle for this change was the great discontent with the then governments in power at the state and federal levels. Citizens hence expressed this discontent and at the end of the general election, Nigeria experienced a change in government as the entire governmental structure of the then government was put down and the self-acclaimed agents of change were installed into leadership of the country and of various states.
The change governments across the country have clocked a year in office and still counting. Now, there are as many opinions on the performance of the government and opinions of how much of the promised change we have experienced so far as there were on the need for that change before the elections.
A common thread in all opinion camps is that Nigeria is experiencing perhaps the most difficult economic hardship the country has had to deal with in a very long time. From the increasing unemployment rate, to the fall in the value of the Naira against other foreign currencies and the consequential increase in the cost of imported goods (which constitutes majority of the consumed goods by Nigerians), to the increase in electricity tariffs, the increase in the retail price of petroleum products occasioned by the removal of the government subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (fuel), the increase in the cost of food and virtually every other goods and services in the market occasioned by other preceding factors, and then to the lack of payment of the salaries of workers in both the private and public sector running into months in most states. The list goes on and so do the justification, explanation and accusations.
However, the big question at this juncture is what should be our response as believers to this difficulty and hardship we are going through? Should we join in the blame-game going on as to the cause of the problem? Should we give up on the Government and just fold our arms? Should we join in the new slogan of ‘chanza chanji’ or ‘change the change’, in anticipation of the 2019 general election or join the debate as to whether change actually begins with us or it should begin with our government?
The first thing we must understand and believe as Christians is that our well-being and God’s provision in our lives as promised in Phil. 4: 19, is not in any way dependent on the economic situation around us. So we need not despair. The Bible says in Psalm 37:18-19, that:
The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.
Examples abound in the Bible of men of God and nations that prospered during difficult economic times. In the book of Genesis, Egypt under the leadership of Joseph as Prime Minister prospered even though the entire world was going through famine. For Isaac, we are told in Genesis chapter 26, of how he sought to leave the land of Gerar where he resided with his family to go to Egypt during severe famine in the land of Gerar. God instructed Isaac to remain in Gerar and the Lord promised to bless him as He had promised Isaac’s father Abraham. In Genesis 26: 12, it is reported that ‘Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him.’ This is irrespective of the famine that the land was experiencing. Like in Isaac’s case, God’s blessing in our lives is not in any way tied to the economic situation in Nigeria or the regime of government.
Understanding the above, we must continue to keep our hope in God for the provision of our day-to-day needs. In such difficult times as we are in, one cannot deny the great temptation for us to just keep grumbling and complaining about all that we are going through. On this, Jesus admonishes us in Matthew 6:31-33 in no truer words than these:
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Indeed, if there is a magic wand at all, that will be it. That we hope in God. That we seek and pursue His kingdom and His righteousness. Mention has been made of how God prospered Joseph and Isaac. These were men who sought the kingdom of God and His righteousness and because they did, God did not only provide their basic needs as we so earnestly yearn for, but God in fact, prospered them. This can be our testimony too.
Further to this, we must continue to work. The Bible, to the best of my knowledge, is bereft of instances where a person comes into wealth which wealth is unconnected to labour and hard-work. Using the example of Isaac above, the bible says ‘Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold…’ Isaac had to plant before he could reap a hundredfold. For Joseph, under his instruction, Egypt had to work hard and saved during its bountiful years for them to have what they did enjoy during famine. As an aside, perhaps the reason why we are going through what we are going through now is because just like other nations during the time of Joseph, we failed to save and preserve from the bountiful harvest we’ve had as a nation. Joseph and Egypt worked and laboured to be where they were. We also see the same example in the biblical account of the life of Ruth and Naomi in the book of Ruth. The famine that Judah was plagued with was over and Ruth returned with Naomi as the only surviving members of Elimelech’s family-Ruth 1: 19. Upon their return, the duo did not just fold their arms to wait for heavenly provision, even though Judah was experiencing plentiful harvest. They had to work to feed – Ruth 2: 2.
God in his sovereign authority can provide for us without us having to do anything. But that will negate his principle of work as shown in the creation account in the book of Genesis and as he prescribed for the Israelites in Exodus 20: 9 that ‘six days you shall labour and do all your work’. Work is therefore an integral part of God’s plan for His creation hence he commanded through the Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3: 10, that ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’ Are you already employed? Then you must continue to work hard with godly directions. Are you a student? You must continue to study and do your best and let God be concerned about employment when you are done with school. Are you unemployed and already giving up? Well, you should not. You must continue to seek employment or use your God-given wisdom and skill to create one. We must work! It is only by working that Ruth situated herself in a position for God to use Boaz to change their fortune. We must keep working, and planting for there to be any harvest at all in this change regime.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, we must understand our place as the solution for all that is going on in our country. The Bible still reminds us in Ezekiel 22:30 that in difficult times such as we are in now – times marked by great uncertainties and hardship – God is still looking for men (and women) who will build up the wall and stand in the gap on behalf of our great nation. If believers will stand up and pray, if we will stand in the gap, support and intercede on behalf of our leaders, if we will stand in the gap and live righteous lives worthy of emulation, if we stand in the gap and work for our nation’s prosperity- then it will not matter which party is in government or whatever the propagators of change propose in their hearts. We can ensure that their plans align with God’s promises for our lives and our nation.
Remember, change or change the change, our well-being and God’s provision in our lives is not in any way dependent on the economic situation around us.
*ZONTONG, KIGAI MANDEY is a graduate of law from the University of Jos. He just concluded his vocational training at the Nigerian Law School, Bwari-Abuja. He currently resides in Jos, Nigeria. He is passionate about Christian youths living lives of excellence and being the real change in their various spheres of influence. He is on LinkedIn and Facebook and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org