RIVERS POLITICAL IMPASSE: WHAT CAN THE CHURCH DO?
The story of human governments and government leaders has been a weary story of power, pride, politics and problems for a prolonged period of time. Two thousand years ago, Jesus commented on the current government officials of his day by saying, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors” (Luke 22:25). In other words, government leaders in his day used their positions of power to abuse, oppress and take advantage of those under their control. Publicly, they portrayed themselves as those who blessed and benefited their people, but in reality they were selfish and corrupt.
This is an accurate description of the way many high government officials have acted down through history, and also of the way many government officials act in modern Nigeria. Many government leaders use their positions of power for their own personal gain. Many also live lives of gross moral evil. Is there anything Christians or the Church can do when there is corrupt and evil government leadership? Is there anything they can do when their churches are controlled by greedy and immoral men? The answer is, ‘yes’.
Christians may have to suffer persecution for their faith in Christ, but there is something God wants them to do when evil leaders oppress and destroy nations. More important, the church should not tolerate arrogant and corrupt church leaders. There are actions which the church can take to change the situation. But God’s people must understand that both in national governments and in church governments, corrupt officials do not give their position of power and influence without a fight. Renewal can be a long and difficult process. It is very important for Christians to understand that the battle they fight is not a physical struggle but a spiritual war. The Bible says, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapon of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:3-4). What are the spiritual weapons with which Christians can fight to overcome strongholds of evil influence? What are the strongholds?
The Rivers State Political impasse as case study reveals the inadequacies of our political leaders in all structures of governance in Nigeria. Apart from the fact that we operate faulty fiscal federalism with military hangovers the Rivers State case in question is not accidental but a product certain evils and faulty foundations that the dramatis personae have sown over the years hidden away from the public that God in His permissive will has allowed to dance naked for the unsuspecting public to see through and know that these characters are not what they professed they were nor do they have the interest of the masses at hearts but their parochial interest and ego that is at work now. Ask the dramatis personae can they give account of their stewardship in light of wealth they have acquired, government/state money secretly misused? The innocent blood shed in the days of cult’s violence in Rivers State traceable to their cults groups in the battles to capture power and control the State?
Do these characters compromised their allegiance to the true God, manipulate the judiciary system to get to power? Beyond what is known publicly are there things done secretly by these dramatis personae to offend God that has brought the anger of God upon Rivers State at this time. It is not just political disagreement by close associate or personal ego cum interest for higher offices that has occasion this macabre dance. The oil well dispute between Bayelsa and Rivers States has long been there. In what ways becoming Vice President or Chairman of Governors Forum better the socio-economic situation of Rivers State when in present tenure not completed, governance has replaced politicking? Does it give employments to the many unemployed youths; give health care, good water, good roads, electricity to the downtrodden in the rural and riverine areas of Rivers State? When arrogance and ego take over sense of judgment and sane reasoning, the result is pursuit of parochial interest, disrespect to higher authorities over you and speaking evil of them instead of submission and obedience (see Heb.13:7,17, 2 Pet. 2). Who gain in this fight? Certainly not the ordinary Rivers people.
What can the Church of Jesus Christ, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, the main representative of God in the earth and the main agent of God’s purposes for the world do in light of its mandate to the world as “light” and as “salt” (Matt. 5:13-16)? I can recall that before the elections in 2011 that brought these dramatis personae to power, I had cause to disagree with fellow ministers in the State, l changed my support for these political and religious bigots when it was obvious our goodwill and heritage as people have been compromised and the State discreetly submitted to powers of darkness while they trumpet the name of Christ in the day running to big churches and Ministers/Pastors with mega churches and followers. They recruit Pastors and voodoo prophets with mushroom prayers groups to pray and prophesy what they want to hear.
Pastors and supposed prophets were falling over running errand for these fake political messiahs in ways to curry favour and get these political leaders to come to their churches and donate thereby compromising the Church leaders. I spoke against this practice where pastors/priest run around politicians mixing politics with religion. The result the Church leaders and the Church lose credibility. Now you can see where are these pastors’ prophets? None is talking now and assume the role of peacemakers as the Church truly is. This is because they have been compromised. My attempt to correct this led me to write the piece entitled: “Using the Church for Partisan Politics: Pastors and Politicians, Beware”. If certain pastors failed the Church have not failed. The Church can do something to resolve the impasse to advance the cause of Christ. There are seven spiritual weapons mentioned in Ephesians chapter 6. These are truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God and prayer. Some of these weapons, such as righteousness and salvation, can be considered defensive weapons since they are intended to protect the Christian.
Others, such as the gospel of peace, the word of God and prayer can be considered offensive weapons because they can be used to overcome the forces of evil. The weapon of the faith can be used both defensively, together with prayer, to overcome the works of Satan. Concerning the weapon of prayer, God specifically commands us to pray for government leaders. Paul wrote, ‘I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority’ (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Since God had given his people the command to pray for government leaders, should be clear that he intends to use their prayers to change things in the government which are wrong.
What are strongholds? In the Old Testament, a stronghold was a fortress. It was a place where people or soldiers could hide from the enemy or from which they could attack those opposing them without fear of being overpowered themselves. King David hid in a ‘stronghold’ (probably a cave) in the Israeli desert when he was hiding from King Saul and from the Philistines (e.g. 2 Sam. 5:17). For the true Christian, God is his or her stronghold or fortress. The Bible says, ‘The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold’ (Ps. 18:2). When we consider 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 in the light of these uses of the word ‘stronghold’ in the Bible, it is evident that the strongholds referred to in this verse are ‘places’ (that is, institutions, or policies, or practices or attitudes, or beliefs, or possibly individuals or groups of individuals) in which Satan or evil hides or from which Satan attacks the society for his own evil purposes. Thus an evil practice (such as bribery or female circumcision or homosexuality) or an evil government policy (such as the policy of ethnic genocide recently practiced by the Yugoslavian government) could become a stronghold of Satan. The fact is that many wars are powerful strongholds through which Satan is able to effectively carry out his evil purposes of death, suffering and destruction against humankind.
On a more personal level, an attitude of pride by an individual or a group of people can be a very effective and powerful stronghold of evil. For an individual or even a whole nation, a preoccupation with sexual lust or self-indulgence can become a stronghold of evil through which Satan can carry out his evil intentions to morally destroy individuals, the ministry of Christian workers, or even whole nations. This strategy of Satan is working very effectively in certain part of the world today, especially in the West. Pride, the love of power and the love of money are probably the three most powerful strongholds of evil in the lives of political leaders and in the lives of many church leaders as well. According to the word of God, it was pride which brought the downfall of Satan (1 Tim. 3:6). So it should not surprise us that pride is such a powerful stronghold of evil in the lives of corrupt leaders today. The devil has not changed in his character. He still brings some of his most effective temptation of human beings through pride. Perhaps the greatest danger of pride is that we do not take it as seriously as we do sins in the areas of money or sex.
Pride seems harmless until we religious leaders of Jesus’ day brought Jesus strongest words of condemnation. He actually promised the Pharisees they would go to hell for their pride (Mt. 23:33). In the book of Proverb we are told, ‘Pride goes before destruction’ (Prov. 16:18). If we think about this, it is not hard to understand the great evil that lies behind pride. Pride is the evil force behind tribalism, a great curse that has caused the death of literally millions of Africans in our generation. Pride is often what makes entire nations go to war with each other. Pride is the hidden reason for fighting and division in churches. Such fighting can destroy the witness of the church in a community. Pride is a powerful stronghold in the lives of many human beings and in many Christians as well. The Bible tells us over and over again that God hates pride (Ps. 101:5; Prov. 6:16-17; 8:1321; Jas. 4:6).
The Bible tells us that we must humble ourselves before God (2 Chro. 7:14; Zeph. 2:3; Jas. 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:6) Another stronghold of Satan in the lives of many people is the desire for power and the love of money. The desire for power and the love of money are the things that motivate many people in the present world system of values. This particular stronghold also includes the love of material things (materialism) and the love of self (1 John 2:16). Another very powerful stronghold is sexual lust. How many church leaders in our time have destroyed their ministries, their marriages, their families and their ministries through sexual lust, immorality and adultery? There are other strongholds that are very destructive. One of these is bitterness. The Bible warns us that bitterness will cause unforgiveness, which can bring the judgment of God on a person’s life (Mt. 18:21-35) and which will also keep our prayers from being answered (Mt. 6:14-15; Mk. 11:25). The Bible says that anger, another stronghold, can give the devil a ‘foothold’ in a person’s life (Eph. 4:26-27; Jas 1:20). Resentment (hatred of another person) is related to the intention to commit murder (Mt. 5:21-22). Thus resentment can also be a stronghold in a person’s life. There are powerful strongholds in which the evil purposes of Satan can hide from which his evil purposes against humankind can be effectively carried out. Such things as fear, discouragement, hatred, doubt, jealousy, addictions, bad habits and broken human relationships can all become strongholds of evil in people’s lives.
The good news of 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 is that these, and all other strongholds of evil, can be broken or torn down by the use of the spiritual weapons given to us in Ephesians 6:13-18. The weapon of prayer, together with the weapon of faith, is the most powerful force in the universe to break stronghold of evil in individual lives as well as in the policies and practices of evil government and evil government leaders. This weapon is powerful because God Himself has commanded it and God will answer such prayers of faith. Prayer moves the hand that made the universe. In the following verses, consider that God has commanded and what he has promised concerning prayer. This, then is how you should pray; ‘Our Father in heaven… your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ (Mt. 6:9-10). Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.
The spirit is willing, but the body is week. (Mt. 26:41). Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Mt. 5:44) Pray for those who mistreat you (Lk. 6:28).I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority. (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Mt. 7:7).I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go throw yourself into the sea’, and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mk. 11:23-24).This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 Jn 5:14-15) The Spirit help us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the spirit himself intercedes for us. (Rom. 8:26)
Who are the spiritual enemies of God against whom we must use spiritual weapons? We tend to think they are human beings such as corrupt government or church leaders. The Bible says that human beings are not the real enemy. As we have just read, we are told to love and pray for our human enemies and for those who mistreat us (Mt. 5:44; Lk. 6:28). The Bible says that our real enemies are evil spirits – that is fallen angels and demons under Satan’s control. Ephesians 6:12 says, ‘our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’. It is because the real enemies are not human beings that human weapons of warfare are useless in this conflict. Here is an example of why only spiritual weapons can finally overcome political oppression and problems of corrupt leadership. This person will be followed by another leader. Experience shows that very often the new leader will be just as corrupt, or even more corrupt, than the person he followed. However, if the heart of an evil leader is changed (as a result of prayer) and the man is converted, there will be a great change for good in that country. How can an evil leader be persuaded to turn from his evil ways? The answer is that God can work in the person’s life in answer to prayer or through contact with the word of God or the gospel of peace. Prayer, the word of God and the gospel of peace are spiritual weapons. For an example of how this actually happened in history let us see how God overcame the stronghold of pride in the life of the proud and defiant Nebuchadnezzar had abusively scorned Daniel’s three friends with these words: “…if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand? “(Dan. 3:16).
To show the king his sovereign power, God proceeded to deliver Daniel’s three friends from the furnace right in front of Nebuchadnezzar’s eyes (Dan. 3:24-26). God did this because the three Hebrew men had faith in God (Dan. 3:17), which is a spiritual weapon, and because they had committed themselves to obey unconditionally the word of God (another spiritual weapon) by refusing to bow down to any idol or graven image (Ex. 20:4; Dan. 3:17-18). Nebuchadnezzar was greatly impressed with this display of God’s power (Dan. 3:28). But he was still a proud and defiant king. He still had a stronghold of pride in his life, so God continued to deal with him. The Bible says, ‘The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished’ (Prov. 16:5).
The Lord was about to punish Nebuchadnezzar for his pride and destroy this stronghold in his life. The Bible records that; “Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the foot of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, ‘Is not this great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty? The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, ‘This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.’ Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle.” (Dan. 4:29-33). After seven years of insanity, the stronghold of pride in Nebuchadnezzar’s life was finally broken. At last the king confessed, ‘Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble’ (Dan. 4:37).
In a more recent example in Africa, God dealt with an arrogant church leader who had a serious problem of pride in his life. In response to prayer (which is a spiritual weapon) for this man, God allowed the leader’s wife to give birth to a deformed child. The care needed to look after this special child has become a daily tool in the hands of God to break the power of pride in this leader’s life.
Written By Dr. Lewis Akpogena