The Role of the Church and the Role of Governments
[ Masterweb Reports ] – Human governments also have the authority to take actions which will help to relieve conditions of extreme poverty. The problem is that governments often do not make the right decisions or do not know what to do. Worse yet, many government officials are greedy, selfish and corrupt and are not willing to take the actions that would help solve the problems of unemployment and poverty. Such officials seem interested only in their own wealth, power and influence. At times some governments even oppose those individuals and agencies that try to help. Some years ago, a Christian organization set up a very low-cost feeding programme for the hungry in one African city. Other Christian heard about it and provided funds to expand the programme into more than one feeding centre in the city. When the organization providing the low-cost food approached the government for permission to increase the number of feeding centres, the government refused to help the poor, but it also hindered those who were willing to help.
What can Christian do in such a situation where the government not only refuses to help, but actually hinders those who are willing to help? The answer is they can appeal to God in prayers. Christians are commanded to pray for their political leaders (1 Tim.2:1-2). It is only the people of God whom God has promised to answer when they pray. The good news is that God has made specific promise about answering the prayers of his people (Jn.15:7; 16:23-24). Since praying for government officials is something the Bible commands Christian to do, they can be sure they are praying according to the will of God when they pray for these people. Consider the promise God gives to his people who pray according to his will: ‘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).
If God is truly God, and if it is God who has established the institution of human government as the Bible says he has (Rom.13:1), then God is willing to answer prayer for government officials regardless of the country. The problem is, are Christian really willing to pray for their government (Mt. 6:16-18)? Is the church willing to call the whole membership together to fast and pray if the situation is really bad (Joel 1:14)? There are steps which God expects his people to take. He will not likely intervene until his people show they are serious about doing what he commands. In the book of Joel, a locust plague was destroying the land because of the sins of the people nationwide. God called on his own people through the prophet Joel to a time of national fasting and repentance so that the disaster could be avoided (Joel 2:15-17). Some African countries today are in a situation of impending disaster just as the godly church leaders and their members who are willing to move the hand of God is willing to answer when his people are willing to do what he calls them to do.
God may answer such prayers by changing the hearts of government official. God change the heart of government official in the case of Nehemiah, when he appealed to the king to release him from his government duties so that he could return to Jerusalem to help his people rebuild the wall (Neh.24-6). God may answer the prayers of his people by putting a wise and godly man into a key government leadership position at a time of need. He did this when he made Joseph an important leader in the Egyptian government just before a terrible famine struck the country for seven years (Gen.41:41-43). God then used Joseph to save the whole nation from the effects of the famine by wise planning (Gen.41:33-36). God may also answer prayer by removing an existing government official and replacing him with a better official. He did this when he removed an evil advisor named Ahithophel, who had betrayed King David and replaced him with a wise man called Hushai the Arkite, who was loyal to David (2 Sam.17-14,23).
In some cases, God may answer prayer by sweeping away an entire government. He did this in the case of the corrupt Babylonian government under the leadership of King Belshazzar in the days of Daniel (Dan. 5:22-30). Secular history tells us that Babylon was overthrown when the Medes diverted the course of the Euphrates Rivers, which flowed under the city of Babylon, and the Medan army marched secretly into the city through the dry riverbed. In one night, the Babylonian government was overthrown by the hand of God (Dan. 5:30). God swept away the corrupt government of a modern African country some years ago in response to prayer. The worldwide leader of the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, called on Christians over the entire world to pray for the removal of this evil dictator and his government. Six months later, the dictator and his government were gone, driven out by the army of another country. In general, however, it is more likely to be the will of God to answer prayers f or a government by changing the hearts of government officials or by replacing worthless officials with good officials than it is by overthrowing an entire government. These examples from the Bible show us that God is able to intervene in any situation, including situations in Africa today, even when the situation seems hopeless.
If God’s people are willing to fast and pray with clean hearts, God is willing to intervene even in a nation on the brink of disaster. It is not that God does not have power to solve humanly impossible problems. He waits for true repentance, obedience, humility and prayer from his people. Unfortunately, some church leaders are so preoccupied with establishing their own power and influence in the church that they have no time to do what God wants them to do to save the nation. When this is the case, perhaps the local church members need to fast and pray that God will first humble such church leaders-even before they pray for their national leaders. To many people, the situations in Africa today seem beyond the power of God to change. War, famine, starvation, disease, poverty, tribalism, corruption and many other evils seem to be hopeless problems to solve. What can God really do? It is worthwhile at this point to look at a situation in history that was as bad as any in Africa today. The following true story from the Bible describes how God kept his word and performed a great deliverance in a humanly impossible situation.
Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. There was a great famine in the city. As the king of Israel was passing b y on the wall, a woman cried to him, ’Help me, my lord the king!’ The king replied … what ‘s the matter?’ she answered, this woman said to me, “Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son. “So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, “Give up your son so we may eat him, “but she had hidden him.’ (2 Kgs. 6:24-29) How bad can a situation be that people would eat their own children? It was in this unbearable situation that God acted according to his power and kept his word. The story continues. Elisha said, ‘Hear the word of the LORD. This is what the LORD says: About this time tomorrow, a seah o flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a skekel at the gate of Samaria.’ The officer on whose arm the king was learning said to the man of God, ‘Look, even if the LORD should open the floodgate of the heavens, could this happen?’
You will see it with your own eyes,’ answered Elisha, ‘but you will not eat any of it!’Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. The said to each other, ‘Why stay here until we die? If we say, “We’ll go into the city”- the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.’ At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, not a man was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariot and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, ‘Look, the king of Israel has hire the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us! So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horse and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives. The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp and entered one of the tents. They ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.
Then they said to said to each other, ‘We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight punishment will overtakes us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.’ So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, ‘we went into the Arameans army… they found the whole road strewn with the clothing and equipment the Arameans had thrown away in their headlong flight. So the messengers returned and reported to the king. Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. So a seah of flour sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley sold for a skekel, as the LORD had said. Now the king had put the officer on whose arm he learned in charge of the gate, and the people trample him in the gateway, and he died, just as the man of God had foretold when the king came down to his house. It happen as the man of God had said to the king: ‘About this time tomorrow, a seah of flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a skelel at the gate of Samaria.’ (2 Kgs. 7:11;14-18).
The lesson of this story is that God keeps his word. No problem or person on earth can prevent God from keeping his word. The same God who did this in the nation of Israel long ago is well able to keep his word in Africa today. God is able to work miracles of love of love and compassion to overcome even disastrous national problems when his people come to him in repentance, humility, prayer and faith. Concerning hunger, consider the Gospel story of a young boy with a small lunch and five thousand hungry men. This story is found in all four Gospels to illustrate how God is able to multiply the little we have to meet an impossible human need. In this situation there were between ten and fifteen thousand people actually present, since the Bible tells us that there were ‘about five thousand men, besides women and children’ (Mt. 14:21). The human part of the solution to the problem here was the willing and generous heart of one young boy. In John’s version of the story, Jesus purposely challenged the disciples with the impossibility of the situation. He asked them, ‘where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ (Jn.6:5). Philip answered his question with the obvious impossibility of the situation: ‘Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite! (Jn. 6:7).
In Mark’s version of the story, two other interesting facts emerge. First, the disciples of Jesus do exactly as we tend to do. They asked the Lord to just make the problem go away. ‘Send the people away’ (Mk. 6:36), they said to Jesus. But that is not how Jesus planned to solve the problem –then or now. In reply, Jesus said something that must have sounded utterly impossible to the disciples. ‘You give them something to eat’ (Mk. 6:37, emphasis mine). That was just what they did not want to hear, but that is exactly how Jesus planned to solve the problem! So also today, it is God’s will to meet the needs of the poor in the church through his people. It is also God’s will to use responsible human governments to help meet the needs of unemployment and poverty in a nation in response to the prayers of God’s people for that government. Jesus knows we do not have the ability or resources ourselves to meet the impossible needs of the poor in Africa, but he still tells us to do it. Why? Because he is God, and he has the power to do what we cannot even imagine. He simply wants from us a willing and obedient heart such as he found in the small boy who offered Jesus the little he had to feed the great crowd. Who will care for the needy in our society? Except we care, the people perish. It is possible, hence we established Helping Hands Rescue Centre for the purpose. You can volunteer service, pray and give towards the project.
Dr. Lewis Akpogena (08033399821, firstname.lastname@example.org ), A Christian devotional writer/Minister, Consultant and Educationist reports from Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
*Photo Caption – Dr. Lewis Akpogena