The Gospel in the Face of Adversity

Prayer is a spiritual booster to your action rather than a magic wand.

I had to take a break because the past two weeks have been soooooo much to handle for me personally. Being Nigerian, it has been a tough time emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

About two weeks ago, thousands of young Nigerians took to the streets demanding an end to a rogue police unit that had become popularly known for brutal violence, torture, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings. This unit known as the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) which was set up to fight armed robbery as the name obviously implies, became the armed robbers.

These protests garnered international attention, trended online for days and eventually brought some states to a standstill. The Nigerian government ‘disbanded’ SARS swiftly and this would have been a historic victory, had this not been the fourth ‘disbandment’ of this rogue unit over the past four years. Knowing the nature of dishonesty and lip service that the Nigerian government is accustomed to, the youth were not going to back down without the enforcement of this new disbandment and an open prosecution of officers found guilty.

Unfortunately, on the 20th of October 2020, the protests turned deadly as the Nigerian Army opened fire on peaceful protesters who were sitting, waving the Nigerian flag and singing the national anthem at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State. As I mentioned earlier, honesty is not one of the traits the Nigerian Government is known for and so it was no surprise that various government agencies moved to discredit evidence of the Lekki massacre that surfaced online.

So where does the gospel come in in all of this? How can we be Christian and live the gospel in the face of adversity?

From the beginning of the protests, I saw several Christian ‘takes’ on how the protests were good or not good for various reasons. I will summarize all that I saw into two types of gospel.

  1. The Proud Gospel: Why do I call these people proud? It is simple because they lacked empathy. A key component of Christ’s ministry on earth was showing compassion and you cannot have compassion without empathy.

These people felt that the protesters were wasting their time or perhaps they were jobless and that it was not going to bring results. These people also judged people for expressing their anger towards the government or challenging church leaders to speak up for justice.

To be clear, I am not endorsing being rude to leaders but leaders must be open to criticism from those they lead. A leader who does not want to be questioned needs to step down and be led. Whether in the secular or Christian world, leaders must be accountable.

When people discovered warehouses where palliatives for Covid-19 were stocked up and these poor and hungry citizens flocked in to take food, some Christians used the gospel as a tool to judge them for taking what was not theirs. Again, I am not condoning stealing but empathy is key. And quite frankly, I am glad that many families will now be able to eat a decent meal for the next couple months rather that those food items going bad in the warehouses. So, make of that what you will.

In Matthew 15:32, the bible says “Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

It is the living that can receive salvation and we know that many people in Nigeria are barely alive and many more have died from hunger and starvation. Never assume a position that is so self-centered that you fail to extend some empathy and grace.

I do not support people who broke into private property or were looting other items . However, I think if you had four kids at home with nothing to feed them and you came across a warehouse where the government was hoarding food items meant for you, you would get some to feed your kids. Or maybe not.

2. The Lazy Gospel: This group judged the protesters for protesting because what we need to do is pray more. Of course prayer is key but prayer does not absolve you of any other action.

Prayer is a spiritual booster to your action rather than a magic wand.

In the book of Esther, when news got to her that Haman wanted to kill the Jews, Esther told Mordecai to gather the Jews for a period of fasting and prayer. And what was she going to do? She would approach the king.

Esther 4:16-17: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

Esther knew that prayer and fasting were needed not as a replacement for action but as a spiritual cover, source of strength and as a booster. Noteworthy also, is the fact that she was willing to give her life for the Jews if both prayer and action failed. Thankfully, they didn’t.

So, the excuse of not protesting or acting because you are praying is in clear contradiction of what scripture upholds. This post is certainly not exhaustive but the bible will shed more light on prayer and accompanying action.

One thing to note, is that you cannot be more christian than Christ.

In times of adversity, Jesus never chose pride. He told the men who wanted to stone the adulterous woman to cast a stone if they were without sin.

He also didn’t pray without action. He could have sent the hungry 5,000 away without food. After all, I am certain he shared a word from God’s throne and that should have been more than enough. But he fed them.

Proverbs 24:10 says “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.”

I encourage us, as individuals and especially as Christians to stand up for what is right, particularly in the face of adversity and injustice. Speak up, defend the poor. And do not just do it in the secret place. Do it in the open. Refuse pride and reject laziness.

I pray for God’s strength and direction for us.

Heart to Heart: How do you deal with adversity?