By Femi Aribisala
The Lord our God is a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.
The devaluation of the naira is the talk of the town. It is on everyone’s lips. From 200 to the dollar, the naira dropped as low as 400, and then rallied again to 310. Although the government has refused to devalue the currency officially, Nigerians know it has already been devalued unofficially.
This has provided the excuse for skyrocketing prices nationwide. From the market woman to the barber to the tailor, everyone has inflated their prices ostensibly because of the depreciation in the value of the naira.
As a result, a gloom has fallen over Nigeria. Companies are laying off their staff to the barest minimum. Foreigners are packing their bags; going back home. Everyone is bracing up for a tough 2016. What does all this mean for the children of God? What is in store for us in these difficult times?
The true believer in Christ Jesus is immune to the situations and circumstances in Nigeria. Time was when they used to affect him. But then he heeded the call of Christ who says: “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). When the believer puts his trust in the Lord, he enters into God’s rest. That means he is no longer at the mercy of the vagaries of the Nigerian economy. Like Jonah, he can now sleep in the storm. “(God) gives sleep to his loved ones.” (Psalm 127:2).
Although the believer in Christ might still live physically in Nigeria, spiritually he has been translated from Nigeria (the kingdom of darkness) into the kingdom of God. (Colossians 1:13). He now lives in Nigeria not as a Nigerian, but as a stranger and a foreigner. (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13). Indeed, he lives in Nigeria as an Ambassador of Christ. (Corinthians 5:20). He is now essentially a representative of the kingdom of God in Nigeria.
The true believer is that man (or woman) who is crucified to the world. (Galatians 6:14). He no longer rejoices in the world, or in the things of the world. Instead, he belongs to: “the circumcision who worship God in the spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3). He puts no trust in the economic policies of governments. Indeed, he does not operate according to the dictates of national economies. His trust is in the Lord his God.
The difference is clear. The Nigerian economy is subject to change. It has ups and downs. There may be dollar-shortages today and dollar surpluses tomorrow. There may be price increases today and price decreases tomorrow. But these ups and downs are non-existent in the kingdom of God.
Indeed, all the dollars in the world belong to God. God owns the world, and everything in it. (Psalm 50:12). The job of the kingdom ambassador in Nigeria is to intercede for divine help for Nigeria, his country of accreditation, from his home-country; the kingdom of God.
By their fruits
Therefore, we can tell a man’s true nationality by the fruit of his lips. Jesus says: “By their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:20). The sons of this world in Nigeria today are busy lamenting and complaining. They are decrying the situation in the land. The sons of the kingdom, on the other hand, are not bothered. You will not hear them complaining. You will not hear them moaning and groaning about price increases. In everything, they give thanks, for that is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning them. (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Jesus warned his disciples in his day: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is at hand. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let those who are in the middle of her depart. Let those who are in the country not enter therein. For these are days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20-22).
Accordingly, when the Roman army surrounded Jerusalem in AD 70, they met no Christians in the city. The Christians heeded Jesus’ warning and fled to the mountains; to a town in Peraea called Pella. Over 1 million Jews were slaughtered by the Roman army, as recorded in Josephus’ “Antiquities of the Jews.” But not a single Christian was killed.
Similarly, when the sons of this world come to Christ, they learn from him that Nigeria is the terrain of the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10). Therefore, they follow Jesus’ counsel and move all their prized possessions out of Nigeria.
Jesus says: “Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).
So what do we have? Those who are true followers of Jesus have moved all their valuables out of Nigeria into the kingdom of heaven. When the thief comes, as he invariably does in Nigeria, all he finds are old newspapers, coke cans and empty cartons. A robbery therefore only occasions thanksgiving. The believer is grateful to God for the wisdom to relinquish all his vanities beforehand. All that remains valuable to him is God and in God.
God of Elijah
When there was famine in the land, God prepared a raven to feed Elijah and gave him water to drink through a brook. When the brook dried up, he sent him to a widow in Zarephath who fed him supernaturally during the famine. “She and Elijah and her family had enough food for a long time. The LORD kept the promise that his prophet Elijah had made, and she did not run out of flour or oil.” (1 Kings 17:15-16).
God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. “Elijah was just as human as we are.” (James 5:17). The same way God sustained Elijah in the days of old during a famine, so will he sustain his children today in Nigeria’s famine of foreign exchange. All we need to do is put our trust in him, depend on him and rely on him. For the Lord our God is “a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” (Isaiah 25:4).
Beloved, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Draw strength, confidence and comfort from his completed work. In all our afflictions in Nigeria, the Lord himself is afflicted; and the angel of his presence will save us. In his love and his pity, he will redeem all our losses. (Isaiah 63:9).
Thus says the Lord: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’” (Isaiah 43:2-3).