It is a common saying that in politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies, there only are permanent interests. Politicians in Nigeria especially, are free to move from one political party to another if they think it can guarantee their survival either locally or nationally. Survival is the name of the game, and it’s not just politics, people will lick others’ feet, steal, kill, abandon principle, all for survival. Not just the survival of life but of interests, a lifestyle or status and the progression of it.
It is usually clear what one would never do until survival comes in competition with principle. I’ve seen men stay away from their activist friends and acquaintances because their friendship could stand in the way of their promotion at work or their career progression. We see in our world the continual neglect of child care by parents because they have to survive, so they have no time for their children. We see men who have been previously perceived as right thinking people change overnight on getting to the corridors of power. Survival has become a god we all now worship.
When does choosing become a dilemma? It does when one god or the other is on both sides—especially if the god of survival is on both sides. Other smaller gods easily give way to the god of survival. When a decision is to be made and the god of self desire competes with the god of survival, the choice is easy. For example, when a man who desires in his inwards parts to be honest is faced with the choice of dishonesty on one hand and honesty which may result in seizure of his means of livelihood on the other, the fleshly man, a high percentage of the time, will bow to the god of survival and keep his job. There are a few cases in the museums of history when this does not happen and it is a big deal; because it’s not the norm. On the flip side, some men who see dishonesty as the way forward may act honest a few times when they have a honest boss and their survival is at stake. When the natural man is in a dilemma, the god of survival is big enough to carpet any other god or God.
He is considered a fool who bows to any other god at the expense of the god of survival. Men may applaud you for bowing to the god of passion and lust, as long as you protect yourself in order to preserve your survival. You will be applauded, by popular opinion, for being a fraudster, a randy teacher or a thief in government, as long as you don’t do it at the expense of your career survival. When the warning “be careful” goes forth, we are simply saying, it’s ok if you’ve decided to continue doing wrong, just tread softly so as not to hurt the god of survival.
Many were surprised recently, when a state governor in Nigeria, whom they believed had done his best to provide physical infrastructure for the people of his state was voted out by the same people because they thought he had provided them physical infrastructure at the expense of “stomach infrastructure”—another name for the god of survival.
Man’s interests, career, business, life, lifestyle and status are inseparably tied with the god of survival, and the god of survival is worshipped through those mediums. If you find a proliferation in any profession, it is because the god of survival appears to be favouring that profession for that time. Think of the proliferation of pastoral ministry, hip-hop music, Nigerian politics and the likes. In the past, the pastoral ministry wasn’t a multi-billion dollar ministry as it is today, thus “the labourers were few”, but today, it is, and now “the labourers are plenty” but the field remains un-harvested. In my denomination, it is still not one of the highest paying jobs, so people might still call you foolish when you abandon a more lucrative career path for service in the ministry.
Even though it is evident in everyday life that the god of survival only offers temporary hope, men still worship it—at least they can enjoy it while it lasts. This hope is cut short by the loss of the mediums through which the god of survival is worshipped, the ultimate being the loss of life itself.
But Jesus said something revolutionary as recorded by Matthew, He said: Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 10:28). Jesus here confronts man’s tendency to worship the god of survival and also points us to the supremacy of the Creator over the temporary actions of the god of survival. God’s dealings are permanent as opposed to the temporary nature of the dealings of the god of survival.
A few verses later, Jesus also challenges man’s tendency to sacrifice anything on the altar of family relevance or social/societal relevance and acceptance, all which are mediums of worship of the god of survival; he says: “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. ” Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. “For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:32-39).
Jesus recognizes that the god of survival is a major hindrance to committing to Him completely and thus He uses rather strong words in the above quoted passage. It is matter of life and death and He deals with it with such solemn words which cannot be overlooked. If anyone would come after Jesus, He cannot place his emotional, physical, social, or familial survival above love for Christ. You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. (see Matt. 22:37)
Many have become enslaved by the god of survival such that they’d rather keep silent when the cause of God is at stake because speaking may set them against the god of survival.
We witness misinterpretations of scripture by religious people when it comes in competition with survival. When people prefer to keep silent rather than challenge some priests of the god of survival, even in the church, God is not pleased and He says:
“Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. “When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. “Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself. “Again, when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I place an obstacle before him, he will die; since you have not warned him, he shall die in his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. “However, if you have warned the righteous man that the righteous should not sin and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; and you have delivered yourself.” (Ezekiel 3;17-21 NASB)
The fallen natural man really strongly considers survival as utmost to any other thing, but spiritual men of God who are totally sold out to God pledge thus:
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39)
They do not believe that the fires of Nebuchadnezzar, nor the threat of King Ahasuerus which was instigated by Haman, such things which are agents of the god of survival, would be able to alter their show of allegiance to the God who created them. (see Dan. 3:16; Esther 4:16). The threat of the Jewish religious leaders in collaboration with Roman kings and governors was not enough to barricade the spread of Christianity by the early Christians; rather, as Paul puts it “my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel”. (Philippians 1:12); simply put, the god of survival cannot stop the spread of the gospel through anyone who is sold out to God; whose whole existence seeks to please God. They say:
“for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8)
So even though the god of survival is a prominent god in today’s world, it does not influence the decision making of the spiritual man who has committed his life to the Lord Jesus Christ. Because they do not belong to the category of people “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and
whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Philippans 3:19) Ellen White writes:
“Many who profess to be Christ’s followers have an anxious, troubled heart because they are afraid to trust themselves with God. They do not make a complete surrender to Him, for they shrink from the consequences that such a surrender may involve. Unless they do make this surrender they cannot find peace.
There are many whose hearts are aching under a load of care because they seek to reach the world’s standard. They have chosen its service, accepted its perplexities, adopted its customs. Thus their character is marred and their life made a weariness. The continual worry is wearing out the life forces. Our Lord desires them to lay aside this yoke of bondage. He invites them to accept His yoke; He says, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Worry is blind and cannot discern the future; but Jesus sees the end from the beginning. In every difficulty He has His way prepared to bring relief. “No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Matthew 11:30; Psalm 84:11.
Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us of which we know nothing.”[i]
So, like Joshua, I say “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; (or whether the god of survival), but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”” [ii]
[i] Ellen G. White, Help In Daily Living, p. 20,21
[ii] An adaptation of Joshua 24:15