Is God in Control of a Nation’s Affairs? Seeing From the Eyes of a Malaysian Christian
The recent six-state elections on 12 August 2023 held few surprises for most Malaysians. Surveys and political analysts predicted an accurate outcome, and the term “3 versus 3” became a catchphrase – each coalition winning three states for itself; Selangor, Penang, Negeri Sembilan by Pakatan Harapan, and Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu by Perikatan Nasional.
Depending on one’s political persuasion, some feel vindicated by their party’s stand, while others feel a sigh of relief that their voted party held onto their seats. Some parties were crushed, followed by the usual finger-pointing. It is not my place in this writing to engage in political discourse. There are plenty of polemics out there, if one cares to scroll or to use the common phrase, “just google”.
A country with deep divisions
What has become obvious is that our country is deeply divided. It is the urban versus the rural, the Malay-Muslim majority versus the non-Malay minority. Party in-fighting led to boycotts, sabotages and lower voter turnout due to growing disillusionment. It is a painful narrative and one that we as Christians need to be engaged in. How do we be responsible citizens for good, seeking and praying for the nation’s welfare?
I have noticed that amongst Christians, there is no consensus. From my observation, many are ready to throw in the towel, calling it quits and migrating if the opportunity arises. After all, if you are of Chinese or Indian descent, your forefathers were economic migrants to the then Malaya. So what is wrong in us wanting to move again, and go on to greener pastures? Some have totally given up on the country. A friend commented to me wryly, “I love my country but my country does not love me.”
These are hard questions to grapple with. How should a Christian respond to political changes, especially when our “dream” of what Malaysia should look like, remains what it is, a dream?
God is in control of a nation’s affairs
Firstly, we need to rest knowing that our God is the sovereign Lord. He is the Creator God and totally in control of a nation’s affairs, including Malaysia. The Lord will move people and events to fulfil His good plans for His people and the nation. I reflect on how Daniel prayed and praised the Lord when God revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to him:
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.” (Daniel 2:20b-22)
Daniel was in a foreign land, caught in events that were beyond his control. However, this prayer and others in the book of Daniel reveal a man who stayed the course in his allegiance to his God. Daniel served faithfully in the courts of the Babylonian King, but remained loyal to his faith practices; abstinence from certain foods and praying regularly. For Daniel, it was not an easy balance, between allegiance to the Lord and being a loyal official of the King’s Court. His rise to prominence led to court intrigues and traps being set for him by his enemies.
If we say that God is sovereign and He is a God of history, we have to come to grips that eventually things will turn out for the good of His name and glory. It may be accomplished in our lifetime or at a later time. In Daniel’s case, victory was certain and he saw the hand of God working on his behalf and that of his three compatriots; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel 3:26-30).
Pray and seek the Lord for Malaysia
Secondly, we need to pray. Many Bible verses were quoted in messages over the digital space prior to the state elections. However, I did not come across 2 Chronicles 7:14: “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
This verse is most uncomfortable. The context was the Lord appearing to Solomon at night. Solomon had just completed the construction of the temple of the Lord and his royal palace. It seemed like everything was going right. Yet, the Lord anticipated a time when the people needed to own up to their wicked ways and repent. There are no two ways about it. The Lord will respond to the humble prayers of His people.
How, then, should I pray for Malaysia? I find it so much easier to pray God’s Word back to Him. I cannot pretend to know His divine will for Malaysia. But I do know that I can pray scripture verses for the good of the land and its people. I can pray that He will raise up god-fearing men and women who will have the interest of all people, and not merely seek their own selfish gains.
I can do my part to understand the struggles and pain of those of other races and religions. I can pray to be that bridge for good to my neighbours. I will pause to speak to my Malay neighbour, a retired civil servant, to cultivate some semblance of friendship beyond being mere acquaintances. I will talk to the Malay or Indian Grab drivers if they are willing to engage in a conversation with me. These are just baby steps to build understanding, but I figure I need to start somewhere.
Will you join me, or perhaps you have some other suggestions too?
About the Author
Rev Tan Meng Poo continues to volunteer for Our Daily Bread Ministries, even after his retirement from the ministry. He is an ordained minister with the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia.
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