Transforming Nations

The following is distilled and adapted from a July 9, 2015 blog post
by Pastor Sunday Adelaja

Don’t miss the striking quote below by Benjamin Franklin regarding the importance of belief in God.


The questions “What makes nations great?” and “Why are some nations rich and others poor?” cannot but trouble the heart of every avid student of history.

We live in an unfair world, where some men and nations acquire their wealth in ways other than we would like. Yet it is possible to discover principles and secrets for the greatness of nations. By pushing past the obvious factors of population, geographical location, human development, education, labor force, natural resources listed by experts in political science and anthropology we will discover that MEN AND NATIONS ARE NOT GREAT BY THE VIRTUE OF THEIR WEALTH, BUT BY THE WEALTH OF THEIR VIRTUE.

As an African, I don’t have to look far to see that material wealth alone is not enough to build a great nation. There are many countries in the world, especially in developing countries of Africa, Asia and South America that are enormously wealthy in natural resources and yet have a poor population.

In contrast Singapore cannot pride herself in an abundance of natural resources. Yet this country has become a modern day miracle; one of the few countries that has moved from the third world to the first in one generation. Today Singapore’s per capital GDP is higher than that of the United States of America. Singapore’s secret is the uncompromising virtue of its leader Lee Kwan Yew, to establish honesty as a rule of building the nation.

Switzerland is another country made great by the values taught by the famous Protestant pioneer, John Calvin. Switzerland, does not possess vast natural resources, but it is abundantly wealthy in values, virtues and godly principles. Hence, Switzerland has always been in the top countries with the highest standard of living in the world.

Japan, Sweden, and Austria are not endowed with an abundance of natural resources. Yet because they have developed their wealth of virtues, they live better today than most countries with vast natural resources.

One man whose life demonstrated this truth was Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the U.S. He is more respected than most American presidents, and considered one of the greatest Americans to ever have lived. He was an author and a painter, an inventor, a politician and an ambassador. He built libraries, hospitals, businesses, insurance companies and even a fire department. He helped write the declaration of independence and the constitution of the United States of America.

And he credited all these achievements to the virtues he cultivated early in life. In fact, Franklin considers application of these thirteen virtues to be his greatest discovery (temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility). Franklin concluded, “There never was a truly great man who was not at the same time virtuous.”

The same could be said of nations, that there never was a truly great nation that was not at the same time virtuous. But where did Franklin get his virtue? Consider how his own virtue was shaped by his belief in God:

We stand at the crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. We choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value system we have selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are, in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make.

Those who believe there is one God who made all things and who governs the world by this providence will make many choices different from those who do not.

Those who hold in reverence that being who gave them life and worship Him through adoration, prayer, and thanksgiving will make choices different from those who do not.

Those who believe that mankind are all of a family and that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to man will make many choices different from those who do not.

Those who believe in a future state in which all that is wrong here will be made right will make many choices different from those who do not.

Those who subscribe to the morals of Jesus will make many choices different from those who do not.

Since the foundation of all happiness is thinking rightly, and since correct action is dependent on correct opinion, we cannot be too careful in choosing the value system we allow to govern our thoughts and actions.

And to know that God governs in the affairs of men, that He hears and answers prayers, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, is, indeed, a powerful regulator of human conduct.

For a nation to become great, it must first identify its national values, enumerate its virtues and formulate its value system. The greatest task of all is to developing a virtuous culture in her people. The citizens of the land, the peoples of the nation must be made strong in their convictions of these values. These values and virtues must become the wealth of the people, they must become their pride. They must be reflected in their lifestyle, in their film and movie industries. This value system must be ingrained in their educational system. They must be proclaimed in their pulpits. Homes and families must be built on the wealth of these virtues.

When a nation succeeds in making her people strong in virtues, the nation is rich already because:

  • They go to their jobs to produce rather than just go to get salaries.
  • They go to their schools to study and learn rather than to simply get a certificate.
  • They treat their fellow men above themselves instead of mistreating them with utter neglect and negligence.
  • They strive to produce quality goods and services, instead of just looking for the money.
  • They strive to give their best rather than just making an impression.
  • This kind of people seek the betterment and advancement of their country before they ask what their country will do for them.
  • Such a people are a people of service, not those who want to be served.
  • They are a people who want to give and sacrifice rather than exploit or take advantage of others.

It is high time for modern nations to realize that without moral absolutes everything becomes relative. Nations must begin to realize that values that are not taught are not caught. Countries must begin to impact understanding of why they exist to their citizenry. Countries of our time and age must realize that teaching skills and professions in schools is not enough to build a great nation. Morals, ethics, values and virtues must become the most important part of a national development program.


By Pastor Sunday Adelaja