THE BIG "IF"
America is at a crossroads again. We are watching the system designed by our forefathers in the Constitution strained like never before. Instead of choosing between good and better in leadership, we find ourselves bitterly divided so that compromise to find the best direction for the country whoever is elected this fall as President seems unlikely, if not impossible. The same kind of unrivaled partisanship filters down through both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court where the choices boil down not to the best justices, but ones who can be predicted for their votes ahead of time. Most of us who have been around for some time watching this system stand amazed at the levels to which the governance of our nation has fallen. This does not mean that there are not any good people seeking to lead our country in the right direction, but there are too many headed toward selfish ends and practices which are in defiance of our country’s foundations and values.
To those who look at our nation through the lens of the Bible, we see obvious parallels with what happened to Israel in the Old Testament. I am not confusing the calling of Israel and challenge to America, but rather, observing what happened to them and what is happening to us. It is without question that many of the guiding principles upon which our country was founded and the very reason people came to this country had to do with their Christian faith. The majority of Americans claim to be Christians.
If so, the familiar text from the Old Testament needs to be heard again in our day. “If my people who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14) Some have called the verse the big “if.” It doesn’t apply to those who claim no belief, but to us who are people of faith, we need to accept our responsibility of praying and seeking God’s will with more than just lip service. This is not a day to put our heads in the sand and pretend all will be well. We have always known there was a nuclear threat from enemies, we have survived world wars and have lived through various social changes. We have certainly been blessed by the highest standard of living and incredible technological advances beyond our imagination. However, we are losing our bearings, headed for internal conflict and seeing hopelessness prevail like we have never seen before.
The verse cited has much to say to us today. There are three things to consider in what the writer said: the problem, the solution and the result. The Jewish people had a problem of pride, self-sufficiency and sin. They were immensely proud and felt that God would not harm them regardless of their actions. The Bible declares that pride goes before a fall. We have a misplaced pride in America. There is a vast group of leaders who have no sense of obligation to a higher power or recognition that we owe our existence as a nation to God.
Self-sufficiency was a problem also. The Jews submitted themselves to God where there was a difficulty from which they needed extrication. They soon went back to regular worship which contained more empty ritual than real prayer and sacrifice. It is very clear from the Bible that God desires obedience more than ritual worship.
Sin was at the heart of the problem for those people long ago. They compromised their position with God by worshipping other gods and adopting pagan practices. It is not prejudice against individuals when we call attention to God’s word. If we compromise the truth we need to be prepared for the consequences. We can’t be responsible for what other’s do, but we can be people of prayer and start in our own lives to root out anything which God does not approve and bless.
The solution lies in the words, “If my people…” Christians need to quit complaining about what others who do not claim to believe as if there is no choice. If we want things to change in America, we as believers must play a strategic part in that change. It is high time that the members of the churches in America wake up and wise up. It is about far more than just voting. We don’t need another voting block, but wise, aware and passionate people about why this country came into being and what it will take to make it right again.
Three strategies are mentioned in this verse. They can be summed up in these words: humility, prayer and repentance. Humbling ourselves before God is absolutely necessary. We need a broken spirit sent from God, not just ringing hands if our usual routine of life is interrupted or the retirement fund isn’t growing fast enough. What will it take to bring America to her knees? I shudder at the thought. Just as quickly I would say that we should not doubt that it could happen.
Praying and seeking God’s face is vital to our hope. I am reminded of the story of a textile worker in a factory with a sign that said, “If your threads get tangled, send for the foreman.” A new worker soon saw her threads become tangled. The harder she tried the matter got worse. Finally, she became desperate and called for the foreman. When he came, he asked her why she had not called for him earlier. She replied, “I did my best.” He answered with a smile, “Remember, doing your best is sending for me.” America, do your best. Seek God’s face.
Turning from sin is never easy nor without pain. Let’s not kid ourselves, sin is fun at least for a while. Sin is deceitful. Pleasure never lasts forever. If God’s people live the same way as those who are not God’s people, there is little hope for change in America. Sin must be identified and rejected beginning with God’s people.
There is a promised result in this magnificent old verse. God promises to hear from heaven. He promises to forgive and heal their land. I am convinced God can and will bring healing to our land, our state, our community, our churches, our families and to us individually if—remember the big if—if we will be faithful and return to Him.
I urge you to celebrate America’s birthday this July not only with fireworks and fun, but with an eye toward the future and the wisdom to seek God’s leadership and blessings like never before. We are at a crossroads. The future, not only for us but for those generations who come after us, has never been more in our hands.