"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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." - II Chronicles 7:14
These words are often used to offer hope to those who believe that only the one true God can turn our nation, or any nation, from its self-destructive ways. While not wanting to be pessimistic, hearing the truth is necessary if we are going to find a real solution to the problems facing our nation and, indeed, the world. In our present financial crisis (again), it has been rightly said by those in our own government and in the governments around the world, that if the United States were to default, not to pay its bills, the economic consequences would be almost instantaneously felt worldwide. Like never before in the history of the world, the nations of the world are tied together through trade and economic policies that have ripple effects through every nation on earth. But what about the words of II Chronicles 7:14?
Let me point out a few key words from that verse: First of all, the word "if." This is a conditional promise based on the actions of those to whom God is speaking. Secondly, God is speaking to those who are rightly called "MY people." This promise is given to those who have the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob on them. Thirdly, these people must humble themselves AND pray AND seek God's face AND turn from their wicked ways. God is not saying, "Pick one or two" and I'll see what I can do. These words were spoken specifically to Israel when the twelve tribes were still one nation under King Solomon. They were spoken to a people who were the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and who bore the name of their God, who had made His covenant with them and them alone, out of all the nations of the earth.
So did the people do it? Did they call on God and humble themselves and seek His face (draw near to Him in worship) and turn from their wicked ways? NO! The nation was divided under Solomon's son, Rehoboam, and in less than 250 years the nation of Israel was no more, though the descendants of Abraham continued through the line of Judah. Even those to whom these words were spoken directly did not respond to God's call and their land and their people were destroyed. The "if" is a big little word. Still, there are those today who claim this promise for the United States, even in our present circumstances.
Truthfully, these words and the promise they bring do not apply to America or to any other nation on earth today. In fact, they are at best a "placebo," a "pretend cure" for the real problems facing us as a people and as a nation. A placebo makes you THINK things will be OK, while the disease only progresses and ultimately leads to more serious consequences and even death. Well-meaning people are led to believe that they can sit in their homes and their churches and pray and claim God's promise for their nation and perhaps all will be well in the end. It is a false hope and it is used by some as a substitute that distracts people from getting up off their knees and actually DOING what God has called HIS people to do. Prayer is PART of our calling - but not our whole calling!
I'm a pastor and I believe prayer has power because God has promised to hear ... but not just any prayer. The Almighty God has given access to His throne only to those who confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Jesus told His disciples to ask in His name. God tells those who are His children through faith in Jesus Christ to pray, to ask, to seek and to find. He tells us to pray for our leaders and all those in authority over us ... not that they would do what WE want, but that they would so what GOD wants: TURN from their wicked ways and live! We so often selfishly pray for things that would have a positive impact on our own lives without thinking of the spiritual welfare of those who are spiritually dead, blind and ignorant of the truth. In our nation today it all seems to revolve around MONEY!!
Frankly, I'm tired of hearing about the Tea Party, or any other political group ... not because I disagree with some or even most of the things they are standing up for, but because it is simply another political movement seeking to do things for all the wrong reasons. We have taken the true God out of politics, out of our schools and even out of our churches (SOME churches). Any "god" will do. But the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will not give His glory to another. The task of true believers, true Christians, those who come to God, our Creator, through Jesus Christ, the "Seed of Abraham," is to point people to God, to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey whatever HE has commanded in His Word, the Bible. Our involvement in politics ought to be with the desire to proclaim HIS Name. Anything less is a distraction. It is our task to point out the truths of God's Word, whether people listen or not. Instead, even those who claim to be Christians fail to mention the Bible or the true God because they are either embarrassed, ashamed or intimidated. We have given up so much ground that we have settled for fighting insignificant battles that leave our nation floundering in unbelief and facing the judgment of the God whom most people have scorned.
The answer ... the only answer, is calling people to Jesus Christ and back to God's Word. THAT is what we should be doing, WHILE we are praying. When those in the church fail to believe God's Word or to preach about the cross, where Jesus suffered the wrath of God to reconcile all who believe to our Father in heaven, then the rest doesn't really matter. The demise of the United States is not future - though things will get worse ... it is a present reality. Our leaders are acting like two-year-olds and it is embarrassing and shameful. "I said I won't negotiate, so we're just talking." They treat a growing financial crisis as so much leverage to get re-elected and they govern by the polls rather than by conviction. And let's be fair, many preachers and teachers in the church, and Christians at large, do the same thing. Whatever is convenient, whatever won't make waves, whatever is best for ME ... that's what I'll do. Is THIS the way Jesus called His disciples to live?
What CAN we do? Preach the Word! Preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When the early believers were persecuted and scattered, they "preached the Word wherever they went" (Acts 8:4). First, you need to learn what the Word says. We are watching a DVD series by Russ Miller, founder of Creation, Evolution and Science Ministries, in our Education Hour and it is sad that most people even in the church today believe in some kind of evolution or have settled for "Intelligent Design" and the majority of those who claim to be Christians do NOT believe the Bible to be the very Word of God. Yet we pray some prayer and think Almighty God is going to heal our nation because of some promise given to Israel 3,000 years ago.
The principle of that promise is true: If those who are truly God's people by faith in Jesus Christ will humble themselves, confessing their sin and turning from it to commit their lives to Christ, God will heal "their land" - their territory ... beginning with their marriages, their families and their churches, and perhaps expanding to their communities, their schools, and who knows from there. Politicians talk about a "grass roots movement." We need a grass roots movement of true believers, a "remnant" if you will, to proclaim the truth of God's Word and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our energy should be devoted to HIS cause: "Your name and your renown, O LORD, are the desire of our hearts" (Isaiah 26:8).
Will WE turn our nation around? No!! Only God can do that. And it must begin with YOU! Don't think you can "throw up a prayer to the guy upstairs" and the God who created the universe will say, "Oh, thank you for asking. I'll get right on that." Humble yourself, seek HIM, turn from sin and watch God heal YOU, your marriage, your family, your church family and other relationships. Be the salt of the earth and the light of the world right where you are. Imagine what COULD happen if all the Christians in even one community gathered to worship, to pray, to love, to serve, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their neighbors. If you aren't willing to do that in your own home or your own church or your own community, how can you in good conscience ask God to do that in our nation??
It's time to stop talking and start doing. It's time to add to our prayers the actions that reveal hearts that are committed to Christ and to making the one true God known to those around us. Evangelism is not a four-letter word, it is the calling of every true believer. "They preached the Word wherever they went." Let's be about our Father's business. Whether you are a preacher or a politician or a teacher or a farmer or a wife and mother, or a husband and father or a youth or young adult, or a senior citizen ... if you are a true believer in the Christ you have a calling to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, to live in obedience to His Word and to call others out of darkness to behold His marvelous light and the freedom that only HE can give. Half-hearted devotion is no devotion at all.
There's a new heaven and a new earth in the future. We who believe in Jesus and who are His disciples are citizens of His kingdom, by grace through faith. He has given us a job to do, whether you are here in the United States or in any other nation around the world. You are His ambassador, an alien and a stranger in this world. Don't be distracted from your primary task as His disciple. Build your own house upon the ROCK and then help others to do the same. There's a big storm coming and only those who build on a firm foundation will stand. "No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 3:11). Whatever we may accomplish, whatever good we may do, may HIS Name be praised!!