Well, the 2012 election is finally over. In some ways, I’m glad. My wife can tell you that I’m somewhat of a political junkie, especially during election years. For about a year now talk radio has been on in my car during the day and political pundits have been on my TV screen at night. The overwhelming majority of the people I follow on Twitter are political and news media types. My Facebook friends who aren’t interested in politics probably wanted to de-friend me during the presidential debates due to being sick of my running commentary popping up on their monitors every two minutes. I am very interested in what goes on in my country. However, a big part of me is ready to take a break from it all for a little bit.
Is it because my personal preferences were not realized yesterday? Sure, that’s part of it. While Mitt Romney was not who I consider to be the best candidate for President, I considered him to be a better choice than President Obama, and I am disappointed and somewhat discouraged that the President won. However, I also noticed some feelings of anxiety stirring within me as it became more and more apparent over last evening that the President – and his party’s immoral policies (abortion and same-sex marriage) and unwise decisions (universal health care, higher taxes, a lack of concern about the debt crisis and a lack of doing anything to fix it) – were going to stay in power over the next four years. My wife began telling me that she was worried and anxious as well. I realized that this was even more serious than my disappointment and discouragement, because as a Christian I am commanded by my God to not be anxious about anything (Phil. 4:6-7; Matt. 6:25-34). Focusing on the current political landscape is a stumbling block towards me obeying that command (Matt. 18:7-9), and so I’m going to try to focus on other things for a bit.
Before I do, I think it proper to talk to my fellow Christians here in the U.S. who are disappointed with yesterday’s results and scared, frustrated, and angry. Brethren, we need to remember a few things. First of all, our God is in control. He has never stopped being in control. He has always been in control when it comes to the affairs of man in government, and he always will be. It was God who put the President in power and kept him in power (Dan. 2:21; 4:17, 34-35; Rom. 13:1-2). Therefore, it is God, not the President or any congressman, senator, or governor, who has the ultimate authority (Matt. 28:18). Jesus is head over everything (Eph. 1:20-22; 1 Pet. 3:22). Jesus is King of kings…and Presidents (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 1:5). No matter who resides in the Oval Office, God still rules supreme.
As Christians, we must trust in his authority. We must remember his promise that all things work together for good to those who love him (Rom. 8:28). We must remind ourselves that God is on our side, and since that is true, “who can be against us?”(Rom. 8:31-34). Far worse things could happen to us than President Obama remaining in office…and yet God has promised us that he is with us and keep us on the winning side even if those terrible things were to happen to us (Rom. 8:35-39). So no matter what President Obama may do to our religious freedom, our economic prosperity, or our health care over the next four years…we are still in the hands of a God who loves us and who will take care of us.
Why Did God Allow This To Happen? Ask Habakkuk…
“Jon,” you might be saying, “that sounds all well and good, but here’s what I don’t understand. Since God is ultimately in control, why would he allow this President who has promoted such ungodly actions as abortion and homosexual ‘marriage’ to keep that power for another four years? Why did he allow him to obtain power in the first place four years ago? Why would God allow anything that would end up promoting sin in our society?” That’s an excellent question, and you and I are not the first people to ask it. Thousands of years ago, the prophet Habakkuk was wondering the same thing. This man, a Jew, lived during a time when the ungodly empire of Assyria had just brutally conquered the northern kingdom of Israel. The southern kingdom of Judah was following in her northern neighbor’s footsteps by becoming more unrighteous and ungodly with each passing year (sound familiar?) Habakkuk, a godly man who wanted his country to stay loyal to God, was perplexed and disheartened by all the wickedness he saw all around him in Judah every day (again, sound familiar?)
So Habakkuk decides to talk to God about it (Hab. 1:1-4). Notice some of the everyday evils he says are happening around him: violence, iniquity, destruction, strife, contention, a lack of law and justice, the wicked surrounding the righteous…this in many ways is what American is becoming with each passing year. Habbakuk thinks that God doesn’t hear his prayers for help about these matters, that God doesn’t care. “Lord,” he asks, “…why do you idly look at wrong?” God answers him (Hab. 1:5-11). God DOES care that Judah is becoming more and more wicked and ungodly; that’s why he’s doing something that Habakkuk will find hard to understand. What is he doing? He’s going to get the Chaldeans (another name for the Babylonian empire) to come in and punish Judah for their ungodliness.
Now, the Babylonians were a very ungodly nation themselves, in some ways even worse than Judah was. Basically, God was going to use an ungodly, sinful, terrible people to punish an ungodly, sinful, terrible people. I can see why Habakkuk would be confused by this. He then asks God how he, a holy and pure God, could use such an unholy and impure instrument like the godless Babylonians to judge Judah (Hab. 1:12-2:1). You and I might wonder about the same thing today. Without a doubt, America is becoming more and more ungodly, and God at the same time puts into power an individual who promotes even more ungodliness, as well as policies that will severely hurt this nation economically. Is God using this ungodly President in the same way he used Babylon…to punish America for her ungodliness just as he punished Israel? If so, we might join with Habakkuk in asking how could a holy God do such a thing?
Notice the Lord’s first answer to Habakkuk (Hab. 2:4). The prideful are not upright, but the righteous are different. The righteous live by faith. What a great reminder for us today! Christians, you are saved from an eternal hell because of your faith, remember? (Rom. 1:16-17; John 3:16; Mark 16:16; Heb. 11:6; James 2:14-26) Would that same faith help you persevere through these current hard times? Would that same faith get you through the anxiety and worry that many of you felt last night once the final returns came in? Would that same faith help you persevere through any hard times that might come in the future from economic recession, bad health care, or religious persecution? God thinks so (Heb. 10:35-39). Read Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:16-17, and Hebrews 10:35-39 back-to-back. The same faith God speaks to Habakkuk about is also quoted by Paul when he speaks of the faith that saves you from your sins and by the writer of Hebrews when he speaks of the faith that helps you get through hard times. Is that a coincidence? Certainly not…
Notice also the Lord’s second answer to Habakkuk (Hab. 2:5-20). Those proud Babylonians who arrogantly trusted in their own might (Hab. 1:11), those drunken, covetous, cruel, materialistic, violent, pagans…none of them would go unpunished by God, in spite of being his instrument to punish unrighteous Judah! Think about what God is telling Habakkuk here. Yes, he was going to use a wicked nation like Babylon to punish wicked Judah…but he wasn’t going to let Babylon’s wickedness go unpunished either. As Christians who are upset by the immorality that is being promoted in our society and is further strengthened by the governing authorities which God has placed into power…we can find strength in the fact that these wicked forces are not being ignored by God even while he uses them to bring our nations to its knees in punishment. God will also punish them, perhaps here in this life but definitely in judgment!
Habakkuk’s faith was certainly strengthened when God told him this. In fact, he was so encouraged that he asked God to “revive”his divine works of wrath, and yet be merciful at the same time (Hab. 3:2). He remembered how God in the past has both brought punishment to the wicked and salvation to his faithful people (Hab. 3:3-15), and resolved himself to be prepared for the times of trouble that were waiting for his society when the Babylonian invaders would come (Hab. 3:16). Yet, we see how strong his faith remained in that he was going to rejoice in the Lord, his strength, even while trouble was upon him (Hab. 3:17-19). What a lesson for us today! Many of us are angry right now, and might be wishing that God punish evildoers both inside the government and in our society as a whole…but do we ask for his mercy along with his wrath as Habakkuk did? Do we remember how God got us both as individuals and as a country through hard times in the past like Habakkuk did? Is our faith strong like Habakkuk so that we now resolve to stay loyal and obedient to God even in the midst of current and future hardships, rather than curling up into a ball and blaming God for all of our woes?
We’re Christians First And Americans Second…But Will We Act Like It?
To my American brethren, we might be citizens of this country, true…but as Christians we have a dual citizenship in heaven (Phil. 3:20; Eph. 2:19). While in this world, we are travelers and exiles (1 Pet. 1:1; 2:11) whose true homeland lies within the kingdom of God, not the country of the United States. If we keep these facts front and center in our thoughts at all time, our faith will be strengthened and we will be able to withstand anything that this world throws at us. On the other hand, if we have allowed ourselves to focus and become attached too much to the worldly material possessions and pleasures of this life (1 John 2:15-17), we will become weak and fall away from God during the hard times (Luke 8:13-14).
With this in mind, let me ask you something, friends. Do you want to be able to survive whatever hard times might be ahead and come out of them standing tall and strong for God and for your family? Do you want this country to come back to God rather than continuing further down the godless path that leads to its destruction? If you do, then remember Who you really belong to, Whose citizens you are, and Who is your true leader. Make his mission your primary mission…and what is that? To put his kingdom and his will first in all areas of your life (Matt. 6:33), to tell others about how great and wonderful he and his mercy is (1 Pet. 2:9-10), to tell his good news of salvation to the entire planet and make disciples of the United States and every other nation (Mark 16:15-16; Matt. 28:19-20). Christians, are you as active and passionate about your evangelism as you are about your politics? Is your free time outside of work and family taken up more with Bible study and prayer than television and golf…or is it the other way around? Do your Facebook and Twitter feeds have more posts from you about politics, or recipes, children, movies, or other such topics…than posts from you about your God and his will for you and everyone else? Do your co-workers, friends, and family members know when you walk into the room that it is likely you are going to want to talk to them about Jesus and how great he and his will has made your life…or will they correctly assume that a conversation about sports is about to start? If we aren’t as evangelistic as we need to be…and let’s face it, most of us aren’t…then is it any wonder that the majority of our country voted for the man who is on record for making fun of the Bible, promoting the killing of innocent babies and the perverting of the divine institution, and plans to continue policies that promote the violation of 2 Thessalonians 3:10?
Furthermore, will those of us who prefer a different occupant of the Oval Office start or continue to disparage the current occupant? If we will, is that what God would have us to do? God told us that we are to submit to the authorities of government (Rom. 13:1-5; 1 Pet. 2:13-15), and that part of that submission meant giving them honor and respect rather than insulting them (Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:17; Jude 8-9; Tit. 3:1-2). He also wishes for us to pray for our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-4), including the ones we do not like. While submission to the government does not mean that we agree with and submit to their directives which violate the laws of God (Acts 5:29), any immoral commands they give or promote and any immorality they may personally practice does not justify our own violation of the scriptural commands God gave us which are listed above. We have our First Amendment right to free speech, but God says we do not have the freedom to do or say that which is evil (1 Pet. 2:16)…and God trumps the First Amendment. Will the lost who currently support the immorality of our current leaders be more likely to convert to Christ and repent if they see us respectfully disagreeing with their icons…or blatantly insulting them? God is wise in giving us these directives, isn’t he?
Almost every Christian I’ve talked to today is very discouraged and disappointed. So am I. But we have great cause to rejoice in spite of our hardships (James 1:2-4), because we serve a God who is in control, a God who even now is working to bring our nation back to him in ways so wise and with such foresight that it is beyond our ability to comprehend completely. Are we allowing ourselves to be part of his plan? Are we going to stay loyal and faithfully obedient to him, no matter what? Are we going to play an active role in his plan to bring our nation and our world closer to him by living for him and preaching his gospel at every opportunity? Are we going to let our light shine by giving respect to the offices in authority, even when their occupants promote immorality? Are we going to stand against that immorality with love and firmness rather than giving into the popular peer pressure of the world?
Yesterday, a gauntlet was thrown down…and it was God who threw it down. It is God who has placed this challenge before us (Heb. 12:3-14). Like Job, let us prove our faithfulness and loyalty to him.