If you are a fan of chaos, you must be enjoying this year. A global virus pandemic. Protests. Riots across the country, which may or may not really be related to racism. The usual political blather, only amped up multiple times over. Shutdowns, businesses ruined, and economic turmoil. Schools closed, sports seasons in limbo. Having to wear masks, the first time that’s happened since “The Lone Ranger” enthralled TV fans more than half a century ago.
In considering root causes of many of these issues, it seems fairly evident that, as the Scriptures tell us, we’re experiencing what happens when you “sow the wind and reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7).
We keep hearing about the “new normal,” but many of us are longing for the old normal. Can’t we rewind to Dec. 31, 2019, or bypass 2020 altogether, start fresh with 2021, and see if that works out better?
For those inclined to be “fixers,” seeing a problem and wanting to get it resolved as quickly as possible, it’s frustrating. The COVID-19 restrictions were only supposed to last a few weeks until we “flattened the curve.” Those have expanded to months, with no certainty of ending anytime soon. What can we do?
Some folks believe politics is the answer. Get the right folks elected and before we know it, Kumbaya! The problem is, we’ve pursued the political solution for many decades; despite how “enlightened” our society supposedly has become, we’re still wrestling with many of the same problems.
Then we have the “Pollyanna people,” believers that the essential goodness in people will suddenly emerge, that we’ll all spontaneously become unselfish, kind and loving, generous, and all the other nice traits and values we can imagine. Sounds wonderful, right? Utopia, coming to a town near you! Except it’s been tried and failed, time after time. Why? Because, as the Bible says, “There is no one righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10-12). And in case we think that verse doesn’t mean what it says, Ecclesiastes 7:20 asserts the same truth: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”
So, if politics/government and inherent human goodness aren’t the salve needed to salvage the current malaise of our nation – and the world – then what is? I think the answer’s found in a verse we often hear at community prayer gatherings, and once in a while in our churches:
“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 heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Sounds simplistic, I know. But are we doing it – right now? We’re wringing our hands, mumbling, complaining to one another, debating on social media, and maybe even sending out a pitiful prayer flare: “God, do something, please?” But are we, God’s people, humbling ourselves and praying and seeking His face – and turning from our wicked ways?
Our tendency is to stare at people outside our faith circles, point and say, “It’s them! They’re the ones who need to repent!” Ah, but that’s not what this Scripture says. The onus, it would seem, is on those who profess to be genuine followers of God, who manifested Himself on earth in the person of Jesus Christ.
Full disclosure: Anything I write here, if it seems I’m pointing a finger, there are several fingers pointing back at me, okay? So I’m not judging.
Are we truly humbling ourselves, solemnly acknowledging and reminding ourselves daily that apart from the grace of God and redemption through Jesus Christ, we’re just as deserving of God’s condemnation and wrath as anyone?
Are we truly seeking the Lord, or are we merely giving Him lip service, devoting maybe an hour or two – if that – every week and living the rest of the week as if He didn’t exist? Coronavirus restrictions on church attendance aren’t an excuse. Were we genuinely, zealously seeking God even before all of that?
Are we turning from our own wicked ways? ‘What wicked ways?’ some might ask. Well, for starters, recognizing where we may be failing to serve as ambassadors for Christ in our communities, reaching out to others in His name, both tangibly and spiritually? Are we giving deference to the god of materialism, buying and accumulating far more stuff than any human really needs? (Again, fingers are pointing back at me, too.) Finding other “idols” to worship, ranging from our favorite sports teams to our spouses, children, jobs, achievements, entertainment, or our status in the community? Feel free to add to this list if you like.
These steps, it seems, are prerequisites to God’s promise to hear from heaven, forgive our sins personal and societal – and heal our land.
Recently I saw a brief video by Jonathan Cahn, author of The Harbinger and the Jewish pastor of Beth Israel, a Messianic congregation in New Jersey. In it he speaks of “The Return,” a time dedicated to “spiritual turning, repentance, awakening and revival.” Cahn talks of “10 days of vigilant prayer” – Sept. 18-28 – with a “sacred assembly,” a National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance, scheduled for the Mall in Washington, D.C., Sept. 26, 2020.
I don’t know much about Pastor Cahn, other than having read The Harbinger. But in today’s troubled times, many of us would welcome spiritual turning, repentance, awakening and revival. Perhaps some of us should participate in what is expected to be a large assembly of people. But we don’t have to wait for September to get started. Now is as good a time as any.
James 5:16 tells us, “The prayer of a righteous man [and woman] is powerful and effective.” Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). He also promised, “Again, I tell you truly that if two of you on the earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19).
How many of us are willing to take God up on these promises, to trust that our humble, seeking and repentant prayers will be heard and answered at a time when we as individuals – and a nation – desperately need for Him to act? Don’t just sit there; do something: Pray!
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