But there is a response I am a part of in our culture. I am a part of those who say that my thoughts and prayers are with those who suffered the horror of losing loved ones - or with those who face waking up tomorrow and deciding whether to go to Walmart or not. My thoughts and prayers are with those who now face fear, very real fear now that their relatively peaceful community has been shattered by senseless violence and insanity. What is difficult is to hear too many say that offering thoughts and prayers is useless, or even worse, counterproductive.
As a Christian leader such words are like a slap in the face. But today, as I spent time reading God’s Word, I was struck not by godless liberals - but by God Himself. It was quite a shock when this happened, yet it did. If you will indulge me for a few minutes, I’d like to share what happened.
Deuteronomy 31 was the chapter where I was reading, and these were the words that struck my heart with great force.
"Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, 'Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?' "But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods.” Deuteronomy 31:17-18
This section is where God speaks to Moses about how God’s people will turn from Him after Moses dies. It is in this context where God says the above statement. There were two things that caught my attention immediately.
First was that when they depart from God and no longer obey Him - His anger will be kindled. When God hides His face from them - there will be “many evils and troubles” that will come upon them. Before I continue though, I want to make a very important distinction. This was not written to the ungodly or unbelievers. This was written to those who were supposedly believers. They had left God. They no longer obeyed Him or gave Him honor. The result was that God hid Himself from them. They no longer knew His presence and favor and protection as a society. The result was that evils and troubles came upon them - many of them. These kind of things were said to consume them. I could not help but think of our current situation and all those that have gone before it. But why would God allow these things to happen? Then I read the rest of the passage.
Secondly, I saw the reason God allowed this. It was to get the attention of His people so that they would recognize something very important. Here is the quote. “Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?” Again I am not writing to the ungodly saying this. It is not the ungodly who will recognize this. They could not care less about the presence of God. But Christians . . . the faithful and the believers should recognize this. Do we realize that God is not among us, at least not in power sufficient to see our culture changed. For generations the culture has been changing the church when it should be the other way around. All of this was like a slap in the face. And so I believe the Lord began to ask me the very pointed question.
“Are you truly thinking and praying about what is happening?”
I had to stop reacting to my pride being injured (for you will see there was not that much to be proud of) and begin to ask that same question. Am I thinking about what is happening in my nation? Do I recognize the lack of God’s presence and blessing in the United States of America? Have I grasped what a horror it is that heritage of godly men and women of the past has NOT been handed down to this generation? Have I thought about the lack of God’s protective hand over our nation, over our schools, our homes, our cities? Have I thought about the fact that we are a divided nation? Have I considered that probably the only time when our nation was more divided was before the Civil War? How much thinking have I put into where we are? Honestly, I’ve not thought about it in God’s presence much. I’ve spend time listening to others trying to sway me one way or the other. I’ve even had times where I was caught up in anger and frustration about it. But as for genuine time spent being concerned for the things of God and the lack of His presence in my life and in the life of the church, there has not been much time at all spent. Maybe those criticizing us have a point?
Then came a question as to my prayers. Outside of throwing a few brief prayers about those hurting and struggling with losing family and friends - I have not prayed all that much. I’ve prayed, but have I really prayed? Let me explain that statement for a moment. It is one thing to pray once for those who have lost loved ones in these events. But have I prayed about the cause? How long and how often have I been disturbed about the fact that God is not among us? Now I know that there will be some who will come back with a theologically correct statement that He is always with us. But let me ask even them. Do we truly know God’s favor in this nation? Can we honestly say that His favor rests on the United States? When was the last time our nation was truly rocked by a national revival? When was the last move of God upon our nation that resulted in righteousness being restored in our land? When was it that the churches were filled with broken, repenting saints getting right with God and each other? When was it that we watched what I just said result in a wave of effective evangelism blow across our nation like a breath of fresh air? If I were completely honest with you I would have to say that I have not known of one in my lifetime.
So what am I doing about it. I am among those who think that the political leaders of our land cannot answer what is happening today. They are part of the problem and too many are more concerned with their re-election that they are with re-viving our national conscience and character. Only God can turn our nation around. In light of that “so-called belief” of mine, am I praying? I say that I am. “Let them know that they are in my thoughts and prayers.” Are they? Am I praying with a brokenness and repentant heart because the Lord is no longer with us in the United States? Am I crying out to Him for revival and His return in power upon His church? Are we doing this? Are we crying out to God for revival and His return to the church? Are we crying out for God to do such a work that our “national character” is affected? Then where are all the prayer meetings happening in our nation right now? Where are the gathering of God’s people to repent and return to Him - calling upon Him to revive us again so that we will rejoice in Him?
Here is my conclusion after truly thinking and praying about this. I know many in the religious community will not like this conclusion. I think we honestly deserve the derision of the ungodly in our nation. But I do not think we need to respond by being offended and by lashing out with our own view of how they are not helping things either. Here is what I truly believe we should do. I think we should passionately give ourselves to thoughts and prayers concerning these things. Whether or not they know it or would even admit it, thoughts and prayers are very powerful. They exhibit their greatest power when they are followed by action and a renewed commitment to spending the gospel to our nation. They are truly a powerhouse when thoughts and prayers yield a church filled with those who are rich in good works, rich in gospel proclamation, and rich in the power of God to truly change hearts. May God have mercy on me (and us) for not truly thinking and praying for our nation. AND - may He return to us - return in power because we think as He thinks - pray and He leads - and live as He dictates. That, my precious fellow saints, is what we truly need in this hour.