This article is taken from a series of emailed Thoughts to Consider by Jim Jones
As I sit to write this it is after midnight following the 2012 Presidential election. One fourth of the country is elated; one fourth of the country is disheartened; one half of the country did not even choose to be involved in the process of electing our governmental leaders for the next four years. There are currently some 240 million voting age adults in the US. At the time of this writing some 118 million votes have been counted, and of the 118 million votes the total is roughly split between the two candidates.
I do not know what to make of the 120 million voters who did not vote. Who are they? What role do they play in our society? Are they even aware what is going on and how our country works? I don’t know the answers to these questions. I probably do not even want to know! The answers are not likely to be good.
What I do know is that there are approximately 60 million adults in this country who do care enough to vote, but obviously do not see things the way I see them. In the emails sent out and in this article I estimate that several thousand people will read or have the chance to read my opinion about where we are as a nation and what we are likely facing. Of this number likely not more than a hand full of them will disagree to any great degree with my political views. That is a pretty small number. I have not rejected or deleted those with differing opinions, but most people on my mailing list see things much like I do.
They are Bible believing Christians who would be classified as doctrinally conservative, politically conservative, and economically conservative. In case you are not sure what that all means, simply put, we believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, and we strive to live our lives based upon its teachings. It also means we believe we have a responsibility to help those in need to get back on their feet, but that the government is not responsible to provide for cradle to grave care. People must take responsibility for their own decisions which sometimes means there are unwanted consequences that must be endured. And yes, for the most part, we deny separation of church and state. It is this separation that has given us abortion on demand, legalized gambling, and a soon to come new definition of marriage. And as for economics, it means that just like all of us who are financially responsible must live within our means, the government cannot spend more than it takes in – and the answer to over spending is not to tax its citizens, even the wealthy ones, into poverty.
Now those few of you who differ on these issues certainly have the right to do so. That is one of the things that has made this country great – the freedoms of speech, religion, press, etc. that we have always had. But I have said all of this simply to let you know that I understand my audience, and know to whom I speak. If what I have said so far does not fit your personal beliefs, you can stop reading at any time. But to those who agree with my views, I trust you will read on.
So what happens now? I admit that for most of us the idea of four more years of what we have experienced the past four years is almost unbearable. The only answer I have to this is simply to pray that God will indeed work in the hearts and lives of our governmental leaders, on both sides of the aisle, to bring about a change of heart, direction, and most of all, to allow God’s will to be done. A true revival in Washington would be wonderful, but honestly at this point I do not expect it. Still, I know that God is in control, and that even this may indeed be His will. America is deserving of judgment due to its rampant forsaking of God. We have been experiencing God’s warnings for years, and they continue to increase in number and intensity as we stubbornly refuse to repent and return to Him. But for the remnant of the faithful, America would already have fallen. Never forget Galatians 6:7, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” This applies to nations as well!
I do not like judgment, and I do not relish the thought of having to dwell in a land that is being judged. But if we are faithful to God, as his children we will not endure His wrath. His wrath is against sin and sinners, not the redeemed. That, however, does not mean that we may not have to suffer the results of that judgment on our land. There were many righteous in Israel that had to endure the judgment brought on the nation by the rebellious who would not repent and follow the ways of God. But let us remember that while we think in light of the immediate, the temporal, the physical, God acts in light of eternity and what is best spiritually for mankind. It is often in suffering that people turn to God. Perhaps our prayers for a spiritual awakening and revival in America will come through suffering and judgment. And if so, we who are to be salt and light must be prepared to preserve and illuminate in these difficult times and circumstances.
For this reason I am going to offer some challenges to all believers to prepare for the worst and to pray for the best. What I will suggest will be spiritually beneficial to believers regardless of whether we face as a nation God’s righteous judgment or by His grace, forgiveness and restoration. Either way, it is time for us to get our focus on the things of God and off of the things of this world. It is time for us to put on the full armor of God, prepare ourselves for spiritual battle, and set our eyes on the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. It is time for us to walk worthy of the name by which we are called. I trust many of us will choose to walk this walk together! And I pray that the Spirit of God will strengthen us to do what needs to be done!
I am not a gloom and doom person, because God is in charge, and all will work according to His purpose. He has provided for victory in our lives and in His Church. Just because some churches seem to be turning away does not mean that The Church is not strong and vibrant. I like what I heard on a commercial recently for a new television show. There is a man I believe from India speaking to a person across the table, and apparently things are just not going her way. The man states, “Everything will be okay in the end. If everything is not okay, it is not the end!” For the Christian there is nothing that could be more true. God is in control; His Church will be victorious; His people will see Him face to face; His promises for eternity will be fulfilled. Things may seem to be “not okay“ at the moment, but do not fret, it is not yet the end!
Neither am I a survivalist, always expecting the worst possible scenario. At the same time it might be only prudent to stock up on some canned goods, water, and essential supplies (radio, batteries, flashlight, blankets, etc.) in case of a local emergency. Floods, earthquakes, fires, droughts, and storms seem to be increasing at an alarming pace. Have an emergency plan that everyone in your family knows about, and occasionally talk to your children, especially young ones, as to what they should do in case of an emergency. If you are in an area with friends, family, and/or church family, you might be able to work together on some of these plans. These are simply a few common sense ideas that can help in a time of emergency, regardless of the cause of the emergency
And I am certainly not a person who believes you can lay up enough money and possessions to see you through whatever comes. No, as followers of Christ our trust must be in God alone. The psalmist said some twenty times that he put his trust in God. “Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.” (Psalm 16:1) I had a Christian friend once who bought up much silver and gold and put it in an underground vault on his father’s farm. He confided in me that if anything happened, he would be okay, because he had “prepared for the worst!” I asked him what would happen if an earthquake caused the ground to open up and swallow his vault. He turned white and did not answer. Preparing reasonably for the future is wise. Trusting in anything other than God for our future is foolish.
I often hear Christians say that they are just waiting for the Rapture to get them out of this mess. “Beam me up Jesus” is a common theme. Do I believe that one day Jesus will return and “catch up” His Bride, the Church? Absolutely! Do I think the time for this is soon? Could be! But I have thought that since I was a child, so “soon” may be the operative word. Here is my point. One day Jesus will return and everything wrong will be corrected. Justice will rule. Righteousness will reign. Truth will fill the earth. I do not know if I will be alive when this happens (if I am going to be alive, then it will have to occur pretty soon!). But I do know that as believers we are to “occupy until He comes.” God has not left us here in this mess to seek an escape from it. He has left us here in this mess to do all we can to change it! Jesus said that we are to be in the world but not of the world. Too many believers are of the world, but do not want to be in it. How will the Church be victorious if we are not striving to make a difference?
How do you prepare for the worst when you do not know what the worst could be?Well, following a few common sense suggestions as above might be all we can do in the physical. But as followers of Christ (what a true Christian is to be), the best way to prepare for the worst is to pray for the best. As difficult as it may be at times to see how God is going to bring good from a seemingly bad situation, the promise we have is that He always can and always will to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). And what is the “best” we should pray for? Simply that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, that people turn to Him in repentance and faith, and that we might be used to bring Him glory. What could possibly be better than this? I want to make a difference where God has put me! How about you? But how do we who are born-again make a difference?
I personally believe that the best way to know that someone is truly born again is his or her consuming desire to serve and please God in all areas of their life. If this desire is not present, then neither is the Spirit. And as Paul tells us in Romans 8, if we have not the Spirit of God we are not His (paraphrase from verse 9). Someone might ask how I could make such a bold statement. It is simple. In this same chapter of Romans 8 we are told that the work of the Spirit is to conform us into the image of Christ. If we are not being conformed, and have no desire to be conformed, then the Spirit of God is not at work. And the only way the Spirit does not work in a believer is if He is not dwelling there!
So let us go back to where we began. As true believers – Christians – followers of Christ, we need to get focused on the task at hand. We need to get our eyes off of the things of this world, and set our eyes on the mark set by God. Our nation has no idea what this means, and unfortunately neither do most church members. We have come to be at ease in Zion. We are spiritually soft. We play at church. And in setting our priorities, about the best we can do is to block out a little time on Sunday mornings for God.
Too many Christians in our society spend more time managing their stock portfolio than managing their Kingdom responsibilities. It is easy to see that the god of this nation has been wealth and prosperity for some time, and like Israel of old, the false gods around us have lured even the righteous away from the true and living God of creation. If we believe that God is judging this nation, we must understand that one area of that judgment will be against its false gods. One does not have to look very hard to see that our economic system is already undergoing judgment, and a total collapse in the years to come is not outside the realm of possibility. When this happens there will be many in the world who will lose all hope and will despair at the death of their god. Even now there are those predicting food shortages, power outages, gasoline rationing, etc. It is very possible that life as we now know it – the life of ease and comfort – may come to an end.
How will God’s people react to such a time? We have already been reminded that we are to be salt and light to a corrupt and dark world. Things do not have to get worse for the world to be corrupt and dark. It already is! Suffering will cause some to grow darker still, and more corrupt. But suffering also will allow some to see their need of something – Someone – greater than themselves who is in control. Suffering will cause many to seek God. Are we spiritually ready to show them the way? Can we tell others to follow us as we follow Christ? Are we prepared to “suffer with Christ that we may also be glorified together” (Rom 8:17)?
Let us stop for a moment and take a deep breath! All of this possibility of judgment sounds pretty heavy. No one looks forward to suffering, especially those of us who have never had to! And what if God’s Spirit brings renewal rather than judgment? Would that not be something positive to believe and proclaim? It certainly would! And that is what so many Christians have been praying for, is it not? Let me remind you of the words of Peter in 1 Peter 4:16-17, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” You see, if renewal and revival is to come to this nation, judgment must first come to the Church – to us as believers. We should judge ourselves that we be not judged with the world. “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” (1 Cor. 11:31)
Many of us have prayed for revival in the Church for some time now. But I have come to understand that revival comes through obedience. God cannot bless disobedience lest He condone it. For the nation to come to a point of spiritual renewal, the Church must experience revival, and for the Church to experience revival, it must repent of its disobedience, rebellion, and idolatry, and turn back to Jehovah God. It is time for us to stop going to church and to actually become the Church! How do we make this change, and is it really necessary? That sounds like an odd question doesn’t it? But, unfortunately, there are many believers who think that growing in the grace and image of Christ is good, but optional. In other words, if we “believe” the right things about Jesus, say the right words, or pray the right prayer, then we are “saved” and on our way to heaven. That is all that matters – everything else is optional. I am afraid these may be the ones who are spoken of in Matthew 7:21-23. If you are not familiar with this passage I suggest you take a moment to read it. I beg you not to assume everything is okay in your spiritual life unless you have made that total commitment to Christ, trusted in Him only for salvation, and have asked the Spirit within to conform you to His image. If the cry of your heart is not to serve and please God with your whole being, stop now, and “examine yourself to see if you are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5-6).
We are all familiar with the last words of Jesus prior to His ascension. These words have come to be called The Great Commission. Listen to them once again as they are recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (28:18-20): “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go thereforeand make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” The subject is discipleship. If we are going to become what God desires us to be we must take a closer look at what being a disciple is all about. It is going to demand some changes in our thinking, in our lifestyles – and changes in our choices.
The older we get, the harder it is to change. And for me to become what I desire to become will involve much change. I desire this change. I am ready for this change. But I also take this commitment to change seriously. I do not want to begin that which I cannot finish. As Jesus admonished, we must be willing to count the cost to see if we have what it takes to complete the job (Luke 14:28-30). I have wondered if I have what it takes, and am I willing to pay the price. On Nov 1-3 my wife and I were privileged to attend a three day conference in Blowing Rock, NC. The keynote speaker was Dr. Richard Blackaby, with two additional excellent speakers. The conference was titled “Credible Christian Leadership.”
I came home with anticipation of change and was excited about the election – I felt confident the right people would win to help get the country back on the right path. I know that renewal must come from the bottom up, and not the top down. But surely our nation could see the wrong paths we have taken and elect people who will have as their goal to make the needed corrections. We are headed for economic disaster. We are morally bankrupt. People are calling evil good, and good evil. We actually had a party running on the platform of making it easier to kill unborn babies, demanding religious organizations to pay for medical procedures contrary to their long established beliefs, and promising to change the God ordained and historical definition of marriage so that those who practice homosexuality can be legally married. They even had to have a vote to decide if the word “God” should be added to their platform, and despite the ruling from the podium, the motion was voted down – the majority refusing to acknowledge God. Romans chapter one is being played out right before our eyes. Judgment is coming – it should be plain to see. There should have been a sufficient number of people who could see this to make the right choices in this historical election! But no! God has withdrawn His favor, just as He states in Romans 1.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
This brings me back to the beginning – midnight following the election. I am reminded again of the words of Paul, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). Do you recall these words from earlier in this article? “It is time for us to walk worthy of the name by which we are called. I trust many of us will choose to walk this walk together!” In the days, weeks, and months that follow I will be presenting opportunities for all who will to join us in discipleship opportunities. It will require commitment, change, and perhaps sacrifice. But the blessings that will come from being and doing what God intends for His children are innumerable. I trust many of you will say yes to these opportunities. If you want more information on our discipleship efforts and progress, you can contact me at my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. May God bless each of us as we choose to be followers of Christ!