Thursday, November 3, 2016

What to Do When All Else Fails

In less than one week, the 2016 Presidential campaign will have finally, and mercifully, come to an end. As they say, it’ll all be over except the shouting. And we can expect to continue hearing lots of that, regardless of the outcome. For each Presidential campaign there’s a lot at stake, but this one has been more raucous and contentious than any we’ve known in recent memory.

Voting is important, but we can do
something even more important.
For those of us suffering from campaign fatigue, Election Day can’t come soon enough. Some of us have already cast our votes, taking advantage of early voting options. (Let's hope there won't be voters that attempt to cast their ballots both early and often!) We’ve all been urged to exercise our right to vote, and I wholeheartedly concur. Even if, as some critics contend, the choices are less than optimal, voting is still our right as well as a privilege that many people around the world don’t enjoy. We dare not take it for granted.

But whether you’ve already voted or are waiting for “the day” to arrive, that’s not all you can do as the day when our next President will be chosen draws near. In fact, one thing we can do, if we believe the Scriptures, carries more weight than a single vote – or all of the millions of votes that will be cast. We can pray.

A verse familiar to many of us explains why this is so important. God makes this promise: “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” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Too often, rather than pray and seek God, we’d prefer to grumble, complain, argue and contend. We get excited about likeminded people on social media who agree with us and our political and ideological views, and get incited by others who disagree. We expend great energy trying to dissuade people whose minds are made up and are unwilling to reconsider their positions. If only we’d expend as much effort turning to the One who can truly make a difference.

Because whether we believe it or not, whether we agree with how He does it, the Bible asserts God is not in heaven wringing His hands, fretting over what decisions Americans will make at the polls. No, it says He is sovereign and very much in control of not only what will transpire next Tuesday, but also what happens in the days that follow.

Writing to his young protégé, Timothy, the apostle Paul exhorted “that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all men, for kings and all those in authority, so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). This applies universally; he was not writing about the United States, but the principle certainly applies.

But what if the “wrong” person is elected, one whose views and aspirations and intentions disagree with our own? We’re to pray for that individual, too? Yes, and elsewhere Paul explained why: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which is from God. The authorities that exist have been appointed by God” (Romans 13:1).

Reading those passages, it’s hard to find wiggle room. Nowhere does it say, “except this” or “unless that.” There are no exceptions. As someone has wisely stated, in the Bible when God says “all,” He means ALL.

If we’re tempted to argue, “Well, that’s what Paul said,” then look at Jesus as the ultimate example. When challenged about paying taxes to a Roman government that was far from “Christian,” He replied, “’Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they answered. So Jesus said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s’” (Luke 20:24-25).

And throughout His ministry, Jesus never stood up to the Roman rulers. Actually, that’s one reason many people turned against Him – they became disenchanted when it became evident He had no plan to overthrow the evil and corrupt government.

This, however, doesn’t mean we must take a fatalistic posture about who will be leading our nation, passing legislation and interpreting those laws. No, we’re to pray, as 2 Chronicles 7:14 instructs. We’re to humble ourselves, setting aside arrogant self-righteousness. We’re to pray to the one and only God, approaching His “throne of grace,” as Hebrews 4:16 describes it. We’re to examine ourselves and turn from any wicked ways we may be practicing, even justifying. And we’re to trust that God will hear our humble, repentant prayers and respond – even if we don’t necessarily like or agree with how He does it.

As they say, “When all else fails, pray.” Let’s resolve to pray – BEFORE all else fails.

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