Where men are the most sure and arrogant, they are commonly the most mistaken, and have there given reins to passion, without that proper deliberation and suspense, which can alone secure them from the grossest absurdities.
DAVID HUME, Essays, Literary, Moral, and Political
I’ve had this article or word in my spirit for quite some time now. Have attempted a couple of times to express it, and each time come up short. Going for it regardless today…
For perhaps the last 35 years or so I have observed, prayed for and participated in two major and what were supposed to be (in the minds of our founding fathers) complimentary institutions in our nation = the church and government. Both are facing challenges today that we are woefully ill prepared and ill equipped to face on our own.
While I’m very thankful for the widespread repudiation of the most extreme tenants of President Obama’s vision for America and the world, and repudiation of his values (or lack of) – as seen in the election on Nov. 4th, and while I believe the chances of a conservative republican president to be elected in November of 2016 are very strong presently, whoever is elected in 2016 in many ways is most to be pitied if he or she does not know how to access daily the grace or enabling power of God. The problems we face in our nation and in and among the nations of the world are of a nature and magnitude that will require wisdom and courage and a caliber of leadership that no human, political party, or political persuasion can possibly muster.
And the church? Well we on the most part continue to limp along, far more conformed to the world than we are aware, and far less together than we would like to think. Bless our hearts – we know a lot and have been exposed to a lot, and have genuinely intended to do a lot, and sometimes can be found doing a lot, but our practice – or better our fruitfulness ebbs and flows, and often just ebbs. We say we trust in and depend on God, but take away our influential and anointed leader, or take away our finances, or take away our building, or take away our health, or take away our reputation…and our response often belies our profession.
What is coming down the pike in our nation is going to require far greater effectiveness and fruitfulness in our local, state and federal gov’t and in the church than we have ever experienced before. And what will enable us to rise to this occasion when so often in the past we haven’t been able to rise to the occasion? In a word – humility! You see God has an endless supply of grace (enabling power), and He is not stingy. He truly wants every level of government and every stream of His church to overflow and operate in an abundance of His grace, but He only gives it to the humble, as James reminds us in James 4:6, “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
You would think after all of our failures in gov’t and in the church, we would have a ready supply of humility or brokenness or poverty of spirit as Jesus refers to it in Matt. 5:3 and in Rev. 3:17. But sadly that is not the case, as can be seen in the denial laden way our President, some of his team, and some of his cheerleaders in the media have responded to the election results, and in the way many leaders in the church continue to walk in self reliance more than God reliance, and self or local congregation centeredness instead of Christ centeredness.
I’m more convinced than ever that Jesus Christ truly loves our cities and our nation (why else would San Francisco still be standing, much less continue to have godly praying servants sent there by God to reside and incarnate the gospel), and I’m more convinced than ever that He is more than willing and able to turn around even the worst of situations in our cities and nation such as what we have been witnessing with Ferguson, MO. What will determine more than anything else as to whether we experience His glorious intervention in our cities and nation is whether we are the kind of people (whether in gov’t or the church) that He responds to. As God said through Isaiah the prophet, “ ….But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isa. 66:2)
If God only responds to humility and brokenness (which could be defined as a healthy sense of my spiritual bankruptcy apart from full dependence upon and submission to Christ)…. If He only gives grace to the humble, then how are the proud seemingly accomplishing so much, whether in the gov’t or in the church? Well how did they build the tower of Babel so soon after the creation of humanity? Humans have always been able to pull off amazing things. But it doesn’t mean God had anything to do with it. Billy Graham and other godly leaders have said that if we were to take the Holy Spirit out of the church, much of what is going on would continue unabated.
Only God can truly set the captives free; only God can truly unite and purify His church so that we truly esteem others (especially other denominations) as better than ourselves and so that our behavior behind closed doors is no different than on the stage; only God can bring about a federal gov’t body in the U.S. that will courageously and wisely stand against rampant debt, rampant entitlement, rampant corruption, rampant ineptitude, rampant perversion of justice, and will work with the church to bring about communities and cities and states where justice and righteousness and truth and peace reigns, and where God instead of government is looked to for provision and protection.
So how can we become the kind of people that God delights in dwelling among and intervening/showing up for? Well let me suggest a few things:
First, any and every time we walk or drive to a gathering of people or a meeting with one person we must learn to pray for the ability to see them through God’s eyes, to be so secure in Him that we don’t need to bring attention to ourselves, to be cleansed of those anticipated conversations wherein we think we have to defend or massage our image; and to be a conduit of His grace to them.
Second, we need to keep after a lifestyle of thanksgiving – regardless of our circumstances. The spiritual discipline of regularly giving thanks to God is a close sister to walking in humility. As Henry Ward Beecher once said, “Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” Giving thanks protects us from pride and reminds us that we really don’t deserve anything but hell.
Third, we need to be more convinced of the wonderful rewards of humility, as few of us have grown up with this as a major value or pursuit. Memorizing verses like James 4:6, Psalm 51:17 and Isa. 66:2 is a good start.
And finally we need to become far quicker at apologizing and taking responsibility for the sloppy, selfish and controlling things we do and say – usually to those closest to us.
Happy Thanksgiving and may the Lord give abundant grace to you as you embrace a humble heart and broken spirit.