HOPE, NOT FEAR
by Ken Johnson
The Plan: America The Way It Used To Be
America as I knew it and loved it was supposed to be a place where God was honored, Judeo-Christian values were the standard, freedom was assumed, and unity was a national pursuit. Parts of this equation are reality and parts are probably of my own creation.
The Broken Plan: Chaos, Violence, And Division
Recently we all watched in horror as mobs of young people were storming major cities, smashing windows, lighting fires, and stealing whatever they could get their hands on. Throngs who identified themselves with different groups were tying ropes around historical statues and toppling them in the name of social justice. A statue of Jesus was beheaded in a Catholic church in Florida. Nightly riots still continue in some cities.
Mayors and Governors stood by as their cities and states were under siege, apparently unwilling to stop the violence or even encouraging it to achieve their political objectives. In the aftermath, some elected officials agreed to “defund police” or greatly reduce law enforcement while crime soared. Common sense vaporized in deference to mob pressure. Normalizing abhorrent and criminal behavior was all too common.
Compounding the racial and socio-economic tension are the restrictions and limitations placed upon all of us due to COVID-19. We lost freedoms and many Americans have lost their health, businesses, and homes. Soon there will be a presidential election and some people firmly believe that we could lose our nation or our freedom if “their candidate” fails to win. This sentiment exists across the political spectrum with equal levels of passion on both sides of the aisle.
There were legitimate, peaceful protests following the horrific death of George Floyd, but then anarchists and opportunists used that tragedy to hijack peaceful protesting, as it became their pretext for riots, mayhem, and destruction. There is so much division, strife, corruption, and lawlessness in our country right now that it’s simply shocking.
We are seeing what happens when people lose their fear of God. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). We are witnessing the results in our culture losing its fear of God and turning instead to idols of corruption. When that happens, anarchy and chaos emerge. All of us have experienced disrupted plans.
The Gospel Answer: Prayer, Action, Trust In God’s Power And Purpose
In 445 BC, there lived a man named Nehemiah. God raised him up to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem. As recorded in the book of Nehemiah, he faced similar disruption of plans from internal strife and external opposition.
Nehemiah was a Jew, born in exile after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 BC. He was the beloved, trusted cupbearer to a Persian king, and needed the king’s permission to leave and pursue this task. Nehemiah prayed fervently and developed meticulous, detailed plans to present to the king. The king gave his permission and Nehemiah set out to survey the damaged walls and begin the restoration of his precious Jerusalem.
Nehemiah’s greatest assets were the people of God; the men and women who had “ a heart to work”. Those who joined him included merchants, farmers, goldsmiths, perfumers, priests, men, women, sons and daughters. Soon after the work commenced, strife began and Nehemiah’s plans were disrupted from within. The people began to lose heart. They faced food shortages (5:2). Their work on the walls hindered their job responsibilities at home and created a local famine (5:3). Some were deeply in debt and enslaved to their creditors. The people were grumbling about each other, as well as about their poverty and high taxes (5:4-5).
Then there were external threats and opposition from surrounding community leaders who ridiculed and criticized the Jews. They faced continual insults and ultimately physical threats. The physical threats were so credible that Nehemiah took action by having the Jews bring their spears, swords and bows to work each day. Half stood guard while half continued rebuilding the walls.
How did Nehemiah begin and complete this awesome task despite ongoing opposition, strife and disrupted plans? Answers: prayer, determination, action, and total trust in God! Nehemiah teaches us that it is impossible to lead without facing opposition. It is essential that our first response to opposition is prayer. Prayer may not be all that is necessary if opposition intensifies. Any attempt to fulfill God’s desires will almost certainly draw opposition. Nehemiah teaches us that (1) a leader must be a person of prayer, (2) have a vision, (3) be a wise planner, (4) inspire his followers, (5) organize tasks, (6) combine faith and common sense, (7) be compassionate, and (8) possess personal integrity.
Nehemiah completed the awesome task of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls in 52 days! God was the basis for this victory; but He chose a willing servant who was totally devoted to the task, unwilling to compromise and steadfast in his resolve. Like us, Nehemiah’s plans encountered obstacles and setbacks. When faced with these difficulties, he prayed. He was not a politician who asked “What is popular?” or a diplomat who asked “What is safe?” but a true leader who asked “What is right?”
Paul writes in Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Like Nehemiah, Paul knew this to be true, and so can we.
We are citizens of the USA, but we have eternal citizenship in God’s Kingdom. We elect new leaders every few years, but we serve an Eternal King.
The Outcome: Jerusalem And America
Jerusalem, as God had ordained was rebuilt. Nehemiah led the people in the study of God’s Word and identified areas of purification and repentance that were needed. Prayer and reliance on God’s plan and provision and adherence to His Word were all part of the successful rebuilding of Jerusalem. It was not a fairytale ending and God’s people in Jerusalem were at times fervently faithful only to fall into sin patterns once again. But God’s purpose was completed through the faithful, prayerful action and leadership of one man.
Nehemiah humbled himself before God; a good reminder to us as Christians in America. What can we do in the face of chaos, violence, and division? Pray daily for our leaders, love our neighbors, redeem what is around us, and vote responsibly in accordance with God’s righteousness (there are no perfect options).
But, like Nehemiah, understand that our ultimate confidence and trust is in God. God was in control when Nehemiah was rebuilding Jerusalem amid threats and disrupted plans. Second Corinthians 4:1 tells us not to fear or lose hope. Let our hope and confidence be in the Lord!