The God Factor
Foremost on the agenda for 2016 is the clamor for change. Dominating America’s political landscape in this critical election year is the national mood to “throw the bums out” and hand the reins of state to outsiders who supposedly will set things right.
However, as has been aptly demonstrated, change undefined today can come as an unwelcome surprise tomorrow.
In October I read about the stealthy removal by night of the Ten Commandments monument from the grounds of the Oklahoma Capitol in Oklahoma City after the state’s Supreme Court ruled its presence there unconstitutional. Even a Baptist pastor wanted it gone, subscribing to the blasphemous notion that God is unwanted on public property in America.
As I viewed photos of men jackhammering the monument from its base, I thought about how misguided all these people are. Monuments are brick and stone; faith involves the heart and resides far beyond the reach of Christ’s adversaries, who try to thwart the God whom believers serve.
The Pew Research Center in 2010 produced a voluminous report on the state of the generation born after 1980—the “Millennials.” In what would appear to be a near-fatal trend for the future, these young people apparently exhibit a disdain for the faith of earlier generations:
They are the least overtly religious American generation in modern times. One-in-four are unaffiliated with any religion, far more than the share of older adults when they were ages 18 to 29….Fully one-in-four adults under age 30 (25%) are unaffiliated, describing their religion as “atheist,” “agnostic” or “nothing in particular.”1
Rather than believe radical minorities are succeeding in their throw-God-out campaign, we need to remember the liberal news media thrives on sensationalizing for profit. In addition, it is extremely biased, steeped in the politically correct ideology of self-appointed reformers, and quick to paint those on the other side of the transformation movement as out-of-touch malcontents worthy only of ridicule and repudiation.
Ignoring the God Factor
When ancient Israel faced one of its many critical decisions, God spoke to the prophet Samuel, defining the most fundamental matter for ages to come. At issue was Israel’s choice of a king. Saul, the nation’s first monarch, was chosen for his apparent physical attributes; but his reign was disastrous. As Israel was on the brink of making the same mistake again, God intervened:
But the Lᴏʀᴅ said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lᴏʀᴅ does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lᴏʀᴅ looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
David, the young and ruddy shepherd boy, was God’s choice. Against all odds, he used his sling to slay the lumbering giant, Goliath, and went on to become Israel’s greatest king. God’s words to Samuel should encourage us as we move into a new year filled with Goliath-like obstacles.
Despite what we hear in the news, God has people all around us with hearts for Him. In October, for example, public high-school students defied a threat from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which filed a complaint against the Ashdown (Arkansas) School District, claiming one student was offended by prayer at school events.
FFRF atheists demanded the district quit addressing God at school functions. Students replied by taking to the field before a Friday-night game, kneeling—along with fans, referees, and members of the opposing team—and praying to the Almighty.
In fact, a veritable legion of modern-day Davids refuse to abandon their right to life on the side of God. They worship, volunteer, help when called on, staff mission agencies, resist bullies, support the right-to-life of the unborn, participate in national affairs, and refuse to conform to generalized Millennial statistics. In short, they come up simply as Americans.
First Samuel 16:7 reveals the enormous difference between how God and fallen humanity evaluate issues. Humanity’s standard is superficial and group oriented: Polls, statistics, race, gender, social status, etc., are the factors people use, based on value systems developed by think tanks and social elitists. These elements all involve outward appearance.
God, on the other hand, evaluates based on what He alone can see: the transcendent condition of a human heart.
What a vast gulf there is between Sovereign and subject, Creator and created:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lᴏʀᴅ. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8–9).
Examples of this truth are found in the book of Judges, which chronicles early Israel’s fragmented stagger toward dissolution. The men whom God chose to deliver the nation from its social and spiritual quagmires would never have reached the personal-interview stage of any national search committee. In my book Not to the Strong, I examine the lives of four such men counted most worthy of mention in Hebrews 11, the “hall of heroes” section of the New Testament: “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah” (Heb. 11:32).
Not one of these men appeared qualified as a hero of the faith. From a human standpoint, all of them had obvious deficiencies. However, the Lord saw in them what even they could not see in themselves, and He molded them from ordinary people into men of extraordinary abilities.
God’s unique capacity to see what we’re made of is infinitely separated from the mere human ability to chart a life course.
Good News for the Whosoevers
A generation turning from God-centered order and moral propriety to a self-absorbed, radicalized society will, sooner or later, reap dire consequences for itself and its nation. The statement “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lᴏʀᴅ” (Ps. 33:12) is not the stuff of myth or fable. It is obvious fact, borne out by centuries of history and seen today in this country’s rapid slide into social chaos and politically correct pandering to a godless minority.
Nevertheless, God moves on a higher plane. He always has His Davids, who are ready to stand for truth in every generation of true believers—the whosoevers of biblical decree.
Did you know that the most-quoted, most-memorized verse in the Bible has a “whosoever” in it? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16, KJV).
Therefore, people have before them a gift of inestimable value, whether aware of it or not. They can unwrap an unmerited, unfathomable, unblemished, eternal treasure if they make a life-altering decision to receive Him: “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (Jn. 1:12).
Salvation is the Savior’s legacy, secured by His redeeming sacrifice on the cross: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).
Somehow He chooses us, but somehow we still have a responsibility. It may seem like a contradiction to us, but it is all clear in the mind of God.
During my many decades of ministry, I’ve been in many countries and experienced a variety of cultures and social distinctives. Customs vary, and differences abound; but whether in mud huts, teeming cities, or quiet suburban neighborhoods, believers share a common thread. It was expressed to me in a taxi in Jamaica on the way to Kingston.
“What is your faith?” I asked.
The driver replied pleasantly, “Oh, sir, I am a worshiper.”
It was his way of saying he was one of the whosoevers who found new life in Christ.
Over the millennia, these whosoevers have numbered in the billions. They have triumphed over pagan empires, degrading moral revolutions, genocidal despotism, wars of annihilation, and unspeakable barbaric persecutions. And they do it, not with guns, tanks, military juggernauts, terrorism, or beheadings, but with a commitment to demonstrate love and live out the peace that passes understanding found only in Christ.
None of us can be certain about the course our beloved nation will take this year. But of one thing we can be sure: The Lord has not forsaken His own, nor will He. Thus we should be encouraged to stand up and speak out for Christ to those around us who so desperately need the love and grace only He can provide.
- “Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next: Confident. Connected. Open to Change,” Pew Research Center, February 24, 2010 <tinyurl.com/MiLLL>.