2 Chronicles 7:11-14 11 When Solomon had finished the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the LORD and in his own palace, 12 the LORD appeared to him at night and said: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.
13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 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.
We are facing great challenges in our country. Hatred and division are tearing friendships and families apart. Sweeping generalizations about people, finger pointing, “he-said” “she-said” half-truths, and false and misleading information that continues to be posted every second on the internet has so muddied the waters there is no way anyone could know with even 80% certainty what is worthy of believing. Our feelings are leading our fingers and people are sharing and perpetuating information that is keeping people stirred up and fired up.
As I thought about it this week, I actually thought, “I wonder if you could trace all of the loud-mouth, foul, harsh, and insensitive comments we see on social media back to the Jerry Springer show.” Our culture has been terribly responsive to being shaped by bizarre and foul reality TV, like the grosser and more shocking, the better. I realize I am generalizing here, and I am speaking about our country as a whole. We have watched this stuff without realizing how it has desensitized us and transformed us into cynical, negative and argumentative people. It seems we have become very comfortable talking disrespectfully to people. If virtual reality was physical reality, there would be an awful lot of people walking around with bloody noses and black eyes.
Yes, this is a critical election. Yes, our opinions are important and need to be shared appropriately and with great courage at times. But when we vilify other people for not seeing things our way or lump all Clinton supporters or all Trump supporters into certain categories it is hurtful, unfair and divisive. And the elections aren’t the only real issues that have Americans divided. There are too many to enumerate this morning, and it would likely get me into a lot of trouble if I tried to list them.
I grew up hearing, “You can be part of the problem or you can be part of the solution.” When I read this text from II Chronicles I have to conclude that reuniting our country rests not in the hands of a President or political party, it rests not in the hands of Supreme Court Justices or Congress, actually it rests in the hands of the people described in this passage for God said: 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.
God isn’t preaching to the masses here. He isn’t talking to Washington as a catalyst for change. He isn’t talking about any one nation as a whole. He is speaking to the collective power that His people, the ones He knows, the ones who are saved by the blood of Jesus, the ones who long to follow the Prince of Peace, the ones who have given their lives to a cause greater than themselves and their ideals. Remember, peace and unity don’t come through a political process. They never have. That is why so many people missed who Jesus was. People expected Jesus to work to transform the political system when He was interested in transforming hearts.
If America will receive the healing to unite it won’t be because the approval rating of a president soars, and according to this Scripture it won’t even depend on a mass revival or on mass conversions. What preacher? Don’t we need revival in America? Absolutely! The more hearts that are transformed, the more peace and self-control will reign over people’s minds, hearts, mouths, and behaviors. But listen, God isn’t putting the responsibility on unbelievers to come to Him in order for the nation to experience healing. He is putting the responsibility on believers to live like believers!
What I am about to say may shake things up this morning, but God isn’t in a covenant with unbelievers. He will hear the sinner’s prayer for forgiveness and salvation, but He hasn’t bound Himself to hear the prayers and “good thoughts” and “good vibes” of unbelievers. He has, however, bound Himself to respond to His people, His children, the ones who are called by His name. We are the ones who have an audience with Heaven and the attention of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and what we do with that position will have a great impact on whether these Divided States of America ever become united again!
“Well, if more people would just use common sense it would promote unity.” That is probably true. “Well, if more people would just not say everything they think, that would probably help, too.” I am sure it would have a benefit. “Well, if people would just get together and try to see things from each other’s perspective, it would go a long way.” That might be true. “Well, if people weren’t so sensitive about everything all would be smoother.” I agree. But listen, it won’t matter how many round tables there are, how much literature is written about the problems in America and the need for unity, or how popular the next president can eventually become. The issues facing America won’t be solved by having more understanding or more training or more conversations. The need for healing and unification in America is in the hands of believers who need to live and act according to the name by which they are called.
In this passage, God wasn’t calling out the pagans. He wasn’t talking about the Canaanites. He wasn’t calling out the Amalekites. He wasn’t referring to them as part of the problem or part of the solution. He was talking to His people about their responsibility and their role in the healing of their land.
From this passage, I see four roadblocks to unity, four obstacles that we actually, as Christians, have the power to overcome.
- Pride will postpone unity. Verse 14 tells us that step one for healing and unity to come to our land involve the humbling of God’s people. We are to humble ourselves.
When we can so easily point the finger at someone else and blame them for the mess America is in, we need to stop and ask ourselves what we have done to promote unity and peace. We need to consider that perhaps at times we have been or are being part of the problem. Humility is an attitude that accepts responsibility. Humble people acknowledge they don’t have all the answers. I mean, if each one of us here today knew what it would take to fix this country, why aren’t we running for office? We can talk a good talk about the solution, but are we living out the solution in our day to day lives? Is our attitude one of daily dependence on God or is it on our own wisdom to solve the problems of the day?
Humility helps us have conversations with others and listen respectfully to an opposing view. Humility helps us earn the right to speak the truth of God’s Word when an opportunity arises. Humility helps us keep our dependence where it is supposed to be, not on ourselves or some political “savior”, but on God Himself. I admit I am not smart enough to know what it will take to fix America, but I know where my hope lies. It lies in Christ alone. The only hope for America is Jesus. For me to assume everyone should just listen to my suggestions and fall in line with my ideas about a way to unite this country would be to neglect the Cornerstone of any great civilization. Unless the Lord builds a house, its laborers labor in vain, Psalm 127:1.
How can we become a catalyst for change and unification if we live with an arrogance that is elitist and exclusive? Winning people to Christ takes the message of the Gospel and a willingness to meet people where they are. In our pride, have we as the church created an “us and them” scenario? Have we shut people out instead of trying to woo them in?
Has the church as a whole been so self-absorbed and inward that it has forgotten our mission to penetrate the world with the love and grace of Jesus Christ? Does our pride keep us from mixing with people who need the message of the Gospel? I asking simply because of the nature of pride itself. Pride has an element of superiority, of being above others. The last time I checked, Christ-followers were to stoop. Christ followers were to serve. Christ-followers were to bow. However, when we allow political differences to breed division and we are unwilling to walk across the divide to minister to people regardless of what they believe and who they are voting for, have we allowed our pride about what we stand for to become a stumbling block to share the Gospel?
I am fully convinced that an attitude of humility is step one for the healing of our nation.
As we move through our text we see that a second roadblock to unity is prayerlessness. 2. Prayerlessness will postpone unity. The text doesn’t say, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and post on Facebook” (granted this passage was written a tad before social media), but it also doesn’t say, “If my people who are called by my name will debate with people who have opposing views….” It does say, however, the modus-operandi for believers who want healing in their nation is prayer. Now, I am not saying you can’t post on social media to help inform and direct people, but posting without prayer isn’t going to produce the healing this passage says is possible. Posting or pouting about the status of our nation won’t change a thing, but prayer can change everything!
Our prayers should begin with an examination of ourselves. Are we doing everything we can to bring unity to our country? Are we demonstrating love, kindness and respect in our own family? Are we slamming doors, yelling at one another, and saying things we regret or should regret? Are we grateful for what our parents are providing or are we complaining that it isn’t enough? Have we stopped speaking to members of our family for petty reasons? Are we building up our spouses and speaking affirmingly to our children? Are we making it a priority to spend time together? How do we speak into the country’s life if our family’s life isn’t a united effort? Peace and unity begin in our homes, and the way we raise our children sets the stage for the next generation and how they will relate with one another.
In our Wednesday night study on prayer we have used a passage from Psalm 25:4-5: Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Do you see the humility in that kind of prayer? Show me, God. Teach me, God. Guide me, God. Before we pray for our country we need to humbly pray for ourselves. We can’t see the problems in America correctly without God’s perspective and wisdom. We can’t see how we might be perpetuating the problems without His help.
We are admonished in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV) 1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone– 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
Did you catch the last part? Peaceful and quiet lives are the result of the prayers of God’s people. We can live peacefully and quietly no matter who is in authority if we are doing our job to pray. I would call that healing, how about you?
Oh, as we pray for our nation we need to remember God’s command to pray for those in authority. Maybe you don’t like the current president or current governor or current (fill in the blank). Ok. Not everyone will like every leader that is in authority. God’s question to you and me this morning isn’t whether we like the current leadership or whether we like those running for office, it is simply, “How much time have you spent praying for those leaders?” You see, not liking a leader won’t change anything. Talking poorly about a leader won’t change anything, but prayer can change everything. Through prayer, leaders can be moved in and out of place, but more profoundly, prayer can change the leaders if they aren’t serving God’s purposes. Is God helping us with some understanding this morning?
Look what Paul went on to say to Timothy about praying for leaders and those in authority:
3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
People, including those in authority, will be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth as we pray! What are we waiting on? Let’s pray! If prayer will allow us to live in peace and if prayer will transform our leaders who aren’t godly into godly people, giddy up! Let’s pray!
Let’s move on in our text:
- Wrong priorities will postpone unity. Verse 14 tells us to seek God’s face. That
is where our focus and attention is to be—on seeking God. It could be argued that many of the challenges Americans face is a result of moving away from Judeo-Christian principles upon which our country was founded. That is a whole other argument for sure, but I will say this: I believe some of our problems are a result not of secular humanism or new age thinking, but they are the result of the church being asleep on the job and/or seeking the wrong stuff.
We have sought to build our own castles instead of the Kingdom of God. We have sought individual happiness at the expense of collective peace. In our pursuit of the American Dream, we have forgotten what is most important—seeking God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
When worship becomes optional or something we gather for if we feel like it, when we can take or leave ever opening the Word of God because we are simply too busy to squeeze it in, when the opinions of CNN, MSNBC, or FOX News becomes more important than what God has to say, we have postponed unity for our country. God says in this passage that healing comes as we seek Him.
I like the phrase, “Seek my face.” It has this idea that God wants our full attention. He wants to look into our eyes, and He wants us to look into His. He wants our attention this morning. As we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things are added unto us (Matthew 6:33). I have to believe that “all these things” include the healing of our nation.
When seeking God is the priority of our lives, God has freedom to move in power in our lives. As He moves in power, He moves in healing ways. We can look at the world and say, “Can you believe how far off track they have gotten? Can you believe what they willingly tolerate in their lives? Can you believe how ridiculous or how carnal or how whiny and demanding or how evil they are?” while all the while, God is saying, “Why aren’t you looking at ME?” “Why aren’t you seeking Me?” “Why are you focused on what those who are apart from Me are doing when they are doing what is expected of people who aren’t Mine,” but “Why aren’t you doing what you are expected to do as the people who are called by My name? Why aren’t you seeking Me?” I can just hear God tag on, “I mean, really?”
Can we honestly say that we are seeking God with our whole hearts this morning? That we are seeking Him with humility? That we are seeking Him in prayer? That we are pursuing Him in worship and in His Word with intention? If not, we are holding up healing for our nation.
We used to sing a song when I was growing up that said, “Lord, take the first place in my heart. Lord, take the first place in my heart. I open the door. Come in I implore. Lord, take the first place in my heart.” Is that our prayer? Is that our desire? Healing for our nation is dependent upon our willingness to allow God to have His rightful place in our lives.
- Practicing sin will postpone unity.
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.
Notice the strategy of the progression of events in our text. Humility involves our attitude. Prayer assists us with the expression of that attitude. Turning toward God gives us focus, and as we turn toward God, we are turning away from everything unholy. If we are looking at God, seeking His face, we aren’t looking at the temptations of this world. As we seek His face, we are actually turning away from gazing at that which is evil.
We cannot practice Christianity and sin at the same time. The two aren’t compatible with one another. The reason so many unbelievers are disillusioned about Christ is due to the sin they see perpetuated in the lives of people who claim to be Christ-followers.
By God’s design, it is to be the holiness, the purity of His church, that points to the difference it makes to be someone who belongs to God. Is there a stark contrast between the church and the rest of the world? I suppose we can only answer that question by examining ourselves as individuals.
Is there a difference in my attitude towards others and towards my future and the attitudes that are displayed in the world?
Is there a difference in the way I talk about people and the way those in the world talk about people?
Is there a difference between the way I spend my time and the way those in the world spend theirs?
Is there a difference between what I allow in my bedroom and what is allowed in the bedrooms of the world?
Is there a difference between what I ingest and what the world is consuming?
Is there a difference between what I will allow myself to hear and watch and what the world finds entertaining?
Does my snapchat and texting represent the holiness of God or does is portray the world’s ideals?
Is there a difference between the way I spend my money and the way the world practices financial habits?
If there is no difference between the way a Christian and a non-Christian lives we have to ask ourselves, “By what is my life impacted?” I would find it hard to believe that a non-Christian’s life would be seeking to line up with the holiness of God which leads me to believe that if a Christian’s life looks similar to a non-Christian’s life, it is worldly and evil practices that are shaping the life of a believer rather than the holiness of God, and if that is the case, why are we shocked that our divided land is in need of God’s healing touch? Christians, we can’t live dislocated from God and think we will be used of God to bring healing to our nation.
I fear perhaps the greatest divide in America isn’t between Americans, but between Americans and God. We can make sure we are aligning ourselves with Him in an effort to see healing for our nation.
There are so many things we cannot control. We have one vote this election season. It doesn’t seem like much. It isn’t much in the grand scheme of things. However, we have the ability to impact mass healing, healing on an enormous scale, if we, the “called out” people of God will live as such. In humility, through prayer and by giving God our full attention, and through turning completely away from sin, let us ask for God to unite these Divided States of America.