Many say there has never been such an election as this.
Whether that’s the case or not depends on when you lived. John Adams felt that if the country elected Thomas Jefferson as president, it was all over. Much of the country felt in 1860 that if Abraham Lincoln was elected, the nation could not survive. It almost didn’t. And throughout FDR’s four terms, people spoke of him in the bitterest of ways, calling him a dictator, saying whoever assassinated him was doing the nation a favor.
We’ve always had tough elections and flawed candidates.
And now–in 2016–we have the latest incarnation of flawed candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
An evangelist friend said this week that he finds both candidates repulsive. He plans, however, “to hold my nose and cast my vote” on November 8.
Clinton and Trump generate more negative responses than positive. Clearly, the country wants neither in the Oval Office. But it’s about to be stuck with one. For four long years.
Anyone who has spent any time on social media throughout this campaign knows how dangerous it is to speak out, supporting either candidate. The hate-mongers on the other side–those who see their point of view as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but–are quick to react. Try to introduce a sane note into the discussion and both sides attack. I’ve almost quit trying, but today, October 20, will try one last stab at it.
Subject: “What pastors can say to their people regarding this election, even though they must not and should not declare for a candidate.”
Why not go public with one’s choice? Therein lies a story.
My dad was in his 80s and was visiting in the church my brother pastored. A well-known evangelist was preaching, one we all liked a great deal. When he got up to preach, the guest spent a good 10 minutes telling jokes and putdowns about President Clinton, who was in office at that time. Dad was offended.
Dad, the coalminer and lifelong union member–which in most cases made him a Democrat–said to Ron and me, “What if a lost person in the congregation was offended by the preacher’s remarks because he liked Clinton? Because of this bit of foolishness by the preacher, this fellow hardens his heart and goes out into eternity lost! Where is the sense in that?”
There is, however, much the preacher can say on the subject. Here are some thoughts….
The pastor must help his people keep a godly perspective.
Listen to proponents of either side and you come away believing the fate of the country is in jeopardy. Elect that one and it’s all over. Even God won’t be able to save us if this one gets the votes.
God is not limited. Let’s say that again: God is not limited.
…God is not limited to our two choices. I keep remembering something the disciples did after the Lord ascended into Heaven but before Pentecost. As they gathered for prayer in the Upper Room, they decided to go ahead and fill the vacancy left by Judas. So, they prayed, “Lord, show us which of these two men You have chosen to fill Judas’ place” (Acts 1:24). Scholars debate this, but for my money, the Lord wanted nothing to do with their coin toss. He had already ordained that Saul of Tarsus would be the thirteenth apostle, not someone named Matthias whom we never hear of again.
…God is not limited by the faith or the unbelief of our officials. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the Lord’s hand; He turns it wherever He wishes.” Read your Bible. God used all kinds of people to achieve His purposes.
…He is not limited by our choices, by our unbelief, by our elected officials. In Isaiah 45, God mentions Cyrus, king of Persia. “I have taken him by the right hand to subdue nations,” God said. “I will give (him) the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places.” However, Cyrus was no believer. Twice God says of this pagan ruler, “You have not known me” (45:4,5).
God is sovereign. He is in charge.
“Behold, the nations are like a drop (in) a bucket,” said God in Isaiah 40:15, “and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales. Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.”
“Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before Him; They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.” (45:15-17).
The Psalmist said, “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” (Psalm 115:3).
We preachers have often gone to seed on 2 Chronicles 7:14 (the well-known “if my people” passage) as though that were the manifesto for revival for God’s churches. And it’s a great passage, don’t get me wrong. However, there is one thing more that must not be overlooked when we are calling God’s people to repent and humble before Him: God is sovereign and requires nothing from no one before He can act. My unbelief does not limit Him if He had planned to do something. Now, it sure does limit me! But it does not shackle God.
So, God’s people must always be faithful in prayer.
In prayer, we are calling on God to do His will, whatever that is and however it would work.
We are not claiming to know His will in every case. As many have pointed out, in this crazy election, God may have chosen to given America the kind of weak or wayward or wavering president we deserve, not the one we need.
But whether this is God’s holy purpose or His permissive will for this country, we will drop to our knees and pray, “Father, may thy will be done in the United States of America as it is in Heaven.”
I like to remind God’s people that nothing tells the story on your faith like your praying.
Nothing is more of faith than prayer. In prayer, we talk to One we have never seen and cannot prove exists. We pull aside day after day, year after year, to tell Him the most personal things in our lives. And we do so believing that He is there, that He hears and cares and most amazing of all, will answer. And the kicker is this: 95 percent of what we ask for, we will never know whether God answered it or not or how He did.
And yet we keep praying. That is faith.
But there’s one other thing: After an election where the “wrong person” was put into office, the one you despise and campaigned against, you are expected to pray for him. Or her. And to believe that your prayers make a difference. Without knowing in this lifetime whether or how they did.
Can you do that? Will you do that?
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority…” (I Timothy 2:1-2).
It’s not optional. It’s a command of holy scripture.
Only the faithful will keep this. The carnal and foolish will be so angry that God allowed that person to be elected, they will not pray. And that tells the story on our faith–or lack of it–like few other things.
Beloved, let us pray for America. And let us persist in prayer.