What to Do When You’re Discouraged with America

Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Thursday, December 15, 2016

What to Do When You’re Discouraged with America


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Does it seem to you that the gap between Christians and non-Christians is continuing to grow in America?

According to LifeWay Research, two-thirds of Americans now support euthanasia, while nearly two-thirds of evangelical Christians disagree. According to the Pew Research Center, only 25 percent of non-religious Americans believe that abortion is morally wrong, but 75 percent of white evangelical Christians disagree.

When you become discouraged with the direction of our culture, what should you do?

I was reading 1 Chronicles 5 yesterday, frankly a bit bored with the ongoing list of genealogies and tribal members, when a verse stopped me in my tracks: “The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had valiant men who carried shield and sword, and drew the bow, expert in war, 44,760, able to go to war” (v. 18).

Not surprisingly, these expert warriors waged war against pagan armies and “prevailed over them” (v. 20a). But surprisingly, their victory came because “they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him” (v. 20b).

Which won the battle, their expertise or their prayers?

For many years I struggled with the relationship between human agency and divine sovereignty. I’d heard the saying, “Let go and let God,” but it seemed to contradict the fact that the Lord gives us minds, abilities, and resources he would seemingly want us to employ in his service. I’d also heard the opposite: “What you are is God’s gift to you—what you make of yourself is your gift to God.” But this seemed to make our Lord a God in the balcony who watches us on the stage but doesn’t interact with us. I knew from Scripture and experience that this wasn’t true.

One day I was reading Fisher Humphrey’s excellent systematic theology, Thinking About God, and found the synthesis I had been seeking: as we work, God works. When we give God our best in preparation and service, he then gives us his best in return. As a wise mentor once told me, the Holy Spirit has a strange affinity for the trained mind. God could make us robots he controls, but he chooses to make us children he loves. He gives us freedom that he calls us to use for his glory and our good.

As Oswald Chambers so famously noted, “My utmost for his highest” should be our aim. I recently heard Dr. Jack Graham, senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, recite his church’s motto: “Excellence in all things, and all things to the glory of God.” That’s exactly right.

The psalmist caught this balance between our work and God’s work in this prayer: “Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands” (Psalm 149:6). When we give God our best, we position ourselves to receive his best and to be used for his glory. So we praise and we fight. We work and God works.

The next time you’re discouraged about the direction of our culture, ask yourself two questions: (1) Am I doing my best to make a difference? (2) Am I praying for God to do what I cannot do?

When the answer to both is “yes,” you’ll be able to say with Max Lucado, “I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.”

 

Publication date: December 15, 2016

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