James Bond was describing his favorite vodka martini but he could have been thinking of American churches in 2016. We have been shaken by the godless revolution that has turned social values on their heads and has forbidden the Bible as superstition and hate speech. But we have not been stirred to repentance or even serious prayer.
Unfortunately, too many saints seem utterly fixated with the approaching presidential election. Pastors and other spiritual leaders have squandered their good names endorsing one candidate or another, both of whom are appalling, and urging the people of God to pray about this election. Tense, guarded voices warn us that this election represents our last good chance to take the nation back.
In fact, the nation we once knew is gone, and it’s time to get over it. There is no super hero- and certainly no politician– coming to turn back time and restore sanity to our government and our culture. Like it or not, this is the new normal. What if we in the church stopped wringing our hands in grief, and decided to accept the call of God? Could this be the moment when we should resolve to stop living in the past and begin serving God in the place where He has planted us?
Christ encouraged his apostles to be fearless when he dispatched them to go ahead of him and prepare the way. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.” (Hint: wolves are hazardous for sheep.)
The church in Laodicea was rich and comfortable, but utterly lacking in influence. Christ rebuked that church, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire.” He was prescribing purity that can be derived only in the fires of persecution. That may very well be what the Master has in store for churches in the USA as well; not because he hates us, but because he loves us.
Persecution is not the exception for exceptional churches; it is the rule. Counter-cultural congregations always threaten the Establishment. The gospel unites people around timeless truth even as kings and congressmen scramble to divide us over race, economics, age, and gender. The harder tyrants work to suppress the church or stamp it out, the more potent the Holy Spirit grows in multiplying the saints and manufacturing holy ambition. Pinpoint the places around the globe where holiness is rising, where churches are exploding, and you’ll find most of your pins point to places on the map where the church is under fire.
It’s not pleasant to think about the approach of serious persecution of believers: not just icy glares when one mentions Christmas, but violence and prison time. But wouldn’t it be thrilling, even earth shaking, to experience the awe and wonder of Acts in our 21st Century American churches today? That may very well be why so much chaff is being sifted out of the church scene. Perhaps God is refining the Bride of Christ for what is to come: less is more. Thinking about persecution for ourselves and our children, it may be that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
That’s why prayer closets will be much more urgent than voting booths for many years to come. If you can do both, vote and pray. If you have to choose, opt for the latter.
Don’t pray for the election. Pray for the Elect.
And lift up the Cross!