Tomorrow the sun will officially set on one of the most contentious eras and election cycles in American history. My heart has been incredibly heavy as I’ve followed news reports and social media posts in recent weeks and months. My guess is you feel much the same.
Whether it’s the pandemic, vaccines, or the election, our conversations, relationships, homes, and churches have been polarized by a range of perspectives and deeply-felt opinions about current events.
As it relates to politics, if you’re a U.S. citizen, you may be super glad about the outcome of the election. Or you may be super mad and sad. Or perhaps you’re somewhere in between.
Whatever your political leanings, I think we can all agree that this has been a chaotic season for our country, one which culminated in the horrendous breach of our Capitol in Washington, D.C.—a terrible, dark day.
Coming off of nearly a year of isolation, lockdowns, shutdowns, economic swings, and more, people are exhausted. They’re stressed, anxious, and frustrated. That frustration has festered into a growing, deep-seated resentment, which has finally come to a boiling point. So people take to social media, flinging opinions and accusations with little or no room for honest disagreement, no middle ground, no meeting of the hearts or minds. Just dogmatism, animosity, and quickness to cancel those who do not share our beliefs.
On the eve of this Inauguration Day, I want to make several observations and share a few Scriptures that have been on my heart in recent weeks. You won’t be surprised with where I’m going to start, and that is with these two words: Heaven rules.
In This and Every Moment, Heaven Rules
This was God’s message to the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar through the prophet Daniel: “Heaven rules” (Dan. 4:26). That is to say, God in heaven is always on His throne, always sovereign over every granule and every happening in this created universe. Heaven ruled throughout 2020 and through every year that preceded it. Heaven still rules in 2021. There is no power of evil, no darkness that can sabotage God’s redemptive story and plan. Heaven rules.
As we consider this election moment, we must remember that administrations come and go, but God is always on His throne. “The Most High is ruler over human kingdoms, and he gives them to anyone he wants” (Dan. 4:25). That can be hard for our finite minds to grasp. But God is always working—even through godless systems, events, and leaders—to accomplish His saving purposes in this world and to glorify Himself. God is on His throne today; and He will be on His throne tomorrow, and the next day and the next—no matter what.
If we truly believe this, our hearts will not be troubled. We will have comfort. We will have hope. We will have assurance. We will be grounded in unshakable faith and a perspective that whether we can see what’s going to happen, whether we understand it, whether it makes sense—all will be well, because “Heaven rules.”
A World without Fear Is a World without Hope
If you turn on the news, whether you listen to mainstream media, cable news, whether your sources are conservative or progressive, you’re hearing many explanations for what’s going on in our country, as well as many proposed solutions. Pundits and commentators confidently assert: “This is what we need.” Then you flip to another source and the answer is something completely different.
What deeply concerns me is that most of what we’re hearing leaves God out of the equation. When we do that as a country, we are left without any foundations, without any moorings. We are left without any solid footing to cling to. We are left hopeless and helpless.
The words of Charles Spurgeon, the nineteenth century preacher, have never been more timely: “A world without God is a world without fear, without law, without order, and without hope.”
We may think that a world without fear would be a good thing, but the truth is, we need fear. We need the fear of the Lord. We need law. We need order. And we need hope. But once we throw God out of our public life, our private lives, our institutions, and our thinking, as Spurgeon said, we become a world “without law, without order, and without hope.”
We can’t breathe without God. We can’t process this time in history without Him. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28). It matters not how conservative or liberal the analysts may be, if they’re trying to explain or diagnose or fix our problems without God, there is no hope to be found in their solutions.
We are witnessing a widespread loss of faith in the basic institutions of our society—media, government, science, pastors, and churches. People have lost confidence in these things that at one time could be relied upon to be helpful.
But that’s part of the problem.
Fallen, Broken Men Produce Fallen, Broken Systems
It’s always a good thing when our institutions draw upon biblical thinking. Systems that are based on His ways are simply going to work better than systems that are built without God.
But even systems that are built on the foundation of God and His Word—like marriage, for instance—still include two fallen, sinful, broken people. As humans, we’re always going to produce fallen, sinful, broken systems.
We can’t place our trust in those systems. We can’t place our hope in those institutions.
Right in the middle of our Bible lie two verses I believe are hugely needed for the days in which we’re living:
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humanity.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in nobles.
(Psalm 118:8–9 CSB)
We all trust in someone or something. The question is not Are we trusting in things? The question is In what things are we trusting? In whom are we trusting? Where are we turning for refuge?
Hear me correctly: We need human institutions of government and family and church. Those are God-ordained institutions, intended for our good and our protection. But we can’t trust in those institutions, because they will inevitably fail.
Yet our God is merciful. And He can bless us even as we live in a flawed, broken world, if we turn our hearts upward to Him. God is trying to get our attention today—both believers and non-believers, the Church and the world. Anything that makes us desperate for Him truly is a blessing.
Grieve the Darkness, Be the Light
Still, it is appropriate for us to lament and grieve the brokenness of our world. As we think about the deep-seated problems our world is facing, we ought to grieve. We ought to weep. We ought to lament because this is not what God intended when He created this world and said, “It is good.”
One night recently, I couldn’t sleep. I was restless. My heart was heavy, thinking about what was going on in our country along with some other issues. I got up in the wee hours of the morning, and posted just this short sentence on social media: “I weep for you, America.” Perhaps you feel the same way.
We weep for America, but not just for America. We weep for our world. We weep for the Church. And we weep for what God is exposing in our own hearts.
And isn’t that what it really comes down to? I can’t solve the country’s problems or the world’s problems or all the Church’s problems. But I can let God deal with the problems in my own heart.
You see, this is not a time for us to point fingers at the sins of others. There’s a time for showing the Truth of God’s Word and setting it up as a plumbline for our culture and our world. But first, this is a time to let God search our own hearts and show us where we may have contributed to the chaos and the brokenness.
Think about your speech over these last days. Think about the way you’ve talked about the outgoing president or the incoming president or the Congress or judges or your governor or various newscasters. Think about your interaction with other people, how you’ve talked. Think about your social media—what you’ve posted, the comments you’ve made.
Ask yourself, as I’m asking myself: Do my words and attitudes reflect the heart of Jesus?
Do my speech, my interactions, my social media, my attitude and actions:
Reflect hope or despair?
Reflect that Heaven rules or that something else rules?
Express humility or arrogance and pride?
Express grace or anger and self-righteousness?
“Human anger,” Scripture tells us, “does not accomplish God's righteousness” (James 1:20). It’s one thing for the world to be out there ranting, raving, and generally going crazy, but that is not appropriate for us as children of God, not if we care about the righteousness of God being brought about in this world. This country desperately needs the people of God to be light in the darkness.
You may believe the last four years in America were utter darkness. Or you may be dreading the utter darkness you believe we will experience over the next four years. Either way, whichever is true (or whichever is more true) our calling as Christians at this juncture is not to curse the darkness, whether it’s the past, the present, or the future. Our job is to turn on the light. Our job is to point people to Jesus.
To believers living under the heel of the totalitarian, corrupt Roman Empire, the apostle Paul wrote: “Don’t be conquered by evil. But instead, conquer evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).
Light overwhelms and displaces darkness. There is a time to expose deception and darkness, but at this moment it seems there are far too few of us turning on the light, overcoming evil with good. This doesn’t happen by being angry or contentious. That’s acting like the rest of the world. Instead, this is a season for great gospel opportunity if the people of God will be the light of the world.
The problems we are facing are not going to be solved by any political party, by science, or by any human efforts. These are problems that require divine intervention. That’s why this is a time for us to cry out to the Lord and to pray as we have never prayed before.
Let’s remember that this world is not our home. We are exiles, pilgrims. The Bible tells us we’re not just intended to huddle together and hang on until the end comes. We have an obligation to those who don’t know Jesus, as the apostle Peter reminded those persecuted, first-century believers:
Dear friends, I urge you, as strangers and exiles abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul, and conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits. (1 Peter 2:11–12 CSB)
This world is not our home. Our citizenship is in heaven. We long for a city; we long for a country that God is building. It’s not temporal. It’s not earthly. It’s not man-made. It’s a City built by God. And our citizenship is in that country.
That’s what Paul says in Philippians 3. In verse 19 he talks about those whose “end is destruction,” who “are focused on earthly things.” But, he says, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there—the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 20).
We’re living as foreigners, as strangers, as pilgrims in this world, but our true, eternal citizenship is in the presence of Christ. And that’s why, as long as we are here:
We can suffer when necessary.
We can endure and persevere in hard times.
We can love well.
We can serve well.
We can have peace.
We can have joy.
Because our citizenship is in heaven. Our home is in heaven. And we’re waiting for, longing for, eagerly expecting that any day now, the clouds are going to split, Jesus is going to return, and we will be forever with the Lord.
And that perspective should change everything:
How we live.
How we function.
How we endure.
How we love.
How we talk.
And how we pray.
A Prayer for Tomorrow and the Days Ahead
Oh Lord, How we plead with You to intervene in this world, in our country, our churches, our homes, and in our own hearts.
Today, those of us who are citizens of the United States especially lift our hearts up and ask for Your mercy on this country as a transition takes place in our government. We pray for all of our elected and appointed leaders, as you have commanded us to do, “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:2).
May we not put our hopes in princes, in presidents, in leaders, in congressmen, or in political parties. May we not look to this administration—or to a new administration down the road—to solve our problems. We acknowledge that You can accomplish Your redemptive purposes regardless of what political party may be at the helm, because they’re not ultimately in charge. Heaven rules.
So we pray that You would intervene. That you would call men, women, leaders, families, and children to repentance. That You would expose deception and bring Truth to light.
We pray that You would send forth, through Your people, hope for the hopeless and despairing as they see in us that Your plan is good and beautiful and that You really can be trusted to write our stories. May they be moved to trust You as they see that in us.
We pray for revival in the Church.
We pray for You to be glorified in this world. We pray for a mighty release of Your power, Your grace, and Your gospel in our country and in our world. We pray that people would become so desperate that they would say, “We can’t go on without God.”
And, Lord, we pray the prayer the Lord Jesus taught us to pray, for this is what matters most to us now and forever:
“Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:9–10 CSB)