Flag at Ft McHenry

These are highly political times in the United States. The Iowa Caucuses are eleven days away, and the battle is raging–in Iowa, in New Hampshire, in Washington, on the airwaves. You may even have noticed some of it spilling over into social media. For those of us who realize what is at stake in this battle, it can become all-absorbing. This may be a good time to pause, take a deep breath, and reflect on the bigger picture.

In the midst of a fight the whole world sometimes seems to shrink down to just us, our immediate comrades, and the enemy directly in front of us. At such times it’s hard to remember the big picture. Sometimes we could almost be tempted to think the outcome depends on us. It doesn’t, of course. God’s program does not depend on us, on this election, or this country. His cause will prevail, His purposes be accomplished, with or without the United States.

Of course, many of us love this country. If you’re like me, you hope that God may yet see fit to turn the hearts of the American people from their wicked ways, from the idols they’ve built for their own destruction–idols of omnipotent government, of hedonism, and of covetousness–and that God will turn them to His ways. Many of us also hope that God will awaken those in this country who do still call Him their God and lead them to understand how to cast their votes to elect good leaders so that our government will encourage what is good rather than punish what is good. We do what we can to help this happen, and each day we ask God in prayer to make it a reality. We have to remember that if He doesn’t do it, it won’t get done.

When setbacks come it’s easy to become discouraged. Sometimes discouraging things happen. People who have inherited a name for godliness turn their backs on what’s right and embrace evil. People who have at least had a reputation of standing for truth, justice, and the American way in matters of public policy sell out cheap and turn against the cause they once championed. Betrayal is very discouraging, but we should shake it off and press on. It never depended on those people anyway, any more than it depended on us. It always depended on God.

Those of us who are Christians serve a God Who once told one of His servants, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). On another occasion He told His people, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). Our Lord is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If we will be faithful to His cause, to His word, to what He says is right, then He will be with us. He’ll be our good Lord, win or lose, stand or fall, live or die, and I’d rather have Him on our side than a whole army of university presidents and turncoat politicians.

So then, knowing that we’re contending for truth and justice, and knowing that God will be on our side, let’s renew the battle, not in despair but in joy that God has given us this opportunity. Let’s speak the truth in love. Let’s work as if it all depended on us, because that’s how we ought to work and glorify God. And let’s pray as if it all depended on God, because it does. That doesn’t leave us anything to worry about.

And in the midst of all this, we might want to remember other Americans before us who lived through scary times and saw battles for the future of the country. One of them recorded his feelings in a poem, of which I especially like the closing lines:

Then conquer we must,

When our cause, it is just,

And this be our motto:

‘In God is our trust.’

And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

(Francis Scott Key, “The Defense of Fort McHenry,” later known as “The Star Spangled Banner,” 1814, closing lines of stanza 4)

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