Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's Really at Stake?

Like many of you, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed when I stop and think about some of the major changes that have taken place in the world in a very short amount of time. In just the past year, Japan has seen one of the most devastating earthquakes in recorded history, there have been sweeping revolutions in many Middle Eastern countries, some parts of Mexico have become totally overrun by violent gangs and lawlessness and the United States has continued a sharp economic downturn that could very possibly define the next season for much of the world. These dramatic changes are happening very quickly and it appears as though we can expect many more.

For most of the second half of the twentieth century, the nations of the world watched intently as the United States and Russia competed for nuclear dominance. These two world superpowers remained in stalemate as both sides slept with one eye open for about fifty years. Thankfully, as the 1980's drew to a close, relative peace was achieved between these giants and the United States began a period of military and economic superiority. Since that time, the US has been the primary world power. Some across the globe have hated that fact, others have enjoyed it but few have been indifferent.

Some feel that the US has over-stepped its bounds and served as a "world police," while some have welcomed America as a "big brother" trying to help maintain peace and advance the cause of human rights. Regardless of where a person may stand in this debate, there is no denying that many have benefited from the global leadership of the United States. We have certainly not been perfect, but we have been a presence seeking to bring good and hope to even the most remote corners of the world. Wherever there has been a natural disaster, we have normally been the first to offer aid. The wheat fields of Kansas and the corn fields of Illinois have produced grain that not only fills our store shelves, but also fills the bellies of hungry children in developing nations. Our military has not only served to keep us safe domestically, but they have also fought for the bullied, and often unprotected citizens of Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq, South Korea and many other nations.

These are just some of the benefits resulting from the United States being the preeminent world leader. As we look around now at what is taking place here and across the world, we are facing a very real possibility that the United States could lose that place. Right now, for a number of reasons, the US is in danger of falling to the #2 spot, or perhaps even further. Our nation is currently dealing with one of the worst recessions in decades. Recessions are considered by many to be a natural and necessary part of the cycle in a free market economy, but one reason this particular recession is so bad is that our elected officials are doing very little to stop it. There seems to be virtually no bipartisan effort to create jobs, pay down the national debt or redeem the value of the US dollar. While all of this is working against us, there are others who seem to be in a completely different boat.

China, for example, is currently very much in the black economically, and they own much of America's overwhelming debt. The next few years could very feasibly see China emerge as the world's primary super power. In my opinion, that could be disastrous change. China currently has deplorable policies when it comes to human rights and, despite what they may say, they desire to control the world's resources. There is much to be said about this, and maybe I will another time, but let's just imagine that China, or another nation, displaces America has the primary world power. What is really at stake if such a transition should take place? Where the US has fought for human rights, China would likely ignore the cries and senseless killing of the innocent. Would China offer the same relief in terms of economic assistance and food resources that the United States has offered developing nations? If their track record with their own citizens is any indication, it is a safe bet that they would not be as generous.

As a follower of the Lord and a student of the Bible, I believe there will be major shifts internationally before this age fully draws to an end. Many believe that America is destined to lose their place of superiority. I do not subscribe to this idea, however. I believe it certainly could happen, but I don't think it has to happen, and it may still be up to us. I know America is not perfect, and we have major changes we need to make in terms of morality, the family, education and racial and gender equality. However, I believe our nation was founded upon Godly principles by Godly men who envisioned an America that is so much more than we have become. I believe the Lord has a plan and purpose for this nation that has not yet been fulfilled. We are facing major challenges, and we are going to have to make some major course corrections, but like Esther, we have been brought to the Kingdom "for such a time as this"(see Esther 4:14). As the Lord's followers and children in this nation, He intends for us to be the salt and light of the world, particularly in America during this time (see Matthew 5:13-14). Light illuminates and dispels darkness, and salt is a preservative. We have the ability to dispel the darkness presently facing our nation. We can preserve America from the fate that awaits us if we stay on this current course. We have to turn the tide and re-direct this ship.

What's really at stake? I don't think anybody fully knows how to answer that question, but by God's grace, we may never have to find out. Throughout history, nations have risen and later fallen. Empires have risen to world dominance and crumbled like a child's sandcastle washed away by the tide. However, the Lord's goodness never changes, and the heart He has for our nation, and for all the nations of the world, will never change. I do not believe it is too late for America, but as a nation, we have to turn back to the Lord. As His people, we have to lead the way. II Chronicles 7:14 is a common verse, but perhaps never more important for us than now:

If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land (NKJV).

We are the ones who must do this, and the time is now. I pray that America's best days will be ahead, but I do believe it is up to us. Martin Luther King, Jr. once made a very insightful and sobering statement. He was describing the civil rights movement of a few decades ago, but I believe his words still ring true today: "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." I believe history will record this season as the time when America's future was determined. May it never record that you and I were silent.

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