We have a lot to be thankful for! If you watch the news or read the newspaper, you might think that the only things that happen in the world are terrible evils. Natural disasters leave us wondering how much suffering people will have to endure. A constant barrage of information about the latest murder or abduction or torture or abuse leaves us with a sick feeling about the state of the world. Spicy headlines designed to boost media ratings may be scintillating, but they leave us with the wrong impression of the way things really are.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not just a Pollyanna. I don’t think we should view the world through rose colored glasses. There is no doubt that things are not the way they are supposed to be. I would certainly not number myself with the prophecy preachers who point to every skirmish in the Middle East as a portent o f Armageddon. However, I do believe that we are living in the last days and that things in this world will likely get much worse before they get better.
This month is an important time for electing officials to serve in our government. The right to elect those officials is one of the things we ought to thank God for. As Christians, we have a responsibility to use that right to influence our society with the truth of God. However, we have to keep in mind that society can never really be changed by an election. The only thing that can bring true and lasting change to our world is a revival led by the Spirit of God. An election can’t stop earthquakes or tsunamis. It won’t stop children from being hurt by those that lurk in the shadows of society. New laws won’t change the human heart. And, as the church of Jesus Christ, it is the human heart that is our greatest concern.
Jesus’ way of changing the world wasn’t in a campaign to overthrow Rome. It didn’t come in the form of a coup d’état. He didn’t try to establish a democracy and then commission his disciples as politicians of the new order so that he could establish his kingdom. On the contrary, he insisted that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).
Arguably the most challenging era of American history was the time of the great Civil War. One Christmas during that conflict a poet by the name of Henry Longfellow reflected on the sound of bells across the land ringing out the sound of “peace on earth, good will to men.” You have probably heard the song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” You may not know that this song was written during that awful time of American history. Most of us are also not familiar with the fourth and fifth stanzas, which refer directly to the conflict:
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
That reflection leads Longfellow to the despair expressed in stanza 6:
And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,”
I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
I’m not sure what happened to turn things around for Longfellow, but I’m very glad the song doesn’t end there. The last stanza of this great song is filled with hope:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
It is filled with hope not because the outcome of the war was certain, nor could there be any guarantee of what would happen to this country in its aftermath. The song is filled with hope because, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!”
This world is not the way it is supposed to be. This nation is not the way it is supposed to be. Even the church is not the way it is supposed to be. But, we still have much to be thankful for. The empty tomb reminds us that we serve a living God who reigns supremely over this world. He will right every wrong. He will silence all opposition to His rule. The wrong will inexorably fail and the truth of God will prevail. So, be a good citizen. Vote. Pray. And, give thanks whatever the outcome. A new king has been born and this season of thanksgiving segues into the celebration of His inauguration!