turn to God
“We are confident in our devotion to country, in our love of freedom, in our inheritance of courage. But, our strength, as the strength of all men everywhere, is of greater avail as God upholds us.”
“…we ask forgiveness for our shortcomings of the past, consecration to the tasks of the present, and God’s help in the days to come.”
We need His guidance that this people may be humble in spirit but strong in conviction of the right; steadfast to endure sacrifices and brave to achieve a victory of liberty and peace.”
— President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (New Year’s Day 1942 message calling for a day of prayer)
This message from the president of the United States a few weeks after the crippling attack on American and allied bases in the Pacific by Japan and a declaration of war by Nazi Germany shows a deep understanding by Roosevelt of the need to ask God not only for victory, but for forgiveness, consecration and help. FDR asked his fellow Americans to be humble, yet strong in their convictions and endurance for the long road to victory, all under the guiding hand of God almighty.
This was not just one man’s prayer at a time of national trouble, but a prayer for the entire nation. Roosevelt understood the people needed to believe in much more than the abilities of their government to be victorious over what appeared to be an unbeatable enemy.
I believe these words are as important today as they were 71 years ago. And yet when was the last time you heard a politician from any party, or the president, ask God to forgive, consecrate and help our nation? Most end their speeches with “God bless you and God bless America.” A nice sentiment, but it seems so empty, a cliché. Think about it: This statement puts the entire onus on God. We, who are all sinners of one sort or another, have forsaken our responsibilities to him.
We live in a land blessed with vast natural resources and people whose ideas have changed the world for the better. Our farms feed masses of people here and around the world. Our founding documents are the models others try to copy. The United States was, and is, a place where honest hardworking people can come to find their dream and, yes, sometimes fail, but have the opportunity to start over. What other nation on this planet can say the same?
Too often nowadays we think that waving a flag on holidays or during speeches is all it takes to be an American. I find that attitude from people of both conservative and liberal persuasions. America isn’t just a red, white and blue cloth. It’s not the flag for which men and women sacrifice their lives. It is the idea of an America that is honest, humble and consecrated by and before God that makes America worth sacrificing for.
Some might ask: “If God is so concerned about us, why do we have all these problems? Why are there terrorist attacks, drug abuse, crime, unemployment and economic hard times? Why do so many people from other countries hate America and want its downfall? Why doesn’t God just wave his mighty hand and end all this strife? Where is he?”
About 2,500 years ago the people of Israel faced these same trials and asked the questions. They kept looking for God to do something, but failed to see warning signs that it was not God who forgot them, but they who had forgotten God. He kept calling for them to return to him, that he would restore his protection. But, they did not listen. Israel, the people whom God had brought out of bondage to create a great nation, the very people who the creator established a covenant with, turned their backs on him and espoused foreign gods, even to the point of sacrificing their children on the altars of these idols. Eventually God lifted his protection of the kingdom and it fell to mighty enemies and would not be restored as a nation for another 2,500 years. God made a new covenant with all people when he sent his son, Jesus Christ. .
So, what does this all have to do with America and the problems we face? Just look at the similarities. Ancient Israel was a nation founded on religious principles. And, like it or not, so is the United States. At various times in its history Israel became distracted from God’s ways and paid a price for it with wars, economic hard times and foreign domination. So has our country.
Perhaps it is time for another Great Awakening. We have turned from God. We are bowing before the idols of celebrity, treating mere entertainers as gods. We have allowed television programs to dictate our schedules. Parents have allowed their children to attend sports practices and games on Sunday mornings instead of attending worship services as a family. We sacrifice the lives of our children on the altar of “choice.” We fail to celebrate the uniqueness of our fellow human beings by wrapping ourselves in the cocoon of electronic devices. We are falling into foreign domination through indebtedness. And our nation is rotting from within by political and social corruption.
So if we return to God, will it make everything perfect? No, but we might find that things start to improve. A new spirit will fill the hearts of the people. We might move from a “you owe it to me” society to an “I can help” society. Maybe we can break away from our addiction to government dependency, to solve our own problems.
It could bring us from being dependent on charity to being charitable. Wouldn’t it be nice if people wanted to come to America for what they can offer for the good of their new home and not for what they can take from it? And with our newfound unity and strength we will be able to the dissolve our dependency on foreign debt.
I think FDR, along with countless other Americans, expressed the essence of what makes the United States unique. It is the people — the everyday get-up-and-go-to-work, do-something people, not politicians or celebrities or pundits — committing ourselves to be renewed in God’s grace and his protecting hand that is called for at this time, and always. This is what will strengthen and renew this great nation, far from perfect, but still the best place on Earth with the restoration of God to his rightful place in our society and, most important, our hearts.
I urge you to take time every day to pray for the spiritual restoring of America.
Barry A. Gangwer