Well, it’s over. Donald Trump has all but wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination, and the “conservative Christian” candidates are gone. But at least we can trust that God is sovereign!
… that is, unless someone starts a third party run. Or a pro-life Libertarian gets nominated… Or next election when someone better might have a chance to get elected, or some other circumstance might change…
…but if not, maybe God can become sovereign again!
It’s easy for us to tell ourselves that “God is sovereign” when we run out of other options. But the way we think, talk, and act when things don’t look so gloomy says something about how much we really believe in his sovereign goodness at all times – including when we’re most prone to say it.
The last several months have seen one of the wildest presidential campaigns in most people’s memory and almost everyone seems to have some opinion on it. I never remember reading a single thing about a presidential primary election on social media until this time around; now, it’s seemingly the only thing anyone has wanted to talk about since last summer.
It’s safe to say an unusually large number of Americans have become caught up in the race — including many of my fellow believers.
To this point I have stayed out of commenting on the race except to an extremely small number of family and friends. I’m not about to start getting political, either.
But I think there is something important going on that needs to be addressed. I am deeply concerned over how much my fellow Christians have been consumed with worry over this election. Earthly events should not disturb people this way who have their hope in a resurrected Savior who was willing to literally die for them. There should be more trust in his love and his power than this.
But along with this, I’m concerned that despite this humbling experience they will not learn their lesson from what should be a very helpful, if painful, opportunity to grow in their character and their trust in God.
It goes without saying that no one should completely trust a politician, especially at the highest level of government. There are too many people to please, and too many landmines to avoid, for someone to get elected without a little triangulating here and a little doublespeak there. If you understand the game at all, some degree of pandering is baked in the cake with anyone you vote for. It’s just that you think you’re the one who sees through what they’re saying to the other guys. You vote for them not because you trust everything they say, but because you trust that what they intend to do is what you want accomplished.
And yet even with that recognition – “No, of course we would never trust politicians!” – an inordinate number of people still yet put their trust in politicians. There is any number of things they hope their candidate will do if elected. They envision a certain kind of governance if that person is elected, and they begin to let their heart drift in that direction. In so doing, they set themselves up for varying degrees of disappointment if they don’t get their guy – something that has now happened to many people who were not supporting the presumptive Republican nominee.
This is understandable among non-Christians. After all, if you only have hope in this life, why would you not be grieved when you think your society is spiraling downwards?
But for Christians this kind of perspective is mistaken and unnecessary, and doesn’t properly honor God.
It was Christians under Roman dictatorial persecution who were able to “greatly rejoice” (1 Peter 1:6), because whatever happened in this life was nothing compared to the treasure they had yet to come. It was Christians being persecuted who were able to still grow in faith and love despite being persecuted and afflicted (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4).
Yet today we cling to the “rights” and privileges we have been accustomed to as American citizens as if somehow these are God-given but the Bible’s promises about persecution are not (2 Timothy 3:12). Not content to pray and ask God to give us a “quiet life” so we can go about our business (1 Timothy 2:1-2), and trusting him to give it to us if he pleases, some Christians have used “fleshly weapons” (2 Corinthians 10:4) to make this nation as Christian-friendly as possible.
Now we’re all paying the price and many are panicked about losing their perceived Utopia. And the nomination of a man regarded as unconcerned about religious freedom and any kind of pro-life agenda seems like the last piece to fall. Hence, despair.
Oh wait, I forgot, God is sovereign!
But of course, because we’re too worried about what we see in the world and not what we can trust from God’s word, we forget this until all our options are taken away from us.
This is not just an innocent mistake. It often reflects wrong priorities and wrong motives. It demonstrates an obsession with the present life that acts as if our joy and treasure is to be found here and now rather than in the future (1 Peter 1:4-8). It looks not to the things which are unseen, but to the things that are seen – living by sight rather than by faith (2 Corinthians 4:18). It evidences a desire for personal safety and ease rather than trusting God to provide what we need for as long as he wants us in this world (Matthew 6:31-34).
Perhaps worst of all, it demonstrates to non-Christians that these are the things we value, not their good. When you try to cling to a life of Christian comfort with one hand, and offer the gospel with the other, people might start to wonder what it is you’re really after and why you want them to become a Christian in the first place. Is there a genuine, selfless concern? Or will this just make things easier and better for you? Do you just want a Christian Safe Space regardless of what it does to your gospel testimony?
I contend that most of our political involvement is (sadly) primarily about these things and not about the spread of the gospel and the eternal good of others. And it ought not to be this way.
Many people come to some of these realizations, for a time, when their guy loses an election, and they are left with nothing to hope in but “God is sovereign.” But how long will this last? How well will it hold up?
To everyone who was greatly hoping in one or more candidates to come through and get America closer to where you think it needs to be, I ask you to consider: What is going to prevent yet another round of this disappointment in four years? And again in eight? And twelve?
What kind of human, earthly hopes are rising through the ranks at this very moment? What college student is making the connections – as you read this – to one day help propel him to the rank of the next “conservative Christian” hero? What politician is calculating how he might get your vote one day in the future based off these natural, but wrong-minded, fears? Who will get your trust because you’re not content to trust in the sovereign power, wisdom, and love of God?
To take it up a notch: What is going to prevent you from forgetting God if your candidate actually one day wins? How will you keep your trust in God alone?
…or is that just a phrase we fight to keep on our money, but won’t lift a finger to actually practice?
To think of these situations and how prone we are to hope in man exposes a sad state and a strange irony. The sadness it that we don’t lack faith. We simply put it in the wrong place: humans rather than God.
The irony is that we “hope against hope” that a politician will somehow get elected by a culture we say is shifting away from so-called Christian values, and that he will be able to change things, while we refuse to trust in God’s care for us despite his utter trustworthiness.
It’s not that we lack faith, it’s that we have far too much faith in man and far too little in God. And everyone who has fallen prey to this on the smallest level needs to search out his heart in light of the Scriptures to figure out just why he was able to shift from one to the other. Otherwise, it will just happen again.
It is not enough to say “God is sovereign” because as soon as the next “Christian conservative” comes calling, pandering to you for your vote, you will just run back to him, not just with your vote (which is fine in and of itself, if you prefer) with the desperate hope that he will make everything okay again.
So what do we do?
Confess that we have trusted in government instead of God. Seek out our motives as to why we have done this: lack of faith, lack of eternal priority, love of comfort, love of the respect of men, and others. Realize that we have let something else replace our trust in God on a day-to-day basis, and strike while the iron of your conscience is hot to make sure such unbelief never happens again.
And then do something about it. Study what God says about where our hope should be (hint: not in government leaders). Meditate on what God says about believers’ future. Ask for faith to trust him for our well-being in this world. Resolve to trust him even if things get really difficult. Consider the life of Christ and how he suffered such discomfort and yet now is glorified at the right hand of God the Father. Etc., etc., etc.
No matter who is elected President – including your candidate – you need to trust God. And no matter what they do, we need to make sure that our hope is never placed in what these people can to us or for us.
After all, God is sovereign… right?