Your Nation Can Be Changed
Your Nation Can Be Changed
There were 10,000 prostitutes plying their trade on the streets of London. Binge drinking and gambling were widespread. The UK had descended into decadence and immorality. This was the eighteenth century. Church congregations had declined sharply (just as they have in recent decades). Parts of the church had virtually descended into paganism.
Yet, the nation was changed. The preaching of John Wesley and George Whitefield began to take effect. Thousands of people responded to their message and encountered Jesus. Robert Raikes started his first Sunday school in 1780. The growth from this one idea reached 300,000 unchurched children within five years. By 1910, there were well over 5 million children in Sunday school. God raised up William Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury and others. Not only were individual hearts changed – but the nation was also transformed.
As we look at our world today, we see it is changing faster than ever before. In the last twenty-five years, there has been huge change – politically, economically and technologically. Massive change is taking place in many countries around the world. How can the spiritual climate of your nation be changed?
Peaceful peopleProverbs 14:25-35
The writer of Proverbs says, ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people’ (v.34). (‘God-devotion makes a country strong’, v.34, MSG.) Sin destroys a nation. Righteousness exalts a nation. Righteousness involves a range of right relationships:
- Peace with God
Righteousness starts with making peace with God (Romans 5:1). It starts with the fear of the Lord (in the good sense of proper respect for the Lord).
‘The Fear-of-God builds up confidence, and makes a world safe for your children. The Fear-of-God is a spring of living water’ (Proverbs 14:26–27a, MSG).
- Peace with others
As far as it depends on you, ‘live at peace with everyone’ (Romans 12:18). Right relationships with others are characterised by righteous words and actions. First, our words are to be truthful rather than deceitful for ‘a truthful witness saves lives’ (Proverbs 14:25).
Second, our actions are to display a desire for the well-being of others. Be patient rather than quick-tempered (v.29). Be kind to those in need. ‘You insult your Maker when you exploit the powerless; when you’re kind to the poor, you honor God’ (v.31, MSG). Display your delight towards those who act in wisdom (vv.33,35).
- Peace with ourselves
Righteousness involves a right relationship with ourselves. You can know peace: ‘A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body’ (v.30a, AMP). Anger, lack of forgiveness, envy and jealousy can damage your physical body. Getting rid of the bad stuff in your life and having a ‘heart at peace’ is good for your health.
Ultimately, this peace comes from being content about both the present and the future. For, ‘even in death the righteous have a refuge’ (v.32b). For those who fear in the Lord, he becomes our refuge in the present (v.26) and the future (v.32b).
Lord, I pray that our nation will turn back to you and that the name of the Lord will be respected again in parliament, government, schools and law courts. Help us to prioritise the poor and be kind to the needy.
Powerful preachingActs 8:4-40
The early church was made up of ordinary people like you and me. Yet it changed the world. The whole known world was transformed following the death and resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The book of Acts tells us how this happened.
Everywhere they went they preached the message about Jesus (v.4, MSG). In this passage, we see that they preached to crowds and to individuals, like Simon the sorcerer and the Ethiopian eunuch.
Nations are comprised of cities, towns and villages. They preached the gospel in all three. Philip preached to a city in Samaria (v.5). Peter and John preached the gospel in many Samaritan villages (v.25). Philip preached the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea (v.40).
Their preaching was accompanied – and indeed accelerated – by three factors:
It began with persecution: ‘Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went’ (v.4). The dispersion brought great blessing. Everywhere they went they ‘proclaimed the Christ’ (v.5).
Again and again in the history of the church, persecution and opposition has led to unexpected fruitfulness. It is easy to lose heart when we experience setbacks, but this reminds us that God can use them in amazing ways.
We see in this passage the importance of prayer. Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans that they might receive the Holy Spirit (vv.15–17).
Simon was a notorious magician who dazzled everyone with his wizardry and had everyone eating out of his hand (vv.9–11, MSG). He himself believed and was baptised, but following his old ways he wanted to buy the Holy Spirit (v.19).
Peter was unimpressed, ‘To hell with your money!… Ask the Master to forgive you for trying to use God to make money. I can see this is an old habit with you; you reek with money-lust’ (vv.20–23, MSG).
Simon realised that only the Lord could save him and asked them to pray for him (v.24).
The early church was characterised by enormous effectiveness: ‘When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed’ (vv.6–7).
They were totally reliant on the Holy Spirit. Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian was not the result of a strategic planning meeting. Rather, ‘the Spirit told Philip…’ (v.29). The result of him following the leading of the Holy Spirit was the remarkable conversion of the Ethiopian, which has affected the whole nation of Ethiopia right down to the present day. The church that was birthed that day has never died out in that nation.
The Holy Spirit is the agent of change. He can bring about change in a nation. That change starts with the change in the lives of people. It is worth noting the factors involved in the change in this Ethiopian.
First, the Spirit of God prepared his heart. The Ethiopian is honest about his ignorance (v.31), searching for answers (v.32) and not too proud to ask for help (v.34). There is no shame in not always understanding what you read in the Bible. It is wise to get help from trusted people or Bible commentaries to help you apply it to your life.
Second, the Spirit of God is at work through the word of God. It is as the Ethiopian looks at the book of Isaiah that he begins to find answers (vv.32–33). Often, the Holy Spirit uses a human agent to help open up, explain, and apply the Scriptures. This is what happened here, beginning with Isaiah 53, Philip explains ‘the good news about Jesus’ (v.35).
The Holy Spirit changes the heart of the Ethiopian in such a radical and complete way that he believes immediately and asks to be baptised. There is no more powerful an agent of change than the Holy Spirit.
Lord, help us to be more like the early church. Help us to pray more and to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit day by day. I pray that our nation would be transformed as people come to know you.
Passionate prayer2 Samuel 20:1-21:22
The battles in David’s life never seem to come to an end. In today’s passage we see two further battles.
First, there is ‘a troublemaker named Sheba’ (20:1). This is an echo of David’s struggle with Absalom (16:22). The people of Israel seem extremely fickle: ‘All the men of Israel deserted David to follow Sheba’ (20:2). The Lord gave David victory over Sheba but immediately there is another battle around the corner.
There was a famine for three consecutive years (21:1a). As the nation faced disaster, ‘David sought the face of the Lord’ (v.1b). Sometimes it takes a real disaster to get us on our knees. God spoke to him as he prayed.
He held Israel to the promise that was made to the Gibeonites (see Joshua 9). In spite of the promise, Saul had tried to annihilate them, but the oaths that are made to God are very important and cannot be broken lightly. (The most common oaths today are in the marriage service and oaths in court.) Only after David had put things right and honoured the oath made to God did God answer prayer on behalf of the land (2 Samuel 21:14).
Lord, I seek your face on behalf of our nation. Have mercy upon us. Help us to be a nation that honours you with faithfulness to our marriage vows and truthfulness in our law courts. Lord, would you once again answer prayer on behalf of the land. May our nation be turned back to you. May your name be honoured. May your kingdom come.
‘The Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Phillip away… Philip, however, appeared at Azotus…’
I don’t know whether it would be exciting or terrifying (or just useful) to be at HTB in London one minute and the next minute be in Brighton! It only happens to me when I drive off absentmindedly and find myself in totally the wrong place!
Verse of the Day
‘… when you’re kind to the poor, you honour God’ (Proverbs 14:31, MSG).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.