Why Good News on ISIS is Not Good Enough
A year ago yesterday, Islamic State militants killed 130 people and wounded nearly five hundred in the most lethal attack in France since World War II. On Sunday, French President Francois Hollande unveiled plaques for the victims and his country observed a moment of silence in their memory.
In the last year, there has been much good news in the battle against ISIS. The Iraqi army reported yesterday that troops have driven ISIS militants out of the historic town of Nimrud, south of Mosul. The assault on Mosul continues and troops have begun attacks on Raqqa, the capital of ISIS.
But the battle is far from over. The Islamic State is now using exploding drones and equipping children as suicide fighters. The more land it loses in its self-proclaimed caliphate, the more fighters it sends into Europe and beyond in preparation for attacks against its enemies. In other words, defeating ISIS in the Middle East, while urgently necessary, only fuels the resolve of its global followers.
While the world remembered the Paris attacks yesterday, a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand and triggered a tsunami. At least two people were killed. Dozens of aftershocks followed. The quakes remind us that whether our challenges are natural or man-made, much of what affects us is beyond our ability to effect.
This principle is especially important for Christians in the aftermath of the presidential election. Those who opposed Donald Trump are tempted to give up on America, concluding that our country neither wants nor deserves their continued support. Those who supported Mr. Trump are tempted to believe that they have done all their country requires by voting for him.
Neither position is correct. Our nation faces some of the greatest challenges in human history and needs the engagement of Christians more than ever. But we cannot give what America needs unless we admit that we need what only God can give.
Psalm 121 is one of the most transparent declarations of faith I have ever encountered. It begins, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” (v. 1). Here’s the setting: Jerusalem is surrounded by hills its enemies must scale before assaulting the city. If there are only enemies coming over these hills in any direction, residents are trapped with no hope of rescue or way of escape.
But the psalmist knows what we need to remember today: when it’s too daunting to look around, look up. He proclaims, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (v. 2). He knows that our God “will neither slumber nor sleep” (v. 4), that he is our “keeper” from all enemies (v. 5), and that he protects us from “all evil” (v. 7). From the moment we turn to him, “the Lord will keep your going out and your coming in, from this time forth and forevermore” (v. 8).
But we must first turn to him. No president can prevent natural disasters or defeat spiritual enemies. No human can change the human heart.
What America needs most, only God can provide.
Publication date: November 14, 2016
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