New President, Same King, Clear Duties
- 2008 25 Nov
So, it is official. Barack Obama will be our new president. Personally, I think it is marvelous that we have an African-American leader. I would have preferred one with a different political view, but it is still a landmark moment in our nation. Regardless of how we feel about this new day, I want to share with you some powerful truths that strike home with strange relevance for such a time as this.
As we know, the Apostle Paul commanded us to pray for those in authority - including our President-elect (1 Timothy 2:1). The foundation for our ability to engage in this kind of prayer is found in 1 Timothy 1:17, where it says: "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." Even though Paul was under the rule of the emperor Nero, he still knew who the King was. Whether Obama or McCain became our president, THE KING is still on His throne. Paul describes this King as "the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Timothy 6:15). Just what kind of King is our God?
Eternal - The Bible reminds us that our lives are but a vapor that appear for a minute, and then vanish away. The term of any president, whether Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, is but a blip on the radar screen of life compared to our eternal King. We can have great confidence during these temporary days of earthly existence and human rule that our King is accomplishing eternal purposes for His glory.
Immortal - Our king is not mortal. He has no beginning or end. He has no "terms" of office. He cannot be deposed and is perfect in all He does. He will never fail or falter. While our presidents live in the beauty and dignity of the White House and are often extolled for their various accomplishments, our King is one "who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power" (1 Timothy 6:16).
Invisible - Our God exists and is at work beyond the things that we can see with our eyes or perceive with our senses. What we see is temporal but our God is active in the unseen reality of the eternal. As the old chorus said, "He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me." If we know and trust Him, we have the assurance that His work is occurring in a manner and realm that we do not comprehend or even understand in the moment.
Only Wise God - The jury is out on whether the wisdom of partisan politics, financial rescue plans, and presidential leadership will really work in this uncertain age. Yet, we know that our God alone is wise. As Paul writes in Romans 11:33-36:
"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen."
When we embrace and live by His wisdom from above, our behavior is "pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (James 3:17).
Honor and Glory - Paul not only invites us to give our King honor and glory - but declares that He will absolutely receive honor and glory forever and ever. That includes right now. We are assured that all things are working for His glory, whether or not we like it in the moment or agree with what we see. As Paul says it so clearly:
"For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence."
In case you missed it, let me remind you that this story of His glory includes, "thrones or dominions or principalities or powers." (A relevant application today!)
With this foundation in place, we now must accept our clear duties as prescribed in this passage.
Faith and a Good Conscience! - Before giving Timothy the serious charge to pray and lead the church in prayer, he commands the young leader to "wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience" (1 Timothy 1 18-19). In essence he says, "Honor your calling, Timothy" and "Avoid the pathway of those who shipwreck their faith." He reminds Timothy that he is at war, not just for a cause but for his own soul. Paul calls his spiritual son to keep "faith" which is rooted in a love for and application of God's truth to one's own heart and mind. He calls him to a "good conscience" whereby Timothy will keep short accounts with God and others, with all sin and violations of relationship confessed and forsaken.
Lest we get caught up in heated debates about the outcome of the election or our prognostications about the future, we need to come back to the personal responsibility to keep an authentic faith and a good conscience without offense before God and man (Acts 24:16).
Prayer! - Before the election it was easy for us to pray for God's will to be done, probably with some strong opinions about what that should look like. Now it is time to accept God's will and pray more fervently and specifically than ever with "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks" for "all men, for kings and all who are in authority." Read that line again. Notice the word "all." Take it seriously. It is not a suggestion but a command.
Godliness and Reverence! - When we pray this way, we are changed from the inside out with the result that we will lead a "quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence" (1 Timothy 2:2). Of course, we all pray for a governmental system and political environment that will make it easier for us to live this way. But this is really a prayer that deals with the Jesus-like character development of our own lives, regardless of the political climate. (Remember, Paul was writing under hostile, godless Roman rule with the crosshairs of Nero's antagonism squarely on his own chest!) As we pray, "it is well with our soul" and we are transformed to demonstrate godly lives that are respectful and honorable in every way.
Keeping the Main thing the Main Thing! - Now, notice Paul's next words very carefully, "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:3-4). God's purposes in this life are not wrapped around a conservative or liberal agenda. They are kingdom purposes that are explicitly enacted through "blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:16). God's plan is to redeem the world though the "one Mediator" between a holy God and sinful world - Jesus Christ crucified, risen, and coming again.
Holy Hands! Holy Hearts! - This leads us to Paul's final prayer command in 1 Timothy 2:8 to pray "everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." The secret to real change in this world is not a president or political agenda. It is believing, passionate, revived Christians with "pure hands and clean hearts" (Psalm 24:4) who live without anger toward others or doubt toward God and His promises.
Elections come and elections go. Presidents rise to prominence and soon fade into oblivion. But God's enduring plan is clearly delineated in the Scriptures, and nowhere more specifically than this passage we have considered. We are the agents of real change. Let's not get off task.
I remember hearing it said, "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." While the President-elect and his new administration think of how they are going to change the landscape of American society, let us reconsider and recommit to God's plan to transform the very hearts of men and women across our nation and throughout the world - through us.
Copyright © 2008 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.