The results of an election can reveal the character and heart of a people. And this most recent election, at least in the state of California, didn’t reveal a heart for God or loyalty to Christian values.
Our newly-elected governor was, fourteen years ago, the first mayor to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California. This week, the opening sentence of an LA Times article quipped, “Gavin Newsom’s election as governor of California is expected to shift state politics and policy even further to the left after eight years under the leadership of Gov. Jerry Brown.”
Recent laws passed in our state have created increasing discomfort for Christians who believe in the sanctity of marriage, the life of the pre-born, and even the role of biblical values in society. Indeed, California and many other parts of America have more of a European flavor politically and religiously than ever before.
But although this is a developing path for the United States, it is not new in world history. The psalmist talks about the depth of depravity to which those who are anti-God go. And if the intensity of vitriol that sometimes accompanies their insistence on a position seems disproportionate to the occasion, there is a reason. It often is not simply a single matter or viewpoint at hand, but a decision to rage against God Himself.
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.—Psalm 2:1–3
As Christians, during these times, we pray with the psalmist for deliverance from oppression, an opposition which I believe will only increase until the coming of the Lord: “Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts” (Psalm 119:134).
Although times like these can be discouraging for a Christian whose focus is solely on experiencing comfort in this life, this is a short-sighted viewpoint. When we are living as Spirit-filled Christians, these can be exciting times to see God work in unusual and significant ways.
In fact, two of the great men of the Old Testament whose stories we remember often—Joseph and Daniel—were both surrounded by political and spiritual depravity of the worst sort. It was against that backdrop that their lives made such a profound difference.
So, rather than being discouraged with the results of this past election, I choose to be grateful.
I am thankful because…
1. God Is Faithful in Every Generation
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.—Psalm 118:29
Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.—Psalm 90:1–2
The first-century Roman empire was far more corrupt and pagan than the United States today, yet the gospel flourished and spread through its entirety.
2. The Mission of God’s People Never Changes
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.—Mark 16:15
My goal as a pastor is not to be overly concerned about red states and blue states. My goal is to preach the crimson red blood atonement of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. When people are redeemed by His blood and inhabited by the Holy Spirit, their worldview will change. But until they know the Lord, the biblical worldview will not make sense anyway.
While election results intrigue me, as a Christian, my task does not change from season to season. I need to be ready to share Christ with a spirit of love and compassion today.
3. Our Mission Is Obvious
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.—Acts 17:16
Rather than being surrounded by professing and often carnal Christians, we have masses of unconverted heathen people in our state. If you lived in a county that was surrounded by hundreds of Baptist churches, you might not even think you need to actively look for ways to witness. But here, you can’t help but see the need.
A mature believer in California does not view his life as one dedicated to aerospace advancements, a hospital, or a law enforcement agency. He sees these as a vocation and certainly does his best, but he knows his higher calling is to be a light for Jesus in those places. This is a time to consider whether we will respond with flight or fight to the challenges in California. Will we flee discomfort? Or will we, not combatively but with a soulwinner’s heart, have a spirit to take the Sword of the Spirit and stand for truth? The opportunity to do so has never been greater.
4. The Sovereignty of God Is Over All
The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.—Psalm 113:4
Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing…. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.—Isaiah 40:15, 17
I don’t have to wring my hands in apprehension over the future because I know the King of kings and Lord of lords. No, we aren’t promised a life of ease and comfort, free of persecution. But we are promised God’s peace and comfort, and we can rest in knowing that He isn’t surprised or disabled by an election.
5. Revival Is an Ever-present Potential
Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.—Psalm 115:2–3
Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?—Psalm 85:6
Frankly, for states like California and New York, as well as a growing number of other places across our land, revival may seem completely impossible. But it may be the complacency of Christians that is to blame. Perhaps now Christians will ponder the need for prayer, seeking the Lord, and humbling ourselves. These are the choices to which God responds with His grace.
6. The Natural Beauty of God’s Creation Surrounds Us
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice.—Psalm 96:11–12
From the giant sequoias to the redwoods to the expansive deserts to the sandy beaches and cliff-lined coasts to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California is breathtakingly beautiful. And it all points to God as the creator and sustainer who is worthy of our honor and praise.
7. The Lord Is on Our Side
I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?—Psalm 118:5–6
When you’re involved in politics, you always want the most persuasive, influential, or powerful person on your side. And when “the other side” has such a person, you cringe. As Christians, we have the Lord on our side. Sometimes we forget it, and sometimes we forget the significance of it. But He is always there, and we have no need to fear.
8. The Local Church Will Continue
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.—Matthew 16:18
I’m thankful for the local church. In particular, I’m thankful for Lancaster Baptist Church—a place where God has allowed me to pastor for over thirty-two years and where I joyfully serve to this day. The assembly of believers is to be a place where we focus on the Lord, have a haven of rest, and pray and prepare to reach the lost with the gospel. As our culture becomes increasingly hostile toward God and biblical truths, the church should mean more to us today than ever.
9. Our Weather Is Terrific
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.—1 Thessalonians 5:18
I’m thankful I will not shovel snow to get to work this winter. And I’m thankful that I will enjoy an average of 284 sunny days out of the 365 this year. (There are several reasons California is the most populated state in the nation, and weather is definitely one of them.)
10. Laborers Are Being Trained to Take the Gospel to California
Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.—Luke 10:2
Jesus had one prayer request—gospel laborers for the harvest. And here in northern Los Angeles county, of all places, I get to be involved in training some of these laborers at West Coast Baptist College. Not only are there WCBC graduates planting churches in dozens of countries around the world, but there are thirty who are currently pastoring in California, many of which are church planters.
Everywhere I preach outside of California, people criticize our state—its policies, media, political agenda, legislation, and even the way churches do ministry. I would remind our friends across the country, you’ll never see a monument to a critic. Rather than pointing out our challenges, why not come help us and be part of the solution? Pray for us, come share the gospel with us, and come plant more churches.
In fact, I invite any student or recent graduate from another Bible-believing Baptist college or any pastor serving in an area that is surrounded by other churches to call my office regarding opportunities for church planting here in California, as well as the opportunity for Lancaster Baptist to support you in planting a church here.
11. Our Citizenship Is in Heaven
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:—Philippians 3:20
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.—Hebrews 11:13
We can get so focused on local, state, and national government that we forget who our King is. Although I believe that we as Americans should take advantage of the extraordinary privilege we have to be engaged in our government and its processes, we must guard against thinking of this world as our home. We are but strangers and pilgrims here, and we have a better Home coming.
Back in the 1700s, there were a group of people who were known for the fact that, not just a few but all of the church considered themselves missionaries. Laymen surrendered themselves by the hundreds to go to far away places, including the Caribbean, North and South America, the Arctic, Africa, and the Far East to carry the gospel.
If we today would have the godly depth and maturity of these Moravian missionaries, we who live in California would see the opportunities around us for the gospel as nothing more than a privilege. We would see what a great blessing it is to be living in the midst of millions of people needing a Saviour.
If, however, we begrudge living in California (or wherever you may be living today), we should apologize to the missionaries we send to China, where it is illegal to hand out a gospel tract. We should apologize to the churches in Malaysia, where to simply give out a printed copy of the gospel would mean your hand would be cut off; and Iran, where a Christian would be imprisoned for the same offense.
May we instead, as mature Christians filled with the Holy Spirit, serve God graciously and witness for Christ passionately where we are in the days ahead.