Four years ago, I gave a devotion at work called, Seeking God’s Kingdom in an Election Year. My main points were that a Christian’s primary citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), and our hope should be in God, not the future of the United States of America. It feels like a lot has changed in four years. This year, in particular, has brought disease, violence, storms, and fires. Just when it seems as though life cannot get more turbulent, something else comes along to disturb our peace. In the midst of the turmoil, I try to remember what Solomon observed, “. . .there is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccl. 1:9)
This week, for many in my home state, that sun was obscured by smoke that turned it into a flaming red-orange circle in the sky. But this is not new to those who have lived for a while in this dry climate. Neither are political unrest, rioting, or disease new; we are just getting hit with a lot, right now. In an election year, even more than usual, everything is political. In recent months, a line from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address has been rattling around in my brain: “. . .testing whether that nation, or any other nation, so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” It feels like we’re in the midst of another test. I love my country, but I must remember that its endurance is in God’s hands. One thing that has not changed is my primary citizenship.
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.1 Thessalonians 5:1-5
It is easy to begin speculating about whether we are in the end times, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Paul admonished the Thessalonian believers to “keep awake and be sober.” If two thousand years ago believers were told stay alert for the day of the Lord, how much more should we be? It is helpful to consider what this Scripture prescribes next. It does not advise us to run around and tell everyone that the world is ending, nor are we instructed to hide in the basement. Instead, we are told to put on our helmets and flak jackets because this is not going to be a picnic. Yet, we have no reason to fear because we are not destined for wrath.
Hurricanes, fires, and riots can seem like God’s wrath landing on our doorsteps. But whatever happens to us in this earthly life is not our ultimate destiny. We are reassured that we are destined for salvation and destined to be with Jesus! Moreover, we are to encourage one another with this truth. This isn’t the end of our stories. It is difficult to have this perspective when things you love are facing destruction. But whether it is a house threatened by natural disaster or your country threatened by violence from within or without, it isn’t the end. Our way of life on earth may be stripped from us, but as citizens of heaven, we cannot lose our rights and privileges as children of God. This is the hope that we wear as a helmet, and we should let it guard our minds.
So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:6-11
Sometimes it seems strange to me, perhaps morbid, that I should find the life to come as my main source of hope and comfort. Yet this is where Scripture directs my gaze. Perhaps I am privileged to not have the life I wanted in the present. Maybe I would cling too tightly to a husband and children, or a home that I actually own. What I know for sure is that when destruction comes, in whatever form, I do not want to be like Lot’s wife, who was so attached to her life in Sodom that she had to look back to see what was happening. Jesus Christ has paid the ransom for my life, and will I turn back to the life I had before?
November 3rd may have a real impact on life in the United States. Whichever way the election goes, we should not anticipate a smooth road. I was struck recently by something David wrote in Psalm 31:15, “My times are in your hand.” Times are more than just David’s personal life and circumstances. The situations of every nation and the world are in the hand of the Unchangeable God. David faced his share of violence and adversity, and he wrote, “But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!” (Psalm 31:14-15) Amen.