It’s widely understood that America is in its worst condition in our generation. Last year was the greatest year of job loss in America in 69 years. Yes, that’s 69 years! Politically, our government has been paralyzed by partisanship. Culturally, we’re becoming more and more secular. And internationally, our reputation has never been lower.
America needs healing.
We need healing in our economy. We need healing in our businesses. We need healing in our schools. We need healing in our marriages and our families. And, most of all, we need healing in our hearts.
But our wounds are not fatal. I’m very hopeful. My hope is not based upon some vague wish. It’s rooted in the Word of God. It’s rooted in the belief that even when life is tough, God is good and he has a plan and purpose for our lives and for our country.
So what will it take to heal our land?
Almost 3,000 years ago God made a promise to King Solomon that’s particularly appropriate for us to internalize today. It’s a promise that he has made to all of us – even 21st century America. God says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV).
What is it that will heal America? We have to do the four things that God told Solomon and the nation of Israel to do. But never forget who God was speaking to in this passage. He was speaking to his people – the nation of Israel. God wants to heal his people today as well. He wants to start with the church. And pastor, he wants to start with you and me. As spiritual leaders, God has called us to model the four actions that will lead to national healing.
1. We must confess with humility.
God first says, “If my people will humble themselves…I will heal their land.” Pastor, we have to humble ourselves and lead our congregations to do likewise. The source of all of our problems is pride. We think we know better than God what will make us happy. It’s that pride that causes us to be disconnected from God on a personal level, a corporate level, and a national level. Pride gets in our way and we forget that we need God. When we do that, we don’t admit our sinfulness, our faults, and our failures.
We will never find personal or national healing if we try to hide our sins from God. Hiding our sins is the opposite of humility and God will not bless it. Again, it starts with you and me. We’ve got to be honest and tell God where we blew it. We need to lead our churches in a time of confession as well. God’s people must admit that we’ve strayed from him.
2. We must pray with tenacity.
The second thing that God told Solomon was: “If my people … will pray…I will heal their land.”
God wants us to pray and refuse to give up. He wants us to pray with tenacity. We simply give up too soon. That’s why we don’t see answers. That’s why America doesn’t see the widespread healing the Bible talks about in this verse.
Pastor, let me ask you a really serious question. How serious are you and your church about spiritual awakening and healing in America? How serious are you about healing in your church or in your own life? The tenacity of your prayer life will say a lot about how serious you really are.
How do you show your tenacity? Make a prayer list – and be sure your country is on that list. If you don’t have national healing on your prayer list, you’ll forget about it when you pray. It will get crowded out by your own urgent requests. Create a prayer list, and make sure national issues make it on the list.
3. We must seek God with intensity.
Third, God says, “If my people … will seek my face … I will heal their land.”
God wants us to seek him. This is not some kind of casual pastime. You don’t just seek God in your spare moments. It has to be our primary focus. God doesn’t want to be our profession. He wants to be our passion.
Very few people actually seek God intently. It’s very rare. Most people want just enough of God to bless them but not bug them. But if God is going to bring healing to our country, our churches have to be full of people truly seeking him.
I hope you’re already doing this. I hope you’re setting aside time to get to know God better every day. Your job description can be simplified to this – helping people seek God intently. But remember, that starts with you.
4. We must repent with sincerity.
Finally, God says, “If my people…turn from their wicked ways…I’ll heal their land.”
If we want healing in country, we must repent with sincerity. A lot of people misunderstand this word. Repentance is metanoia in the Greek. Metameans to turn, to change. It’s a flip. Noia means mind. Literally, repent means to change you mind, to change how you think.
When we repent, we change the way we think about ourselves and God. We change the way we think about our values, other people, our past, our present, and our future. Repenting simply means to change our mind about something. It’s a paradigm shift. I used to think one way; now I think differently.
What do you need to think differently about? What does your congregation need to think differently about? National repentance must begin with personal repentance.
America is in deep trouble right now. If God is going to judge America, he’ll start with us. He’ll start with his people. National healing will also start with us. America will not be healed because we passed a certain law. Healing won’t happen because we elect the right people to government positions. Healing won’t happen when those who don’t know God behave better. God will heal out land when his people – the church – confess, pray, seek him, and repent.
National healing will start with our churches, or it won’t happen.
Will it start with your church?
Will it start with you?
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved