Poll after poll finds that millions of Americans feel that we are headed in the wrong direction as a nation. We are in serious need of serious change.
In fact, a poll from just this month shows: “Twenty-seven percent (27%) of Likely U.S. Voters now say the country is heading in the right direction” (Rasmussen Reports, August 8, 2012).
We see killing among strangers and even within families. As of this writing, there have been at least three shooting massacres in the last four weeks. We see unprecedented government spending—all on the backs of future Americans. We see families splitting up. We see epidemic cheating. We see theft at unprecedented levels. We see a host of moral breakdowns in our time.
Although we desire for God to bless America, our first President noted this in his First Inaugural Address: “the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” How can God bless us, asked George Washington, when we violate the rules He Himself has given us?
We are clearly in great need of national revival. America was born in part through the revival that swept through the colonies. We call it now the First Great Awakening.
That revival began in the 1730s with the preaching of Rev. Jonathan Edwards in Northampton, Massachusetts, and spread throughout the colonies, mostly through the work of the traveling evangelist George Whitefield.
Sarah Edwards, Jonathan’s wife, said this about the impact of Whitefield’s messages: “It is wonderful to see what a spell he casts over an audience by proclaiming the simplest truths of the Bible . . . . Our mechanics shut up their shops, and the day laborers throw down their tools to go and hear him preach, and few return unaffected.”
Ben Franklin commented on the social effects of the revival. He said of Whitefield’s preaching:
It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.
One of the key things to note is that prior to the French and Indian War and to the Great Awakening, generally the thirteen separate colonies comprising British North America did not communicate with each other. The first real phenomenon that began to unite them was this spiritual movement, up and down the Atlantic seacoast.
Founding father John Adams said this about the link between what we now call the First Great Awakening and the push for Independence: “The Revolution was effected [sic] before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the mind and hearts of the people and change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations.”
In his book, A History of the American People, the great British historian Paul Johnson adds, “The Great Awakening was thus the proto-revolutionary event, the formative movement in American history, preceding the political drive for independence, and making it possible” (p. 116).
The Second Great Awakening in the early part of the 19th century helped end the horrible scourge of slavery. Two-thirds of the members of the abolition society in 1835 were ministers of the gospel. Also, the anti-slavery Underground Railroad was run by churches.
During the dark days of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed April 30, 1863 as a national day of fasting and prayer. In his proclamation, he noted, “We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God.”
He went on to say, “Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”
And his conclusion was, “It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
The late Dr. D. James Kennedy once said this, “Many people are under the misconception that government will solve all our problems. But I believe that true change is going to take place when people throughout the nation begin to trust in Christ and in the God that made this nation great. And that will bring about a genuine revival. A revival that eventually moves to the halls of government. Not from the government down, but from the people up.”
God told Solomon the Wise something that certainly fit the theocracy of ancient Israel. But doesn’t the principle apply to nations in general? I think it does. Here is what He said so famously almost a thousand years Before Christ: “If My people, who called by My name, will humble themselves, turn from their wicked ways, and seek My face, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
This is America’s only real hope for a real and positive change. May God give us the grace to pray for this more earnestly.