A friend once told a story of how he would often go for a walk in the evening. As he turned a corner, he saw a magnificent tree. Every time he passed the tree, he paused to admire it. The tree was in the front yard of a stately house and was surrounded by a high fence and barking dogs.
One day as he was walking, he saw some workers inside the fence cutting the tree down. He called to the workmen, “Why are you cutting this beautiful tree down? If you want to cut a tree, cut this shaggy-looking one!”
With that, one of the workers invited my friend inside the gate and kicked a hole in the trunk of the tree. Immediately my friend recognized the reason for removing the beautiful tree. The high fence and barking dogs could not protect it from the termites that had eaten into its very heart.
As a nation, we face a similar situation. Even a great army and the best machinery—including our sophisticated weaponry and high-tech equipment—cannot protect us from the moral decay that is seeping into our national fabric. Only God can reverse this evil tide. His answer is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14:
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.
In his classic book, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, historian Edward Gibbon sets forth five primary causes for the dissolving of a great nation:
1. The rapidly increasing rate of divorce and undermining of the sanctity of the home.
The American family is under attack. The divorce rate is incredibly high. And six states plus Washington, DC now allow gay marriage while the Department of Justice refuses to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. When the family ceases to be the bedrock of society, society goes on the rocks. The Christian church must do everything possible to keep families together, give families all the support and encouragement it can, and honor the family tradition in this country.
2. The spiraling rise of taxes and extravagant spending.
The United States is a debtor nation. Our national debt has skyrocketed to previously unimaginable levels. It totals more than $16 trillion with annual spending exceeding revenues by $1 trillion. Our country owes $140,000 in debt per every taxpayer. You can be sure that individuals can’t survive for long with such spending. Neither can a nation.
3. The craving for pleasure and the brutality of sports.
When a nation seems to have nothing but pleasure as its goal and is obsessed by sports, that nation is headed for a fall. An average of 18 million people watch every NFL football game, and athletes like LeBron James and Peyton Manning make $40-50 million per year and are worshipped like near-gods. And millions of Americans dedicate their weekends to playing golf, tennis, and other sports.
Of course, the Bible doesn’t condemn pleasure. In fact, we need to enjoy moments of relaxation. And Paul advises Timothy the God richly gives us all things to enjoy (see 1 Timothy 6:17).
However, if Christians would spend as much time in pursuit of God as they do in pursuit of pleasure, we would have giant saints in our midst.
Further, if Christians would spend as much time in their prayer closets as they spend with their hobbies, we would have an unprecedented revival in our generation—such as we have never seen.
4. The building of gigantic armaments and the failure to realize that the real enemy is within the gates of the empire—in the moral decay of its people.
It’s apparent to every informed citizen that we need a strong defense; however, if we only concentrate on a strong defense, we will be like the magnificent tree that was protected by a high fence and barking dogs, but whose trunk was consumed from within.
5. The decaying of religion and the fading of faith into mere ritual—leaving the people without guidance.
We have already gone beyond this point when some in religious leadership not only undermine biblical teaching, but also ignore it and treat it as passé.
The following items show where much of our religious leadership is today in this country:
- The faith of our fathers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is trampled upon and rejected.
- Biblical teaching and spiritual values are rejected.
- Biblical morality is scoffed at and denied.
- Secular humanism has taken the place of biblical principles. The result is no standards, not absolutes, no eternal values, and the belief that there is no God but man.
The greatest threat to America today is not fiscal insolvency, Islamic terrorism, or a severe environmental crisis. The greatest threat to America today is the wrath of God.
In the Old Testament, God told the prophet Hosea to marry the prostitute Gomer, by whom he would have three children. Over and over again, Hosea was forced to reach out to Gomer and save her from her wicked lifestyle. Hosea never gave up on Gomer. At last, he was able to buy her out of her life of slavery and prostitution.
Like Hosea, God showed His faithfulness and patience to erring Israel. After all of God’s warnings to Israel through the prophets, Israel continued on a downward path of blatant sin and idolatry. The result? God banished His chosen people from the Promised Land of Israel.
Surely, if God does not judge America because of its waywardness and sin, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.
Now that we have passed our 200-year anniversary as a nation, we should look at the natural lifecycle of a democracy, as theorized by the historian Alexander Tyler in 1787:
From bondage to spiritual faith.
From spiritual faith to great courage.
From great courage to liberty.
From liberty to abundance.
From abundance to selfishness.
From selfishness to complacency.
From complacency to apathy.
From apathy to dependence.
From dependence back into bondage.
Is there hope for America? Of course! One of the reasons God has not judged us more severely is because of the faithfulness of men and women across this land and around the world who are praying for America.
In my next and final post in this series, I will explore how spiritual renewal has happened before in America, and by following the examples of repentance that have preceded us, we can witness the Lord “renew our days as of old.”