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By this time next week the elections will be over, and as a nation we will again have chosen those who will govern us for the next 2 or 4 years. One side will claim a hard-fought victory; the other will be left trying to figure out what went wrong. But regardless of whether the candidates you vote for win or lose, it is important to keep a proper perspective and realize that no matter who is elected, problems will still exist.
This is true for at least a couple of reasons. One is that, particularly at the federal level, the problems we face are so large, and the national will to fight them so weak, that it would be difficult for anyone, even if they really wanted to, to totally turn things around. For example, perhaps the best we can hope for is that a new administration will at least slow down our current rush toward financial doom. To some extent, simply going the wrong way more slowly could be called progress.
The second – and most important – reason that problems will still exist regardless of who is elected is that most of our problems as a nation are spiritual, not political, in nature. Therefore, they require solutions that are, to quote the current occupant of the White House, “above the pay grade” of the president or other elected officials.
During the presidential election cycle in the summer of 2008, this joke made the rounds in conservative circles: John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were several miles out in the ocean in a small boat. There were no life preservers on board, so when the boat sank, who was saved? The answer, which made me chuckle the first time I heard it, was “the country!”
Of course, the idea behind the joke was that if those three were the best candidates we could muster, then we would be better off without any of them. Naturally, those on the left weren’t as amused, since they thought they had two good candidates from which to choose.
Indeed, when then-Senator Obama won his party’s nomination and then the presidency, many on the left described him in near messianic terms. In fact, after he had secured the nomination, Obama even spoke of himself in this way.
“This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” he said. “This was the moment when we ended a war, and secured our nation, and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.”
However, now that he has been in office for four years, my guess is that all but the most left-leaning partisans would admit that the President hasn’t quite lived up to the “savior of the world” hype. And, of course, that was 100 percent predictable.
As Cal Thomas has said, “The Messiah will not arrive on Air Force One.”
The harsh reality is that whenever we put our hope in men (or women) or in governments we will inevitably be disappointed – and usually sooner rather than later.
Psalm 118:8 says it this way: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”
Psalm 146 elaborates, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the Lord, who remains faithful forever.”
Jeremiah 17:5-8 makes the point even more strongly. “This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord… But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.’”
Yet many of us, Christians included, continue to fall into the trap of looking to the government to “save” us. As Eric Metaxes recently pointed out on the Breakpoint radio program, many of us have fallen for what Chuck Colson called “the political illusion.”
What is the political illusion? Colson put it this way: “The political illusion is the notion that human nature can be perfected by government; that a New Jerusalem, so to speak, can be built using the tools of politics; and that politics is all that matters.”
He went on to say that “the enormous destruction wrought by the Utopian ‘isms’ of the 20th century – like socialism, communism, fascism and Nazism – should have disabused us of this political illusion. But today people are turning once again to government to solve our problems.”
Unfortunately, Colson was absolutely right. But over and over and over again the government proves to be a lousy messiah.
If you aren’t already convinced that the government isn’t the best source of hope to fix our problems, consider just one example: poverty.
Poverty is certainly an issue that is of concern to good-hearted people of every political persuasion. However, most people would be shocked to learn that for every family in the United States that is below the poverty level, our local, state and federal governments spend over $61,000 on anti-poverty programs – each year! Let that sink in for a moment and then try to keep your head from exploding.
Metaxes conclude his commentary this way: “And we Christians are not immune to Utopian political thinking either. How many of us are thinking, ‘Well, if we get rid of this candidate, or vote our guy in, things will be okay. If we overturn Obamacare or hold back the rising tide of so-called gay ‘marriage,’ the country will be saved.’”
For sure, the Messiah will not arrive on Air Force One. Our salvation will not come from any politician, political party or government program. As pastor and author Tony Evans said, “God doesn’t ride on the backs of donkeys or elephants!”
However, that isn’t to say that elections don’t matter; they absolutely do. Ideas have consequences. So, although it’s true that politicians will never solve all our problems, it’s also true they can certainly make them worse!
This is why my last several columns have encouraged Christians to make choices that honor God (and are most beneficial to our country).
Nevertheless, as a Christian, I believe that Jesus is ultimately the only hope for us as individuals, for our country and for our world. The reality is that – unlike the joke at the beginning of today’s column – we are all in that sinking boat. And regardless of who wins the election, my prayer is that we would turn to the only One who can save us.