Riots. Disease. Politics. Racism. Poverty. Division. These words surface in the minds of many, like a google search predictor, when considering America in 2020. Interestingly, they also adequately describe Israel at the time of Christ. Romans oppressed the Jews. The sick and the poor littered the public squares. Hate crimes were committed openly in the streets by Roman officials. Jews were either corrupted by the Roman authorities or formed rebel groups aimed against them in retaliation. Division wasn’t limited to Jew against Roman, however. Even Jews harbored bitterness for other Jews. In the midst of all the turmoil were many religious teachings, philosophies, and politics that infiltrated the culture, but not one of them offered real solutions. Sound familiar?
I want you to really catch the similarities here. Take a moment. Let it sink in. Now imagine Jesus… that’s right, Jesus… in the flesh, stepping into our current predicament. What would he say to us? I think he would say much of the same things He did then! Yes, Jesus would absolutely preach on righteousness and judgment, and Republicans would love it. He’d also preach on social justice and the Democrats would applaud it. He wouldn’t stop there, though. He’d then proceed to tell us stories like that of the Good Samaritan where a Samaritan man shows great compassion for someone who had been beaten and left for dead. It’s significant that Jesus chose a Samaritan to be the protagonist in this story because the hearers would have been Jewish; Jews despised Samaritans more than any other people group. It must have cut them to the core when the Jewish priests in the story passed by the injured man with no regard for his life, but the Samaritan stops and shows uncanny compassion. This is just one teaching of countless others like it that Jesus declares to a severely polarized people. If He didn’t hold back for them, He wouldn’t hold back for us. His message would be the same: love your enemies!
Loving your enemies was His message to confront and diffuse polarization. In 2020 there is another huge issue, though, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t address it. You probably already know where I’m going with this; the dreaded ‘Rona virus. I’ll address this the same exact way, allowing you to imagine Jesus stepping into the midst of this pandemic. How did He address sickness in New Testament Israel? Really contemplate it. Search the Bible and you will find many verses like the following: “he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:38). He then told us we will do even greater things (Jn. 14:12)! I know it can be challenging to accept such a radical concept- much like the whole “love your enemy” thing- but the challenge lies not with Him, because He spoke very plainly on both topics and demonstrated them in action flawlessly. Rather, the challenge lies with us. He wants us to walk in the power of God that enables us to do awe inspiring things such as healing the sick! Where does that leave us? How do we rise to the challenge?
Okay, so we’ve settled on the challenge. But we hear a sinister voice screaming back at us en masse from every riot, every police shooting, every political slander, and every new case of coronavirus that is recorded. I can even hear it in my own spirit when I consider loving my enemies and healing the sick. It is the sound of doubt and fear in the echo chamber of our times. It makes a compelling case that the odds are stacked up too high and, at an even deeper level, tells me that I am actually part of the problem; I am part of this same humanity that creates the odds in the first place. I am a part of the issue! Fortunately, Jesus knew I would have these doubts and provides the antidote yet again: prayer. Prayer reminds me where true power actually comes from. It assures me that I need not be a perfect person, just a prayerful person. Max Lucado highlights this beautifully with this quote: “Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.”
Prayer is mentioned by Jesus repetitively throughout His ministry, and we all know these teachings, at least on a basic level. The thing I want you to consider in addition to what He said about it, is how much he exemplified it. Constantly, the authors of the gospels mention Jesus spending long hours (even up to 40 days!) in solitude and prayer. The disciples were so intrigued by His prayer life that they asked Him to teach them how to pray. It was a defining factor in the person of Jesus. If the second person of the Godhead needed prayer, it should come as no surprise that we need it too. In fact, Jesus prioritized prayer to His disciples over outward ministry. Before they embarked on healing any sick, raising any dead, casting out any demons or making any disciples, they were to gather together and wait upon the Holy Spirit who would enable them to do all of this (Acts1:5). I am not saying anything new, here. Consider it a reminder to take to heart: we need to pray, and we need to prioritize it in such a way that it defines us as it did Jesus and His disciples.
History testifies to the power of fervent and frequent prayer, beginning with the book of Acts. Even all the way up to today many outpourings of the Holy Spirit have occurred as a direct result of prayer. America actually has one of the richest histories of revival, some of the greatest ones occurring at our darkest hours (just research the national climate at the time of the Great Awakenings). Studies have even shown that where these movements occur crime rates drop significantly, the economy flourishes, and the overall health and well-being of people increases greatly. The people of God need to first and foremost pray, but pray rightly, in my view, that the Lord would send revival. This is actually in total alignment with the Lord’s prayer that His kingdom would come, His will would be done, “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Think about it! It’s because where His kingdom comes His will is done and earth actually becomes more like heaven!
If you’ve not sought God for revival, I challenge you to begin to do so, simply because I don’t know of any other way to meet the demands of Jesus or to offer any real solutions for our nation in 2020. God is actually doing amazing things in 2020, and we are closer than you may think to seeing revival happen. The American church is primed and ready for another awakening. My final exhortation is threefold: If you’re not praying, start; if you are praying, start praying for revival; If you have been asking for revival, keep asking! Join in with other like-minded believers and press in like never before in the place of prayer. Jesus wants us to do the impossible. We must have more powerful solutions than the world. Our only hope is to pray. If you’re in the Columbus, Georgia area, we’d love to have you join us in our prayer room to contend for revival! For more info go to https://takethecity.com/hhop/
My experience with the Take the City crew was like coming into a family. Our team was welcomed in with open arms with like-hearted believers who love Jesus and have laid down their lives to serve the broken of the city! It was an honor to come alongside them, be welcomed into their homes, share meals, and experience the transformational work that God is doing in and through them to see His Kingdom come.