The thought that our prosperity is a result of ourselves is fairly common still today. Once we fail to acknowledge that we are a blessed people because of a gracious God, we begin to teeter on a dangerous precipice. God is love, and He is loving enough to everyone that he will sometimes rid the world of a poisonous person, group, or nation in order to help everyone else. If love were a coin, one side would be grace while the other side would be wrath. God’s wrath is part of love. God is wise enough to understand that one bad apple, if ignored, will ruin the whole bunch.
The prophet Jeremiah declared a message from the Lord to the people of Israel: “If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it” [Jeremiah 18:7-10 (ESV)].
The nation of Israel had a special place in the eyes of God, yet God punished them. God’s special, chosen people were not exempt from punishment when they stopped living a life focused on loving the least in society, walking the trail of the Lord, and treating people justly. The very fact that his chosen people received His wrath when they failed to live their lives the way he designed them to live should be a warning to us.
No name on our church building, no ritual that we have participated in, no prayer uttered, no weekly attendance, no participation in the sacraments – nothing outside of a heart currently and totally surrendered to God matters. If a special place of election did not prevent the nation of Israel from the wrath of God when they strayed from His plan, nothing in our lives should give us a false sense of invulnerability.
There is grace. Jesus paid the price for all of our sins on the cross. Because of that act, those who are God’s do not receive the wrath and vengeance that we deserve. But we must be careful to avoid taking that for granted. We cannot fall prey to a life of selfishness, materialism, and pride that will cause us to be more of a poison to our family, our neighborhood, our community, our nation, and our world.
We are called to be a blessing. God has plans for us to turn away from the allure of this world and to live our lives for Him. That is difficult to do when we are bombarded daily with million dollar marketing campaigns that have been devised to deceive us into believing that the way of this world is the best way.
I began this article talking about America because we struggle with being a prideful people who take credit for the blessings that God has given to us. That is a dangerous place to be because once we think our prosperity is a result of ourselves, then we can lose sight of God. When that happens we move closer to losing the very blessings that we have been showered with.
As individuals, we have the same struggle. Are we people who think that we are unstoppable? Are we people who think that we have achieved our position through our own intelligence and hard work? Are we living our lives our way without any regard to the plan and call of God on our life?
To be fair to President Reagan, he concluded his speech on a spiritual note: “We who are privileged to be Americans have had a rendezvous with destiny since the moment in 1630 when John Winthrop, standing on the deck of the tiny Arbella off the coast of Massachusetts, told the little band of pilgrims, ‘We shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.’”
This passage in Jeremiah should be a wake-up call, both to those who feel they are under a curse and those who feel they have been blessed. God wants both types of people to realize that their future blessings will be based upon their current living, not their past. God gives a clean slate, a slate free from all of our faults. A slate also free from all of our accomplishments. There can be no pride. Just you and an honest heart. God will reward you greatly when you choose to align your heart, dreams, plans, and living to His will. That is a promise that is not empty like the manipulative marketing ploys of the businesses in this world. That is God’s plan for your life. A life filled with the good that He plans for it. Will you take that life? Will you give up everything for it?