We have just completed a ministry trip that could be entitled: ‘Around the World in 84 Days.’ As always, these excursions are full of adventure: Southeast Asia, Siberian Russia, United Kingdom in full bloom and clear blue skies, New York City in a heat wave, and the American West Coast in summer mode. No ... it was not a holiday. It was real work but also very worthwhile.
While there are many positive things to report, the area of great concern is the obvious economic decline in the western world, particularly the United States. This giant of a country, with once unmatched economic, military, and moral power, is clearly struggling on several fronts. The most obvious is in the economy: unemployment is near 10%, home prices have tumbled, the annual budget deficit is $1.6 trillion, and overall debt hovers at $14 trillion. We personally with people who have either lost their livelihood or their homes. Once thriving shopping malls look like ghost towns. Jobs are difficult to find. A series of national disasters in 2011, including snow storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes, have tallied up a bill of $35 billion, an unwelcome extra expense in every way.
The end, unfortunately, is not in sight. The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) could very well outstrip the Great Depression of the 1930s as the worst of economic downturns.
Though many sincere and intelligent people are working on the problem, it appears to be too complex and deep to offer easy solutions. It seems that one approach to the debt problem ... is more debt: borrow more, hope the economy picks up, then repay the debt. While sustainable debt on an appreciable asset might be in order, throwing money that does not exist at a mountain of debt is simply not a wise solution. If it doesn’t work for individuals ... and it doesn’t ... then it doesn’t work for nations, either.
America is also choking on issues of political correctness, gay marriage, immigration, misguided policies vis a vis the Middle East, and more. What is the solution? Certainly, from an economic point-of-view, conventional wisdom is increase income and reduce debt. But there is something more than mere belt-tightening, and this solution also remedies the other challenges.
Three extremely important concepts come to mind:
1. Courage: to solve these problems, there has to be a healthy dose of realism, coupled by a huge dollop of courage. Unfortunately, realism and courage have been scarce until now. Sound leadership will need to face the people ... be honest about the source of the problem ... take responsibility ... and then outline a needful and achievable course of action. In a world of hype, spin, and half-truths, this will not be easy; but ultimately, there is no other way. You cannot solve a problem until you can admit that it exists and why it exists
2. Maturity: along with a lack of realistic courage has been the conspicuous absence of maturity. This is a very needful thing. Maturity is what makes the fruit ripe and sweet; takes responsibility for actions (of ones own and of the subordinates), amasses and values experience, and has the sufficient patience to see things through. Without maturity, we will be playing a continual guessing game of where to go next.
3. Revival: if there is any one thing that is most needed, it is this. In his best selling book, Sloughing Towards Gomorrah, Robert Bork gives four options for moral and spiritual renewal of the western world: deep depression, a cataclysmic war, public discourse on morality, or a religious revival (page 336). He quickly disavows the first two options and, by implication, endorses the last one ... religious revival. For ultimately, the economic, social, and political problems we face in the western world can be solved by one single thing: a revival. This means that the Church, who has experienced new life in Christ, ‘comes alive again’ (hence the word, re-vival or life again). Before revival, the people of God are awake to the world and asleep to God. Revival reverses the order.
Waking up to the problem within our own hearts, repenting of it, and allowing God to bring healing and restoration to the land. The call to revival and the practical steps in reaching it are wonderfully summarized by a well-known passage of Scripture, namely II Chronicles 7:14 (KJV), which says If my people, which are called by my name, shall 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.
Without revival, we have no solution; without repentance, we have no revival; without prayer, we have no repentance. For all those who have a genuine concern about the way the western world is going, or are fearful that soon the US economy is going to crash against the wall ... and pull down much of the global economy with it ... the solution is within your reach.
Prayer ... repent ... persist ... and God will truly do His part. It is not too late but the clock is ticking. Let’s take hold of the best solution around.