There were 10,000 prostitutes plying their trade on the streets of London. Binge drinking and gambling were widespread. The UK had descended into decadence and immorality. This was the eighteenth century. Church congregations had declined sharply (just as they have in recent decades). Parts of the church had virtually descended into paganism.
Yet, the nation was changed. The preaching of Wesley and Whitefield began to take effect. Thousands of people responded to their message and encountered Jesus. Robert Raikes started his first Sunday school in 1780. The growth from this one idea reached 300,000 unchurched children within five years. By 1910, there were 5,668,760 children in Sunday school. God raised up Wilberforce, Shaftesbury and others. Not only were individual hearts changed – but the nation was also transformed.
As we look at our world today, we see it is changing faster than ever before. In the last twenty-five years, there has been huge change – politically, economically and technologically. Massive change is taking place in many countries around the world. How can the spiritual climate of your nation be changed?
The writer of Proverbs says, ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people’ (v.34). (‘God-devotion makes a country strong’, v.34, MSG.) Sin destroys a nation. Righteousness exalts a nation. Righteousness involves a range of right relationships:
Peace with God Righteousness starts with making peace with God (Romans 5:1). It starts with the fear of the Lord (in the good sense of proper respect for the Lord). ‘The Fear-of-God builds up confidence, and makes a world safe for your children. The Fear-of-God is a spring of living water’ (Proverbs 14:26–27a, MSG).
Peace with others As far as it depends on you, ‘live at peace with everyone’ (Romans 12:18). Right relationships with others are characterised by righteous words and actions. First, our words are to be truthful rather than deceitful for ‘a truthful witness saves lives’ (Proverbs 14:25). Second, our actions are to display a desire for the well-being of others. Be patient rather than quick-tempered (v.29). Be kind to those in need. ‘You insult your Maker when you exploit the powerless; when you’re kind to the poor, you honour God’ (v.31, MSG). Display your delight towards those who act in wisdom (vv.33,35).
Peace with ourselves Righteousness involves a right relationship with ourselves. You can know peace: ‘A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body’ (v.30a, AMP). Anger, lack of forgiveness, envy and jealousy can damage your physical body. Getting rid of the bad stuff in your life and having a ‘heart at peace’ is good for your health. Ultimately, this peace comes from being content about both the present and the future. For, ‘even in death the righteous have a refuge’ (v.32b). For those who fear in the Lord, he becomes our refuge in the present (v.26) and the future (v.32b).
Lord, I pray that our nation will turn back to you and that the name of the Lord will be respected again in parliament, government, schools and law courts. Help us to prioritise the poor and be kind to the needy.
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