FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 18, number 42, October 17, 2019
“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and . . .” -2 Chronicles 7:12,13
By 1979 Uganda, the country Winston Churchill called the “Pearl of Africa” because of its beauty and natural resources (temperate climate, rich soil, two growing seasons), was in complete disarray. A wicked ruler, Idi Amin, had come to power in February, 1971 and ran the country into devastation and starvation, as well as murdering at least 500,000 of the 10.7 million people in the country. Amin was run from power in 1979 and Milton Obote took his place and murdered another 500,000 people. In other words one in ten were murdered by Amin or Obote. On top of that, many International health workers believe the AIDS epidemic started in Uganda in the early 1980’s and in one year alone, 1997, 160,000 people in that nation died from AIDS. Yet a revival of the East African revival, which began in the 1940’s, has recently come to this beautiful country where I have traveled and preached well over thirty times since 1988. Today, peace has returned to Uganda. Massive oil reserves have been discovered, AIDS has all but been eradicated, there is a growing middle class, many in Parliament are believers and Christian pastors and politicians held a rally of over 20,000 people, praying all night, promising to keep covenant with God, that He may continue to renew their country. They even play baseball there now and a few years ago their Little League team made it to Williamsport for the Little League World Series!
In the Ungava Peninsula and Baffin Island, a destitute region of Canada near the Arctic Circle, the people were living in poverty and hopelessness. Alcoholism was rampant as was the sexual assault of children. Teenage suicide was epidemic. Even the land would not yield crops and fishing, the livelihood of the people, had declined considerably. Yet now there is peace. Suicides are all but non-existent. Even now the land is beginning to yield its produce and the fishing has improved dramatically.
Why? What do these two completely different cultures have in common? Both Uganda and the Ungava Peninsula were destitute. They were desperate. They came to understand that their people were consumed by darkness and the devil. They humbled themselves and began to pray and God eventually brought revival. There is no other explanation. There is peace, purity of life, restoration of families, prosperity, and transformation of government from corruption to principled leadership.
Forbes magazine recently declared that Birmingham, Alabama, my hometown, is the fifth most dangerous city in America. Ninety percent of the suicides which occur in the state of Alabama are white men. Eighty-three percent of gun related homicides in Birmingham are black men between the ages of 19 and 34, and 86.1 violent crimes per 10,000 residents occurred in 2017 in my city. On top of that, while the Birmingham metro area has great wealth and many very generous Christians, the simple fact is that the city of Birmingham has a very high rate of poverty, 26%, while the state average is 17%.
I bet the cities in which you live are not much different from Birmingham. The mostly white, rural areas in “flyover” country have a major crisis of opioid addiction and death. In 2017 alone 47,000 people died of opioid overdoses. To put this in perspective, 57,939 Americans were killed or declared missing in the eight years of the Vietnam War. And J.D. Vance, in his book Hillbilly Elegy, marks the devastation, poverty, drunkenness, and drug epidemic in the white Appalachian culture. In reading Vance it became clear to me that the problems in the inner city African American and Hispanic communities are the same in the white Appalachian culture. And the root cause in both places is the same—fatherlessness. I can go further to say that while the suburbs, on the surface, may seem more washed or clean, even a casual look betrays this appearance. There are actual absentee fathers through divorce but there are fathers who, while they may live in the home with their wives and children, are still de facto absentee fathers because they are preoccupied with their work and leisure. Poverty and homelessness is closer than most suburban families may think. Missing one paycheck is a one way ticket to financial hardship for nearly one half of our country’s workforce. Four in ten Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency.
What is the solution to our woes? What is the first, necessary ingredient which will move us to seek God for a mighty revival, as He is doing in Uganda and the Ungava Peninsula?
Please note the often overlooked context of God’s amazing promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14. Solomon has just completed the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. After the dedication of the temple, after the prayers of thanksgiving were offered to Yahweh, the glory of the Lord (the Shekinah glory) fell on God’s covenant people and they humbled themselves, bowing down to the ground, and praising Him saying, “Truly He is good, truly His lovingkindness is everlasting,” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3). Sacrifices were then offered on the altar and the magnificent feast of dedication was offered to the Lord. After all of this, Yahweh then appeared to Solomon and says to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice.”
However, Yahweh then says that the lack of rain will be a sign of judgment to them, as will the visitation of the locust, as will the devastation of pestilence which would kill many people. Yahweh is making clear to Solomon that so called natural calamities are not happenstance. Yahweh declares that He is the one who brings them. He says the same thing in Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6, and Daniel 9:12-14.
Revival, my friends, the promise of the return of the glory of the Lord upon a family, community, or nation must begin by looking at the so-called natural disasters, and the crime, wickedness, injustice, and corruption which visit nations. The wrath of God is being poured out against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Romans 1:18).
When calamity strikes you, when it strikes our nation, whether it be a massive hurricane, economic ruin, or an epidemic which kills hundreds or thousands of people, the first place we must look is not chance, not the devil, but God. He brings calamity. Why? So that He may gain our attention and move us to seek Him earnestly in revival prayer.
Before we ever get to the place of genuine, revival prayer we need to see the source of our calamity. “I am the Lord and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well being and creating calamity. I am the Lord who does all these,” (Isaiah 45:7). “If a trumpet is blown in the city, will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the Lord done it?” (Amos 3:6).
1 “25 Most Dangerous Cities in the U.S. in 2019.”
2 “Overview of the Drug Overdose Epidemic: Behind the Numbers,” <cdc.gov>
3 Though President Kennedy sent 23,000 military advisors to Vietnam it was President Lyndon Johnson who first sent 3500 Marines in March, 1965 to fight the North Vietnamese. The war ended on April 30, 1975 with the fall of Saigon. The Paris peace talks in 1973 ended our military engagement in Vietnam, but the South Vietnamese held on for two more years.
4 “Millions of Americans Are Just One Paycheck Away from Financial Disaster,” <www.marketwatch.com>