KEEP YOUR HEAD UP; GOD IS IN CONTROL
by Dr. Henderson Ward
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As happened in every worthwhile, competitive election, there was a choice made between different candidates; someone must win and someone must lose and the USA presidential election was no different. When the candidate that you prefer wins then you are happy and if he loses you are sad for that is the frightful and understandable reality of any adversarial, political system in democratic elections. We all agree that elections are good and give expression to our democratic right to choose those who would lead us but concomitant with that is the after-effects that so often sully the whole process and highlight the down-side of free elections. In some countries that treasure highly the right to vote the losers then go on a rampage, burning and looting as if they have a God-given mandate to never lose an election and never allow someone else the chance win.
In the USA there will be no rampage, burning and looting but some losers, not all losers but those who think they have a God-given mandate to win, will transition from healthy competitors who want their candidate to win to mean-spirited activists who want the elected president (and hence America) to fail. I recall this same vindictive spirit against Bill Clinton who after eight years of his presidency left America a far better place than it was when he took charge. Just because the winner was not the one you prefer does not mean that he will not serve the American people well.
Whatever your views on President Barack Obama he has been permitted to take office by the Will of God and his time in office will serve the purpose of God just the same as it would under President Romney or any other president because ultimately God is unassailably in control.
God may not descend from above and choose a candidate but in every case everyone anywhere in leadership in every country serves at the behest of God. God permits leaders to take office even when he disapproves of those leaders because God is able to glorify his name even from such people. Christians need to bear this strongly in mind.
Some of the most powerful endorsements of the sovereignty and mighty power of Almighty God has come from pagan leaders, that's right pagan leaders. God has been able to take pagan leaders, those whom we will describe as unconverted, sinners, reprobate and ungodly and use them to declare his glory in ways that surpassed that of Christian leaders. Let's see some examples.
The first emperor of the first-acknowledged World Empire was King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. This was the same Babylon that went on to rule the world from 612 BC to 539 BC. Babylon was located in the southern part of modern day Iraq and was a state since 1850. King Nebuchadnezzar was an arrogant, boastful, absolute monarch and at the height of his power boasted, " Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?" (Daniel 4:30) This was typical of his prideful reign and God cut him down to size and made him to crawl on his arms and hands and eat grass like an ass. When God restored him to his former manhood he still did not learn his lesson as to who was in charge and so continued on his degenerate path.
Then God gave him a dream and nobody in his empire could neither tell him the forgotten dream nor give him the interpretation but Daniel the young Jew taken from the vanquished city of Jerusalem. Then followed the experience of the burning, fiery furnace in which the Hebrew boys were ensconced and from which they emerged miraculously unscathed. King Nebuchadnezzar was so awe-struck by the immensity of it all that he made a pronouncement so powerful in its appeal, so profound in its theology, so remarkable for any man but so much more so for an infidel of his god-less stature that it stands as one of the most compelling endorsements of Almighty God. Here are his words: " Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort." (Daniel 3:9)
After Babylon was defeated world leadership was assumed by the Persians, modern-day Iranians and they ruled much of the then known world from 539 BC to 333 BC. Although the Persians were religious people they never worshipped Almighty God and their leader King Darius was the same. This man, as Godless as he was fulfilled God's righteous command to endorse Almighty God to all the peoples of his empire after Daniel was rescued from the lions' den. Notice that his decree was structured in similar vein to that of Nebuchadnezzar's of Babylon.
Here is what King Darius decreed:
"Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions." (Daniel 6:25-27)
So here you have two unconverted pagans, infidels with no regard for Almighty God and yet God used them both to get his message of sovereignty and salvation propagated to a large swathe of humanity. This shows clearly that whoever rules in the kingdom of men it is God and he alone who in control and will always control things to accomplish his will.
However there is another pagan who is even more illustrious than any of the aforementioned and he is not even mentioned in the Bible.
It was always God's will that Christianity should be propagated over the entire world leaving no country untouched. Because Rome was the World Empire at the time it was imperative that Christianity flourished there, at the heart of the empire or at least took hold and, like the spokes in a wheel, spread to all parts of the empire. The Apostles and disciples of the early church tried and failed, countless others tried and failed and this pagan did exactly as God intended.
Christianity suffered its greatest tyranny, violence and plunder under Emperor Diocletian whose brutal treatment of Christians surpassed that of Emperor Nero and yet a few short years after this pagan, reportedly getting a vision of the cross leading his army to military success then stunned the world by embracing Christianity.
Today that pagan is called (by some) Saint Constantine 1st for it was he who having succeeded Emperor Diocletian lifted all injunctions and restrictions against Christians and declared Christianity, in all but name, the official religion of Rome. Many people believe that Constantine was just a nominal Christian and it is true that paganism remained buoyant throughout Rome for many generations, and it is equally true that Constantine was baptized at the very last minute on his death-bed. However it was Constantine who paved the way for Christianity to be accepted and adopted across the Roman Empire and it all started when he issued the iconic and epochal Edict of Milan.
You just have to love and admire this Edict of Milan and here it is in English.
When I, Constantine Augustus, as well as I, Licinius Augustus, fortunately met near Mediolanurn (Milan), and were considering everything that pertained to the public welfare and security, we thought, among other things which we saw would be for the good of many, those regulations pertaining to the reverence of the Divinity ought certainly to be made first, so that we might grant to the Christians and others full authority to observe that religion which each preferred; whence any Divinity whatsoever in the seat of the heavens may be propitious and kindly disposed to us and all who are placed under our rule. And thus by this wholesome counsel and most upright provision we thought to arrange that no one whatsoever should be denied the opportunity to give his heart to the observance of the Christian religion, of that religion which he should think best for himself, so that the Supreme Deity, to whose worship we freely yield our hearts) may show in all things His usual favor and benevolence. Therefore, your Worship should know that it has pleased us to remove all conditions whatsoever, which were in the rescripts formerly given to you officially, concerning the Christians and now any one of these who wishes to observe Christian religion may do so freely and openly, without molestation. We thought it fit to commend these things most fully to your care that you may know that we have given to those Christians free and unrestricted opportunity of religious worship. When you see that this has been granted to them by us, your Worship will know that we have also conceded to other religions the right of open and free observance of their worship for the sake of the peace of our times, that each one may have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases; this regulation is made we that we may not seem to detract from any dignity or any religion.
Moreover, in the case of the Christians especially we esteemed it best to order that if it happens anyone heretofore has bought from our treasury from anyone whatsoever, those places where they were previously accustomed to assemble, concerning which a certain decree had been made and a letter sent to you officially, the same shall be restored to the Christians without payment or any claim of recompense and without any kind of fraud or deception, Those, moreover, who have obtained the same by gift, are likewise to return them at once to the Christians. Besides, both those who have purchased and those who have secured them by gift, are to appeal to the vicar if they seek any recompense from our bounty, that they may be cared for through our clemency. All this property ought to be delivered at once to the community of the Christians through your intercession, and without delay. And since these Christians are known to have possessed not only those places in which they were accustomed to assemble, but also other property, namely the churches, belonging to them as a corporation and not as individuals, all these things which we have included under the above law, you will order to be restored, without any hesitation or controversy at all, to these Christians, that is to say to the corporations and their conventicles: providing, of course, that the above arrangements be followed so that those who return the same without payment, as we have said, may hope for an indemnity from our bounty. In all these circumstances you ought to tender your most efficacious intervention to the community of the Christians, that our command may be carried into effect as quickly as possible, whereby, moreover, through our clemency, public order may be secured. Let this be done so that, as we have said above, Divine favor towards us, which, under the most important circumstances we have already experienced, may, for all time, preserve and prosper our successes together with the good of the state. Moreover, in order that the statement of this decree of our good will may come to the notice of all, this rescript, published by your decree, shall be announced everywhere and brought to the knowledge of all, so that the decree of this, our benevolence, cannot be concealed.
This Edict of Milan was issued in 313AD and Christianity spread unhindered far and wide throughout the Roman Empire although they were attempts to rein it in from time to time.
This is a classic case of demonstrating that God has not just created the world and left it to its own devices, as some would argue, but more so that God is in full control and paying close attention as noted here: "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him." (2 Chronicles 16:9) This sentiment was endorsed by Peter when he wrote, " For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers " (1 Peter 3:12)
This means that Christians everywhere, and especially our friends in the USA at this time, should hold their heads high, have total trust and confidence in Almighty God and live righteous, spirit-filled lives and so enable God to demonstrate through us that salvation and his grace can make a difference in the world.
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