God and America – Should We Trust Him? – Should He Bless Us?

Steve Viars September 23, 2001 Hebrews 11:6

 

- the last two weeks have been absolutely unbelievable…

- many of us are witnessing things that we have never seen before—for others who are older; you too would say it’s been a long time since we’ve had days like these.

- last week we discussed some of horror of it all…

- we showed pictures of the destruction, and we studied about the depravity of man…

- but there are other elements of the story…many of them.

- one, which I find particularly intriguing, is how many people have become much more open to the expression of religious ideas in public life.

1)  Our president quotes from Psalm 23 in his address to the nation, and no one complains…

2)  Days of prayer are held in schools, and churches, and other venues in practically every community…think of it, a significant percentage of Americans in prayer to God.

3)  Then there are the signs…everywhere…”In God We Trust” and “God Bless America”…

- when White Castle takes down their sign about a sackful of hamburgers for a dollar and replaces it with…”God Bless America”…something significant is happening.

 

- I want to ask you a question…what are we to make of all of this?

- is this good?…is it bad?…has revival broken out?…

- how did we get from step one 2 weeks ago ---- God is not particularly welcome here…

- the wall of separation between God and public life must be kept incredibly high and incredibly broad….

- to step six…where every pickup truck in town has an American flag and an “In God We Trust” insignia?

 

- and not only, how did we get from step one to step six, but is it possible that we skipped a few steps in between?

- and if the answer to that is yes…and I think we would all agree that it is…

- then I would present to you that the days in which we live contain more opportunities than ever before, and more dangers than ever before.

 

- therefore this morning, I’d like to talk to you about:

- God and America…

- Should We Trust Him?

- Should He Bless Us?

- if those are the new rallying cries of the nation, In God We Trust and God Bless America…

- then let’s use them to help us think about where we are and where we need to go.

 

- with that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bibles this morning to Hebrews chapter 11…

- that’s on page 174 of the back section of the Bible in the pew in front of you…

 

- I probably need to explain where we are in our preaching schedule…

- we had just finished a short series in the book of Hosea and our plan had been to begin a study on the life of Peter last week.

- of course I believed it was necessary to change that plan due to the events 12 days ago…and we did.

- As I’ve spoken to different members of our church this, and different members of the community, I decided that it would be wise to take another Sunday and study ideas from God’s Word that will help us address what’s happening right now.

- and I have several different kinds of people in mind…

1) I’m sure that there are some here today who haven’t been in church in a long time, if ever.

- you may be here with all kinds of questions…you may, like all of us, feel like you’re still grieving..

- but you would say that you don’t know much about the Bible, a relationship with God has not been a priority up until now, etc.

- if that’s your situation this morning, we’re glad you’re here and we’ve planned parts of our service to try to address questions you may have brought to church this morning.

2) The second group is those who know Christ as Lord and Savior, but you have a lot of questions rumbling around right now, questions about the goodness of God in light of what has happened, questions about the future, questions about justice and truth…we hope to try to provide biblical answers for questions that Christians might have this morning…

3) Then there’s the question of how to best minister in our community these days…

- things are a lot different than they were 2 weeks ago when it comes to ministry…

- I assume that many of you have had very significant conversations with people around you recently…

- everybody is talking about this…

- and you may be looking for some ideas from God’s Word that can provide direction for ministry…we hope to find some of those today…

4) And then some of you may just be trying to think about all the cultural implications of these days…

- should we be happy with these billboards and community prayer meetings?

- is this good, is it bad…should we rejoice, should we be concerned?

- we hope to address that biblically as well.

 

- now please notice the repetitive theme here…we’re looking for answers from God’s Word.

- if you’re new or relatively new, I hope you’re hearing us say…this isn’t about what Pastor Viars thinks, or what FBC thinks…this is about trying to understand what God’s Word says.

 

- we’re going to keep our outline very simple this morning…we’re going to take it right from our title…

I.  Should We Trust God?

II.  Should God Bless Us?

- if those are two of the major themes of the day, let’s put them to the test and see how they do.

 

- read Hebrews 11:1-6

 

- One of the things that has surprised me is that more people have not asked the “why did God let this happen?” question…

- or where was God on September 11, 2001 question?

- to be honest with you, the fact that those kinds of questions have not been more prominent ought to concern us.

- because it ought to make us ask…when people say “In God We Trust”, what do they mean by “God” and what do they mean by “trust?”

 

- Hebrews 11, especially verse 6, really helps us there, doesn’t it?

A.  You must believe that God exists.

- the passage says, without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is…

- I believe that’s one of the ways that this terrible tragedy can be used for good…is that many more people are more open than ever to the notion that maybe there is a god.

- I may not know whom He is, I may not know what He’s like…but I’m more open than ever to the possibility of the existence of God.

- friend, if that’s as far as you are on your journey…if that marks progress from two weeks ago, then you’re heading the right direction.

- by the way, there are some summary notes in our MRC center from a series Dr. Martin and Pastor Dutton did last year called Reasons to believe…

- if you would like to study this particular point further, there is some great information available for you there.

- the text tells us something else about this matter of trust/belief.

B.  You must believe that God has revealed Himself to us.

- the summary of this is, God is there and He is not silent…He desires to know us, He desires to communicate with us…

- the book of Hebrews talks about that in three very important ways…we saw one of them in verse 3…[read]

 

1.  in His world.

- unless a person chooses to harden their heart, they can look at the beauty of God’s creation and say, Someone wise and wonderful made this.

- [power point shots of creation]

- Psalm 19:1 - The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

 

- God has also revealed Himself to us…

2.  in His Word.

- this chapter is all about faith…well, the question then becomes…”faith in what”

- there is no such thing as objectless faith…it has to be in something, or someone…

- well, remember, when we study the Bible we always study it in context…we look at the verses before or after…

- what does verse 4 mean when it says the Abel, by faith, offered a better sacrifice…the answer is, God gave them commands of what they were supposed to bring, and Abel believed God…His faith was in what God had revealed to them in His Words.

- you see that all through this chapter --- v. 7 – by faith Noah, being warned by God…

- by faith Abraham, when he was called…

- you can see the same emphasis if you turn back a few pages to Hebrews 4:12…

- this book has a heavy emphasis on God’s Word because you can’t trust God apart from trusting His Word…READ 4:12

- please turn back to chapter 1 to see the third way God is said to have revealed Himself to us in this book…

- read 1:1-4

3.  in His Son.

- the Bible tells us that the second person of the Trinity came to earth and became a man…that’s what Christmas is all about…celebrating the birth of Immanuel..God with us…

- He was tempted in all points without sin to prove He was the Son of God…

- and He taught with authority and power to prove He was the Son of God…

- He performed miracles to prove that He was the Son of God…

- and then [this is what Easter is all about], He died on the cross to pay the price for our sins…

 

- see, when we talk about trusting God, we’re talking about believing that He exists, and that He has revealed Himself to us in His world, and in His Word, and in His Son.

- now, friends, when many Americans talk about, “In God We Trust”, can I ask you, is this what they are talking about?

- is it trust in the Creator of heaven and earth?

- is it trust in the truth of God’s Word?

- is it trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross?

 

- again, I repeat our questions…what exactly do we mean by God, and what exactly do we mean by trust?

- now, let’s push it a little further…you can’t go far into the trusting God discussion until you’re talking about salvation.

C.  You must trust God for your salvation.

- if we’re going to trust God’s Word, then it contains some rather direct information about us…

- namely, that we are born in sin and therefore separated from a Holy God.

- we have to decide if we’re going to believe that…

- and that’s what prepares us for the good news of the Gospel…namely that Christ died for our sin and that salvation is available for all who will repent and believe in Him.

 

- cf. John 3:16….

 

- God is not nearly as concerned about saving nations as He is about saving people.

- and I need to ask you this morning, have you ever trusted God this way?

- has there been a definite time in your life when you’ve admitted your sin…[develop]

- that’s why these current trends in culture may or may not be bad…

- I’m concerned that some people in our country think that “trusting God” is synonymous with “being an American”….and as long as we pray during times of national calamity, we’re fine…

- friends, you and I first need to determine…have we really made a personal decision to trust the God of the Bible by accepting His Son as Lord and Savior….and if we have…

- are we encouraging others to move from some sort of a vague, nationalistic faith in an impersonal god…to a biblical, vibrant, personal, living faith in the God of the Bible?

- maybe these events have given us more of an openness to long for step six, but we have a lot of work to do to faithfully communicate what God’s Word says about steps 2-5.

- now, here’s another issue we have to put on the table…

D.  You must trust God with your personal growth today.

- when the average American says, “In God We Trust”, do they mean by that…we are showing our faith in God by submitting ourselves to the principles of His Word in everyday life?

- in God we trust by being a biblical husband…or wife…

- in God we trust by growing in personal righteousness…

- in God we trust by studying His Word…

- in God we trust by being part of church where we can study, fellowship, serve, and grow…

 

- here’s the point --- you can tell how much someone really trusts the God of the Bible by his or her commitment to personal holiness.

- if you and I live life the way we want to and ignore what God’s Word says…we don’t really trust Him.

- that’s one of the curious things about the day and age in which we live…

- I wonder if our culture has Americanized God…

- God for many, has become like a genie in a bottle…whom I keep until I need someone to grant a few wishes.

- if that’s true of our culture, we’re in trouble…

- Gal. 6:7 – Be not deceived, God is not mocked…

- we can’t reinvent Him to be whatever we want Him to be and then expect Him to perform on command.

 

- that was the point I tried to make to you last week…what happened to repentance?…surely that’s part of steps 2-5?

- and the interesting thing is, as you read American history, people in our country in the past understood this….

- “The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which heaven itself has ordained” – George Washington – 1789 – Inaugural Address

- “It is fitting for us to recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals, to humble ourselves before Him and to pray for His mercy…that the inestimable boon of civil and religious liberty, earned under His guidance and blessing by the labors and sufferings of our fathers, may be restored.” – Abraham Lincoln – 1863 – Proclaiming a National Day of Prayer and Fasting

- now, at the risk of being unduly repetitious, I ask you…is this the kind of “In God We Trust” that the average person in this country is thinking about when they use the phrase?

- hardly….now can I ask you a very difficult question….

- is it possible that part of the reason our culture has moved so quickly, and I think dangerously from step 1 to step 6, is that they haven’t seen much step 2-5 from the people of God?

- maybe those who don’t know Christ have wrongly defined “In God We Trust” because those who do know Christ have wrongly defined “In God We Trust”.

 

- and it would be wise for each of us to ask ourselves, do I really trust God His way?

 

 

- now, another point we could make is…

E.  You must trust God with your future.

- do you think the average person in our country means, when they say “In God We Trust”, that however God wishes our military conflict to go, we will submit to His will?…or do they mean….we will trust God as long as He gives us what we want?

- that’s a frightening question, isn’t it?

 

- if the answer to that question is “no”, then do you realize that we’ve just fashioned a god that is someone other than the god of the Bible?

- no, I realize that some folks will have trouble with what I’m about to say…

- I try to be very patriotic…

- we’ve tried to have meaningful services here on Memorial Day and July 4th…we’ve tried to honor our country, and honor those who have fought for our country…

- but please tell me, what are the first and second commandments about?

- not having any other gods before the True god…

- and not crafting any graven images, or idols…

 

- if we really are not willing to trust God for whatever future He believes is best for our country, then we’ve simply crafted a nationalistic idol to give us whatever we want…

- patriotism can and should be a wonderful thing…patriotism can also be a form of idolatry if we are promoting, or following, or wanting a god that is something other than the God of the Bible.

 

- now, does that mean we shouldn’t pray for safety for our troops?…of course not..

- does it mean we shouldn’t pray for victory…of course not…

- but it does mean, if we are really serious about trusting God, we will always end our prayers meaningfully with the words…,”in Jesus name”…meaning, if and only if this is your will.

 

[recommend Jerry Bridges Book – Trusting God….

- great chapters on trusting God’s providence, trusting God’s sustaining grace, God’s governing grace, God’s sovereign control over people, over nations, over nature]

 

- Should we trust God?…absolutely….assuming that we’re talking about trusting the God of the Bible…in a way that is consistent with His Word…

- let us pray that would be true of more and more people in our country….

- let us commit that it will be true of people in our church…

 

- now, what about this second phrase?

- I won’t have to speak as long about it because in many ways, answering the first question makes it much easier to answer the second.

II.  Should God Bless America?

 

- friends, what is the answer to that?

- would you mind if I answered the question with a question?

 

- is the blessing of God dependent in any way on the way people live?

- what’s the answer to the second question?…yes…it doesn’t always have to be---sometimes God can/does choose to treat us with unmitigated grace…but there is no question about the fact that blessing in the Bible is connected to the way people live…

- well, if that’s the answer to the second question, then how does that mean we have to answer the first one? [Should God bless America]

- not really…

- less today than ever…

- can you really tell me why He should?

 

- I’m not trying to be mean or harsh towards our culture…but I think it is reasonable to say that our American culture is further from God today than at any other time in our country’s history.

- and I don’t enjoy saying that…and I am not a negative person by nature…but I think if you look at our entertainment, if you look at the condition of our families, if you examine any number of societal trends…we stand in a less favorable position to receive the blessing of God than ever.

- now, have cultural advancements been made…absolutely

- we no longer have slavery…

- we have seen positive advancements in women’s rights, and minority rights…

- we’ve had tremendous technological advancements…

- but regarding our national character…much is in need of attention….

- but perhaps there is more openness to that today than there has been in a long time.

 

- so where does leave us…perhaps God will bless us….

A.  If we acknowledge who we are.

 

- let me invite you to turn back in your Bible to the book of Genesis chapter 32.

- p. 25 in the front section of the pew Bibles

 

- [walk through the Jacob story – 32:24-32 – God’s blessing came when he admitted who he was…the trickster]

 

- friends, I would like to ask you to pray that our country will see the importance of repentance as a prerequisite for God’s blessing.

- this is what President Lincoln said in his proclamation to the nation in 1863.

 

Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day

 

Whereas, the Senate of the United States devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation:

 

And whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history: that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord:

 

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

 

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven.  We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity.  We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

 

But we have forgotten God.  We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

 

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

 

It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

 

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request and fully concurring in the view of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer.

 

And I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

 

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessing no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

 

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.  By the President: Abraham Lincoln.

 

- God bless America, if we acknowledge who we are.

 

B.  If we choose to obey Him.

 

John 13:17 - If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

 

Proverbs 3:33 - The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked, But He blesses the dwelling of the righteous.

 

James 1:25 - But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.

 

God bless America, if we choose to obey Him.

 

C.  If we seek blessings that are spiritual in nature.

 

- Ephesians 1:3 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

 

 

D.  If we seek blessings that produce growth.

 

- I Peter 3:14 - But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled.

 

- I Peter 4:14 - If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

 

- James 1:12 - Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video