Well, suppose we heard that the whole election was going to be completely called off? No more candidates, no more rallies or campaign speeches… no public vote whatsoever. Instead, God Himself would choose America’s next president. Wow! That would be AMAZING, right? No more worries! God would definitely find the best person for the job!
But wait a minute… aren’t we overlooking something? Isn’t God already in complete control of the upcoming election process? Isn’t He already guiding the primaries and who the emerging candidates will be? In the end, won’t God be the one who chooses our next president, with or without a general election?
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in all the media hype and forget that God is in complete control. So let’s take a few steps back from the political chaos in 2016 and focus on these words of Paul from A.D. 56-57.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1
Is it really possible that this verse – written nearly 2000 years ago – can still apply to us today? I mean, just look at the political nonsense and corruption in our nation! And what if we don’t agree with that “certain person” who might get elected? What if our new president’s ideas are not in line with Scripture at all?
Well, of course Romans 13:1 still applies to us today. And it’s not some simplistic Christian virtue that was written during easier times. When the apostle Paul penned these words, the Roman empire was under the reign of Nero Germanicus, one of the most evil rulers in history. This tyrannical leader lived a life of gross and blatant sin. He’s thought to have set his own city on fire so he could build a bigger palace for himself. He murdered members of his own family and brutally tortured countless Christians. He was even known to set Christians on fire as human torches to light his garden at night. It was under Nero’s horrible reign that Paul was martyred for his Christian faith and message.
Whoa… and we think the situation in our country looks bleak?! It’s almost inconceivable that Paul could stomach any respect for the Roman government at all. Can you imagine how the Christians in Rome reacted to this section of Paul’s letter? And what can current day Christians take away from all of this?
1. Believers should submit to God’s appointed leaders.
Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities.”
If ever there were an exception to this rule, surely Paul would have mentioned it here, while Rome was under the wicked reign of Nero. But the end of verse 1 clearly explains why believers should submit: “The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over all things. That means every one of our leaders has been, and will be, directly appointed by Him. This may be tough to accept at times, but keep in mind that God controls the campaign process as well. Each and every candidate is God’s choice. Each one has been raised, established, and appointed by God to be used for His purposes.
2. God’s plan may include ungodly leaders.
Sometimes we may wonder why God allows certain leaders to rise to power -- leaders that have unbiblical objectives, or even leaders who are completely against God.
In our finite understanding, we don’t have all the answers. But the Bible does assure us that God has a plan and purpose for all things (Ephesians 1:11).
For example, in Isaiah 45:1-3 we read about Cyrus, a pagan Persian king, whom God appointed and granted great power. Remarkably, God moved Cyrus to free the Jews from their captivity in Babylon and even finance their efforts to rebuild the temple back in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:22-23). God’s use of Cyrus as a “shepherd” for His people illustrates the truth of Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; He guides it wherever He pleases.”
Another example, and perhaps the most extraordinary, is found in John 19:11. As Jesus was being questioned during His trial, He said to Pilate, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.”
Here the Lord Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, affirmed that He was under the authority of a secular political figure! Pilate had been appointed to this position according to God’s sovereign plan. And in turn, God had granted this ungodly leader the authority to order the beating and crucifixion of His only Son.
This scenario hardly makes sense to us from a human standpoint, but God allowed this in line with His will and eternal plan. And it’s through Jesus’ death that we have received the greatest gift ever given (Acts 2:23-24).
Practical Application: Focus on prayer for our leaders
Here in the United States, we have the right to vote for the candidate whom we believe to be the best choice for president. But if that person doesn’t win, we may begin to lose hope in our leadership and the future of our country.
But as believers, it’s not our job to worry or yield to despair. And we shouldn’t become angry or spread hatred towards any particular political figure. Rather, we should focus our energy in prayer for God's will to be accomplished in great ways -- regardless of who is finally elected. Remember, our trust is in God, not in human politicians. We can trust God to use or change any circumstance for His glory.
Paul encouraged believers to pray for their leaders in 1 Timothy 2:2. And in Jeremiah 29:7, God even told the Israelites in exile to pray for the welfare of evil and pagan Babylon! So what are some ways we can pray for our leaders?
1. We can pray for their salvation. 2. We can pray for them to be open to God’s guidance as they lead us. 3. We can pray that they will surround themselves with wise, godly advisors. 4. We can pray that their hearts will be convicted to make honorable decisions. 5. We can pray that they will promote biblical principles and unity in our nation.
The actions of our leaders will affect the conditions we live in and impact our families, our churches, our workplaces, and our towns and nation. We should continue to pray and then trust that our sovereign God will orchestrate all circumstances for His greater glory and His eternal purpose.
Philippians 4:6-7 – “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
- Ron Reid
(As a footnote, we know many of our readers are not located in the USA. Praise God that He has blessed the spread of this ministry to many countries. No matter what political situation you face in your home country, you can rest assured that the message of Scripture remains the same: God is higher than any earthly authority and works all things together according to His plan.)
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