By Jim Taylor
In Part One, we saw that God had a definite plan in mind when he created cities and nations. He gave your community its own personality, a unique set of strengths, and a divine purpose. But when we look around our cities, we see crime, sickness, corruption, poverty, suicides, drug abuse, hopelessness, and a host of other problems. Is there anything we can do if what we see around us does not live up to what God intended?
The answer is a resounding “Yes!” There are places that have experienced a dramatic, miraculous turnaround—among them. . .
- a town where the jails were closed due to lack of crime
- a county where government corruption was exposed, and the leaders replaced
- a town where the schools went from the bottom to the top in educational achievement
- a city where hundreds of churches combine to serve their neighborhoods
- and many, many more.
How did it happen there? And, more to the point, how could it happen here, in my community? If we look at stories in the Bible and at incidents from history, we can see a pattern emerge. This post, and the next one, will examine four basic conditions that must be met for a community to change for the better.
First, it all begins when there is a person or a group of people involved. When God wants to accomplish something on the earth, he always raises up a person or a group of like-minded people.
- In Genesis 18, God was willing to spare Sodom if there were just 10 righteous people there; tragically, there wasn’t.
- At one point God lost his patience with Israel and was ready to destroy the entire nation. Psalm 106:23 says, “So he said he would destroy them—had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them.” One person stood up for—and saved—a nation.
- God said about Jerusalem, “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30). He only needed one person.
Second, this person or group has a desire for things to change, and that desire becomes desperation. God wants us to share his desires for our city, and it appears that he gets busy when we get desperate.
- Scottish clergyman John Knox was a leader in the Protestant Reformation. His overwhelming passion was to see his nation turn to God. He was imprisoned for his faith and made a galley slave, chained to the rowing bench of a warship. He prayed every day, “Lord, give me Scotland, or I die.” That is desperation. It is said that Mary, Queen of Scots, feared the prayers of John Knox more than all the armies of England.
- Charles Finney tells a story about a town where the church was empty, the youth were unconverted, and there was a desolation in the air. An old blacksmith was working alone in his shop one Friday. He was overwhelmed by the sad state of spiritual affairs around him; his agony became so great that he set aside his tools, closed up the shop, and prayed the rest of the day. On Sunday he asked the local minister to call the people together; that evening, unexpected crowds came from near and far. The Spirit of God was so heavy that at first everyone was silent. Then one sinner spoke out and said, if anyone could pray, would they please pray for him? Another followed, and still another, and it was found that people from all over the town were under deep conviction—which they all dated to the exact hour when the old man was praying in his shop. A powerful revival followed, but what came first? One old man’s desperation.
Next time: What God does when these desperate people take action and become part of the solution.