Casting the Deciding Vote
Voting Our Christian Values
Casting the Deciding Vote
1 Timothy 2:1-8
Over and over again this year, we’ve heard how unconventional and out-of the-ordinary has been this particular election process, and I suppose it has.  There has been so much mud-slinging and accusations and personal attacks that the most ardent and active among us are certainly ready for it all to be over. 
And unfortunately, as a result of the lack of choices and the ugliness of it all, I have heard more than one who has said they may not even vote.  And for those of us who will, we may do it with some hesitancy or reservation that we are doing the right thing.  I think it highly likely had someone run under the name of “none 0f the above”, they would be elected in a landslide.   
It reminds me of the old boy I heard about who was running for office and he was out doing some door to door campaigning.  Things were going pretty well, or so he thought, until he came to the house of grouchy old man. After he had given his little speech, the old man growled, “Vote for you? Why, I’d rather vote for the devil”, to which the candidate, typical politician that he was, said: “I understand. But in case your brother is not running, may I count on your support?”
Now it seems to me that most of us, when we vote, whether it is in city, state or national elections, we do so with the conviction that our vote matters.  We have been taught and we believe, rightly so, that we can make a difference.  
We believe that we have the power, through our vote, to change things. And we have lots of evidence in history that our votes can be more important than we might suspect.
I’m not sure about the accuracy of this little piece, but I’m told
  • In 1645, one vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England
  • In 1649, one vote caused Charles I of England to be executed.
  • In 1776, one vote gave America the English language instead of German.
  • In 1845, one vote brought Texas into the Union.
  • In 1868, one vote saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment.
  • In 1876, one vote changed France from a monarchy to a republic.
  • In 1876, one vote gave Rutherford B. Hayes the Presidency of U.S.
  • In 1933, one vote gave Adolph Hitler leadership of the Nazi Party.
  • In 1960, one vote change in each precinct in Illinois would have denied John F. Kennedy the Presidency.
Whether that is completely accurate or not, our votes do make a difference. And we who are Christians should honor this sacred privilege and vote at every opportunity.
However, having said that we also need to realize that there are two inherent weaknesses in the Democratic process. Perhaps it is better to say there are two problems that plague the voting public.
The first problem is that we are voting for mere mortals.  I don’t care how moral and upstanding the politician is that we vote into office, he’s still a sinner.
He (or she) are still prone to the same weaknesses and sinful tendencies and the same temptations as the rest of us.  These politicians are not God, they are mortal. They do not walk on water. They do not perform miracles and they will make mistakes and disappoint us.
In fact, President Rutherford B. Hayes once said, "Nothing brings out the lower traits of human nature like office seeking."
"Politics is becoming a precarious game. One week a politician may appear on the cover of Time, and the next week he may be serving it."  - Vern McClellan
Politics defined: Poly is a Greek word meaning many and tics are little bloodsuckers....
The one thing sure about politics is that what goes up comes down and what goes down often comes up.... – Richard Nixon
"If you ever injected truth into politics, you would have no politics."... – Will Rogers
So just remember, and I don’t know that we’ve ever had a more vivid reminder than this year of the fact that when we vote, we are voting for sinful human beings. 
Forgetting that  leads to the second problem and that is when we Christians vote, we often do so under the mistaken belief that the candidate or the party for which we vote has the power within themselves to do what needs to be done and that’s not true and it has never been true.
And some of best politicians in American history have recognized this.  For instance, Benjamin Franklin once addressed an assembly struggling with a decision with these words:
“In this situation of this assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth and scarcely able to distinguish it when it is presented to us, how has it happened that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings?” 
Abraham Lincoln said, “It is the duty of nations (as well as of men) to own their own independence upon the overruling power of God . . . and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures (and proved by all history) that those nations only are blest whose God is the Lord.”
In 1984, Ronald Reagan declared: “Without God... there is a coarsening of the society; without God democracy will not and cannot long endure...If we ever forget that we are ’One Nation Under God’, we will be one nation gone under.”
In fact, I find it very interesting that more and more we hear an increased demand for codes of ethics in politics.  And yet, most officeholders are sworn in with their hand resting on one.  And yet, once they take office, they promptly disregard its instruction.   
Now that comment in particular precipitates a couple of questions: 
Have we forgotten that we are a “nation under God”?   And perhaps the better question is, how could we and why would we forget that we are a “nation under God?”
After all, all over our country we see reminders of our relationship to God.  We can’t pull a single piece of money out of our wallet or pocket without holding in our hand a reminder of God. Every time we say our pledge of allegiance, we declare ourselves to be a nation under God.  We could stroll through the streets and avenues of our nation’s capital and as we gaze at the public buildings in Washington, D.C, we would hear them proclaiming America to be a nation under God and dependent upon His guidance and protection. 
How could we forget?  Why would we forget? 
And yet, I think it safe to say the moral landscape of our country and even the quality of candidates that we see running for the highest office in the land and the most important office in the world bear testimony to the fact that we have forgotten God.  And unfortunately this has happened at the time we most need to remember God and to have God remember us.   
So just before we vote, I think it important to remember that we dare not put our faith in our politicians instead of our God.  And to help us understand the significance of that, and to guide and guard our hearts and minds for what happens on Tuesday and thereafter, I want to give you some biblical counsel this morning to keep in mind. 
First of all, and I’ve already alluded to it, as those who vote our Christian values, we need to
  1.  Reject Earthly Answers
To underscore that truth, I want to point your attention to interesting story found in Israel’s history.  It’s recorded for us in 1 Samuel 8.
Now as we approach this chapter, it is important to remember that things are in a mess for the nation of Israel.  They are at a low point spiritually. The priesthood is corrupt. The Ark of the Covenant had been captured by the Philistines and it is not where it belongs, therefore their worship is affected. 
Idolatry is being openly practiced. The judges were dishonest.  The nation had enemies threatening them on every side.
And perhaps the biggest danger they faced was that Samuel, the prophet of God who was their leader at the time, who also served as a judge, is growing old and soon would be unable to guide them as a nation.
And as we discover in the text, his sons who succeed him are corrupt and selfish, described in verse 3 as not “walking in his ways.”
More specifically, the verse continues that “they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes and perverted justice.”  Does that sound familiar?  That could have been written about American politics in 2016. 
So the leadership of Israel decides to take matters into their own hands.  They look things over and came to the conclusion that what they need is a King. After all, every other nation had one and they wanted one.
Verses 4-5
Now on the surface, that made sense.  Having a king symbolized their desire for strength and prosperity.  Having a king meant they could feel they were on equal footing with the nations around them.  Having a king would give them the feeling of security and power in an unsure world.
In reality, however, what Israel expressed was a lack of faith.  They were uncomfortable in waiting for God to supply their needs in His time. They wanted what they wanted and because of that, they hadn’t bothered to seek the will and mind of God and ask for His leading in this issue. 
There is no indication they called for a time of national prayer and fasting to ask for His opinion.  They didn’t seek His counsel.  They simply held a vote and decided that that was all they needed to do. 
But you will notice in verse 6 that Samuel had uneasiness in his spirit regarding that decision. And He prayed to the Lord about it. 
And notice what God told Samuel regarding their actions. 
1 Samuel 8:7 
So what was the problem? The problem was that they had put their faith in an earthly politician, and in so doing they had taken their eyes off of God. They mistakenly believed that the “candidate” they had chosen would supply for them the very things they should have been looking to God to supply for them such as safety and power, and financial security.
Now, don’t get me wrong.  If you know me, you know I believe that Christians ought to be involved in the political process.  In fact, I agree with Plato, who said, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
I believe Christians should not only vote but actively work in the system to bring about righteousness in our nation.  But it is a dangerous mistake to put more faith in politics, and politicians, and political parties than we do in God.
That leads to a second thing I want to say to you.  As one who trust s God and votes my Christian values, not only msut I reject earthly answers, I must
  1. Resist Earthly Emotions
1 Timothy 2:8
Notice in particular that last phrase, “without wrath or doubting”.  The word “wrath” is defined as “any violent emotion, especially anger”.  Doubting is a deliberating, questioning about what is true.  In other versions it is translated as disputing or arguing.
Have you ever known someone who gets so involved in politics that they get into arguments about it?  And the more they argue, the more red in the face they become?  You can see those little veins begin to pop out on their neck and forehead?  There are some who are so intense they will literally fight over politics. 
Listen:  if you find yourself getting so worked up about politics that you are angry and argumentative and combative, that’s a pretty good sign that you’re faith is less in God than it is in your politics.
I read about a man who had lived in a small town and had been a staunch Republican all his life. At the age of 90 his health began to fail. His doctor told him: “I’m sorry to tell you this, but, from the state of your health, I’d say you’ll not live out the year.”
The next morning, the old man asked his son to take him to the courthouse so he could change his registration from Republican to Democrat.  “But Dad,” protested the son, “you started this town’s Republican Party.  You’ve attended every function they’ve ever had!  Why in the world would you want to become a Democrat?”
The old man said, “Son, if someone has to die, it might as well be one of them.”
Some people get so fired up about politics that they can be very unpleasant to be around.  And their politics becomes the dividing line in the sand.  It’s more important than family relations.  It is more important than our relationship as followers of Christ. 
We would do well to follow the counsel of Thomas Jefferson who said, "I have never considered a difference in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend."
If you, as a Christian ever find yourself engaged in a discussion about politics that causes you to get angry or all caught up in the emotion of the moment to the point you will jeopardize a friendship or a relationship with a brother or sister in Christ, you need to take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’ve taken your eyes off of God and put your hope and happiness in a politician or political party.
In fact, in this same text, Paul offers some excellent counsel to correct that kind of political shortsightedness.
  1. Embrace Heavenly Solutions
What did Samuel do when faced with a human answer to a spiritual problem?  He prayed.  Here in I Timothy 2:8, Paul offers the same advice.  Instead of arguing and debating, I desire that men pray! In fact, that’s how the chapter begins, and it is a request specifically for prayer for government leaders.
I Timothy 2:1-2
Paul says to pray for all the politicians, even the ones you don’t like. Especially the ones you don’t like!
Gerald Flurry has written: “Prayer is political action. Prayer is social energy. Prayer is public good. Prayer shapes more of our nation’s life than is formed by legislation. That we have not collapsed into anarchy is due more to prayer than to the police. Prayer is a sustained and intricate act of patriotism in the largest sense of that word--far more precise, loving, and preserving than any patriotism served up in slogans…. The single most important action contributing to whatever health and strength there is in our land is prayer.”
Listen:  the deciding vote, in any election, is not the one we make in the privacy of the ballot box.  It’s the one we cast in the privacy of our prayer closets. 
The vote you make on your knees has infinitely more power than the ballot box can ever offer. 
Why is that true? 
Listen to Proverbs 21:1
 “The king’s heart (or the Mayor’s heart, or the Governor’s heart, or the Presi-dent’s heart) is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.”
In other words, God has the power to direct the decisions of our leaders, even the bad ones and when we pray, that power of God is unleashed.
Now if that is true, how and for whom and what should we pray?
Paul says we are to offer supplications, prayers, intercessions and the giving of thanks, four specific kinds of prayers that are to be offered on behalf of others. 
Supplications focus on specific special deep and intense needs of others and carrying that need to God with a sense of urgency.  I think it safe to say these are prayers offered for those who are closest to us.  We know intimately and well their deepest needs. 
He also mentions prayers.  Those are general prayers where we are aware of a situation or need and we lift that to the Lord.   
Intercession is praying on behalf of others, seeking God’s grace or mercy or strength. 
And finally, we are encouraged to give thanks.  We not only give thanks for those who’ve blessed us, but we thank God for answering our prayers for them as they live to honor Him. 
Now notice, Paul says we are to offer these four kinds of prayers for two specific target groups. First, we are to pray for
  • all men
I take that to mean we are to pray for humanity in general.  There are some general needs and situations that affect all of us. 
We are together in this thing called life and God expects His people to display a sympathy and heart for the needs of those around us that expresses itself in prayer for them. 
Not only are we to pray for all men in general but as our text says we are to pray specifically
  • “for kings, and for all that are in authority”
Now it is important to keep in mind that when Paul instructed Timothy to teach the church to pray for kings and political leaders Nero was on the throne in Rome. Nero, having burned Rome in 64 A.D., blamed Christian activists for the fire and had embarked on a campaign of brutal persecution against Christians.
The thought of praying for them had to be difficult if not repugnant to some.  It would have been even more distasteful than a Republican praying for a Democrat!  Paul said, “Pray for the king and those in authority.”
That means we are to pray for them
  • no matter how good or bad they are
  • no matter what political party they belong to
  • no matter whether they are conservative or liberal
  • no matter how moral or immoral they may be
  • no matter how just or unjust they might be
  • Whether they are Christian or not
We should pray for those in authority because God put them there.
So why are we to pray for those in authority?  Paul has two objectives in mind. 
First, it will be better for us as Christians if we pray for our leaders. 
verse 2
That means I need to pray in general and I need to pray regarding specific issues that are facing our president, congress and state and local leaders regarding issues that come to bear on the people.  We ought to ask God to direct and guide so that our lives cans be lived in a quiet and peaceable way and we are free to worship and serve God.
But we are also to pray for the conversion of the Lost. 
Verse 3
No don’t lose sight of what we are being told.  Paul says, “I want you to offer supplications, prayersm intercession and thanksgiving for those who rule over you because the God who desires all men to be saved and learn of Jesus is pleased when you do.
That means that ultimately, the purpose of our praying for our leaders is not just for God to bless America, but for God to save the lost. Much more important than immigration or taxes or national security or any of the other issues is that people to come to a personal saving knowledge of and relationship with Jesus Christ.
Never forget the primary reason we vote and that we pray for those for whom we vote is so others can know Jesus.  If we ever lose sight of that, it doesn’t matter who’s in office because the world is going to hell. 
One final thing:  there is a decision that each of us must make that is infinitely more important than for whom we will vote and that is the decision to make Jesus our Lord and Savior. 
And with that decision, the things I’ve shared with you today become that much more significant because when it comes to salvation, you must also reject man’s answers. 
Man will tell you the way to be saved or get to heaven is to live a good, moral life or keep the 10 Commandments.  But the Bible says we are not saved by works or keeping a list of rules or because of how good a life we’ve lived.  And unfortunately, many good, moral, well-intentioned people are going to die and go to hell because they believed man, rather than God. 
You’ve also got resist human emotion.  Some people are much more sentimental about salvation than they are scriptural.  They talk about grandma and when they were a kid or some experience at camp or VBS.  And even thought there was never any life-changing impact because of that decision, they emotionally cling to that experience.  In fact, if anyone questions its validity, they will argue and take offense. 
But to really be saved, you’ve got to embrace God’s solution to the problem of sin.  Because God loved us, He sent Jesus to die on a cross for the sins of the world and only through what Christ accomplished there can lost mankind be saved.  He is the only answer. 
And unlike the election awaiting us Tuesday where millions will vote, when it comes to salvation, you get to cast the deciding vote.  The decision you make in the privacy of your heart will determine where you spend eternity.  
Ravi Zacharias tells the story of a man who went to School in Wheaton with Billy Graham and later entered into politics. He was a popular man and rose to become the Prime Minister of Canada. In the process of gaining fame, popularity and power, he began to sacrifice his ethics and his morals. He had an affair. He divorced his wife and married a second wife.
In the process of those temptations, he realized that his faith did not match with what he was doing and so began to try and reconcile the two by embracing an “all roads lead to Rome” kind of theology.  It doesn’t matter what you believe just be sincere.  He even encouraged others to follow that ideology and promoted the idea in the United Nations that the one way to have peace in the world is just to accept one another’s faith and not speak against others’ faith.
He was interviewed on television in the 1990s and the interviewer asked him, “Were you not a fundamental, evangelical Christian?” He said, “Yes, I was.” The interviewer asked, “Have you not moved away from that?”
He said, “Yes, I have become more mature as I have grown up, I have learned and I have rejected some of those fundamentalists beliefs that I was raised with.”
The interviewer asked him, “Are you not sacrificing something by doing this?” He said, “No. I have actually grown by doing this.”
But then, the interview asked an unexpected question when he said, “What about Jesus?” And this man, who was thought of as an important person, who had accomplished so much, had tears well up in his eyes and began to pour down his cheeks. And he said, “I miss Jesus.”
Dear friend, what a tragedy it is to miss Jesus.  It is sad that in pursuit of a president, many will miss Jesus.  It is unfortunate that many, in an attempt to save the country, will miss the only hope she has. 
Today I want to encourage you to cast the deciding vote, not by going to the ballot bow, but by bowing on your knees to confess your faith in the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Let’s pray.    
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