The following are quotes from several States of the Union Addresses given by a few of our most recent Presidents, Republican and Democrat alike: (I have not identified the quotes with the Presidents to whom they belong because that is not the point of this post. If you want to know who said what, there are these new things called, “Copy,” “Paste,” and “Google”……)
“America will always win.”
“The strength — the secret of our strength, the miracle of America, is that our greatness lies not in our government, but in the spirit and determination of our people.”
“Because when we act together, there is nothing the United States of America can't achieve.”
“My fellow Americans, the state of our Union is the strongest it has ever been. As always, the credit belongs to the American people.”
“Each time I look at that flag, I'm reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those fifty stars and those thirteen stripes. No one built this country on their own. This Nation is great because we built it together. This Nation is great because we worked as a team. This Nation is great because we get each other's backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we're joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.”These statements reflect two core beliefs that you will find resounding in the heart of nearly every American, regardless of partisan association:
- America is great.
- Americans get credit for it.
My friends, it is not the economy that is going to destroy this nation. It is not our financial deficit. It is not our foreign relations. It is not our wars. It is not our educational system or our taxes or our energy supply. What will destroy this nation is our belief in the two statements above. The one thing upon which most Americans agree, the one moment during the State of the Union Address when everyone applauds, the one belief we all share…is a lie.
Because here’s the truth:
We. Are. Not. Great.
Yes, America. Read it and weep. But it’s true. We’re not. How do I know? Because the One, the ONLY One, who is great said so.
“Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie; if weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath.”
“Before Him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by Him as worthless and less than nothing.”
“All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him: ‘What have You done?’”
I could continue, but I think you get it. We are men. Men are nothing. Yes, even the strong and influential and intelligent and oh-so-important Americans that we are (pointing out the sarcasm in those adjectives, in case you missed it), we are nothing. And it’s high time we remembered it. If you want to know why, go take a stroll through the Old Testament. Say hello to the Babylonians and the Assyrians and the Persians and the Egyptians, and definitely have a chat with the Israelites! Ask them what happens to nations who think they’re “all that”. Ask them what happens when you strut your stuff and call yourself great and flaunt your achievements and conquests as if you’re king of the world. Ask them what happens when you take credit for something in which you had absolutely no hand. Ask them how God responds when you try to lift yourself up to His level. They’ll tell you: He puts you in your place. As well He should. Because we’re not great, but He is.
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome.”
1 Chronicles 16:25,
“For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods.”
1 Chronicles 29:11-12,
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from You; You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.”
“How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!”
“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.”
Do you get it? Do you get who He is? Do you get who we’re not? If America is anything, ANYTHING AT ALL, it is for only one reason: because God chose to make us that way. The “the secret of our strength” doesn’t lie “in the spirit and determination of our people.” The “credit” doesn’t belong “to the American people.” We are not great “because we worked as a team.” We are not great “because we get each other's backs.” And like it or not, the state of our Union will not “always be strong” and America won’t “always win.” We could not have made ourselves into anything. And we cannot maintain ourselves as anything. Only God Most High has the power to do that.
“No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, He exalts another.”
So where do we belong? We’re not great. God is great. Where do we belong? We belong with Isaiah and Ezekiel, on our faces before Him in tears.
“’Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’”
“This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown.”
We belong in the humble, prostrate position of a beggar and a servant at the feet of the Master. Because everything that we are as a nation is only because He chose for it to be that way. And as soon as He chooses otherwise, we will find ourselves right next to the Babylonians and Assyrians: on our faces in the dirt, the rug ripped out from under us, thinking, “Wait—I thought we were great???”
We Christian Americans like to quote this verse: Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” Unfortunately, I think the majority of us have forgotten what that verse really says. Here’s what it doesn’t say:
It doesn’t say, “Blessed is the nation that calls itself ‘Christian’.”
It doesn’t say, “Blessed is the nation that stands bull-headedly firm on the conservative side of issues.”
It doesn’t say, “Blessed is the nation that elects a President who goes to church.”
It doesn’t say, “Blessed is the nation that boasts religious tolerance and political correctness.”
It doesn’t say, “Blessed is the nation that votes pro-life.”
It doesn’t say, “Blessed is the nation that asks for it.”
How many times a day do we say or hear or read, “God Bless America”? If we want Him to bless America, maybe we should quit asking for it and start making Him Lord. Because that’s what it says.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”
So what’s the state of our Union? It’s exactly the same as the state of every human heart within it.
“He must become greater; [we] must become less.”