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Paul Hayden

Live Where There’s Plenty of Cheese

March 14, 2022

Let's start with some questions about individual and national crises. First, I’ll start with the subject of an individual crisis. Have you ever lost your direction, feeling like you are in the wilderness? Amid your crisis, could you have used some guidance? Or have you ever felt miserable, chained to the consequences of destructive personal choices that you made? Are you dealing with an unhealthy habit that is tearing your life apart? Are you currently navigating a crisis that came into your life caused by circumstances beyond your control?   

Let's consider a national crisis. Have you noticed how history repeats itself? For example, take nation after nation in world history. They started strong, then became prideful and lazy. They became blind to their condition. They erased and replaced the values and leaders who made them great for destructive values and leaders that disable them. Then the downward slide continues. They were great for a short season. Then, they finished wrong, not strong. 

In either individual or national crisis, did God cause the downfall? No. Individual and national hubris and self-reliance caused it. The problem with pride is that it picks up momentum as it goes along. People aren’t punished so much for their mistakes as by their mistakes. So, the cycle continues. At best, people and nations become captive to mediocrity, stuck on a perpetual trapeze that swings back and forth. Never confuse motion with constructive action.

Don't worry; this isn't a negative article. On the contrary, there’s a very positive, uplifting message in it. Be a trend breaker. Learn from others' mistakes; the second mouse gets the cheese. There's plenty of cheese left if you are the second mouse.    

All the questions I asked above applied to a nation (Israel) and its people long ago. But in this case, in Psalm 107, we see the downward pattern and spiral reversed. Israel and its people moved from captivity to deliverance, from "Why me?" to "What next?” in three crises. 

I call this pattern; “Their Problem, Their Prayer, Their Provision, and Their Praise.” All countries and people will face a crisis. The key is what we do in a crisis. So, let's be the second mouse. Let's understand what most will never understand.

The first crisis was that Israel lost its direction. Their problem was they were lost in the wilderness. They needed guidance. They needed to get their bearings back. Sound familiar? The Scriptures say, “They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region; they did not find a way to the inhabited city.” (vs. 4-5) They recognized they had a problem. That’s half the battle.

What happened then? They prayed, "Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble." (vs. 6) God’s provision came in answer to their prayer. “He delivered them out of their distresses. He led them by a straight way to the inhabited city.” (vs.7) Finally, notice their praise to God. “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His loving kindness…” (vs. 7-8) There it is: ‘Their Problem, Their Prayer, Their Provision, and Their Praise.’

The next problem was they were captives of their sin and rebellion. (vs. 10-12) They left God out of their heritage. Israel got into all kinds of disabling stuff that had dangerous consequences. Sound familiar? "There were those who dwelt in darkness and the shadow of death, prisoners in misery and chains." What did they do then? They prayed the same prayer as before. “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble.” (vs. 13) God brought provision in answer to their prayer. (vs. 13-14) “He saved them out of their distresses.” What was their response to this deliverance? It was praise to God. “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (vs. 15) There it is again: “Their Problem, Their Prayer, Their Provision, Their Praise.”

Next, we see the crisis of a people or nation delivered from circumstances beyond their control. The people were on a ship, and a storm came up in verse 27. They didn't create that problem. Sound familiar? Amid the storm, they prayed as before, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble.” (vs. 28) Then God comes with provision. "He caused the storm to be still so that the waves of the sea were hushed." (vs. 28-30) What was the people’s response? “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness…” (vs. 31) That's how we get delivered from captivity. 

God gave this solution to all nations too. "If my people, called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." II Chronicles 7:14. This pattern is good for business, church, and everyday people too. The problem comes, which causes people to pray, and God hears and responds. Then people thank God. 

Lesson: It’s our responsibility to respond to God’s ability.

Regrettably, history shows us that after the problem, prayer, provision, and praise go away, it's likely we will marginalize God. And then the cycle starts all over again. But there is always a way back to God. The time is always right to do what’s right. One lesson we learn for sure, when it’s hardest to pray is when we pray the hardest. 

How about in our current national or personal crisis, we shift from Their Problem, Their Prayer, Their Provision, and Their Praise, to Our Problem, Our Prayer, Our Provision, and Our Praise? There's plenty of cheese if you're the second mouse. Aha! 

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Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com