In the midst of the nation's financial hardships, Southern Baptists have a prime opportunity to show unbelievers that what they've embraced is not fair-weather Christianity, Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said February 16.
"I thank God that what the Lord Jesus Christ has done in our lives will go the distance. The truth is … it's not what's going to come against us that's going to make us or break us, it's what God has placed in us and what we choose to do with it," Hunt told the SBC Executive Committee in Nashville, Tennessee.
During a recent speaking engagement at the Georgia House of Representatives, Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock, said government officials lined up to ask him whether the Bible says anything pertaining to the financial difficulties Americans are facing.
Hunt said the Bible is the oldest collection of wisdom, and he called it the church's stimulus package.
"If we're looking for something from out there to help us, really what we're saying is that which we've received in here is not sufficient," he said, holding up a Bible.
The first chapter of the Book of Job holds the answer for how believers are able to endure hard times, Hunt said. Satan asked whether Job feared God simply because God had put a hedge of protection around him, and Hunt said the same question could be asked of Southern Baptists and of Americans.
"In other words, it's easy to serve Him as long as we're in our fine Southern Baptist churches, our fine offices, wherever you may be serving, and we're being taken care of," he said.
But the true test comes when the sun is no longer shining down and the road is marked with suffering. That's when the world is watching to see how Christians will respond, Hunt said. As Job asked, Southern Baptists need to ask themselves, "Will we accept good from God and not accept adversity?"
Hunt then transitioned into eight prayer requests derived from Psalm 119:33-40, in which the psalmist asked God to help him cope in life.
"He's crying out to God, and I see it relating so well to where we are as a denomination," Hunt said.
First, there is a prayer for education, he said, noting that the psalmist is teachable and has a desire to learn.
"Also note in this petition a tone of humility and dependence," he said. "He sees God as a path to be followed, and he's saying, 'God, I so desire for You to educate me.'"
In verse 34, there is a prayer for illumination, Hunt said. Three words predominantly used in Psalms and Proverbs, he said, are knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Knowledge is education, but understanding is knowledge that has worked itself out in the realities of life. Wisdom, he said, can only be given by God, and it can be given to people with no formal education.
The psalmist prays for direction in verse 35 as he asks, Help me stay on the path of Your commands, for I take pleasure in it.
"That's the psalmist's paradox," Hunt said. "Why ask the Lord to make you do what you like doing? Because he knew there was a war between the flesh and the spirit. He understood a little something about Romans 7. Is that not true in all of us?"
Next comes a prayer for inclination, in which the psalmist is asking God to establish a pattern of consistency in his life and to help him avoid covetousness.
"If there's any place that America has bowed and formed an altar and stayed there, it's in the area of the idolatry of covetousness," Hunt said.
The psalmist also sets forth a prayer for attention, Hunt said, when he asks God to turn his eyes from looking at worthless things.
"Do I need to say any more? My attention needs to be focused on the Word of God," Hunt said. "… Sinful things have a great attraction for us, and the psalmist said, Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless."
In verse 38, there is a prayer for realization.
"When Isaiah saw God for who He was, the very next thing that happened was he saw himself for who he was," Hunt said. "… We'll never see ourselves the way God sees us until we see God for who God is. And then when we do, we won't think near as much of ourselves."
The psalmist also prays for protection when he asks God to turn away his reproach.
"To bear reproach is to bear shame. The psalmist is asking God to protect his testimony. He so desired to never disgrace the Lord and bring His name dishonor," Hunt said.
Finally, the psalmist prays for aspiration. In other words, he longed to live the kind of life laid out in God's Word, and he longed for the life-giving transformation that only God could produce in his life.
"The man that's making the request is so dependent that unless God does what he asks, it won't get done," Hunt said. "… He's sitting idle without the potential of getting where God is in order to be revived, and it's like saying, 'Unless You come to me where I am and breathe Your transforming life in me, I will be right here when You come back.'
"I feel like sometimes that's where we are as Southern Baptists. We need the life-transforming breath of Almighty God to come to where we are in our decline and breathe into us and help us to stand again and be a mighty army, a force for the glory of God."
As the economic crisis has unfolded, Hunt said he has told people repeatedly that he believes God is still in control.
"God's still on His throne. He's still ruling. He's still reigning. There's no vacancy. So if that's the case, God's still in charge; He's allowing us to go through what we're going through," Hunt said.
"And in my estimation, if He were going to hit America anywhere to get our attention, the best place to begin is in the pocketbook. And if by taking us from recession to depression He could get us on our knees again and help us to realize a need for Him and bring revival, if He could do that and will do it, I'll be the first if He'd like to bankrupt me first," Hunt said.
"You say, 'Talk is cheap.' We're not just talking. This is something we've prayed through over and over again and just begin to say, 'God, whatever it takes in my lifetime.' Some of you have prayed far longer than I have. Some of you have been preaching longer than I've been a Christian," he said.
"But to really mean it, whatever it takes for God once again to wake this nation up to the fact of who He is in the name of Jesus, I pray He'll do it. That's my prayer, and may God do it."