No Strength To Repent?

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Chuck Hetzler, Ph.D., has a diverse background as a biblical scholar, worship leader, and pastor. He served as Christian Union’s first Teaching Fellow at Princeton University and later directed its ministry in New York City. Chuck earned his Ph.D. in New Testament from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and currently pastors Bethesda Grace Church in Manhattan.

I recently heard a story about a Christian woman here in the US who was sharing with a small group of other Christians about how she had felt the Lord asking her to examine herself and repent and humble herself in light of what is going on in our nation and around the world right now. To her surprise, when she went around and asked the others in the group if they felt the same way, not one other person felt like there was any need that they had for repentance. I'm surprised and shocked with her that any Christian would not look at the times in which we are in and at least say, "God, is there something that You're trying to say to me?" In light of what the Bible says when there are times of disasters — what the Bible says in the Old Testament and what the Bible says in the New Testament — about how we should respond when disaster strikes.

It reminds me of a message that I heard from a Ugandan pastor. Uganda has experienced a great revival in their nation over the last few decades, and he comes to the United States and other places ... This is John Mulinde, and he preaches to people about how to seek the Lord for Him to come to their communities. He said that he often finds that as he goes to these places to preach, that there is no strength to repent. There is no strength to repent. One example that I've heard him give on this comes from 1 Samuel 3:18 where Eli the priest hears a word of disaster prophesied over him, and he does not humble himself and repent. This is what it says. "So Samuel told Eli everything and hid nothing from him. And Eli said, 'It is the Lord, let Him do to Him what seems good.'" You know, Eli could have turned to God and begged God for mercy. He could have humbled himself before the Lord, and the Lord would have relented of the disaster. How do we know? Because God did that so many times. God relented of far worse disasters for far worse characters elsewhere in the Old Testament.

You think about Jonah preaching to the Ninevites. These weren't even God's chosen people, and yet they humbled themselves and God did not bring upon them the disaster. I think about King Ahab in 1 Kings 21:29 where God says, "I will not bring about this disaster that I've prophesied against King Ahab because he humbled himself before Me." King Ahab was one of the most terrible, godless kings in all of Israel's history. And yet God says, "Because he humbled himself, I won't bring about this disaster in his days." God will — He loves to — relent of the terrible things that would otherwise come upon us if we'll humble ourselves. So I think about this Christian woman who shared this story, and my heart grieves with her, and my heart prays with her.

I pray that you will have the same heart, and that we will together plead and pray for a spirit of repentance to come over, first, starting with the household of God. That Christians ourselves, that we will say, "God, we humble ourselves before You. Forgive us for any ways that we've been walking contrary to You, make our lives right with You. Make us filled with the Holy Spirit. Set us apart from this world." God bless you as you humble yourself and you call others to do the same.

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