Carpe diem! Seize the day! Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus, more popularly known as Horace, is credited with this, one of the oldest and most popular phrases in western history. It has been interpreted by some as a hedonistic call to live for the day without any thought of the future. For those, I will pray.
I use it as a call to all of us to make the most of our present challenges and opportunities. Our most current is this season of national repentance and prayer. I am told by those more learned than I that ‘carpe’ more correctly translates as ‘pluck’, as in to pick plums or low-hanging fruit. Therefore, a more accurate translation to Carpe diem is: Pluck the day when it is ripe!
I continue to insist that our nation is ripe for positive change, pick it now! If we wait too long, what’s ripe will become rotten, and what would have been good for the belly will instead “run di belly”!
Church, Government, private sector, listen and act rightly now: Carpe diem!
The Church seems to be listening, for we are now into our third consecutive weekend of national repentance and focus on prayer for divine rescue from the vices that seem to be endangering the prosperity of our nation, particularly our crime and violence.
The first weekend of prayer was December 2 and 3, headed by the prime minister. The second was on December 10, headed by the governor general on the lawns of King’s House. And the third will take place this evening, December 17, in Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay.
Sadly, our tourist capital has become the murder capital of our nation and the western world. Richard Blackford, in his Sunday Observer, The Agenda column of December 10, 2017, titled ‘Fed by greed, Jamaica continues to bleed’, frighteningly revealed that “Montego Bay …records a murder rate of 239 per 100,000 of population. And, on a per capita basis, not only ranks as the most murderous city in the world, but has a murder tally that is 38.2 times higher than the global murder rate of 6.2 murders per 100,000 of population.” Montego Bay already leads our nation in other unrighteous behaviours such as scamming and homosexuality. I hope the prayers this evening will be the fervent kind that have salutary effects.
The national church has called for these weekends of national repentance and prayer, given the deteriorating moral and social conditions and increasing crime and violence which has for decades been affecting our economic development.
The Government, led by the prime minister, has wisely responded in full support of the initiative. He led the nation in a most powerful and significant prayer of repentance which I referred to in last week’s column as a nation-changing moment if both Church and nation respond rightly to it.
Prayer, Repentance and Restoration
This initial call for a day of repentance has turned in an unplanned way into a season of repentance, as it needs to be. There is more to come, with the ‘Heal the Nation’, the National Prayer Breakfast and the Spanish Town Ministers’ Fraternal Prayer Gathering for St Catherine all planned to deal with the issue of repentance. Could this be the divine leading of God alerting us to greater divine intervention ahead if only we respond rightly?
Looks like the sovereign hand is guiding a movement of repentance that should be maximised for the greatest national good. I repeat what I said last week that the prayer the prime minister led was not an end but the beginning of a process. The Church should now get out of its four walls and into the communities calling citizens to follow the prime minister’s lead, teaching a better way of living, a life devoted to love of God and love of neighbour.
One of the results of repentance is to bring restoration and healing. Healing is as vital to a society as it is to individuals. When a society has been wounded in its history that affects the psyche and behaviour of the people. It needs healing. Without healing, the nation can never be restored to wholeness for serious growth and development.
This should move us in this season to grab hold of the opportunity to see real healing take place in Jamaica. A Truth Commission could bring us the restoration we need in the soul of the nation to position us for serious progress. Truth has tremendous transforming power. It is truth that frees the heart and mind of individuals to produce peace. Since it is the Church that best understands the healing power of truth, it is the Church that must lead this process.
God help wi!
We have heard the cries from many in our society for divine intervention. Peter Bunting, when he was the national security minister, called for divine intervention to address the crime problem. More recently, the Commissioner of Police George Quallo joined the call. But what do people really mean when they call for divine intervention? What do they expect from God? Why also does it seem to be the last resort?
The cry for divine intervention is met with a range of responses from complete cynicism to complete faith. The questions, therefore, are: Do those who ask for it know what it looks like? And do they know what to expect and how to recognise it should it happen?
People often expect a miraculous change without their personal engagement in creating change. For some, to ask for intervention suggests a resignation of will and abdication of responsibility. For others there is an expectation of miraculous change. Still others think of it in terms of a revival or spiritual awakening where people just supernaturally break down and repent.
To another set it means that man cannot do anything more and it’s only left to God to do something. They expect something miraculous to happen that will quickly change the whole situation with the wave of a magic wand. They assume that no human action is required.
But is this really so? God, of course, is sovereign and, yes, He can divinely intervene and overrule in human affairs, but a careful reading of the scriptures reveals that this is not his usual mode of operation. He does so only when men have failed to execute justice and curb evil and oppression. Instead, what we see most often is that God, having given man the responsibility for the Earth, He comes alongside man to help when supernatural power is needed. He works with us, not instead of us. Our action then must be to do what we know is right and depend upon God to do what is beyond us.
God, the intervener
God gives wisdom; he gives instructions [to follow] that when followed will produce the desired result.
There is a preponderance of evidence to support the view that the Almighty God of love, mercy and grace does intervene in the affairs of men. It is important to know, however, what that looks like, or else we may either never experience it or, through ignorance, miss it completely when it does come.
The Bible records exciting moments of divine intervention in popular stories such as David and Goliath,in which a young shepherd boy was able to defeat a humongous battle-ready soldier. Then there is the story of King Jehoshaphat, whose army was woefully outnumbered by three opposing armies. God divinely intervened in enabling them to win the fight. However, it only happened after the King led his nation in a time of prayer and repentance.
The results of God’s intervention in human affairs in Bible times was victory and deliverance from grievous situations. These are Bible examples of divine intervention of long ago. Does God still intervene in modern times?
Yes, I believe He does. James Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China, tells a 19th century story of divine intervention while he was the director of a hospital in Ningbo. Running short of funds and food to operate the hospital, he called in his prayer team and petitioned God to miraculously provide for them. Funds ran out and Taylor, undaunted, redoubled his prayers to God. Soon after the hospital chef Kuei-hui reported: “The last bag of rice has been opened and it’s disappearing rapidly!” Taylor’s response was, “Then the Lord’s time for helping us must be close at hand.”
Before the last bag of rice was completely finished, and at a time when both patients and medical staff were in despair, Hudson Taylor received an envelope of money through the post that was more than enough to provide for the sustaining of the hospital. In addition, the accompanying letter promised consistent financial support.
God’s divine intervention can also extend to a city or nation! Consider Almolonga, Guatemala — a city where the history was one of violence and extremely high levels of drunkenness. They kept building more jails, even having to bus prisoners to other towns when there was no more space. But then there was the prayer and then came the repentance.
When there was almost city-wide turning to God, the drunkenness went way down. The jails emptied out, and even the land responded. Agricultural productivity increased by 1,000 percent! The ground started to produce huge vegetables for which the city is now known. Businesses began to thrive, and so did the people. The crime rate declined steadily for 20 years until all the jails were closed.
Look at Kiambu, Kenya; Cali, Colombia; Hemet, California, to find stories of modern-day transformation brought about by the transforming power of repentance and turning to God. One other thing that all these places have in common is that the people turned away from their witchcraft and occult practices to serve God. This same story could be written about Jamaica if we would only seize the opportunity now presented to us.
Faith without work
So now that our nation has entered this season of prayer and repentance, what should we expect? Will anything happen as a result of it? Do we have any role to play in the process? For example, if we cry out for divine help to solve crime, but know where there is a stash of guns, or who is involved in the trade, should I do something or should I do nothing?
If you’ve been following the stories above, you will notice there is a common thread throughout: human responsibility in divine intervention.
David didn’t sit around like others did and hope that the giant would have a heart attack. He took the giant on, trusting that God would help him just like He did when he was faced with a lion and a bear. The people of Almolonga, Guatemala, didn’t just pray, they genuinely repented, turning away from their vices and wicked ways. They didn’t just sit back and see huge vegetables appear, they had to farm the land.
So now that we have prayed and repented, we should expect to see the results: the intervention of God and the transformation that will result. Transformation to a low-crime, high-productivity nation; a safe place where our people can and do thrive. A Jamaica that is, in fact, the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business. We will have to work for it and apply ourselves with discipline and commitment to the transformation we desire, but we can rest assured that if we do our part, God will do His.
Copyright © 2017 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.