A call for spiritual renewal
Pastor Dermoth Baptiste
President, SVG Mission of Seventh-day Adventists
Forty years ago, St Vincent and the Grenadines began its journey to self- determination, self-reliance and self-sufficiency. Here we are 40 years later, reflecting on the past, noting our highs and our lows, our triumphs and defeats, our successes and our disappointments, our developments and our set-backs. While we will hear from many of our leaders, both civic and spiritual and from civil society and analysts, all of whom will have their own perspective on our 40th year celebrations, I will like to focus on the number 40, citing some Biblical narratives, while drawing some conclusions for our own consideration.
In Matthew 4:1-3 we find Jesus being led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil after fasting forty days and forty nights
Joshua 5:6 – the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until the entire nation, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished, because they did not obey the voice of the LORD
Numbers 13:25; 14: 34 – Moses sent spies into the Promised Land and they were there for forty days and forty nights before returning to give their report about the land
Judges 13:1 – When Israel disobeyed God, He gave them over to their enemies for forty years
Exodus 34:27-28 “And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.”
Acts 13:21 King Saul reigned over Israel for forty years as did David (2 Samuel 5:4, 1 Kings 2:11) and Solomon (1 Kings 11:42)
Genesis 7:12 “And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.”
As I reflect on these passages, it seems to me that the number 40 is associated with periods of testing, trials and tribulations to see how mankind would respond to the call of God relative to the purpose and destiny of their life. The experience of the children of Israel showed how God worked supernaturally for them when they obeyed His commandments, instructions and mandates and how they stumbled and fell into dismay and disarray when through their disobedience, the presence of the Lord was not with them. Israel’s experience and God’s way of dealing with them is His model of dealing with all nations. Our first response to human existence and living is to seek God early in life and reproduce His character of love, obedience, goodness, mercy and justice. When we are drawn into His presence with humility and choose to remain there to be taught by Him, we will experience abiding relationship and intimacy which will be a mighty fortress in times of testing and trials. Obey and live, disobey and be devoured. When the citizens of any nation seek the name of the Lord and develop an attitude of gratitude then God says He will bring healing to the land. 2 Chronicles 7:14.
During this forty year period of nationhood, while we can catalog and identify many examples of national progress in health, education, infrastructure and services, an honest assessment will also indicate that the traditional family system and values committed to us by our Creator is being ignored, sidelined or trampled upon, while we seem to be descending into a “new low” of spiritual darkness and depravity.
The home is fractured; children are growing up without the provision, protection and guidance of both parents. The family altar where the father as priest of his home will gather his “little flock” for praise, worship and prayer is broken down. Biblical, heterosexual marriages are being redefined to accommodate same sex unions and young minds are plunged into a state of confusion as to who are moms and dads. The word of God is being ignored and Harry Potter horrors seem to be the modern bedtime stories taught to those impressionable minds. No wonder youths are becoming more rebellious, individuals becoming more Gospel-hardened and churches becoming scantier in attendance.
To add insult to injury, buggery which is totally labelled as abomination and outlawed by Scripture and the laws of the land is being challenged as outdated, archaic and an infringement on one’s right of freedom of choice. While I agree that we have the freedom of choice, the same God who gives this freedom is unchanging in nature and will never change His laws to facilitate the whims and fancies of fallen man. He therefore cautions us to choose intelligently and wisely, for whatsoever we sow we shall reap. We sow to the wind and we will reap a whirlwind. It is a fundamental law of sowing and reaping that the harvesting is much greater than the planting. For us to reap the good of the land we must sow in obedience and righteousness.
As we celebrate our 40th anniversary of independence, let it not only be one of festivity, entertainment, frivolity and triviality, but more importantly, let it be one of sober reflection as we focus on God who has brought us safely through all the storms, challenges and tests of life. We were created with a purpose, which if fulfilled, will determine our destiny. Thank God, many are discovering their God-given purpose, while others are not so mindful and follow their own selfish desires and inclinations that lead to depravity of the soul. Let us therefore discover our purpose as we prayerfully inquire of the Lord, like Saul on the Damascus road, “Lord what will you have me to do?”
I have embraced the theme, so beautifully captured by our national planners, “Renewal at Forty”. May this phrase not only be a theme for the day or the month, but may it be a living reality in our individual lives and corporately as a nation as we seek physical, social, mental and spiritual renewal. Perhaps it’s just the right time for a “Spiritual Revolution” as we by God’s grace return to our spiritual moorings and by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit break down every stronghold, tear down every idol, and cast out every foe, as we lovingly surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. Let us return to the arms of our Everlasting Father with our sons and our daughters, our children and grandchildren as we take back that which the enemy has stolen from us.
On behalf of the Seventh-day Adventist Church I wish the Government and people of our blessed land a happy and reflective 40th anniversary celebration.