If, Not When

Bible Book: 2 Chronicles  7 : 12-14
Subject: Prayer; Disaster; Judgment; Deliverance; America

America has experienced numerous tragedies in recent years. September 11, 2001, will be a day etched in the memory of those who were alive when it happened. Years from now, many in this room will recall exactly where you were when you heard that two terrorist operated planes in New York City and Washington, D.C. had flown into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. I recall, even all these years after the attack, the words “Let’s roll,” spoken by Todd Beamer aboard the third plane as he and other passengers stormed the cockpit. That plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field, likely saving hundreds of lives at the Capitol Building of White House in Washington, D. C. Those not alive at the time, or too young to remember what happened, will see the scenes captured on video tape and film again and again on television.

That day in September 1, 2001 caused many people to question the security of America, and made others wonder why God had allowed the worst foreign attack on American soil to occur. There is more to what happened that day than can be measured by the insult of having our national military center, the Pentagon, burning right before our eyes. We have to remember that those who established this country did so with laws and principles based upon the Word of God. Our major institutions, such as hospitals and universities, were created for the purpose of Christian service. Harvard University was instituted so that people could serve God and know Christ. That idea is mocked and ridiculed today.

Someone asked a man why South America, which has resources as great as or greater than our own, why they have lived in poverty and America has lived in so much bounty. The gentleman answered, "People came to South America looking for gold, but people came to the United States looking for God.”

Sadly, the 50 years or more leading up to the worst terror attack in American history has witnessed a lot of decline in American’s faith in God, attendance in worship and just plain moral character. We have become a nation preoccupied with wealth and pleasure. I want to read something I found the paper 14 days after the terrorist attack on our country. It comes from the Atlanta Journal Constitution. What I am going to read was right there in the paper, in a very small column, on a back page. On the front page, and in much of the paper, were huge pictures of New York and Washington with the scenes of the death and devastation. Also, there were articles on the great prayer service held at the National Cathedral, and other prayer services all over America. But, then, there was this article. Here is what it said:

"In a new look at national morality, a Barna poll has found that half or more of American adults say cohabiting ... is morally acceptable behavior." The article goes on to say, "Fifty-four percent of mainline Protestants thought both behaviors were morally acceptable..."

Did you catch what that article revealed? Over half of people in mainline Protestant denominations think that it is morally okay for people to live together without benefit of marriage. That was 17 yeasr ago, and polls today show and even greater decline in our disdain for that which was morally repugnant one generation ago. It is my humble opinion that the greatest problem in America is not terrorism, but it is the declining moral standards and religious indifference of our citizens. In fact, our moral standards are directly related to our current national crisis.

What happened in our nation on September 1, 2001 was simply a warning sign. Now, I ask you, did we get the message or is America even worse today than it was a little over a dozen years ago. You see, this exactly what happened to Israel during the Old Testament biblical days. We read how they were sent warnings by God to change and occasionally the people would turn to God, but the repentance was short-lived. Soon they returned to their sins and to even greater sins. Are we doing that as well?

I want you to turn to 2 Chronicles 7:12-14 and look at a passage God placed in the Bible to help a nation know how to gain God’s blessing and protection.

Note what we find in this passage … we see …

I. The When of Disaster

In verse 13 we find the word "when." This word speaks of the disaster that will come upon a people, even a people of God. Note, the word is not "if," the word is "when."

In 1 Peter we note that we are not be surprised "when" the fiery trials come upon us. James speaks of this in chapter 1 of his epistle. He says that we should rejoice "when" we face trials because the perseverance through these burdens will develop us into better believers. My point is simply that trials and suffering are not an "if" in life, but a "when" in life. We will face our share of hardships and troubles in life, even when we are being righteous and obedient to God. We see this fact in the lives of many biblical figures. They were godly and good, but hardships of the worst kind came upon them.

America's disasters, school shootings, terrorist attacks and other trials are bitter. In every incident we discover that innocent people are struck down and sometimes by the hundreds or thousands. Of course, individuals, families, communities and even churches face such trials. Most of us remember the church shooting in November, 2017, in which 27 people were killed, including the pastor’s fourteen year old daughter, named Annabelle Pomeroy. That shooting in Texas, followed a shooting in Las Vegas just over a month before when 58 people were killed by a lone gunman. Many of those killed were Bible-believing, Christ-following individuals. Their families had to face the trial and hardship of their lives.

Whatever the reason, every one of us, to one degree or another, will have to face trials and hardships – it is “when” not “if.”

When tragedy comes, our feeling of safety and security is removed. We react in a fourfold manner:

A. We Question

We want to know why this happened. Why did God allow it to happen? If He is sovereign, could He not have prevented it?

The answer to the question "why" is not a simple one. At the National Memorial in Washington, D.C., following the 911 attack, Billy Graham said, "I have learned that I cannot answer all the questions regarding suffering and sorrow in this world. But I know God is a God of grace and love."

We can ask "why," but we cannot get a full and definitive answer. There is however a clear correlation to great national disasters and a rejection of God. That is exactly what God was saying in the verses before us today. "When" disaster strikes we need to look first at our moral, biblical and divine situation. I would ask you to answer this question for yourself: Has America departed from the Lord in actions and attitudes in the last few years? Certainly your answer is, "Yes."

Almost every movie house in America will present movies this weekend that constantly take God's name in vain. Many of our museums have displayed despicable displays of art profaning God, the cross of Christ and holy things. Our national music has become a profane, pagan, and polluted round of lyrics. We have accepted leaders who live like animals and we have responded to that behavior saying, "Well, as long as my money is okay I don't care what the leaders of our country do in their private time." I have a feeling you are going to begin to care! It is time for us to WAKE UP before we get another SHAKE UP in our lives and our country.

Not only do we question when tragedy strikes but …

B. We Become Angry

Our second reaction a tragedy is to become angry and want to do something to those who caused it. Actually, the people who commit horrors against us are usually dead by the time the tragedy has past. That was the case in the 911 attack, in almost all the school shootings, most terror attacks and in the Las Vega attack a year ago.

We be careful about our anger and desire for revenge. When tragedy comes to us, we look for a way to strike out at the one who caused it. Sometimes a person will become angry at God and blame Him for the problem. God is not the one who ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and He is not the one who perpetrated the horrible things that happen to us. Sin is the enemy – if you are really angry, seek to live a holy life and don’t allow Satan to use you as a force for evil in this world.

We tragedy comes our way, sometimes…

C. We Feel Sadness

The third reaction is sadness. I remember that I wept again and again on the day of the 911 attack. The sadness of what had happened to so many people, to our country and the fact that we likely brought most of it on ourselves through rejection of the God who had blessed us for so long just made me terribly sad! Sadness is a natural reaction to tragedy on a national, local or personal scale. I have felt that same emotion each time I see a school shooting, a terrorist attack (not just in America but in other countries as well) or hear of someone's personal tragedy.

The fourth thing people do when tragedy comes is…

D. We Pray

The fourth reaction to tragedy is prayer - real, heartfelt, old-fashioned prayer. When really bad tragedy strikes, even the left-leaning, liberal, anti-God news media start using the "p" word. They begin to talk about prayer! They talk about PRAYER like it is something they do all the time, when actually they look at those of us who do pray regularly as if we are a bunch of kooks and nitwits. It is only when a crisis arises that prayer is given proper attention by most people.

Sadly, many people look at prayer as an emergency disaster kit. You only get it out when you need it. Don't get me wrong, I think all this praying and attention on our need of God at a time of crisis is refreshing, but I am afraid it will only claim our attention as long as a crisis is close at hand.

What is it we want from these four reactions to crisis? We want to get from the "when" to the "then." What do I mean by this? Look down in the middle of verse 14 and you there the "then" in our scripture passage for today. God speaks of a time of healing, a time of reversing our tragedy and turning it into triumph. That is what we want. We want to go from the "When" of disaster to the "Then" of deliverance, but God doesn't work like that. There is a step in between the "Then" and the "When" that we must take.

II. The Then of Deliverance

Our four reactions to disaster all relate to what we want to happen. We want to get from the disaster to the deliverance, and we want that to happen quickly! We don't want to take up much time with this matter. We would like to "Nuke" the enemy, arrest the crooks, change the circumstances and go back to our normal lives as quickly as possible. It doesn't work like that!

You cannot get from the "When" of disaster to the "Then" of deliverance without the "If" of devotion.

Yes, there is a God in heaven. But He is not a first aid kit that lies hidden in some drawer or closet till some hardship comes. He is God. He is Lord. He is Sovereign. We cannot use Him to simply get over our hardships so we can put Him back in the closet till we need Him again.

We need to be reminded that America is a country founded on Biblical principles. When we leave those principles, as we have done over the last few years, we leave our foundation. The collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City is symbolic of the collapse of our moral and religious foundations in America. These foundations have been eroding for years. We wept over the collapse of those towers and the thousands who lost their lives there. Jesus did something similar in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. He looked over Jerusalem one day and could see into the future. He saw the destruction. He saw the death. He saw the coming storm of oppression. He wept and spoke these words, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how many times have I sought to bring you unto myself, the way a mother hen would bring her chicks under her wing, but you would not come to me."

We weep every time we see or hear of a national tragedy and we are rocked when the catastrophe hits us personally. Listen, we have had some problems in the past, but I think things get actually get worse in the days ahead. But there is a hope. The hope is not some shortcut from the "when" of disaster to the "then" of deliverance. The hope is found in the "if" of devotion.

III. The If of Devotion

In our scripture passage today, we note that God told the people what they were to do "when" disaster struck. We are never to waste a calamity in our lives, homes, or our country. God clearly says that is a way for the blessings to return to us, and He makes them extremely easy and well-defined.

A. Pride Must Be Removed

Our haughtiness must be replaced with humility. We cannot walk around with an arrogant attitude and expect God to bless us. God keeps the proud far from Him and when we are far from Him we are on the cusp of calamity!

B. Prayer Must Be Offered

Our prayers are not to be spasms of emotion that last for just a few days of grief, but they are to be a way of life. Someone has well said that prayer will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from prayer. God knows that sincere prayer will help His people remain close to Him. We must establish a pattern of prayer that is sincere and steadfast.

The Hebrew word for prayer in this passage speaks of interceding. This word means to stand between judgment and the judged. Proper praying stands as a shield. We who know the Lord are to stand between the awful judgment against sin by praying faithfully for our lives, homes, churches, leaders and nation. There is no greater shield against enemy missiles than fervent prayer!

Also, this word means to meditate. It means to do more than ask favors and hurry away. We must take time to pray and spend some quality time with God. We are to meditate upon His Word and on His nature.

C. Priorities Must Be Changed

God says we must seek HIS face! Why? One can pray for something without ever talking to God. Prayer can be nothing more than a wishing well where we throw in a prayer “coin”. God stipulates that that our prayer life must be a sincere seeking of His presence. Prayer needs to be a priority that is based on longing to be with God and live for God and not merely an attempt to get things from God! When God says we are to seek His face, He is saying that we must seek more than His handouts.

It is interesting that the most used site on the internet, or at least one of the most used sites, is Facebook. Think of the name of that website – Facebook. What does God tell us to do? He tells us to seek His FACE and to meditate on His BOOK. If we got the divine FACE BOOK right, we will spend more time with God than looking at a computer screen!

D. Purity Must Be Established

We are to turn from our wicked ways by confessing our sins. We cannot do this without acknowledging our transgressions and seeking God's cleansing of our hearts and minds.


The "when" of disaster cannot be changed into the "then" of deliverance unless we come to the "if" of devotion. If we come to God, as we should, He will hear, He will answer and He will heal our land.

That is His promise, and unlike man, God never breaks a promise! It is time for us to turn afresh and anew to the God of heaven and seek Him with all our hearts. He promised to be there for us and to work His powerful will and purpose in our lives when we get the “if” of devotion in the right place.