Article originally posted at The Gospel Coalition in 2016. I share this article again in 2020 to help us set our hope in God during the current election season.
Perhaps past presidential election cycles have left you feeling one of two emotions: elation at the victory of your favorite candidate, or hand-wringing despair that the “enemy” is behind the wheel of your country and about to drive it off the cliff.
I’ve been both places, high-fiving likeminded strangers after my candidate won, or sitting with my head in my hands in hopeless despair.
It seems every election is heralded as the most important in the history of our nation. This fact, combined with scary prospects on the ballot, used to tempt me to fret over the latest poll data, the hot air emanating from political pundits, or the fear-mongering tactics of politicians and the media.
I thought there were only two options: go “all in” by hanging my hopes on the election’s outcome, or back away completely, hoping to resist the emotional pull that could drag me into the abyss of despair or lead me to hope in someone other than Christ.
This time, I’m taking a different approach. I want this election cycle to move my heart to worship. I see four main ways to do this:
1. Confess sins relating to past elections.
The election season is just another opportunity to battle the world, the flesh, and the devil that entice us to believe lies and worship idols. Misplaced trust will lead to disappointment sooner or later, but “he who believes in [Christ] will not be disappointed” (1 Pet. 2:6). We must examine our hearts and pinpoint the sin that takes us captive with extreme election-related emotions. Here are some sins you may need to confess:
- Confess desiring that people side with you politically more than that they know Christ.
- Confess looking for “salvation” in a leader or government instead of the only Savior of men (Acts 4:12; Ps. 33:16–17).
- Confess a lack of trust in God’s sovereignty, for it is he who sets up and deposes kings (Rom. 13:1–2; Dan. 2:21).
- Confess the idolatry of loving a political cause more than the God we’re called to love above all else (Exod. 20:3–6; Matt. 22:37).
- Confess a complaining spirit in submitting to God-given governmental authority (Rom. 13:6–7; Phil. 2:14–16).
- Confess passivity that neglects your ability (whatever it may be) to participate in the political process and love your neighbors by pursuing human flourishing.
2. Meditate on God’s majestic glory and unsearchable wisdom.
We fear man when our God is small. We fear God when we see him as he truly is in his majesty, holiness, wisdom, and sovereignty. Turning our eyes on Jesus will do what the hymn promises: it will make the things of earth—including the über-important election—grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.
So revel in the majesty of God by meditating on these truths:
- In infinite wisdom God designed governments and rulers to be part of earthly life (Rom. 13:1–7).
- When the nations and kings of the earth conspire against the Lord, he’s not only not worried—he laughs, holding them in derision because his Son will judge the nations and smash them to pieces like pottery (Ps. 2).
- It’s 100 percent certain that God will work every political outcome for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28).
- All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to our triune Maker (Matt. 28:18; Dan. 7:13–14). We witness this in his interactions with Pharaoh (Exodus 5–14), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:28–33), King Ahab (1 Kings 22:29–40), and King Herod (Acts 12:20–23), among many examples.
- The God who hung the stars in place, separated land from sea, and numbers the hairs on your head considers the nations “a drop in a bucket” and the rulers of the earth “nothing” (Isa. 40:15, 23).
- The God you sinned against by worrying about politics is the same One who offers you forgiving grace in the death of his Son. Meditating on his mercy will not only cleanse your conscience and bring peace, it will also lead you to action.
3. Let the gospel motivate you to act.
The apostle Paul writes, “Be submissive to rulers and authorities, be obedient, be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1). The motivation to obey those words may surprise you:
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us. (Titus 3:3–5)
The gospel is our chief reason to submit to authorities and to be ready for every good work. As believers, we must be a lights in a dark world who positively advocate for policies that promote human flourishing, biblical justice, and the sanctity of life for image bearers of God.
Some actions you may consider:
- Vote for candidates who best promote God-honoring values.
- Dedicate available time, energy, and finances to activities and organizations that do good.
- Share with other believers how you’re thinking through candidates and issues biblically—and how you’re trusting in Christ no matter the outcome.
- Make disciples of Christ, for that is the chief mission of the church.
- If you feel equipped and led by God, consider running for public office yourself.
4. Pray faithfully.
Prayer and thanksgiving are our God-given remedies against anxiety (Phil. 4:6–7). Taken with the fact it pleases God to pray for those in authority (1 Tim. 2:1–3), we must be people of prayer in order to honor Jesus and avoid election-driven fear.
Consider focusing your prayers on yourself, the church, certain leaders, and the country.
- Thank God for the ability to vote, to participate to some degree in government, and to live a quiet and peaceful life (1 Thess. 4:11–12).
- Pray for guidance on how to appropriately submit to and honor those in authority over you (Rom. 13:7; 1 Peter 2:17; Titus 3:1–9).
- Pray for the church to care more about the kingdom of God than the kingdom of man, and to vote accordingly (Matt. 6:33).
- Pray for Christ’s return to establish his kingdom with perfect justice and righteousness (2 Pet. 3:13).
- Pray for gospel-centered mercy ministries to meet physical and spiritual needs in ways secular governments cannot.
- Pray for our existing government, leaders, and country to exercise wisdom and turn to Christ (1 Tim. 2:1–4).
- Pray that a candidate with policies that please God would be elected.
- Pray that the election would result in the government rewarding good and punishing bad (Rom. 13:3–4).
A Prayer for This Election Season
Heavenly Father, thank you for your sovereign rule and care over the entire universe, the earth, and this election. Keep us from worrying like so many in the world. Set our hope and our affections foremost on you and your kingdom. Spur us toward faithful action as citizens of both heaven and earth. Help us to trust you at all times—especially when it’s hard. And through this election, bring about your will for us, our country, and your kingdom for your glory.
In Jesus’s name. Amen.
You may also enjoy: 20 Signs You’ve Made Politics an Idol