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It may seem strange to reference former President Ronald Reagan after President Obama's State of the Union Address this week, but I want to reminisce. To say that I am deeply concerned about the state and direction of our nation would be an understatement. I pray every day for those in authority and the voters who have chosen not only the leadership but also the direction in which we are being led.
We must return to the sound principles that enabled us to not only live free, but to become so prosperous that our compassion and generosity has enabled the American people to help others in need around the world, just as we are in Haiti at this moment.
That is not to excuse the ills in our country. We have many areas of legitimate concern: decaying morality, selfishness, indifference and even complacency within the family of believers. Our failure to be better informed and more actively involved as Christians has helped us reach the point where our freedom rests in a precariously dangerous position. We need principled leadership.
In 1979, Billy Graham and Bill Bright called a few ministers to a special time of prayer concerning the state of our nation. Shortly after the meeting, I had the opportunity of visiting privately with then-Governor Reagan. I shared with him that highly-respected spiritual leaders had expressed their deep concern about the future of freedom, not only in the U.S. but around the world. They were troubled by the dangerous threat of Soviet power and their huge arsenal of nuclear weapons. They worried about moral decadence and the acceptance of abortion. They felt that the existing leadership was not standing up to those threats and the trends were going to continue if we didn't elect leaders who understood the importance of historically proven principles and biblical truths.
As I shared the concern of those who joined us in prayer, Mr. Reagan was moved. I told him that the men in prayer believed that he could lead, if he was really committed to these important principles. After assuring me with deep conviction concerning every area that I addressed, I then asked him a very important question. I think it's an important question for every person to consider. When I visit with someone alone, I ask the question I asked him, "Is Jesus real to you?"
Reagan lowered his head, reflecting, then started with that very famous, "Well..." before continuing. "The only way I know how to answer that I never had a father; he was an alcoholic. My mother was the greatest influence in my life. And Jesus is more real to me than my mother." To say that I was overwhelmed and gratified doesn't adequately express my feelings. I wanted to shout, "Thank you, God, for this sincere and meaningful answer."
Mr. Reagan and I continued to share concerns. There were a number of military leaders who wanted to be certain he would stand up to the Soviet threat. They asked if I would seek an answer concerning this grave issue. Betty and I were privileged to visit with Governor Reagan and his wife, Nancy, during a meeting in Ft. Worth. I pressed firmly the issue. Not only did he answer emphatically and with such depth of conviction, but Nancy stepped in to confirm her husband's courage. She assured us that he was fearless in the face of any opposition and would never waiver on America's freedom or security.
I bring this up because I am convinced we face a fiercer enemy in terrorism and the radical extremists of our day than the Soviet threat. The very thought of people with the mindset of our present enemy acquiring nuclear weapons is the "sum of all fears." They have no regard for anyone, even of their own religion or race, who may hinder their purposes. They will use children, women, or the elderly to deliver their deadly devices with no regard for human life, rights or freedom.
The current leadership seems more interested the rights of terrorists than protecting the American people. Mr. Reagan understood that although government can help, assist, encourage and serve, it is not the solution to the people's problems. As he said on numerous occasions, government is too often the problem. President Reagan proved that freeing people from the unbearable burden of excessive and continuous taxation is one of the quickest ways to cure economic ills. He understood the importance of an unfettered free market. He enforced the law and punished evil doers. He truly believed in peace through strength. It was manifested by his actions and not just his proclamation, "Tear down this wall!"
I had the privilege of sharing the platform with Mr. Reagan prior to the elections of 1980 at the National Affairs Briefing. Through prayer, I organized that meeting. I do not exaggerate when I tell you that God put it on my heart. We invited Christian and business leaders from all over America to come to Reunion Arena in Dallas to be briefed on issues of national concern. Over 17,000 people filled that arena. Prior to speaking, Gov. John Connelly, who was wounded when President Kennedy was assassinated, sat by me and Gov. Reagan and said, "Sir, I want you to listen to James speak in person because of the convictions and principles he will share tonight. You'll enjoy it."
When he listed to me speak, Gov. Reagan acknowledged and applauded the principles so important to freedom and to most Christians and business leaders. Just before the meeting, I shared with Gov. Reagan, "This is a non-partisan meeting and we cannot endorse you. I think you might want to consider saying, 'I know you can't endorse me, but I endorse you,' referencing the principles and concerns of those people."
Gov. Reagan indeed opened his speech with that statement. It made headlines in newspapers across America. Deeply-concerned, praying Christians made not only a difference, but the difference in that election by giving him the margin of victory. President Reagan was far from perfect, but he never wavered on key issues. We saw the end of the Cold War. We witnessed the reduction of taxes and paved the way for the greatest economic growth in history during the following decades. Somehow, as a nation, a people, a population and even as leadership, we have drifted away from those key principles. I pray that we will begin to move rapidly back toward them.
This is not the time to take verbal shots at individuals, however wrong we may think they are. We need to focus on the standards and principles that have enabled us to be strong, secure and free. We must pray without ceasing, but also seek to not only learn more about the issues and the consequences of decisions, but to also share them with others and encourage them to become involved in this wonderful, free process of choosing our leadership. If the leaders lack principle and do not have the character to stand up for those principles, we will not make positive progress.
Sadly, some of the least-involved people in our own country are church goers and professing Christians. Many tend to care for their own home and personal responsibilities, making these priorities the only focus of their life. The problem is that while minding their own business, others are adversely affecting everything we do and believe. The problems in our nation are not to be blamed on one party or one person, but rather on an unprincipled ideology and a failure to participate on the part of those who know better. It's time to channel all frustration, unrest, anger and concern in a positive direction. Pray, participate and seek to put in place leadership that has not only understanding of the times, but the wisdom to make the necessary difference in the right way.
I remember Reagan because I remember what he stood for. It's not a return to a former president we need, it's a return to the principles every great leader, from our founding to this day, has believed and upheld.
Author: James Robison
Editor: Randy Robison
Word Count: 1353
About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, a Christian media ministry and mission relief organization. He and His wife, Betty, host of the television program Life Today; He has authored numerous books, including The Soul of a Nation, The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope and True Prosperity.
Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net . Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.