Driven to His Knees…
Friday, February 12th, we celebrate the birth of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. Since my birthday follows a week after President Lincoln’s, I have always tried to learn more things about this most famous president as the years unfold. In fact, Lincoln is considered one of our most theological presidents so his spiritual journey is of particular interest to me.
But Lincoln’s life wasn’t always so devoted to God. Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky to a frontiersman and his wife. The family was Baptist in their faith and believed in a specific form of Baptist theology that included what was referred to as Calvinism. One of the common beliefs of this branch of theology is that God created the world and has already decided who is going to be in heaven and who doesn’t make the grade. In other words, God pre-ordained who was going to be “saved” to an eternal life with Him…
There are still many people that believe God is not necessarily currently active in our lives. Lincoln rejected this piece of his upbringing although it did contribute to his lifelong tendency to be fatalistic. As Lincoln practiced his faith, he believed that God was not a very personal God. Rather, man was a cog in a very large wheel and you can tell that his childhood, being exposed to the Calvinistic point of view, had an impact on Lincoln’s early theology.
However, the Civil War created an environment where Lincoln had to re-think His theology. The more intense the fighting between North and South became, the more inadequate Lincoln felt to handle the situation without the counsel of God. The casualty lists were getting longer and then one of Lincoln’s sons, Willie, died of typhoid fever.
The grief that Lincoln experienced must have been overwhelming – the burden of the Presidency coupled with a Civil War tearing the country apart – as well as the loss of a family member at such a young age. Who among us wouldn’t have been impacted by such a litany of negative events and the crushing weight of responsibility to lead the country through a war. And that war was primarily fought to end slavery… and the battlefronts were in our own country… father against son… cousin against cousin…ripping families apart.
In September, 1862, Lincoln started looking for divine signs and the Union victory at Antietam Creek in Maryland provided the affirmation that he was looking for to end slavery. On January 1, 1863, he issued his Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the Confederate slaves.
During Lincoln’s second inaugural address, in March of 1865, it was evident that Lincoln’s views on religion had shifted significantly. His address helped to change the landscape of the country and infused the people with a feeling that God was active and present rather than adopting the Calvinistic theology of his youth. Interestingly, Lincoln never joined a church, much to the chagrin of those devout Christians who so wished to claim Lincoln for their own denominations.
One of Lincoln’s confessions that helped shape his faith was a result of the stress of his office and all that had befallen him during his time in the White House. Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”
Isn’t this so true of many of us? It has been my observation that when crises enter our lives, we are either driven farther away from God – or, hopefully, closer to Him. Thankfully, President Lincoln was drawn even closer to the Father. Our verse for tonight comes from David, the person who wrote the 95th psalm. David tells us, in Psalm 95:6-7, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.”
How many times was King David driven to his knees? And this was a man after God’s own heart. Imagine the closeness that David felt when on his knees worshipping God. I hope that President Lincoln received a similar blessing when on his knees in torment consulting the Father in prayer.
And notice that Lincoln was driven to his knees – he was made stronger in his weakness. This wasn’t something that he chose to do of his own volition. He needed God – just as we do. The apostle Paul had a similar experience with God – in his case, a thorn in his flesh… My encouragement tonight is that God is there for us – active in our lives and ready to help at any and every turn. My prayer is that we will fall to our knees in worship and praise in the presence of the Creator Himself. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…