The history of great civilizations reminds me of a giant revolving door. It turns on the axis of human depravity as its movement is marked by the perimeter of time. With monotonous repetition each civilization has completed the same cycle, having passed through a similar sequence of events. One man summarized it like this:
From bondage to spiritual faith
From spiritual faith to great courage
From great courage to strength
From strength to liberty
From liberty to abundance
From abundance to leisure
From leisure to selfishness
From selfishness to complacency
From complacency to apathy
From apathy to dependency
From dependency to weakness
From weakness back to bondage
Whether Roman or Athenian empires . . . Egyptian or European cultures, the chronicle tells its own tale. Regardless of geography, origin, achievements, or level of prosperity, each one has sunk deeply into the vortex of ruin.
Consider Babylon. It can hardly be found today. It is nothing more than a lonely whistle stop along the Baghdad railroad. Its beauty and significance now lie buried beneath tons of dirt, rocks, and debris in a forlorn and forgotten land. How she has fallen!
Israel can also teach us the same lesson. Inquire at the gate called Judges. That place reaffirms the truth of humanity's cyclical habit. Time after time—for over three hundred years—the Jews went through the succession of events mentioned above. Like pawns on a chessboard, they lived under the bondage of superior powers until God gave them a deliverer, who fired the furnace of spiritual fervor . . . which inflamed their courage . . . which kindled military strength . . . then liberty . . . then abundance . . . then leisure—and then right back down the tube again into bondage. The age-old path of that same revolving door has etched itself upon the tablet of Israel's antiquity.
It was about two hundred years ago, while the thirteen colonies were still part of Great Britain, that Professor Alexander Tyler [sometimes referred to as Alexander Fraser Tytler] addressed himself to the fall of the Athenian Republic. He declared:
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves excessive gratuities from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the treasury, with the result that a democracy collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.
It's a stunning fact of history that the average age of the world's great civilizations has been approximately two hundred years. According to that reckoning, America may be living on borrowed time. The age-old revolving door is turning and we are—as I see it—somewhere between apathy and dependency on the historical cycle. It doesn't take a meteorologist to predict rain if the sky is black and drops are starting to fall. Neither does it take a prophet to predict future bondage if we are now a majority of apathetic and dependent people!
Hope for our great nation rests upon independent thinking and individual effort. The revival of discipline, integrity, work, determination, and healthy pride is not a national matter but a personal one. Inward change and godliness are not legislated by Congress—they are spawned in the heart and cultivated in the home before they are bred in the land. Frankly—it boils down to one person, you.
A revolving door has to be pushed by those within it. When we stop pushing, it will stop turning . . . but not until.
Excerpt taken from Come before Winter and Share My Hope by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.