Willy Rice: What to do when you’re living in Babylon

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“We are Baptists living in Babylon,” said Willy Rice, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, during the last session of the Florida Baptist State Convention on Nov. 15.

The United States is overwrought with pornography, materialism, a devaluing of life and a variety of issues related to sexuality, racial strife and no restraints on evil, Rice said to a packed house.

“We love our country. This isn’t about our patriotism,” Rice continued. “But there is no longer any doubt where Babylon is on the map today. For those who think we’re going to turn around in a day or two [following the Nov. 8 presidential election], I hope you’re right. But I am doubtful.”

Rice compared our situation as Christians in America to the situation that the Hebrews faced in the Old Testament when the Babylonians overtook them, and they lived as captives for the next 70 years.

Using Jeremiah 29:4-13 as his text, Rice said the prophet was trying to tell the Hebrews how to live as the chosen people in an occupied land. He then went on to list four things that we as Christians in a current Babylon known as America can do to be the people of God.

First, he said, we can be faithful.

“We may wake up in Babylon,” Rice said. “But God has not deserted us. Even in Babylon, God’s Kingdom is advancing.”

He pointed out that, in the text, Jeremiah tells the Israelites not to blend in, but instead to build houses, marry and have kids. In other words, “They may be in Babylon, but Babylon was not to be in them.”

In fact, Rice said, the problem isn’t so much with Babylon. The problem is with us adopting Babylonian thoughts and morals.

Rice said he’s been asked, as America’s cultural changes and religious liberties are threatened: What if Christians are put in jail for their beliefs?

“Then off to jail we will go,” Rice said he has responded, as the crowd erupted with clapping, “Amens!” and other signs of support.

The second thing we can do to be the people—even in Babylon—is be fruitful, Rice said.

When Jeremiah talks about multiplying, Rice said, his emphasis was not primarily on procreation. It was on multiplication, or passing down their faith from generation to generation.

“Too many of our churches are practicing evangelistic birth control,” Rice said, later adding: “No government can stop the advancement of the Gospel, and no government can stop a revival.”

The third thing we can do in Babylon, Rice said, is be useful.

Through prayer and God’s favor, the Jews in Babylon had huge influence, even in their land of captivity. Remember, Rice told those in attendance, our enemies are not our enemies. They are our mission field.

The fourth and final thing we can do in Babylon, Rice said, is be hopeful.

“Many of those Jews would die in Babylon,” Rice said. “But they held hope until their dying day.”

Jesus taught us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come, and we know that it will, Rice said. Until then, our answer for Babylon is not our military might or global alliances. Instead, our answer is an empty tomb and Risen Savior.

In closing, Rice said: “There’s been a lot of talk about who’s on the right side of history. The right side of history is wherever Jesus is standing.”

By Kevin Bumgarner, Florida Baptist Witness, November 18, 2016

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