Address of Prime Minister William Marlin At the National Day of Prayer, Sunday, January 8, 2017.
Colleagues of the Council of Ministers,
Members of the Clergy, and of the Faith Community,
Ladies and Gentlemen
There can be no better way for us to start the New Year than by coming together and invoking the blessings of the Almighty on our nation, asking him to grant us vision so that our island may continue to prosper. This, indeed, is the theme of this year’s National Day of Prayer: “Lord grant us vision that we may prosper.”
But before going any further, we must ask ourselves, what kind of vision are we asking the Lord to grant us, and what do we mean by “prosperity”? Let me start with that famous quote from Proverbs 29:18, which says: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
We often focus on the first part of this Proverb and ignore the second half of it. Yet, the link is obvious: lack of vision leads to destruction of a nation, while abiding by God’s law results in happiness. Vision however, is not just a dream that comes to us at night or in solitude, it is divine revelation and I would like to think that this is the reason why we are asking our Lord to grant us His vision. For the vision, not to remain a pipe-dream, we must write it down and act upon it, as He clearly tells us to do in Habakkuk, 2: 2 and 3: “Then the LORD answered me and said, ‘Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets that the one who reads it may run.
For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.” May our vision come in due season!
In an article titled “The Power of A Vision,” pastor and author, Kris Vallotton distinguished between three types of vision: foresight, insight, and oversight. The first, he said, deals with the future, like looking at life through a telescope.
The second, he continued, is like gazing at life through a microscope, allowing us to understand how things work, while the third is a view from the top, as in a helicopter, giving us a perspective of where we are with regards to others.
The three together – telescopic, microscopic and helicopter visions – combine to form the lens through which we interpret life and our relation to other people and to God. We cannot permit that lens to be scratched, or broken in any form because that would make all that we see become distorted. Remember what Helen Keller said? “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision.”
Indeed, many of us have sight but no vision. Some of us even claim that we can see the future, however, this does not necessarily mean that we have a vision of the future, for only with a God-given vision and through keeping His commandments with discipline, can we accomplish the mission of finding prosperity on earth.
Prosperity means different things to different people. But the good Book lays out what can be considered the definitive definition of prosperity. In Deuteronomy 28, verse 1 we are told: “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe [and] to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth.”
Similarly, Joshua 1, verse 8 says that “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” It is clear to me from these Bible passages that the only sure path to prosperity is through abiding by the word of God.
It is important to note here that Joshua emphasizes that only then shall we make our way prosperous and have good success. This means, in my humble view, that it is our way, our journey through life that would be made prosperous, accompanied by “good” success. In other words, there is also BAD success. This is the worldly success, the amassing of material things – money, mansions, luxury cars, etc. sometimes through crooked means.
“Good” success, on the other hand, is based on the core Christian values of compassion, love, integrity and righteousness. And according to the Psalmist, the righteous man “… shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
But how do we access this prosperity? Prayer is a good place to start. In fact, it is how we establish that direct communication line with God. Any communication is a two-way street, so is prayer. When we take all our troubles, all our fears, all our desires, everything that we want to God in prayer, we must also cultivate the art of listening, of listening attentively so that we can hear Him, as He speaks to our hearts.
That is why Paul tells us in Philippians chapter 4 verse 6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Anxiety blocks our vision. It makes us doubt God’s power and benevolence in granting us what He knows to be best for us. It reflects a lack of trust in His will being done in our lives, rather than our own will. Prayer is the antidote to anxiety. It is how we surrender ourselves to our Creator, knowing that we are powerless without Him.
It is the expression of our trust and faith in Him.
That is why today, when we pray for the Lord to grant us vision so that our nation may prosper, what we are saying is that we are blind without Him, that we are lost without His guidance, and that we cannot make any head way in life unless we obey His commandments.
As I said in my New Year’s address, government’s vision is to build a strong, proud, healthy and resilient St. Maarten in which opportunities will abound for each and everyone to pursue their dreams of happiness and prosperity. Our nation cannot prosper if its people do not prosper. And our strength does not lie in any army or weapons, but on the strength and love of our Lord.
So, as we thank Him for allowing us to begin another year, we must also realize that we are on this journey together. Government alone cannot take us to the Promised Land. If we indeed want to inherit that land of milk and honey God has promised us, we must not doubt his purpose and vision for us, like the Israelites did, resulting in their wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.
We must seek the Joshuas and Calebs among us, and embrace their “yes, we can” spirit. That is the spirit that leads to good success, it is the spirit that will bring prosperity to our nation. May the Good Lord grant us the vision of Joshua that our nation may prosper.
God bless each and every one of you and your families, and God bless our beloved island, St. Maarten.
I thank you.