I just recently returned from preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in Bolivia, a South American nation that has been in the vanguard of a shift to liberal socialism for decades.
When I landed in the capital city of La Paz (one of the world’s highest capitals, where the airport is 13,325 feet above sea level), I learned of the death of Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela. Chavez had steered his country along a pronounced socialist agenda, befriending dictators around the world like Cuba’s Castro and Libya’s Ghadafi.
Although Chavez had been a staunch foe of religion during most of his dictatorial reign, he apparently had a change of heart during the final months of his battle with cancer, reaching out to church officials.
I don’t know whether or not Chavez came to saving faith in the Savior by repenting of his sins and acknowledging the all sufficiency of Christ’s atoning death, burial and resurrection.
But here are a few things that I do know.
The growing push of many countries around the globe—like Bolivia and Venezuela—to embrace a socialist, Marxist agenda leaves most everyone with a deep sense of disillusionment. Citizens are promised that government can solve the ills of society, and governments unfailingly disappoint. In fact, most socialist regimes simply replace unsatisfactory, often unethical political parties with their own flawed, corrupt versions of the same.
This is because the deep, systemic problems that plague any nation—whether democratic, socialist or communist—are far too entrenched for any mere political solution. Dishonesty, greed, corruption and other evils have marked every form of government for millennia.
The Bible says that the “heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). Paul wrote in Romans 3:9 that “none is righteous, no, not one.”
The solution that mankind so desperately needs, then, is spiritual—a transformation that comes only as the Lord Jesus Christ reigns in the hearts of people. Only then can societies experience the true virtues of biblical compassion, honesty, humility and wisdom.
I also know that impending death can have a very strong and clarifying effect upon a person. The prospect of facing one’s imminent demise can quickly crystalize the most important question a person will ever ask—where will I spend eternity after I die?
This I also know: The grace of God is always sufficient for anyone who turns to Him in genuine repentance and faith. As Christ hung on the cross between two thieves, one mocked Him, but the other cried out: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus, bloody and bearing the sins of the world, responded: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Perhaps Hugo Chavez cried out like that in his final minutes. I hope he did. The grace of God forgives any sinner who trusts completely in Christ’s saving work on the cross. Many at our Crusade in Bolivia called on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ to save them, and He did.
As the old slave trader John Newton, who was marvelously saved by God, said in the final hours of his amazing life: “I am a great sinner, but Jesus is a great Savior.”
Scripture quotations are taken by permission from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.