|Q202 : Perspective in the Midst of Departure from God|
When President Obama was initially elected in 2008, it seemed very much like the Old Testament Israelites demanding a king. In general, that didn’t work out very well for them!
It appears as though the United States is going down the same path. God really blessed this country as it was developing as a God-fearing nation. Over the past 10-20 years, that has been in serious decline. Christians are being persecuted in a way that I have never experienced before.
The big question is this – what can the average person do about it? Certainly we can all pray and try to live our lives as God intended. That’s fine with regards to our personal salvation, but it doesn’t do anything to reverse the tide of secularism that is sweeping the nation and the world. Something is just very wrong when the President of the United States gives far greater respect to Muslims than he does to Christians.
I’ve also found that the current state of things makes it very difficult for a Christian to be happy on a daily basis. Yes, we have the joy that comes from the confidence of spending eternity with God, but that doesn’t translate into daily happiness. Life as a Christian seems to get harder and harder . . .
What are your thoughts on this?
|A202 : by Tony Garland |
It is certainly sobering how quickly things are changing for the worse in our nation. However, it is not necessarily surprising given what we see in other nations that also were once very godly (e.g., England). More than that, it matches just about all we know and read about concerning the nation of Israel throughout the Old Testament. I suppose one silver lining in this cloud is that the writings of the prophets in the Old Testament come ever more alive as our situation comes more and more to resemble theirs.
Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work Among this people, A marvelous work and a wonder; For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”1
Perhaps the biggest issue to address here is one of perspective. We had no control over where and when we were born—that was entirely God’s business. Moreover, we have no real control over the large-scale direction of our culture. What we do know is that God has placed us exactly where and when He wants us to be and given us the necessary gifts and abilities to serve Him. So it really comes down to finding out who we are as His servant (our heart, gifting, situation) and then focusing on being faithful servants regardless of the setting we find ourselves in. (This seems to be one of the big ideas in the warning parables in Matthew 24 and 25—several of which concern His servants and their actions in His absence). As difficult as it may be, we must not try to own the results of where the culture goes and how it reacts to us and the Biblical worldview we represent. So long as we please Him by serving faithfully, we must let go of the results and leave them to God.
I do believe there are some practical things one can consider which may help keep us in the right place regarding our thinking and perspective, such as:
It appears American Christians may be entering a period where it is critical to be able to discern whether our feelings and views of Christianity are based strictly on the priorities in God’s Word or whether they are leaning too heavily on the previous historical successes of Christianity as it was partially adopted by our culture. If we are not able to do this, we risk great disappointment and possibly even being pulled off the mark from what we are supposed to be doing in an effort to chase after cultural accommodation which has now departed.
- Historical Perspective: Consider reading works from Christians who lived in other times and places in history that experienced persecution (e.g., reformers, puritans, or martyrs) or were used in times of revival when the culture seemed especially dark (e.g., the Great Awakening of the mid-1700s). It really helps give us perspective on our own setting and to help us see that often times God does His greatest work in us when the situation looks somewhat grim outwardly. Many Christians today are unfamiliar with the great stream of Christian history which can be tapped as a source of spiritual encouragement. Many of these works are available at very little cost (e.g., public domain or kindle format for $1) or even as audio books (e.g., Pilgrim’s Progress) and help us to step outside our own ‘box’ – whether it be historical or spiritual—to understand how we fit into the “big picture” of what God is doing between the first and second advents. This builds our faith and helps to root us in the midst of adversity.
- Serving: Ask God to show us the things that we personally can do to impact the lives of those He leads across our path. It is always rewarding and uplifting to make use of your God-given spiritual gifts to minister to others—especially those who are less well off, either in means or in Biblical understanding—so that the body of Christ is edified and unbelievers see the love and peace of Christ in us. There is nothing like serving to give us a sense of purpose and Godly perspective.
- God’s Sovereignty: A Biblical worldview will help us to embrace the idea that no matter the conditions we live in, we were born in our time and place in history “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:4). When we become convinced that each of us personally has a God-given calling to do whatever our hand can find to do within our limited sphere of influence, then we can derive great satisfaction from doing what we can and trusting Him for the results—whether positive or negative. We aren’t responsible for saving the world and the culture: rather we are to be salt and light and allow Him to use us one-person-at-a-time. Although it may seem difficult, we need to come to a place where we accept that He timed the “where and when” of our birth and that He knows exactly why we are in this particular time and place. We may think of our setting and situation as insignificant, but there is no such thing in God—He often works as much in the little personal events of our lives as the big things we often are looking for instead.
- Joy and Peace: It also may be helpful to undertake a personal study about what the Scriptures say regarding joy and peace. That we can have both joy and peace in the midst of adversity is a strong testimony to the value of a Biblical worldview and tends to get the attention of others who do not have our perspective or promises. My experience with studying various topics in the Scriptures is that the very act of digging through His Word and meditating upon the ideas found therein leads to an improved perspective—we renew our minds, think about things differently, and that results in different feelings than before. Or pick a Bible character who exhibited characteristics that you would like to develop (e.g., David, Paul) and learn everything you can about them—from a character study point of view.
- Growth: Continue to ask God, in prayer, to give you wisdom and perspective to develop in whatever area you feel a lack.
For example, Christians who are very active in the political process may be tempted to compromise their Biblical positions in order to remain “electable” or “relevant” in our age—to retain some measure of “success.” But this would be a fatal mistake in that a time may come (and perhaps has come) where we can only remain politically relevant by swallowing the poison pill of compromise such that we no longer are truly serving God. To continue on such a path will pull us away from being useful servants of God. (This same concern arises in the area of evangelization: in attempting to evangelize a godless culture through an unbiblical philosophy of “being relevant” and “pragmatism over principles,” the Church runs the risk of departing from Biblical truth such that it no longer serves as salt and light.) Instead, our primary focus must be remaining faithful and staying “salty” and leaving the results entirely in God’s hands. The minute we take on the responsibility for bringing good results from a God-rejecting culture is the moment that we will experience increasing disappointment and great temptation to compromise.
Paul and Silas sang hymns after having been beaten and cast into jail (Acts 16:23). What was it that allowed them to react that way? This is where we need to be as individual Christians—even when times are good. I don’t think they reached that frame of mind with any simple one-stop solution. More likely, an ongoing practice of spiritual discipline and growth were behind their unshakable joy and ability to thrive regardless of the situation they found themselves in. Although we tend to look for a simple fix, more often we need to make a mid-course adjustment and stick with it faithfully over a period of time to see the long-term and reliable fruit which comes from it.
|NKJV||Unless indicated otherwise, all Scripture references are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.|