It’s hard to be a hopeful upbeat Christian in today’s America. The steady stream of news and events concerning culture is both depressing and maddening. The Church in America is receding in number, status, and influence. Looking Christian is far more popular than actually being Christian today. Apathy has gripped the Church like it never has in this country. Pluralism is dissipating what little religious integrity remains paving the way for the superficiality of mega-churches with their smiling best-selling author pastors stroking their flocks with promises of leading them to their best lives or guiding them into purposefulness. The words “repentance” and “sacrifice” are seldom heard from our pulpits in the context of a personal and eternal relationship with God.
The religious rights and freedoms our Founding Fathers tried so hard to insure throughout posterity have come under attack by our own government leaders. America’s children are being taught that they leave their First Amendment rights at the doors of the school. They’re told they cannot pray, form Christian clubs or groups, or even say “Bless you” when someone sneezes.
Militant Islam has declared war on all Jews and Christians but our civic and religious leaders keep telling us that Islam is a peaceful religion. This, despite the fact that videos showing the barbaric beheading of Americans and other Westerners by Islamists has become almost routine. The practice of homosexuality continues to split Christian churches and denominations. Activist judges with little or no understanding or regard for the Constitution continue to undo the will of Americans who have consistently voted to protect biblical and traditional marriage at the ballot box.
Emotions rise up within me quite often causing me to wonder where God is. My knowledge of Scripture and experience in ministry recoil at that question/accusation. I know better. God is where He always has been, is right now, and always will be: reigning in Heaven’s Temple and the Body of Christ in mercy and victory. Long long ago the prophet Habakkuk was asking the same questions that God’s forlorn faithful are asking today.
Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted (Habakkuk 1:3-4).
Habakkuk speaks for more than himself, doesn’t he? He voices the pain of everyone across millennia of time who struggle with watching sin prosper while righteousness is demeaned and assaulted. Why doesn’t God do something? I think about Noah and the flood. I think about the tower of Babel and the confusion God sent. I remember Sodom and Gomorrah. The plagues against Egypt, the lone angel who slew 186,000 Assyrians (Isaiah 37:36), and the list goes on from the Bible concerning how God intervened in worldly affairs with a strong and mighty hand.
I want to say, “Come on God! So many people are thumbing their noses at you and proverbially spitting in your eye. They’re ridiculing Jesus, blaspheming your holy Name, legitimizing sin, and worst of all they are demanding that I get on board with them. Please do something!” He never says a word but somehow every time the desperation and angst overwhelm me I see a mental image of…the Cross.
And I sense God communing with my mind and heart saying, “I did do something. As a matter of fact I did everything to insure that no matter how bad it gets you will never succumb to sin. My Son satisfied the wages of sin and then conquered death and Satan for you. He even gave you the promise that “everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die…” (John 11:26).
God has promised that we can be with Him where He is (Revelation 22:3). He has promised ultimate justice (separating the sheep and goat nations and the Great White Throne judgment (Matthew 25:32 and Revelation 20:11-15). The list of God’s promises to the faithful is nearly endless.
Maybe we should read God’s response to Habakkuk in Habakkuk 2:2-20. It affected the bitter prophet so profoundly that the difficult and painful things in life which threatened to create an insurmountable barrier between him and God had actually become prompts to celebrate God’s mercy and grace. Perhaps you’ve heard it. It goes like this:
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the LORD, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
Quite the turnaround. The messed up world remains messed up. But the heart of the individual who believes in the God of the Bible turns when he or she remembers that nothing can ever alter or change either the goodness or faithfulness of God. Maybe the most hopeful promise in the Bible isn’t so much about what God will do for anyone. Maybe it’s a revelation about what He is. Maybe the most important thing written is “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). Hang in there, Christian…our God reigns and we win!