On the surface, at least, times are bad.
It’s hard to see God at work when you look at the news: Politics have degenerated into fighting and name-calling, so that even some families are dreading their holiday dinner tables; El Paso and Dayton and Gilroy are only the most recent in a string of senseless shootings; TV and movies have been taken over by advocates of abortion and the LGBTQ agenda is so pervasive that it reaches even children’s programming.
And people are punished for challenging the status quo – TV entertainment reporter Mario Lopez was disciplined and forced to take back his assertion in an interview that age 3 was too early for a child to decide what gender he or she wanted to choose.
It’s all too easy to become discouraged and to despair because we don’t see the hand of God at work. But we are not the first generation to despair because we cannot see God at work.
- Abram was sent to a pagan culture and even God’s promise of a son was not fulfilled for years.
- Israel, following God, ended up with the sea on one side and the Egyptian army on the other, and at first it did not seem that God was going to intervene.
- Elijah was so depressed about the pagan culture around him and the opposition of the queen that he told God he wanted to die.
- The disciples saw Jesus crucified and believed their hope of a coming kingdom was dashed.
But in each situation God put His people in a seemingly hopeless situation because his ultimate goal was building faith – and faith is when you look around you and see no evidence of the work of God and still believe that God is in control.
Faith is believing that God will ultimately be victorious, that King Jesus will defeat evil and suffering. At the cross, God assured all of His creation that He would not allow sin and its consequences to be the final word in human history. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), the countdown clock began ticking away the seconds until Jesus establishes his rule on earth.
Historians say the Civil War was really won at Gettysburg in 1863. The South’s one last great push was turned back on that Pennsylvania battlefield. After that, it just a matter of time until the North ultimately claimed the victory at Appomattox. Lots of battles happened after Gettysburg, including a few that were won by the South. Men died on both sides and the war raged on for almost two years. But the final outcome had already been decided. It was only a matter of time until the North defeated Lee and his armies.
And that’s what the cross is for us. The war has been won. The end is pre-determined. The last chapter has already been written. Until then, the enemy will try his best – including fooling many believers that he is winning – but it is only a matter of time until he is ultimately defeated.
So in the interim between the cross and the kingdom, it is our job to believe what we have been told over what we can see. Nobody explained it better than C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. The book is a fictional set of letters from an apprentice demon assigned to tempt a Christian, seeking advice from a senior demon, Wormwood, on how to turn the Christian away from his faith. In one of those letters, Wormwood writes:
“Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
That obedience begins when we determine to believe God’s Word over the events and trends of our culture.