Never more than now have Christians needed to keep a sane perspective. That the unregenerate are incapable of such a perspective makes it all the more imperative that we who know Christ exhibit for the world a serenity that has its wellsprings in eternal truth, unaffected by conditions in the world.
To speak of world chaos and uncertainty is to speak of something so obvious it sounds trite. What is particularly disturbing now is the overwhelming pessimism to be found among so many Christians. That this stems from a misplaced confidence in men and nations makes it all the more serious, for the Christian’s confidence should be centered in God, who is sovereign and for whose purposes all history is inexorably being worked out.
We are all familiar with the story of Martin Luther’s period of dark brooding, and of the penetrating question asked him by his wife: “Is God dead?” By our attitude today the same question could well be asked of some of us.
To dispel the cloud of depression that has settled on the hearts and minds of so many Christians, we need a new understanding of the sovereignty of God and the eternal verities of his Word.
That present world conditions are a part of the prophetic picture is very evident to many Christians, and this serves to strengthen their faith and encourages them to look to the One who said: “Look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
Our hope is firmly fixed in God, who is sovereign, and who has never abdicated his own central place in the affairs of men and nations.
We have every reason to be pessimistic so far as the acts of unregenerate men and nations are concerned. The Bible is explicit in its teaching that all stand under the judgment of God, for he holds them responsible whether they acknowledge him or not.
The supreme folly of the ages is committed by those who take counsel against the Lord and against his anointed. There are no more solemn words in all of Holy Scripture than those that speak of God’s laugh of holy derision as he views this scene. “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord has them in derision.” This is followed by the awesome statement, “Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury.”
Is this incompatible with a loving God? No. It is not only compatible but a necessary attribute of the One who is holy and just.
Why then do we go about our daily tasks with a load in our hearts and a cloud hovering over our minds? Have we not succumbed to the philosophy of the world, which looks at the immediate rather than at the eternal? Are we not evaluating men and events in terms of this world rather than in the light of the One who is the God of history?
As we look at Communism, atheistic in concept and in practice, we are prone to stand in awesome fear. Rightly so, for Communism is a deadly ideology that enslaves the bodies and minds of men. At the same time we need to look beyond it to the God whom Communists will eventually have to face.
If we appropriate to ourselves the question and implied answer of the Apostle Paul, “If God be for us, who can be against us?,” then our prime responsibility is to be found in the place of his approval.
Nations rise and fall primarily because of what they do about God. Civilizations have come and gone, not because of outward attrition, but because of internal disintegration, the neglect of spiritual and moral values because men knew not God or the saving power of his Son.
Let pessimism be based on our failure as individuals and as nations to live up to the privileges and opportunities that are ours. On the other hand, Christians should exhibit for all the world an optimism that centers in Christ himself and in the knowledge that God never fails his own. Only the Christian has the right to be optimistic. We know to whom we belong, and we have his presence now, and the certainty of living with him in the future.
Such confidence can bear its own mute witness to those who do not themselves possess it. This witness should not be an attitude of smug complacency. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men”—these words should be an impelling motive for Christian work and witness.
In fact, how can we keep silent when we know the One who not only knows the future but who also keeps the future in his hands? It is something too good to keep to ourselves.
Christianity demands that its followers maintain a clear perspective on the sovereignty of God. That we often accord him absentee status, or make him small to fit our own puny minds, makes us timid, fearful, and despondent Christians.
One of the great lessons of the Old Testament is the picture of a holy God, deeply concerned about individuals and about nations. Through Isaiah he affirmed: “I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant, and lay low the haughtiness of the ruthless.”
That judgment has not yet fallen does not mean God’s word has failed. Rather it is evidence of his mercy. John tells us of God’s forbearing: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
World conditions should make us tremble because of the impending and inevitable judgment of God. We who are Christians should heed the words of the Apostle Paul: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” Or the words of the writer to the Hebrew Christians: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” and “For our God is a consuming fire.”
Nevertheless, for the Christian there is no such fear. We can come into God’s presence with holy boldness because we come in the name of his Son. And we serve him with love for those around us. If the Christian fails to bear testimony to the sovereignty of God, along with his yearning love for the redemption of mankind, who is there to witness?
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