Everywhere you look these days you will find tumult. The Hong Kong protests have grown increasingly chaotic and violent over the past six months. Both Iraq and Iran are experiencing citizen pushback on their nations’ governance. Haiti continues its downward spiral. And in our own country, we are in the midst of impeachment hearings, and it is easy to see and feel the polarization among our citizens and the increasing intolerance of various points of view. It would be easy to conclude the world, to use an old phrase, is going to hell in a handbasket.
Truth be told, there has been reason for every generation to feel this way throughout history. There has never been a time where everything was peaceful and wonderful. In our own history, we’ve had the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, assassinations of presidents and political leaders, the Great Depression followed by World War II. Regardless of your views on climate change, floods, droughts, tornadoes, and hurricanes have all been common in our history. More recently, we went through the political upheaval of the 1960’s and 70’s, the Cold War, and the Great Recession. No matter how much we use our selective memories to recall “the good ol’ days,” they weren’t without their fears, heartaches, and pain.
And if we go back to the 1st Century, the time when the Church was founded, we see the same tumult. Yet, it is from this time we received the New Testament with all of its teachings about Jesus and how to follow him. The believers then were encouraged by their spiritual leaders to trust God in the midst of the upheaval. The Hebrew writer says,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
And Peter says this,
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (I Peter 4:12-19)
They believed, along with the Apostle Paul, that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) In other words, history is his story. This was reinforced in my mind recently as I read through the prophets. They were all telling of God’s plans for the future. A powerful nation would invade Judah; those same nations would eventually be destroyed; a Savior would be born and would welcome Jews and Gentiles alike into his kingdom; and that eventually all evil would be defeated, justice served, and a new heaven and earth would be created.
To the Israelites and later to the early Christians, life was full of tumult; yet the Creator of the Universe was in control. In ways mysterious to them, and to us, he was writing his story. And it is a story he continues to write in our present time. Regardless of what happens in the days, months, and years ahead in our nation and the world, we need not be anxious or freak out, as if things are completely out of control. They are not. The one who has always been in charge is still at his post. Nothing goes unnoticed or happens without his permission.
As I told a friend this morning, with all of the chaos occurring in our world, I am thankful to be a citizen of a different kingdom, one that is eternal. Thus, that is where my hope lies. As our Lord has told us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Need we know more to be internally at peace?
© Jim Musser 2019 All Scripture references are from the New International Version.