The headlines are looking bleak: another global economic crash seems to be inevitable; cities in Britain are burning; America has for the first time in its history been given a downgraded credit rating; European nations are going bankrupt, and rioting in the streets is increasing as a result; and Australia seems hell-bent on destroying its economy with a useless carbon tax.
These are just some of the things making the news of late. One could say that this is a lousy time to be alive. But for the committed Christian, who has complete trust and faith in God alone and not in the world, he can actually say it is a good time to be alive.
Now I am not trying to be insensitive here, or trite, or cavalier. It is of course generally a very bad thing when economies crash, livelihoods are wiped out, and rioters take to the streets. I think a peaceful, stable government is preferable to anarchic, disintegrating societies. And when a people are right with God, that is often the expected outcome.
But the truth is, far too many people – and even far too many Christians – are very far from being right with God. We have determined that we will rest in our own strength, our own abilities, our own wisdom, and our own expertise. We think we can manage our lives just fine without even the slightest consideration of God.
Thus we have all our security and trust in ourselves, our economies, our bank accounts, our stocks and bonds, our militaries, our GDP, and so on. We have forgotten the biblical truth found in Psalm 146:3: “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.” Proverbs 11:28 is also so relevant here: “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage.”
Or as Psalm 20:7 puts it, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Isaiah 30:1-2 makes this truth much more practical and relevant: “‘Woe to the obstinate children,’ declares the LORD, ‘to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge’.”
But because we do have all our trust and security in ourselves, our wealth, our might, and our human ability, God in his great love must come and shake us out of this false security. It is because of his overwhelming care and concern for us that he will not allow us to trust in false gods, false idols, and false security.
In such times of great shaking, upheaval and turmoil, believers especially must return to Scripture, and learn afresh what God is doing in this world. One of the most important texts in this regard is Hebrews 12:25-28. It says this:
“See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’.”
This passage draws upon an earlier word from God as recorded in Haggai 2:6-9: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”
Both these texts make it clear that God is in charge of this world, and he is both able and willing to shake things up big time to get our attention, to straighten out our priorities, and to get us back on our knees where we belong. God is now shaking the earth, especially in the West, and we had better pay close attention.
Of course to argue that God is allowing tragic events to unfold is not to absolve those who are responsible for these messes. For example, there have been a lot of really bad economic policies going down in places like America and Europe, and we are now paying the price for them. See some of the links below for helpful commentary on the US situation.
And there are plenty of reasons why London is now aflame. As Melanie Phillips has just written: “What we are seeing, in the sluggish and unprepared reaction of the police and political class to these events, compounded by their serial failure to grasp from previous such disturbances just what is going on here, is a catastrophic combination of professional inertia and incompetence, serial eyes off the ball, paralysing political correctness, an apparent reluctance to identify, name and deal with subversive activity, a capital’s police force in systemic disarray, a criminal justice system that has become an insulting joke, a refusal from the top to draw clear lines in the sand and to exercise moral and political leadership, a pandering instead to mob rule, tyro politicians who have never had a grown-up job and couldn’t run the proverbial whelk-stall let alone get a grip on a culture teetering on the edge of the cliff, a third-rate civil service machine that no longer can be relied on to keep the show on the road, a culture of narcissistic selfishness on an epic scale and a general breakdown in education, morality and elementary codes of civilised behaviour, much of it deliberately willed on for the past three decades by a grossly irresponsible and politically motivated intelligentsia that set out to smash the west. And now London is being smashed as a result.”
So I am not trying to let others off the hook here. Politicians, leaders, bureaucrats and various eggheads all need to take their fair share of the blame here. But the biblical truth is, God is able to use all these failings of mere men to accomplish his purposes.
And one of his big purposes is to rouse a world which has gone deaf, cold, ingrown, and asleep. It is in need of radical surgery if it is to recover, and bandaid solutions will just not do here. What we need is God and we need him in a mighty big way.
And as I have been saying, it is not just the world that needs to get back to God; it is much of the church as well. Many Christians are living no differently than their pagan neighbours. They sing choruses about trusting in God alone, but live just the opposite.
All their security, wellbeing and sense of hope and purpose is tied up in material things, in money, in properties, in investments, and so on. While there is nothing wrong with wealth and the like per se, there is something wrong with making these things your god, your security blanket, your only hope.
So the church is in desperate need of a radical shakeup. As the writer to the Hebrews puts it, we are in vital need of such a shakeup “so that what cannot be shaken may remain”. What is your life built upon? What are you trusting in? Where does your security lie? What false gods need to be shaken out of your life?
Are you standing on the rock which is Jesus, or are you standing on the sinking sands of everything else? We desperately need this shakeup, and I for one welcome it. Because if it leads us back to where we belong – to a close, committed love relationship with Christ – then it is the best thing that could ever befall us.
So in this sense I say it again: It is a great time to be alive.
“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” (Psalm 125:1)