God is still at work:
It is easy to despair at the state of the world. So often it seems like God has simply abandoned us. And that does in fact happen. But we must also bear in mind that God does not stop working in this world – it is just that we are so often unaware of it. The mainstream media certainly will not report on it.
The other night I saw a small part of a documentary on religious belief in Australia. It was put out by the ABC, so we know it will be a far cry from anything fully accurate and sympathetic to biblical Christianity. But it led to some thoughts which I have turned into an article.
But first, I did a search, and I discovered it is actually just one of a four-part series called “Believing in Australia”. Indeed, it seems to be “Series 1” with presumably more series forthcoming. You can see their write-up about it here: https://iview.abc.net.au/show/believing-in-australia
It seems the one I had seen parts of was the second one, looking at Catholic/Protestant relations. While I might need to go back and view the entire thing, what I did see was sufficient to generate some general observations. One thing had to do with how most Catholics back in the middle of last century much preferred to send their children to Catholic schools, to prevent them from getting exposed to all the secular and often immoral stuff being pushed in state schools.
I thought things are pretty much the same today, certainly with evangelical parents. More and more are concerned about the rot being pushed in our public schools, and so they are sending their kids to Christian schools, independent schools, or increasingly they are homeschooling them.
A second thing that stood out for me was the fact that many of the individuals featured in the film were people I had known – some pretty well. For example, I worked for a number of years with the great Catholic thinker and activist B. A. Santamaria.
The Protestant politician Fred Nile of course was featured as well. He too is someone I have long known and worked alongside of in various ways. As I have said before, having once been a stoned-out hippy from Wisconsin who knew nothing about Australia at the time, it is amazing how far I have come, including knowing and working with so many important Christian religious and political figures over the past decades down under.
A third thing that I picked up on was how much the doco lauded all the “progressive” causes being pushed by the churches, be it various indigenous matters or the push for same-sex marriage. The “advances’ made in the church on these and other fronts were all of course celebrated in the ABC doco, and seen as the only way that Christianity might be acceptable. Those who stood against things like homosexual marriage were of course portrayed as reactionary dinosaurs who were the cause of all that is really wrong with the nation.
By the end of the doco – or the bits I had seen – I was temporarily discouraged. I was part of many of these battles over the years, and at least on the social, political and cultural fronts it seems that some losses and setbacks have certainly occurred. Certainly too many churches and church leaders have capitulated far too often.
The bigger picture
Those of us who care greatly about Australia and the West, and know how much of a hammering they are taking of late have good cause to be disheartened. But three related thoughts very quickly helped to dispel my gloom. The first was this: obviously a secular left outfit making a doco on Christianity is not going to be very trustworthy. So we can ignore this as the last word on the matter.
Second, I thought that while the doco deals with the public face of the faith, what God is really doing will never be known by most folks nor discussed by the ABC or the mainstream media. God is at work all over the world, and that includes Australia. Every day amazing things are being done by God’s people.
How many people every day are being converted to Christ? How many believers are doing amazing works that the world will never hear about, and the media will never cover? Whether helping the poor or feeding the hungry or counselling the troubled or working with those with various addictions, the Christian church is STILL going from strength to strength. SO very much is being day every single hour here and abroad.
Again, most of us will never hear of these folks and the ministries they are involved in. They remain nameless and unheralded and unrewarded for all the work they do for Christ and the Kingdom. But they continue working and serving and ministering.
They will keep being faithful and they will make an enormous difference in so many lives. Sure, theirs will never be household names, and the ABC will never be interested in them, but they will forever be championed by our Lord and his people in the next life.
A third thing came in the form of an article Kevin DeYoung had just penned on a culture warrior that I have a lot of time for, Doug Wilson. He had said this as part of his assessment:
We must never forget that no matter how important Western civilization may be, we are still sojourners and exiles in the world (1 Pet. 2:11). The most important fight is the fight for faith, not the fight for Christendom. The Christian life must be shaped by the theology of the cross, however much we might prefer an ever-present theology of glory. That means blessing through persecution, strength through weakness, and life through death. “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). If we want God to be unashamed to be called our God, our desire must be for a better country, that is, a heavenly one (Heb. 11:16). https://clearlyreformed.org/on-culture-war-doug-wilson-and-the-moscow-mood/
Now don’t get me wrong: I think that things like freedom, the rule of law, and productive societies are very important indeed and well worth fighting for. And when I see life, or family, or freedom under assault, I will do all I can to resist such attacks.
But yes, I know that everything in this life will come to an end, and that includes the West as well. So as always we seek to keep the biblical balance here. We continue to seek to be salt and light in this dark world, and we continue to champion the good while resisting evil. And we do that on all levels: personal, cultural, social, political and so on.
Yet we also know that at the end of the day only Christ can bring in the Kingdom in its fullness. Only Christ can save. Only Christ can bring peace and end conflict. So we do not put all our hope and trust in politics or in social programs or in human heroes.
We need to keep this sort of perspective or else we will become overwhelmed with despair and discouragement. As Jesus promised us, he WILL build his church and the gates of hell will NOT prevail against it (Mathhew 16:18). That is good news indeed.
Let me conclude by briefly sharing just one story – out of millions – that the media will never cover, and the world will never hear about. I refer to my friend Shirley Baskett. Early on in life she left her faith and embraced lesbianism, only to later be set free of that at age 28. She wrote up her story in The Woman Who Outran the Devil (Monarch Books, 2005).
More recently (just a few months before my wife discovered she had the most aggressive and lethal version of breast cancer), Shirley discovered she had the most aggressive and lethal version of leukaemia. While my wife passed away after an 18-month battle with her cancer, Shirley is still with us, but she may have only weeks or months left.
Incredibly she has managed to write about this story as well in a book just released: Living on the Edge of Eternity. In this moving volume she discusses how her faith in Christ has sustained her and her husband through this very difficult journey. She even speaks of how she is excitedly looking forward to going home to be with her Lord.
The world and its media never speak about ex-homosexuals and lesbians, and they ignore stories like that of my wife and Shirley as they face death. Actors like Bruce Willis will get a lot of coverage for what he is now going through with dementia, but ordinary Christians whose lives are such an incredible testimony to God and his grace will get none.
But it is eternity that matters. While we can pray for folks like Willis that he comes to know Christ, it is people like Shirley and my wife who will forever be remembered in eternity for their buoyant faith and resilient trust in God – even during the most difficult of times. Bless you Shirley, and millions of others like you: who have fought the good fight and kept the faith.
God most certainly is still at work in the world.