October 11, 2016
The Beauty of These Times in Which We're Living
Post by Brittany Tedesco
Threaten people's prosperity and things get ugly.
In the October issue of "Christianity Today," Marshall Shelley writes: "When the vitriolic presidential campaign ends and the election is settled, it promises to leave almost half of the population fearful that whoever wins will lead the country to ruin."
In the same issue, CT editor, Mark Galli, writes that "rage is today's ruling online emotion." He theorizes that the reason people are angry is that "we have this unshakable sense that something has gone terribly wrong. Deep within we believe that life should be good and true and beautiful, but it is far from it. And when the information highway becomes a daily demolition derby, as it so often does, we strike out in frustration."
So much bad news, so much darkness in our world, so much at stake with the next presidential election. What happens if the prosperity we once knew in the U.S. fades into the pages of history? What a time to be alive.
As always, God has an answer.
In the Amplified Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:11 states: "He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. He has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God]—yet man cannot find out (comprehend, grasp) what God has done (His overall plan) from the beginning to the end."
To understand this verse more fully, I turned to Matthew Henry's Commentary and read: "We must make the best of that which is, and must believe it best for the present, and accommodate ourselves to it: He has made every thing beautiful in his time, and therefore, while its time lasts, we must be reconciled to it; nay, we must please ourselves with the beauty of it."
Beauty of it?
As they often do, the native missionaries whom Christian Aid Mission supports help me see past the turmoil in our world to the beauty of what He's doing this very moment. My near-sighted perspective is constantly challenged by their eternal one.
"ISIS did us a favor," said a Lebanese ministry leader who works among Syrian refugees. He told us that he has "never seen a better time to work with Muslims before now." Where once he and his friends would pray fervently for years for just one Muslim in their community to come to Christ, now he says that not a single day goes by that the workers in his ministry aren't contacted by multiple Muslims asking for salvation through Jesus Christ.
The harvest is so plentiful right now that, though his coworkers are working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, they can't keep up with the number of people hungry for the gospel. Where once they had to labor to plow the soil, plant the seeds, and water the plants. . .now they're simply trying to reap the harvest.
The ministry produces audio-visual materials for Muslims to learn about the gospel. The materials include a way to get in touch with someone to ask for more information about Christ. What's amazing is that people aren't calling for more information, they're calling to make decisions for Christ. House churches are springing up.
Gospel workers are visiting, praying, talking, discipling, teaching. What they're not doing: lamenting the way things used to be or pining after the prosperity they've lost. The Syrian refugees who have flooded Lebanon have driven up the price of goods and lowered wages for Lebanese citizens. Everyone has felt the impact of a world in chaos. It's the best of times, it's the worst of times.
As Matthew Henry teaches us: "That which to us seems most unpleasant is yet, in its proper time, altogether becoming. Cold is as becoming in winter as heat in summer; and the night, in its turn, is a black beauty, as the day, in its turn, is a bright one."
After hearing about the revival taking place in the Middle East, I asked a ministry leader from India if he's seeing the same kind of awakening in his country. He is. Though the government continues to tighten restrictions on Christians and eradicate their evangelistic efforts, house churches are forming at a rapid pace. He recently baptized 49 people during just one visit to Punjab state, which is dominated by Sikhs and Hindus.
I'm inspired by these men who seek not after prosperity—they're not wasting their time getting worked up about the state of their nations—they have realized "a sense of divine purpose" and are embracing the "black beauty" of the night.
A ministry leader in Turkey, a country with an estimated 6,000 evangelicals out of a population of 80 million, started the first and only Christian magazine in his country. But not before three of his friends were brutally murdered by Muslim radicals.
His country is a dangerous place for Christians to live and work, but he isn't letting the darkness crush him. He's using his talents to provide believers with much-needed encouragement and teaching. His magazine is read by a man who is the only believer in his entire city. It's also reaching Muslims.
Somehow, it fell into the hands of a murderer inside a prison cell who begged the ministry leader to visit him. You can imagine that Muslim murderers are not the ministry leader's favorite people—but he visited the man anyway and learned he wanted to be baptized that very day.
Yes, the world is getting darker, but let's not be as those who don't understand the times in which we're living.
The Bible tells us that "the mystery of lawlessness is already at work" (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
The lawlessness in our world today truly is a mystery for those who don't know God's Word. But we know that the forces of darkness are perpetrating this lawlessness in preparation for the "lawless one" to appear in the end and deceive the masses.
Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, said, "Our world is in such a state of moral degeneracy that when this evil emissary from Satan comes on the scene, the world will be ready to worship him as the savior, despite his corrupt morals and character. Daniel prophesied that he will bring prosperity, and to the world, that is the most important thing."
Is prosperity the most important thing to us? It may well escape our grasp, but our divine purpose remains. God has work for us to do, and if we'll seek it out, we'll find beauty in the blackest of night.