PRAY TO REVERSE A DECLINING FAITH
Jesus asked this question, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth”(Lk. 18:8)? John the Baptist predicted, “He must grow and I must decline”(Jn. 3:30). We live in the highest technological age and even in the midst of an economic downturn, we still belong to those that are materially well. However, regarding the increase of faith in Jesus, we are in the midst of a rapid decline. These words of Jesus could have been written today, ”Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come”(Mt. 24:9-14).
The apostles said to Jesus, “Increase our faith”(Lk.17: 5)! But Jesus, Himself, had to pray for Peter to come back. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers”(Lk. 22:31). Jesus last words to his disciples before He was arrested were, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Lk. 22:46). The disciples asked the Lord to increase their faith, but did little to step up and try their faith. Faith needs to be applied and practiced; otherwise, it becomes dormant and dies. It is very much like the neglected fig tree that grew no fruit. The caretaker had to dig around it and loosen up the ground to fertilize it and give it another chance to bear fruit (Lk. 13:6-9). Faith needs a hand and it is not the Lord’s, but our hands. We love the song, “Wait on the Lord”(Ps. 27:14). The men that wrote the Psalms were very active and productive. David, who wrote most of them, faced Goliath with a sling. Suppose, he just stood there and had the Lord swing the rock into the giant’s head? It could not have been Noah that built a boat or Abraham that went to Canaan? Who was that man that took his son up a mountain to sacrifice his son believing that God had a substitute? When God needs something done, He needs a man or a woman to do it. That is why God’s Son became human so He could carry out his Father’s will.
I was born into that part of the world where two World Wars tested our faith. Many of our people were not given a chance to use their faith because they were not allowed to live. My wife’s family and mine lost five people and left marks on all of us. Even after the loss of loved ones and friends, we had enough faith, in ourselves, to get up and get out. We believed firmly that God had a better place for us than the one we had to leave. We hoped that we could live where one was free to open his mouth and praise the Lord. We were fortunate enough to come to a land where we can meet in beautiful places and worship our Creator and our Savior. I came to these shores in 1951 and I would not have believed it that fifty years later I would not be allowed to proclaim my Lord Jesus in public or even pray at public events. I have let my faith become dormant and so have you. We both have taken it for granted that God would take care of things for us. It appears that God has moved on where people are willing to do his bidding, in spite of severe oppression and suppression. Faith blossoms in the most difficult places and situations. Even in this secular and atheistic society, 9-11 drove people briefly back to the churches.
We blame the chilling of love and the decline of faith on the increase of wickedness. That may not be all together true. Who was it that wanted separation between church and state? Who preached, “Come out from among them and be separate”(II Cor. 6:17)? Did not Jesus, Himself, say, “You cannot serve both God and Mammon”(Mt. 6:24)? He also said, “Make friends with Mammon, in case you fail, they may have compassion on you and help you to survive”(Lk. 16:9; D.K.V.). Jesus also said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” Here is the icing on the cake. Did Jesus ask the Father to take his followers out of the world? “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world”(Jn. 17:15-18). We must learn to live in this world and not wait for some perfect millennium spring on us. It is our isolation, from the world, that has allowed the weeds to oust the wheat. We have sown separation and now we are harvesting the fruit of seclusion in our sanctuaries.
Lately, I have been troubled by the way we represent Christ to the world. The Jews, for instance, represented God primarily favoring the Jews. God was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Could it be that the people of the world perceive Christ in a similar way? Is He the Christ of Christians only? Do we have a special agreement with Christ or with God? Do we need to be reminded that Jesus has other sheep who do not belong to our pen and that they too want to hear His voice (Jn. 10:16). They will hear in the East and West and come and sit with the patriarchs in eternity, but the exclusionists will be denied entrance into the eternal kingdom (Mt. 8:11-12). Those that cared for the hungry, the thirsty, the destitute, the stranger, the sick or the prisoner will receive a special invitation to a place prepared for them in the kingdom, before the world begun (Mt. 25:34-40). We are not even told whether these compassionate people were followers of Christ. Jesus, Himself, said, “If you cannot believe in me you could in what I do” (Jn. 10:38).
False prophets are also being blamed for the decline in Western Christendom. They try to be a nuisance and they are very apparent. John in his Epistle made it easy to spot them. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come into the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God”(I Jn. 4:1-3). It is ironic that the apostolic fathers excommunicated those that did not accept the incarnation, but they overlooked their own quarrel over the nature and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. Their understanding of the true nature of Christ, as well as ours, has been the main reason why Christianity keeps on splintering. Jesus made this prediction, “Do not think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three”(Lk. 12:51-52). Many of the disputes were and would continue to be settled by the sword (Mt. 10:34). Can one imagine that a preacher can decide the outcome of an election with his definition of Christ? This blows my mind, but it did happen in this country. Recently a preacher told me that I had to change my theology, without at least inquiring what I believed. I am certain that I do need to change in order to keep up in this hectic culture, but I doubt that it is only I who needs changing. It is this “nitpicking” against each other that has rendered us practically useless in our mission for Christ. Jesus’ prayer is that we would be one has not happened (Jn. 17:20-23). Far too many of us are too grounded to be of service to anyone else.
We once were the silent majority and now we are the silent minority locked in cages called, “Churches.” We are happy where we are. We kind of live in a small world that is surrounded by a big world. We are allowed to step into the big world; but, we must leave our faith in the small world, for fear that our faith may unsettle the thinking and living of the big world. The big world is afraid that the infusion of the faith, from those caged people, may alter their lifestyle. Yet, it is their “lifestyle” that is infected by an incurable disease, known as “sin” that ends in death. The people from the small world have the antidote for “sin” that turns death into life forever. Without the inoculation of the life forever formula the big world is dying. The small world that needs the big world to replace the members that move on to eternal pastures will also cease to exist. Thus, we have arrived in the land of “The Free and The Brave” that no longer can stop from declining. The sad truth is that the medicine to cure her ills is available, but her mental drug administration has outlawed the treatment. Instead, the administration legalized substitutes that hasten the rate of the decline.
I have been asked, “Can the USA rise again?” Under the present management and guidelines, it is humanly impossible to change or revive. Sin is trampling this nation into a third world country. The “Laws of the Creator” cannot sanction law, after law, that is being passed by law brakers. I believe that the nation, I adopted with all my heart, has been left to die. The death itself will be traumatic and chaotic. I have been there before in three countries. Death is not the end, even on earth. Everything God has created is alive. We live on in our offspring here on earth or in our spirit in the next world. Even in nature, what we sow does not come to life unless it dies (I Cor. 15:36). The new life that sprouts is clean, unspoiled and energetic. We removed a pulp tree because its cotton and leaves messed up our yard. Out of its rotten stump, a cheery tree began to grow. Very likely, a bird dropped a seed. It is about twenty feet high, its spring blossom delights our eyes and its cherries our taste buds. We had to remove that old tree for the new one to be born. A nation, that persists in ways damaging to the base of support, simply dies because there is no depth or limit to what greed continues to demand.
It is amazing that the USA is still functioning with a Constitution that was to start with subject to amendments and interpretations. This was not a new idea. Jesus predicted that it was subject to powerful judges and leaders. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Mt. 11:12). What has reoccurred over and over, in Christendom and in other nations in the world, is now taking place in this nation. We are on course. Rebirth is ordained or predestined by God and no one can halt it. If we decline, it will increase somewhere else.