Recent decades have left Christians a bit unsettled. Skewed views of sexuality, increased disdain towards religion, and dogmatic secularism have steadily seeped into our culture. Until recently, the troubling changes seemed more like a vague mist on the horizon. For many, they may have elicited detached concern, maybe even a tsk-tsking of the tongue, or prayers for problems that left most American Christians largely untouched in the day-to-day.
But in the last year, the slow glub of the impending boil is in full bubble, and the proverbial frog in the pot is now frantically seeking the safety of a cool pond. Suddenly, Christians are finding themselves canceled on social media, fighting in the courts for the right to follow their conscience, and staring down government mandates that would keep them from their places of worship on a Sunday morning. And a large swath of the culture has developed a vehemence toward the notion of a sovereign God, mocking Christians as fools akin to children believing in Santa.
The icy coldness of people has become frightening. Hatred is not only accepted but expected in the public square. It’s almost in vogue to hate. Civility is weakness, and convicted people with humble opinions are trampled. The loud voice of hatred, blitzing from all directions, spins the head and assaults the heart.
In recent months, even the men and women I read for encouragement are in sharp disagreement. Not over foundational matters, thankfully, but over disputable ones. The nation’s divisiveness has permeated the church and with it mistrust and wariness among brothers and sisters.
In the Midst of the Storm
Acts 27 tells the story of Paul’s maritime journey to Rome and the shipwreck that temporarily sidelined him. Paul was a lone voice in a crowd of men who went their own way instead of heeding his sage advice. They followed their own foolishness, which caused the ship to veer violently off course. For two weeks, waves crashed, and winds pushed and spun. The ship threatened to break apart, and valuable cargo had to be jettisoned. All were starving, and fear and confusion reigned. The future seemed relegated to destruction.
But Paul knew better. Because of his intimate relationship with Jesus, he had an unshakable confidence that God’s plans for him would not be thwarted. So in the midst of that terrifying storm, he encouraged his fellow passengers to “take heart, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told” (Acts 27:25).
But what God told Paul about the future did not, as I’m sure the sailors were disappointed to learn, involve a dramatic rescue or a cessation of the storm. Paul followed his encouragement with, “But we must run aground on some island” (Acts 27:26).
Christians are in a storm. Sometimes it is tempting to feel like Paul’s fellow passengers must have felt, gazing in dismay at their circumstances, sinking into despair and hopelessness, terrified at what might happen next. Dare we reveal the confidence of Paul? Are we any less equipped to claim the full assurance of our future? Is the Jesus Paul met on the way to Damascus the same Jesus we met when we were saved? Can we “take heart and have faith in God that it will be exactly as we have been told?”
What Exactly Have We Been Told?
We have an inexorable calling.
- “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:5).
- “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
We have the comfort of His presence.
- “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
- “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
We have His protection, strength, and assurance in trial.
- “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped” (Psalm 28:7).
- “ I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will not either slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand” (Psalm 121:1-8).
We have His love.
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
- “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Romans 8:38-39).
We have His provision.
- “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
- “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
We have preemptive assurance of what to expect before He returns.
- “But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you” (John 16:4).
- “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
- “Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
Christian, take heart and have faith in God. The storms of persecution and secularism may run us aground for a time, but God’s plans cannot be thwarted. As we cling to Him in the journey, may we remember that God’s Word is true, and hold fast to all Scripture teaches.