Over the past week, the level of anxiety and angst in our country has risen to the boiling point. On Jan. 20, we inaugurated a new President of the United States. Yet our nation was anything but united. Alongside of the traditional pomp and ceremony of an inauguration, we witnessed mass protests across the country. A common protest sign read, Not My President. Yet, if we look closely at the moral and spiritual climate of our country, our new President exactly reflects the values and lifestyle of many of the most outspoken protesters.
The Apostle Paul nailed our times when he wrote Romans 1:18-32. Look carefully at just a few of the things Paul wrote and see if they do not reflect the world in which we live. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32) It should not surprise us that we have the leaders that we do given the moral and spiritual condition of our nation.
As followers of Christ, how do we thrive in an environment that is hostile to God and His values? We could wring our hands in despair and bemoan the culture in which we live. We could militantly decry the evils of our culture and throw spiritual bombs at our opponents. Our we could put our trust in God and become a positive counter-cultural influence in our world.
God sent Daniel into a cultural environment worse than anything we have experienced. In the Bible, Babylon became a byword for all that is evil and depraved. Babylon is exactly where Daniel found himself. He was not there by accident. Because of the failures of Israel, God had allowed the Babylonians to overrun the nation and to carry off the best of the best into exile. Daniel was among those who had to make the long trek to a foreign land. Daniel spent his entire life in exile, yet his faith did more than survive, it thrived.
In his book, Thriving in Babylon, Larry Osborne contends that there were three major qualities that allowed Daniel to survive in Babylon: Hope, Humility, and Wisdom. Included within this big three are the essential qualities of obedience, perspective, endurance, confidence, and courage. I would like to focus on the quality of hope.
Much of what the world sells us as hope is nothing more than wishful thinking. It is focusing on a desired outcome with little assurance that it will be achieved. If we place our hope in a cause, a political leader or party, or in an economic system, we will be disappointed. At best these things, and many others, can give us only a temporary sense of security and hope for the future. Our hope is not in what is temporary, but what is eternal. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:18, So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Our hope is in the Living God who will never fail us. What he says He will accomplish. Even when we cannot see the outcome we desire, we can trust God to be in control. We know that ultimately we are secure in Him. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23
Our hope is not wishful thinking, but confident faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. What we could never accomplish for ourselves, Jesus did for us. When we put our faith in Jesus, our future is secure no matter what may happen to us. We can face the trials of life with confidence and courage because we know the end of the story. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:3-7
Our hope is secure because we know that in Christ we will prevail. Justice will reign. Righteousness will win out. No matter what the world throws at us, the Church of Jesus Christ will not only survive, but thrive. We are not a defeated army executing a rear guard maneuver. We are a victorious army on the move to ultimately vanquish our enemy. When Peter made his confession of faith in who Jesus is, Jesus declared that through that faith we would prevail. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18
Daniel had to face many difficulties throughout his life. There were probably many times when he felt like giving up, but he did not. Instead, he stayed true to his faith and to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We can expect to face all kinds of trials and struggles ahead. But if we will hold firmly into our hope in Christ, like Daniel, we will prevail.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 16-17