It is easy today to take a negative view over the future of the church in Britain; it isn't exactly doing well at the moment. Inside the church then errors abound, reformed truths have been cast aside and the church seems to be trying to conform more to the world than to the likeness of Christ. We're exactly like the woman in Songs of Solomon: "I slept but my heart was awake. Listen! My beloved is knocking." We hear the knock of Christ, we hear the thud of our conscience but as we stir we say: "I have taken off my robe - must I put it on again? I have washed my feet - must I soil them again?" We care, but not enough to fully wake up, we want to change but we're too lazy to put good intentions into practice, we know we're not what we should be, we're also unwilling to be more than we are.
Looking outside of the church will hardly encourage us to hope either. Our government has taken the first steps to legalizing gay marriage, not that it is surprising, we lost the battle for marriage decades ago; the tide of secularism is rising and persecution of Christians is a reality closer than we want to think. Society is falling into a type of madness only found when departing from biblical truth, good is called evil and evil good.
Yet despite the darkness of the day then we still have any reason to hope. Sure, looking upon things with the eye of sight gives us every reason to despair but the eye of sight is an uncertain, narrow, short sighted thing that has no foundation. If we look upon things with the eye of faith then we find a new picture, a sure and certain picture, and that of a God in complete control of everything.
There is a common attitude of Christians today that this country is going to the dogs, things are going to get worse and worse, until one day Jesus will come back for the second time and the world will end. This view is difficult to align with Scripture, it is difficult to align with what's happening in China, Southern Africa and Iran where Christianity is growing like never before. Course, this view is marginally better than the second common one where we stick our head in the sand and pretend that everything is going ok.
A necessary correction to our faithless pessimism and denial motivated optimism lies in Psalm 2:
"Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.
Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
And distress them in His deep displeasure:
“Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”
Psalm 2 v 1 - 6
We are living in the first half of this Psalm, we see our rulers coming together to throw off the cords of our Christian heritage and breakaway from biblical truth. This corrects us of our false optimism. But it is important not to forget the second part of the above passage. Let me put it this way: although we may be fazed by what is happening does God appear scared? Is he trembling on his throne worried that he is about to be overthrown? No. He is laughing at his enemies, scorning them, and replying to all their vain plots by saying: "I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion."
This is the antidote to despair: King Jesus is ruling and reigning over all the earth and his purposes cannot be crossed. This is a firm foundation for optimism, that if God is for us then who can be against us? Do we really think that a bunch of Conservative and Labour MPs are capable of winning against God?
The Psalm continues:
"Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession."
Does Britain fall out of this description of the extent of the rule of Jesus Christ? Are we not part of the nations Christ has inherited and surely we're included in the phrase 'ends of the earth'. It is not like we're fallen out of God's gracious care or his sovereign rule.
Very well, you say, but what grounds have we to think things will get better? Christ could be King and the bad times still get worse and worse until he returns. My reply to this would be that I do not think the Bible allows us any doubt about the future prosperity of the church.
"All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, 0 Lord; And they shall glorify thy name" (Psalm 86v9).
"All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto Jehovah; And all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee." (Psalm 22v27).
To quote extensively from the theologian Boettner:
"The Covenant concept of 'all nations blessed' comes to the fore in the poetry of the Psalter. The composers of the Book of Praise of the Old Testament looked for the triumph of the Church upon earth. There are no better missionary hymns than those contained in the Psalms. One of the contributing factors to present-day pessimism, gloominess, defeatism within the Church is the omitting of the Psalms from the hymn books.
The future of the church is not continuing decline, though that may characterise part of it but for the fleeting moment, but continued growth. There are currently more Christians on earth than ever before and though in Britain the church is struggling all that means is that we should be praying more fervently for the fulfilment of the above promise.
Here's another quote from Boettner: "No, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and Jesus Christ, marching in the greatness of His strength, sends us on no empty errand of uttering a message that will die away in the air on an unheeding and hostile world, gathering only a few out of its innumerable multitudes and consigning the vast majority to destruction, but He sends us to 'make disciples of all the nations' and thereby win the world itself."
To conclude, the nations rage and the people plot in vain because nothing can stand against the triumph of Christ and the guaranteed future prosperity of his church. Though the day may now be dark the gospel is a light greater still! My encouragement to you then is to take these promises of prosperity and claim them before God, for he is faithful and all promises are 'yes' in Christ. Pray for revival, pray for blessings he was promised, pray that our leaders would heed the warning at the end of Psalm 2:
"Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.