Monday, June 26, 2006

When the Kingdom of God Appears to Fail

by Larry Rouse

How often has a child of God despaired thinking that the kingdom of God was going to end with his generation? Elijah had concluded that he “alone was left” of the people of God and because of that God should take his life and end this lost cause (1 Kings 19:4, 10). God quickly reminded him that he had 7,000 who were faithful to him and then put Elijah back to work. (1 Kings 19:18).

Asaph, after looking at the prosperity of the wicked and the hard plight of the few that were righteous, was ready to conclude that serving God was not worth it. He said, “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence” (Psalm 73:13). Fortunately, when he entered the sanctuary of God to worship, he saw the world as God did. Because of this eternal view he was now very thankful to be part of the faithful few. He writes, “When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me—Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end” (Psalm 73:16-17).

God’s Promises an Eternal Kingdom

When we look to the scriptures, we find strong promises concerning God’s kingdom. Concerning the church Jesus would build, He plainly stated that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). When Isaiah prophesied of the coming Messiah and His reign, he plainly stated that this kingdom would never end. He writes, “And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isa 9:6-7).

Gloom and Doom—Cases in Point

Over the years I have heard brethren lament the dwindling of a local church, or the departure of a new generation into apostasy, or even the general worldliness of the professed Christians they have observed. I have heard some say that “churches of Christ are going to become extinct!” In another case I heard a man who had left the Lord’s church quoting growth statistics to convince others that a return to the Bible alone would not work. He boldly proclaimed that “these churches are dying on the vine because of their legalism.” Should we become discouraged by our own impressions of the church around us? Should we surrender to the spin of men with self-serving agendas?

“Whittling” on God’s End of the Stick

We need to remember what burden God has placed upon us and what burden He has not. The Lord wants me to walk by faith and to spread God’s word to all who will hear (1 Cor 3:5-7). It is not my job to determine the numbers who are faithful or to be responsible for the welfare of God’s people everywhere. God is the one who knows who are His, and He can well take care of them! Is it not written, “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ’The Lord knows those who are His’” (2 Tim 2:19)?

The Lord has given us His word and through it we can determine those who have “the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:1, 6). It is with these people we should stand and it with these people that we should build. Do we really understand what it means to be a child of God?

Our Confusion Over Names

We tend to take shortcuts in determining who men really are and where they actually stand. Rather than interact, discuss and apply the scriptures, men would rather place labels on people and churches and end further struggle. While I believe that “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16) are a Biblical designation for local assemblies of God’s people, I must never assume that wearing the right name makes one a child of God.

A true stand for the Lord is something that each individual must do themselves. No one can do it for them, including their parents. As you look at God’s people in the Bible or in church history, you will find that departure comes when a new generation arises that “did not know the Lord” (Judges 1:10). What happened in the time of the Judges has repeated itself in various times in history and will also be found in our times.

What should I do when “churches of Christ” begin to change the plan of salvation, compromise the scriptures, and bow to the denominational Baal’s of our day? What I need to do is serve God with confidence and work with others who also are walking by faith.

Do Not Transfer the Failures of Men to God

Why should I quit serving God over the failures of men? If God has placed me in a time of apostasy and worldliness, then I can be a Daniel rather than a Demas (2 Tim 4:10)! God used Daniel to rebuild after a great apostasy where God Himself described the remaining faithful as a “remnant” (Isa 10:22-23). When men fail to serve God, I need to have a faith that will stand with God. I can have a great confidence in spite of the pull and ridicule of men. The apostle Paul reminds us, “Let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: ‘That you may be justified in your words, and may overcome when you are judged’” (Romans 3:4).

Know Your Limitations

We must constantly remind ourselves of our limited sight. My view of the world and of the church can change drastically when I depend on my own reality. Problems will inevitably arise with some that are close to me in this life. Yet, it does not necessarily follow that brethren everywhere are going bad. I need to understand that God looks at the whole world! Conditions in the United States, or in any particular part of the country, do not represent what is happening in other places.

What Has God Given You to Do?

When we learn to trust God day by day, we will find that the “yoke” He lays upon us is bearable and doable (Matt 11:28-30). There are many things out of my control that I should leave to God, trusting that He alone can handle them. Let each of us always look to our God, for He has given us His promises and they will never fail.

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