Praying our Frustration
At our elders meeting last night, we spent some time looking at Psalm 10. (Last year we began the habit of discussing and praying through a Psalm at the begining of each monthly meeting.) One word that sums up most of Psalm 10 is "frustration." Why does God seem absent? Why does he let wickedness prosper? Why does he allow people to go on living as if he will never call them to account? When will he bring justice?
This sparked a good discussion among us about whether things are getting better or getting worse - from a historical perspective. Are God's people doing better now than they were 50, 100, 500, or 3000 years ago? Or has persecution and secularism so threatened the church that we are in worse shape now than ever before? There are good arguments for both views, and much of our answer might depend on what culture we look at and on how we measure "doing well."
And for many Christians, their eschatology will affect their interpretation of events (yes, you have an eschatology, and no, it's not contagious... mostly). If we expect that the world will get better and better over time as the church ushers God's kingdom into the world, then we will likely see more of the encouraging developments of the recent years - increased access to the gospel through technology and transportation, openness and responsiveness, especially in developing nations, etc. On the other hand, if we hold to a view that things will get worse and worse until evil consumes the world and God's people must be extracted, then we will probably focus more on the distressing news - persecution, loss of religious liberty, etc. This Sunday, our sermon text will be looking at the world's hatred of God's people (John 15:18ff)
But in any case, my impression from reading the Psalm is that we are doing much the same now as we have for several thousand years. The Psalmist is dealing with the same frustrations we face today. Good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness, the kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God, wheat and weeds - they grow side by side. Sometimes one is more dominant, sometimes the other. Sometimes even a whole nation is consumed by evil. But we have several assurances:
1) There will always be a faithful remnant, however small, of God's people on earth;
2) God sees all and will bring all unrighteousness to account (Psalm 10:14-15);
3) God hears and answers the prayers of his children; and (Psalm 10:17-18)
4) God's kingdom will triumph, fully and visibly (Psalm 10:16).
So what do we do in the meantime? Fatalism is not the answer - we don't throw our hands up in the air and say "there's nothing we can do." We don't hide away and wait for the end. Neither do we put upon ourselves the burden of fixing everything that's wrong.
What we do is allow the vision of God's kingdom - the vision of his justice, his peace, his righteousness - let that be the standard, the goal towards which we labor. We know we will not reach it until Christ returns, but until then, we can be sure that we are striving in the right direction.
And we can be assured that every good labor in his name will endure through to eternity (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
And we can be assured that our labors in the Lord are not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).