The Biblical Basis for Christian Optimism (I)

And He was saying, ‘the kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows-how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come’ (Mk.4:26-29).

I grew up on a farm in central-west NSW, and every year we would sow and harvest wheat. Ideally, we would sow in May and harvest in December. After we would sow, there was nothing that could be done with those paddocks but to wait. Wheat being what it is, it would germinate and grow to maturity, given the right conditions of rainfall and heat.

You could walk out to the wheat paddocks and jump up and down and shout, but the wheat wouldn’t respond to that; it wasn’t made to. It responds most of all to rainfall and heat, so most farmers tend to watch the weather forecasts closely to see how things are likely to progress, there is a lot of money riding on rain coming at the right time. Growing wheat is an expensive process requiring a lot of investment, but it is founded on good fundamentals that are essentially timeless.

The concept of sowing and reaping gets lots of attention in the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments. Concerning Israel, God said through Hosea, that “they have sown the wind and they reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it yields no grain” (Hos.8:7).

Jesus explained that “Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (Jn.4:36).

Because sowing and reaping have multiple applications in spiritual, moral and economic spheres, it is important for Christians to consider what we’re doing in terms of sowing and reaping. This applies to individuals, to families, to businesses, to churches, to communities and to whole nations. We are fools if we think our present personal and national state has no relationship with what has happened in the past, or will have no impact on what will be happening decades, or even generations from now.

Why? Because everyone sows, and everyone reaps.

We are where we are today in the West for instance, because of what we have been sowing now, for centuries. Many knowledgeable people will attest to the fact that the West is not doing well, and that it could get a whole lot worse. I believe it will.

Why is this? Beginning more than three hundred years ago, the West began to quietly but steadily adopt this idea: We Don’t Need God. So, there has been a steady and detrimental progression away from an acknowledgement of God, affecting all areas of life. This applies to education, to lawmaking, to social behaviour, to taxation, to political and governmental policies, even to what we do in church, In fact, there really isn’t an area of human behaviour unaffected by the West’s theoretical and practical abandonment of God.

I have become very sceptical about Christians who are enthusiastic about pouring lots of resources into trying to bring about political reform. Why?

Because the Bible warns us about the inability of man to save himself. Politics and government are areas of legitimate activity which the Bible has much to say about, but unless we go much deeper than mere political reform, we end up having only ever put lipstick on a very dirty pig, that can’t wait to get back to a muddy puddle. Lots of effort and money, for hardly any result. The Bible actually warns us: “Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; why should he be esteemed?” (Isa.2:22)

Ron Paul was an outstanding individual Congressman in the U. S., but he would be the first to acknowledge his utter inability to bring about any real change there. Why? Because the people didn’t want change. They expected to go on getting something for nothing, but they can’t.

This means that if believers really want lasting change in the nations of the world, we have to go much deeper than politics. We have to begin where God told us to start: individuals, families and churches, because these are the real building blocks of any healthy nation. Speaking of his work as an apostle, Paul said that “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (I Cor.3:6).

He also spoke of “…admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ” (Col.1:28).

Why “…every man?” Because men are individuals. They also (generally) have a wife and children that they are or will be responsible for. Furthermore, some men (according to scripture) will be elders of churches. They should be ruling the show. And if individual men are attending to their responsibilities well, there will be harmony, growth and peace.

You want a wonderful brick house? You’ll have to give lots of consideration to the role of bricks. Bricks are boring things, but without bricks, there’ll be no building.

No healthy church will stay that way without healthy families, so one of the important tasks of  godly elders is to teach the church about the family, beginning with husbands and wives. I think there is a year’s Bible teaching for people coming in off the street, beginning in Genesis 1. Start with the Christian couple, then move onto the children.[1]

But even the family is secondary. To what?

To the law of God. It is the law of God which establishes the family, which is why we must begin in Genesis.[2] But while ever the church is utterly disparaging towards the Old Testament law, we continually shoot ourselves in the foot, rendering ourselves incompetent and incapable of facilitating real social change. If we don’t read and follow all of the text book that’s the foundation of any godly civilisation, how can we expect to be effective?

What did God command Joshua? “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7).

And what was it that the Psalmist promised in Psalm 1 would be the key in making the godly man prosperous? Meditation in the law, day and night.

What was it that king Josiah discovered about 620 BC, that prompted him to urgently begin the process of reformation in Judah? It was the law (II Chron.34:14-33). The scripture says of Josiah that “before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him” (II Kings 23:25).

The apostle James (in the New Testament) described God’s law as “the royal law,” and “the law of liberty” (James 2:8, 12).

Conclusion:

If we want to rebuild we have lots of work to do, reassessing our attitude towards God’s law, and seeing the godly family and the church re-established in the community. There are no short-cuts for these, and we will have to put up with a lot of social ugliness and nonsense in the gestation period, which could be decades-even generations.

But it’s time to begin to sow again, and this time, to sow the correct things that God always intended for His people. Then, we may be able to “…reap in joy” (Ps.126:5-6), as individuals, families, churches, communities and nations begin to thrive again, under the blessing of the Almighty.

And that’s the true basis for Christian optimism, for He has commanded us:

Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you (Hos.10:12).

 

[1] See Andrew McColl, “They Shall Become One” (2008), and “The Significance of the Godly Family” (2009).

[2] See Gary North, “The Dominion Covenant,” 1987.

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