Perhaps some of you saw the news report yesterday regarding the most recent Pew survey entitled, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.”
The major finding of the study was that “the United States is a significantly less Christian country than it was seven years ago.” Alan Cooperman, Pew’s Director of Religious Research, was quoted as saying, “the trend is big, it’s broad and it’s everywhere.”
My initial response was, “Do we really need a survey to tell us this? Anyone with a pair of eyes or a set of ears could tell you this. It’s written all over the pages of our 21st century American culture.”
But then I got to thinking about the emotions that could be raised by the reports. You see many of those same emotions displayed in the Bible when it appeared to believers that skepticism and unbelief were winning out against faith in Christ.
Just to preview a bit for you, in today’s Bible reading alone…
- Delilah and her Philistine masters seem to win out against Samson and the Israelites
- The Israelites’ devotion to God’s order of things is questioned time and time again by the refrain we find in the book of Judges: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 17:6, NIV).
- Jesus himself is attacked by the very people who were expected to provide leadership for God’s people in matters of faith
- David, feeling rejected by God, cries out in the Psalms: “You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us; you have been angry—now restore us!” (Psalm 60:1, NIV).
So, this isn’t our first rodeo. For followers of Christ, experiencing setbacks and losses, along with the accompanying feelings of rejection or fears of dismissal, have all been around as long as faith in God has been around.
And that takes us to my favorite verse from today’s reading. Immediately following David’s lament above, he goes on to say this:
“But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow” (Psalm 60:4, NIV).
In other words, for those who remain steadfast in faith, this is a time of opportunity. It’s a call to rally around Jesus Christ as our banner, to fight courageously for the cause of faith, and to proclaim the gospel more boldly and strenuously than ever before.
In ancient sea battles, a banner was unfurled to rally the troops. A banner was lowered on the bow to identify which nation you were fighting for. A banner was proudly displayed to encourage and strengthen the resolve of those who believed in the cause.
In other words, David says, “This is not the time to be discouraged. In fact, it’s prime time to be encouraged, and to fight all the harder for Jesus. It’s an opportunity God is providing to struggle for the sake of the gospel.”
The Bible shows us again and again, “With Jesus at our side, who knows what great things — and great victories — he has planned? After all, didn’t he die, and then come back to life? Hasn’t he promised to return one day with greater glory than we have ever seen?”
Our Bible reading for Wednesday, May 13, is Judges 16:1 – 17:13, John 7:45 – 8:11 and Psalm 60:1-4.
Lord, help me to be bold to share the gospel of your Son, Jesus Christ, with others. Rally your church around the cause of loving others with the love of Jesus, and proclaiming in words, in music, in actions and in sacraments the message of your forgiveness, grace and peace.
Oh, and by the way, sandwiched in the Pew research is this little paragraph that may give a measure of encouragement to those who hold to Biblical, historical and conservative Christian beliefs. Does this perhaps foreshadow the direction of Christianity in the U.S.?
“The new survey indicates that churches in the evangelical Protestant tradition – including the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, Churches of Christ, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Presbyterian Church in America, other evangelical denominations and many nondenominational congregations – now have a total of about 62 million adult adherents. That is an increase of roughly 2 million since 2007, though once the margins of error are taken into account, it is possible that the number of evangelicals may have risen by as many as 5 million or remained essentially unchanged.”
Header image based on "White Flag Concert" by Scott Calleja, CC By 2.0