I had a favorite seminary professor of Old Testament studies that talked about "wilderness people." He was applying the wilderness journey of the Israelites to our journey of faith today in a secular and even pagan world. We are on a wilderness march across rough desert, dry and uninviting terrain. We have to watch out for spiritual "snakes" and poisonous insects. We need to be careful not be caught in the prickly thorns along the way. We may faint some days because of the heat of the sun and just about freeze due to the coldness of the night. Long marches and weary travelers are found in desert places. There may be an oasis now and then, and refreshment from God there, but we cannot stay in an oasis and cannot camp there forever. We still have to reach our Canaan.
I read two interesting articles today from Colson's Worldview Church Digest (Aug 30, 2013 edition). Both writers talk about the hard journey Christians in America have been and will be facing. About how this secular nation will steal away our religious heritage and freedoms and the choice will be to bow before the statue of state regulated anti-biblical sanctions and rules and laws or stand and be jailed or worse. (See http://www.worldviewchurch.org/wvc-digest/featured-articles/20302-if-we-must-choose-we-choose-christ-over-america?spMailingID=6852274&spUserID= NTYxMzk4NTc4NwS2&spJobID=86046258&spReportId=ODYwNDYyNTgS1). To pretend that the journey will be exciting and filled with joyous worship Sunday after Sunday is to go down a path that we need to not travel -- "I’ll say again, the moment we decide to go for excitement in every service, we have started down a troublesome path that leads to nowhere God’s people ought to be going." (http://www.worldviewchurch.org/wvc-digest/featured-articles/20299-the-excitement-factor-in-church?spMailingID=6852274&spUserID=NTYxMzk4NTc4NwS2&spJobID= 86046258&spReportId=ODYwNDYyNTgS1). While these writers make some valid and troubling points, perhaps another view should be aired from one who generally agrees with their presuppositions and conclusions. One who agrees with their scenarios, but sees the journey a bit differently.
First, the Devil is not around every corner. There are not snakes in every step in the desert, and danger is not everywhere. I say this because there are some Christians who are either worry-warts, or extremists who see every day as a fight, every secular announcement as a cause to vilify and every non-Christian out to conquer and demolish their Christian values. This is simply not true. I know many value-centered non-Christians who may not attend church, certainly not mine, but do not disparage those who do. They actually agree with protecting our children in our neighborhoods, and have no trouble with invocations and prayer at secular-sponsored banquets, ballgames and get-togethers. Actually, they value them. They accept the prayers of thoroughly orthodox Christians even as we denounce their lifestyles in our churches and groups and classes.
Second, have we forgotten that though the desert is difficult, and the daily struggles are real, and the battles may set us back a bit, the victory is assured?!! Jesus Christ WILL come again, and whatever your eschatological viewpoint is, He will conquer because He already HAS conquered! The victory is assured. The kingdom of God will come. The new heavens and new earth will take place. In an interesting and convicting way, heavenly messengers admonished the first disciples to get to work even as they were watching Jesus ascend (Acts 1). Yes, they had to wait and pray for power from the Holy Spirit, and His timing, but victory was assured. The Church would stand the ravages of secular empires and self-proclaimed Nebuchadnezzars, and it would grow and blossom and prevail. It doesn't matter how persecuted it may become, it will not merely survive but outlast the enemy and prevail.
Third, we need to start giving God's people some hope and assurance, rather than continually sow seeds of doubt, despair and discouragement. I find too much of the modern evangelical press to be uninspiring and despair-driven. Sorry, but it's true. Too many blogs and articles and books have been recently written warning us and driving us to not journey far in the wilderness, lest we be embattled and even consumed. The modern evangelical Christian wants and needs some relief! While leaders talk about spiritual warfare tactics, many Christians in the pews want someone to tell them that there are oases, that refreshment can be found in the Lord and in His people, that not all is gloom and doom.
What I am calling for here is some balance. Balance between the messages of warning and caution with messages of hope and comfort and peace. Balance between the call for Christians to take up their spiritual swords and the call for Christians to build the walls of blessing around them. Balance between marching against whatever the next secular anti-Christian legislation may be and earnest, loving prayer for and not against the legislators.
There is an old saying that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. BUT you can help him to become thirsty enough to want to drink! Is our Christianity so attractive that my very secular neighbors are wanting to drink the Gospel, the Good News?