I know a lot of people who need some hope lately. This has been a pretty tough year for a lot of people I care about. I was pretty discouraged in October in particular, it felt like every week some new bad news would come my way. Not in my life, but in the lives of people I care about, particularly with some of my students.
A few of them have been really beaten down, and I look at what’s going on, and I really wish I could help. But what can I do? There’s really nothing I can do except constantly rely on God and use my life to point to Him.
But sometimes I wonder if that’s enough. Can God help? Because, if I’m being really honest, is God really bigger than all of this?
I ran across something that I have almost endlessly nerded out over to all my friends, and it has given me so much hope in the last couple weeks. Check out this chart:
A.D. 100 had about 360 non-and-nominal-Christians for every Christian on Earth. In 1000, there were about 270 people for every practicing Christian. By 1500 this had diminished to 85 per. By 1900, around 21 per. In 1970 it had diminished to 13 non-Christians and non-practicing Christians in the world for every practicing Christian.
And by 2010, there were only 7 non-Christians for every Christian.
(all stats from the Lausanne statistics team, chart from Finishing the Task)
Jesus is doing what He said He was going to do.
The Apostles got to see Jesus perform many signs and miracles, culminating with His own resurrection. I believe that is a historic fact. And the disciples went from a rag-tag group of cowards who fled at the first sign of trouble to becoming fearless Apostles, telling everyone what they had seen and heard from Jesus. They saw Jesus beaten, defeated and crucified and then they saw Jesus risen, conquered and victorious. They transformed immediately, and wouldn’t recant their testimony despite intense persecution that cost them everything, including their very lives.
Seeing Jesus rise from the dead was an intense moment in the lives of the disciples and the early Church. If it hadn’t happened, the Church would not have started. So, yes, a part of me wishes I could have witnessed it for myself. The disciples became bold because they saw with their own eyes what we can only read about.
So while the disciples have that advantage over us, we have one advantage over them. They heard Jesus make bold promises, promises they didn’t get to live to see fulfilled. As Jesus was preparing for His crucifixion, He told the disciples that when He is lifted up, He will draw all people to Himself. (John 12:32) They lived in some backwater edge of the Roman empire. No one expected that this “movement” if you could even call it that would survive the decade, let alone over 20 centuries and counting.
Not only has what Jesus done merely survived 2,000 years, the Church has thrived. The march is on. God is sozoing — saving — people from every people and culture. One day soon, there won’t be a single living language left that doesn’t have the Gospel written in it. One day soon, there won’t be a single culture left on the face of the earth that doesn’t have a thriving Christ-worshipping church in it. One day soon, the work that Jesus gave His disciples to be witnesses in all Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth will be complete.
Over 20 centuries of God’s faithfulness at what He promised to do. We get to see it.
Don’t let our atheist friends and Western culture dissuade you from the amazing hope that is ours in Jesus.
Jesus promised that He would be lifted high. He promised that the whole world would be reached.
And by golly, is it ever.
So when Jesus makes us a promise, let’s remember something: Jesus doesn’t break His promises.
Which is the only hope I need.