In a similar day to our own, Habakkuk posed the following questions to God, “Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.” It seemed to Habakkuk that God had abandoned the world to its own destructive devices.
God’s answer to him was quick and clear: “Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told” (Habakkuk 1:5).
Like Habakkuk, maybe we are missing something.
When we listen to the news regarding the economy, international politics and religious trends in America, we could easily conclude that the world is spiraling out of control. In December investors took one look at the future and ran for the exits. The stock market saw its biggest December drop since the Great Depression. Congress is again paralyzed with what could be the longest government shutdown in history.
Wars continue to rage in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. Social and political upheaval is sweeping South America from Venezuela to Argentina. China has unleashed a new wave of persecution against Christians.
Christendom seems to be on the skids. Church buildings that once housed vibrant congregations stand empty. Some have been turned into offices, lofts or restaurants. Many of the great cathedrals of Europe now operate as museums.
The Bible teaches that God is active in human history. The Old Testament carefully charts God’s hand at work among the Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. The New Testament concludes Scripture by introducing Jesus in the “fullness of time.” It would be illogical to conclude that God turned his back on human events and walked away two thousand years later.
Many may be surprised to learn that Christianity is actually growing faster than at any time in history. It simply is not happening in America or Europe.
While Christianity has waned in the West, it has exploded in South America, Africa and Asia, in spite of unrest and persecution. Only 35 percent of the world’s Christians live in the United States and Europe. In some regions of South America the number of Christians has grown at more than twice the rate of the population. Latin American nations are now sending missionaries to Arab countries. South Korea has become the second largest mission-sending nation in the world. Some estimate China has more than 100 million believers and the number is growing. Nine hundred pastors from mainland China met in Hong Kong and set a goal to send out 20,000 missionaries by 2030. By 2033, China could have the largest Christian population on earth. The number of Christians in Africa has skyrocketed from 10 million in 1900 to 360 million in 2000. African Christians are now sending missionaries to Europe where Christianity has been in decline.
Christianity outside the West does not look like the Christendom structures of the Reformation. Instead of building cathedrals they are developing passionate followers of Christ. When people become passionate followers of Jesus they become more honest, generous and industrious, the very elements that create an economic, political and spiritual future.
If we look at the nations and watch, we will stand in utter amazement at what God is doing in our day. Perhaps we will hunger for what God wants to do here.