“Then Joshua said to the children of Israel: “How long will you neglect to go and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers has given you?”
Joshua 18:3 NKJV
The children of Israel had become war-weary. They were called to possess the whole land which God had given to them, but between time and pain, it was getting long and hard, so much so, they were beginning to negotiate treaties. That was the reason for Joshua’s rebuke. They had only secured a part of the land…not the whole land. “But hey…some is better than nothing right? It’s not what God told us to do, but this conquering mandate is long and painful and since it’s a little better than what we had then let’s just call it quits here”…
The inability of Israel to patiently endure time and pain with their obedience caused the nation, to this very day, to be plagued by enemies. It’s an easily identified fact…by those who have eyes to see.
American Christianity does not like or accept pain easily. This fact is totally contrary to our Christian heritage, most of the Bible’s context and the experience of our global brothers and sisters, but it is the unfortunate truth. Our American view of God and His ways have been myopically focused on His dramatic deliverance abilities to the exclusion of His other equally important abilities which is dominion through the process of endurance or even paradox. When we are facing crisis moments in our nation we look for the immediate intervention of His miraculous hand to change the landscape rather than implementing the Scriptural precepts for an equally miraculous, but very often a much longer process, of establishing dominion. The primary reason is that one way is potentially far less painful for us than the other way. This last presidential election unmistakably unveiled this mentality within the larger Church leadership.
There were two very distinct strategies with regards to the 2016 election cycle of Trump v. Clinton. Almost unanimously evangelical leadership rejected Clinton as being a biblically qualified candidate and with good reason. The more dicey discussion was over the spiritual qualifications of Trump. In my analysis, one group wanted Trump elected and was convinced that his election would be a dramatic intervention of God to give us a “reprieve” as a nation. This was confirmed for many of them through prophetic utterances as well as pragmatic political strategy. In this group’s mind, Trump would potentially be “better” and certainly more sympathetic towards our Christian concerns despite his apparent spiritual “fruit” (or lack thereof). The other group, while equally repulsed by Clinton’s clear apostasy, advocated for the implementing of biblical precepts of qualification for both candidates and then leaving the future in God’s hands Who “raises one up and sets another down” (Psalm 75:7). In this group’s mind, obedience to God would, in the long term, position us as the Church for actual dominion despite some unavoidable pain. It is the contrast of these two competing mentalities that forces the question, “When it comes to our (Christian) values and concerns do we settle for sporadic relief or do we press forward for dominion?” It really unveils the foundational strategy of whether we are satisfied continually playing defense or are we ready to finally take the offensive and implement a long term plan for victory that will take endurance.
It is interesting as you study the Bible and the characters God used to dramatically shift the cultural landscape of Israel that in almost every instance there was a process involving pain and endurance that ultimately led the person to some sense of personal victory as well as national turn-around. The most notable of these characters was Joseph (Genesis 37) whose journey to influence and rule in Egypt was a case study in pain and endurance. The same could be said of David, Nehemiah, or Daniel, all of who demonstrated endurance and faithfulness in the midst of various painful circumstances.
My point is that to rebuild a Christian civilization will be unavoidably painful and will take incredible endurance. This endurance will especially be critical when it comes to the implementation of God’s precepts and obedience to those principles. Some of God’s most notable miracles took place in hostile environments as His people were demonstrating faithfulness and endurance despite the pain. Revolution is by design, painful. Something is being turned upside down. If the Church is committed to reforming the culture and nation, then it needs to come to grips with the reality of Godly suffering and pain.
One of the best contemporary examples of what this might look like was the “fall” of the former Soviet Union (1990-1991). The USSR had a formal policy of religious “toleration” but everyone knew that it’s only toleration was towards a compromised state church and an unofficial hostility to the underground evangelical church. Communism was naturally hostile to any religion and God in particular. Marx had cemented the idea that religion was the “opiate of the people” and it needed to be cleansed. The underground Church of the Soviet Union endured decades of persecution and pain with little relief in sight. Yet…they endured. The moment arrived when the nation’s rebellion and hostility, as well as the unbiblical precepts of socialism, put the USSR on the divine clock for a meltdown. When the meltdown happened, every institution of state and the culture was ripe for reformation. The Church arose and sent resources and ministers to reach the people whose hearts were opened wide for the Gospel and preached to the Russians the truth of personal salvation. There was a great harvest of souls in the former Soviet Union for a number of years. The tragedy was that the Church was unprepared to offer solutions at the national, civic level from God’s Word to the nation. So in the last 27 years, there has been an increase of Russian, evangelical churches, but the country has returned to its tyrannical roots. The great revival never produced a great reformation because the Church did not understand the total picture of God’s plan.
America is on a divine clock as well. Perhaps our current President is a small reprieve, but even in that reprieve we have not answered the basic question of what shall we do when the meltdown happens here? Are we choosing obedience to the comprehensive nature of the Scripture or will we, because of pain, opt out of the virtue of endurance and lose our national inheritance. So perhaps the same question comes to us as it did to Israel centuries ago…
“How long will you neglect to go up and take the land which the Lord God of your fathers has given you?”