If you can bear with my illustration... it is almost as if Paul, if he was living today, would have to add another category of people to his description in Ephesians 2:12 (the Brits)! I can understand there are people who have no hope because they have no God, but why is it that 21st Century British Christians can have so little hope, despite believing in the God of the Bible?
Given over to judgment?
I know what people are asking... "What hope can there be for a generation that has turned its back on God as ours has?" Ours is certainly a country which once knew SO much blessing... and yet we are now is being 'given over' by God to reap the consequences of what we have sown. Does Romans 1:21-32 sound familiar as 2010 comes to an end? Well what hope is there for us? Is God done with us? Is it all judgement now?
A few facts give me real hope... a hope that will not be put down, and a hope that brings me home.
The first is a simple observation: All that stuff about God giving people over to their lusts (Rom 1:26) and giving them up to a debased mind (Rom 1:28)... all of that was written to a generation of people that saw the greatest spiritual awakening the world has ever known. Paul wrote those words to the Roman church... and yes, the Romans were the most debased people you could imagine. I had to read Suetonius for a NT History class at seminary, and I will never get over the realisation of just how wicked and immoral that generation was! It is NOT a pleasant read. But GET THIS... those very same Roman people to whom Paul was writing became the seeds of such an amazing christian awakening that the worst oppression the Roman Caesars could throw at it, could not put it down! Simple Fact 1 - it's been worse!
The second fact is the reality of God's promise. Isaiah 55:10-11 tells you and me that we can bank on God's word. I plan to take that promise to the bank.
I have no other hope for our generation. Prosperity has failed. Education has failed. Secularism has failed. Humanism has failed. Psychology has failed. Religion - and we have had plenty of that - has failed. But the word of God never fails.
Don't get me wrong... we can fail. We can fail to communicate the word of God effectively. We can fail by retreating into our churches and never actually communicating the word of God to our generation. We can fail because we are so busy in our church activities that we don't have time to sit with our neighbour and share the gospel with them. We can fail because we expect people to come to "church" to hear the gospel. We can fail because we live such inconsistent lives that no one will even give us a hearing. We can fail because we are too cowardly to risk disapproval from our family and neighbours who are on their way to hell. We can fail because we don't teach our people how to communicate the Word to the world. We can fail because we lose heart and no longer pray expecting God to actually do something. We can fail because we don't make a plan... but God's word never fails.
A third fact that gives me hope for once-great Britain... is that God's word actually does have all the answers. 2Peter 1:3 tells you and me that we have what we need. All we need! 2Timothy 3:16-17 says that the answers are there in the Bible... that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. I don't know all that was discouraging my friend... and I know that many of my friends and colleagues back home in Britain are facing very very difficult situations. But I do know this... the word of God is able to make them, and you... and me... competent to deal with whatever we face. We can be equipped for every good work.
The question is whether a generation of believers will turn back to the word with that confidence in the promise of God. Our lost generation needs an army of confident Christians, competent and equipped for a mission that seems impossible...
There is hope.