Shall He Find Faith?

OF ALL the questions a human being can ask, none is as deeply unsettling as: “Whom can I trust?” So writes Norman Cousins in an article in the Saturday Review World. And in these troubled days men are asking that question more and more. A pervading loss of faith seems to be abroad in the land: mistrust and doubt concerning the nation’s destiny, the government and its leaders, the state of the economy, the educational system, unemployment and inflation.

The single word that seems most concisely to describe the common feeling is “frustration,” according to Robert W. Merry in the National Observer in an article headed, “Where Can We Turn?” “I don’t remember ever seeing the kind of frustration we feel now,” he quotes a machine repairman in the Chicago area as saying. “This country’s situation seems almost as bad as it was in the Depression—maybe worse.”

Many have lost faith in their fellow man; they are distressed at the steady disintegration and unraveling at every level, of moral standards. Watergate did not by any means encompass all the immorality that exists in this nation; it was merely the most deplored by decent people, and the most publicized because of its setting—because it was perpetrated by the highest placed and therefore those who should be the most respected of public officials.

It would be deplorable enough if Watergate were indeed merely an isolated example of the wrongdoing that has shocked this nation. But, “It’s not only Watergate,” reports the U.S. News and World Report magazine. “All across the country, official skullduggery keeps surfacing—at national, State and local levels.”

Commenting on these conditions, Cousins writes: “One of the most vivid passages [of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta] is not about a battle, but about the decline in honesty and integrity among the people themselves. There came a time, Thucydides wrote, when no man dared trust another. The lowering of personal standards was a basic factor in the decline of Athenian civilization.”

Science the Cure-all?

In recent decades our scientists have accomplished many amazing feats, foremost among which is undoubtedly the landing of men on the moon. But there have been scores of other—perhaps lesser but nonetheless astonishing—scientific developments, which are now generally accepted as routine, such as worldwide television, supersonic air travel, life-extending medical advances, computers that astonish us with their mathematical wizardry.

These near-miracles have led some to hope that the world’s ills could be solved by science and technology. Not so, says Sir Bernard Lovell, a leading British scientist. “Man’s belief that science and technology are all-powerful is a ‘tragic myth,’” he says. Science is not a “magic wand” that can simply be waved to rid the world of its problems in the wink of an eye.

“As soon as you try,” says Lovell, “a host of other problems arise which have nothing to do with science and [which] cannot be solved by scientists or the methods of science.” On one occasion in Great Britain when an attempt was made to apply modern concepts of science to solving certain industrial problems, the unforeseen result was massive social reaction and serious labor problems.

Modern science has also produced the supersonic jet plane, which many fear will seriously damage the atmosphere. It has produced the nuclear bomb, which has the power to destroy civilization. It has developed modern fertilizers to increase the yield of food products, while polluting the world’s vital streams. It has built nuclear power plants, whose wastes may contaminate the earth for untold centuries. Indeed, in recent weeks a Federal engineer employed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and three other engineers employed by the General Electric Company’s nuclear division, have all resigned their positions to emphasize their fears that nuclear power plants are unsafe.

So we find that even some of our scientists do not place great faith in their own technology as a cure-all for the world’s manifold ills.

Fear of the Future

Another area of concern is for the future. This fear, this loss of faith in the future, lies heavily on many hearts. Perhaps it is evidenced as well as anywhere in the attitude of a senior at the state university in Northern Thailand, who was about to leave Thailand to continue her studies in America, as reported by writer Wesley Pruden, Jr. “Everyone tells me how fortunate I am,” she says. “But I don’t know. When I finish my education in America, maybe there won’t be a Thailand to come home to. … When you are 21 years old you should look for the future, not fear it. But many of my friends feel the same way that I do.”

How sad that young hearts should be troubled with such hopeless visions of the future!

Loss of Faith in God

But sadder still is the fact that so many today are losing their faith in God, and in his Holy Word. Empty pews, dwindling finances and decaying church buildings are common problems with many church leaders. All over this nation we see former church buildings converted into movie houses, funeral homes, feed stores, museums, and bowling alleys.

In England, the Anglican Church of All Saints and St. Barnabas is falling to pieces, says Newsweek Magazine. “Although St. Barnabas serves a parish of 13,000, fewer than twenty parishioners regularly brave the dank, cold pews to attend Sunday services. ‘We have lost hope,’ says the vicar. … ‘The only time they need me is when they are dead.’”

Many ministers believe they are losing influence over people to secular specialists such as psychologists. In the past 25 years, for example, the number of mental-health workers has jumped more than 600 percent, while the ranks of the clergy have shrunk by 20 percent.

But perhaps the greatest loss of faith is among the ranks of the clergy themselves. The startling results of one poll of more than 7,400 Protestant clergymen taken some years ago revealed that some 75 percent said they did not believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. If the shepherds of the flock have so completely lost their way, what hope can there be for the sheep?

Decline of Esteem for the Church

The extent to which esteem for the church has declined may be judged from the results of a recent national poll which ranked the clergy 29th among professions “most respected” by the public, according to a report in the U.S. News and World Report.

Also, in a survey of leading Americans who were asked to rate various classes of institutions and organizations according to their influence “on decisions or actions affecting the nation as a whole,” organized religion was given an amazingly low 23rd position out of a total of 24 institutions: well behind agencies of the government, television, labor unions, newspapers, financial institutions, magazines, radio, family, educational institutions, and many others.

And what, today, are those numbers who formerly occupied church pews doing? Well, many are simply staying home, while many others are pursuing newfound pleasures made possible by increasing affluence and shorter hours of labor. Others have concluded that it is all so very futile, for “God is dead.”

This concept was first promoted by one Thomas J. J. Altizer, a professor of religion at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, in the very heart of fundamentalist country. Altizer taught that God should not be regarded as a Supreme Being, but rather as a presence pervading the entire universe. He states that this idea is still alive, and adds, “The most important evidence that God is dead is the hopelessness in today’s world.” Somewhat along this same line, others ask, “If there is a God of love, and wisdom, and power, why does he not do something about the evil conditions and injustices that oppress mankind?”

Growth of Cults

Still others are taking questionable refuge in the growing numbers of new cults. Writer-scientist Charles Fair has recently published a book in which he “examines the current fascination with mystery cults, psi phenomena, 16-year-old gurus, astrology, and other ‘nonsense’ that supposedly educated people might reasonably snub.” To say nothing of six-year-old boy evangelists!

What has given rise to this boom in curious new cults—cults with strange-sounding names, putting forth stranger teachings and practices? Fair suggests it is because many people are frightened. Having abandoned faith in religious orthodoxy, along with its teachings of life beyond the grave, they are seeking to fill the vacuum, and overcome their anxiety, by finding some substitute for their former beliefs.

And so we find that faith in the existence of a God of love, faith in his promises, faith in a God who cares, is truly at a low ebb. Indeed, far from being an age of faith in God and in his Word, and of walking in his righteous ways, we are living in a time of increasing licentiousness, immorality, and decadence. The obscene moving picture films which are so popularly attended by young and old, the vulgar theatrical plays, grossly offensive books, magazines, and television shows, all testify to the downward course of moral standards in the world today.

“When the Son of Man Cometh …”

But this very faithlessness that is abroad in the world today is just one more proof of the truth of the Bible and that God is in his heaven, for it was foretold by our Lord Jesus almost 2,000 years ago. It proves that God’s plans are going grandly forward, and that Jesus is even now present as his agent in directing earth’s affairs, preparatory to establishing the millennial kingdom on earth.

In concluding the Parable of the Unjust Judge, our Lord said, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find [the] faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) Here Jesus directly refers to this lack of the faith on the part of the people as a sign of his second presence. And in the 24th chapter of Matthew our Lord further associates his second presence with the end of the Gospel Age and the great time of trouble with which this present evil world shall pass away, preparatory to the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth.—Matt. 24:3,21,22

Thus we see that the faithlessness which is being increasingly manifested in the world is another sign to us that our Lord is present, that we are in the end of the Gospel Age, and that the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth is near. And we believe that the manifold problems of the world, which are defying solution by man, indicate that we have already entered into the beginnings of that great time of trouble which will finally bring about the destruction of this present evil world.

“Shall He Find Faith on the Earth?”

The Apostle Peter, also, informs us that this lack of faith in God and in his promises is a sign of the times in which we are living. It tells us that we are in the last days of this present evil world. Peter writes, “There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? [Where is his promised presence?] for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”—II Pet. 3:3,4

But this is not so, Peter says. Things are not continuing as they were from the beginning! “For this they are willingly ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against [until] the day of judgment and perdition [destruction] of ungodly men.”—II Pet. 3:5-7

Peter here tells us that the scoffers will have closed their eyes to the remarkable fact that a world was destroyed back there in the Flood because of the wickedness that developed. That was a truly tremendous event in the history of man! And God’s purposes continue, as then, to go forward according to his wise and loving plans.

But God is not to be hurried, Peter says. “Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (II Pet. 3:8) The Lord has not forgotten his promises, Peter explains, but is long-suffering toward all his human creatures.

That first world, or social arrangement of earth, the Apostle reminds us, came to an end in the Flood. But the present world (composed of the “heavens and the earth, which are now”) is permitted to continue its downward course until the day of judgment, that thousand-year period of the reign of Christ and the church. This world will be destroyed in the day of the Lord (Jehovah), wherein Peter says it shall pass away with a great noise, and melt with fervent heat, and be burned.—II Pet. 3:10,12

He does not say the planet Earth is to be destroyed, even as the planet Earth was not destroyed when the first “world” passed away in the Flood. He is talking about the destruction of the faithless ecclesiastical heavens and the wicked social arrangements of the earth, which together form the “world.”

The Apostle Peter has already told us that there would be scoffers and doubters in the last days; and now, since he relates the destruction of this present evil world chronologically to the day of the Lord (Jehovah), we are given further confirmation of where we are on the stream of time; for, as we have noted earlier, we believe we are already in the early stages of this day of Jehovah, or time of trouble.

This day of Jehovah is variously described in the Old Testament as the day of the Lord’s vengeance; as a destruction from the Almighty and of travail; a time when the world will be punished for its iniquity; the day of his fierce anger; a day of darkness and gloominess and fire; a day of battle; a day of wrath, trouble, and distress, because men have sinned against the Lord God. (Isa. 34:8; 13:6,8,11,13; Joel 2:1,2; Zech. 14:1,2; Amos 5:18; Zeph. 1:14,15,17) We believe the troubles now afflicting the world indicate that we are in this day of Jehovah.

“And Knew Not”

Our Lord Jesus also spoke of the passing of that first world, or arrangement, at the time of the Flood. “As the days of Noah were,” he said, “so shall also the coming [presence] of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming [presence) of the Son of man be.”—Matt. 24:37-39

Here our Lord states that the people were completely unaware of the disaster that was about to come upon the earth and were going about their worldly affairs on a business-as-usual basis; and all were destroyed except Noah and his sons, and their four wives. So also, Jesus says, shall it be with his presence at this second advent and the end of the age. And so we find it! The faithless world does not recognize the significance of the extraordinary events taking shape before their eyes; they do not know that our Lord Jesus is present, directing the affairs of the world; they do not sense that this faithless, evil order is soon to pass away. Even as it was in the days of Noah!

But the Apostle Peter concludes his message on a high and joyous note. He tells us that following the awful destruction of this present world in the day of God’s wrath, Christ’s glorious kingdom will be established. He writes, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (II Pet. 3:13) It is for that glorious new world that men have been unwittingly longing ever since sin entered into the world.—Rom. 8:19-23

All Shall Know Him

Today, even as our Lord foretold, and as Peter confirmed, there is little faith in God and in his promises. Mankind in general do not know God; and there can be no faith in one whom they do not know. They do not know of his ages-long, loving plans on their behalf. They do not know their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died that they might have life.

But in that glorious new world wherein dwelleth righteousness; in that wonderful thousand-year day of judgment, the times of man’s restitution to that perfection which was lost because of sin; in that new day when Christ and his overcoming church are reigning, and the world of mankind has been called forth from the grave, then “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord [Jehovah], as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2:14) In that day “they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”—Jer. 31:34

And when men’s hearts in that day are touched with understanding of God’s great love for them, and knowledge of Christ’s sacrifice on their behalf, how they will be moved with love and reverence and gratitude for their great Creator, and for their Redeemer, and love for their fellow men! For no longer will darkness cover the earth, and gross darkness the people. (Isa. 60:2) There will be no more frustrations to plague the heart of a machine repairman in Chicago; no fear of the future to haunt a young teacher in Thailand; no more seeking refuge from life’s uncertainties and troubles and sorrows in strange cults. In that day all will know and love and trust their Heavenly Father, and their Lord Jesus, and they will love their neighbors as themselves. The world has long been in darkness concerning God’s loving purposes for mankind, but soon the veil of ignorance is to be removed. It will be the time when Christ and his faithful overcomers are reigning over the earth.

“In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”—Isa. 25:6-9

Dawn Bible Students Association
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