I have to be honest. As I survey the social and political landscape around me, it is hard to be hopeful. I see problems which have existed for centuries and limited resolve to solve them. I see warring factions and little unity. Whether I’m watching the news or looking at social media, the picture seems grim. More than ever, We Need God’s People.
There is a holy disconnect that happens on Sunday mornings. Whatever discouragement I’ve been carrying throughout the week about the fractured dystopia in which I imagine myself living does not survive my weekly gathering with my church family. As I see saints of various generations, political persuasions, ethnicities, and life situations loving each other and worshipping God together, I can’t help but leave encouraged.
What’s going on? Am I self-deluded? Am I just distracting myself from reality by pretending everything is OK for a couple hours with some friends?
I think the opposite is true. Scripture teaches that all divisions in the world, all struggles, all sin, all our enemies will one day be defeated by the return of the conquering King Jesus. We who trust in him now will be delivered fully and finally by him on the last day. When we gather weekly on the day he rose from the dead, we are gathering, in part, to celebrate the hope we have of certain deliverance.
That does not mean life outside church walls is necessarily any easier. But my point is this—it is harder to maintain the hope which has been given to us as Christians when we lose focus on what is meant to center us. In our digital age, it is easier than ever to allow our reality to become loud. We can be distracted by all kinds of news as algorithms push content at us cherry-picked to keep us angry, sad, and scrolling.
That’s not how God designed us to operate. I don’t mean to suggest that we should be unconcerned with the hard things of the world. I mean that if all we read, hear about, and think about are the hard things happening in the world, the way we think and hope will change. For example, if we are in church for two or three hours a week but consume ten hours a week of news media, how can we expect to have a Christ-centered, hopeful view of reality?
The weekly gathering of believers confessing hope in the resurrection and return of Jesus is, in a very real way, a lifeline from the future. Christians know how history will end. God has not told us everything that will happen between now and then, but He has told us enough to ground us in hope that has anchored Christians for millenia.
When we give equal concern to the problems around us as we do the hope in front of us, we are not living according to the priorities Jesus set. He acknowledged that we will have trouble in this life but told us, “[T]ake heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
We want to be about the work for which Jesus commissioned the Church. No one knows better than Jesus how hard life can be. Keeping this in mind, we should think of Scripture’s commands to gather not as a chore but as a needed foretaste of the world to come. We need the regular encouragement of God’s people and God’s word as we work against the injustices of the world around us.
I was going to end the article here but wanted to add a word for those who do not experience this kind of encouragement at their local church. If that’s you, I am very sorry. We did a podcast episode about when to stay and when to leave your church, a difficult situation without a standard answer. If you are in a challenging church situation, you don’t need me to tell you that it is a lonely, challenging spot. I’m sorry. Please email us if you’d like us to pray for you.
Originally Published : July 20, 2021
- Pray for the return of Jesus (Revelation 22:20).
- Pray for wisdom about how to prioritize the right things to maintain hope as we work.
- Pray for your local church, that it would be a place where sinners love each other well.