Jesus posed a startling question to His disciples in Luke 18:8: “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
Faith in God is diminishing day by day, year by year. Statisticians and researchers have produced many reports showing the decline of faith in America and the Western world.
When a crisis strikes our world—be it a war, a terrorist attack or a health pandemic—we often see a short-lived return to faith. More prayers go up to God for a short while. Recent Pew research polling has found that most people are praying more during the coronavirus outbreak than before.
But the pattern we’ve seen before is that as a great crisis is resolved and fades, life goes back to normal. Churches are mostly empty again. What are people thinking, and does it matter?
Why should we be concerned about what society at large believes? As long as we do what’s right, how does the world’s rejection of God affect us? Of course we sorrow over what we see, and there is a danger of wrong ideas rubbing off on us if we’re not careful. But there’s more.
It’s been proven that faith in the God of the Bible has a huge, positive impact on society. This is not something that can be accomplished by atheists or religious “nones,” as many list their affiliation. A culture based on Judeo-Christian principles, as shown by decades of research, develops the most stable, law-abiding and prosperous model for a society or nation.
If a nation strays from this religious basis, what can we expect? Economic upheaval. Failings in governance and justice. Unhappiness. Drug epidemics. Violent crimes. Family breakdown. These are the results of a nation distancing itself from God and His way of life. We see it happening right now, all around us.
In Luke 17:5, “the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’” They obviously saw the works Jesus did and heard the high standard of His teaching—realizing they needed more faith!
Amazingly, as the end of this age draws closer, people tend to exercise less faith. They don’t seek it as they once did. Perhaps technology plays a role in this. Perhaps there are too many distractions that compete with faith in God. It’s not until we are faced with a life-altering situation—like the COVID-19 pandemic and financial disruption, which can mean loss of livelihood for many and actual loss of life for some—that we look up for greater answers and seek God more.
Society needs increased faith in God—but sadly it is headed in exactly the opposite direction. We must resist this pull, praying for God to increase our faith so we don’t succumb to the spirit of the world.
Here are some key reasons why faith in God has diminished.
1. Today we have more solutions to our previously unsolvable problems.
There have been medical advances to handle our ever-growing number of ailments. More medical care is available and extended to more people. With recent epidemics, doctors and scientists have been relatively quick in finding and implementing treatments to help alleviate the severity of the problems.
But it’s not only medical advances that are seemingly solving our problems. Many people believe that, given enough time, scientists will solve all of humanity’s problems. They do not put their faith in living God’s way or following the admonitions of Jesus Christ, but instead solely trust in science.
Of course we should consider that with new diseases there can be significant lag until solutions are found. There may be some that come with such severity and suddenness that society is overwhelmed and too far gone before needed treatment exists. And some problems will never be solved this way. Medical science was clearly not prepared for the novel coronavirus. It’s certainly not prepared for every eventuality. God, however, is.
2. We have more wealth and various social systems, so people are not without help of some form.
Social welfare and various forms of government assistance have for some time been given to more than 50 percent of the U.S. population. Other countries have an even higher percentage. And now assistance has shot through the roof with the recent stimulus. Yet for a long time before, more and more people have been putting their trust and faith in government at the expense of faith in God!
Interestingly, social scientists will tell you that once more than half of the population becomes dependent on the government, there is no turning back. Wouldn’t it be great if more than half of the population put its reliance on Almighty God instead?
Again, human governments the world over were woefully unprepared even in physical terms for COVID-19—leading to greater suffering and troubles. And the full eventual results of government policy in dealing with the matter are yet to be seen but could be dire. Man can’t effectively predict the future. But God can!
3. We have more knowledge now and more means of finding solutions.
Since the advent of modern technology, there is always a new way of doing things, of understanding things, which will somehow supposedly make your life better. Of course, this becomes the goal—to make your life better, not to live a more godly life.
Yet when you dig a little deeper, you will find that things are not better. Despite technology and more solutions, more wealth in some countries, more government assistance and more knowledge, people are actually not any happier. And many feel only “the few” are benefitting from all this advancement. But really that’s not by much—and not in the ways that ultimately count.
Again, Jesus asked if He would find faith on the earth when He returned. Well, there is widespread faith—but it is sorely misplaced. People trust in the wrong things. Jesus was talking about true, rightly placed faith in God. And on a worldwide scale, the answer to Jesus’ question, then, will for the most part be “no.”
A prophecy of the end time, right before Jesus Christ returns to the earth, shows that humanity as a whole will not have faith in God. They will refuse to follow the teachings of Jesus even in the face of cataclysmic events that take millions of lives. We read in Revelation 9:20-21:
“But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk [looking to wrong forces and tangible things to help them]. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”
When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith—the right kind of faith—on the earth? Not a whole lot. Despite the pain and suffering, prior to Jesus’ return humanity will not return to faith in our Creator. Mankind as a whole will not repent.
Will you be the exception?
The exception will be the people of God, His faithful servants led by Jesus Christ, being prepared for Jesus’ return to lead and teach true Christianity throughout the world.
Let’s heed the warning given to you and me. Don’t be one of those who abandon faith in God! As the apostle Paul writes, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
We must remain faithful! We must not let the world sear our conscience. When Jesus Christ returns, He must find faith in us.
After writing of people being pulled away into destructive desires, Paul says: “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good con-fession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
We are called to the way of properly placed faith—of heartfelt trust in the Creator God of the Bible who made us. Truly seek Him and obedience to Him in a world growing more faithless and more hopeless every day.
Don’t give in to the spirit of the world. The danger of that will grow when the current crisis passes and all returns to a certain state of normality. Turn to God now in hard times, and hold on to Him when things calm down. Don’t let down in times of relative ease. And don’t put undue trust in the world around you to solve its problems. It ultimately won’t. Look to God for that—to the very end.
Will Jesus find such faith when He comes? Yes. Where? I pray He will find it in you!
Turning to God in the Face of Cataclysm
Some have recognized the present crisis as a moment for spiritual reflection and renewal. The following is excerpted from a remarkable March 26, 2020, Wall Street Journal article “A Coronavirus Great Awakening?” by Robert Nicholson, director of a nonprofit organization for Christian advocacy in the Middle East. It reminds us that at times like this we should turn to God and seek His will.
“Could a plague of biblical proportions be America’s best hope for religious revival? As the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II approaches, there is reason to think so . . . Gazing at the ruins [of that war] from his window at Cambridge University, British historian Herbert Butterfield chose to make sense of it by turning to the Hebrew Bible.
“‘The power of the Old Testament teaching on history . . . lay precisely in the region of truths which sprang from a reflection on catastrophe and cataclysm,’ Butterfield wrote in ‘Christianity and History’ (1949). ‘It is almost impossible properly to appreciate the higher developments in the historical reflection of the Old Testament except in another age which has experienced (or has found itself confronted with) colossal cataclysm.’
“Americans [then], chastened by the horrors of war, turned to faith in search of truth and meaning . . . Today the world faces another moment of cataclysm. Though less devastating than World War II, the pandemic has remade everyday life and wrecked the global economy in a way that feels apocalyptic.
“The experience is new and disorienting. Life had been deceptively easy until now. Our ancestors’ lives, by contrast, were guaranteed to be short and painful . . . We reduced nature to ‘the shackled form of a conquered monster,’ as Joseph Conrad once put it, and took control of our fate. God became irrelevant.
“Who will save us now that the monster has broken free? . . .
“Butterfield wrote [further] . . . ‘We of the twentieth century have been particularly spoiled . . . all our ancestors . . . betray in their philosophy and their outlook a terrible awareness of the chanciness of human life, and the precarious nature of man’s existence in this risky universe’ . . .
“The pandemic has humbled the country and opened millions of eyes to this risky universe once more.
“‘Sheer grimness of suffering brings men sometimes into a profounder understanding of human destiny,’ Butterfield wrote. Sometimes ‘it is only by a cataclysm,’ he continued, ‘that man can make his escape from the net which he has taken so much trouble to weave around himself.’
“For societies founded on the biblical tradition, cataclysms need not mark the end. They are a call for repentance and revival . . . Great struggle can produce great clarity.
“‘The ancient Hebrews . . . turned their tragedy, turned their very helplessness, into one of the half-dozen creative moments in world history,’ Butterfield wrote. ‘It would seem that one of the clearest and most concrete of the facts of history is the fact that men of spiritual resources may not only redeem catastrophe, but turn it into a grand creative moment.’
“Could a rogue virus lead to a grand creative moment in America’s history? Will Americans, shaken by the reality of a risky universe, rediscover the God who proclaimed himself sovereign over every catastrophe?”