“My Father is Always at Work”
By Ian Hamilton, Editor, Banner of Truth Magazine
Reprinted from the May 2021 Issue #692
There is a memorable French phrase that captures the spirit of this present age, and indeed every age: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (“the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”). Let me illustrate. In 1736, Bishop Joseph Butler in the preface to his The Analogy of Religion wrote,
It has come to be taken for granted that Christianity is no longer a subject of enquiry; but that it is now at length discovered to be fictitious. And accordingly it is treated as if, in the present age, this were an agreed point among all persons of discernment, and nothing remained but to set it up as a principal subject for mirth and ridicule.
Note the year, 1736. In this very year, God was beginning a remarkable work of revival both in New England through the ministry of Jonathan Edwards, and in Great Britain through the ministries of John and Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield. Throughout history the church of Christ has witnessed both unbelieving incredulity and sneering dismissiveness, but also the mighty, often unexpected, power of God, shattering that arrogant unbelief.
We live in an age that increasingly dismisses the Christian Faith and Christians as irrelevant at best and pestilential at worst. To be a Bible-believing, Christ-loving, gospel-promoting believer, is to expose yourself to public scorn. This scorn is perhaps most evident in the elite universities. Woe unto you if you transgress the political correctness and LGBTQI, the “Alice in Wonderland thinking” that has infected even the most intelligent of men and women.
The danger that faces conservative Christians is that this increasingly monolithic ideology does one of two things: Either it intimidates us into a quiescent silence, or causes us to withdraw from the battle and retreat into self-defining spiritual ghettos. However, neither of these options is encouraged in God’s word. On the contrary, the Scriptures exhort the church to be bold, unashamed, undaunted in its witness to the gospel of God and its saving, life-transforming power. Paul’s words to the church in godless, morally decadent Corinth, enshrine the church’s calling in every age:
we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practise cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:2-4).
I doubt there are more important words for Christians to take to heart in these dark and darkening times in which we live. Paul is explaining the modus operandi of his ministry. He tells the Corinthian church that he is not intimidated by the prevailing culture. Rather than keep a low profile, “by open statement of the truth,” he commends his gospel ministry “to everyone’s conscience.” We cannot be reminded too often that the gospel is the power of God for Salvation (Romans 1:16). It does not need to be manipulated or amended in order to be relevant. It is natively relevant by virtue of what it is, “the gospel of God.”
More than that, Paul is conscious that in his ministry he is engaged in the spiritual battle with “the god of this world.” This is a note God wants his church to take to heart. Earlier in Corinthians 2:11, Paul tells us that he is “not ignorant of his (Satan’s) designs.” The great battle the faithful church of Jesus Christ faces today is not ultimately with humanism, secularism, gender confusion, or aggressive atheism. Behind all of these aberrations lies “the god of this age,” Satan, who has “blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
It is in this context that our Lord’s words in John 5:17 are so apposite: “My Father is always working.” Our God is not intimidated by the machinations of mere men. He has not been caught off guard by the “isms” that have surfaced in recent times. Our God reigns. Moment by moment he is relentlessly pursuing his eternal purpose (Ephesians 1:11). Throughout history, just when it seems that “darkness has covered the face of the earth,” the Lord says, “Let there be light.”
I was recently asked what I thought was the church’s greatest need today. I answered, “To recover the Godness of God.” When Nehemiah heard the news of the brokenness and shame that covered God’s people in Judah (read Nehemiah 1:1-4), he prayed and fasted day and night. His great prayer is recorded for us in 1:5-9. The opening words are magnificent, “O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God.” As he begins to cry out to the Lord, Nehemiah reminds himself to whom he prays. Everything that follows in the narrative of the book is predicated on those elevating and glorious words. Opposition is put immediately into perspective. Courage and confidence are breathed into his distracted and downcast heart and mind.
The days we live in are dark. We have a “great enemy.” Opposition to the gospel of God throughout the world, West and East, North and South, is increasingly and stridently vocal. But our God reigns. Our Father continues to work his sovereign, unconquerable will and purpose. Our Saviour continues to build his church in the face of hell’s organized opposition.
The sum of all is this: Be bold. Be undaunted. Be assured. Be prepared to suffer, and so show that you are truly a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:17).