On the surface, it seems that all is going well. The threat of terrorism has abated. With the arrest of al Qaeda operative Iyman Faris, we know that the organization has been so weakened that the most dangerous attacks recently under consideration for mainland America would have employed a lone terrorist or two and done little damage. Western forces now occupy Afghanistan and Iraq. Who would imagined just two years ago that these two hotbeds of anti-American fervor would have been brought under American control? As a result of skillful American diplomacy, North Korea has toned down the bluster slightly and signaled a willingness for multilateral talks. In Africa, America is flexing its muscles to stabilize regions in turmoil. In China, the democratic tide is building momentum. A new Palestinian administration is seeking a negotiated settlement with Israel.
It appears that God is creating a Pax Americana—a new international order based on American firepower, employed wherever necessary to suppress the ideological extremes that foment violence and interfere with global commerce. A prime mover of world events is, of course, money. Americans are always willing to use their might to defend their pursuit of private happiness, defined as materialistic self-indulgence.
But why would God allow America to succeed in ruling the world? America stinks with corruption, especially with offenses against children. If they escape abortion, they must cope with broken homes. Molesters and pornographers victimize them. In public schools homosexuals openly recruit them. The media tutor them in every manner of violence and greed and incite them to sexual promiscuity. We are a nation that is devouring its children. Why would God allow us to rule the world? For the same reason He allowed Rome to rule the world. The iron hand of Rome created conditions favorable to the spread of the gospel.
Is the exercise of American might in fact opening new lands to evangelism? No. The Muslim world is seething with resentment of America and becoming more closed to anything seen as American. Nowhere in the world is there growth in missionary enterprise. So far, if God's purpose in bringing the world under American hegemony is to promote expansion of the church, there are no visible results.
Below the surface, the recent progress toward international peace is extremely fragile. The Democratic drums are beating a protest to Bush's handling of the war and the reconstruction effort. The media are trumpeting the casualties and raising the specter of a quagmire. One effect will be to encourage Saddam loyalists in their resistance to American authority. Another, as guerilla war continues, will be to weaken America's staying power in Iraq. There are ominous signs in other places also. In Palestine, Arafat will not let go of power and give peace a chance. North Korea continues to be unpredictable and dangerous. The leaders of China see democratization as a threat and prepare for aggression against Taiwan. Al Qaeda is not dead. What will be the end of it all?
We must not be simplistic in trying to read God's plan. He is capable of accomplishing many purposes at once. We should not be surprised to see the unfolding of a complex history that simultaneously humbles America and enlarges the Kingdom of God. America is ripe for judgment. God will judge America. How and when it will happen, we cannot say. Yet we can be sure that if God loved the world so much as to make His own Son a sacrifice for man's sin, He will, whatever calamities may occur, keep the avenues open for gospel witness. The avenues exist already. The internet is one. Easy global travel is another. I think we can expect that the political barriers to international travel and communication will relax further.
The great impediment now to gospel outreach is lack of will. The American church is too worldly and soft to do much for Christ. A season of judgment may be exactly what we need to make us rededicate ourselves to the Great Commission. Once reenergized, the church will find that the roads for evangelism are wide open. With recourse to modern means of disseminating information, revival will sweep rapidly across the world.
© 2007, 2012 Stanley Edgar Rickard (Ed Rickard, the author). All rights reserved.