Where have all the smiles gone?

It is the privilege of a Deputation Secretary to find himself ministering to a large number of differing churches and meeting a wide variety of Christians. As I go around Ireland, one of the tasks I regularly find myself drawn to, as I seek to stir an interest in Jewish evangelism, is simply that of encouraging the body of Christ to be kingdom optimists. Church life is not producing very many smiles these days. I could be wrong, but I sense an overall feeling of despondency as the Church is in decline. We live in a day of small things, facing a world of decadence. But should the church not be a people thrilled and delighted? Should we have to tell the congregations to smile when they sing, “All that thrills my soul is Jesus
Of course we have to be realists, but true realism will cause us to be optimists. Realistically, this world – its past, present and future – are in the hands of a sovereign God who has revealed his kingdom purposes in his inerrant Word. The ultimate reality is that the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our God and his Christ. And such reality should bring a smile to our faces once again.

I am not talking of a false and superficial joy. I’m talking about a joy that has a theological basis, a biblical reason, and a prophetic expectancy.

Take a glance at history and learn from the Puritans. The Puritan Hope is an excellent book by Iain Murray reminding us of their optimism. The hope of the Puritans should be our hope; a hope which inspired the missionary zeal of a bygone age; a hope which brought forth such a prayerful burden to share the good news with a lost world, and with the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Take a glance at Scripture and, whatever your eschatology, I don’t believe you can read Romans 9-11 without a smile, turning to a grin, even extending to an outburst of Hallelujah! “God has committed them all to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and his ways past finding out!”

Take a glance at the Messianic movement, and consider the exponential growth in the number of Jews coming to faith in Jesus. Whatever we might think about the mix of “theology” among Messianic Jews, the reality is unquestionable. Among the Jewish people today there is an openness and hunger for – and a reception of – the gospel as never before.

I refuse to believe the kingdom of God will die out like a candle wick meeting the wet wax. Rather, I smile, because I am looking and longing for the day when Pentecost-like blessing shall be poured out; when the fullness of the Gentiles shall be gathered; when God’s ancient people will look on the One they have pierced, and all Israel shall be saved.

I smile in anticipation of these things. I preach enthusiastically about these things. I pray longingly about these things. And I do so for the good reason that God’s Word would have us do so. Whatever our eschatology, God would have us all to be kingdom optimists.

So… where have all the smiles gone?

Stephen Atkinson

CWI's Deputation Secretary for Ireland

This article first appeared in the December 2005 edition of the Herald

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