Christians in Tough Times

The housing report could hardly have been grimmer: “U.S. Home Sales Fall off a Cliff,” reported CBS News.

Great, just what we need-more bad housing news on top of skyrocketing gas and food prices. The economy hovers near recession, and polls tell us that the majority of Americans think we are on the wrong track. Citizens are wringing their hands in despair-including many Christians.

But believers have no business succumbing to despair: Despair is a sin, because it denies the power of our sovereign God to look after us. It also suggests we have forgotten our history. Century after century, God has used difficult times to reveal the glory of His kingdom.

For instance, consider the inexplicable (to the world) love and sacrifice Christians modeled in Roman times when devastating plagues arrived. As I write in my new book, The Faith, at the onset of a plague, the wealthy fled to their country estates. But Christians believed each human being was made in the image of a loving God. Instead of fleeing, they ministered to plague victims, often at the cost of their own lives. Tending to the sick increased the survival rate of plague victims by as much as two-thirds, and this witness attracted many new converts. By acting on the teachings of Christ, without regard to their own welfare, these Christians progressed from being a small sect to the dominant cultural group.

In modern times, we see the same love expressed to those dying of AIDS: It is Catholic Charities, after all, that lovingly cares for many of the sufferers. And Christians are in the vanguard of the campaign to wipe out AIDS in Africa. We see this in the consecrated lives of great individuals like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who resisted the Nazis, and was executed for his involvement in plots to assassinate Hitler.

Even Christians behind bars become a great witness during tough times. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the inmates in our Texas IFI® prison program took up a collection for those who had been ravaged by the storm. But this was no one-time affair. Every time I visit that prison I see men who have next to nothing walking forward and dropping their contributions in the offering basket: everything from candy bars to cans of sausage to toiletries. These are things the inmates buy at the commissary for their own use. But they choose to share these goods-not only helping victims of Katrina, but also aiding Houston’s homeless.

The teachings of Christianity give people a reason to care for the sick, the desperate, and destitute. Only Jesus taught that His followers could find Him in their neighbor. How Christians endure adversity can be our most powerful witness. Maybe you are involved with prison ministry, or you have opened your home to someone hurt by the sub-prime mortgage crisis; maybe you take meals to needy families (which I remember my parents doing during the Great Depression). When you do these things, God will use your witness in the worst of times to reveal His great love for humanity.

We must remember this when we are tempted to wring our hands in despair. If we persevere when others give up-if, in tough times, we give and do even more, then the world cannot help but notice.

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