Found or Falling?
It’s 2021, and I bet you are as ready to leave 2020 behind as I am. But a new year doesn’t mean a new world. The confused, chaotic forces unveiled last year are challenges that remain. Our theme for this year is “Faithful.” We ask, what does it mean to be faithful in a decaying culture like ours?
Though increasingly unpopular, conscientious Christians rely on the Bible for the answer. First Corinthians 4:1, 2 is the focus of this Bible Advocate. Here Paul writes that we are “stewards of the mysteries of God” and that stewards must “be found faithful” (see more in Loren Stacy’s “Last Word,” p. 31). Are we?
Like the church in Corinth, we as believers are caught between our carnal natures and a hostile culture. We can’t take Paul’s admonition lightly. He warns of a “falling away” too (2 Thessalonians 2:3; also see p. 22). Carnality and culture are always an intoxicating, subverting mix. We see its power as people are leaving faith and church in droves.
In her remarkable new book, Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World, Tara Isabella Burton gives a journalistic account of how religion in post-Christian America is changing rapidly. This sentence sums it up: “Among the most common sayings I heard among the people I interviewed was, ‘I make my own religion.’”
Religion in America is a believers-without-a-Bible phenomenon. A Barna study reports that three-quarters of Millennials agree with the statement “Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know. . . .” If that’s not enough, 47 percent of practicing Christians of all ages agree. Sociologist Christian Smith finds similarly that only 40 percent of young Christians surveyed say that their personal moral beliefs are grounded in the Bible. Do we have the resources to resist these trends?
Let’s not fall but be found faithful. This year we’ll study faithful examples from Scripture in their context to learn how to endure ours (see “Focus on the Faithful,” p. 16). Daniel comes to mind. An exile in Babylon, he resisted the pressures to conform and was found faithful before God, and before those arrayed against him (1:19; 2:25; 5:12; 6:4, 11, 23). As a faithful steward of God’s mysteries, Daniel knew who he was and Whom he served (2:14-49).
May we dare to be Daniels today! Welcome to 2021. Read and enjoy!
— Jason Overman