January 6, 2022
As we begin a new calendar year, the phrases I read and hear most often are, “Please don’t let 2022 be like 2021” and “What a strange year we just experienced.” I believe we all understand those statements. We have just completed 12 months that were more like a roller coaster than anything else. It certainly wasn’t a smooth ride. Of course, as with any year, it wasn’t all bad. Not everything was doom and gloom, but there certainly was plenty of doom and gloom to go around.
In a satirical article titled “The Year to Come, in Retrospect,” which appeared in National Review on Dec. 16, the author, James Lileks, addresses 2022 as if it were over. His premise is to ask what we will be saying about 2022 on Jan. 1, 2023. His satire is at times disrespectful, but his points are quite clear—2022 could be a year that will shape the future of the world. And it doesn’t look good! He imagines Russia invading the Ukraine, China invading Taiwan, the Palestinians firing thousands of missiles at Israel, the United Nations condemning Israel, and many more waves of the coronavirus spreading around the world.
Of course, none of this has happened at this time, and the author is writing satirically. The point, though, should not be lost on us: we live in a very dangerous time. The virus has distracted the world from paying attention to the seriously bad actors now on the scene. One author describes the world today as similar to the 1930s, when evil was tolerated because it didn’t affect us directly and, of course, no one wanted to go to war because of something that happened on the other side of the world.
In the 1930s Japan, Germany and Italy were all ruled by malevolent men who, for a little more than a decade, provoked the deadliest war in human history. We should all know that history has a way of repeating itself. This should be no surprise since we are dealing with the same architect of evil who never changes his methods. Divide and conquer, destroy anything good, and make evil actions appear to be justified. The righteous are called evil, and the evil are called good. The Bible is clear that this is not God’s world, but that the real god of this world is the evil one (2 Corinthians 4:4), from whom Christ admonished us to pray for deliverance (Matthew 6:13). This is the world we live in as we head into 2022.
For the Church, this past year has been one of a positive increase in our finances, including a large property donation that was concluded on Dec. 30, and some growth in membership, mostly outside the U.S. All of this has been tempered by the trials that many brethren have suffered. Because we are human beings, sickness and death are inevitable and humbling. We know that the righteous have suffered since the time of Abel. In reading his story, I always ask myself, Why did God allow righteous Abel to die such a violent death (Genesis 4:8-10)? Clearly, God could have prevented it or even raised Abel back to life, as happened with Lazarus thousands of years later. But He did neither.
I am reminded of a book I read many years ago, titled When Bad Things Happen to Good People. It was written by a Jewish rabbi, Harold Kushner, who had watched his young son die of a rare form of cancer. This experience caused him to question God and his relationship with Him. It put him on a study of the Scriptures where it became clear that from the time of Cain and Abel bad things have happened to righteous people. How that happens and why it happens are questions not always answered. But our faith, trust and confidence in God must not be shaken by these life experiences. This was the lesson the rabbi explained in his book.
I have to admit that I don’t know exactly what the calendar year 2022 will bring. I don’t know if Russia will invade the Ukraine, but I would not be surprised. And if it does, I would be interested, from a prophetic perspective, to know how Europe will react. I do not know if China will invade Taiwan, but I would not be surprised. I do not know if Israel will be condemned by the United Nations (and possibly even the U.S.) for defending itself against attacks by the Palestinians, but I would not be surprised.
The world is confused over moral and spiritual values. It has no clear understanding of good versus evil. This is why Scripture warns us against getting involved in the ways and politics of this world. At best, it will be a mixture of good and evil, but it seems that it is becoming increasingly evil. Our future, and only real hope, is to be part of a coming kingdom that will be very different from this world’s political institutions. Our challenge is to be faithful citizens of that Kingdom now, while preparing for the reality.
So, what do I know about the year 2022? I do know that for the first time in our short history, the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, has the resources to spread the gospel to the world in ways we could only imagine 10 years ago. As we enter a new calendar year, we have the resources to provide new and comprehensive training programs for the ministry both in the U.S. and around the world. And we have the knowledge, the teachers, and the resources to provide a biblical education for the Church like never before through Foundation Institute and its continuing education programs.
God has blessed us, and you have been faithful in your support for our mission. So, while the world is filled with doubt and confusion heading into the new calendar year, our two goals—to preach the gospel and care for the brethren—are not confusing or in doubt. We must pray for one another as we experience trials, and we must comfort one another when a loved one dies. And we must pray all the more fervently for the coming of the Kingdom of God to this earth (Matthew 6:10)!
I have no special insight into the future, beyond what Scripture tells us. We will have to wait and see what 2022 will bring, but with God as our focus, there is no need to fear (2 Timothy 1:7). We should go forward into the new calendar year with confidence and faith, looking to God for comfort and guidance.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,