As I sit in my office, the first good rain of 2017 is falling out side my window. Cape Town is critically low on water, the dams are close to empty and the municipality is already planning emergency measures if the rains do not come soon. Nationally South Africa is facing another kind of crisis as confidence is falling in our governmental institutions and our currency, and further afield it seems that everything is in the process of being shaken. 2016 brough numberous counter cultural shifts and surprises as, to the great shock of most commentators, the impossible occured in political systems around the world. In Europe, Brexit took the establishment by surprise, followed in November by the election of Donald Trump in the USA, a shock outcome that all the talking heads in the media said would never occur. Now in France, the biggest political upset since WWII has seen the two main political parties that have dominated France since the end of the war eliminated in the final round of voting in the presidential elections. Here in South Africa it is also clear that change is in the offering as a new wave of activism has been released in our cities. Thousand have risen up demanding an end to corruption, state capture and criminality rooted at the highest levels of our national life. I am reminded of the opening lines of “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens,
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only”
Dickens told a story of the Europe’s revolutionary age, and it would appear that our world is on the cusp of a new age of revolution. How we see life has never been more important, for our worldview will either lead us into despair or will take us towards a more hopefilled future.
There are many both inside the church and without who see only a dark apocalyptic future for us. They darkly mutter about the end times or some such things with plenty to reinforce their view that the world is getting darker and in the media they join the death march into a future, final destruction of humanity and the earth. Ideologies and theologies that lead to this view of the future abound and many are true believers. Sadly such a view of life and of the future only make people and societies more succecptible to drinking the cool aid of extreme radical and self-destructive solutions offered by the Jim Jones’ of today.
However as I travel around the globe I am encoutering a new wave of the power and presence of God. People of all ages, all nationalities, and from every walk of life are having life changing encounters with God and beginning to experience the presence and power of God in ways that we once only dimly hoped to see.
Ten years ago I made a trip to the United States to attend a conference hoping to meet people who had experienced for themselves miracles, signs and wonders. It was a trip that turned my life upside down. I remember sitting down to interview a man who had prayed for a stroke victim and had seen that man get instantly healed. I came home and played the video of the interview to our church and so we began our own pursuit of more of the power and presence of God. A decade later I have been all over the world and I can say that these things are no longer rare. In fact things I dreamed of seeing 10 years ago seem to happen all the time, I have seen and heard of literally thousands of miracles, signs and wonders.
This is why perspective is so crucial. On one hand we are going through major turmoil and upheaval in the world, but simultaneously the greatest revival the world has ever seen is happening all around us. More people are encountering the manifest presence of God than ever before, more people are turning and following Jesus than ever before, including Muslim majority populations. The hand of God is very much evident in our time. The question is, will we see and align ourselves with what God is doing or will we remain blind to the signs of our times and trustingly follow perspectives given to us by the world of mass media which deny the operation of God in history.
This is where the prophetic role of the artist is so important. Artists are the ones often who enable the rest of us to see from another perspective, or to see what may be hiding under the thin veneer of what we expect to see. The artist who has learned to look for the loving hand of God’s sovereignty working all things for the good of his Kingdom is a powerful vehicle for change and renewal. When things are shaking all around us, those who cannot see the hand of God have no solutions or hope to offer but those who can see the hand of God, and can enable others to see, are like pens in God’s hand, writing the story of tomorrow.
So, today gaze on the face of God and find hope and renewal there. Trust him that he is working all things together for our good – for your good – so that you in turn can tell the stories, write the music, create the images that build a better world than the one we inherited.