Fallen Idols and Misplaced Hope

While we hope you are enjoying time giving thanks with your families this week, we wanted to offer you some great content from our archives.

Many of their parents put faith in the American economy; but the the youth have seen the markets crash.  They’ve noticed how the storehouses of their grandparent’s and great-grandparent’s retirements disappeared in just a few short days.

Many of their parents put trust in the American government: but the youth have seen the depth of political dysfunction and infighting.  Their experience is that true change for the better remains elusive.

Many of their parents put trust in American military might: but no matter how strong or how advanced our weapons, the kids increasingly realize that safety can’t be guaranteed.  People keep getting shot or blown up at home; and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left many youth jaded or fearful about the rhetoric surrounding Syria, Iran, and North Korea.

In what, then, should the kids put their trust?

Our culture would have the youth trust in the value of a good education; but a good education is getting harder and harder to find and afford.  And even if you have an education, so the news keeps reminding them, good jobs are getting harder and hard to find.

Culture tells the youth to look their best; but even their best can’t possibly stand up to the air-brushed, picture-perfect glamor of the magazines and movies.

Culture tells the youth to find joy in new clothes, the latest technology, momentary pleasure and more stuff, but it’s never enough and the satisfaction is fleeting.  The very system that tells them things will make them happy also ensures that there will always be something newer, flashier, “better” than what they now have.

The Looming American Nightmare

The American dream of future economic, political and social prosperity has morphed for many of today’s youth in to a looming nightmare of future economic collapse, governmental impotence, and wars without winners.

The prevailing mood in the American teenager is that what worked for their parents won’t necessarily work for them.  They may just be the first generation of Americans in a long time that by-and-large think that their future will be darker than that of their parents.  They may just be the first generation of Americans in a long time that assumes that the best days for America are in the past.

Just a quick glimpse into the basic plot lines many of the current best sellers in young adult fiction will underscore this assertion.  It has become common for the main characters to find themselves living in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

Even dynasties like James Bond that depend upon continued young-adult buy-in for their financial success are starting to reflect this darkening mood.  The Bond I grew up with was invincible and impervious.  He easily outmaneuvered his enemies and bullets always seemed to miss him.

But those days are no more.  The new Bond regularly struggles to overcome evil, and the bullets that once missed him now seriously wound a hero that’s proven all-too human.  In the last movie, he couldn’t even save M.  If even James Bond can’t save those he loves and cares about, what hope do we have for those we love?

But that’s the point: our culture is beginning to realize that the idols we’ve fashioned out of wealth, power, and pleasure have once again proven themselves inadequate of our worship.  Our American idols have fallen and our hope has proven misplaced.

An Incredible Opportunity for Ministry

As uncomfortable as it is to live in uncertain times, our current context for ministry offers those of us working with youth an incredible opportunity to hold out the only sure hope in this world: the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Lord.

In a world of fallen idols and misplaced hope, ours is the high privilege of offering true hope as we cling to and proclaim the promises of the One True God: Father, Son, and Spirit.

To kids seeing and experiencing the havoc caused by sin and evil, it is our joy to announce the good news that Jesus is the evil-conquering and setting-the-world-to-rights King of all kings, and that his evil-conquering and setting-the-world-to-rights kingdom has broken into our reality through God’s gracious and loving redemption and the forgiveness of sins that the Triune God secured for this world through Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension.

Even now, as Paul tells us in Romans 8:28, God is working all things for good for those who love him and are called according to his purposes.  Nothing is beyond the scope of the Father’s redemption in Jesus by the Spirit for those upon whom God has set his love.

And what’s more, we get to trumpet the truth that this kingdom will one day come in fullness when king Jesus returns to make all things new.  God himself has made us this promise, as Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 3:13: “According to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

We get a picture of this new heavens and new earth in Revelation 21-22, and it is glorious.  It’s everything the youth hope for in the depths of their beings: their tears personally wiped away, the chaos of evil removed and redeemed, true fellowship with God and one another, beauty and wonder as far as their newly created eyes can see…

There is no better, surer, truer hope out there for us to offer today’s youth than the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And we all desperately need to be reminded of this hope again and again as our fickle hearts return again and again to trusting in idols that have fallen before and will fall again.

Mark Howard was a youth pastor for five years before joining Elam Ministries, an organization that seeks to strengthen and expand the church in Iran and surrounding areas. Through Elam, he's had the opportunity to work with Iranian youth as well as talk with American churches about God's work in Iran. Mark has his M.A. in Theological Studies from Wheaton College Graduate School and serves on Rooted's steering committee.

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