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Why has California been spared the ‘big one’?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Credit: Michael R Perry via Flickr

California is more than a century overdue for the “big one,” an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 7.0. But seismologists are now reporting that they have discovered an undersea fault line that may be absorbing pressure from the San Andreas Fault and preventing the earthquake everyone fears.

Their discovery is a metaphor for our day. As cultural pressures escalate, we need hope for a future better than the present. But our hope as a nation does not lie in our nation.

Name this country: the richest in the world, the largest military on the planet, the global center of business, the world’s strongest educational system, the world’s leading currency, and the world’s highest standard of living. The answer: Great Britain in 1900.

A century ago, the United Kingdom was the largest empire the world had ever seen. As late as 1937, the “sun never set on the British empire” as it controlled lands in each of the world’s twenty-four time zones. Today the UK ranks far down the global charts for prosperity, literacy, life expectancy, and gross domestic product per capita.

My point is not to criticize Great Britain. I’m actually an Anglophile who loves visiting the UK and is fascinated by British culture and history. My purpose is to note that no nation’s future is guaranteed.

These are challenging days for America. Our politics are more divisive than I can remember. Experts report that the economy suffered a large, permanent decline in output following the Great Recession and is still struggling to gain significant momentum. According to the FBI, more than 110 Americans have been charged with supporting ISIS in the last three years.

A new report shows that commitment to the traditional family continues to decline. For instance, the number of women who have cohabited has grown by 50 percent since the 1970s; the number of births to never-married women has nearly doubled in that time.

And evangelical Christians are surprisingly confused about their faith. According to a new study, nearly half of self-defined evangelicals agree with the statement, “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.” More than half believe their good deeds contribute to earning their place in heaven. And only 52 percent strongly agree that sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin.

However, just as I am not writing to criticize Great Britain, I am not writing to criticize America. I thank God for the privilege of living in this nation. But I want this country I love to love God. The only hope for America is the only hope for any nation: “With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes” (Psalm 108:13).

You and I are alive right now for a reason. Just as God has a will for where we live, he has a will for when we live. It is by his providence that we were not alive a century ago or a century from now (if the Lord tarries). We have Kingdom assignments for this moment in history and the challenges our nation faces.

Don’t be discouraged: you and God are a majority. Missionary Hudson Taylor observed, “There are three stages in the work of God: Impossible; Difficult; Done.” As Thomas Fuller noted, it’s always darkest just before the dawn.