North Korea exploded another atomic bomb yesterday. The rogue regime seeks to build a nuclear device small enough to be fitted on a missile capable of reaching the United States. President Obama called the test a “highly provocative act” that demands “swift and credible action by the international community.” Russia, Great Britain, South Korea, and the United Nations also quickly condemned the blast.
North Korea has been led for the last 60 years by a totalitarian regime that suppresses all religions and exalts its ruling family to divine status. How has its atheism affected its prosperity? While North Korea continues to spend huge sums on its military, two-thirds of its 24 million people are affected by chronic food insecurity and malnutrition. It depends on Communist China for 70 percent of its total commerce.
By contrast, South Korea is one of the strongest Christian nations on earth. The first president of its republic (1948-60), Rhee Syngman, publicly vowed to rule South Korea as a Christian nation. Five of the ten largest churches on earth are in South Korea; one has more than a million members. A spiritual awakening that began there in 1958 is continuing to sweep the world.
The South Korean economy ranks 15th in the world in gross domestic product; North Korea’s ranks 125th. Is there a connection between religion and prosperity? Two Harvard scholars have concluded that belief in an afterlife is related directly to economic growth: “Our central perspective is that religion affects economic outcomes mainly by fostering religious beliefs that influence individual traits such as honesty, work ethic, thrift and openness to strangers.” They point to South Korea as a prime example of “rapid growth and more religion.”
This connection between economic progress and spiritual growth constitutes yet another reason to pray for spiritual awakening around the world. Today we can focus on North Korea and those who are seeking to share the gospel there. For instance, Voice of the Martyrs USA dropped 1,467,600 gospel fliers via balloons into North Korea in 2011. Ministries are seeking to share Christ with North Koreans one-on-one. If spiritual awakening spreads from South Korea to its northern neighbor, the implications for global peace and economic progress will be enormous.
This morning’s topic calls to mind C. S. Lewis’s observation: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). How will God use you to answer that prayer today?