Erwin McManus makes an interesting point in An Unstoppable Force about the way God intends for the church to exist and engage in the culture of the day. Check this out…
This passage teaches us a very peculiar thing about God. His approach toward us is often to invite us to believe in him and move in his power. God’s first choice is to search for a heart that is wholly his and then strongly support it. But many times that is not the condition of our hearts. Often it is God who forces circumstances upon us in which it becomes necessary for us to rely on God’s goodness.
Since Israel did not have a heart to trust God, God hardened the heart of Sihon – made his spirit tubborn and provoked him to go to war against Israel. God did all of this so that Israel would begin to conquer and possess the land. In short, what God did was bless Israel by forcing them to engage in a battle that they were afraid to fight. (p. 42-43)
He goes on to say…
For two thousand years the church has been called by God to encounter culture through his transforming power. I am convinced that many of the global trends that have brought fear and concerns to the contemporary church are the very act of God, in a sense, hardening the heart of Sihon king of Heshbon. He will force us to engage in the battles at hand. He will do whatever is necessary to reorganize this planet until we have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
For two thousand years Jesus has commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations. We have, at best, given this command nominal adherence. It seems now that God has brought us to a place in history where he is bringing the nations to us. And while we may perceive that the challenge is intensifying, it is perhaps within this very context that the church will discover most powerfully what it means to go, conquer, and possess the land. (p. 43)
I know people who have said they are praying for a return to the power and influence of the first-century church. Then, as the conditions that are amazingly similar to the culture of the first century arise around them, they moan and whine that the church is being discriminated against, short-changed, denied its rights, or whatever the whine du jour is.
Could it be – and I, like Amos, am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet; I’ve been chasing sheep and pinching figs all day long – that the very conditions we despise are the conditions that God is using to bring about the greatest days of the church around the world? Maybe not what we consider great, but what God considers great. There is a difference, you know.