From “What is the World Coming To,” The Fourth River (1935)
Our text, then, provides us with a motto for bad times. We do well to be concerned about the future of international relations; about the trend of political developments in western civilization; about the unfavorable conditions of employment, housing, wages, and education under which many of our own fellow-citizens are compelled to live. Disruptive forces threaten from every side; it is a question of the gravest anxiety whether the spirit of goodwill can bring about such changes as all agree are necessary in time to avert catastrophe.
These are not the only anxieties that best the Christian. He has his own difficulties — domestic uncertainties, physical weariness, nervous strain, the constant battle with temptation. But God has visited his people. He is in the world; he is stronger than the world; he has overcome the world.
The implications of this truth are the same for all — for the simple and the sophisticated; for the man of action and for the mystic; for the sociable and for the individualistic… God’s power will come in on the flood tide, irresistibly and inevitably, and cleanse the muddy shores of human affairs from all that now defiles them. And we should be less than Christian if we did not add that in this process — through the power that comes from God alone — each one of us has a part to play. By prayer and action alike we can — be it said without irreverence — strengthen God’s hands and further his purposes; therein lie the mystery of the cooperation of human free will with the divine grace.
If God is for us, who shall be against us? The efforts we make will not be those of men fighting for a lost cause, or supporting for a few moments a tottering wall which is bound to fall in ruins. They will be put forth cheerfully, confidently, joyfully, buoyantly, as the efforts of those who know that not a moment’s honest toil will be wasted, that success is bound to crown the work.
In the struggle against evil and disorder the strength of the enemy was crushed upon the Cross; the battles that remain are mere skirmishes compared with that overwhelming conquest. When God visited his people it was no mere demonstration of power; it was Power itself put forth and conquering the world. Our share in the tasks left over is not beyond our strength, Christ has overcome the world; ours is the far small duty of reaping for God the fruits of victory.
Kenneth Kirk (1896-1954) was one of the most influential Anglican moral theologians of the twentieth century. He served as Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Oxford, and was Bishop of Oxford from 1937 until his death. This excerpt from a book of his early sermons has been slightly adapted for modern readers.