You remember the famous scene.
Who could forget it?
Not our daughters who stared transfixed while the black -hooded, sharp-beaked and hunch-backed hag slowly disappeared onto the floor.
Dorothy had just thrown a pail of water on the scarecrow who was on fire. The water splashed on the Wicked Witch of the West – a villain if ever there was one.
As the Wizard later observed, the Wicked Witch was “liquidated”.
As she began her descent, the witch cries, “I’m melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world!”
Those are among her final faint words as she meets her highly justified demise.
“What a world!”
Yes it is. And sometimes you and I feel like we’re melting.
It’s hard not to feel a bit burdened, a little anxious, and even slightly discouraged by this present world.
None of us lives on Walden Pond – isolated in an oasis of natural calm. We are here, in this world as it is and there is no reasonable escape from the human condition, long for it as we often do.
Instant global communication puts all of us in a kind of echo chamber. You and I get more news more quickly from more sources than at any time in history.
Most of this news isn’t good. It impacts us. And we often think, “What a world!”
What we witness daily is the desperate groaning of an earth yearning to be set free from the oppressive and corrupting curse of sin. The violence, injustice, hatred and deep divisions on every side join in a cacophony of despair. The prophet says “the earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly” (Isaiah 24:19, KJV).
And in these last days, Isaiah adds, “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard” (verse 20, KJV).
Is this not what is happening?
Even in our well-ordered American democracy, this year’s presidential campaign has reflected the angry coarsening of our culture. If it is true that Americans get the leaders they deserve, what does the current spectacle tell us about ourselves?
Would any thoughtful citizen not agree that this bombastic and shallow carnival has been beneath the dignity of a great republic? And before we hasten to blame the candidates, let’s remember that our politicians do not create the mood or tone or the values of our country – they reflect them.
The American people have been betrayed by their parties, their government and their leaders. They have become distrustful and cynical. That’s because too many – including Christians – have placed their ultimate trust in the princes of this world and not in the almighty Ruler of the nations.
Disillusionment was inevitable.
The Apostle Paul describes the world’s current situation in his letter to the Romans.
“Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse … all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8: 20, 22, NLT).
Sin is the fatal virus that infected the whole human race and explains the self-destructive path that has so often over-powered man’s most noble pursuits; that has led to man’s inhumanity to man and fueled his darkest passions.
We wrestle, we struggle, we hope and we sigh. So many hearts are heavy with a grief and despair that seem never to lift.
Jesus spoke to his disciples on the night of his betrayal and told them that he wished for them to “have peace”.
And then he said:
“In this world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NKJV).
Jesus said that trials and difficulties and the swirling controversies of the world would be an ever-present reality. They would affect us “in this world” (emphasis added).
Then Jesus pivots.
“…but be of good cheer …”
On this conjunctive hinge swings the bright door of hope.
In the face of this challenging and disturbing reality – and in spite of it – Jesus tells us to “take courage, be confident, certain, undaunted” (The Amplified Bible).
How in the world can we do that?
Because there is a far greater reality.
“I have overcome the world”.
Jesus has defeated the devil. He has conquered the grave. He reigns triumphant. He’s coming again.
He has won! For all eternity, he has won!
This world is temporarily under the sway of Satan, its evil prince. But you and I as Christians rejoice that Jesus Christ came to “destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8) and to “deliver us from this present evil world” (Galatians 1:4).
How then must we live?
We must “live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:12, KJV).
Where do we find the strength to do that?
In the promise of his return.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13, KJV).
All of fallen creation shares with us the exciting anticipation of his coming.
“But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (Romans 8: 20, NLT).
What a day that will be.
There’s no better way to live in this world.