9th September 2012

The Best Thing In The Worst Times

[The wicked] “They say, ‘How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?’ This is what the wicked are like—always carefree, they increase in wealth.”
Psalm 73:11-12 NIV (UK)

When I watch or read the news these days, I sometimes feel like throwing up my hands in frustration and despair. It seems that nothing is going right, not in this country or around the world.

The financial crisis is getting more ominous, and no one seems to know what to do. Unemployment is a growing problem with thousands losing their homes. Efforts to make things better just seem to result in their getting worse. Abroad, more and more nations are engulfed in revolution and political upheavals. Even stable democracies are facing riots and civil unrest.

Long ago, the prophet Jeremiah cried out to God: “Why do bad people have it so good? Why do con artists make it big? … How long do we have to put up with this—the country depressed, the farms in ruin—and all because of wickedness…” (Jeremiah 12:1-4, The Message)

There are days when I know just how he felt. Recently I came across this story which I found very encouraging.

The first half of the seventeenth century was a time of turmoil in Britain. After a savage civil war, the old order of things had been overthrown and King Charles I had been beheaded. However, as so often happens in revolutions, the new rulers under Oliver Cromwell soon became the new oppressors. Strict religious fundamentalists, intolerant of anything and anyone who disagreed with what they thought was right, they banned music, dancing, and even Christmas. Many irreplaceable marvels of architecture were battered down or burned and left in ruins. Those who did not agree knew it was best to keep their heads down until the madness was over.

Well, not everyone…. In the village of Harold Staunton, near Leicester, the Lord of the Manor, Robert Shirley, built a new church in defiance to the new regime. It still stands today and over the main entrance is a plaque with a weathered inscription. Its message is clear, even if the language seems a bit archaic to our ears: “In the year 1654 when all things were, throughout this nation, either demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley, Baronet, founded and built this church. He it is whose singular praise it is to have done the best things in the worst times, and to have hoped them in the most calamitous.”

The church in Harold Staunton is not huge, but it has made a big impact. When I think about that, I don’t feel so helpless and frustrated. Robert Shirley, you and I have the opportunity to do “the best things in the worst times.” We don’t need to build a physical church; there are plenty of those. But by working together, Christians can reach out to a world of bad news with the Good News of the gospel.

Righteous Father, we do live in the worst of times, where problems seem to grow beyond the ability of man to solve them. Nothing is too great for you, however, and we also live in the best of times—knowing you and understanding that through you we have the opportunity to be and live as the best things. Help us to maintain and live our hope and understanding to a darkened world. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by Joseph Tkach

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