This is a special time

This is a special time July 20, 2017

By Dr. Doyle Sager

Dr. Doyle Sager is senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, Mo.
Dr. Doyle Sager is senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, Mo.

Regarding our nation’s political and social ills, ’tis the season for handwringing. To all my friends on the right, the left and the center, I say, get a grip. Even though I took a nice pill earlier this morning, I’ll say it even stronger: Stop whining!

Now before you burn up cyberspace excoriating me, let me explain. I too believe things are bad. I too worry about our country, struggling under the weight of bloated egos and perpetual election cycles. In no way do I wish to trivialize the serious issues before us. But people of faith are by definition people of hope. And being people of hope, we work for provisional solutions within our historical setting. Deep down, however, we know those answers are not ultimate. Our faith teaches us to expect permanent solutions beyond history, from God, not humans.

Several years ago, the church I serve entered a rich and rewarding partnership with a seminary in Ukraine. Our partner-pastor happened to serve in eastern Ukraine. When the Russian insurgency occurred in 2014, my friend’s church was bombed and burned. His life was threatened, as was his family’s. This pastor is now living safely in western Ukraine, where he has planted several churches. But last winter, he once again risked his own safety to deliver Christmas packages into war torn eastern Ukraine, where rockets were whizzing by. His rationale? “This is a special time.” A special time? “Yes,” he told us, “churches which unselfishly share bread and relieve suffering are discovering open hearts. People are hungry for authentic hope. There is a longing for transformed lives and renewed communities. This is a special time.”

As I listened more closely, I realized that my Ukrainian friend’s positive energy grows out of his conversion story. He came to faith during Perestroika, back in the 1980’s, a time of uncertainty and confusion. Guess what he calls that time. A special time. Hearing this, I couldn’t help but contrast the current spirit among God’s people in the U.S. Most of us call this a dangerous time, a discouraging time, a critical time or a hopeless time. But few if any call it a special time, a kairos time, God’s time.

Perhaps we should reread the Book of Acts. The early church had no political advantage, no social privilege and no sympathetic ear among the power elite. But somehow they knew it was a special time. They were a resistance enclave, a subversive sect, a counter-cultural movement. But as the decades rolled on, that changed. Three centuries later, under Constantine, the church saw a more prosperous time. But alas, a prosperous time meant she no longer experienced a special time.

Yes, these days are treacherous. God’s people must continue to speak up, act, advocate and most of all, live the gospel. But for every negative adjective thrown around — dangerous time, hopeless time, evil time, or worst ever time — remember something. This is a special time. Over 2,000 years ago, on a rocky hill, on a Friday afternoon, God showed up and did God’s best work in the darkness. A special time.

Dr. Doyle Sager serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo.

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  • mcepl from other times, but on the same tune. “This time is not particularly pleasant for Christians, but for the Christians of the appropriate disposition it is a great, even wonderful time. ‘If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.’ In these glorious times the Church sings to its Lord heroic songs of love and faithfulness. It is a great privilege and gift to live, love, and fight right now.”

  • Gary Snowden

    Reminds me, Doyle, of our Cuban friends’ description of the early 1980s after the Soviets withdrew from Cuba as the “Special Period.” You hear references to that time frequently among them. It was characterized by tremendous food shortages, power outages, and abject poverty, but Christianity was flourishing as the government relaxed restrictions on believers gathering together and permitted them to do so in homes as long as the groups consisted of 15 people or less. That of course became the basis of their tremendous growth through cell groups.