“He stood between those who had died and those who were still alive, and the plague stopped.” (Numbers 16:48)
“Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” So wrote Charles E. Weller in 1867, as a simple exercise in warming up his fingers for using a new-fangled invention called the typewriter. Little could he have known how perpetually relevant this spontaneous and unadorned sentence would be through the decades. Certainly no one can fail to see its timeliness for us today.
Some fifty years ago A. W. Tozer wrote, “In times of extraordinary crisis ordinary measures will not suffice. The world lives in such a time of crisis. Christians alone are in a position to rescue the perishing. We dare not settle down to try to live as if things were normal.”
Yet it seems as though we may have done just that. Ask any American what the numbers 9/11 mean, and the answer is immediate. It is a day that changed our world forever; a wake up call for our Nation. But what about the numbers 9/16, 23, and 30. Does anyone know the significance of those numbers? They are the three consecutive Sundays following the tragedy of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. This was the wake up call for the Church.
On the first Sunday, 9/16, America’s churches were packed with distressed and heartbroken people seeking answers and hope from a God they had grown distant towards. And by the third Sunday, 9/30, after listening intently to our songs and our sermons, they realized that for the most part there were no answers to be found. And saddest of all, instead of finding hope, they often encountered little more than hype.
I realize there are many exceptions to this, and no doubt your church is one of them. After all, there are pockets of faithfulness in our cloistered circles of contained community. But, your exemplary character and great effectiveness notwithstanding, I’m talking about the wholesale lack of impact that the Church, generally speaking, had on our staggered Nation. In America’s most vulnerable moment of hunger for the divine, citizens came and found our cupboards filled with candy, and we ourselves on a sugar high.
Sociologist Alan Wolfe traveled the country for two years after 9/11 observing several different denominations and religious services, and presented his findings in a book, The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live Our Faith (Free Press). He writes, “Far from living in a world elsewhere, the faithful in the United States are remarkably like everyone else.”
I find his use of the word remarkable to be, well, remarkable. It shows how genuinely surprised he was by his findings. He fully expected Christians to be different, and was quite astounded to find us essentially just like every one else.
So there you have it. Blunt, and without anesthetic. The question now is what are we to do about this? We can yawn, roll over and go back to sleep. We can protest that his perspective is biased and liberal. We can react like the devoted Hindu who saw water from the sacred Ganges River viewed through a microscope, and smashed the microscope when it revealed the holy water teeming with disease. We can clap our hands faster, jump higher, and sing louder – trusting that the bad man will go away. Or, we can answer the call of God to a higher and nobler walk of faith – a faith that makes an obvious difference in our lives…and in our world.
If ever there was a time for we who profess faith in Christ, who are by His own pronouncement “the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a city set on a hill” – it is now.
If ever there was a time to let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven, it is now. If ever there was a time to do all things without murmuring and disputing, so that we might be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, it is now.
If ever there was a time for the redeemed of the Lord to say so, it is now.
If ever there was a time to stir up the gift that is in us, no longer ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor drawing back for fear of rejection and ridicule, it is now.
If ever there was a time to hold fast the pattern of sound words, standing in the grace of Christ and enduring hardships as good soldiers, it is now. If ever there was a time to shun profane and vain babblings, and to flee youthful lusts, it is now.
If ever there was a time for diligence in presenting our case for Christ with dignity, it is now. If ever there was a time for private piety to become public virtue, it is now.
Now is the time for all good men and women, all good boys and girls, to come to the forefront of faith and show the power of Christ’s Gospel through lives marked with love and faithfulness. Will you be among those who stand up in this day when so many bow down to lesser gods? Will you show up, speak up, pray up, stay up, and step up so those in your sphere of influence can hear, see, know, understand, and believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God?
SAY not the struggle naught availeth,
The labor and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke concealed,
Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.
Arthur Hugh Clough
What if it came down to you? What if it was true that your comrades, in yon smoke concealed, but for you possessed the field? What if? Would it not stir you to a heroic effort beyond your fear; to a courageous faith beyond your doubt; and to a true nobility beyond the rank and file of ordinary living? O, I pray so! For if ever there was a time when you needed to be counted – it is now.