Along with millions of others we watched the final match of the European Football Championships – England v Italy. After extra-time had failed to separate the two teams on the pitch, the match was finally decided by a penalty shoot-out. If you were an English supporter it was a terrible day, but if you were an Italian supporter it was a great day. But for both it was the same day!
As we face ever-increasing distress among the nations, caused by societal disruption through the pandemic, relational confusion, racial tensions, climate change, rebellious insurrection, financial turmoil and many other factors, it feels as though the whole world is teetering on the edge of a massive upheaval that no politician could tame. The spiritual anchor points of the nations have gone and man has become his own authority, having separated from Creator God.
The tectonic plates that have underpinned government and society for generations are shifting, and a spiritual and social earthquake will be the inevitable result. Faith is no longer respected by the unbelieving world and the plumb line of truth which is at the heart of God’s Word is now such an offence to world influencers, that a new era of persecution of believers is inevitable. Isaiah warns about those who call evil good and good evil and replace light with darkness (Isaiah 5:20).
Scripture tells us that these things must happen, but Scripture also tells us that there will come a day when the sand run’s out of God’s measuring clock and the eternal referee blows the whistle on the game of Life. And as with the Euros final, that will be both a great and a terrible day, according to which side you are on. But it’s not just an ephemeral football trophy that’s at stake, but our eternal personal destiny when the King of Kings returns in power and great glory.
One of the hymns I was brought up on began by asking the question, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” This was, perhaps, Frances Ridley Havergal’s most powerful hymn, declaring as it does in verse 4 that His truth unchanging makes the triumph sure. Verse 5 uncompromisingly sets out the battle lines of eternity:
Chosen, called, and faithful, for our Captain’s band;
In the service royal, let us not grow cold,
Let us be right loyal, noble, true and bold.
Master, wilt thou keep us, by Thy grace divine,
Always on the Lord’s side – Saviour, always Thine.
As the darkness falls, so the stars shine brighter. And as darkness falls upon a world that has largely written Jesus out of the script, so the day will come when the light of God’s glory brings the whole world into crystal clear focus. And while all Heaven waits that time, the days are becoming yet more urgent for those whose hearts are still seeking the Lord of eternity in these remaining years of time.
In these desperate days, while the healing needs of the current generations escalate, the Gospel message that King Jesus is both Saviour and Healer becomes ever more relevant and important. And, as Frances Havergal urges us, “In this service royal, let us not grow cold.” And never cease to be messengers of hope in a broken world.