“For such a time as this’ is the phrase, which has echoed around the people of God for 2500 years (give or take a little) since Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, first challenged her with these words.

A group of us have gathered from across our nation and we’ve now been regularly praying for a couple of years, for the spiritual renewal of the church & the spiritual revival of Christianity across our nation. In those moments when I focus on the latest local church crisis, or check out the statistics, it feels pointless. What is the most significant factor, which enables my on-going perseverance in the role God has called me to? It’s the fact God has called me ‘for such a time as this’.

How about you? You are where you are. I realise some of us have a deep sense of God calling and placing us in position, whether that be place, or role. Others of us are doing what we’re doing, because ‘if I didn’t there was no one else’.

Prior to the pandemic, a message I included on various occasions, was things were going to get worse before they would get better. I was not talking about economic, or social crises, but our spiritual one. Whilst I don’t minimise the negative impact on so many people, of the cost of living and energy crises, they have also served to highlight the depth of the spiritual hunger around us. Let us remember we are here as Christian churches ‘for such a time as this’. David Firth, who is a member of one of our Webnet churches, as well as being the author of ‘The Message of Esther’ in the Bible Speaks Today series, has subtitled his book ‘God present but unseen’, which I think sums up the OT book very well. God is not mentioned once throughout, but is very clearly alive and well.

Many of us will feel we are too weak, small, or elderly to do much about it. It would be naive in the extreme, to underestimate the seriousness of the position we are in as the Christian church within our nation. However, my knowledge of the God of resurrection, my awareness of church history, as well as my own personal experience, tells me crisis precedes renewal. Not automatically, but it is frequently a significant factor.

The painting is by my good friend Chris Duffett. Whilst he painted this a couple of years ago, he says: ‘the image and accompanying message seems to be a picture and word for 2024’. This certainly resonates with me, as I catch an increasing number of glimpses of the coming kingdom of God. On other occasions, some of you will have heard me refer to Justin Brierley’s work, book, podcast ‘The Surprising rebirth of belief in God’. In the light of our historic convictions in the revelation of our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it would be suicidal for us, as Baptist people, to dig up and discard our foundations. I remain as committed as I ever have been to our Baptist Union, but our Webnet churches have made it clear our unity is based in Christ and not on any structural basis alone. Chris states: When I painted this I was inspired to capture those ancient verses from Isaiah 35, and show what happens when God turns up into the dry and barren lands in our lives. 

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
    the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
    it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
    the splendour of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
    the splendour of our God.
Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”
 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.

Free prints of Blossoms in The Wilderness by artist and creative evangelist Chris Duffett can be ordered at www.chrisduffettART.com until the end of January 2024.