I recently attended a service in a local church which had, in times past, been a regular preaching house for the famous Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
It was attended by only a handful of people and I could not help wondering what the mighty Spurgeon would have felt, considering that in his day it would have been packed to the rafters.
Would he have felt discouraged, sad, or even angry, that in years to come the witness he left behind would fizzle out into what it has now become?
Church history tells of many eras in Christianity which were, by all accounts, golden: the early church, the Reformation and Puritan eras, and so the list could continue. Our history is laden with the glorious stories of those who, in their day, passed on the gospel baton to those following.
At the other end of history, the day will soon come when the clouds will be rent asunder by the dazzling, spectacular and terrible return of the Lord Jesus Christ. This will end present history and usher in the promised reign of God and glorification of his Son. Things as we now know them will come to a staggering end.
But, in the tension between history and eternity, we find ourselves in the present, in the ‘now’. In that sense, as powerful as history is as our teacher, it becomes redundant unless it causes us to behave with wisdom. The ‘now’ is our opportunity to act in this present world; when Jesus Christ returns, this will be gone.
So ‘now’ is a gift to respond to, bearing in mind both the lessons of history and, more importantly, the mandates and callings of Scripture, including the call to preach the gospel, shepherd the flock of God, be salt and light in the world, pray as Elijah prayed and love one another as Christ has loved us. All this we are to do in the ‘now’.
Jesus had a sense of urgency in his own ministry when he stated: ‘I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work’ (John 9:4). He knew his time was limited and was utterly focused on living his life in the ‘now’.
Our lives are limited by time, and we should embrace the gift of ‘now’ and act as we must in a dying world, fulfilling the mandate of being witnesses while it is still ‘day’.
I am not sure how Spurgeon would feel about this service I attended. One thing I do know is that he lived for Christ in his day, and that is ultimately what mattered. Yesterday cannot be rewritten, and tomorrow is yet to be. We have today, and only today.
So let us make the ‘now’ count for the sake of Christ and his kingdom in our own context — something society is increasingly demanding we do not do.
William Wade is an Army Scripture Reader, with SASRA, in Colchester