And we thought 2022 would be a better year!
Not so! All is not well with the world today.
The invasion of Ukraine is a catastrophic and globally destabilising landmark event. It is a dreadful experience for the people of Ukraine. Some of the suffering people are our brothers and sisters, and all are made in the image of God. Our hearts go out to them and our prayers to the Lord for His mercy on them.
Its effects will ripple and then tsunami out around the world to radically affect us all.
Europe's dependence on Russian gas, risk averse and weakened Western leadership, Mr Putin's demonstration of unstoppable hypersonic missiles, cyberattacks and threats of using hyperbaric and nuclear weapons ... all combine to limit conventional military defence options in helping Ukraine. Economic, sporting and cultural sanctions are unlikely to be effective deterrents.
Many consider that we are seeing the unmasking of evil on an unprecedented scale in this generation.
However it is dressed up, it is all about power. Power to have, gain and control; subjugating many for the benefit of the few. It smells of Satan.
After 75 years of a 'golden age of peace' Western countries - which were once blessed through Godly power-holders - have thrown away the Bible and the Saviour to pursue pleasures and assert rights that God has never authorised ... can we expect God's blessing?
Western secularists are worlds apart from Moscow or Beijing in their philosophy about how to get and grow in power. However, the challenge is not to choose between capitalism or communism, democracy or totalitarianism, but to choose the Kingdom of God and repent of the ungodly ways of the world, the flesh and the devil.
Whatever the earthly system of government, without asking God which way to go, they will all go the wrong way.
Whether the method is power through the ballot box or force - if their motive is pleasing themselves without regard for God, then conflict is inevitable. Is God bound to protect those who have despised Him?
The good news is that at the 'end of the day', or better, at the beginning of the Day of the Lord, Jesus Christ will be seen as King of everybody, everything and everywhere. He is always undilutedly true, ultimately powerful, totally holy, fully just; and more loving than everybody else put together!
However, until then, there will be suffering. It is all described in the Book of Revelation - which should be essential reading for all those who love the Lord. Do follow through the Word@Work bite-size commentary at www.wordatwork.org.uk/revelation.
What are we to do? The principles of repentance and humble pleading with God for His help which God taught Israel through the times of the Judges and in 2 Chronicles 7:14 are still the only way forward - "... if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal ... "
Times of crying are times of refining for God's people.
Whenever there is conflict, people get hurt - people made, known and loved by God. Caught up with each act of physical or economic violence are believers who are trusting Jesus. He is only too willing to hear the prayers of His people.
Miraculous deliverances punctuated the last World War as God-fearing people prayed. 75 years on we can still trust the God who answers prayer. Do please take time to read (and watch the video) about some of those prayer-sought miracles on the Internet Pulpit - written by Pastor John, a long term supporter of BeaconLight.
BeaconLight is a literature mission (hard copy and digital), but currently much that we would like to do in providing tools for evangelism and discipleship has been frustrated by covid restrictions, anti-Christian legislation, political hostility to evangelism and armed conflicts.
But BeaconLight is also a network of people who pray. Individuals and BeaconLight prayer groups intercede. God's writing is on the wall of the world. The only appropriate response is humble prayer. Ukraine, Crimea, Myanmar, Nepal, Hong Kong, Taiwan, North Korea, the Horn of Africa ... their people, the Christians, churches and their pastors need our prayers more than we could possibly imagine right now.
And so do our Western leaders and churches.
And we need to pray in repentance as in Nehemiah 9:33-35:
"In all that has happened to us, You have remained righteous; You have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our ancestors did not follow Your law; they did not pay attention to Your commands or the statutes You warned them to keep. Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying Your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land You gave them, they did not serve You or turn from their evil ways."
30 years ago a Christian song was published describing what we are now seeing.
Great is the darkness
That covers the earth:
Oppression, injustice and pain.
Nations are slipping
In hopeless despair,
Though many have come in Your Name.
Watching while sanity dies
Touched by the madness and lies.
It also give the church's response - gospel proclamation!
May now Your church rise with power and love,
This glorious gospel proclaim;
In every nation salvation will come
To those who believe in Your Name.
Help us bring light to this world,
That we might speed Your return.
It concludes with the victorious return of Jesus - our only hope for the future!
Great celebrations on that final day,
When out of the heavens You come;
Darkness will vanish, all sorrow will end
And rulers will bow at Your throne;
Our great commission complete,
Then face to face we shall meet.
The refrain is the Maranatha cry of every believer:
Come Lord Jesus!
Gerald Coates (b. 1944) and Noel Richards (b. 1955) Words and Music: (c) 1992, Thankyou Music.