Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)
The title of today’s word of encouragement is taken from Charles Dickens’ classic 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens was comparing and contrasting life in London with life in Paris during the French Revolution. He began his tale by establishing the idea that no matter how good it is in this life, it simply cannot be matched with all the bad that goes with it. Conflict is all around us and within us: good and evil, light and darkness, wisdom and folly, love and hatred.
I think this accurately describes the cultural moment confronting the church today, but also all of our individual lives on this side of glory. Looking back over our lives, we can all recall times we would describe as both best and worst, yet our Lord has used all of it for His glory and our good.
While the number of professing Christians is increasing around the world (although not in United States), the general understanding of biblical Christianity is diminishing. Far too many in the modern church know very little of the Bible and even less of the weight of God’s glory. They sit under teaching from theologically barren pulpits that proclaim a false prosperity gospel that mutes the biblical message of suffering, while at the same time trumpeting the man-centered message that you can have your best life now. So numbers are up in the church, but knowledge is down. It is the best of times and the worst of times.
What is the best way forward? We must remember that there is Truth, and His name is Jesus Christ. Jesus is in control of all things at all times and in the lives of all people. He is working everything out according to His perfect plan and purpose for the expansion of His kingdom. When Jesus promised that we will have trouble in this world, He was essentially promising that we will experience both the best of times and the worst of times in this life, but He also promised that we will never experience either alone.
Paul knew this truth by way of personal experience.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Philippians 4:12)
Paul experienced the best of times and the worst of times throughout his ministry of service to Jesus. And Paul gave us Philippians 4:13, which is the key that unlocks the door to living out our own Tale of Two Cities: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Regardless of the times we are currently experiencing — whether good or bad, high or low, best or worst — when we have the Truth with us, in us, and working through us, we have all we need to do all the things God has called us to do.
There is nothing new under the sun, and therefore those who live in every age can echo Dickens and say “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” This is an apt description of life in a fallen, broken world for every generation. But if you keep Jesus on the throne of your life, it will always be a “spring of hope” for you, even if you find yourself in “the winter of despair.” And that’s because He has the best plan for all things . . . including you!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!