Trying Times

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” Thomas Paine wrote well over 200 years ago. Today the times still try our patience, our faith, our resolve.
But I have met some people who have tried to make a difference. While their efforts may seem comparatively small, they are making an undeniable difference.

Young people from our church make peanut butter sandwiches—hundreds and hundreds of them—for kids who’d otherwise have no lunch. A young woman I know gives free horseback riding lessons to a special needs child. Some travel many, many miles to pray together. Some go transcontinental to advocate for peace. Some build fences. Some cultivate relationships.

A young couple I know is traveling the world, photographing mission work to cultivate a greater mission heart in all of us. Some volunteer for political candidates. And some fill sandbags to stem a flood. They text, they tweet, they twitter, they Facebook about it. They are networked, and they are working!

It makes me wonder why my own generation is not more willing and eager to do more daring things in the name of Jesus. These are not only times that try our souls, but times in which we ought to try harder to impact souls!

Someone once falsely accused Plato of dishonorable conduct. When asked how he planned to defend himself, Plato is said to have answered, “We must live in such a way that all men will see that the charge is false.” Perhaps an even healthier attitude would be to attempt to live in such a way as to demonstrate that our claim is true.

This month “Together Doing More” has youth as its theme. Everywhere I go I hear people decrying the fact that the Christian Reformed Church in North America is losing young people in droves.

I personally think that some of them are leaving because the church does not acknowledge that it needs them. They are often the ones wishing not so much to be different as to make a difference. The message they sometimes receive in return is that it is not so important: creation stewardship is not what is important; it’s only preparation for heaven that is. Justice is not what matters; it’s only justification that does. Our carbon footprint is not such a concern; it’s only our witness that is.

I have heard well-meaning people declare that the task of the church is simply to bring people to Jesus; not to be concerned about pollution, as if we could do the former without the latter. We forget that among Jesus’ parting words to his followers were “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).

What about our Reformed heritage? Where is our conviction that there is not a square inch of the universe over which Jesus does not declare, “I am Lord”? We have a veritable army of foot soldiers ready and eager to find new ways to demonstrate that by how we live. It is time for us to invite our young people to participate in the mission, to urge them, to encourage them, and to learn from them how best we can do that in the 21st century.

Paul wrote to his son in the faith, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). It’s high time we let our own committed young followers of Jesus do the same for us and with us.

These are times that try our souls. These are times when folks try almost anything. Let these also be times when we all try more to prove by our lives that our faith is true.

About the Author

Rev. Joel R. Boot is the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

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