Great Lives Divinely Planned In Testing Times

Last week I welcomed our Aidan and Hilda house's third overnight guest. He is on leave from front-line duties in order to study and wait on God. We explored some people who were prepared for their great work while they were in physical or spiritual deserts.

We thought of Moses and John the Baptist, a fantastic maker of disciples, forged in the desert, whose humility led him to point these disciples to someone greater than himself.

We thought of such an unlikely person as Ann Boleyn. Henry 8th's Queen smuggled Tyndale's illegal translation of the Bible into court. So highly regarded was she that she read it openly, and gathered a group of her ladies to study it and hold open discussion. The Word of God seeped for ever into the British Establishment. She herself, however, paid the price of her openness and was executed for treason.

Then we thought of Winston Churchill. A new book on Churchill and God may surprise people. He was not a church-goer, he was blind to sins of the British Empire, and his treatment of Welsh miners is a sore to this day. But as a boy his nanny taught him the Bible which seeped into his heart and mind. He twice went into the political wilderness, when he ruminated and wrote. When it came to the big crisis, he identified the essence of evil and the eternal and Christian values that were the foundation of any civilisation worth fighting for. He knew that Nazism was rooted in evil. So his imperishable speeches that summoned every last person to give their all flowed out of a fundamentally Christian vision.

Finally, we took a fresh look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Eric Metaxas' new book 'Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Agent, Mrtyr and Prophet' brings to light a connection between Lutheranism and new expressions of monasticism. He was banned by Hitler, but his years forming community in Germany's Underground Church affected the world long after his death. He was imprisoned and executed, but the three books he wrote during his underground years became required reading for the pioneers of the Iona Community.

So being laid aside as a result of mistakes, opposition, exile, bad health or direct guidance from God is not the end of the world. It may herald the start of a new world.

Posted at 00:19am on 15th January 2017
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