“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.”
These words were delivered to a nation and to a generation struggling to come to grips with a world at odds. Forces political and cultural had divided nations, and troubles and injustices at home were tearing at the fabric of American society.
Some really thought The End was near.
These words came not from an evangelist, philosopher, poet, or soldier. These words came from a politician, one John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who spoke them on the day of his inauguration as President of the United States in 1961.
As parties go, President Kennedy affiliated with the Democrats, but he identified as an American and refused to shrink from his nation’s heritage and history. His speech that wintry January day was laced with Bible references and allusions. He quoted from the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul as he encouraged his hearers to undo heavy burdens, rejoice in hope, and be patient in tribulation.
The Challenges of That Day
The enemies of that day were within and without.
Abroad, Marxism and Communism gripped the governments of the Soviet Union and China and those of Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. This ideology had established a foothold in the Western Hemisphere, in Cuba with the rise of Fidel Castro on an island nation situated just 90 miles from Key West, Florida.
Inside her borders, the people of the United States wrestled to root out deep, festering tares of racist and segregationist policies that divided citizens along lines of color and ethnicity. A sexual revolution also percolated; the promotion of “free love” brought ridicule upon long held mores and the values of decency, modesty, and fidelity.
This president viewed his moment as freedom’s hour of “maximum danger.” This being the case, he offered no promises, no programs, and no proposals. Rather, President Kennedy issued a call to action, a summons to energy, to faith, and to devotion. With a determined and firm tone, he issued this famous challenge: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”
The Challenges of This Day
Here we are, more than 50 years later and again we recognize forces at work to stifle freedom, silence dissent, and paralyze people with fear. Families, neighborhoods, communities, cities, and nations – all of these things are falling to pieces amid fractured families, crushing poverty, and crippling crime waves. Meanwhile, the national conversation is dominated by matters of gender and bathrooms and climate and drug use and safe speech zones.
Is The End near? Is this the question we should even be asking ourselves? Our questions should center not on what can be done for us, but on what we can do.Let us give ourselves to the energy, faith, and devotion that stir our hearts for God. Click To Tweet
Jeremiah lived and preached to his nation at a time such as ours, in an era when priests, prophets, and politicians were out of touch with God and living mainly for themselves. He witnessed invasions and watched as some of the people of Judah were carried off to captivity in pagan Babylon.
What were the chosen people of the Lord to do in their foreign circumstances? How were they to stand in the midst of the things set against them? What were they to show the enemies surrounding them?
The message God gave Jeremiah to deliver was this:
“Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.
“Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters — that you may be increased there, and not diminished.
“And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace” (Jeremiah 29:5-7).
Simply, the Lord instructed Jeremiah to tell the people to be busy about the things related to real life and intimacy. Build houses and make sure they are homes where children flourish. Be on the increase and seek the peace of the heathen city by praying to the Lord for it.
Jeremiah’s words are sound advice for Christians in America today.
Answering the Challenges
In many ways, we find ourselves more and more surrounded by those against us and our Bible-informed worldview. For some, freedoms and livelihoods have been taken captive due to laws orchestrated to frame mischief.
Let us give ourselves to the energy, faith, and devotion that stir our hearts for God. May we plant churches and develop more houses for His worship. May we enter ready mission fields and go as laborers to the harvest. May we raise sons and daughters, encouraging them and praying that we will see a proliferation of families rooted in the faith of the Son of God.
Things are going to pieces. Bible readers and students expect this of a world that passively lies under the rule of the wicked one. But we are those who know the One who heals; we know Him who works things together for good.
Let us ask what we can do in the areas of prayer and faith. Let us be full of purpose as Christ fitly frames together His Church. Let us rejoice as He does this by the power of His Spirit, for His glory, and for the honor of the Father.
For more thoughts on this age and our part in witnessing to it, watch the message “Comets, Birds, Beasts and the Arm of Salvation” by Thomas Schaller, pastor of the Greater Grace Church of Baltimore.