Just a few weeks ago, the people of Ukraine were preparing for school, going to work, sharing meals around dinner tables, and gathering for worship on Sundays. Then, everything changed. Quite literally, the world changed.
Like many of you, since the Russian invasion, I've been saddened by the news and images coming out of Ukraine. Husbands separated from wives, parents separated from children, and coworkers picking up arms to fight beside one another now describe the Ukrainian people’s reality.
Someone recently asked me, “How should I think about the war?”
Here was my response:
One, start with God. Whatever our response, we should always start by reminding ourselves of who God is, and of His indescribable love and unlimited power. Passages like Psalm 2 remind us that no ruler or earthly power threatens the Lord’s sovereign reign. Daniel 2:20-22 teaches us that nothing occurs apart from His providential will. Furthermore, Proverbs 16:4 reveals that the Lord will even use the wicked to accomplish His righteous and perfect will.
The famous American pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards, when speaking on the power of God against earthly kings, wrote, “What a vast and uncontrollable dominion hath the Almighty God! The kings of the earth are not worthy of the name for they are not able to execute their authority in their narrow bounds except by the power and assistance of their subjects, but God rules most absolutely the whole universe by Himself. Kings rule perhaps sometimes for 40 years, but God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and of His dominion there is no end. Well, therefore, may He be said to be the blessed and only potentate, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” (Works, Vol 10, p. 422)
Two, give thanks. I take a lot for granted. My freedom, health, education, and opportunity to gather with God’s people each week are just a few of the Lord’s many blessings. Yet, watching millions of people flee their country convicts me that I take more for granted than I ever realized. Sadly, I often don’t realize how blessed I am until something is taken away from me. I pray the Lord would open our eyes to the many blessings we enjoy without them having to be taken away from us. May we be more like the one leper who returned to give Jesus thanks and not like the nine who simply walked away (Luke 17:11-19). Every good and perfect gift comes from God’s hand (James 1:17).
Third, pray. Notice I didn’t say “just pray.” I am amazed how often people speak of prayer as if it is a last-ditch effort or sentimental practice reserved for the weak in desperate times. Far from it! Prayer is the means by which the Lord acts on our behalf, strengthens our hearts, and reveals His providential will. Philip Yancey writes, “Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.” Therefore, pray that we may learn all that the Lord intends to show us. Pray that, amidst the backdrop of horror and pain, the gospel message would sound loudly across the world. Of course, pray for the people of Ukraine and for governmental leaders like Presidents Biden and Zelenskyy (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Pray for President Putin and ask the Lord to change his heart (Proverbs 21:1).
Fourth, engage with those in need. In the coming weeks, we hope to offer tangible ways in which you can care for the needs of the Ukrainian people and refugees. Until then, you can help meet the needs of those around you. I often catch myself complaining about what is wrong in this world only then to hear the Spirit prompt me to do something about it (1 John 3:17-18). Find a need, however small, and then meet it in the name of Christ (Matthew 5:13-16).
Fifth, educate your kids. Don't miss this opportunity to help your kids understand the geopolitical landscape, the choices facing our government, how the press works both in the US and in Russia, the cost of freedom (1 Chronicles 12:32), and that true freedom is found only in Christ (John 8:36). Moreover, teach them what it means to empathize with others. Empathy is something we seldom see modeled these days, so show your kids what it means to empathize with the challenges of the Ukrainian people, as well as your neighbors next door. More importantly, remind them once again that Jesus is the hope of the world — “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Finally, prepare yourself. Read the news and other reports about Ukraine and Russia through a biblical filter and with a healthy dose of circumspection and discernment. Despite the predictions you may hear through various podcasts or read on social media, these events are probably not “the beginning of the end.” (Remember, World War 1 was described as the “war to end all wars.”) However, Jesus warns that such events may serve as a “sign of the times” (Matthew 24:3-8), so prepare yourself (Matthew 24:36-44). The final day will come, and we must be ready to answer to the Lord on that final day. May we live with a confident expectation of His glorious return and prepare others for when He does return (2 Peter 3:8-13).
See you on Sunday,
Blake serves as Elder and Lead Pastor at Watermark Community Church.