Most people have never heard of Tola, Puah, Jashub, and Shimron. No thrilling narratives are recorded about these four brothers or their offspring. However, the sons of Issachar and their descendants exhibited one character trait that is desperately needed by leaders in our generation. The chronicler records, “All these men understood the signs of the times” (1 Chron. 12:32, NLT).
Take a look around you. What do you see? Avarice, violence, economic turmoil, political unrest, and spiritual confusion. The apostle Paul prophesied to the young preacher Timothy, “In the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:1–5, NKJV).1 That sounds like a description of our day, doesn’t it? Have we become so accustomed to the chaos of our time that we cannot see the signs of the times?
Jesus rebuked the spiritual leaders of His generation for a lack of discernment. “ ‘When it is evening you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red”; and in the morning, “It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.” Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times’ ” (Matt. 16:2, 3). What would Jesus say to the spiritual leaders of our generation? What would He say to us? Do we understand the signs of the times?
The sons of Issachar not only understood the signs of the times. The chronicler records that these leaders knew what their people should do. It’s important to discern the signs of the times, but it’s equally important to know how to respond to the events happening around us. To quote Francis Schaeffer, “How should we then live?”2 The prophet Isaiah would cry out, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:6, 7).
We need to experience revival and reformation, personally and corporately. We have little control over most of the events around us, but we can choose how to live. We can choose how to lead the people of God in these troubled times. The chronicler records these words from the Lord to King Solomon: “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14). How should we then live? Humble ourselves, pray, seek the Lord, and turn from our wicked ways.
It is my prayer that you will be blessed and challenged as you read this issue of Ministry. I was blessed as I spoke with Lee Venden about his passion for revival in his own life and in the life of the church. Lee and his wife, Marji, not only speak about the need for revival but have devoted their lives to Christ in revival ministry. Be inspired by their example and glean insights that will help you to lead in these troubled times.
After more than 25 years as the lead pastor on a university campus, Dwight K. Nelson continues to speak with holy boldness. I am still prayerfully considering his thoughtful question to all of us in our Revival and Reformation column: “Given the razor edge of eternity on which we’re now living, isn’t this the right time for ‘extraordinary’ asking?”
Hear the word of the Lord through the psalmist Asaph: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Ps. 50:15). Discern the signs of the times. Now is the time for extraordinary asking. Now is the time to call upon the Lord.
1 All subsequent quotations are taken from the New King James Version.
2 Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1976).