Seasons change in nature. Thomas Chisholm summed it up as well as any, when he penned those wonderful lines:
‘Summer and winter, and spring-time and harvest;
sun, moon and stars in their courses above;
join with all nature in manifold witness,
to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Great is Thy faithfulness!’
Seasons change too as we grow up. We go from childhood into adolescence. Then into young adulthood. Followed by middle-age. Then retirement and being a senior citizen. So there are age-related seasons which we go through as we change and mature. Each of these is important and good, and should be embraced and celebrated.
There are also seasons in the world. Cultural, political, economic and sociological seasons. The last century saw epic changes – particularly around 1918 (as World War One ended); in the 1960s (with the rise of popular culture) then in 1990 (with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of modernity) followed by great technological advances, especially marked by the development of the internet. As we stand on the edge of Brexit in the UK, probably another new political season is upon us.
And then there are season changes in the Spirit. These sometimes coincide with seasonal shifts in society. These are moments when the Holy Spirit does a new thing. We don’t always see this immediately. In fact many only see it in retrospect, with the benefit of hindsight. But the prophets know it, for ‘God does nothing without first revealing it to the prophets’ (Amos 3:7). One of the roles of pioneer leaders is to see what the Lord is doing and give guidance and reassurance, because for many, change is difficult. Bill Hybels was surely right when in 2008 he wrote: ‘A key responsibility of the leader is to know what season (you are) in, to name it, and then to communicate the implications of that season to his or her followers.’
So what season of the Spirit are we in?
Well, I think it’s too early to say with any clarity. But one thing I perceive clearly as I look and listen, is this: it’s a season change. A new day is coming and, in fact, may well be here. Indeed Isaiah 43:19 seems to be resonating with many prophetic people, as they hear the Lord say once more: ‘See, I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it?’
As we perceive the season change, what should we be doing? 4 things stand out to me.
First, we need to ensure our hearts are right with God and with others. If they’re not, we need to repent – to change – and put things right. We must know we’re forgiven, and forgive others. We must seek to love God and love people with hearts on fire, purified by God (James 4:8). Our hearts must be humble.
Second, we need to be a praying and prayerful people. Nothing of lasting significance happens without prayer, and we need to be constantly talking with God about people and situations, seeking his mind and calling for his Presence (1 Thessalonians 5:17). If there’s ever a time for a renewal of our prayer-life, surely it is now.
Third, in a world that seems to thrive on bad news, we need to remind ourselves that we possess the best news in all the world! We need to share it and live it. And we need to express the positive values of God’s kingdom by living hopefully, thankfully and positively. After all, the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
Fourth, we need to do the basic things well. As individuals, families and churches, it’s easy to over-complicate life and faith. Instead this is a time to keep things simple and stay faithful (Mark 12:30-31).
As we do these things, the Lord will show us what to do, in the light of what he’s doing (John 5:19). This will help us to welcome, rather than resist, the season change the Lord is bringing. After all, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer summarised so well, ‘to know God is to change.’
Season change can, and should be, exciting, but for some it’s unsettling. That’s why we need to navigate it well, and reassure those who struggle. Change is not always easy, and is often messy. Catherine Booth, who with her husband pioneered the Salvation Army movement, knew this. That’s why she said: ‘There’s no changing the future without disturbing the present.’
As the Spirit disturbs the present and brings a new future, let’s be ready by ensuring our hearts are humble, our spirits are prayerful, our minds are joyful and our ways are simple.
Happy new season!