I read an article last week about Ukraine. We haven't heard much about Ukraine for the last few months, mostly because we were in the middle of an election and we had other things to concern ourselves with. Still, the struggle is continuing over there and Ukraine’s powerful neighbor to the east, Russia, is continuing its attempt to expand its territory by taking the Eastern regions from Ukraine. Ukraine itself hasn't been able to really pull things together. They really have no (at least as far as I can tell with my limited knowledge of that country) sense of unity and common identity. You have Russians, and you have Ukrainians and I really do not know how to define what it means to be a "Ukrainian". I don’t think they do either – and that is the source of their problems.
It reminds me of the thirteen original colonies of America. There really was no sense of identity amongst them. South Carolina had little in common with Massachusetts. Maine had no knowledge at all of what was happening in Georgia or what the people were like in Delaware. So one has to wonder, how did America become a single nation, willing to fight a war for independence and then form a government that unified them? Historians agree that the one thing that unified the thirteen original colonies was their common Christian faith and what brought that about were the evangelistic efforts of one man – George Whitfield. George Whitfield was the first celebrity of America. He was the one person whose name was known by everyone from the north to the south. This was true even if they had never seen or heard him; if you lived in the American colonies, you knew George Whitfield’s name. If word came that he was going to be speaking in the area, people from miles and miles around, in a day when travel was difficult, would drop whatever they were doing and rush to town in order to hear what he had to say. What George Whitfield had to say was one thing – Christ and salvation through Christ. Thousands and thousands of people committed their lives to the Lord through his ministry and eventually the Christian faith that he preached forged a common identity amongst the people of the thirteen American colonies. You don’t hear about that anymore in the history textbooks that we to use to teach our children. Here’s something else you don’t read in our modern history texts: the American Revolution began in the pulpits of America. The pastors of the churches could not see any way that they could give up the freedom and liberty that God had built into the American colonys’ way of life. They saw that the Bible teaches freedom for each person. In contrast, the king and his cronies were treating the colonies and the colonists as if they had no purpose and no value. The preachers of America stood up and said, “No! That's not what the Bible teaches.” They encouraged the people to stand up against such ungodly tyranny. So, with a common identity founded in a common faith welding us together, with our religious leaders standing up for that which the Bible declares is right, the American colonies stood up, said no to the tyrants across the ocean and forged a new nation.
Ukraine needs the same thing to happen in their land. Of course, it really isn’t up to the Ukrainian people to bring that about. Revivals such as that which George Whitfield brought about in the American colonies happen by God's sovereign movement upon the land. It’s something God does on His own. So, how do we pray for Ukraine? Well, we can pray that the Russians agression in the East will end and the Russian troops will be withdrawn, but that won't really solve their problems. The Ukrainians themselves are fighting each other, especially in their governing bodies. We can pray that they will find unity within their government, putting in place a governmental system that treats all people equal regardless of their ethnicity. That would go a long ways towards bringing peace and unity to Ukraine, but it still won’t solve their problems. What really needs to happen is that the Ukrainian people need a revival of the same kind that forged a nation out of America. They need to share a common identity rooted in a common faith. So, when I pray for Ukraine I pray that God will send a George Whitfield to that nation. I pray that they will turn from godless living to faith in Christ. I pray that as that faith becomes something that is shared across their land, God will forge an identity for the Ukrainian people. It is only then that they will be able to find unity. It is then that they will find lasting solutions to their deep problems.
Here is a link to the first book of a three volume series discussing the beginnings of America and explaining some of the things I just talked about: