A TIME TO SERVE: a sprawling emotional roller-coaster that shines light upon the twilight of the most famous of Apostles

Posted: May 10, 2022 in Uncategorized

Those who know me are well-aware of my penchant for Biblical fiction. Readers of my blog are probably aware of the A TIME TO… series, by Australian author SJ Knight, as I have named this series as being my favorite Biblical fiction series of all time. And this book, which deals with the latter part of the ministry of Apostle Paul has once more reminded me why this is true.

To me, Biblical fiction is all the more well-written when the characters come across as full-blooded human being who go through the whole range of emotions. It has been a while since I talked about the previous novel in this series, A TIME TO STRIVE, and I missed the characters dearly. Because, let me tell you: Ms. Knight has the gift of making characters, whether they be historical or fictional, come across as people one could encounter on the street. People one can grow to care for. It is often said that good books are like journeys, and I believe that this series is the most akin to a journey that I have ever encountered in all my years of reading Biblical fiction.

The novel is set, as the title of the review suggests, in the latter part of the ministry of Paul, and just like the others in the series, it does a masterful job at conveying the sense of community that the early Christians had, and does so in a manner as far-removed as the typical cheery Sunday school pictures as possible. Paul and his faithful companions are shown here as wholeheartedly faithful, but never just that. With all their faith in Christ, they have challenges, especially given the fact that they are living in a world where both Greeks and Romans are still very influential. The ekklesias face the issue of seeking to stay relevant in a largely paganized and superstitious world, where people are comfortable with giving sacrifice to gods, and not so much used to a God who gives them without asking for anything but a humble, thankful and kind heart. I was especially fond of the scenes that took place in the home of stalwart but huge-hearted Lydia of Philippi, who is fleshed out here, as the Bible only speaks of her position in said church. One of the most emotional scenes in the novel involves her, and truly shines in showcasing the aforementioned sense of community that the Christians share. There is adventure and emotion aplenty, from the rebellious son of Simon of Cyrene, Alexander, causing trouble, to Zosime and Ligeia, who are young women well-acquainted with the tendency of human beings to exploit and sully their neighbor, but become equally well-acquainted with the neverending love of God, to Loukanos, who develops a truly inspiring bond with his trusty horse, Hippocrates, readers will have plenty of characters to grow fond of and follow through gripping, emotional adventures that test both their bodies and their souls. The words „labor of love” could be any more fitting for a series of books than they are for this one. The world that Ms. Knight invites her readers to is so carefully crafted, so rigorously researched, readers will have as hard of a time saying goodbye to as this reader has had. And speaking of this reader, I was brought to genuine, heartfelt tears near the ending of the book, where Alexios the Wise, a character inspired by yours truly, sends an encouraging letter to Paul and is revealed to have a child who seems to have what modern-day people know as Down Syndrome. The author kindly included one of my daily Facebook posts: „No child pays for the sins of his parents. If a child is born different, that serves the growth of his parents’ souls.” It was one of the most emotional experiences that I have ever been through as a reader, as it is such a great blessing to see my own words, from a deeply personal experience being molded by the skilled, blessed hands of a gifted, genuine storyteller.

As per usual, I highly recommend A TIME TO SERVE to all Biblical fiction enthusiasts, and award it ten out of five stars for its engaging, thrilling, Grace-rich story and incredibly credible characters. Thank you dearly, Ms. Knight. A delightful job.

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