Product Information & Customer Reviews
Author(s): S.J. Knight
3 reviews for A Time to Strive – Book 5
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A TIME TO STRIVE: A Compelling and Moving Story of the Early Believers
(Review by S. Hicks)
A Time to Strive is the 5th book in a series of biblical novels by author S.J. Knight. The first book tells the story of characters in the fictitious village of Banayim, living in the momentous time of John the Baptist preparing the way for the Messiah. Subsequent books trace these characters through time as they deal with the death and resurrection of Messiah, his ascension and the resulting time of both zeal and confusion as they endeavour to preach the gospel without the physical presence of their Lord.
This new book allows readers to immerse themselves in the biblical text, while getting reacquainted with all their Banayim favourites! The author has a gift in truly bringing to life characters that otherwise can appear somewhat two-dimensional from the bible record alone, fleshing out the text with ordinary, everyday people who help us understand the reality of life for our early brothers and sisters. Readers will laugh out loud, genuinely feel angry for the horrifying fate of some, cry tears both of grief and of joy … such is the depth of emotional connection the author draws with the characters.
While obviously the plot lines are based on the biblical account, some of the sub plots are certainly confronting at times, but that’s what makes it so believable and relatable. By including the less than glamorous aspects of daily life the author highlights how little we know about the way God sometimes chooses to work. What we shy away from, He would have us reach out to and affect change, sometimes by simply doing our job, and in doing so reflect the love shown to us. Accounts of the angst and drama of young love … the grief of a bereaved parent that can threaten to engulf all joy … the ever abiding worry of a mother even for her grown children … are all so raw and real.
My favourite highlights were the conversations between Paul and Barnabas, and others, that help flesh out the writings we have from Paul, and perhaps give an insight into what was behind some of his decisions. One can almost hear him wrestling with the old dilemma, “The good that I would, I do not … and that which I would not … this I do.”
A Time to Strive is every bit as compelling as the first 4 novels in this series of carefully researched and realistically presented books. Many thanks to S.J. Knight for this labour of love in bringing these characters to life.
David Simpson –
A TIME TO STRIVE by S.J. Knight
This is Sister Knight’s fifth book in the series. The first three, “A Time to Hear”, “A Time to See”, and “A Time to Speak” are set in the time of the Gospels, and tell the story of a fictitious family who accept the Good News, and whose lives intersect with those of John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles. The death and resurrection of Jesus have a huge impact on the lives of all those who are in that most privileged circle of acquaintances.
The fourth and fifth books, “A Time to Act” and “A Time to Strive” centre on the life of Saul the persecutor, later to become Paul the preacher. The ecclesia by now has overcome the initial abuse and hardship by Saul and the Jewish leaders, and after the amazing transformation of Saul on the way to Damascus, the believers have established themselves into the two main groups in Jerusalem and Antioch. Now the narrative picks up from when Paul and Barnabas, having completed their hazardous missionary journeys through Cyprus and Asia (today’s Turkey), have returned to their base in Antioch.
This fifth book “A Time to Strive” is, in my opinion, Sue Knight’s best yet. She has an amazing gift for getting inside the characters, whether the actual Biblical ones or the lives she has imagined. Personally, I must confess that I am not a sophisticated reader of novels, but this book has held me spellbound.
I freely admit that the author has used a lot of imagination in creating many of her characters, and in depicting conversations and events in the lives of the Bible people. This is clearly stated in the “Author’s Note” at the beginning of the book, “This is a work of fiction, not exposition.” Some Brothers and Sisters may be uneasy with this, but it is, after all, a historical novel, and to me it brings the lives of these people of so long ago to life.
As far as I know the Bible only speaks of one man, Elijah, who was “a man subject to like passions as we are” or as the ESV puts it, “with a nature like ours”. But everyone was like us. They all had human nature, and had to overcome many of the obstacles and events that beset us all in our human lives. Sister Knight has a unique ability to portray both scriptural and fictional characters with the insight and analytical perception which enables us to live with these people, and to feel their pain, frustrations and joy. Paul, Barnabas, Luke (Loukanos) and Mary Magdalene (Marah) all come to life in this book. The author uncovers (or imagines) many human thought processes, and the reader lives in the first century with the long, long walks along Roman highways, together with the loving ministrations of physician Loukanos, and the daily lives of household service for servants and masters as members of the same new Brotherhood.
“A man who is so troubled should not be alone in his distress. Come home with me instead of going back to your empty rooms. You can take Barnabas’s bed, and we will talk all night, or not at all, whichever you please. Let us pray together, eh?” He sighed. “I could use a prayer companion myself, tonight.”
“You, Paul?” replied the muffled voice. “I always think of you as so strong, as needing nobody.” Paul’s lips tightened in a grim smile. “Oh, Titus, even our beloved Lord Jeshua needed his friends.” … (Page 391.)
The book covers the distressing time when the Judaizers (or Circumcisors as they are also known in this book), introduced great dissension in the Church, and the Council of Jerusalem eventually decided that new Gentile converts were not to be burdened with keeping the Law of Moses as well as the Law of Christ. The heart-ache and soul searching that all members of the community suffered when the hard-liners tried to undermine the positive preaching of Paul and the apostles is extremely well portrayed.
The remaining two thirds of the book continues to explore the lives and thoughts of these early Christians, and concludes with the terrible rift between Paul and Barnabas which eventually led to two mission groups setting out from Antioch. Barnabas and John Mark (Marcus in this volume) sailing to Cyprus, while Paul went on to revisit the Galatian ecclesias and beyond with Silas (Sylvanus). Even in the hardest of human trials God’s Will is seen to triumph. Now there were two spear-heads taking the Gospel truth to further and new fields.
Sister Knight has created characters which vividly portray the hardships, poverty and deprivations of first-century life. The seedy back-street life of the port of Seleucia; a drunken centurion who is led from the depths of depravity to find the Gospel; compared with the joys of a village wedding in Galilee where the Truth has taken hold. And here names we all know well from the Acts of the Apostles are able to share the innocent festivities of God-fearing country folk.
This is a book of 569 pages, and has many fascinating historical insights, and shows a great depth of research. The many photographs taken by the author’s husband, Brother David, are also much appreciated.
Bro. David Simpson
Susan Knight –
Review by Alex Szollo
A TIME TO STRIVE: a sobering, inspiring saga of the Early Church.
I have previously mentioned the A TIME TO…series written by Ms. S.J. Knight, as my favourite Biblical fiction series. And I am all the more blessed and honoured to talk about the latest entry in the series, called A TIME TO STRIVE. There is a personal reason for that too, but I will get to that in a short while.
The novel picks up where the previous book, A TIME TO ACT, left off. Paul and his emerging Christian movement are up against seemingly insurmountable odds in the form of the conservative Pharisees strictly opposing the teachings of lord Jeshua (Jesus). And this is what I love most about this wonderful book. It features some of the most passionate theological debates ever written in such works of fiction. One feels as though the author was actually there with Paul, Barnabas and all the others I have come to know and love in the previous books as they speak boldly of their faith to those who know nothing but the letter of the Law. I would definitely recommend people who seem to think Christianity is nothing but feel-good praise songs, sunshine and rainbows, to get a copy of this book.
Now for the personal reason that I mentioned earlier on. One feels they have contributed something worthwhile when an author includes a character based upon them, in their work. In my case, Ms. Knight created Alexios the Wise, a young Greek proselyte whose conversation includes some of my personal musings of inspiration shared in the name of the Lord. This is positively the greatest honour an author has ever bestowed on me. Also, I loved how the character escaped a moral dilemma in his life by applying one of his own pieces of wisdom about Christianity.
This is a book that is highly recommended to those who want to get as close to being participants in the early life of the Christian church as they can, and I love how each character has their own struggles, their doubts, their fears, their anger. I think Ms. Knight is not only a great writer, but someone with an in-depth understanding of human nature and its inherent contradictions. This is a rare gem of a book (and series), in a genre often overlooked for fear that it might feature saintly, one-dimensional characters.
A common expression states that writers “put flesh” on historical figures. Ms. S.J. Knight helps readers hear their hearts beat.