Hey family. I know I am on vacation, but I really wanted to send you a message of encouragement since we are moving into the winter season, the season commonly known as flu season and the season in which any virus seems to spread more easily. Doubtless there are reasons to be concerned about health and safety, but I want to be an encouragement to you rather than increase anxiety or worry about the rona–especially since there are many Christians around the world who are forsaking Christ and His bride because of a virus that He controls… Earlier this year, when we did stop meeting at the request of our governor, I was deeply convicted about the state of the church in general and about following Christ more closely. This year, the Christian kingdom has shown how little her faith in the one who has all providence actually is. I hope we are strengthened in the faith as a result of what God is working together, not weakened by our own concerns. We know that the people of God do not have to worry about any future possibility (Matthew 6:25-34). We know that we are not to neglect the gathering together of ourselves; The church gathering is to provide encouragement and stimulation at all times (Hebrews 10:24-25), making it essential during such a pandemic. We know that the elders of the church are here to bring both physical and spiritual healing and that God promises forgiveness and some degree of healing to those who confess their sins and over whom the elders pray (James 5:13-18). Since the rona is becoming a more prominent concern and people who do not know Christ are spreading so much fear, I simply want to remind you about the biblical promise–a very real promise God has made to His church.
In Capernaum early in His public bodily ministry on this earth, two different kinds of people approached Jesus (Matthew 8:18-22). The first, a scribe, wanted to follow Him and promised to do so. Jesus told the scribe that there were no guarantees: There would be no place for him to even sleep because the Son of Man (Jesus) did not have a place to lay his own head. On this earth, there is no security promised to those who follow Jesus because Jesus calls us to live boldly and faithfully in a dangerous, fallen, world. The second, one of Jesus’s disciples, wanted to take care of some unfinished family business. Jesus revealed that following Him means counting every worldly pursuit as loss. When we give our lives to Jesus, we give up the cares and concerns of the world. Jesus desires our faithfulness no matter what worldly concerns we are tempted to have. Worldly concerns literally rule our lives and keep us from following Christ if we are not actually submitted to Him.
After that, Jesus’s disciples followed Him onto a boat and a violent storm overtook them (Matthew 8:23-27). What was Jesus doing? Sleeping. After they woke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are going to die!” Jesus said, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” The disciples had little faith. Jesus called them out into the storm but not without some kind of safety net. Jesus was that safety net. No matter what storm we perceive, may we never forget the example Jesus set or His promise. Jesus rebuked the storm to show His authority, to show His disciples had no reason to fear, worry, or have anxiety. If our Lord is sovereign, He has all authority over storms, pandemics, presidential elections, and everything else. The saints are called to live and honor Christ through the dangers of the world. We are encouraged because Christ does not leave us alone without His providential hand. From the Christian worldview, the fearful response of the world is childish. But, the Christian has no need to be so fearful. We have no need to have such little faith. Christ’s promises are real and effective today. If they are not, we have no business being Christians.
We have been learning these truths on Wednesday evenings. To catch up on the Wednesday evening Bible study, watch the videos below:
Like we learned on Sunday mornings from the life of Saul, reacting from a place of worry, fear about the future, only leads us to sin and rebellion against God. The Christian has no reason to worry or to fear the future. Part of the messianic hope is not only that God is making sinners into saints and bringing them into His kingdom but, also, that Jesus Christ is renewing His world and making it a better place. If we believe Jesus Christ, that means we can be optimistic about our futures and the future of the whole world. We don’t have to be pessimistic like worldly people. We have been learning about this hope as we have been walking through the book of Revelation. To see the latest mention of this hope, listen to the video below:
While the world councils people to run scared from the pandemic, our hope is in the God who saves, and He has promised to save the whole world. Our response to pandemics, elections, plagues, violence, and so on prove our faith. We either trust that God is actually doing what He promised to do or we do not. I must admit that I am so disappointed in people who claim to be Christians this year. The visible church has so little faith. Luckily for us, God is the faithful one. Even when we make an idol out of the storm like the disciples did, God is working it together for the Good of His church, His bride, His people. We remember God’s promise to Solomon:
If I shut the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on my people, and my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).
While this promise was made to national Israel under King Solomon, it is applicable today. God has not changed. He is still the one who causes drought, plagues, and pestilence (e.g. COVID-19). He has not lost His sovereign rule. If He is the one who works even these together, then our response in distancing ourselves from Him and from His church makes little sense. Instead, we recognize God’s promise. He has worked this together not to separate His people but to bring His people together (to the Temple under Solomon and to the local church gathering today) in repentance. If we come together in repentance, God promises to heal our land. That sounds a lot like James 5:13-18. Why does the response of so many people who claim to be Christian look exactly the opposite of what Scripture instructs? I am concerned that people who claim to be Christians are following their fear rather than Christ.
What if the rona gets us? What if we die? Brothers and sisters, we have already died with Christ. He will leave us on earth until He has no more work for us. He does not leave us by ourselves. He promises healing in a very real way. We can rest during the storm and continue following Jesus. That is why Christians through history have run toward pandemics, pandemics much worse than the puny rona, to bring hope and healing to the whole world. They actually believed Christ was conquering. I, for one, will follow Christ into the storm. I will run into the mission field God has given us rather than running away. The world we live in needs the hope of the Gospel. It needs the healing of Christ. I have noticed the need more this year than in any prior year. I hope you will run with me. I remember the words of the apostle, Paul:
My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all courage, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. I am torn between the two. I long to depart and be with Christ–which is far better–but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that, because of my coming to you again, your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound. Just one thing: As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your salvation–and this is from God. For it has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are engaged in the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have (Philippians 1:20-30).
Take courage, brothers and sisters. We long to be with Christ, but we live on this earth willingly for the good of others and not for our own sakes. If God leaves us alive, we dedicate ourselves to be fruitful in His world for His glory. If He does not, we get to be with Him. We do not have to be frightened. God is in control. Our community and our world needs us to be courageous because even our worldly leaders are running in fear. The whole world needs to church to stand courageously now. As followers of Christ, we can charge ahead. This world is not our home; We don’t have to worry about losing it. I think it’s time for Christians to learn once again how to take up their crosses and follow Christ as He conquers the whole world. Let’s be the force of healing and unity rather than fear and division. It’s time to grow in our understanding of faith. It’s time to be encouraged. It’s time to encourage the whole world like we are here to do with Christ as He conquers the world for His glory alone.
I hope you are encouraged and invigorated today. These basic biblical truths liberate us from having to worry or fear, and they turn our attention to Christ and His amazing work. I love you all dearly and pray for you daily. I cannot wait to be home so I can continue to encourage you and work for your good and God’s glory in all things. If you catch the rona, it is not in vain because God does not work anything together without purpose. Do not fear. Call on the elders of the church to pray over you, anoint you with oil, and hear your confession. Your sins will be forgiven, and God will heal you according to His will. I have come to really believe that. We will take the necessary precautions when we come to visit.
- Wear a mask if you feel it necessary.
- If you are showing viral symptoms, please stay home until you are well.
- Take advantage of our hand-sanitizer and masks provided free of charge during the essential gathering.
- If you feel a need to physical distance, please remember that you can sit in the fellowship Hall and enjoy the worship gathering.
- We will soon be live-streaming again for those who are sick. Remember, online viewing cannot replace your sincere participation with the local church body.
- As you interact with one another and with the world, take the position of encouragement in the faith and not fear according to the current ways of the world.
- God has provided this season for His glory and the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
- Don’t forsake your purpose in this world. The rona is a wake-up call and reminder for the church and a testimony to the whole world through the church’s response.
Your loving servant,
Soli Deo Gloria