Dear MBC Family,
It is Sunday morning, March 22, and I woke up early because I am still experiencing jet lag from our trip to Malawi. After dealing with the effects of a traveler’s stomach bug and taking the last few days to recover from that, I finally found a few moments to collect my thoughts which I wanted to share with you.
We are obviously living in an unprecedented time as our world continues to deal with the spread of the coronavirus. Our normal lives have come to a grinding halt including work, school, and church. We are still learning how to practice “social distancing” and are passing our days at home, largely sequestered from others. We are getting very good at handwashing and sanitizing. We are unable to gather at our favorite restaurants, workout at our regular gyms, or carry out the many items on our calendar as planned. Some are facing potential layoffs as companies shutter their doors, creating financial uncertainty and concern.
How do we process all of this? What is God teaching us? What are some lessons we might learn in the midst of a global pandemic? Here are some thoughts to keep you encouraged during this difficult time:
- The Sovereignty of God – Times like this remind us that the control we think we have over our lives is a mere illusion. We really have no ability to control any factors beyond our responses to situations. As believers, our confidence is in the fact that God sovereignly orchestrates all events in the universe from the movement of the smallest molecule (or COVID-19 virus) to interstellar activity in the farthest reaches of the universe. Psalm 115:3 declares that “our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” Also, Isaiah 46:9-10 states that “I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’” God is always at work, always accomplishing His plan to bring about His sovereign will, a will that also encompasses things like coronavirus outbreaks. Isaiah further reminds us that “I am the LORD, and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these” (Is 45:6-7). Jeremiah reminds us of the same truth in Lamentations 3:38, “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That both good and ill go forth?” What is God doing in the midst of this global outbreak? We may not entirely know, but we can rest assured that He is still on His throne and that His all-powerful hands are controlling these events.
- The Importance of Faith – At times like this, the natural response to adversity is fear, worry, and anxiety, emotions which always cloud our perspective and block our view of God and His character. It is in this soil of doubt and fear that distrust of God and His promises grow. Undoubtedly, we will soon hear voices asking, as they did after 9/11, “Where is God?” For this reason, we must resist our heart’s inclination to anxiety and fear over factors we cannot control. Or as Jesus stated, we must not “worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:34). Instead, we must “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). This is what it means to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). This is what those in the hall of faith of Hebrews 11 would have done. And it is what we must do – fight fear with faith… but not just an empty faith. Our faith must be anchored in the goodness of God, the faithfulness of God, the promises of God, and the unchanging nature of God. Perhaps the simple hymn summarizes this idea best, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.” We find our greatest joy when our hearts are fully confident and at rest in God and His purposes by faith.
- The Brevity of Life – Global events of this magnitude remind us that life is short. As we watch a mounting death toll from this virus, we are sobered and confronted with the stark reality that life is a vapor. David said it this way in Psalm 39:5, “Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath.” Or in the words of James to those who arrogantly make long-range plans, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). While sobering, these reminders force us to recalibrate our lives to reflect what is eternal rather than what is temporary. As C.T. Studd eloquently stated, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”
- The Purpose of Trials – The difficult days we are presently in accentuate the fact that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). We naturally crave a life of ease because at heart we are all comfort-worshippers. Trials, difficulties, hardships, and struggles are viewed as unwelcome intrusions into the idyllic life that most of us have dreamed of in our minds and have longed for in our hearts. While God often graciously grants us trial-free seasons of life, we must not forget that one of the means of our individual and corporate sanctification is trials which make us more like Christ and drive us to the Lord in more conscious awareness of our dependence on Him. These trials are like weights in the gym which stress an athlete’s muscles in order to make them stronger. Paul reminds us of this in Romans 5:3-4, “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.” Only in the crucible of life are we stretched and forced to grow. James affirms this: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). It is holiness and conformity to Christ that God has predestined us for and trials are the anvil upon which he gently and lovingly hammers us in the image of our Savior. Although we naturally run from such adversity, it is this furnace of affliction that God the master sculptor uses for our good and His glory.
- The Need for the Body – The uncertainty we are presently experiencing only magnifies our need to be together for corporate worship and mutual encouragement. Ironically, however, the very thing we most need at this hour as believers we temporarily give up in order to curb the further spread of the virus. While livestream enables us to stay connected virtually for a sermon, it is no substitute for corporate worship. This is because we need the body for relationships, for fellowship, and for in-person interactions that foster spiritually-enriching conversations and mutual accountability. This is why the writer of Hebrews states, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb 10:24-25). One of the benefits of temporary isolation from one another is undoubtedly the reminder of the sweetness of the body. Thus, it is with great joy and anticipation that we look ahead to the day when, with the approval of our governing authorities (Rom 13:1-5), we are allowed to once again assemble to practice the “one-anothers” in person. I trust you are looking forward to that day as much as I am!
I trust those encouragements will be a benefit to you as we navigate this adversity together. Please know how much we love you and are grateful to have you as a part of the MBC family. If we can minister to you in any way during this time, please let us know.
Longing to be together soon,