Let Us Rejoice!
Dear Church Family,
Amid growing concerns related to the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic sweeping across our nation, this past week I’m sure many of you have felt a whirlwind of emotions pouring over you with regard to the current health crisis we’re facing as well as its economic, political, and social ramifications.
With so much uncertainty as to when we might be able to meet again in person (among other concerns you might have), I wanted to take just a moment today to encourage you (as I was encouraged myself this past week) to remember the last message we heard from God’s Word together when we did meet just a few weeks ago.
In God’s providence, Pastor Drew preached a sermon from James 1:2-4, challenging us to “count it all joy” when we face “trials of various kinds.” James’s pertinent and practical words of wisdom echo similar words found in 1 Peter 4:12-13—
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice…”
As uncertain and unsettling as times like these may prove to be, my prayer is that these words would serve as a constant reminder to us all that such moments of crisis provide us as believers with not only challenges to overcome but opportunities to learn, grow, and respond in such a way that demonstrates and displays to a watching world that indeed our hope is built on nothing less than the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.
As you spend these next few weeks/months considering then how you and your family might respond to this pandemic in such a way that your faith in Christ would be strengthened, let me suggest a few ways this might happen.
First, I would encourage you to view this trial much like you would any other—as a test of your faith and opportunity for you to trust in the Lord with all your heart (Prov. 3:5). Because we know and believe that God ordains whatever trials come into our lives for this reason—not so much to test whether our doctrine is sound, but whether the doctrines we profess are truths we actually live by—this is a time for us to prove that!
May we strive then as a congregation to prove our faith during these trying times much like the church in Thessalonica did when faced with various trials themselves. It was for this reason, in fact, that the apostle Paul was able to write to them so confident of their calling & election—not merely because they professed to be Christians with their mouths, but because they had proven it with their lives!
“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything” (1 Thess. 1:4-8).
Much like they demonstrated and displayed their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope” (1 Thess. 1:3), may we too then strive to do the same in the coming days and weeks ahead.
Secondly, I would also encourage you to view this trial as you would any other—as a challenge and opportunity for you and your family to pray.
It’s my belief that often times our lives need to be disrupted (as they certainly have been in recent days) in order for us to realize as Martin Luther once said, that “to be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
How often though (despite knowing how vitally important prayer is) do we rely upon it as much as we should? Perhaps then, as C.S. once said, while it’s often the case in times like these that God uses pain & discomfort as his “megaphone to rouse a deaf world,” this may be just one way God may be using this coronavirus pandemic—as his “megaphone” to rouse us from our prayerlessness while bringing us humbly to our knees in full reliance upon him in prayer.
Just as Paul encouraged the Philippians then, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7-8).
Finally, I would encourage you to view this trial unlike other trials you've faced before—as a unique challenge and opportunity to serve and minister to others while still abiding by our government’s recommendation to practice “social distancing.”
As we’ve witnessed over this past week, technology can be a wonderful tool, especially for the church to stay connected (via Facebook, FaceTime, Zoom, etc.) despite not being able to gather together physically. Let’s continue to utilize such tools in the best possible way!—encouraging each other, praying with and for one another, even studying & sharing God’s Word despite our social distancing.
This week I’ll be providing a prayer guide for us as a church to follow as we join together in praying for the world, our nation, our leaders, our neighbors, and Christ’s church until we’re finally able to meet again, face-to-face.
Until then, let’s not forget, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24)!
Blessings in Christ,