Our world, our country, our family, and each one of us have entered into a different phase of living we couldn’t have imagined two months ago. Our normal way of life has been greatly influenced and changed by the now familiar coronavirus. Many employees have lost their jobs or in numerous cases are working from home. In many cases, it is mandated that people stay at home with little or no access to the normal conveniences of life such as restaurants, concerts, or sporting events. Of course, most schools in the country are closed. In Woodville, even the Sytende Mai celebration has been canceled!
Most of us have never faced a situation like this before and the result is that many are perplexed and, in some cases, fearful. We don’t know what a week, a day, or an hour will bring forth.
Christians and non-Christians face the same dilemma in different ways. Yet, the Christian has a definite advantage in many ways. The purpose of this article is to point to some of the comforting passages we can go to in Scripture, passages that will encourage and comfort our hearts with truth that cannot be found in any other place in the world we live in. Of course, we need to take all the necessary precautions in seeking to defend ourselves, our loved ones, and those about us.
Perhaps most believers have found passages that are especially significant and helpful to them. Some of the ones that are a special blessing to me are the following:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psa. 23:1). The greatest comfort is in knowing that the Lord is truly our shepherd, our Savior. Apart from having the assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ, we really have no security, no anchor. All the counsel and promises of the world can never give what only God Himself can give. Their promises may sound great, but they all fall short of genuine and eternal help. Like Paul, we should be able to say, “…I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (II Tim. 1:12).
There is an important thing to note here, though. The Lord is not our shepherd just because we name the name of Christ. There must be a personal relationship with Him. We come to Him for salvation, but we also individually come to Him daily for fellowship with Him and to seek His will for our lives. When there is a yielding of our lives to Him, we begin to know Him as our sufficiency, indeed, our Lord.
One of the blessings of knowing the shepherd is to know something of His care for us. David could say, “... I shall not want [lack].” God knows our every need even before we ask Him! His storehouse is never lacking; He never runs short of that which we especially need in our lives. But we must remember, God alone knows best what we need! That’s why it is so important that we know what it is to yield our lives to Him on a daily basis.
As a child, many of us can remember our parents care for us. Because they loved us, they provided amply for us. Maybe they didn’t give us all we wanted, but they gave us what they knew was good for us.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside still waters” (Psa. 23:2). Even in times of distress, God knows where the green pastures are. We may not be able to see where our next meal is coming from, but God knows. When we walk with God, we are not dependent upon what we can see but what He can see!
Further, He leads beside the still waters. Yes, life can be turbulent and sometimes disturbing, but nothing disturbs God! He is never challenged by the circumstances we find ourselves in. Even in frightening times, God will lead us to the places where it is easy for us to have our thirst quenched. He can give what we need most in very challenging times. Our need is to keep our hearts close to Him so that we recognize the blessings He bestows upon us.
“He restoreth my soul...” (Psa. 23:a). We often reason that the greatest need of our lives is to be kept safe and, hopefully, happy. Those are things we all cherish, but there is something even more important and that is the relationship of our hearts with God. If we have all of our material needs met, but have not an intimate walk with God, we are still miserable!! True joy is the joy of the Lord Himself in our lives. Nothing short of the joy of the Lord is fully satisfying in our lives! The problem is, it is so easy to be deceived by the attractions of the world and the desires of our own flesh. Oftentimes believers realize this late in their lives and they mourn the years they have wasted. The glorious truth is, “He restoreth my soul!” He can bring us back into fellowship with Himself if our fellowship has become cold and indifferent. Could it be that the Lord allows us to have some challenging times that we might be brought into fellowship and true dependence upon Him?
Thankfully, any believer can have the joy of the Lord, even if it comes later. Jesus said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (Jn. 15:11). Now, as to troubling times. Can we still have the joy of the Lord? Yes! The joy of the Lord is not dependent upon the circumstances of our lives! His is an abiding joy. We may be living during a pandemic, the threat of a very threatening virus. We or one of our loved ones may even be affected. We trust that will not happen, but even if it does, we do not lose the joy of the Lord! Yes, we may be ill or grieved for loved ones, but God does not withdraw His joy and sense of well-being from us.
One thing I fear for many, however, is that they reason they can manipulate God on their own terms! God will not be manipulated! To know the joy and fellowship of God it is necessary to come to the cross, the place of the forgiveness of our sins.
“...He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psa. 23:3b). In all of our suffering, one thing is really essential for the believer and that is that he walks in the paths of righteousness through it all. If we walk in paths of righteousness by God’s leading and provision, we are victors even if we seem to many others to be losers! We can never lose with God!
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me...” (Psa. 23:4). We don’t yet know what we are facing as a nation or as individuals. As believers, we know that God knows and that all the way through He will be with us. As has been said, “Wherever we are going, God is already there.” Many people today are very fearful, and that is understandable on a human level. Even as believers, we often fear what we do not know. The point of this verse though, is that we really do not need to fear the future. We fear not because we know that God is there with us and will see us all the way through. Yes, that takes faith, not in ourselves, but in our living, loving, and caring God.
Sometimes children fear the dark and what might be hidden in it, but if they know their parents are close by, the fear is greatly diminished.
Perhaps a reminder of our humanity is in order here. We don’t have perfect understanding of all the circumstances of life. I don’t mean to imply that believers are totally without fear in the things we face. The difference is that we can face them confidently trusting our heavenly Father to see us through whatever He has for us.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies...” (Psa. 23:5). Only believers can really appreciate this truth. When we are facing maybe even life changing issues, we can still know God’s special blessings in our lives. I have seen many dealing with life ending problems and yet, they were rejoicing in God’s promise of a glorious future for them. They know that, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” The glorious truth is that the blessings of God are identified with His Person. It is not so much the things God gives to us, though we have so much to be thankful for, but it is the blessing of God Himself! It is who He is in our lives.
“Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). I really believe that a major part of facing our challenges with confidence and without so much fear is to know what it is to truly rejoice in the Lord. It is our rejoicing in Him and His corresponding ministry to us that helps us to face even the most difficult things of life. When my brother, Lloyd, was very ill with cancer he still had the joy and reality of God in his heart. Yes, the suffering was great, but the joy of the Lord was even greater. He knew he was dying and he knew that the angels were about to come and take him to his heavenly home. I remember praying with him on the last day of his life. My heart was heavy and grieved, but there was the special ministry of the Holy Spirit of God. We could still say, “It is well with my soul.” Without the reality and presence of God and the promises of His word, such an experience would be devastating to say the least.
“Be careful [anxious] for nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). This is such a blessing because it is an invitation to take all of our cares and fears to Him. Certainly God knows all about our circumstances, but He invites and wants us to talk to Him about them. We are not left alone with our cares and burdens! He is there to extend His grace for whatever our needs may be. That doesn’t mean He will remove all the pain our circumstances bring to us, though He may, but He will give to us whatever it takes to see us through the hardships.
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). Is it really possible to have peace of heart and mind in the midst of troubling circumstances? It is because God says it is! Also, it is the experience of the one who is walking with God, the one who knows Jesus Christ not only as his Savior, but as the Lord of his life. Again, peace is not something that God gives us apart from Himself, but He is our peace. When we know that God is with us we have nothing to fear because He fears nothing! He who is our life, joy, and peace will meet and subdue the opposition according to His own will. This does not mean that we will not suffer in some ways, but that God will be with us to bring the blessing of His presence and His will in the midst of our suffering.
Of immense blessing and comfort to the believer is the truth that nothing can separate him from the love of God. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, not principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our lord” (Rom. 8:35, 37-39). To be accepted by the Beloved is to be eternally kept by the Beloved.
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers [many] temptations [trials]; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect [mature] and entire, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-3). As believers, we know that God does not just want us to be physically comfortable. He wants us to know Him intimately, to believe Him, to trust Him, to grow in our faith, to love Him more and more. It is through the trials of life that we get to know Him, to see our need of Him, to walk more closely with Him. It is thus that we can count it all joy when trials and hardships come into our lives. The point is, there is nothing more important than knowing God personally!!
When I first started to write this article, I was reminded of so many encouraging passages. The problem is, there is not room to more than hardly introduce the subject at hand. I am reminded of the little bird I once saw take a drink out of Lake Michigan. One little drop out of all of Lake Michigan! So much remained! So it is with the truth of God’s eternal word. One brief study, but there is so much more.
Now I would like to make a few observations related to what is going on in the world today. We have never seen anything like what we are going through at the present. It seems to me that we should give some attention to some related truth.
First, we know that world conditions will get worse as time goes on. The Bible, especially in passages like Matthew 24, speaks of what will take place after the Lord returns for His church. (Some may not be familiar with this truth because many churches do not teach it. However, see such passages as I Thessalonians 4:3-18). It will be a time of unprecedented trouble characterized as Matthew describes, “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers [various] places. All these are the beginning of sorrows...” (Matt. 24:7-8). There is no doubt about what is going to take place in the future because God has said it. The question I think about is this, “Could God be warning us about future events?” Should we begin to take the word of God seriously? Are we really ready to meet God personally?” Are we truly resting our salvation on the sacrifice Jesus made when He died on the cross or are we looking to our works, to a religious system, or to our imagined goodness?
It is essential that we be identified with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection and that can only be as, by faith, we come to Him for the forgiveness of our sins. It is only then that we are prepared to meet God. When we believe in Jesus Christ, He imputes His righteousness to us. Indeed, He exchanges our sins for His righteousness! It is only in His righteousness that we can stand in the presence of God.
Secondly, if we are believers, are our lives really counting for Him? Are we serving Him from a sincere and sanctified heart? Are we obedient to the truth of the Bible as we know it?
The above article expresses just some of the things the Lord has laid on my heart recently. They are things that I believe we all should give some consideration to. It is so easy to have a spattering of the knowledge of the Bible without giving much heed to it. Even as believers, we are sometimes satisfied with so little of God and the truth of His word. The result is that we live our lives apart from His direction and blessing. Then, too, our lives count so little for Him. Our ministry, if any, is very dim. Is not this a time to really take inventory of our lives, spiritually speaking? Do we really know that we are born again? Do we know that we have the witness of the Spirit with our spirit as the Apostle Paul speaks about?
The following quote from Charles Stanley seems helpful here, “Do not worry about your life” (Matt. 6:25). This is not a suggestion. It is a command. You may say, ‘But I can’t help feeling anxious, I have always been a worrier’...My response is, ‘Oh, yes you can’. There is nothing about a circumstance that automatically creates anxiety. Anxiety occurs because of the way we respond to the problem or troubling situation. Your ability to choose is part of God’s gift of free will to every human being. You can choose how you feel. You can choose what you think about, and you can choose how you will respond to a circumstance.”
BJ and I have been recovering for several weeks now in our own home which is a real blessing. I am able to walk with much better confidence now and without pain. We were both taking physical therapy at the Baldwin Fitness Center at the hospital, but I’m not sure if that can continue because of the current virus.
Yesterday, via electronic medium, we were able to “attend” our adult Sunday school class and a shorter version of the morning service. Both were a blessing.
This is a time to be mindful of the needs of others. Our church and several of our neighbors have been very good to us in sharing food with us. We are thankful for each one of them. Also, our sons, Tim and Dan, have brought us some food.
This is also a time to be much in prayer for our nation and for one another. To pray is to strengthen our relationship with God and to move God in the lives of others. Prayer is as essential to our Christian lives as the air we breathe is to our bodies. “And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). To fail to pray is to fail in having His presence and confidence in facing the time and challenges of the day before us.
“Revival blessings flow to and through those who are truly broken before God. Andrew Murray said it well, ‘Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds you abased and empty, His glory and power flow in.’”
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