The Sonshine
May 2020
Walter Olsen

Introduction

We can all see what is going on in our country and all about us, but how do we respond to it? Can we do anything at all!? Certainly we and our families are all individually affected. Maybe we just find it a chore to stay inside all the time, or maybe we are fearful that we or somebody in our family  will get the virus. Maybe we are concerned about being able to provide for our families.

 Beyond that, many are fearful for our country. Will we ever get back to where we were before the virus appeared? Will we enjoy the same freedoms we have been accustomed to? What about our financial situation?

The current environment certainly arouses a plethora of questions, many of which we do not know the answer to. And yet, we do have a source of knowledge, a knowledge that is sure and comforting. It is the knowledge we can learn from the Word of God, the Bible. This time that we are going through as a nation is new to us, but it is not new to God or the world we live in.

The nation of Israel saw many very difficult and trying times and, apart from God’s intervention, would have been obliterated. God, in His faithfulness and love for them, always had not only an encouraging word for them, but a way out of their difficulty if they would respond as He directed. Unfortunately, they often did not respond as God directed and thus they had to endure His punishment. The point is, their blessing or judgment depended upon their obedience or lack of it to His direction.

Our thoughts today are directed primarily to Christians, to those who by faith have trusted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. They are the ones who have some heart and mind to respond to Biblical truth.

So, from the Biblical perspective, what are some things that the Lord would have us to do in light of the current crisis?

First, we have  very clear instruction from the Old Testament regarding God’s directive to people undergoing a national tragedy. Note the passage, “And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to Myself for an house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven and there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people; If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chron. 7:12-14). I know this is not a direct correlation to our situation today, but there are certainly principles and truths which apply.

Note that it is the people of God to whom this admonition is given, to the people called by His name. People who are not believers do not have the same relationship to God; God cannot be said to be their spiritual Father. God loves His own and seeks their best even in times of disobedience. Yes, He may bring chastisement, but, by His grace, He seeks to bring them back to Himself! We can all rejoice in that because of our sometimes rebellious nature.

God’s people are urged to humble themselves. It is the people called by God’s name who comprehend the need for personal humbling before God. To humble ourselves is to recognize our unworthiness before Him. It is not that we are worth nothing to God as individuals, but we have no worth as far as our standing before Him is concerned. We have nothing within ourselves to appeal to God for His acceptance or His love. We cannot make ourselves more pleasing to Him because of our innate goodness or our good works. God loves us in spite of ourselves and all we can do is to appeal to His grace in the giving of His Son to die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. On the basis of accepting Him, we are, “...Accepted in the Beloved” [that is, in the Person of Jesus Christ] (Eph. 1:6). The opposite of humility is pride. Pride exalts and depends on self and really is a hindrance to the blessings of God. Actually, pride is an offence to God because it robs Him of the revelation of Himself.

Essential to the blessing of God in our lives and nation is the matter of prayer. Prayer is the wonderful gift of God to believers because it reveals to us more of who God is and the abundance of His provision for us. Prayer, to be effectual, is personal. That is, it must be from the believer’s heart. I think prayer is not only an activity, but it is also an attitude. It is an attitude of praise and dependence upon God perpetually. Never should the believer have an attitude of independence from God. Just as the believer is encouraged to , “Rejoice evermore” (I Thess. 5:16), so he is encouraged to, “Pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17).

Of course, sometimes a matter of special urgency will prompt us to pray.  Remember the time the decree came from Nebuchadnezzar that all the wise men were to be destroyed because they could not tell the king his dream? The decree would include Daniel and his fellows as well. Note Daniel’s response to the problem, “Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Meshael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon” (Daniel 2:17-18). Certainly that was a very urgent request and God did not let them down, “Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven” (Daniel 2:19).

Today, our nation is facing a very concerning crisis. Can we do less than get on our knees and ask God for His intervention? Certainly He knows all about it, but He wants to bring us into  conformity to His will and that cannot happen without sincere prayer!

Then, too, God’s people are urged to seek His face. God wants to bring us into a more intimate fellowship with Himself. Unfortunately, many are content with a very surface relationship with God. They know something about God, but they don’t know Him personally. They know God is there someplace, but they don’t know Him in their hearts. Thus, their worship of Him becomes a matter of formality. They reason that if they just go through the form they have learned from someone else, God will be pleased. But remember, true worship is not a form primarily, but a personal experience with Him!

If people do not learn to seek God’s face, that is, to seek Him for Himself, they will never really know God for who He really is. God will remain a fact of the mind but not a reality of the heart. When this is true, there is a great gap between God and the human heart. We as individuals and as a nation need to go into our prayer closets as Jesus teaches and to seek Him for Himself.

Of utmost importance is the matter of turning from our sins. Israel, in spite of so many blessings from God, was often rebuked by God for their disobedience and general disregard of Him. Note the following passage where God rebukes His people for their disobedience, “In the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands: Then said I unto them, ‘Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. But they rebelled against Me, and would not hearken unto Me. They did not everyman cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out My fury upon them, to accomplish My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt” (Ezekiel 20:6-8).

In our day, so much of our nation has turned against the truth of God’s word. This in part is because so many churches no longer preach the truths of the Bible. Many people, even of those who attend church, know little of who God really is or of His plan for the world we live in. They can only look at what presently exists in the world and cannot see beyond the present. They see themselves as the solution of the world’s problems. All the time, sin abounds in the world about them. However, most do not see the corruption of the world as having anything to do with sin. Moral impurity, disrespect for human life including abortion, drunkenness, and a host of other things are generally accepted by the unbelieving world.

If we are to have the blessing of God in our lives and nation, sin must be seen for what God says about it. Man’s estimation is of no value and will only lead eventually to total loss.

Yes, the world abounds with sin. But, wait a minute, what about the Christian world? I’m thinking here of people who have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Do we have anything we need to repent of, to turn from? Yes, definitely. It is so easy as believers to fall into a routine of worship and even ministry that is lacking of the real power and presence of God. Our “Christian” living becomes more of a habit than a living reality. We go through the motions of prayer, but do we really pray? Do we enter into our prayer closet and really commune with God? Do we really identify sin in our own lives? What about pride, greed, lust, selfishness, an arrogant spirit, a controlling spirit, unkind words, lying? There are multitudes of other things that we as Christians sometimes willingly tolerate in our own lives. When these things abound in our lives, what is the result? The following are but a few of the results of a dimmed and distant relationship with God.

First, we will not know the reality of the presence of God in our lives. We will not know the fulness of His  peace, love, and joy. We will carry on as usual with little or no special intervention of God in our lives. Paul prayed for the Ephesians that God, “...may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the of glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead...” (Eph. 1`:17-20). The normal Christian life is God revealing Himself to us daily by His Word and Spirit.

Secondly, we will not see much of a distinction from what we were as lost sinners before we came to Christ.. The distinction should be quite obvious as Paul relates, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: among whom we also had our conversation in times past in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desirers of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. And hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 2:2-6). When we come to Christ we receive a new life, new interests and desires and, for most, a new life-style. If everything remains the same as before one’s profession, it would seem something is amiss. This is especially true as one grows in his relationship and walk with God.

Thirdly, we will not grow much in our walk with God. What we do is often done out of habit or a sense of duty. This is true in spite of attending church and even being involved in some kind of ministry. One could be very “busy for God” and still know little or nothing of a personal relationship with Him. A relationship with God is not found in ourselves in what we do, but in what and who we are in Him.

Fourthly, our life will not truly redound to the glory of God. That is, our life will not reveal to others who God is in our lives. It is true what Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). The point is, the light that shines is to be the light of God Himself. If we do things only to be seen of men, the Father is not glorified or revealed.

Now, notice God’s response to His people when they truly repent, when they have a change of heart and mind regarding their distant relationship to God.

First, God said, “...then I will hear from heaven...” It is so comforting to know that God hears our prayers. Indeed, we have the assurance that God hears he prayer of the righteous. As a Father, He cherishes communication from His children. He loves them with an eternal love and waits to meet their every need. Thankfully, the children of God are never orphans! Could it be that the present stress abroad in our world today is God’s way of getting the attention of His children? It is so easy to become careless in our walk with God and thus to become distant and indifferent in our relationship with Him.

Secondly, God says, I “...will forgive their sin...” God promises to forgive our sins when we confess them and return to a more intimate relationship with Him. Indeed, it is our sins that bring the chastisement of God into our lives, but remember, God chastises His children. We need to confess our personal sins but also the sins of our nation as the prophet Daniel did.

Thirdly, God said to the nation of Israel that he would “...heal their land.” Our land needs to be healed today, but I believe it is a healing that must come from God. Man’s attempts at healing may be helpful for a time, but only God can bring genuine and lasting healing.

Secondly, God would have us to study and meditate upon His Word. As we study and meditate upon His Word, we get to know Him more fully. We also get to know something of God’s will and plan for the ages. God did not leave us with ignorance concerning the future!! In His Word, He reveals much of what will characterize the days in which we live as well as His plan for the future. Frankly, if we knew His word better, we would not be so surprised by the times we live in! Some of us know Jan Markel, a radio Bible teacher. She has well said, “Things are not falling apart; they are falling in place.”

Conclusion

The world about us is certainly perplexed about what is going on these days. Christians don’t have all the answers to the problems we face either. The difference is that, as believers, we have the sure Word of God to guide us through these days. We are not left totally bewildered. The words of Jesus are very comforting, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).


Though we were homebound for Easter, we were still blessed by the glorious truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead” (I Cor. 15:20-21). We listened to and watched the Sunday school hour and the morning service of our church via the electronic method.  No matter what, the truth of God is never bound.

Weather wise, Easter Sunday was different than most! It snowed all day and we ended up with about 8 inches of snow!! The robins were wondering what was going on! Several came up by our patio window but we didn’t have any worms to give them!

We extend our sympathy to the family of Phyllis French of Barron who passed away on April 10th. Her husband, Victor, passed away a few months ago. Victor and Phyllis were very good friends of ours for many years.

Also, some who read this paper will remember June Bol. She passed away at the Western Wisconsin Health Center in Baldwin in March. I had her funeral at the O’Connell Funeral Home in Baldwin.

Do we sometimes worry about the future? Thankfully, for the believer, his future is settled once and for all as his name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Even in this life we have the promise of God. Jesus said to His disciples, “Therefore take no thought, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink’ or ‘Wherewithal shall we be clothed?’ (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt.6:31-33).

“We will never be overcomers apart from prayer. We will never have the unknown made known except through [personal] communion [prayer].” O.S Hawkins

If you would like to add anyone to the mailing list for The Sonshine, please give me their name(s) and address(s). There is no charge.