The Answer that´s Always Right
I started these blogs asking why the God Who loves us would allow the Coronavirus to spread so broadly and kill so viciously. I have suggested from Scripture seven reasons why the Lord allows adversity and trouble to befall us. Any one or all of them could be the reason for each of us.
I find one other reason in the Scriptures as to why God sends or allows trials to come to followers of Christ. This reason is not just one of many. It is one reason that should always be on the list of why God does or allows anything at all to come into our lives.
This is God´s constant purpose for us. Read
Romans 8:28-29 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
God´s continuous desire for each of us who have trusted Jesus as our Lord and Savior is that we should increasingly be conformed to the image of His Son.
Therefore, when adversity comes, we should examine to see if there is a need in our life in one of the first seven areas mentioned, and if so, respond and cooperate with the work of God in those areas. However, even if none of the first seven apply, we should always look for the ways God wants to use the time of trouble to make us more like His own dear Son.
As I look back on the watershed points of my life, those moments in my timeline that made everything different for the rest of my life, I think of five:
Each of those God ordained events were used by the Lord to bring about much needed transformation to make me a little more like Christ. I have so very, very far to go and not nearly enough time remaining to make the progress needed. But I am grateful that God has been faithful to work in all things to accomplish good in my life.
Not all, but most of those watershed/transformational times came during a period of adversity. Right now, I am asking, “God, what do You want to do in my life in this season of world-wide plague to make me more like Jesus?” Would you ask also?
When It´s Good to Cry
Crying as a release of emotion can be good for any of us. I cry more easily now that at any other time in my life. I hope that is because my heart is more sensitive, but honestly, I don´t know if that is the reason.
However, that´s not the kind of crying I want you to think with me about today. Here is the crying of our conversation:
Psalm 34:17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles.
This is like the cry of a child scared in the night.
This is like the cry of someone injured and needing help.
This is like the cry of a person hurting and pleading for relief.
This is like the cry of any of us in need of something we cannot provide ourselves.
This is the cry to God!
And God promises that He hears those of us who are His children through faith in Christ.
Hebrews 4:14–16 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest …, Jesus the Son of God, … Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
If dealing with the Coronavirus and the threat of Covid-19 does nothing else for us (and I hope it will do many more things for us!), surely it is causing us to cry out to the Lord more often and more fervently than ever before.
The Lord hears the prayer of those made righteous through trusting in Jesus. He delivers us when we cry. His deliverance may not come in the exact way we thought it would nor at the time we desired. But it will come. He promises!
Because of our High Priest Jesus, we are welcomed into the throne room of God at any moment on any day. There we always find grace, mercy, and help.
Together, dear people of the Living God, let us cry out to our Maker and our Savior!
Weakness vs Strength
Given the choice of what I want between weakness or strength, I would go with strength every time. I am super-competitive – too much so. I want to be strong in every single thing I do. But I am not!
I have many weaknesses. Early in our ministry in the second church I pastored, the Lord showed my wife Karen and me the same painful truth He showed to Paul. Listen to his testimony.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
This weakness for both of us became many of the things Paul described in the above passage: sometimes a reproach, always a need, at times it even stirred up persecution. It constantly held us in distress. We could not fix it or heal it. We prayed, far more than three times, for God to take it away.
Reluctantly, to be honest, we finally accepted the answer the Lord gave Paul. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Even publicly, we embraced our weakness and the promise of the Lord to make us strong.
After years of struggling and hurting with this weakness, we found that God began to lead people to us who were also struggling with the same or similar weaknesses and distresses. They came to us because they knew of our battle and pain. Out of our weakness, God developed a ministry to others to show them the strength of the Lord made perfect through our weaknesses.
What has this to do with the reasons our Loving Heavenly Father would allow the Coronavirus to so ravage our planet? Because …
Lord God, while we continue to pray that You will remove this plague and heal the afflicted, until You do, while we are still weak, let us be strong in the power of the Lord.
I´m Not Fond of Mirrors
I´ve never spent much time in front of the mirror because I´ve never been crazy about what I see. That has become more and more true as I age. I don´t think this is a problem because I don´t need a mirror to fix my hair!
However, we all need a spiritual mirror. We all often need to see our inward selves, truly understanding how and what we are. The Scriptures will do that for us if we give them opportunity. The key word in that sentence is IF.
There is no question that God encourages such self-examination.
Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.
1 Corinthians 11:31-32 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
Giving us major opportunity to pause and ask the Holy Spirit to lead us in a thorough inward search might just be one of the reasons God is allowing this in our lives.
Let´s not miss the opportunity!
A Stiff-arm from God
I excelled academically in high school. I set my path to do the same in college. Two things that should have been good did not produce good results because I allowed them to turn to pride. That pride led me into liberalism, which in turn led me to doubt many portions of the Bible and outright deny others.
I was a preacher boy who was supposed to be growing closer to the Lord and learning how to be a pastor. I was not doing either of those well. Both James and Peter explain why:
“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5
I once heard a gifted Bible teacher translate this verse, “God stiff-arms the proud … .” I think he got it right. What was the original sin that got Lucifer kicked out of heaven? Pride!
When Jesus began His Sermon on the Mount, he said in Matthew 5:3 (NKJV) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Poor in spirit means humble. Humility is the beginning place for a life becoming like the life of Jesus. Pride is the one obstacle that can block all progress toward that goal.
Consequently, God is willing to go to great extremes to help us overcome pride and humble ourselves before Him. He graciously did so in my life. He brought me to a place where I had to abandon all my so-called intellectualism, and accept in its place that all knowledge and wisdom came only from the Lord through His Word.
In the 1970´s, when God worked this transformation in my life, it was neither popular nor career enhancing to avidly believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and a literal six, twenty-four hour day, creation. But God made me an advocate of both. It was humbling to be the object of ridicule and scoffing. It also drew me into a much closer walk with Christ and a more fruitful ministry.
God´s desire for each of us is to rid us of pride and self-sufficiency and replace it with humility and Christ-dependency.
When considering the reasons why our loving Heavenly Father might allow something like the Coronavirus to bring pain and suffering in the lives of His children, we should consider how greatly the Lord desires to prevent the destruction and fall that pride brings to those who walk its path. As the Spirit declared in Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV) Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.
How many people next year will be able to say, “God rescued me from destruction by a tiny little virus?”
It Seems So Strange
I only remember two spankings when growing up, one from my mom and one from my dad. Thinking about that, I am certain of two things:
I remember with each of them, I was told, “I spanked you because I love you.” I doubt that I believed my parents´ declarations at the time, but I do now. I've been the dad who spanked his sons, and each time I experienced the truth that it hurt me far more than it did them.
That is not a cliché nor a platitude to make me feel better. It was true then, and when I think back on it, it is true now. It hurt me to spank them, but I did it because I knew that a little sting to their rambunctious posteriors was better than the other consequences they would experience in life if they kept doing particular behaviors.
God does the same with those of us who are His sons and daughters through faith in Jesus Christ. Read what the Holy Spirit says in the book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 12:6-7 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
Hebrews 12:10-11 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Many Christians have yielded to the thinking of our unredeemed culture and reject this truth. When something bad happens to a person, they are quick to tell the hurting, “God did not do this.” Sometimes that statement is true. Sometimes it is not.
The truth is
1 John 1:9 (NKJV) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Here is another dimension of that truth:
Of one thing we can both be confident, strange as it seems; whatever God´s purpose, He allows what He does in our lives because He dearly, dearly loves us!
Out of Control!
I remember my first time on snow skis. It wasn´t pretty. I´ve never been an athlete, so snow skiing didn´t come naturally. The most fearful thing to me was being on a slope, even a green one (the easiest variety), and being out of control, not being able to turn or stop without a crash.
With all that is happening in the world right now, I kind of feel like I´m back on skis. How can I feel like I´m in control when it looks like nothing is in control around me these days?
That´s where Jesus comes in.
Matthew 11:28–30 (NKJV) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
The Lord speaks to those who are working hard but still weighed down with a burden. Who isn´t right now? Yet, He promises rest! How so?
Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me.” Take His yoke? I think of oxen.
Why Lord will I find rest if I get in the yoke with you? He explains, “for I am gentle and lowly in heart.” I still don´t get it until I dig a little and see what the words Jesus actually said mean. A more literal translation is “for I am meek and humble in heart.”
Meek is different than gentle. Meek means power under control – power like that of a strong ox to pull a heavy cart! Yet power that is not running wild. Power under control!
Jesus has all power and authority in the universe, and He has it all under control. I think I will step into the yoke with Him, walk with Him, let Him do the heavy pulling, keeping it all under control.
Wow! When I do this, it sure feels easy, and the burden seems so light, so in control!
That´s another reason God sometimes allows adversity and trouble – to help us see (or remember) our need to get in the yoke with Jesus and let Him keep things in control.
“Mike, are your jaws tired?”
That´s what my mother asked me as our family of five barreled down the road to my Granddaddy´s place. I guess I talked a lot when I was a kid also. My most frequently used word was “Why?”
I still use that word a lot. If someone tells me something and I do not already know why, I often ask.
So when the Coronavirus began its deadly spread in China, I asked, “Why?”
When it began to be a threat in the States, I again asked, “Why?”
Now, being a firm believer in the Sovereignty of God, I know that the crisis happening in our world and happening to us in our little part of the world is being permitted by our all wise and loving God, or it would not be happening at all.
Knowing that only rearranges the question. “Why is God permitting the Coronavirus to spread and kill as it is doing?”
Over the next number of days in this blog, I want us to explore that question biblically.
One reason I see why the Lord permits such adversity such as we and the rest of our world are experiencing right now comes out of Jesus´ Parable of the Sower.
Matthew 13:3–9 (NKJV) Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
The parable is all about how people receive the seed of the Word of God when it is sown in their lives. Jesus identifies four kinds of receptivity, or lack thereof.
Sometime, God allows adversity to get our attention – to cause us to pause and listen to Him, so that the seed of the Word of God can take root and grow us to maturity and spiritual productivity.
Important Message from Bro. Mike
Dear St Andrew Baptist Church,
I would like to share three things with you today. We find ourselves in a unique time.
One that I’ve never experienced before. It is possible that some of you have seen or lived through a time when there was an illness that seemed to be particularly difficult on the community. I can’t imagine the feelings that might have troubled some in 1957 when the Asian flu outbreak killed 70,000 before it was eradicated.
But, there is something that I do know. We have lived through and managed to respond well to epic events and horrible disruptions to our community and to our church in the past. Consider September 11 or the economic crisis that hit in 2008. And we don't need much of a memory to recall Hurricane Michael. That event alone has shown me that God working in us, we can rise above any crisis.
Many of you may recall that following 9/11, our houses of worship were full. During the economic crisis of 2008, St Andrew Baptist Church decided that Now is the Time to build two new buildings for our children and youth. Following Hurricane Michael, we were the church to many in Bay County as we sent out work teams and worked under a huge white tent to serve our community with food, water, and supplies. What we do, in the name of Jesus, defines who we are to those around us.
Here is what I know:
1. Our sovereign God is still on His throne and in control. He loves us!
God is our refuge and strength, a VERY PRESENT HELP in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear! Ps. 46:1-2a
2. Regardless of what we hear on the news, with God’s help, this too shall pass.
3. This event gives us yet another chance to show the love of Jesus through how we respond and how we act during this time of social-distancing.
What are some things that we can do to insure that our community sees and feels the love of Jesus during these times?
1. Our church is going to cooperate with the request of President Trump and the recommendations of the CDC in canceling our group gatherings, at least for the rest of March. We will be posting a worship service on the St. Andrew Baptist Church Facebook page every Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. and hope that you will join us there. We will not attempt to duplicate either our Band Led or Choir Led services. We will continue those when we can come back together again. Following that, we will add the worship service to our website for continued viewing where there will also be a link for a “Small Group Bible Study Experience” for adults and youth. We will have Bible lesson materials available for children and preschoolers this week, and we will keep you updated on other things we can make available in the future. Youth will meet via an online platform on Wednesday nights at 6 p.m. You can access any and all of these through our website, sabc.org, or on our St Andrew Baptist Church Facebook page.
2. For your own sake, the sake of your family, and for the sake of people you do not even know, stay home as much as possible. If you are sick, with certainty and without exception, stay home and call your health professional and go where he/she tells you for medical assistance. If you need non-medical help, call the church office. Our Deacons will be calling our widows and offering assistance to them. Many in our Women’s Ministry have expressed a loving desire to help those who are in the high-risk groups stay safe by staying home and away from large groups. They have offered to help with shopping for groceries, picking up pharmaceuticals, and even helping with child-care.
3. While our community seems to be in a fearful state of fear and uncertainty, we need to respond with hope and confidence in our loving and sovereign God. We know how to do this. We’ve done it before. We must respond boldly during this time of uncertainty with a certain and sure confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ. What He has done in the past, He will do in the future. Pray for opportunities to share Jesus with others.
4. Look for ways to help your neighbors and those you know who are older and in need of help. Our neighbors may have seen us go to church on Sunday. Now let’s let them see our loving response during this crisis. Perhaps this will give us the opportunity to share our faith with them. Lend a hand and ask for nothing in return.
5. Support St. Andrew Baptist Church. While we may not all gather in one spot for worship and small groups, we will still have opportunity to build the kingdom. Your treasures, just like in the days following Hurricane Michael, are needed to help formulate a community response. While we don’t know exactly what all of that response will be, we have always responded as a church to needs in our community. Give online at https://www.sabc.org/acsaccess--giving.html. Use your giving envelopes and mail your offering to the church (3010 W. 15th St., Panama City, FL 32401). Our ministries and our missionaries still need support through this season of irregular meetings at St Andrew Baptist Church. We are still in need of faithful stewards who will walk through this time with us.
6. March 22 was to be the Sunday that we collected our Helping Hands offering. It looks as if our Helping Hands will be needed more than ever now. Our Helping Hands fund will be the platform to use to help our members during a crisis. You can give to this fund in the same way that you give to the general fund. Just mark it as a special gift to Helping Hands. That can be done online or by mail.
7. In the coming days, as we move to a completely digital service, be intentional about staying connected to your small group by phone and through social media. We build community in our small groups and will need to work harder to do that if we are not meeting face-to-face on a weekly basis.
8. Pray. Pray that God will hear our cries and heal our land from this Coronavirus. Pray that God will use this crisis to draw all of us closer to Himself and many who are lost to faith in Jesus. Pray that God shows mercy on those who have Coronavirus and that they quickly recover. Pray that God strengthens His church to respond well during this crisis. Pray that God gives our leaders wisdom and discernment to help and not to hurt. Pray that God protects our missionaries and their families around the globe. Pray that God opens our eyes to opportunities around us to show His love in our response.
9. You will be hearing from me more often by email and social media in the days to come! I hope you will read the things I will have to share with you.
I love you, St Andrew Baptist,