Faith in the time of coronavirus

A few reflections written in the days of Covid-19

IN THIS TIME OF UNCERTAINTY

‘In this time of uncertainty’.

These are words I’ve heard several times over the last few weeks – indeed I’ve said them myself, on many occasions. But here’s a thought, are things really any more uncertain at the moment?

Well of course they are. Doh!

But then again, perhaps not.

How so? Because what we once imagined was certain about tomorrow was never as certain as we thought it was. Indeed James, never one to mince his words, tells us that we are arrogant and evil to ever imagine that we know what tomorrow will bring!

‘Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. [James 4:13-16].

The only things that are seemingly more uncertain to us today are those things we are told we shouldn’t ever have considered as certain in the first place!

But that’s not the only reason why we shouldn’t unquestionably accept that everything is now uncertain. Because it is still wonderfully true that the things that really matter, those things that relate to the unchanging character of our loving Heavenly Father, are no less certain today than they were a month ago.

God remains totally in control and, as James implies, it is still true that what the Lord wills, that will be what happens. We can draw comfort from that can’t we?

Furthermore, the writer to the Hebrews also reassures us. ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.’ [Hebrews 13:8] And his steadfast love is therefore no less certain in these days. The truth is that His love will never cease. Likewise the Lord’s mercy – it too will never come to an end. Indeed it’s newness is as certain today as it proved to be yesterday, and will prove to be tomorrow. [Lamentations 3:22-23].

So, uncertain times? Well maybe, but then again, maybe not.

Now I am sure that there will be many other verses that we can think of that contain promises made by God. Each offers us certainty today because God’s promises, all of which find their ‘Yes’ in Jesus, [2 Corinthians 1:20] can be utterly depended upon. God is faithful.

So, if you’ve a mind to, why not add some of God’s promises that come to your mind in the comments below. They’ll be an encouragement to us all.

Go on…you know you want to! We could end up with quite a list.

That is, of course, God willing!


SELF ISOLATING AND FEELING ALL SO ALONE?

Self isolating and feeling all so alone?

Wondering if anyone is thinking of you, if anyone knows what you’re doing – whether you’re standing, sitting or lying down?
Questioning if anyone knows, or cares, what you think?
Guessing that you’re talking to yourself – that nobody is listening?

Then know this: Our Heavenly Father sees our every move, knows our every thought. and, even now, surrounds us. He has His hand upon us.

‘O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.’
[Psalm 139:1-6]

We are none of us, ever alone

‘The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.’ [Psalm 145:18]. ‘In Christ Jesus [we] who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.’ [Ephesians 2:13]

And to we who are His;

God the Father has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ [Hebrews 13:5];

Jesus the Son has said ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ [Matthew 28:20];

and the Holy Spirit is the one who dwells within us.
[2 Timothy 1:14]

May we all know that, today, the triune God is with us. He is near.

with thanks to my son-in-law, Dan Wallace, for the idea.


JESUS DOESN’T NEED TO SELF ISOLATE

‘And [Jesus] told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. [Mark 3:9-10]

I read these verses this morning. What a contrast to these days of social isolation. The diseased press around Jesus to touch him in search of a healing.

When the diseased touch the clean the clean are made diseased – except when the one who is clean is Jesus, the only one who is truly clean. Then the diseased are made clean by his touch.

In these days let us draw comfort from the fact that he has cleansed us from our sin, a far more deadly thing than any coronavirus. We are clean in the sight of God because of Jesus. His death has bought us life. And may we touch others with the gospel. It is the good news we all need to hear today.

‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’ [2 Corinthians 5:21]


YOU’RE NOT AS LOST AS YOU MIGHT THINK

‘I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ [Isaiah 46:9-10]

Some years ago, whilst out on a walk, one of my children announced that they were lost. This was on account of said child not having a clue as to where they were. But the individual in question was wrong – they weren’t lost because the one who held their hand, [me], knew exactly where they were.

I knew the way home.

Perhaps you can’t see a way through all that’s going on just now. But be assured – you’re not lost because the one who holds your hand knows exactly where you are and, even in these particularly difficult days, that same loving Heavenly Father will ensure that we will all eventually make it safely home.

The one who really does know the end from the beginning holds us still.


COMFORTING WORDS

‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ [Psalm 23:4]

I don’t know about you but, with all this talk of death, I am in need of some comforting. But where can we find such a thing when daily there is so much bad news that unsettles us?

We could simply avoid listening to the news, try to ignore reality by refusing to live in the real world. But such comfort would not be genuine.

We could pour over the statistics which perhaps suggest that any individual’s chance of coming to serious harm remain small. But such comfort would not be complete.

We could lose ourselves in fictional dramas offered up by our Netflix subscriptions and try to simply forget. But such comfort would only be temporary.

But I for one need a greater comfort than that.

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.’ [2 Corinthians 1:3-4]

God is the God of ALL comfort. There is therefore no real comfort to be found elsewhere. He may not remove us from the difficulties we are experiencing, (the verses don’t promise that, only that He comforts us IN our affliction), but He none the less comforts us however great that affliction is. His is a complete comfort, one that comforts us in ALL our affliction.

So we would do well to stop trying to do things to comfort ourselves but instead allow God to comfort us with what He has already done.

How?

By hearing the most important news of all. ‘that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures’ [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. This is not false news – on the contrary, ‘The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ [1 Timothy 1:15]

By focusing on the statistics that are able to completely reassure, those that tell us that ‘EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ [Romans 10:13], that ‘ALL who come to [Jesus, He] will never cast out’ [John 6:37], that if ANYONE does sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous [and] He is the propitiation, the ‘wrath absorbing, justice satisfying, atoning sacrifice’, for our sins [1 John 2:1-2] and that ‘if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.’ [1 John 1:9]

And by remembering the greatest drama that ever played out, the historically verifiable one in which ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ [John 3:16].

The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism asks ‘What is your only comfort in life and death?’. It has a beautiful answer:

‘That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.’

‘Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned’ [Isaiah 40:1-2]

Here then, in God’s true word, is found comfort indeed

May it be a comfort that is sufficient for each of us. One that, knowing that all that God says is true, enables us, regardless of whether we live or die, to confidently say with Paul that ‘to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ [Philippians 1:21]. Because even if we do die, we can be sure that, just as with the second thief at the crucifixion, Jesus will remember us and ensure that, on that day, we will be with him in paradise. [Luke 23:43]

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ [Psalm 23:4]

That is our hope – not that we will not die but rather that we will surely be raised, resurrected to eternal life, to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. [Psalm 23:6]


THE FEAR OF THE LORD

Psalm 147:11 says,

“But the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him
In those who hope in his steadfast love”

This is a curious thing to say, suggesting as it does that we should hope in the one we fear. Generally speaking we run away from what we fear, hide from it, isolate ourselves from it, hoping as a result to find some safety.

But if we fear God – if we fear the consequence of all the wrong things we have done – then our only hope is to run NOT AWAY from God. But towards Him.

And most particularly we need to run to the cross – where God’s anger was poured out – not on us, but on his son Jesus who took the punishment we deserve. Think of some dreadful fire destroying all before it – the safest place to be is where the fire has already been and burned the ground before moving on. That ground can’t be burnt again. So it is with God – the safest place from God’s wrath is where it has already fallen and cannot fall again. Some of us may be wisely seeking a degree of safety today by isolating ourselves in our homes, but ultimately we are safe only in Christ.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ [Psalm 46:1]

Though at first glance it seems crazy for sinners like us to run towards a holy, righteous God, the truth is that actually the only sensible thing for those who fear God is not to hide from Him but to run to Him for mercy – putting our trust in his steadfast love.


WISHFUL THINKING?

As the news grows ever more concerning, are you, like me, longing for better days? Perhaps then you may be comforted by these words of Victor Hugo.

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise”

Such is an encouraging and hope filled assertion, not dissimilar to those made by others in recent times who have expressed the view that ‘these days will pass’. But are such assurances merely wishful thinking?

Hugo’s words reminded me of a time last year when I found myself in what I believe these days is called a ‘space’. On the walls were a number of displays one of which caught my eye. Upon it were written these words:

‘There will be other times and better times’

Of course these words may also have been no more than wishful thinking. But what was unusual about them was where exactly they were inscribed. Because the space I was in was a church, and the display I was looking at was a memorial stone to somebody who had died.

To many people therefore, the words would have been nothing but foolishness for how can there be other, better times after death?

But to those who believe that what God says is true, the words are neither the consequence of foolishness nor the result of naive optimism. On the contrary, to those who trust God, the words are most certainly true because they are based on his promises.

They are the words of somebody with genuine faith, of somebody who is assured of the things which are hoped for, who is convinced of the things not yet seen. [Hebrews 11:1]

Because for the Christian, even in death there is hope, a certain hope – that of resurrection. It is not that we hope to avoid death and suffering but rather that, even as we do suffer and die we will still be able to confidently declare that ‘There will be other times and better times’.

David put it slightly differently:

‘Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.’ [Psalm 30:5]

For some, of course, the night has already been long and the dawn is yet along way off. Even so, the sun will eventually rise.

But for now we wait. As we do, ‘May the God of hope fill [us] with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit [we] may abound in hope.’ [Romans 15:13]


For ‘Faith in the time of Coronavirus – 2’, click https://peteaird.org/2020/05/19/faith-in-the-time-of-coronavirus-2/here

For ‘Faith in the time of Coronavirus – 3’ click here

For ‘Faith in the time of Coronavirus – 4’ click here

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