Peace In The Pandemic
Governor DeWine told us this past week that we are gradually going to return to a "new normal" beginning May 1st. He made it very clear that until there is a vaccine for COVID-19 that the new normal will not be anything like the old normal. Quoting Churchill during WWII, this is not the end... this is not even the beginning of the end... rather this is the end of the beginning.
This "new normal" will dramatically change some of the things we used to take for granted. We will continue to social distance. We will learn to wear masks whenever we go out in public. The handshake will become a sign of the past. We will not gather together in large groups close to one another. Every time you see this "new normal," it could easily trouble your soul - reminding you of the taken-for-granted intimacies of the past.
We are past the initial shock of Coronavirus. But we are a long ways from the distant end. The light at the end of the tunnel is still but a pin prick. The tunnel is a lot longer than any of us ever first imagined.
How do we maintain peace in the pandemic?
1. Recognize the paralysis of fear. Fear has the ability to paralyze us from taking any action, even the correct course of action. Worse yet, fear can even stop us from turning to God, Who is our Rescuer, Who knows us better than we know ourselves AND knows everything in this world we will ever face. God the Father assures us:
"So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10
This is not a command for perfection. NEVER fear. NEVER be dismayed. In the moment we cannot help but be fearful or dismayed when we face overwhelming danger to ourselves. What this means is - Don't stay there! Don't remain in fear. Don't remain dismayed. Why? Because (1) God is WITH us. (2) God is FOR us. (3) God will strengthen us. (4) God will help us! That's a bold promise and something we never want to forget. When we know God is WITH us, FOR us, STRENGTHENS us, HELPS us, we can find peace for the long term in this pandemic!
2. Courage is fear that prays and calls on God! We want to trust God but there are times when fear eludes us. We can fall into the trap of being worried or anxious. You may avoid the symptoms during the day by keeping busy, but if you struggle with sleep - playing your worries or your to-dos or your bills or your missed opportunities over and over again, and it keeps you awake, then you know you need God's help!
Can we just be honest about something? Especially as we are now five weeks into this pandemic? After a while we just don't want to be brave any more! But then God reminds you,
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
We do usually remember this verse for the "strong and courageous" part. And we usually connect it to our fear - "Do not be afraid." But notice the connection to discouragement. "Do not be discouraged." It's as if God is saying to you, 'Yes, I know this gets old. Yes, I know you've been in the COVID-19 fight for a while now, and it just wears on you after awhile.' But don't get discouraged. Don't stop fighting the battle. Don't stop being your best Spirit-filled self. Don't stop loving God and loving other people. Because God is WITH you. Like that new song, "The Blessing" says:
"May His Presence go BEFORE you, and BEHIND you, and BESIDE you, all AROUND you and WITHIN you. He is WITH you in the MORNING, in the EVENING, in your COMING, and your GOING, in your WEEPING and REJOICING, He is FOR you!!!"
How do you NOT do great things when you know this about your God! Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is fear turned over into God! When fear rears it's ugly head into our lives, that's when we begin praying! That's when we begin calling upon God! That's when we throw off the blinders of fear and see God's Presence within and all around!
3. Jesus overcame this world SO THAT we may overcome this world. Did you know that Jesus said this himself? And that he said it at the most crucial, critical, evil, contentious, and least peaceful time that ever existed? Right before His crucifixion!
"I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!" John 16:33
A lot of people misunderstand what Christianity really is. Some preach that living the Christian life leads to a more healthy, wealthy way of living. But Jesus never preached this. In fact here he promised us that we will have trouble. Jesus was completely up front with his disciples and now with us - we will have trouble.
Christianity is not to EXIT from trouble. Christianity is to ENGAGE with trouble! We expect it. We look for it. We face it head on! And we make peace with it! Why? Because Jesus has overcome the world! And He has given us His Spirit, within us, around us, before us, beside us that ENABLES us to overcome this world too!
4. Jesus AND me can do incredible things together! I love Psalm 27:1! So much that I wrote a whole song about Psalm 27. But listen to what the very first verse tells us.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1
I'd like to focus on 3 words - salvation, light and strength.
(1) Salvation. "The Lord is my salvation." Perhaps the first thing we need to do is to flip that statement around to make it a question. Is the Lord your salvation? This is not about theory or theology. It's a simple question. Have you placed your trust into Jesus for your salvation? Not just for your eventual life after death? But for all your life. For all your opportunities as well as all your troubles.
Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking about "salvation" only in a theological sense. But not a practical, everyday sense. Do you have a daily prayer that admits of need for Jesus in your life TODAY! "Save me today! Help me today! Keep me from sin today! Encourage me to live my best life today!"
Salvation in every sense is all about faith. I can see a chair. I can believe it will support me if I sit down in it. I can measure it. I can measure me. I can do a scientific study about the likelihood that the chair will support my weight if I sit in it. But none of that is faith! There is only one way to allow my faith to prove to me that the chair can support my weight. I must SIT IN THE CHAIR! Our salvation is the same way. Have you prayed that you will and so trust Jesus entirely for all your salvation - both now and forevermore?
(2) Light. "The Lord is my light." Light here can be thought of in two ways. First in terms of light / darkness. The Lord is like a flashlight in a dark place. He allows you to see things you would otherwise miss. He gives you the ability to see problems / challenges coming up to you that you might not be able to see in the darkness.
Today, I want you to think of "light" in another second way. The Lord is your light as in a pilot light ready to light the flame. When you have the Lord Jesus' Holy Spirit within you, you are always ready and prepped to spring into godly action of love for another person. Your first response is to be Jesus' hands and feet. When God is within you, your natural response of fear and self-preservation is replaced with a supernatural desire to heal and to comfort.
(3) Strength. "The Lord is my strength." When you see the opportunity to do something bold and beautiful in a fearsome and ugly moment, you know you don't have to rely upon your own strength. Rather you rely upon your weakness and replace your weakness with the Lord's strength. He will give you a supernatural way to accomplish great things in this world. He sees around the corner. He knows what's coming. He knows who you could connect with. He knows who could be your partner. You may be the inspiration. Someone else may be the finances. Someone else may be the technology. Someone else may be the organization. And through it all is God's strength and God's power!
It's been said that you can accomplish anything so long as you don't care who gets the credit. I'd like to modify this and say God can accomplish anything through you if you allow Him all the credit and the glory and the honor.
Jesus and you - it's a beautiful thing! Jesus and you - fear need not apply! The Lord is your light and your salvation and your strength! Of whom or what shall you be afraid?
Conclusion - How do you see this pandemic? Do you see it as the choice of fear or as the choice of peace? Because if you are a Christ-follower, it really is all about your choice. When we say that Jesus has overcome the world, we mean that Jesus has overcome the Pandemic. We have the opportunity to call out to Him to help us be strong and courageous - to not allow discouragement to creep into our lives... NOT because we are so strong or so brave, but because He Who lives within me HAS OVERCOME (past tense) the world! I don't know about any of you, but I know that I want to be an overcomer! Jesus and me... Jesus and you... let's conquer this pandemic together! Let's discover our Peace in the midst of this pandemic together!
This may just be the end of the beginning of this Coronavirus Pandemic, but within each Christ-follower lives the BEGINNING and the END, the ALPHA and the OMEGA of everything that is, everything that was, and everything that will ever be! Let's live like the victors we really are - the conquering heroes and saints of the army of Christ! Amen.