Ministerial message: Facing challenging times

Jesus made an interesting comment, recorded in the latter part of John 16.33: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

At different times we have probably all had trouble. But I’m not sure that the present generation has ever had trouble like it’s having now. A little crown-shaped virus – yes, it has become the de facto king of our present reality – has put a stop to almost every major public event in the world – professional and amateur sporting activities, business meetings, conferences of every kind. It has caused the closure of schools and recreational facilities across the country, shuttered restaurants and other public gathering places, and precipitated the lock down of whole countries and sent the stock markets of the world into what might be the worst tailspin since the 1929 market crash. It has even closed churches!

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Nine out of 10 news headlines, and in many instances, 10 out of 10, are about COVID-19 and its devastating effects on people and businesses, which in turn translates into yet more devastating effects on people. Layoffs are the latest shoe to drop. Trouble! It’s here and it’s real. How do we respond to it and how do we cope with it?

The first communication I put out to our church family was “Do not push the panic button.” I said it then, and I say it again now. God is bigger than the coronavirus. It qualifies as a destroyer (see John 10:10) to be sure, but God can use it for his own purposes. 

It’s time we were weaned from artificial diversions. It’s time we became as concerned about the welfare of our neighbor as about our own net worth. It’s time that we who profess faith in and allegiance to Jesus Christ actually trusted him with regard to our personal lives. Jesus said just before the quotation cited above, “I have told you these things so that in me you might have peace” (John 16:33a).

Peace in the midst of a pandemic! That’s the mark of Jesus, the Overcomer, at work in the lives of his people. With the three Hebrews of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace (Book of Daniel chapter 3) we can say, if we are exposed to the coronavirus we believe that God can rescue us from it, but if he doesn’t and it makes us sick or even if we die, we still trust God and own him as the one who holds our lives in his hands. We so easily forget that earth is not all there is. Eternity comes after. And if we do all the earthly things we can to forestall the spread of the virus (and by the way, I believe we should) but neglect to put our faith in Jesus Christ to prepare for the inevitability of the end of our own earthly life, we will have failed to respond to the greatest challenge of all!

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