The other virus

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In all the talk about ‘the’ virus, a few make glancing reference to another challenge that Americans will face in coming months. Despair! Most of the support systems that keep humans healthy are curtailed right now – family gatherings, traditional celebrations, and church worship. When we are isolated, if we lose sight of the future, we can slip into despair and it can kill, too.

A century ago, (1915-1918) during the first world war and the influenza pandemic that followed it, the death rate rose in the US steeply. The common thread in many of those deaths was not physical. People were dying because they had lost hope.

Christian, I have good news and a challenge for us. We are people whose hope has deep roots in an unchanging faith and we have the privilege of sharing that hope with others. The inspired writer of Hebrews explains that “God can’t break his word. And because his word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable.

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us.” (Hebrews 6:18-20, The Message)

Hope is born out of faith. There is a direct relationship of depth of our confidence to face an uncertain future and our faith in God’s ability to keep us. Oh, I hear you as you ask, “Jerry, why doesn’t God just remove all my doubts?” Because even if He wrote in the sky, without faith, we would find an alternative explanation. Woody Allen once joked that he would believe “If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss Bank.” No, he wouldn’t. He would assume a bank error or a secret benefactor!

Faith is a choice that rests on the anticipation of God’s promise. “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:24-25, NIV)

Let me remind you that faith and doubt are the two sides of the same coin, so to speak. As rational beings, we look around and find things that defy our understanding, things are hard to reconcile with what we learned in Sunday School, when life was simpler and painted in primary colors. But that doubt can, if we choose, lead us to faith in a Person, trusting Jesus to be Savior, Forgiver, Healer, and Life. I find it compelling that Jesus made no arguments about faith, the existence of God, or even His own divinity. Instead, He said, “Look at what I say and do and trust Me!”

As life has unraveled rapidly in a month’s time, many Christians awakened to the realization that they were coasting along on assumptions, borrowed belief, and pop theology that was largely superficial. It is hard to come to grips with the fact that we loved Jesus more for the ‘good life’ we assumed was our birthright as His disciples than for simply Who He is.

Hard questions are being asked, soul searching is beginning. It is time to go back to the foundation of faith. We must turn our hearts and minds to Christ Jesus. The next step is to integrate what we profess to believe about Him into the daily choices we make – ‘grabbing the promised hope with both hands.’  When we do this, hope grows in us and it is contagious.

Next Sunday, we celebrate our core hope – the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Paul says that this event seals the deal for us. After a long chapter about why he believes in life beyond this present life, in which he explains why his faith rests on the historicity of that first Easter, he tells us: “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58, NIV)

Are you struggling with despair? Face it and reach up and out. God hears even the wordless sighs. Tell someone you trust and love that you’re fearful, that you cannot see tomorrow. I pray they are wise enough to listen, love, and wait with you without the need to provide a quick solution.

I know you are not me, but I offer my life-long experience with faith as an encouragement. For more than 50 years I have walked with Jesus, through some glorious days and some dark valleys. My faith is not evidence of intellect, personal discipline, or strength of character. That I am full of hope is evidence of His gift of grace and love. He has kept me through failure, a major depression in mid-life, in the loss of my beloved wife. He is my hope. Is He yours?

The word from the Word comes to us from 2nd Timothy, Paul’s last letter, sent from death row. He urges us to take hold of Jesus, our Great Hope.  “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we disown him, he will also disown us;
if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

Keep reminding them of these things.
Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.”
(2 Timothy 2:10-14, NIV)

_______________

40

(U2 sings Psalm 40)

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry

He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm
Many will see
Many will see and fear

I will sing – sing a new song
I will sing – sing a new song
How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long? How long? How long?
How long to sing this song?

Oh Lord I wait, I wait on You
And I will sing, I’ll sing this song
Oh Lord I wait, I wait on You
And I will sing, I’ll sing this song

(from the 40th Psalm)

Paul Hewson, Larry Mullen CCLI License No. 810055

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