This stormy year, 2020, creates fertile conditions for us to become panicky, troubled, and reactionary. I readily admit that I can work myself into a worried state in a minute or less! Who has not asked, “What’s next?” and wondered about the future? Christians, people who should be the most hopeful, tragically have fallen under the influence of the more radical voices, often spinning conspiracy theories, or defaulting to “End Times” speculation. These are difficult times and the changes in our country are truly significant! My intent today is not to minimize the troubling times, but to remind you of the principle that Paul gave to Timothy – “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV)
It is just fine to wonder what is going to happen in the future. It folly to refuse to take appropriate caution (though it is hard to know what is right) to protect ourselves. For example, it is not faithless to wear a mask, to wash your hands more frequently, or to choose to limit your social contacts. Faith is not the refusal to admit that there are challenges to life and well-being. It is steady trust in the LORD that keeps us from reactions that are not aligned with His will and Word. Faithlessness is nakedly obvious in hateful attacks on those with who we disagree, when we demonize people of differing ethnicity or race, or when we choose to repeat baseless rumors inciting greater fear! People who do those things show they are controlled by fear.
We have a daily choice – will we trust God to lead us into the future or allow an awful anxiety to drive us to desperation? Faith grows when we admit that we cannot control the virus, the political scene, the social unrest, the things we perceive as threats to our future AND actively put our lives in the care of the One who is eternal.
Dramatic events like those of the last few months, tend to raise our awareness of our faith or lack thereof. When we feel spiritually adrift, the best responses are prayer – “Lord, I believe, help me overcome my fear!” – and meditation in Scripture truth – “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46.10) Remember faith is not just a feeling of confidence or a surge of courage. Faith is a way of life that affects our most basic daily choices. “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. … It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, The Message)
There is a cartoon version of real faith that causes some Christians to act in ways that are ridiculous. This superficial kind of ‘faith’ tries to convince us that can control our health, our family, our world by saying the right words or “believing” enough. People who fall for this become like those little children who obviously are feeling the terror of the monster in the closet while they chant – “I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid,” in a tremulous voice. Real faith is quite capable of admitting to a sense of uncertainty, saying “I really don’t know how this will turn out, but … I trust the God Who secures my future.”
Here is a practical suggestion, a lesson from an ancient godly king in Jerusalem. Hezekiah was threatened by an army that had the ability to obliterate his little nation. Here’s what he did. “Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.” (2 Kings 19:14-16, NIV)
Write down the things that you fear, the threats you perceive. Then, go and present your list to God! Do it like Hezekiah did, with true worship. In this you acknowledge that you are in His care. Receive the gift of peace that results from giving those fears to Him.
Paul wrote to Christians who lived in a world where they were a tiny minority, completely powerless politically or economically. His words to them are important for you and me in our time! This is the word from the Word that closes today’s thought. Let’s believe it, receive it, and live it. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, NIV)
Lord, give us a Quiet Confidence,
a willingness to trust and wait,
to hold onto hope,
to live with joy in each day.
May we not surrender to apathy,
nor demand life on our own terms.
Show us Your face,
keep us near to Your heart.
Whisper to us that You are Master, Savior, and Friend.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen