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March 2020

Hope and Help

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For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2:10 NLT

We are made for a purpose. There are many stories in the Bible that describe people who find themselves in circumstances that were far outside of their control:

  • Joseph sold into slavery in Egypt and later caught up in a famine affecting the whole land
  • Daniel was taken into captivity in his youth and forced to serve a conquering empire.
  • Moses set adrift on a river as a young baby to find himself in a position to lead his nation out of slavery
  • Esther in the court of the Persian king as her people are under threat of being wiped out (Esther 4:14)

But circumstances didn’t define them, God had a special purpose for them as the verse above also promises he has for us too.

In this time of international crisis let us not be defined by that, but let us be asking of God, how then, in the midst of this, can you use me? For me there are two words that have kept coming back these past few weeks: “Hope” and “Help”.

  • Let our prayer lives be fuelled by the HOPE we have in Jesus. He is the ultimate HOPE because he is faithful and will never fail us (Romans 5:5). Let us call on him day and night, with every circumstance, every need, every opportunity, and every anxiety. Let the hope we have in Him, affect every act and conversation we have with others and let our prayers be ones that hope for change in this situation from the one in who ‘all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26).
  • Let us look for ways to HELP. Some of these will be as opportunities arise: So for example, today we were able to respond to a request for funds from the Wallis family regarding medical equipment needed in their local area in Zambia. However, let’s also be proactive, looking out for the vulnerable and ways to serve them and joining in with our communities’ efforts to help (e.g. foodbanks).
  • And of course, let us finally ask for HELP from one another as we need it over the coming weeks. Whether that it is just a quick call for a chat or prayer or more practical needs as people self-isolate or experience financial hardship. My own family has been so blessed by offers of help from neighbours and church family for shopping as we have been in isolation for the past two weeks. 

Let’s be led by our saviour Jesus, and not by circumstances, as we look at how we can respond over the coming weeks and months.

COVID-19 – Where do we look as Christians?

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As a healthcare professional working in the current challenges and future uncertainty posed by the new coronovirus I have to keep reminding myself of where i should be looking and to whom i should be looking.

Things to remind ourselves of as Christians:

We should be marked by Peace not Panic.

As Christians we should be characterised by peace even in the face of potentially anxious circumstances. 

‘You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.’ Isaiah 26:3.

Jesus said:  ’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

Notice, it’s not the fact that we have no problems, or that everything is going really smoothly for us, that leads to peace. It is the fact that Jesus walks with us and that he has ultimately won the victory for us that brings us peace.

Where does our peace come from? At Ellis’s funeral recently we read from Psalms 139, which he himself read out and spoke from at Beryl’s funeral – Psalm 139 (v16) says ‘all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’  Our peace comes from looking to God and trusting in His character and His promises. We do not need to panic. Steve Vincent has recently been looking at The Kingdom of God and in Daniel 2 we see very clearly that God is sovereign, he reigns over Kingdoms and nations, he also reigns over creation and nature, disaster and disease. God is sovereign, God is good, and He has promised that in all things He is working for the good of those who love him and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  

Put on your Kingdom glasses. We can trust God. 

Jesus tells us not to worry, because worry will not add a single hour to our lifespan.  Remind yourself continually: ‘It takes the same amount of energy to worry as to pray. One leads to peace, the other to panic. Choose wisely.’ Todd Wagner

We should be marked by Wisdom not Foolishness.

Yes, we trust God, yes, we do not give into fear, yes, we fix our minds on God and have peace, but that does not mean we should throw common sense out of the window and act foolishly.

We will serve those around us well if we are responsible, act appropriately, and follow the guidance set out by our professional bodies and government. It is foolish and unwise to ignore this and to somehow think that we are immune to diseases. With this in mind we have put in place measures, as a church, that we feel reflect the very difficult but necessary steps that the Government have encouraged us to take as communities.

Equally, it is unwise to go the other way and stockpile food, panic buy, and hide away from helping those around us to avoid being infected. Over the coming weeks and months there will be many opportunities for each of us to step into the gaps, as services struggle under the strain, to help the most vulnerable around us.

Acting irresponsibly and, at the other extreme, withdrawing from society, both lack wisdom and fail to act in the reality of what it means to live for Christ in a fallen and fragile world, where we are called to both suffer with humanity, and serve humanity, alongside one another for the glory of God. 

We should be marked by Hope not Despair.  

Our hope does not rest on anything we see going on around us. Our hope is not based on a belief that this virus will not turn out to be as bad as some think or that it will not kill as many people as some predict or even that our families will not be affected. Our hope comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the world is ravaged by a new virus we should see, reflected in this, the reality of a virus that is even more rampant and ‘pandemic’ with an even greater death rate and far more reaching consequences, but for which God has already provided a cure:

Mark Oden writing for the Gospel Coalition summarises it like this:  ‘Humanity lives in the grip of a pandemic outbreak called sin… and the story of the Bible is the story of a God who entered a world infected with this virus. He lived among sick people, not wearing a chemical protective suit but breathing the same air as we do, eating the same food as we do. He died in isolation, excluded from his people, seemingly far from his Father on a cross—all so he might provide this sick world with an antidote to the virus, that he might heal us and give us eternal life.’ 

His name is Jesus, and He said:  “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11: 25-26.

Our faith in Jesus provides us with a sure and certain hope, not just in the face of the coronavirus, but in the face of sin, and death and hell, and it is our privilege to share this hope with our world in the midst of darkness and despair, whenever and wherever God gives us opportunity.

‘…in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.’ 1 Peter 3:15

Because of Jesus we can approach the throne of grace, the throne of God, with confidence, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).  So let us lay hold of that privilege on behalf of our world and come before the throne of God, confident, that He has all that we and our world needs, both now, and always.