- Is the coronavirus pandemic a wake-up call for us believers? If so, how do we respond?
- What is God saying to His Church at this time? How do I understand His purpose and mission?
- People are asking questions and opening up to spiritual conversations. What do I say to them?
I rely on an old-fashioned quiet time each day with the Lord and His word. I BELIEVE what God has said in the Bible, I PERCEIVE how He speaks through it each day, and I RECEIVE fresh wisdom — which might take a little longer to understand. But I receive it anyway.
I take the verse of the day from my Bible app (not a verse of my choosing) and ask the Lord to speak through it. In particular, I ask Him to reveal His Good News in it. Then I write a reflection —- and some of these are published online.
- I see a pattern emerging — like a rope of five connected strands, which is what I believe the Lord has been saying to me.
- Of course, I can be wrong! So this is to weigh, to see what resonates with you.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”Romans 8:28
So briefly here are five words — which are really one word.
1. Hold on to hope
What hope is there, when everything is getting worse?
Let’s start by asking the right question. WHO gives me hope and WHO can I go to, to find help? It’s personal.
The gospel accounts give us the story of Jesus — His coming, His life, His teaching, His death. And resurrected to life again, seen by many before ascending to heaven. He is a person. His teaching, about the kingdom of God, revolves around people and situations. The key is, it’s all about a relationship.
Hundreds of years before Christ, Jeremiah said:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose HOPE IS the LORD.”— Jeremiah 17:7
And the apostle John said:
“And everyone who has this hope in Him (who has this hope in Jesus) purifies himself, just as He is pure.”— 1 John 3:3
- Hope — is an abstract word. We can generally substitute the more concrete word CONFIDENCE.
- In the Bible, it is more robust still — confidence in a Person and His character. This is God, who we know through Jesus, unchanging, constant, faithful and merciful — and loving beyond ouyr capacity to describe.
A Bible study finds hope used in three ways, which are all relational:
- Hope in the Person of the Lord — “in the Lord, in Him”.
- Hope in what represents the Lord: His word, His mercy
- Hope through the Person of the Holy Spirit in us — “Christ in you, the hope of glory” and “the hope of His calling”. That’s an experience on the inside — we know because we know because we know — and it comes with the witness of joy and peace.
What’s the difference between hope and faith? When you have confidence (hope) in the PERSON, you can believe (faith) the SPECIFIC THING they tell you. The foundation is general — “what I am going to hear is true” — on which can sit a particular word which kindles faith — “what I have heard, I can trust and act on.”
2. Be people of praise
The story in Acts 16. The Greek ‘Man from Macedonia’ had appeared to Paul in a dream. They crossed from Troas to the Greek side and the Roman ‘county town’ of Philippi. Lydia the dyer becomes a Christian, along with others. A female slave with an annoying familiar spirit keeps haranguing them and after days of this, Paul commands the Spirit out of her. So she is free but her owners are furious and incite a crowd to demand that the magistrate put them in prison. They are brutally beaten and pinned in stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.Acts 16:25-26
And James in his letter makes this a teaching…
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.James 1:2ff
- Praise celebrates the relationship in ALL circumstances. The relationship doesn’t change!
- In Exodus 25:8, God tells Moses to build a sanctuary that “I may dwell among them”. Not a grand building — a tent. It’s not about structure. It is not about form. It’s all about relationship.
- God wants to enjoy relationship and live with us — and under the New Covenant in Jesus, IN US. He inhabits the praises of His people, Psalm 22:3.
- True praise comes, not by following a rigid religious form, but out of our relationship with Jesus.
Praise invites God’s presence, raises faith — and confuses the enemy. King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:21),faced by a huge hoard of combined pagan armies that were about to overrun the city, had praise singers go out in front of the army.
- Praise went into battle first. The modest army, following, found a defeated enemy
- Praise changes us — from fear to faith. It did for Jehoshaphat and his people. It did for Paul and Silas. It. does for us.
3. Declare His kingdom, bless His people
Do we have power to confer God’s blessing?
The best-known prayer in the Bible includes these phrases:
“Hallowed be Thy name!
“Thy kingdom come!”
“Thy will be done!”
These are declarations which should have exclamation marks, because they are written as imperatives, not as generally understood, petitions.
- We declare with our spiritual authority in Christ Jesus.
- Declaring the kingdom is a way of speaking out blessing.
Part of forgiveness — commanded by Jesus
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28 NIV and Romans 12:14
(Story about assisting a bishop to bless a new war memorial with holy water)
How much more we of the royal priesthood can bless with our new life in Jesus and Spirit-led words!
More general instance where Jesus says harvest is great but workers few… the mission of the 72… the very first thing is:
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’” (Luke 10:5)
- Not words “kingdom” or “bless” but that is happening
- Inviting God’s order and experience of His goodness.
- People who begin to see God can believe in Him.
Everyone is anxious — what is the exit strategy? They need God’s peace and God’s assurance.
4. Live in God’s love and compassion
- God is love, God is good — but the world doesn’t know that.
- The religious world is also unsure — it wants to appease God through a variety of actions.
- But God simply wants to dwell with us knowing Him, and knowing His love.
We read in the prologue to John’s gospel:
“He was not born by the joining of human parents or from natural means, or by a man’s desire, but He was born of God. And so the Living Expression became a man and lived among us — became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood.”
And we gazed upon the splendour of His glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, overflowing with tender mercy and truth!”John 1:13-14 The Passion Translation and The Message
We can agree with the Scripture which says: “We gazed”— we have seen this.
We have seen Jesus, who is the complete and perfect representation of God.
“…The Son of God has come, and He has GIVEN US UNDERSTANDING so that we CAN KNOW the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ.”
“… The Son of God has made our understanding come alive so that we can know by experience the One who is true.”TPT
That’s how it works. We turn to Jesus and make a decision to receive Him into our hearts as Saviour and as Lord. And something happens… now we see what we didn’t see before — our understanding comes alive.
Formerly, God was remote, even austere. Now we know Him, and we know His love. So we can live in this love, and therefore we can love others.
5. Meet God in His mission
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”1 Peter 3:15 NIV
“If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it…” NLT
As we hold on to hope, as we choose to praise God in the face of the enemy, declare “His kingdom come!” and in God-given confidence, speak His blessing over others — and as we live in the love and goodness of God: people are going to come to us with their questions.
- We have something, they don’t have. Pandemic is like a traffic jam of bureaucracy and blame and rising anxiety — and we are the ones like police cars going up the hard shoulder, with the authority to take another route.
- This is the route of hope in God — the confident way through. Everyone will want this route!
This is our opportunity to gently explain about God’s grace, giving us what we did not earn or deserve, and the joy of knowing Jesus and having that inner peace and confidence in God.
We know the One who has the exit strategy! We can praise His goodness, whatever it looks like where we are.
It’s not difficult to turn to God. Helps if someone who has done that, shows you which way to turn!
When people are turning to God, receiving His peace? Revival!
Out of this affliction, making churches re-think what they are about, and Christian believers stand up for who they believe in, God is bringing awakening, fuelled by our prayer and praise.
Time for us to put our confidence in Him to work and join Him in His mission. Whether physical healing, spiritual deliverance or gracious forgiveness leading to eternal life, salvation is what God is always doing.