The Corona Virus may have halted a lot, but one thing it couldn’t stop was Spring planting season here in Illinois. The farmers have been busy preparing their fields to then sow corn and soybeans in neat straight rows for as far as the eye can see. They couldn’t allow themselves to become complacent and apathetic while they sat in self isolation…not when the soil was telling them, “Now is the time!” But every farmer knows you can’t plant until you first plow…you can’t sow until you first break up the Winter-hardened soil. So maybe Spring is telling us all, “Now is the time” we break up our unplowed ground that has sat fallow all these weeks of isolation…and plant some seed for the Lord.
There were many times throughout the Gospels Jesus repeated these words, “Follow Me.” At times it was to call specific people such as Peter and Andrew, or Phillip and Matthew. There were other times, when people approached Him, announcing they were going to “follow Him”,…some with good intentions, some not so much. And then there was the crowds that only occasionally followed Him…but they were most times merely looking for dinner and a show. So what does it really mean to “Follow Me.” It starts with what is called believing trust…I believe that Jesus died for my sins and thus I will trust in Him. And as I trust in Him, I grow more and more like in Him everyday, following His example as how I should live. Finally, “Follow Me” grows into a life-long relationship with Jesus…a fellowship of faith and life… filled with love, peace, and hope.
I think David summed up the verse above best when he wrote, ” It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” (Psalm 118:8) If COVID 19 has shown us anything it’s just how frail we are and how precarious our way of life is. This virus has exposed to us that mankind is extremely vulnerable and as a whole powerless against it. So as David wrote, we can’t depend on man to protect us…only God can do that. In Psalm 55 when David was overwhelmed with fear he, “hurried to my place of shelter far from the tempest and storm.” Our trust then must be in God not man, for He is our rock where we can take refuge…that place of calm and peace, where we can feel safe.
As these quarantine weeks drag on and we are separated from fellow Believers and our Church Body, I would ask you one question. Who is encouraging the encourager? Right now your Pastor is preaching in a empty Church or into a computer screen…with no sea of friendly faces smiling back at him. From my own years of public speaking and preaching I loved the immediate feedback I would get from crowds…nodding in agreement, laughing at a funny story, or yelling out answers when I asked for crowd participation…their timely responses spurred me on. So I can only imagine how difficult it is to preach God’s Word into the air, praying it will hit home and change lives. Our Pastors who has encouraged us all these weeks could use a little encouragement themselves right now…so take a moment and ask God how you could bless your Pastor this coming week.
Show of hands please…how many of you are over and done with COVID 19 and just want it to go back to normal? As the weeks drag on, my indifference has increased with each boring day…my lack of concern or interest in things leading only to more apathy. So when I read these Scriptures today, I said to myself, “This must be what it feels like to be ‘out of season’.” I don’t feel like sharing the Gospel Message with others, or reaching out with encouragement…but that’s not what I’m being told to do here. For my feelings have nothing to do with it, and I need to be ready, willing, and able to share the love of Jesus whether I feel like it or not. That’s what being prepared in season or out of season means. It all boils down to this…we are to fight the good fight of faith (I Timothy 6:12)… which means struggling daily with our thoughts and feelings in order to be a tool for God to use.
Most historians agree that the Book of James was written shortly before he was martyred by fanatical Jewish Leaders for preaching the Gospel. So to have him exhorting fellow Believers to look at the trials in their lives as something good not bad is incredible. James went on, telling them, he knew they were completely aware of all their past afflictions, trials, and persecutions, and how their faith had been tested each time…but that they needed to continue to persevere with patience and endurance… learning to suffer well with a tranquil mind. I don’t know about you, but suffering well these past many weeks has been difficult! And now with the “Stay at Home” order being extended another month for COVID 19…looking at it with good cheer and gladness of heart is very difficult. But Jesus reminds me in the Beatitudes that I should rejoice and be glad in my trials, (Matthew 5:12) and that I need to continue to persevere so that when I have done the Will of God, I’ll receive what He has promised. (Hebrews 10:36) Thus with all this encouragement, I will joyfully accept persecution. (Hebrews 10:34)
Well it happened yesterday, the Governor of Illinois extended the “Stay at Home Order” for another month. While I’m not surprised, I must admit a groan of disappointment came out of me. What I have especially missed is the meeting together of fellow Believers at Church…and from many conversations with others, I know this is a common feeling. That’s because we are all living stones being built into a Spiritual house called the Church (I Peter 2:5)…but right now the Church as we know it cannot be together…so what do we do? Many weeks ago as I encouraged friends to reach out from their homes using their gifts, talents, and passions, I called it their “Quarantine Ministry” A way of practicing hospitality and works of charity from their homes using what the Lord has given them…their gifts, talents, and passions. And I can only praise God as I watched these friends use what they do well to benefit others! We may be isolating for another 30 days, but that doesn’t mean our acts of generosity should be affected. For God’s work knows no bounds…and helping others is a beautiful act of praising His Name.
Staying in Psalm 37 today, you can see the progression of these verses. David, the writer of this Psalm, has followed the Lord all his life, and by experience can vouch that God is his helper and will never leave or forsake those who believe in Him. In turn, because such mercy and favor has been shown to him, he is then obligated to show the same mercy to others. In Leviticus 25:35, the Lord was very clear about this, “Helping your countrymen if they become poor so they may remain among you.” The Hebrew word for “helping” describes supporting, strengthening, encouraging, and repairing those around us that are lacking to maintain a strong community…but also because we have been graciously blessed first.
Though I don’t understand what’s going on right now…God does. So for my part I must trust in His promises even when circumstances and events around me become frightening and confusing. I must also perverse with confidence that God is working in my life… even when all I feel is drained and worthless. I may never fully understand the reason for this pandemic… but God knows… and so I will trust Him.