Sunday Morning, October 12, 2014
Dear Antioch Church Family,
Waking up this morning to the news that a healthcare worker at Presbyterian Hospital who lives a few blocks from our family home has come down with Ebola, two wonderful truths immediately came to mind:
1. The precious promises of God concerning His ability to preserve and protect us as we walk with Him.
One of my favorites is Psalms 91,
Psalm 91 (NIV) — 1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. 9 If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, 10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
While this specific Psalm first applies to a context where "punishment" is coming upon the "wicked" (vs. 8), and not necessarily to every widespread case of natural disaster, etc., it nevertheless contains a clear revelation of God's preserving power on behalf of those who love Him, those who acknowledge His name, and those who call upon Him in prayer! Here's the "bottom-line" - God ALWAYS cares for His own! When we WALK with Him, He WATCHES over us!
In many other passages throughout Scripture, God repeats this principle and this promise: When we are doing the will of God, we benefit from the protection and care of God.
Do God's people ever suffer harm while serving Him? Of course! Sometimes they even die as martyrs for His name, but that can and will only happen as a result of God's sovereign choice in ways that result in His greater glory and that bring significant advance to His kingdom.
Psalms 116 sheds further light on this spiritual reality. It is a song of praise to God who in His grace and compassion saved the writer from near death when the writer cried out to the Lord in his hour of greatest danger. My favorite phrase from this particular chapter is verse fifteen,
Psalm 116:15 (NIV) — 15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.
As we walk with God, trust in Him, and invest our lives in service to His purposes, our deaths are too precious for God to "waste" by allowing them to happen haphazardly, due to mere natural causes or circumstances! As I have often heard my late pastor father put it,
"When you walk with Jesus and are doing His will, you are immortal until your work on earth is finished!"
Then, my Dad would often add,
"When one's work on earth is done, who wants to stay here on earth anyway? When God is finished with me, I want to go to heaven!"
2. Throughout church history, times of "plague" have always presented the church with tremendous opportunities for ministry with many people coming to Christ!
In the earliest centuries of the church and in the medieval era as well, it was Christian workers who cared for the sick and dying when no one else had enough courage or compassion to do so. As a result, the "light" of their witness shone more brightly than ever before. Here is an excerpt from one author's commentary about the attitude of the Early Church,
At no other time in the history of Christianity did love so characterize the entire church as it did in the first three centuries. And Roman society took note. Tertullian reported that the Romans would exclaim, “See how they love one another!”Justin Martyr sketched Christian love this way: “We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.”Clement, describing the person who has come to know God, wrote, “He impoverishes himself out of love, so that he is certain he may never overlook a brother in need, especially if he knows he can bear poverty better than his brother. He likewise considers the pain of another as his own pain. And if he suffers any hardship because of having given out of his own poverty, he does not complain.”When a devastating plague swept across the ancient world in the third century, Christians were the only ones who cared for the sick, which they did at the risk of contracting the plague themselves. Meanwhile, pagans were throwing infected members of their own families into the streets even before they died, in order to protect themselves from the disease.(http://www.earlychurch.com/unconditional-love.php)
That is just one exerpt that I quickly found this morning while "googling" on the internet, but I remember vividly from my readings in many other sources during college, etc., how Christians throughout history have cared for the sick in Christ's name and were powerfully used by Him, including the evangelist John G. Lake in South Africa during the early part of the 20th Century.
So, then, what should our response be to news such as we have heard this morning? Should we hide ourselves away in our houses in fear, avoiding potential "contamination" at all costs?
NO! WE SHOULD RISE UP IN FAITH TO CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD, TRUSTING IN HIS PROMISES, WHILE REACHING OUT TO OTHERS WITH HIS GOSPEL LIKE NEVER BEFORE...!
One great way to do that is to come to church this morning. We are going to have another great service and I look forward to seeing you there...!