Imagine the scene:
Houses were empty.
A certain book had disappeared off of the bookshelves in shops and online inventories.
Sales of certain illicit substances and content had plummeted forcing companies to close.
Where had all the people gone? What with these mysteries?
Imagine they had all flocked to local faithful Gospel churches! Why? Because they’d heard that Jesus was coming. What began as possibly even a fear of judgement, turned to a genuine fear of the Lord and remorse for their sins, and through faith in the Gospel, their mourning had turned to an eternal joy, and they waited.
Matthew 24:44 says, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Not to trivialize our present crisis, but it is ironic that there is a far greater crisis that is pending—the Second Coming of Jesus Christ—and yet people shrug it off. Yet, tell the world that Covid-19 is coming and people rush to get supplies and self-isolate and close borders so that they are ready if/when it comes.
During a plague in Cyprian’s day (c.252, Bishop of Carthage) he thought Jesus’ return was imminent. Plagues have come and plagues have gone and so it would be hasty to say that our present disease was any different than those of the past as a signal of the Lord’s return, however, it ought to be a reminder to us to be ready, that there is an even greater arrival to be ready for and it is not Covid-19 (as ready as we need to be for that), but the coming of Christ from glory to “judge the living and the dead.”
 Cyprian, On Mortality, Treatise VII.2.
In a previous blog, “the Plague of Cyprian”, we considered how Covid-19 is teaching us about our own mortality and fear. In this blog we’ll consider how it is reminding us that we’re not in charge.
In by-gone days there was an old and wise Christian man out tending his front garden by the road when a farmer passed by with his flock of sheep. The old man hailed, “Friend, where are you off to today.” The farmer replied, “I’m taking my sheep to market, they are going to fetch a handsome price. Then I’m going to go and buy a new implement and a fancy dress for my wife.” The old man replied, “God-willing!”
Not too long afterwards the farmer walked past the old wise Christian man’s garden, this time by himself, and looking dishevelled and beaten up. The old man asked, “Friend, what happened to you?” The farmer replied, “When I was on the way to the market I was attacked by sheep thieves. They stole my sheep and beat me up and left me for dead.” The old man asked, “What are you going to do now?” The farmer replied, “I’m going to go home and secure my sheep and farm, and breed more sheep, and sell others at the market on this date, and return to this market next year, etc.” The old man cut him off, “God-willing!”
In a passage which warns against boasting about tomorrow, James 5:13–16 says this:
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”-- 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
From this passage comes the Christian saying, “God-willing” or DV (Latin. Deo volente, if God wills it). While this saying can be over used its sentiment can also be underappreciated. Truly, nothing can happen unless God wills it. We need to remember that He is on the throne and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven—not ours! Corona Virus is teaching us, not only of our mortality, but how little we actually have control over our lives. We must depend upon the Lord and seek His will. We all have had plans change, trips cancelled, meetings postponed, because of Covid-19. May this be a reminder to us of the wisdom of James 5 and teach us to humbly say, in our heart of hearts, DV!
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, they compassions they fail not:
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
God Never Changes
So opens the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” It declares a central truth about God that He is the unchanging One, and as such He is dependable. Hebrews 13:10 says, Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
Humans Are Always Changing
While humans are created in the image of God and reflect His likeness in many ways, God’s unchanging nature is a characteristic that we do not share. Benjamin Franklin once said, “two things always stay the same, death and taxes!” Aside from these points in jest, we change and our circumstances change. Nothing stays the same. Our bodies change as we grow. Our circumstances change as we journey through life. We are always changing. While the rate and amount of change may be something we can or cannot easily process, or sometimes is necessary for survival, to deny change itself is to deny reality.
Change is a Normal Part of a Believer’s Life
Not only do we change as humans, if we are a follower of Jesus, change is the name of the game. The Gospel message itself is the power to change. The gift of the Holy Spirit is given to sanctify us, to transform us, to make us more like Jesus. Following Jesus then is one big process of change. If we are not changing or are resistant to healthy and appropriate change, and willing to follow our Lord in faith into the future, then something is amiss.
A Tale of Two Seas
The Jordan River bubbles up at the foot of Mt. Hermon in the north of Israel. Tens of thousands of gallons of water burst to the surface every day. These waters flow south into the Sea of Galilee and then on to the Dead Sea. These two seas are complete opposites. One is filled with fish and life. That is because water is always entering and exiting it, it is changing, it is alive and vibrant. The other only ever receives and never gives and as a result of that and evaporation by the sun, it salinity is so high that nothing can live in it. That is why it is called the Dead Sea. May these two seas be a reminder to us: change is needed if we want to thrive as Christians and an unwillingness to embrace the change of the Gospel can spell only certain death.
May the Lord’s grace enable us to change, for our good and His glory.
On May 15, 2019, I was fresh off the plane in the UK from having travelled to Ontario to preach for a call at Markdale Baptist Church. It was a whirlwind of a trip, I was tired among other things. We returned to our home church, Cromhall Chapel, and I attended the Wednesday Area Bible Study, where once a month we would host a guest preacher. Roger Page, pastor of Phillip St. Baptist Church, Bristol, was the speaker. His sermon was on Job and suffering and comfort and could not have been more timely. In fact it was providential for during our trip back to Ontario we had suffered a miscarriage. Since we are presently studying through the book of Job at MBC in our Cover to Cover series I thought reposting it here would enable others to benefit from his excellent sermon.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.
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