And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 22, Number
In this issue:
39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 10:39-11:1, NKJV)
Faith that saves the soul does not draw back out of fear or neglect. It endures present trials, and by doing so receives the promised salvation (Heb. 10:36-39). This is the faith introduced in Hebrews 11:1 and described throughout that chapter.
Faith is the substance of hope. “Substance” is a “setting under,” hence, faith is set under hope, supporting and stabilizing it. But, what supports and assures faith? We are told faith is the “evidence of things unseen.” Faith is conviction formed by the evidence of things that cannot be seen. For example, the swaying of the trees causes us to confidently believe in the wind, although we have never seen the wind itself. Faith concludes that “God is” (though unseen by human eyes) because this existence and order of the visible world announces His unseen presence, eternal power, and Godhood (Heb. 11:3, 6; Rom. 1:20; Psa. 19:1).
Faith that God rewards those who diligently seek Him is shaped by the word of God (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 10:17; Mk. 16:20; 1 Cor. 2:10-13). Without accepting the evidence of unseen things, there is no faith. And without faith, there is no hope.
Thanks be to God who gives us evidence of His presence and the revelation of His will, so we can believe He exists and be blessed by diligently seeking Him (Acts 14:15-17; 17:22-31).
“For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)?
All who are familiar with the book of Esther are familiar with this statement uttered by Mordecai when he urged Queen Esther to go and appeal to the King Ahasuerus to save the Jews in Persia who were about to be destroyed by the evil plans of Haman who had risen to power and had respect of the King for a while. This story of Esther is a beautiful example of God’s providence unfolding during a circumstance that seemed to be hopeless for the Jews of that time. As we wrestle with the present distress brought on by the coronavirus COVID-19 global crisis, you may wonder what will come to pass and what can we do “for such a time is this”?
Let me offer some things to consider:
Don’t fear! Remember that this crisis will end, but we do not know when. John encouraged those being persecuted in to remain faithful to the Lord, come what may. Said he, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10; cf. Matt. 24:13). John’s statement – “ye shall have tribulation ten days” indicates that the suffering was temporary. So it is with the COVID-19 crisis. It will end!
Don’t give up! Christians must be those willing to endure any trial that comes our way. Consider the example of Jesus when He was tried in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). Don’t be like the 3 unprofitable soils (hearts) in the parable of the sower (Lk. 8:5-15). Don’t give up on your desire for the milk of the word (1 Pet. 2:2). Don’t give up on reading and studying God’s word daily (Acts 17:11).
Don’t give in! There are many new scams that have risen as a result of the crisis. Evil people are creating schemes to steal your information and thereby profit off naive people during this crisis. Warnings have been issued by Medicare, the IRS and health care organizations concerning scams that are popping up. Be aware of people who are posing as though they are in need when they are probably not in need. As Jesus told His disciples, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). Use sound judgment and due diligence and don’t let “wolves” pull the wool over your eyes!
Don’t give over! There are a number of errors and false ideas in the religious world. This COVID-19 crisis is unusual and all calamities are not the same. Don’t give heed to false teaching and unscriptural material that is on the internet. A number of sound churches of Christ are offering online studies during this time when we are ordered by civil leaders to “stay at home” which is a good and needed effort. But, don’t get the idea that when the “stay at home” order is lifted, you can “stay at home” when the saints assemble. Remember, the “stay at home” order is a temporary order that was issued to help stop or slow the spread of this highly contagious virus. Christians are commanded to NOT forsake “the assembling” (Heb. 10:25).
Give your time and thanks to God. Use the time you have to “stay at home” to catch up on your Bible study, Bible reading and praying to God. Pray for our leaders as they make decisions they had no idea they would have to make when elected to office. Pray for the leaders of the church as they make difficult decisions. Pray and give thanks that you are safe and have a safe place of shelter during “such a time as this.” Give thanks that our government is making provisions to help those who have been severely negatively affected by this crisis. Give thanks for the blessings of technology that can be used to study God’s word and glorify God. How many online sermons have you listened to during this “stay at home” order?
Finally, when the “stay and home” order is lifted, will you be as thirsty, studious and prayerful for spiritual things as you have been during “such a time as this” every day afterward and in the future when things are back to as normal as they can be? “...think on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
-Think on These Things March 29, 2020
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Natural Events and Divine Judgments
I do not know whether the COVID-19 pandemic is a divine judgment. Scripture teaches no one can say that definitively since no one has sufficient knowledge and power to say so. Only when God identifies natural events as His judgments may we correctly identify them as such. [But, we can be disciplined by them (Heb. 12:7-11).]
The Bible gives many inspired narratives of God’s judgments against individuals, cities, and nations (too many to cite here, although we note one below). Since direct revelation from God to humans does not occur now (God speaks to us by His Son, Heb. 1:2), we are left to perceive spiritual lessons from life’s calamities (like the COVID-19 pandemic). Here are two lessons for us.
Natural calamities allow us to discern our need to review and remedy ourselves before God. When Israel corrupted herself with idolatry and immorality, God sent natural disasters to chasten His people, but repeatedly they refused to return to Him. Famine, drought, plagues, pestilence, and disease were loud and clear calls to Israel to repent (Amos 4:6-10). By refusing to repent, Israel was left unprepared to meet God in judgment when He used the invading Assyrian army to punish them (Amos 4:12; 5:27; 7:11, 17). The calamities of life teach us to be prepared for our Judgment Day, for it is undoubtedly approaching (Acts 17:30-31; Matt. 25:13). When we learn this lesson, we get ready for our judgment by humbly repenting of our sins. We will not openly defy God through disobedience. Have you learned this lesson?
Natural calamities allow us to discern that God (not humans) is sovereign over His world. Amos recognized this, noting the Lord God of hosts is all-powerful, all-knowing (Amos 4:13). God will judge all unbelief and disobedience impartially, with truth and justice (Rom. 2:1-11). When we admit this, we submit to God’s will and are ready for judgment. Have you learned this lesson?
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 04/03/2020
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA