Everywhere I look I see the sign, “Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.” I see the signs and I hear the repeated commands, and I’m not against washing my hands frequently with soap and water. In fact, I’ve heard it all my life, but never so much as in the days of this virus. You might wonder at this point, who is not washing their hands? The problem I see in the days of aggressive hand washing, demanded distancing and face covering, is that hands are being washed, distance is observed and mask tolerated, but hearts are still dirty. Imagine living in a world where people were so bothered by the evil and sinfulness of men that everywhere you went you saw the sign, “Confess your sins frequently!” How much more critical is it to our health and well-being to confess our sins than to wash our hands. I didn’t say, don’t wash your hands. But the truth is, all the soap and water in the world cannot wash away the smallest sin, and it only takes one sin to separate us from Holy God.
Let me ask you, do you confess your sins? Who have you confessed them to? Be careful here, because God may want you to confess your sin to someone other than Him. Yes confess to God, but because of the frequent temptation of sin and its destructive power, you may need to confess to another person. Maybe this is where we have missed the mark in our Holy walk with God. Maybe this is why we can’t get the power to overcome the sin that keeps knocking us down. Who would you include in the most intimate and ugly place in your life? Find someone to confess your sin to, not to get their forgiveness, but to get their prayer support and accountability needed to overcome. Confess your sins and be healed. Confess your sins and watch God work. Confess your sins and look for doors to open. Confess your sins frequently and keep your heart clean. James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [you] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [you] double-minded.”
“For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark” Matthew 24:38.
This one verse describes the people living in the days of God’s judgement flood on the earth. They were busy with life, and there’s no word here about being evil or sinful, just busy. Busy is the answer we give to people who ask, “What have you been up to?” I have decided that if you want a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you must really want it and be more intentional about it than all the other things that are crowding Him out. Stop taking so much pride in a jam-packed schedule that only leaves 5 minutes a day for your Savior. We are all guilty of giving into life’s relentless demands and giving God our leftovers, but we don’t have to continue that way. Those who were wiped out by the flood judgement never noticed the dark clouds rolling in. They never heard the distant sounds of thunder. They never took much interest in what Noah was doing. They never noticed because they were stretched so thin with their busy lives even back then. They never noticed the change in the atmosphere because they were so concerned about keeping up with their neighbors.
Let me ask you, when was the last time you took time to really stop and take notice of what is going on in the world? Does anything seem odd or strange enough to slow you down so you would seek the Lord? Please know this, there is no way you can be ready for what is coming upon the earth unless you take notice of what is happening and then become intentional in growing in your relationship with Him. There were those that lived during the days of Noah that were so busy they didn’t even know where the Ark was when the flood came, but Noah and his family were working on the Ark everyday. I don’t know when the Lord is going to return, but I do know people will not be ready because they are so busy. Know this and be sure of it, just as the Ark was Noah’s only hope, so Jesus is our only hope. Take time to spend with Him!
One of the things children do not do very well is wait. You know how they are impatient and want what they want right now. There are adults just like that who are impatient and have never broken from the tradition of their human nature, but it shouldn’t be that way with the child of God, especially in the area of prayer. Years ago, I was on the floor in our home praying and I said my prayer and got up. Immediately when I stood up, God spoke to me. He said, “Joe, you have not learned to pray until you learn to sit in my presence quietly.” Another time I was praying and seeking God for direction for a message I was going to preach, and as I prayed the Lord said, “Joe, there’s no way you could hear what I have to say to you because of all the clutter in your mind.” Over and over I have been reminded of the disciple’s request in Luke 11:1-4,
“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as [it is] in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”
Being taught to pray sounds like a one-time class memorizing verses 2-4. The reality, however, is that being taught to pray is memorizing a group of sentences or even a structure, but being taught to pray is about waiting on the teacher to show up every time you start to pray. Most Christians never pray long enough for the teacher to even come into the classroom of our prayer closet. We give God our list and go on and never wait on the Lord to meet us there. To be taught to pray you must, you must wait on the teacher to show up. For some they may start in prayer and the Lord shows up 5 minutes into their prayer, and for others they must be in prayer 10 minutes or 15 minutes. If you’re praying just to be praying because it’s what you do, then you may never stay long enough in prayer. But if you’re praying to meet with the Savior, you’ll learn to stay long enough for the Savior to show up.
How do you know when the Lord shows up in your time of prayer? One of the first things is there is a strengthening in your mind. When you wait for God in prayer, there is a focus and clarity in your prayer that was not there before. When you wait for the Teacher in prayer, He directs your mind in what to pray for specifically. When you wait for God in prayer and He shows up, you don’t want to leave that time of prayer. It’s true that we should have a child-like faith, but we should not have a child-like prayer life. Wait on the Lord in your prayers and He will teach you how to pray.
“And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise [and] eat; because the journey [is] too great for thee.” 1 Kings 19:7
Elijah was headed in a direction in his life he was not prepared for. After a great victory for God’s people on Mt. Carmel, he went to Jezreel to witness Jezebel’s revival response to the power of Almighty God. When Elijah received a shocking death threat instead of humble repentance from Jezebel, he fell under the power of fear and ran for his life. When life turns on you in sudden unexpected ways, you may find yourself on the run in desperate need of God’s spiritual food.
Who really knows the outcome of the coronavirus? What most of us believe is that by the end of April or May, the economy will be cranking back up and most of us will be playing catch up in just about every aspect of our lives. Because of the death threat looming over our nation and the world, we very well may find ourselves plummeting in a depression that is more devastating personally than it is economically. Because that is a strong possibility, you may want to “Rise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.”
Deep discouragement and dark depression can overpower the strongest Christian when the highest expectations are crushed. I’m afraid that the journey is too great for us so we need our daily bread. Elijah was so exhausted the angel of the LORD had to come a second time and touch him. I believe God is touching us right now, but we need to “Rise and eat, because the journey is too great.”
A proper reading of the scriptures in Matthew 24 does not paint our future with breath-taking sunsets and bright blue skies. A proper reading, if you believe what is says, is that the days ahead will be unparalleled in comparison to the days behind us. God is getting His people ready and working in hearts and is much more interested in a spiritual revival than an economic one. So you should, “Rise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” Don’t be the one who needs to be touched a second time. Revive your heart for God now and eat from His Word. Chew it slowly in meditation. Receive the full spiritual benefits of every bite. Eat from God’s Word for the sake of those around you who are starving for God. You need to eat!
“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called [you] by your name; You [are] Mine. When you pass through the waters, I [will be] with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.”
A careful study of God’s Word shows that, yes, God delivers, but God also allows us to endure and go through the waters and the fast moving currents of the rivers and through the fires of adversity and tribulation. God’s children went through the 10 plagues sent upon Egypt and the three Hebrews went through the consuming fire of Nebuchadnezzar. They went through their captivity in Babylon, and I know you don’t want to hear this, but God may very well allow us to go through this time of unbelievable change to our nation and the world as we have always known it. You should buckle up spiritually, because God marks and measures our valleys and listens for our sincere cries for mercy. Whatever the case may be with the coronavirus, God has not redeemed us or named us to lose us, and we can count on Him taking us through it.
Why is this happening? What is the motive behind the tragedy of the coronavirus? Many would answer the question by saying, this kind of thing just happens in nature and it’s all a part of nature’s dangerous mutations. Others would answer the question by saying that this vicious virus was man-made chemical warfare and somehow released intentionally or unintentionally into the environment. Why are so many people dying and our freedoms being taken from us? Some would say this is God’s way of judging the sins of humanity to bring people back into a right relationship with Him. Many would also reject the notion that God had anything to do with it because they only see God as love and never see Him as a loving Father who disciplines His children because of rebellion. The truth is, the answer to the “why” of the coronavirus may never be fully discovered or disclosed, and so it is with so many other tragic events in life.
Since the origin of the coronavirus may forever remain a mystery, we shouldn’t spend so much time on the question “Why?” and go to the next question “What?” What should we do about it? If you’re a scientist the response would be to find a cure. If you’re an elected official responsible for the safety and protection of people, you should take measures to keep them safe. If you’re a child of God you should pray and seek God’s face for His merciful intervention. How we respond as children of God should not be a mystery, this should be seen as a call to return to God. We may not know about the motivations or origin of the coronavirus, but we do know who can intervene and stop it. Let me ask you, is that what you are doing? Has your time with God in prayer increased? It is only a wonder to me that God has not allowed some greater judgment to come upon us, and He still may if this does not does not produce the proper response from His people. Tragedy and devastation should always produce the spiritual response in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14
“When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. “Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer [made] in this place.”
Resting is a great struggle for many people. They can go on vacation and be in the most incredible place but completely fail to rest. Some people live with an endless drive that dominates the times they should be completely worry-free and resting. Just because you are still physically doesn’t mean you are resting, and just because someone is working doesn’t mean they are not resting. When you are consumed with pleasing others you cannot rest, or when you are always trying to be first or best or noticed, you cannot rest. Even many Christians cannot trust God that Jesus did enough on the cross to allow them to rest, so they worry if they have done enough.
The news of a deadly virus spreading across the land will steal your rest. Resting is the spiritual exercise of trusting that God has everything in control and the belief that your life is in His hands. And that means it is possible for you to rest even in the midst of a pandemic with the coronavirus. You can rest in God because of who He is and what He has done and how He feels about you!
“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.” Psalms 37:7
God is the maker of heaven and earth and He sees everything that comes against you and every single thing that blocks your ability to rest. Because nothing more can be done to secure an eternal relationship with God outside of the finished redeeming work of Christ on the cross, you should be able to rest. Jesus has already done everything needed for our relationship with God. All we have to do is believe that and trust Him. You cannot rest in someone you don’t trust, but you can trust in God. Trust equals rest! God’s love for you is constant, steady, and everlasting so you can rest.
“The LORD has appeared of old to me, [saying:] “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3
Only when you trust in God completely will you be able to rest in Him sufficiently. Tell Him you trust Him and release those things that are out of your control to Him. Rest in Him!
With the fear of the coronavirus spreading faster than the virus itself, some may wonder where the fine line is between preparing and staying protected and maintaining your peace and witness for God. You could argue both sides, and in doing so, catch the sharp opposing opinions of others. You should be washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze even without a virus spreading. You also should be trusting in the protection of Almighty God for your life and health. God has given us wisdom to put into practice, and you can do that without getting pulled into the parade of panic. If God in heaven does not count your heartbeats and have the days of our lives numbered in His book, then fear and panic are warranted, but if you believe in the sovereignty of God over your life, then use your wisdom, hold your peace, and keep your witness for God.
Psalm 91:5-7 says, “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, [Nor] of the arrow [that] flies by day, [Nor] of the pestilence [that] walks in darkness, [Nor] of the destruction [that] lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; [But] it shall not come near you.”
Don’t read this wrong, you are going to die unless Jesus Christ returns before that time, but even in facing death, there is a place for you to go and take refuge. The safest place you can be is as close to God as possible. That’s the emphasis in this Psalm, to make God your place of refuge and dwelling place. To make God your dwelling place means you don’t stop in for visits, but it’s a lifestyle of connection and communication with Him. God can do for you what no mask or hand washing or quarantine can ever do. Be quarantined by the Almighty, and He will see you through deadly viruses, and even death itself will not shake you.