The following came in a church bulletin from a friend to Lawngren. He passed it along to me and I wanted to post it here, so we’re bumping his story he had ready for us to next week.
This is so good and such a needed reminder I think, and hope it gives everyone a shot of encouragement!
Brothers and Sisters,
As many of you know I usually choose a brief Biblical lesson for the back of our Sunday bulletin. In the absence of actually meeting, I have thought it would be good to continue to send this reading out to you. Unlike most Sundays I have chosen to write something myself this week. It is based on 2 Corinthians 1:8-11.
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
1. Affliction is a hard test. This is true even if you are expecting it and have a lot of spiritual integrity going into it. Paul was told when he was a new Christian and being called to his life ministry that he was going to have to endure much suffering. He expected it. Most of us are thankful we do not know in advance that a lot of suffering is ahead of us. But whether we are like Paul, or ignorant of our future , we know we must live faithfully before God. But affliction can be staggeringly unsettling even if we are prepared mentally and spiritually. Paul said he “despaired of life itself.”Despair is not a word we hear from him a lot. We should not approach affliction with a proud attitude about how prepared we are for it.
If this is true for the Christian it is even more true of unbelievers. Our culture loves to point out how the best of humanity comes out during times of crisis. It was very interesting to me to hear one nationally known commentator say that he had done a bit of reading about previous viruses. He was especially taken with the Spanish Flu of 1918-20. Statistics were not gathered with as much accuracy then as now. But some say it killed 50 million world wide and in the United States between 500 and 675 K. But the commentator was making the point that as infection and death spread people became very self protective. When it was all over nobody wanted to talk about it, partly for shame over how they had behaved. It occurred to me that immediately following that, America experienced “the roaring 20’s” Evidently not much moral transformation resulted from an unprecedented affliction.
2. The purpose of God for his elect is to better appreciate Easter during affliction, just like at other times. “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.” 9b.
Every day is a day for growing in faith. Makes no difference if it is a day of calm or chaos. Every day is an opportunity for trusting less in ourselves. That is God’s purpose. Why shouldn’t we just forgo to much analysis of what is happening and just go directly to why it is happening. It is to make us rely on the resurrecting God rather than ourselves. The purpose of God for our sanctification is always more important than trying to figure out what is going to happen next, or lamenting what we did rather than what we should have done. Faith really is where we should put our energy, not fretting.
3. Prayer really is a way we can help ourselves and others. There are a lot of important meetings being held involving government personnel at all levels. We should be thankful for so many tens of thousands of people who have a role in contributing to the common good. But we have the privilege of meeting with the Head of all Government. Paul said, “You also must help us by prayer…” What would we think of government employees who did not show up for important meetings during the present crisis. It is important for us to help the servants of God by meeting with God in prayer. Think of missionaries trying to renew visas in a time when travel is restricted, and officials are extra cautious about “outsiders. Think of our friends who serve in primitive areas of Indonesia. How do you best protect people who may find it hard to grasp the safety measures advocated by the outside world? The activity or the results of prayer will not make network news, but God will be glorified by the blessings and the thanksgiving of his people. “…so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” Prayer is not a work of righteousness to earn the blessings of God. Nor is it a means by which God gets informed about what is needed on earth. Even more it is not as if God will not do anything we do not ask for. Prayer is a Divinely ordained means whereby we can grow in our love for God’s purposes, his grace, and his people. May these days be wonderful times of growth in these things!
As American boy and I are doing our own Bible study Wednesdays until church is allowed to open again, we’ve been studying Nehemiah. This mini sermon LG sent reminds me a little of that dependence on God- as the desire of his heart was so monumental, but also full of obstacles that only God can move. It also reminds me of the power of prayer that we’ve learned in the first two chapters of Nehemiah.I agree that prayers for each other and ordained as a real mission by the Lord. His Will may be different than ours, but He will always lead us to His Will if we continue to obey our mission of prayer.
The reference by the pastor who wrote this of the roaring 20s is interesting. I’d never consider that, but it shows a stark contrast at the heart of the people in those times compared to say, the great awakening which sparked the American Revolution.
Affliction, trials and tests are going to keep coming, and like the Lord warns, they will be like birth pangs (contractions) – more intense, longer and fewer times of rest in between.
Really learning what the Lord has for us often times only comes during these ‘rainy’ times…
And the best way to get through them is through praise and prayer, remembering Jesus is the best “weapon” we believers have!
Have a beautiful day all! And thank you Lawngren for sharing this.