REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 36: “I am not worried, because I am a Christian”
How refreshing it was to hear the words on the ABC morning news last week, from a Melbourne business owner badly affected by the new shut-downs: I am not afraid, because I am a Christian. At the end of the interview he added “I suppose I should be, but I’m not”. This was a great testimony not only to his faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but to God’s faithfulness in times of crisis. It was doubly so because he is a realist: the crisis is real and his circumstances challenging, but he clearly knows the main reality, that it is in such challenges that his own faith in God’s trustworthiness would be proven and experienced afresh.
A couple of years ago Christine and I were gently chided by a fellow on our daily constitutional. “You do know that it is only when you apply pressure to your body that it will get stronger and you will benefit from your exercise”. His unsolicited, but grudgingly accepted words referred to our failure to use the gym equipment located around our local oval. He was right. So too the even surer words of Scripture, that the testing of our faith is necessary for our growth and resilience. But our Christian’s equally unsolicited testimony was even truer and supported by the testimony of that most resilient and faithful believer, the apostle Paul: for physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both this life and the life to come [1 Timothy 4:8].
In Sunday’s sermon our Rector reminded us that our natural tendency is to flee from pain into pleasure rather than fleeing to Christ. And unless I am very vigilant, I can easily do so after a pity party, usually designed to draw others’ attention to my plight, in the same way that a child throws a tantrum! Not pretty in a 70+ man. And to make it worse, it is so easy to justify this self-pampering. Given sober reflection, we all know that none of this is helpful, especially for us believers, who know the promises and gracious invitation of our Father to bring our pain to Him.
Unlike our unknown Melbournian Christian, when we behave in this way we miss the opportunity of testifying to any watching eyes and listening ears to the grace of our Lord and Saviour when the chips are down. Our brother knew that worry was the natural response for him to make, but he also knew that it was not the response of a child of God. I do not know what promises and experiences of God’s dealings with him were in his mind. But here are a few suggestions from Scripture and believers whom I have had the privilege of seeing flee to Christ in their pain:
- Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’. [Hebrews 13:5]. Maybe the pandemic is helping us to rely less on money and more on God. We were also reminded that this can take place if we are deprived of income, and if not, by depriving ourselves of our money through generosity to those in need.
- The string of passages: Romans 5:3-5, 2 Cor 1:2-7, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-9 give us clear reasons why we should flee to Christ when painful circumstances arise, benefitting ourselves and others. Pain is a gift which takes us out of ourselves and deeper into God, trusting Him in His gracious providence [2 Cor. 12:9-10].
- In this way we align ourselves with the great heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 and the unnamed ones, like Mrs Namaan’s servant girl [2 Kings 5:1-3], who by their responsive faith, like our persecuted brothers and sisters, furthered God’s purposes, through and because of their humble response under suffering [1 Peter 2:21-25].
- We flee to God by prayer as we act on promises like: Humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety upon him because he cares for you. [1 Peter 5:6-7]. We are wise to view the pandemic as God’s firm and loving nudge to flee to Him, especially if we have failed to obey his written word in normal times. God loves us so much that He will humble us if we refuse to do so ourselves. But we must not take this correcting grace for granted.
- Our trust in God to do good in all circumstances (Rom 8:28) in terms of Romans 8:29: that Christ might be the first-born among many brothers and sisters, must be based on the glorious gospel. Where God’s love is seen and experienced, not primarily in good things, like good health, propitious business results, peaceful conditions and personal happiness, but in His objective love demonstrated at the Cross [Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10] and the subjective pouring out of the Holy Spirit into our hearts not only at our conversion [Ephesians 1:13-14] but also in trials of all kinds [Romans 5:5].
- We do well to ponder the great hope we have in Christ. In Christian terms hope is assured confidence based on the trustworthiness of God in His gospel: flowing from Him through Jesus, and to us by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. These passages can be counted on to lift our hearts and cause us go deeper into our Father’s love: Rom 8:20; 12:12; 15:4; 15:13; Gal.5:5; Col. 1:27; 1 Thess. 5:8; Titus 2:13; Heb.6:19; 1 John 3:2-3.
Peter Brain 11th August, 2020