REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 38: Blessed to be a blessing.
A couple of weeks ago a friend responded to the Reflection with some helpful comments including an important text in regard to the pandemic. Gordon’s text deserves to be the first on a short list of verses that might nourish, stabilise and give us reason to rejoice in all circumstances.
You are talking foolishly: shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? [Job 2:10]. Spoken to his wife at the beginning of his troubles, Job offers us wise advice during any kind of trouble. He wisely recognises that God is in control of all things, both good and bad. Without this truth we have no real basis for sanity and stability since we have no basis for trusting God or confidence praying to Him. I think it was AFL player and coach, Jack Sheedy who captured this truth when he observed: no one ever blames God when they have won Lotto! This text leads us directly to the well known:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose [Romans 8:28]. Job’s text read through gospel lenses assures us that God is good, and at work in His people, growing us to be more like His Son [8:29]. This assurance is based on the good that God accomplished in Jesus death [redemption for all who trust Jesus] and third day bodily resurrection [marking Jesus out as the Son of God [1:4]. God can be relied upon to accomplish His purposes in history and our lives. If we are Christians it is because of His grace, & we are assured that He uses troubles to grow us [5:3-5]. His good is too good to be simply making life easy for us. It is so good that He matures us through pandemics, sickness, troubles and the like. How else will we cherish the gospel [8:1], His Spirit [8:15-17], and look forward to His return [8:18-25]?
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. [John 16:33]. Our Lord is a great realist. Troubles come to the world because it is fallen and it is this same world He came into to rescue us; not by taking us out of the world, but by granting us peace in it [an objective peace through faith in Christ Rom. 5:1-2 and a subjective peace from the Spirit Gal. 5:22-23]. We do not lose heart if Christ has ours [Phil.4:7].
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance [James 1:2-3]. This verse, and others like it remind us of our Father’s purpose to mature us so that we will be running the last laps better than when we started. The promise of 2 Cor.4:16-18 and the invitation of Heb. 4:14-16 will keep us on track. This is why He graciously gives us training partners and exhortations to:
Consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds [Heb.10:24] and not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up [Gal.6:9]. Our Lord did not call us to begin, but to finish the race [Matt.24:12-13]. These exhortations will keep us from falling away as we do the good works He has called us to engage in [Eph.2:10, 2 Peter 1:10-11]. Whilst our works will not save us they will show that we have saving faith [James 2:14-26] and become the very means by which grace continues to flow into and then through us [James 2:22, 1 Cor. 15:10, 2 Cor.8:7-9; 12:7-10]. This progression to us and out to others is seen in:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God [2 Cor. 1:3-4]. Neither the pandemic nor other trials need throw us given His gracious promises. The Biblical trajectory of thought confirmed by our words and actions has always been from God to us, for our comfort, but never to terminate on us, rather to flow through us to others. I am so grateful to those in my local church, where I first heard and saw the gospel at work, whose catch-cry and path of joy was blessed to be a blessing. Even the pandemic will prove to be a major blessing if this outward trajectory keeps us from preoccupation with self rather than with our Saviour and the many others He brings across our paths to serve.
Peter Brain 25th August, 2020