REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 48: Perspective is everything.
As the pandemic continues relentlessly, especially in nations entering winter, anxiety, anger and waves of dissent directed mainly at those in government for acting or failing to do so, grows. A friend remarked to me recently, who would want to be in national or state leadership at the moment!
Our perspective is ever important. And our perspective is formed by where we stand. As with the enjoyment of scenic vistas, the higher our elevation usually determines how well we can see. It was D L Moody who said that the Christian on his knees sees more than the philosopher on tiptoe. This comment is rescued from arrogance since prayer is a gift from God, not only so we can talk to God and cast all our anxieties upon Him [1 Peter 5:7] but as a vital way of recalibrating our hearts and minds away from what we can see, in order to grasp hold of the things that He has revealed to us in the public domain Bible [Deut 29:29; Psalm 119; Isaiah 55; Rom 11:33-36, 15:1-6; 1 Cor 10:1-13]. Things to sustain us in the darkness of uncertainty and concern. As someone said: lock me up in a dungeon with my Bible and a candle and I will tell you what is going on outside! With Paul’s diagnosis of humankind in Romans 1:18-32 building on our Lord’s observation in Mark 7:20-23 and confirming an honest understanding of our own hearts [even as regenerate people], we will never be far from the mark in terms of this perspective on sinfulness.
But mercifully the Bible does not stop with diagnosis. It is very strong on the medicine of the gospel. This is why we pray and read our Bibles since we know we stand on the shoulders of others, especially those, who without error, gave us the Scriptures [as those carried along by the Holy Spirit 2 Peter 1:20 and 2 Tim 3:16-17]. Many of us have been privileged to also stand on the shoulders of people who shared the gospel with us and taught us by their example and love of the Bible truths. The pandemic provides us with an extra opportunity to be such people, whose understanding and example will buoy us through the perilous waters and shoals of the pandemic. We are not earth bound, though we happily live here, since we are already by faith in Christ, citizens of heaven [Eph 2:6, Phil 3:17-21]. The sure map of Scripture and the compass of the Holy Spirit within, have been given to us, enabling us to live for our risen Saviour. As we do others might be encouraged and strengthened by our example and encouragement.
A faithful believer in our church who is battling cancer [and the treatment] turns up joyfully each Sunday. No one would blame her for taking the time off from church, but in her choice to come is giving us an example of her trust in God and her love to us. I am reminded of the hymn which speaks to us of this gospel perspective. The first line of each verse asks the questions: Will your anchor hold in the storms of life? Will your anchor hold in the straits of fear? Will your anchor hold in the floods of death? Will your eyes behold through the morning light? Each is followed by the resounding chorus-answer: We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll; fastened to the rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love! [Hebrews 6:17-20].
Many would object to this way of thinking, with the jeer ‘of being so heavenly minded but of no earthly use’! A moment’s reflection will indicate the short sightedness of such a view. What we believe always determines how we behave, for both good and ill. The joy of a new child is worth the pains of labour, just as the prospect of a trade qualification or degree worth the hard work of study and training. So too the love of a Saviour whose love has been clearly seen in His humble coming and sacrificial sin-bearing death on our behalf will drive us to be what we pray for in the petition Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. With this perspective of Jesus burning in our hearts, everything, even pandemic difficulties can be viewed as unique opportunities to prove His promises, approve His purposes and rekindle our passion for His glory and the good of those around us. C S Lewis was on the money when he set forth the glorious reality: The Christians who did most for this present world were preciously those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have been thinking less of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in, aim at earth and you get neither.
The pandemic will prove a great blessing to believers and unbelievers alike if the cages of our captivity to this world have been rattled. With eyes lifted to the Lord, who has much for us to do in bringing a taste of heaven to earth, we might be His means of others finding this transforming perspective [2 Cor 4:16-18, Col 3:1-4 and 1 John 2:15-17]. Paradoxically, the further down on our knees we go, the higher perspective we will have on reality. It is God who in His mercy gives us a place to stand so that we might never be unstable or hopeless amidst the changes and chances of this fleeting world [Evening Collect BCP]. Indeed, His compassions are new every morning and therefore worth waking up to expectantly, as we fellowship with our Father in Bible and prayer [Lam 3:19-27]. When we stand on His promises, we will not fall for the short term imitations that can only let us down [Jer 2:13 cf John 4:13-14].
Peter Brain 3rd November, 2020