REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 49: Winners in advance!
The various pandemic football seasons are done and dusted. The winners are happy, the vanquished hopefully over their losses, and the administrators, and State premiers, much relieved to have it finished. Of course there is still the State of Origin to be battled out. Many decades ago I formed a personal rule: never watch a Rugby Union test live, but watch it on the replay, but only if we had won! Life is too short to endure the pain of being beaten by the Poms, the All Blacks or the Springboks!
The pandemic has caused uncertainty at many levels. Retirement plans, employment prospects, financial and health security continue to bring great challenges in the West, and in many countries, devastation and the loss of loved ones. We would love to know how long this will be the ‘new normal’. Will the sophisticated surveillance equipment used to monitor and help COVID-19 tracking and amelioration be used for less noble purposes- perhaps for the detection of persecuted Christians and others perceived to be threats to national security? These are understandable concerns. Some would love a crystal ball. Or would this add extra fears and concerns? To be honest, I would not be too keen to know the fine print about my future. If I did I may not want to get up tomorrow!
But there is one thing which I do know and of which I can be certain. The victor is Jesus. And those who trust in Him share His victory. Now and in the future. No matter what, whether incontinent in a Nursing Home, taken out quietly with a heart attack while snoozing in my favourite chair after church one Sunday, in chronic pain or still enjoying good health, alone or with many friends. How come? Because the main game has been won by the Lord Jesus on our behalf. Yes, on the Cross where God’s righteous judgement was endured by Him in my place, then three days later when he rose victorious from the grave, ensuring our access to God. Then, some 56 years ago, because the Holy Spirit enabled me to own my sin, understand my hopeless predicament and draw me to trust Jesus as my Saviour and Lord. As a consequence our death becomes the day of welcome into Heaven by the Saviour and the Day of His return will vindicate Him and all who have trusted Him as we enter into the promised New Heavens and New Earth. All because He won the battle by His life of perfect obedience and victory over sin and death on the Cross. [John 5:24, 11:25-26; Romans 8:31-39; 1 Cor 15:1-11 and 50-58; 2 Timothy 1:8-12, 4:6-8; Hebrews 2:14-18, 9:27-28].
Even with His victory in mind, we may still have some anxieties about the details of our and the world’s future, but there need be no doubts about the future or fears about how we might face tomorrow. God’s promises of victory in and through life’s uncertainties will see His people safely through. This assurance and the joy of sharing in Christ’s victory will sustain us. Here are some of the assurances given to us by our gracious Father:
- Hebrews 4:14-16. We have a throne of grace and an understanding, fully- human and fully- Divine high priest, ensuring our welcome, a listening ear, an understanding heart and graceful help in every need.
- 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling within, who not only is God’s guarantee of future promises [1:21-22], but who transforms our momentary troubles into an inner, day- by- day renewal that proves to be a greater and ‘more real’ reality than any other.
- Hebrews 12:7-13. We have the assurance that our Father’s purpose in using hardships as discipline is the mark of His loving purpose to train, mature and strengthen His children to be like Jesus [Romans 8:28-29].
- Colossians 3:1-4. That our future hope has to do with our victor the Risen Christ, not this passing earth with its defeats, uncertainties, disappointments & deceptions [Phil.3:17-4:1].
- Matthew 11:28-30. That we live as believers in harness with none other than the One who, proving Himself to be gentle and lowly of heart, can be confidently counted upon to refresh us each day.
- John 4:13-14. That we are never alone. Harnessed to Jesus and refreshed constantly by His company through the indwelling and outflowing of His Spirit [John 7:37-39], there is no trial that need be faced alone and in our own strength [Hebrews 13:5-6, which money can never buy].
John 10:7-13, 25-30. We have a Good Shepherd whose greatest joy is to grant nourishment, security and abundant life to the sheep He laid His life down for. Our role is to respond with trust; a trust that proves itself [and Him] faithful at every turn. In the words of the old hymn: each victory will help you some other to win. This may be daunting but never fearful. Our Lord will restore us when we fail, nourish us with the gospel of grace, dust us down and lead us joyfully back onto His path, all the time confirming in us that He is the Good Shepherd whose great purpose is to bring His sheep safely home [Jn 14:1-6, 2 Pet 3:13, 1 Thess 4:13-18]. With the Father’s house and the home of righteousness as sure promises we press on with humble confidence.
Peter Brain 10th November, 2020