Time Passes By
Our current situation We have now reached the time at which the government had originally announced that it would review the lockdown of the nation and, as most of us anticipated, even the review isn’t going to take place because it would plainly be pointless for it to do so. The expectation must be that we are thinking of months rather than weeks which is daunting and discouraging. As Christians we need to renew our trust in God, he controls everything that happens to us and does so for our good (Romans 8: 28). We need also to realize that God’s uses life’s events to reinforce the lesson which we all need to learn and which we are all too slow to learn and that is our utter and complete dependence on God for all our needs both spiritual and physical. This renewed realization should increase our prayerfulness.
Our thoughts and prayers are for those who are ill at this point in time. Particularly for those in hospital the separation from family must be very painful and not to be able to be with a dying relative will cause great sorrow and leave deep scars and a deep sense of guilt. Guilt of course is not always a logical thing but can cause very deep and lasting sadness.
Praying and learning Margaret and I, like others, also prayed for the Prime Minister, currently in intensive care, during the time we took on Tuesday night to pray together. While we pray for him in his time of need it is important to think at times like this what a fleeting thing power and popularity can be. Recently he won a crushing General Election victory and he has successfully forced out much of the internal opposition in the Conservative Party. Nothing could apparently stand in his way – and then he is struck down by a virus we hadn’t heard of a year ago. When Dominic Raab was saying that Boris Johnson would pull through because he is a fighter it is also true that the friends of many of those who have died would have said the same about them. The Psalmist says of God’s relation to humanity (Psalm 103: 14): ‘he knows (how we are formed), he remembers that we are dust.’ He also wrote of humanity (verses 15 + 16):
As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
The comfort for Christians is that this unchanging God is willing to be our refuge and protection. This is spelt out (verses 17 – 19):
But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Psalm 103 is a wonderful psalm and I would encourage you to read it and meditate on it during this difficult period of time. It starts and ends with: ‘Bless the LORD, O my soul’ and reading it and meditating on it will give you every reason to thank and to bless God.
Making the most of every opportunity We believe two truths about God which we do well to call to mind. Firstly, God controls all things not just in our lives as individuals but also as concerns the destiny of nations. Secondly, God’s great purpose on earth is the extension of his kingdom through the gospel until the end of time. With that in mind, whatever our situation we need to think of how the gospel might go out and be spread. In Macedonia last year we met a lovely Christian woman, Slavica, who told us how her conversion had come about. She was in prison, ex-Communist countries are very difficult for entrepreneurs, and was converted because she was placed with a Nigerian Christian who had a bible and needed someone to be with her who spoke English. This meant that Slavica started reading the bible for herself and eventually came to faith. It sounds a very unlikely way for God to put someone in touch with the gospel but that’s what happened. Maybe the Lord will use the current lockdown to bring people into contact with the gospel.
To encourage this we are circulating with this letter a flyer encouraging people to listen to our recorded services on the website. You could forward the flyer to friends and family you are not in contact with physically. Or you could print them to give to your neighbours or family members you do see. It is good to encourage people that the Christian faith offers serious and well-grounded hope and encouragement in bad times as well as good. Do both pray for those you may invite in this way and pray for others of us who will be seeking to reach out to others. It would be great to use this time to reach out as widely as possible.
Some things don’t change This time of the year means we always have an extra service for Good Friday and so we can celebrate this communally at 10.30am. I will be preaching a message dealing particularly with what it means for God to give his Son to go to the cross out of love to a lost world. The message of the cross is central to our faith and often unappreciated and not understood today so we need to pray that it will be clearly and faithfully proclaimed by me and many other ministers.
On Easter Day we celebrate that our Saviour lives! Of course he couldn’t possibly be our Saviour if he wasn’t now alive to save us! So we will be looking at the importance of the resurrection for faith and seeking to introduce people to a living Saviour. Pray that this reality breaks through for many.
Yours in the Lord,
8th April 2020