But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
I am sure that during the confinements that this Coronavirus has brought into our lives, most of us have spent time thinking about what life will be like in the future. Without any doubt it will bring many changes that will require the restructuring of the patterns of our church life and our work and family life.
I want to mention some things that the Scriptures teach us which I believe are relevant – they are Providence, Peace, and Presumption.
Whatever comes, we must see to it that we do not take our eyes off Christ. In the words of the hymn-writer: ‘In every change He faithful will remain.’ We may not always understand what the Lord is doing with us, but we are urged to walk by faith and not by sight, knowing that He is able to make all grace abound towards us, and this embraces the experiences that we are all going through both now and in the future.
It is crucial that we keep in mind the sovereign Providence of God at a time like this, because despite all the apparent uncertainty and the increasing confusion, it gives us grounds for hope and encouragement. The Lord is always in full control. It does sometimes seem as if His Providence operates at a very slow pace and this can make us vexed, impatient, discontented or even disheartened. But these are responses that we must earnestly seek to avoid, because His slowness is not because He is unable to cope with the situation. Nor is He is being perverse – He does not tease us or play games with us. In His loving kindness He tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, and it is this which enables His children to experience the Peace of God. He has promised that when we pass through the waters and the fires of experience He will not allow them to overwhelm us (Isaiah 43:1-4).
That is our Peace, but then we must see to it that the thoughts of His Providence and Peace make us aware of the dangers of Presumption.
Having been blessed during this Pandemic with the daily blessings of the preached Word of God and the unusual sense of what true Christian fellowship and friendship means, we can so easily forget and begin to presume upon God and His blessings by taking them for granted.
The sense of privilege by belonging to a loving, God-honouring, Bible preaching, and caring church can begin to fade and so we can assume that it will always be there. That is what happened to a church in Sardis which was exhorted to be watchful and strengthen the things that remained and were ready to die (Revelation 3:1-2).
Without doubt there can be a great sense of relief and of liberation as we contemplate coming out of this lock-down and pressing toward the mark in God’s future, but we must never forget the blessings of the past.
Past sins are wonderfully forgiven and forgotten. Past foolishness, together with its consequences, are overcome by God’s grace and goodness. Past blessings still influence our lives and must never be undervalued or presumed upon. These are the ground on which we can stand firm and go forward, and we do so in the assurance that the future, however dark it may seem to us, is always better than the past because the Lord is good.
If there is a non-believer reading this, let me close by saying that: with Christ the best is always yet to be; but without Christ the worst is always yet to come. May the Lord Jesus open your eyes to see, as true believers see, the wonders of His Providence His Peace and His grace.