The work of the word is long term and wholistic not short term and piecemeal
As we have been discussing, facing a major crisis like a pandemic and a lockdown will take more than occasional disjointed thoughts. We need to see the big picture of who God is and what his plans and purposes are. We discover those things in Scripture. The flipside of that is that when we are thinking about preaching and teaching, we are thinking about the long game.
The pressure is on all of us, as we preach and as we listen to focus on the here and now. How does God’s Word apply to me today and how will it help me in the week ahead? Is the sermon relevant? Those things are important but if they become front and centre, we can miss out on other important things
God’s Word recentres and reforms us: First and foremost we are worshippers. Furthermore, Scripture is spiritual food it is more than just educational learning, it is more than just pragmatic advice. We don’t just communicate information when we come to God’s Word.
We are first and foremost worshippers Relevance often means the need for sermons to help us know how to solve our problems and meet our needs. Scripture certainly does that. However, if first and foremost, we are called to enjoy God, then sermons that focus on our corporate worship life are equally relevant.
We find it hardest to hear and digest in the middle of the storm I remember Wesley Aiken saying to me years ago, that we are rarely able to hear and apply God’s word in our lives during the crisis. Richard Baxter also noted in his time that often people who drop into deep melancholy are often unable to process pastoral counsel. In the tough times we need to draw from the deep wells of Biblical comfort and counsel that are already in place.
With the final point in mind, here are some things we have been learning from God’s word over the last 10 years in Bearwood. Some of them may not have seemed directly relevant at the time but maybe have a special resonance now. God has been preparing us and equipping us for such a time as this.
The Long Term Lessons
Death does not have the final word: This will be vital to families and relatives of those grieving. It is essential news to those who are going to become terminally ill
God offers divine comedy that replaces human tragedy: As we have seen, this is not about humour but about the story with the upward trajectory and happy ending. If death does not have the final word, then that’s not just good news for individuals but for communities. WE look to future grace because suffering is temporary. #SummerIsComing
The things we fear become our idols: In a world of anxiety and even panic right now, we must not give into fear. Coronavirus itself if it becomes all consuming will become our idol. Perfect love casts out fear.
Justified means just as if I have always kept God’s law perfectly. COVID-19 is not a specific punishment. You are not being punished by it if you are ill. This fallen world and its tragedies remind us that the whole of creation is under judgement for sin so we need to repent but Christians are forgiven and declared righteous in Christ.
Hold lightly to hold tightly: We learn to cling to Christ. This means we have to let go of things we value and trust to hold him more. As coronavirus strips us of so many things we have relied on for security, status and identity we discover that all we have and all we need is Christ.
We need to Remember: We learnt through Deuteronomy to remember and trace back God’s goodness. We don’t just remember intellectually but this is our experience of God and his goodness.
God is love, God is Trinity. The first bit is obvious maybe but when I preached a mini series on the Trinity a few years back a few people asked why on earth I was tackling doctrine. Yet everything we know about what it means to love, what it means to be relational and social, what it means to be united and diverse go back to these truths. Here we discover God’s character. It is because he is Triune that we can say “He is Love.” We discover the self sufficient God who pours our unlearnt love and compassion upon us. We meet the God who is sovereign and exalted but at the same time close and concerned. This is the God we need to cling to at this time.
Will you let God disagree with you? A second Mike Oveyism in the list. How do we know what to do and how to live right now? We have our own ideas and opinions but we need to listen to what God’s word in Scripture. Sometimes events like this wake us up with a shout to get our attention.