April 8, 2020
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 spells out several things that believers are to be engaged in at all times, and I would say, especially during a pandemic and a quarantine.
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
Let's take these in order.
1. Rejoice always.
The classic manual for rejoicing is the book of Philippians. Rejoicing is not a command, like how
you are ordered to smile for the family picture, whether you like it or not. Rejoicing is a command as a logical result of having the mind of Christ. In other words, when you think the way Jesus thinks, you will always have things to rejoice about. Paul mentions some of those such as: Christ is being proclaimed (1:18), people are praying for one another (1:19), our lives are helping one another follow Jesus (2:18), rejoicing is a very safe thing to do (3:1), the Lord is near (4:4-5).
Yes, there are many uncertainties and many concerns. But, your life is more than uncertainties and concerns. If you are a follower of Christ, there are many certainties and promises. The certainties and promises are bigger, better, and longer than the uncertainties and concerns. We do not ignore the uncertainties. We do not pretend there are no concerns. But, rejoicing in Christ is the result of knowing that uncertainties and concerns will not have the final word.
Can you think of 3 things right now to rejoice about?
a) _________ b) _________ c) _________
2. Pray without ceasing.
We've been pursuing this as a church with our 6-day a week, 24-hour a day prayer chain. If you have not signed up for a time slot to pray (30 minute slots) you can do so right here. No matter what time of day or night you are praying, there are people either in our church, or related to people in our church who are struggling to breathe. One of our nurses said that it feels like the disease is in her throat but that it has not gone any further. I told Cathi that I won't find this out till heaven, but I would not be surprised if the Lord has just put his hand on it right there and said, "no further." And this and so many other things the Lord is doing in response to your prayers.
Some of our people are routinely (they have a schedule) calling some of the COVID floors of local hospitals and praying for the person who answers the phone. What is happening is that this person will announce it to others at the nurses station and they will gather around the phone to listen in. Yesterday when our member said, "I am from Cornerstone Baptist Church, and I just want to pray for you," the gal on the other end said, "My kids go on Thursdays to Connect at Cornerstone Baptist Church!!" That was obviously not coincidental.
Let me remind you of a very obvious point. Sharing a prayer request is a poor substitute for actually praying. If all we do is tell one another about challenging situations, but we do not pray for them, we have missed an enormous opportunity to care well. The world can say, "you are in our thoughts." That is nice, but so ineffective. We can appeal to the Sovereign Lord of the
Pray for our medical people. Pray for our care givers. Pray for the gospel to go forth. Pray for people to trust Christ. Pray for our missionaries.
3. Give thanks.
Psalm 103 is full of reasons for us to give thanks. And if you are in Christ, you already have the greatest reason of all why your life is an offering of thanksgiving to God. Identify 3 things and thank God for them. I know the first one: a) the gospel b) ________ c) ________.
Finally, thank you for participating in our town hall and member's meeting this past Saturday evening. I was SO encouraged by your level of involvement and interest. The Finance Team and the Elders looked as carefully as we could at the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), and
from all of the fine print that we could find, determined that this issue was a wisdom issue and not a moral one. In other words, it was not wrong for us to do so, nor was it something that we had to do. Therefore, we presented to you, the church, our assessment, and we asked you to
vote, and you did. The vast majority of you voted in favor of it, some of you did not. I am so glad that those of you who were not comfortable with this, did not vote for it. Again, this was in the wisdom column, and you are free to consider as being unwise and vote accordingly. The fact that we are held together by things that ultimately matter means that we will not be pulled apart by the things that don't.
Before I could vote as an elder to bring this before you, I needed to be convinced that this was both permissible (moral) and helpful (wise), and, like you, wanted to know what is in the details. I did not see this as going to the government and asking for money. The only money that the government "has" is our money. And for decades they have used our money for abortions. So if
we have an opportunity to use some of it for advancing the gospel, then that makes perfect sense to me. If you homeschool your children, you are not using the local public school. If your property tax dollars used for the local schools were returned to you, it would not be the
government paying you to educate your kids. They would simply be returning some of your money. I see this in a similar way.
Is the staff willing to take a pay cut? Certainly, and some have already volunteered to do so if needed. The PPP did not come from the staff. In fact, most of them, like myself, had no idea about it. The Finance Team took the lead on this issue. They know that the staff is not all about the paycheck, but they determined that this was an opportunity to help soften what may be a difficult
situation. At this point, we do not know how this virus will all turn out.
Our Good Friday focus on the cross (John 17-19) will be available online this Friday from noon to midnight. I will live stream the 4th talk on the Trinity tonight at 7:00 PM, and our Resurrection Day Celebration will be live streamed this Sunday at 10:45 AM. I will say it for all of us, "I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE YOU!!!!" Until then, press on pilgrims.
Don't forget to practice - "He is risen... He is risen, indeed!"
Grace and peace,
Sunday's text: Revelation 1:1-18