We’re living in interesting times right now, to say the least. The “New Normal” as it’s called by many, even though I despise that phrase.
We’ve all watched as businesses across the nation (and in our own community) have had to close or greatly restrict what they do. We probably all know of someone who’s lost their job, or their income has been greatly decreased. Some States and jurisdictions have restricted travel... or they’ve issued “stay at home” orders... some are requiring the use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment; face masks) to shop for groceries or enter the public square at all.
Life as we’ve known it, has been cast aside... and to some degree, our freedom seems to be at stake. We’re left to wonder when all this madness will end... or why it’s happening in the first place.
Of course, times of panic and fear are always fertile ground for conflict... reactions and opinions differ. The “experts” can’t even seem to agree - and I personally believe that’s what leads to much of the confusion and angst of the moment.
But make no mistake... the fact of the matter is... this time, this moment in history... is a perfect time for Christians to profess and proclaim who and Whose we are! We were called, and set aside... and prepared for this very moment! In fact, it’s in moments like this, that you and I need to share the Good News the most! We need to be the Church God has called us to be.
Unfortunately, many believers have joined in the confusion and fear... and even though our hearts are surely in the right place, our words and actions sometimes miss the mark.
What I mean is... these are the times when our Freedom in Christ should shine brightest... as God’s power, and mercy and grace continue to bless us and empower us for ministry. We should be overflowing with the “fruit of the Spirit... love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” - only freedom.
As a minister, I’ve had many disillusioned people talk to me lately in confusion, fear, and even anger over what’s happening in our world.
And one of the things we’ve been quick to say lately; is that “Things are out-of-control.”
Of course, it certainly seems that way! The virus, and riots, and chaos all about, things certainly seem beyond control.
But, coming from a Christian, saying things are “out of control” sounds like we’re saying “God is not in control.”
Of course, we sometimes say (or think) such things out of frustration. We feel the tension between the spirit and the flesh (as our scripture puts it)... because, we know that God is good, so He couldn’t possibly be in control of something as evil as the world seems to be at the moment.
This is partially a true statement.
God is, in fact, good, and there can be no evil in Him.
But, implying that He isn’t in control is the equivalent to implying that God isn’t God.
The issue (I believe) is the difference between “control” and “cause,” and I believe that many have begun to use these two words to mean the same thing. In fact, these two words are completely different. Even the dictionary makes the distinction: “cause” means to bring about, or to be the cause of... but “control” means to exercise restraint or direction over; to dominate; to command.
When Christians claim that “things are out of control” or that “God isn’t in control of this virus,” what I think we’re trying to say... is that God didn’t cause it. And that’s correct.
James calls God “the Father of Heavenly Lights” from whom comes every good and perfect gift. Psalm 92:15 says, “The Lord always does right! God is our mighty rock!” John wrote, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all!”
By virtue of God’s own character, He cannot author evil.
And, by virtue of His very “God-ness,” He overrides any evil intent by the enemy or even sin so that His good and perfect will can be accomplished. He will work all things out for our good and His glory (Rom 8:28); He will take all that the enemy means for evil and use it for good (Gen 50:20); and as Isaiah wrote, “The Lord of hosts has sworn, ‘As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.’” (Isaiah 14:24)
I think, sometimes, in an attempt to say “God didn’t cause this” - we sometimes inadvertently trample over His place as God. He did not cause this pandemic - or the riots - nor racism - nor the chaos of life... but make no mistake - He is in control. If He were not, He would cease to be God.
Charles Spurgeon said, “When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head.” God’s prevailing authority should always lead us (as followers of Christ) to a place of perfect peace... during this pandemic or whatever else may come our way.
And for Christians, that’s where true FREEDOM is found. Freedom can’t simply be found in being set free from physical chains... nor is freedom the unbridled ability to “do what I want” - or the deliverance from disease and heartache and suffering. We are everyone, subject to such things so long as we live in this fragile human body.
Freedom is Christ. Freedom is knowing that God is always in control. Freedom is having a “thorn in the flesh” and knowing that God’s grace is sufficient. Freedom is knowing God’s grace, and peace, and love in the midst of any difficulty, trial or tribulation.
As we represent God to a lost world during these difficult days... may our Freedom in Christ help us to offer hope, and grace, and life... to those who need it most.
We need to be a people of Freedom, who claim our citizenship in God’s Kingdom... sharing with those around us that God is still on the throne and that His grace and Freedom in Christ is available to them, too.