A Word from Pastor Keith
We're on day eleven of a request from our President to take a break from the routine for fifteen days. It looks like in hearing from our Governor that this may go longer than we anticipated. Many appear to be complying with that request with the hope that it would not become a requirement. During this 'social distancing' period, we must not shut down ministry for fear of dying.
I've been told in recent days that the church is considered non-essential and therefore should close its doors until further notice. That may be the greatest deception of all in this very 'strange' period in history. There has never been an event in my lifetime when the ministry of the church was more essential to this nation and world than now. I'm referring to the ministry of prayer, the ministry of sharing the gospel, the ministry of encouraging those who are truly fearful of death among us. I'm referring to the ministry of providing people with a hand-up, not just a hand-out. This ministry goes far beyond the 'norm' of gathering in some common place on the corner in communities across this nation and going through the motions of religious exercise. I get that we should use wisdom and exercise caution. I understand that no one should act recklessly. But during this 'social distancing' period, we must not shut down ministry for fear of dying.
Over the last few weeks many in our nation and world have been brought face to face with their mortality. Most either don't know or have forgotten that the Bible says of the cycle of life since the fall of man that there is a time to be born and a time to die. Ec. 3:2
I understand why those who have no assurance of faith in Christ are afraid to die, they should be. They should be petrified because what comes after for them in that separated state of sin is much worse than anything they will ever face on this earth. What I don't get or accept is why so many who say they have assurance of faith in Christ are afraid to live. Those who would say they know Jesus and believe that Jesus will provide for them as they fulfill His purpose in life often don't see that their behavior doesn't support the belief. What many say in the church house is not seen outside their own house as they go about their way through the world. I can't remember a time when I have seen so many who say they trust God so paralyzed by fear of something they can't see.
We're instructed throughout the Bible to fear God and keep His commands, to hold Him in awe inspiring reverence daily. The very mention of God should cause those who are created in His image and reconciled through the blood of Christ to respond with pause, respect and praise, daily. However, in recent days, I have witnessed more pause and respect given to the fear of a germ than fear of God.
Before you count me irresponsible or even irrational, before you hit the discard button, consider carefully where your focus has been in recent weeks. Has it been more on a 'germ' you can't see but fear OR the God you can't see and fear? Either controls it all (Colossians 1:17) OR He controls nothing. And we, His church must decide on which we're going to stand. Only one will provide rest for the weary soul!
Some will respond, but I can't see this silent 'prowler' of death. May I remind you that we can't see the person of God who has promised to provide life either, but we say we believe He has/will save us. What we often say and what the world sees us often do can be two entirely different things. The disease of being double-tongued (speaking out of both sides of your mouth) is the fruit of being double-minded. And James reminds us that will result in a person being unstable in all their ways. James 1:8
The church of the Lord Jesus Christ needs His strength and stability today more than ever. I believe God provides that through His word in 1 Corinthians 15:55 where the Apostle Paul says under inspiration of the Holy Spirit--"O Death, where is your sting?"
This word from God is not directed at those who are dead physically but rather those who have chosen to die to self and take up the mantle of ministry to others. Those who by choice live their lives on purpose for God, daily. This directive is targeted at human beings who are very much alive in Christ, those who are called to stand in the gap of those who are stumbling into peril of eternal condemnation and death with a message of hope. As His disciples we're called to demonstrate the love of God and the power of God when it's hard and inconvenient, even in the face of physical difficulty or death.
As Southern Baptists, we promote mission work and fund missionaries throughout the year. And those who are sent and supported go out into the world daily. They mingle with the diseased and dying across this world daily and minister to them trusting the Lord. Distress, disease, discouragement, difficulty, even death is not new to devoted followers of Christ. Those who refuse to identify with this world will suffer. (2 Timothy 3:12) It's a promise for those who live life on purpose for Him. And God provides! His strength and wisdom are given by grace to those who trust Him, every hour of every day. His provision will enable those who trust Him to live through it all with victory, not defeat.
As followers of Christ, both then and now, "we are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed--always carrying around in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be revealed in us." 2 Corinthians 4:9
John, the evangelist reminds us of Jesus' words in John 11:25--"He who believes in Me, though He die, he shall live."
O.S. Hawkins in his devotional study, The Believer's Code says, and I quote, "Many people live in total denial of their coming appointment with death. It is a fact: we are going to die! But Jesus has conquered death. Do you believe this?"
I know of many appointments that have been cancelled or rescheduled in recent weeks because of a germ that carries the threat of physical death. However, there is and remains one appointment, one date, that God already has calendared that all of us will keep whether we like it or not and whether we're ready or not! We can't hasten it nor can we halt it. Hebrews 9:27
This appointment will be kept. If not today, then surely tomorrow unless Jesus returns for His bride.
I encourage you to get back to living for Jesus without fear of dying! It is possible to act responsibly around others without being reckless. I urge each of you to do that as Jesus would.
Remember the words of Jesus, "If you try to hang onto your life, you will lose it but if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it." Matthew 16:25 NLT
God said through the Apostle Paul to anyone willing to hear and believe, "O, Death, where is your sting?"
Is that something you say you believe? Is it something that the world sees clearly?
Be not dismayed. Be strong in the Lord in the power of His might and make a difference by living with faith and not in fear!
Blessings from God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ!