Hebrews 3, 4. Chapter 24. Pandemic.
We’re in hard times that are not of our own making. A new virus circles the earth, causing a pandemic, taking thousands upon thousands of lives, and capturing us all in a lockdown. Our usual freedoms have been set aside as together we attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19.
In hard times, it’s easy to develop hard hearts. To prevent this or to triage once the damage is done, we must dig deep to determine what’s going on in our souls. Where are our minds dwelling? How are we thinking about God? Have we quit talking to him, or is the conversation flowing?In hard times, it's easy to develop hard hearts. We must dig deep to determine what's going on in our souls. Where are our minds dwelling? How are we thinking about God? How we quit talking to him? Click To Tweet
The Lord reminds us: “But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house... So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness” (Hebrews 3:6a, 7-8 NIV).
As our forefathers the Israelites were tested in the wilderness, so we are tested. Christ’s faithfulness in redeeming us and shepherding his church is a significant reality that anchors us. If we don’t listen to his voice, if we doubt his love and faithfulness, we can easily harden our hearts.
Our spiritual history and past lessons learned provide instruction for our current reality. Twenty-six years ago, our family went through hard times. During those years of trial, my heart hardened and my love for God grew cold. So many outcomes had gone contrary to how I had begged of God that I quit praying. I no longer believed that God cared.
That, of course, is a lie. In reality, God was carefully superintending those circumstances in ways unknown to me. I simply couldn’t see how he was orchestrating it for our spiritual welfare and growth. I hadn’t yet seen the kindnesses that he would show and the miracles he would perform. He used those trials to draw me deeper into a study of his Word and a more intimate relationship with him, apart from the legalism I had embraced.
I had to learn to rest in him, a tough lesson for a perfectionistic legalist Christian trying to carry out my sanctification in my own strength.
God the Father cares for us so much that he sent his Son to make a way for us to be redeemed. All we need do is place our faith in Christ Jesus, trusting in him. At that moment of belief, we enter into his rest, a reality and a tranquility that we begin to experience on this earth, but which will come to full fruition when we see him face to face.
As God rested from his labors on the seventh day of creation, we can enter his rest when we realize that we cannot gain his favor in any way other than through faith in his Son. Jesus already did all the work, so that we can enter his eternal rest. Through his daily sustaining mercies, we get a foretaste of what is to come. For now, the challenge is to rest in him.
But, we often don’t know how. Like mongrel dogs taken in from a hard-biting pack, it takes a while to learn that it’s safe and that we can rest in this new environment of unconditional love and acceptance. Maybe we’ve never experienced this before. Maybe we’ve never learned to trust.
Yet God says, “We who have believed enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:3a ESV). This is a fact. Nothing more is required. Salvation is a free gift of God, lest any of us brag about how we gained it by our own efforts. It can’t be earned.
Salvation = Rest.
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27b-28 ESV).
The Sabbath day illustrates this. Even when we do absolutely nothing, still God keeps the entire universe running smoothly, as the Sabbath was always intended to illustrate. And, most importantly, through no effort of our own, we are redeemed and cherished. Jesus is lord of the Sabbath after all. Not only is God’s rest for our recovery from sin, but for our faith. We did nothing to gain our salvation. And yet, God is God, and we are his.
When disaster strikes, as happened in many families and many places when this pandemic kicked off in our homeland, my fallback is to walk in faith and to act in ways pleasing to the Lord.
Yet, a few days in, the struggle intensified. Because of this virus, situations for many of us spun in the opposite direction of all that is just and right. The wheels of justice ground to a halt, as did everything else. The supplies ran low. With terrible timing, COVID-19 knocked everything down, institutions out of normal routines, many out of their jobs, and it locked us all down, trapping us at home when we needed and wanted to be elsewhere. I know you can relate.
Simultaneously, we all lost control. We like to think we’re in control, but these circumstances remind us that we aren’t. Yet, the Sovereign God is. Resting in him means recalling that fact and yielding to that truth.#COVID-19 locked us down. We lost control. We like to think we're in control, but we aren't. Yet, the Sovereign God is. Resting in him means recalling that fact and yielding to that truth. Click To Tweet
As this continued and worsened, I poked at my heart, realizing that I was on high alert, trapped at home due to this virus and my blasted autoimmune disease and unable to accompany my husband as he flew first to one place and then to another to be on site to help. Inwardly, my fists were up, my momma-bear gene activated due to the turmoil in our clan and my desire to be there. I couldn’t sleep. We couldn’t eradicate the virus or make anything just and right.
The longer I’m a believer, the more I grow. And yet, I found my heart was hard. In the whiplash of dealing with so many unjust realities, I hadn’t trusted the Lord with all these messes caused by the lockdown. I hadn’t reminded myself of God’s past victories and miracles and sustaining power in our lives. And so, the lie had coiled round my heart and squeezed it tight.
When this happens, the Lord commands, yes, commands us to continually help and encourage one another: “SEE TO IT, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. BUT ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV).
How easy it is to be hardened by the deceitfulness of self pity, fearfulness, and the forgetting of God’s grace. But, here’s where God’s mercy comes in — God’s habitual offer of his grace to help, the second chance he always gives, no matter how badly we’ve blown it, yet again, on top of all the other times of blowing it.
As soon as I recognized my heart’s condition, I told my church: “I’m praying. I’m trusting God. I know he is good. My theology is solid, but my habitual night waking, wakefulness for hours, and my accumulating fatigue tips me off that I’ve got a tight grip and am not resting in the Lord. Please pray that I’ll sink back into Jesus’ arms, and be able to rest.”
I recognized my problem. I reached out for help. Others also asked for prayer that night. We all hunkered down to pray. We need one another.
The Lord responded immediately. I actually slept that night and then woke to miracles performed in some situations we’d covered in prayer. Grace overflowing. Urgent needs met. Actions taken. My faith was strengthened.
TODAY is the day to deal with our stuff. Right now! Don’t put if off. Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t feel ashamed. We’re all having a hard time right now. Tell someone, so they can pray with you and for you.TODAY is the day to deal with our stuff. Right now! Don't put it off. Don't be embarrassed. Don't feel ashamed. We're all having a hard time right now. Tell someone, so they can pray with you and for you. Click To Tweet
“Since therefore it remains for some to enter his rest, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, AGAIN he appoints a certain day, “TODAY,” saying through David [who blew it habitually]. . . ‘TODAY, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts'” (Hebrews 4:6-7 ESV).
We are not God.
Resting involves letting go and trusting that the Lord is able to take care of this, and that he will take care of this. Resting is recognizing that we won’t always understand what in the world God is doing as pandemic, life flights, assaults, debridements, intubations, tornados, floods, fires, and cancers occur all around us.We are not God. Resting in the Lord involves letting go and trusting that he is able to take care of this, and that he will take care of this. Resting is recognizing that we won't always understand what God is doing. #faith Click To Tweet
We are not God.
And so, we must assume that we don’t know everything and never will. We must cease to judge God for being God and for allowing and ordaining events that we may never understand, but which he promised to orchestrate for our good in ways unknown to us. Therefore, we must rest.
“Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.”
Thank God for recording that prayer of faith, for we need help when we don’t understand. Our faith often feels feeble and faltering, especially when we never know why. Will we ask once more for his help, for the faith to rest in him?"Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief." Thank God for recording that prayer of faith, for we need help when we don't understand. Our faith often feels feeble and faltering. Will we ask once more for his help? Click To Tweet
“COME TO ME, all you who are weary and burdened, and I WILL GIVE YOU REST. TAKE my yoke upon you and LEARN from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30.
We step toward him admitting our unbelief, our doubts, and our fears, acknowledging that we cannot rest and that insomnia or anxiety or whatever else it might be has overtaken us as a result. We find that Jesus’ arms are open wide, his yoke is easy, his burden is light, he lifts the load, and so once more we ask him to help us in our unbelief.
Then we freefall, right into his arms. They are strong. They will hold us. Even in this. Even if we don’t understand.
As our world is shaken, how are you doing? Are you in need of prayer?
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