Believers all over the world desired to join together in worship and praise of God in their respective churches but due to lockdown and fear of infection were unable to do so. In addition to the climate of uncertainty, unwelcome messages from ‘well wishers’ further add to the confusion when it is difficult for the governments also to predict the future. This is more worrisome for the elderly living alone or with others due to their higher vulnerability to infection. King David and others in the Scripture suffered exhausting odds during their life but resorted to self-preaching to boost up their souls, setting a great example for us to follow.
How to we encourage ourselves during periods of crisis? – True peace comes from knowing the worst first and then our freedom from it, for peace that arises out of ignorance of evil cannot be peace. The angel of God ‘stirred up the water’ first and then God’s grace intervened to bring healing and peace to the troubled minds of those around the Bethesda pool (John 5:4). Usually there are two types of people in the visible Church, first, the Pharisee minded people who preach peace to themselves and find none, for their focus is on self efforts and not on God’s grace. They want to find fault with everything and everyone, disturbing everyone’s minds and live in false peace under Satan’s lies. Such have nothing to do with Psalm 42:11 and they find comfort only in being in troubled waters always.
The second type is those who have rejected the devil’s kingdom and walk in victory of the cross and their peace or minds cannot be troubled by the devil’s lies. They listen to God’s Spirit and live under His guidance and the Lord who has promised to be with them and not forsake them or leave them, ever, comes forward to bless them (John 14:26). Such are told by God, ‘Let not your heart be troubled’ (John 14:1). His Word speaks to them so that ‘their joy may be full’ in every situation (2 John 12). These are the ones who ‘comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak and are patient with all’ (1 Thessalonians 5:14) such are the people who save others during disastrous situations.
A documentary film, ‘No place on earth’, was made about the true story of a Jewish woman, Esther Stermer, living for more than 500 days in a network of caves in Ukraine, deep under the earth to escape the Nazi forces. A determined mother to save her children living in complete darkness foraging for food at night for more than a year and a half is a story of great faith. David had been anointed by Prophet Samuel, had killed Goliath but out of jealousy King Saul was after him to kill him, forcing him to hide in caves (1 Samuel 24). David was called by God as ‘a man of His heart’ for he could pour out his heart before God in every situation that he faced in his life. He could speak to his own soul ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God’ (Psalm 42:11 and 43:5). He was separated from the worship of God in the assembly of his people and his heart was heavy with the loss of God’s presence. Both these Psalms were probably written together as one and it is David preaching to himself.
We feel this way when we have missed the fellowship of other believers on Good Friday and on Easter and have not partaken of the Lord’s Supper for the sacrament brings refreshing and strengthening of faith. Believers also feel down when they have neglected their spiritual duties of Bible reading and prayer. David assured himself in faith that the troubles that he was facing would end and in the two Psalms 42 and 43 he repeats thrice the remedy, ‘Hope in God for I shall yet praise Him’. In difficult times David meditated on God’s goodness, His love and faithfulness and on God’s truth and light to guide him. David knew that if he remained focused on his problems without putting his hope in God, he would be lost in despair. And He would meditate on God’s word and His promises to His people to comfort himself.
God told Abram to leave his place, his people and move to ‘a land that I will show you’ and in fulfillment of His promise, made him a great nation, the people of Israel initially and now all believers are heirs to God’s promises to him (Genesis 12). Prophet Elijah ran in fear of Jezebel, the queen, and reached God’s mountain after a long march to be told by God, you are not alone, ‘I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal’ (1 Kings 19). The day Prophet Elijah was to be taken up, all ‘sons of prophets’ or students at Jericho told Elisha about the Lord taking away his master but Elisha continued to follow he master. His walk of faith provided him a chance to ask for ‘double portion of Elijah’s spirit’ for himself and to receive that blessing.
During times of despair we should meditate on God’s promises of endurance, perseverance and eternal security. In times like today, it is easy to be discouraged when fear of getting infected is all around and all want to avoid any physical contact with others. We must turn our thoughts toward God, even when we do not ‘feel like’ it and putting our hope in God, the only one who can get us and others out of this situation. God told Prophet Jeremiah about ‘the thoughts that I think towards you, (the plans that I have for you), thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11). In faith seek the fulfillment of His plans for your life.
How to learn about God’s plan for me? – During times of uncertainty some people go to astrologers, and some to ‘prophets’ hoping to get a favorable prophesy for their future and to find out the time of end of these difficult times. Jeremiah’s warning is apt for us also for God does not want us to such ‘prophets or diviners’ or to depend on your dreams to know your future for these are false and not from God. God assures us of His Divine plan for us, a plan with a future and hope (Jeremiah 29:8-11). And what God plans for His people it will always bring in great blessings, for He holds the past, present and future in His hands and He is in control. Scripture reveals certain facts about our future.
First, Your future is freedom (Psalm 119:25-32). – We all face difficulties, sorrows, fears, temptations and hopes but the psalmist opens his heart to God. And then he says ‘I feel terrible, help me’. Admit your real state to God for He in any case is aware of it and desires that I accept my weak state before Him. Seek strength from Him to get out of that and resolve to follow His ways in your life but not out of guilt or a sense of obligation. Choose to follow His commands and He shall set your heart free to thank Him for allowing us to speak freely to Him as a child to his loving Father.
Second, Your future is secure (2 Thessalonians 1:1-12). – Lord Jesus is coming back and we must live everyday as if He were returning today. Apostle Paul praised the Thessalonians about constant growth in their faith and love towards each other, for that would help them face tribulations and trials. We are meant to grow in faith and that comes through ‘hearing and hearing the word of God’. Generally it is our times of struggles that make us stronger, for during successful periods we become too busy to chase success. God has a ‘good purpose’ for your and my life and ‘He works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:13). Even in difficult times God’s work does not stop and His ‘good purpose’ must come about. God’s good purpose is ‘That the name of Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him’ (2 Thessalonians 1:12). If my life honors God’s Son, God will honor me also. We must prayerfully seek God’s help for this as well as for growing in faith and love.
Third, Your future is filled with hope (Jeremiah 27 to 29). – The three chapters warn us repeatedly about false prophets and diviners for ‘they tell lies’. And the Scripture tells about God’s plan for us, but before this God cautions us to seek the peace and prosperity of the city ‘where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it, for in its peace (prosperity) you will have peace’. This is an important principle and we must seek the peace and prosperity of our place of work, city and the country for then we shall also prosper.
God has good plans for each one of us and these are not for failure or defeat but for victory in Lord Jesus for His will or plans are ‘good, pleasing and perfect’ (Romans 12:2). For His will to come about in my life, I must seek Him earnestly and be in His company through prayers. He will then, transform me and lead me into His will to fulfill His purpose for my life. It is in this state that we declare, ‘I will hope in the LORD for He is my help and my God’ (Psalm 42:5).
What is Biblical hope? – Apostle Paul was in prison waiting for his trial to be finally over and from such condition, wrote to the Philippians Church, ‘I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me’ (Philippians 3:12). That is true hope and walk of faith and preaching to self and to others to encourage and David did that in Psalm 42:5. Hoping in God does not come naturally to us for the forces of darkness keep whispering evil into our ears. We have to diligently and forcefully do this to control and come out of a ‘downcast and disquieted spirit’. Biblical hope is not only about desiring something good for the future but about expecting it to definitely come about in the power of our heavenly Father. The best sermon during troubled times is only three words of David, ‘Hope in God!’. In isolation when the Holy Spirit brings up the hurt caused and suffered by me, it is only hope in God’s mercy that leads me to seek forgiveness and forgive others. Hope fills me with internal emotional strength.
Hope is used in three senses – First, it is a desire for something good in the future; second, it is the thing in the future that we desire and finally, it is the basis or reason for thinking that our desire may indeed be fulfilled. Generally we express hope in a negative sense, ‘Hope this virus does not spread’ meaning I do not have certainty that it will not spread. Biblical hope is different from this and it is confident expectation and desire for something good in the future and it is not only an expectation but a confidence that it will happen. This is opposite to mathematical or logical certainty which says two plus two is always four. Biblical hope is about moral certainty and it is based on the promises of God and continual transformation of our will by His Spirit. William Carey said, When the word says, ‘Hope in God’ it does not mean cross your fingers but the command is to ‘Expect great things to happen’. That connects hope with faith.
Apostle Paul then informs us that God’s word is about ‘full assurance of faith’ instead of ‘full assurance of hope’. Filled with faith then, we are urged to, ‘hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful’ (Hebrews 10:22 – 23). Our hope then should not waver for it is based on faithfulness of God. Thus hope is that part of faith which focuses on the future or faith directed towards the future becomes hope. But faith is not only that, it is also about the past and the present. Faith is defined as, ‘assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’ (Hebrew 11:1). It would then mean that wherever there is full assurance of hope, there is faith, for it is confident expectation and desire for good things in the future. This link is important for us to grasp.
First, it helps us understand the true nature of Biblical hope, for doubt is the enemy of faith and that it is confidence about the future and not some wishful thinking. Second, it shows how important hope is, for it is an essential part of faith. If we take away hope then the above definition of faith loses its meaning and then we understand that we are saved by grace through hope. Hope combined with faith then leads us to right confessions without negative inferences. The Shunamite woman knew that her son had died yet she hurried off to prophet Elisha, filled with faith and hope with only one declaration on her lips, ‘it is well’. She was not screaming for help or complaining but went with the right confession to receive a miracle (2 Kings 4:8-36).
The Scripture assures us, ‘Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them’ and we bear the righteousness of our Savior as a ‘Breastplate’ to help us counter the lies of the devil and speak the right confession. We have hope of fulfillment of this promise for us. Lord Jesus taught that we shall have what we say, even to the moving of mountains (Mark 11:23). The Shunamite woman said it was well and her confession produced results and the ‘mountain was moved’ and her son was raised from the dead.
During this period of forced isolation due to curfew we at our home have been richly blessed by the worship hymns of Pastor Wilson George, Sheela George and Shirin George and I would recommend their YouTube channel to you.
Filled with faith and joy, like David, let us declare to our souls, “Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him’ and we shall definitely join others in praise and worship shortly. That is what God’s plan is and the reason for His choosing us to be with Him till eternity. God has chosen us to be with Him and be transformed into ‘His image and likeness’ as revealed by His Son and we must keep holding on to what is good, pleasing and pure. This is God’s plan for us and it fills us with joy and hope for the future!