The coronavirus pandemic has brought many unsettling changes to our nation and the world. This has caused many to fall into panic, despair, fear, worry, stress and depression. They are unable to find any peace. But there are many places in the Bible where it can be found. One of those places is John 14-16. Here Jesus speaks to His apostles to prepare them for His death and departure from this world and to give them peace. We too may find peace in these words of Jesus.
This is the second week since the coronavirus pandemic that we have not assembled with the Northwest congregation. We have not quit worshiping and working for the Lord. In fact, many are doing more of that than ever before. We are also blessed to be able to communicate by telephone, mail, email, Facebook and the many other means of social media. This has been helpful during a time when the government has issued orders to stay away from one another in order to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
No doubt many of you, just like me and others I know, have had to grapple with the question “Are we forsaking the assembly?”.
It has been a long few weeks. People are in a panic -- for toilet paper! We are worried about our jobs. Some of you have already been laid off and the bills start piling up real fast. We can’t hardly get out of our houses. We are all feeling it. For many it seems like the end of the world, and you know that wouldn’t be bad for those of us who know the Lord!
Listen to Him: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” Jeremiah 29:11.
With a God like that...
Some feel sure that they are. Some aren’t too sure. But how can we know? John helps us to answer this question (1 John 1:5-9).
John first reminds us of the holiness of God. “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (v. 5). Light is a symbol of absolute sinlessness, truth and life (cf. John 1:1-9; 3:19-21; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36). God is separate from all evil, every falsehood and death. He is holy (cf. Psalms 99:3, 5; Hosea 11:9, 12).
The words of this title were spoken by Jesus in a prayer to His heavenly Father (John 17:17). Jesus teaches us with these words that truth is determined by the word of God. There is no such thing as my truth and your truth. There is only God’s truth as it is revealed by God’s word.
God has given us His word in the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). The revelation of God’s word is complete (1 Corinthians 13:8-10; James 1:25; Jude 3) and furnishes us completely (2 Timothy 3:17; 2 Peter 1:2-4). Without it we cannot know the truth. Therefore, we must make every effort to learn what the Bible teaches (2 Timothy 2:15). We must love the truth, seek the truth and abide in the truth (John 8:31-32). If we do not, we will be deceived by falsehood, never find the truth nor experience life in the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11).
God wants us to pray to Him. He promises to hear and to answer our prayers. He is always ready, willing and able to answer our prayers. He will always give us good things (Matthew 7:7-11; James 1:17). Yet, sometimes it may seem that God does not hear us. When that happens remember that the problem is not with God but with us.
It could be that you are not right with God. The psalmist wrote, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear” (Psalms 66:18). You must have regard for God, not sin. If your heart is set on sin you have forfeited God’s blessings. If you stubbornly refuse to listen to Him, He will not listen to you. Isaiah warned Israel, “Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). It was not that God was unable to deliver Israel, nor that He had a hearing problem, but rather that Israel in their sinfulness had rebelled and gone after other gods. God will not answer your prayers if you harden your heart and reject Him.
It is a difficult passage, but the meaning is clear when we realize that he is talking about his struggle with sin before becoming a Christian. As a child, Paul did not know right from wrong and was not accountable to the law of God. He “was alive once without the law” (v. 9). After coming of age, he realized he was a law breaker and now under the condemnation of the law. The problem was not with the law; it was “holy and just and good” (v. 12). The problem was with Paul; he was a sinner (vv. 13-14).
Paul described his struggle as a sinner (vv. 15-23). He knew what the law said and knew that the law was good, but he stilled sinned. Sin dwelled in him. He was controlled by the flesh. Evil was present with him. So, he did what he did not want to do, what he knew he should not do, and he did not do what he wanted to do, what he knew he should do. His mind was taken captive by his flesh.
Young people are going to school. Parents are raising their kids. Many are working hard every day to make a living. The elderly are just trying to stay well and leave a legacy. We are all hoping to survive another day in an evil world.
But why do you do what you do? What is it all about? Who or what are you living for? If you were to sum up your life in one word, what would it be?
The apostle Paul wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). Every Christian ought to agree with Paul when he wrote, “Christ, our life” (Colossians 3:4).
From the beginning God saw that it was not good for man to be alone and made a helper comparable to him (Genesis 2:18). He brought the woman to the man and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:21-24). This was God’s idea of marriage.
There are those who have other ideas about marriage. Some refuse marriage, while others forbid marriage. Some want sexual relations without marriage. Some want sexual relations outside of their marriage. Some want a polygamous marriage. Some want a same sex marriage. Some want a divorce from their marriage partner. Some want to marry another.
We all offend one another. We should not want to and should try not to, but sometimes we do; sometimes without even realizing it. When we see that we have offended someone it should make us feel very bad. We should apologize and ask their forgiveness. We should try and make it right. We should try and be careful not to make the same mistake again, yet sometimes we do.
Robert Dodson is the Preaching Minister for the Northwest Church of Christ.
6059 Azle Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76135