Faith in the Battle
COVID-19 Virus Special Lesson #01
March 15, 2020
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
Welcome to our morning worship service at West Houston Bible Church. This is the first class that we’re having since the Corona virus has been declared a pandemic. Due to the information we’re receiving, I decided this morning that we would not have a live audience for at least the next two weeks until things settle out.
The information that is coming out is difficult for all of us. It’s contradictory at times. Some seems to be highly exaggerated. Others seems to be deemphasizing a lot of things. Things that have been heard for two or three weeks and then disappeared are now in the news. It’s very difficult.
My basic position is that we need to make a decision that is in the best interest of the congregation. I think that is that we need to be safe rather than sorry. We need to make our decisions in order to keep everybody as healthy as possible. We encourage everyone to follow any directions we get from the Center for Disease Control.
Be careful with the news on the Internet. We all get things that are fake news and also a lot of crazy conspiracy theories. Some people, conservatives and Christians, can just seem to buy into every conspiracy theory that comes along.
There is a conspiracy we know and that is a satanic conspiracy. Forget about the other conspiracies. Don’t send me all these crazy e-mails with all these crazy conspiracy theories. That’s just a distraction. We need to deal with whatever is, the causes are basically irrelevant right now. We need to deal with the panic and make sure we’re part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Several people asked me about the information I received over night that caused us to make this decision. It was from an e-mail I received from a pastor that was here last week. It was from his sister who is a professional in the medical field. She is a respected nurse in the Virginia Beach area. She summarized some things she received in her morning feeds for medical professionals. I’m not going to say exactly everything she says, because I think, as my pastor friend thinks, she may have exaggerated some of it.
She indicated that there is evidence that the incubation period could be as much as 28 days. That’s what I was hearing three weeks ago, then all the information was no, no, no, it’s only 14 days. But now she is saying it could be as much as 28 days.
Also, people are asymptomatic, that means there’s no symptoms, yet they can still be spreading the virus. That can apply also to children, even though they may not ever manifest any symptoms whatsoever. Also she said everyone needs to really follow the directions for social distancing because this can be transmitted in the air. I’ve heard different views on how long it is viable in the air, but the droplets can settle out on the surface and they can be active for as much as six hours, and I’ve even seen some say nine hours.
Research from the survivors in China indicate that there are some long-term consequences of the more severe cases. It is very damaging to the lungs. It’s taken some people well over 32 days to recover from the disease. That’s the median recovery time of a moderate case, which is 32 days.
We’ve decided that in light of all of this it was better to just protect the congregation. We need to continue to just be wise in the way we respond and trust the Lord.
What we will do on Sunday mornings is to follow as much as we can the normal order of worship. Of course, we won’t be singing hymns. I’m not going to be singing a solo. There won’t be any special music of that nature but we will still have the basics of the Call to Worship, the reading of the Scripture, and then the message.
We will begin this morning with our Call to Worship from Psalm 50:15 and Psalm 18:3. God still calls us to come together and worship Him and we must put our focus upon Him. He is the only true fortress and help. He is the only one to sustain us. This kind of crisis should always drive us more and more to His Word.
In Psalm 50:15 God says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.”
The response is from Psalm 18:3, “I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.”
As we begin our time together of worship and our time of study, we are reminded that we worship a holy God. The word holy has to do with being distinct or unique. That is its central or core semantic meaning. In some passages it picks up secondary ideas such as righteousness or justice, but the primary idea is that we serve a holy, a distinct God.
He is holy in His righteousness. He is holy in His justice. He is holy or unique in His love. He is unique in His sovereignty, His control, His power, and His knowledge. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He is a one-of-a-kind God.
This God must be worshipped according to His terms and not according to our terms. As Isaiah demonstrated for us when he was transported into the presence of God in Isaiah 6:3, he recognizes immediately that he is an unclean sinner.
He has been corrupted by sin. He is in the presence of a holy God and he screams out in Isaiah 6:5, “Woe is me … a man of unclean lips.”
Then there is a seraphim who flies to him with a burning coal and touches his lips. Now that’s not a burning coal as we would know one, but the point of what happens is that it purifies him. It is an act of cleansing. For us cleansing comes when we confess sin.
Confession of sin simply means to admit to God that we have committed certain sins. We confess or acknowledge to God and we’re told in 1 John 1:9 that He will forgive us of those sins, that is, the ones we have mentioned, and in His grace He goes further and cleanses us from all sins, from any and every sin that we’ve committed, that we’ve forgotten about, or that we might not have known was a sin. We are cleansed and restored to a position where we are walking again by means of the Holy Spirit. We are in partnership and fellowship with God.
So, let’s begin with a few moments of silent prayer to give everyone the opportunity to make sure they are in right relationship with God. Let’s go to the Lord in prayer and after a few moments of silent prayer for confession of sin then I will open in prayer. Let’s pray.
“Father, You are the Creator of all things. You created a universe that was without flaws and without sin. Due to Adam’s sin, it brought corruption, sin, disease, hardships, suffering, adversity, wars, and famines into this world. Because of that we are living in a fallen world that is corrupted.
“There are times when we face numerous situations whether they are famines, or in this case as we face disease. It is going around the planet and there are lots of things that we read that can cause us to fear. There are lots of people panicking right now and that just exacerbates the problem.
“Father, we pray that we may keep our focus upon You because You are the God who is the King of creation and the King of the universe. You rule over Your creation and Your permissive will allows sin to run its course because we have free will. We make sinful decisions and the result of that brings crisis and calamity in disease and many, many other things in our lives.
“But You are the God of redemption who sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross for us. He paid the penalty for our sins that we might have salvation by simply believing, only believing in Him, trusting Him, and Him alone for our salvation.
“You have given us new life in Christ, forgiveness of sins so that we can live for You. You have a plan and a purpose for our lives. We dare not forget that and that we have a mission to accomplish. It does not matter if there are wars. It doesn’t matter if there are pestilences. It doesn’t matter if there are famines or droughts or whatever these external circumstances. We are here as ambassadors for You, to serve You, and to fulfill the mission that You have set forth for the church.
“Father, we pray as we meet today we can keep our focus on You. We pray for missionaries today. We pray for Igor and Julia Smolyar, as they are flying back to Ukraine today and are in Frankfurt now. We pray they will have a safe and secure trip back home. We are thankful that was all arranged because of the closing of so many airports in Europe and so many countries in Europe. We’re thankful and pray for their safety.
“We pray for Jim Myers and the impact that the closing of Ukraine and Ukrainian borders will have. We pray for the pastors like Mark Musser who is now there and can’t get home to where he is a missionary in Armenia and for other pastors from America who are scheduled to go there to teach.
“We pray that Jim and Mark, working together, can carry the load along with Igor, perhaps, and that this will work out. Father and there are many other missionaries who are in difficult situations. We pray for strength for them and for their financial, physical, and logistical support.
“Father we pray for us as we study today that You would use the Scriptures we are studying and Your promises to calm us, to focus us, and to help us to realize in a foundational way that our lives are not our own. They are Yours. Our mission is Yours and we are to rest in You. We pray all of this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
This morning I’m going to read some Scripture rather than our normal responsive reading. I have compiled a series of Scriptures to focus our attention upon God’s solution, to focus our attention upon what He has promised, and how He sustains and protects us.
I have woven them together in a way as if we were reading these as a congregation, where the first verse I would read, and the second verse would be more of a response to what is said in the first verse. Pay attention to these. These are a great source of encouragement and strength for us in our spiritual life as we face this very chaotic situation and unprecedented situation.
Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalm 27:3, “Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident.”
Psalm 91:2, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’ ”
Psalm 91:3, “Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence.”
Proverbs 3:24, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.”
Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Psalm 56:3, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.”
Psalm 118:6, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
Proverbs 3:25, “Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes;”
Proverbs 14:26, “In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge.”
Isaiah 8:12, “Do not say, ‘A conspiracy,’ concerning all this people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”
Isaiah 12:2, “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’ ”
Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am Your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:13, “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’ ”
Isaiah 44:8, “Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God beside Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.”
This morning I’m going to talk about “Faith in the Battle”. We are in a battle. It may not be a military conflict, but it is a medical battle, a battle against a disease that is at its beginning stage. As I hear people say one thing and then another and compare statistics and numbers, I’ve often thought we must remember that the comparisons to the swine flu, the comparisons with previous epidemics, is not quite right because we are at the beginning of the beginning.
We may only be at the beginning of the beginning of the beginning. We haven’t gone very far into this disease—less than four months and there is still a lot that has to be discovered about it and a lot that can be learned. We must respond as believers with a trust in the Lord and relax in Him. That’s the solution.
It’s faith in the battle. How do we exercise faith in the battle? Over the years there have been numerous diseases which have plagued mankind. We live in a world today where many people under the age of fifty are rather uninformed about history.
Even many baby boomers have lived in a world where they have not experienced the ravages of viruses that have circumnavigated the globe. We can think back into the 20th century—think back to the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. We can think even further back as people were ravaged by smallpox.
In the 20th century one of the greatest fears was polio. It would just strike out of nowhere and all of a sudden, a child or an adult would come home and feel like they were getting the flu and a little uncomfortable under the weather. They would lie down and take a nap and when they woke up, they would be unable to walk and maybe they were having distressed breathing so they would have to go to the hospital.
Some died. Some recovered but were significantly paralyzed. Others were partially paralyzed. Some just had a slight limp. I had a seminary professor as well as a friend in college who just walked with a slight limp as a result of having polio as a child. As most of you know my mother was in a wheelchair because she contracted polio just before I was born.
It was also about that time that the polio vaccine was discovered, so most of us who are baby boomers or who are under the age of 70 did not live in a world where these fears existed. We think back to the early 20th century or late 19th century, whooping cough was prevalent.
As soon as children began to cough, they would be quarantined and isolated. We haven’t seen that kind of response in many years and yet, disease, death, pestilence, and plague have been a significant part of the human experience and human existence ever since the Fall of Adam.
This morning I want us to calm down and relax because as believers we have to understand that our hope and our confidence is in the Lord. It is not in getting the right information. It is not in avoiding the wrong information. Of course, some of that information is important, so we can make some wise decisions about what we’re going to do, but we don’t need to push the panic button or camp out on the panic button. Yet, that is what we see all around us.
In October 1929 when the stock market crashed, it was a little over 14–18 months before the depression really set in. I am concerned because as we see the market fluctuations, some people have lost a lot of money on paper in the last month. It’s another thing to be fearful about it their future, their retirement especially.
So many fears surround us and operating on those fears is a way of making really bad decisions. This is why President Roosevelt came out in a presidential message challenging the people not to be afraid in World War II. He said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Fear is devastating. It can cause us to make rash decisions, panicky decisions.
Two weeks ago after church I needed to go to Costco to just pick up a few things. It was a madhouse and that was two weeks ago! Now it’s even crazier according to reports on the news. Because of these reports segments of the population are panicking and hoarding and buying up everything they can find. They have little wisdom. Everyone needs to just relax.
We need to avoid crowds. There are certainly a lot of crowds at Costco and at the grocery stores and things of that nature. As believers we need to relax and learn about God’s provision for us. God is still in control. There is nothing in this disease that has surprised God. He’s known about it from eternity past for billions and billions and billions of years.
God has been fully aware that there would be these diseases as a result of man’s fall and the corruption of His creation. He has known they would ravage the planet and ravage human history. There would be many other horrible things that happen such as droughts, wars, and things of this nature.
In His Word He has given us the information about how we can trust Him and rest in Him. He has a plan. He has a purpose. We, as believers, have a mission. We are to relax and trust in Him.
Whether it’s a massive plague that is sweeping civilization, or flu, or polio that maybe hits a small segment of the population, or whether it’s just the normal flu that takes thousands, tens of thousands, of lives every year, He is in control. The personal experience of the individual when facing this kind of unexpected crisis is the same. We experience the pain, the misery, the suffering, the death, loss, and the grief.
What hits us as human beings is that we have a certain plan or expectation or dream of what we want to do in life or of what our coming decades in life will be. We think we will rear our children, spend time together with our spouses after the children have left home, and enjoy our retirement.
When something sudden like this threatens our savings and threatens everything we have thought we were working for, it upsets us, but it’s no surprise to God. He has always known this would happen and He is still in command.
I believe Job is the oldest Book written in Scripture, written probably about the time of Isaac or Jacob about 1800 to 1900 B.C. I think it was the first Book because it deals with this horrible situation of suffering. Why is there suffering and pain in the world if God is a good God? Why does He allow this to happen? We’ll address these questions a little later, but one of Job’s friends observes that “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward”.
It is the normal experience of man to suffer, to go through adversity, to face hardship, to face disappointment, to face death, to face loss, and to face grief. We, as believers, need to understand how to handle these things. Why does this happen and what are we supposed to do?
This morning I want us to open our Bibles to the epistle of James. We’ll begin in James, chapter 1. I’m going to look at just a few things in the first six verses. James is writing his letter to a group of Jewish-background believers. I believe that James’ epistle was the first one written in the New Testament. There are a lot of things in James that are said that make better sense if it’s very early, before Paul wrote. It may have even been just a couple of years after Paul was saved when he is still learning, studying, and being retrained in his thinking while he is away in Tarsus.
James begins this way. He says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, because you know …” This is a causal participle meaning because of what you know, you can count it all joy. “You know that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Actually in the Greek it’s endurance [rather than patience].
James goes on to say to “… let endurance have its perfect—or its maturing—work, that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom—this isn’t just everyday wisdom, its wisdom in relation to how to handle the test, the trial, the difficulty, adversity, the heartache, or whatever it may be—If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God.”
We ask God in prayer and God “gives to all liberally and without reproach—and this wisdom—will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” The first thing we see here is that our mental response to adversity or heartache or the sudden change of everything in our lives is to be one of joy, not one of reaction, or one of anger. Not one of depression or discouragement. Not one of self-pity, but one of joy.
We have to understand what is going on here in this opening line. It is answering how we should respond to trouble of any form, adversity, suffering, misery, illness, or death. It is not telling us to be happy. That’s a different concept. Counting it all joy is a mental attitude concept. The word that is translated “count” is a word that means to think about something a certain way, to consider it, and to reflect upon it. It’s an accounting term that has the idea of looking at all of the data, adding it up, and reaching a conclusion.
The conclusion here is described as joy. Now joy is not this fleeting emotion of happiness. Happiness is often based on circumstances. Circumstances change. We go from being happy to being sad. And often we get bounced around in life because as our circumstances change, our feelings change. We go up. We go down.
This is talking about something that is much more permanent, much more stable—something that provides a foundation for us so we are not tossed to and fro by the winds of change. We must understand what biblical joy is. It’s a fruit produced by God the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The well-known passage is Galatians 5:22–23. It described what this fruit of the Spirit it. If we contextualize or talk about the context of Galatians 5, we discover that the main command goes back to Galatians 5:16 where Paul tells the Galatians they are to walk by means of the Spirit. That means they are to live their lives by means of the Spirit.
They are to be dependent upon God the Holy Spirit and that means they have to be in a right relationship to God the Holy Spirit. When they’re walking or being dependent upon the Spirit, then they will not succumb to the lust of the flesh.
I’ve often used the idea of walking with a walker or walking with a cane as an illustration. When you walk with a cane or a walker, you really have to learn to walk again. You’re depending upon what you’re leaning upon and as long as you focus and concentrate on what you’re doing, you will be upright. But if you take your eyes off of your walker or take your eyes off of your cane, then you can fall down.
That’s what happens here. When you walk by the Spirit, you are dependent upon the Spirit and you’re doing that because God the Holy Spirit works with His Word, which is the Word of God. That’s how the Spirit of God produces spiritual growth and that’s what Paul is talking about here. When we walk by the Spirit, God the Holy Spirit transforms us, He changes us. He reshapes our thinking and part of the way He does that is through a character transformation.
That transformation emphasizes several attributes: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such, there is no law.”
I just want to focus on two and three here. Love, of course, is significant in this passage because the command in Galatians 5:14 was to love one another. Walking by the Spirit not only produces love, but it produces joy and peace. These are two attributes that are intimately connected to one another. Joy itself is not a fleeting emotion of happiness. It is a mental attitude of contentment.
Contentment means you are content with your circumstances, no matter what they may be. This is what Paul talked about at the end of Philippians, which is basically a thank you letter to the church at Philippi for sending a financial contribution.
He says to them that he has had abundance and he has suffered lack. In other words, he’s had times when he had everything he needed and times when he has not had everything he needed, and when he has not known where his next meal would come from, or not had enough money and has suffered loss. But then he says, “I can do all things …” What he means by that is that he can face any circumstances in life through Christ who strengthens him.
Christ is our source of strength and power. What we see here is that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all involved in strengthening us and preparing us when we go through disasters. Paul has peace. He has stability no matter what the circumstances. He realizes he can face anything with Christ, who strengthens him.
We see here that joy and peace are closely connected in this list. When we look at the Gospel of John, we see Jesus talking to His disciples the night before He goes to the Cross, when He’s just a couple of hours from His arrest in Gethsemane. In John 14, 15, 16 He’s walking with His disciples, teaching them as they are on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane.
In John 15, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you …” In other words, this is what He had taught them. They had heard Him teach some of these things many times, but tonight He is really focusing on what will be coming after He is crucified. John 13, John 14, all the way through John 17, focus on the spiritual life, the Christian way of life, in this dispensation of the Church Age.
Jesus is reminding them of what He’s taught them. That’s the key, knowing what the church has been taught by Christ, what He taught us and is what’s contained in the Epistles of Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude. These are all critical.
“These things”, Jesus said, “I have spoken to you that”—for the purpose for. It’s very close to the idea that Jesus taught with the result that if we know and apply these things, His joy will abide or remain in us.
It’s not our joy. This is a supernatural joy. It’s a spiritual joy produced by God the Holy Spirit. It’s the fruit of the Spirit and it is Christ’s joy. This is the joy He had when He went to the Cross. He faced all of the bogus trials and kangaroo courts that were drummed up by the Romans and by the Jews and all of the scourgings, the whipping, the beatings, and the physical torture without a word.
“As a lamb before his shearers is dumb so He opened not His mouth.” This fulfilled Isaiah 53. He was silent. He’s going to the Cross and the writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 12:2, “For the joy set before Him, He endured the Cross.”
Joy doesn’t mean that you don’t suffer. It doesn’t mean you don’t grieve. It doesn’t mean you don’t have these negative passions that are warring against your soul. It means you can control them because you have the truth. You have the Word of God. You have the Spirit of God and you can focus on God’s plan, purpose, and mission as Jesus did. “For the joy set before Him He endured the Cross.”
This is the joy that He is giving us. It’s an immutable joy, a joy that doesn’t fluctuate. It does not depend on us. We may have this joy because our focus is on the Lord. We focus on Him for two or three minutes and all of a sudden, like Peter trying to walk on the water, we take our eyes off of Christ and put our eyes on the water and then oops, we start going down and we start to drown in all of the negative circumstances.
That’s when we lose that joy. This is why David prayed. There was a similar joy in the Old Testament. He prayed to the Father after he confessed his sin and asked to have the joy restored to him, which was the result of his salvation.
We have to confess sin and put our focus back on the Lord and then we can have that stability. Jesus says to His disciples, “I have spoken these things to you that My joy may remain—or abide—in you.” This has to do with remaining in fellowship. That word “abide” is often used in John 15 to refer to fellowship and enjoying that fellowship and dependence.
“That My joy may abide in you, and that your joy may be full.” God wants us to have this full, complete joy and not be tossed to and fro by every wind of adversity that comes along.
In the next chapter as Jesus continued to teach His disciples He says, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you shall receive,—and He uses that same phrase—that your joy may be full.” God wants us to have this contentment and this tranquility so part of the way we enact a solution is through prayer.
This relates to what James will say in James 1:5 when he says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach.” God will give you the answer. He will supply that answer and it will come through His Word.
Now as Jesus taught in John 15 and 16, He said some other things to intertwine His teachings about peace. Remember I said that the second and third fruits of the Spirit are joy and peace. In John 14:27 Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you.” This isn’t world peace. This is an inner tranquility and an inner stability that comes because of our relationship with Christ.
We can have this calm, this sense of stability even when everything else is going crazy around us, when the chaos reigns supreme. Jesus says “My peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give it to you. Let not your heart be troubled.”
The heart refers to the inner thought life of the individual. What happens today is that people start reading all of these things on the Internet which disturb them. I encourage you that maybe you need to not read so much on the Internet so you can calm down and not watch so much news. Everyone knows I’m a news junkie, but I find that life is a lot better and I keep my focus on the Lord if I don’t have this coming at me 24/7.
We should not let our hearts be troubled. That’s our volition. Are you going to focus on the problem all the time and get agitated and concerned, or are you going to focus on the Word?
This is a great time if people are home and your kids are home to have some family time and some discussion with your kids about what I’m teaching this morning. Those kids are hearing all the same kinds of things and they don’t have the tools that adults have. You, as parents, need to be teaching these to your kids and to your grandkids, reminding them of these things. Take out a Bible, show them these verses, and talk about them. This is a very important teaching moment for everyone and for every family.
Jesus says, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” That’s a volitional decision. It’s not an automatic thing we do. We have this gut, visceral passion of fear. This says don’t give in to fear, don’t let that “fight or flight” automatic response control your thinking. You control your own mental attitude and focus on the Word.
In John 16:33 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” Here Jesus is saying that “in Me” you may have peace. That’s the potential. It’s up to us to use our volition to make the decision to wrap our minds around the promises of God.
I taught this many times under the teaching of the faith-rest drill. Faith is when we mix our mental attitude and dependence upon God. We mix our faith with the promises God has given us. We take a part of a verse. We take a whole verse. We take a part of a section of Scripture and we apply it.
We trust that this is true, that this is controlling my life. By having that faith, we trust in God and then we do something. We don’t just turn around and say, “How am I going to do this? Everything is falling apart. I have no idea what the future will hold.” Then we would collapse.
No, faith means we rest, we relax in God’s provision. We let God take care of the situation and the circumstances. Peter says in 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all our cares—except for the Corona virus …” No, it didn’t say that. It says “casting all our cares—fears—upon Him, because He cares for us.” God is in control. He has a plan for your life and for my life. That plan will include suffering and will include adversity, as we’ve seen, but that is for a purpose.
Jesus says that He’s spoken these things to you that in Him we can have peace. In the world, we will have tribulation, but He says to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. Jesus faced all the same kinds of things in His life, but He didn’t sin. He focused on the Lord.
In the Old Testament we also have some great passages related to understanding joy. In Psalm 5:11 it says, “Let all those rejoice who put their trust in You. Let them ever shout for joy, because you defend them. Let those also who love Your name be joyful in You.”
I have translated it a little differently. Really, in the beginning when it says “put their trust in You” the Hebrew word there means to take refuge in God. To hide in Him is the imagery, to hide in the cleft of the rock. In the Scriptures God is often portrayed as a rock. He’s the One who has stability. When we hide in Him, we, too, have stability.
We are to rejoice as a result of the fact we are taking refuge in God. Then the psalmist says, “Let them ever shout for joy.” Here, this is expressing their exuberance, their excitement, and their enthusiasm because God has protected and delivered them.
In the Jewish culture when you had a problem and you sought protection in God and He delivered you, then what would you do? You would take a sacrifice, a thank offering, to the temple and you would share this with others. There would be singing and there would be rejoicing. The sacrifice would be made and a part of it would go to the priests.
A part of it would go to family and friends and there would be a feast. All would partake of the joy of your deliverance. This is an exhortation to ever shout for joy, to go and express this joy in the temple because “You God, You protect them”.
“That those who love Your name…” “Loving Your name” is an idiom for loving a person’s character. A name would reflect a person’s character, their essence. When we read these passages about loving the name of God, it is not loving the literal name of God, but His essence, His character, who He is. Those who love God for who He is will rejoice in Him.
Three times we have the words joy and rejoice in this passage. This comes as a result of seeking refuge in God, those who do are blessed by God. That’s important because what God does in blessing us, remembering the meaning of the word blessing, is God enriches us. He strengthens us as a result of our taking part or being dependent upon Him.
Another passage comes in Psalm 30:5 which says, “For His anger …” This doesn’t really mean God’s anger. This is a figure of speech for God’s discipline or God’s judgment, just like we might refer to a judge in a courtroom as being angry because he issues a harsh sentence. He’s not personally wrathful or angry; he just expresses that through a harsh penalty.
“His anger” refers to God’s discipline. It’s possible that part of the reason that we have a disease like this is because of God’s discipline on a rebellious humanity and God wants to get people’s attention. Sadly, it’s only when we are flat on our backs, when we are facing overwhelming disaster, that we turn to God.
This is a great opportunity for believers to be able to explain to those in their families and friends why we are not panicking. We need to explain why we trust God and that God is in control. God, in His permissive will, allows these things to continue in human history because it teaches us to depend on Him and it knocks down the arrogance of the human heart.
“For His anger is but for a moment …” That means His discipline—because God loves us—is not ongoing for years and years and decades and centuries, though we deserve it, because the human being is in rebellion against God. Rebellion is from the Hebrew word for “transgression”. It is a word that expresses rebellion against an authority, here the authority of God.
God brings discipline in the life of a person, on a nation, or for the world, but it’s only for a moment. It doesn’t go on. His anger, His discipline, His anger is only for a moment, but His favor, His grace, His goodness, His forgiveness is for a lifetime.
“Weeping may endure for a night …” It’s interesting the difference between morning and evening. Evening is the onset of darkness. The imagery of darkness here is the imagery of uncertainty, the imagery related to fear, the imagery of something that we can’t see and is hiding in the darkness.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” It’s literally a shout of joy that comes in the morning as we realize that God’s discipline is over and there will be relief and blessing and provision of God in the coming times. Discipline comes, but is over in just a moment in contrast to the continued grace of God.
Another passage that talks about joy is Psalm 43:3–5. This is kind of an interesting psalm, which we’ll study one day. It’s a psalm of David, which is connected to the distress of Psalm 42. Some commentators suggest they should be taught or worked through together. That’s the view of Dr. Ross, who just spoke this last week at the Chafer Conference.
In Psalm 43:3–5 we read, “Send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling. Then I will go to the altar of God, the joy of my exultation, and I will praise You with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why do you murmur within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the salvation of my face and my God.”
That opening is really interesting. It asks God to send out His light and His truth. The foundation for our faith and our hope and our joy is the light that comes from God’s Word. It is God’s Word that provides illumination to the reasons for suffering, the reasons for pain, and the reasons for heartache.
It is His truth. As Jesus prayed at Gethsemane, as He prayed what is called His high priestly prayer in John 17, again going back to that whole section of John 13–17, Jesus prayed to the Father, “Sanctify—or set them apart—for Your service. Sanctify them by truth. Your Word—that is the 66 Books of the Bible—is truth.”
“Let them lead me” it says in Psalm 43. We are led by the truth of God’s Word. Proverbs 3:5–6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will sustain you.”
In Psalm 43:5 we read, “Why are you cast down, O my soul …?—Why are you discouraged? Why are you depressed? Why are you overwhelmed by the possibility of disaster? Why are you putting your eyes on the things that are destructive rather than on your hope in God? Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why do you murmur within me? Hope in God.” That’s a command. Put our confidence in God and not the circumstances. We are to hope in God for we shall yet praise Him as the salvation of our face.
See, what the psalmist is saying is that on the basis of God’s Word, He is going to be able to surmount the difficulties. That will bring him, again, to bringing a praise offering to the temple, to God’s holy hill or dwelling (verse 3). He’ll go to the altar of God where the animal will be sacrificed and then shared with others as they rejoice over what God has done.
This puts the focus of joy as a result of applying God’s Word and praying.
It’s interesting that Psalm 43 is connected to Psalm 42. In Psalm 42:1 we see the problem that the psalmist had. He says, “As the deer pants for the water brooks …” It seems at this time that he is away from Jerusalem. This may be written by David at the time of the Absalom rebellion but we’re not sure.
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night.” It’s not wrong to be sad. Jesus wept at the time of Lazarus’ death.
He wasn’t weeping for Lazarus. The text makes it very clear. He’s looking at the crowds and sees their grief. Jesus knows in three minutes He’s going to tell Lazarus to come out and Lazarus is going to come out, so He’s not weeping over Lazarus’ death. It shows that we grieve but not like those who have no hope. It’s okay to grieve.
It’s okay to be concerned about what we’re going to do. That helps us to take care of the issues and make a plan and establish it. Here we have the psalmist away from Jerusalem, away from the Temple, and he is weeping because he can’t get back to where he can worship God.
Psalm 42:5 is very similar to Psalm 43:5, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted?” Why are you anxious? Why are you worried? Why are you panicked? “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”
Let’s go to the next question which is why does God allow suffering? There are a couple of things we ought to be reminded of. First of all, evil, sin, suffering during war and disease and famine are all a result of one choice of Adam in the Fall. This brought sin into human history.
As sin grew and expanded, sin corrupted all of God’s creation. In Romans 8 Paul says that the whole earth groans under the curse of sin. We have all manners of difficulties. We have thorns and thistles. We have to deal with droughts. We have polar ice caps and deserts. All of these things are a result of how sin changed the physical world.
Over time there was the development of bacteria, both good and bad. There was the development of viruses and so all of this is a result of God giving man free will. If man did not have free will, he couldn’t choose to rebel against God, so free will means that you have the option to obey or disobey God.
The consequences are there. God is not going to keep us from experiencing the consequences of our bad decisions. As we look out at the world, we see these horrible things. People ask how come a good God lets this happen? My response is to ask you if you know more than God and that somehow this can’t work to a positive end that glorifies God?
If God were to stop the consequences of sin, He would be stopping free will and individual responsibility. With free will you’re going to have the negative consequences of your bad decisions. This is what socialism tries to do. It says we’re going to guarantee the results so that everyone can have the same measure of prosperity. We’re going to guarantee that no one faces the consequences of their bad investments or their bad business decisions or their laziness. We’re going to guarantee the same thing for everyone.
That destroys individual responsibility, individual initiative, and individual failure. Many of us have learned many of our lessons in life from the failures that took place. Socialism tries to create a utopia by keeping man from experiencing the negatives of his responsibilities. That’s just hostile to everything that’s in the Bible.
Number two is that God’s options are that we either have free will, with the result that there’s evil, sin, and suffering in the world, or we have no free will at all and we’re all automatons, robots, or puppets. Those are the options. Under the first we have free will. There’s liberty. There’s the ability to be successful. There’s the ability to do well and also have the ability to fail and sometimes, to fail miserably.
We are to “count it all joy when we fall into various trials”. We will all fall into various tests and trials. That’s the idea here. They’re sudden surprises or not expected. We plan for certain things, but there are some things that happen that we can’t really plan.
The reason we can count it all joy is found in James 1:3 where it says, “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” This is literally endurance. It’s because we know something. God is evaluating what we’ve learned. Our faith here is not of the act of believing, but is what we believe.
We have come to Bible class. We’ve studied the Bible. We’ve learned principles of exercising faith and depending upon God. Now God is giving us a “pop quiz”. In that pop quiz we have to demonstrate what we have learned by studying the Bible.
It’s an evaluation process and as we succeed, we develop endurance in the Christian life. We’re not going to throw in the towel, blame God, get angry at God, but we’re going to endure. The result of endurance is in James 3:4, “But let endurance have its perfect—maturing—work that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”
God will provide everything.
Romans 8:28 gives us the third point. God has a plan and a purpose though we may not see it now. We have to trust in Him. I would say over 95 percent of the time, as my friend, Pastor Hintz would say, God knows more than we do. He ALWAYS knows more than we do.
His wisdom is perfect. His knowledge is perfect. We can trust in Him and rest in Him. Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” It doesn’t say all things are good. It says that God, in His sovereignty, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, is able to work all things together for the good, to those who love God, to those who the called according to His purpose.
God is working in our lives to bring about something that will last an eternity. We are so shortsighted. If we’re a believer, our life doesn’t end in five, ten, or fifteen years, even in fifty years. It doesn’t end for eternity. What God is doing in all of this is giving us opportunity to grow and mature as believers, so that it has a lasting impact that goes into eternity.
If we skip a few verses and go to Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” We face insurmountable odds, but God is for us, so we have an insurmountable God. We have a God who is a solid rock, a God who will help us and sustain us to overcome any problem and difficulty.
What’s the example? Romans 8:32, “He, who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” If He did the most for us by sending His Son to die on the Cross for us, how much more will He do to sustain us in our life on this earth?
Then we are to pray. We are to depend upon God. If we lack wisdom, if we don’t know how to do something ... Wisdom in the Bible is skill in living. It’s application. It’s not Greek abstract intellectual knowledge. It’s much more practical. It’s everyday living. Wisdom produces skillful living.
We are to ask of God who gives to all men liberally. It’s grace. He gives it abundantly and without reproach. He doesn’t say, “You dummy. Why didn’t you get it the last time?” No, He gives it to you. But we are to ask in faith without doubting for He who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
As we wrap up, I just want to hit a few verses in the Psalms to encourage you.
Psalm 27:1–2, This is a psalm that is geared specifically toward a person who is afraid and facing negative circumstances. As a result of this, the psalmist writes this trust or faith psalm and he is stating that he is not afraid because He knows the Lord will protect him. He’s experienced that in the past and he will in the future.
Notice he says, “The Lord is my light.” We’ve seen this before. We get light from God’s revelation. We live our lives on the basis of what God says and not on the basis of our experience or our thoughts. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?” That echoes what we just read in Romans 8, that if God is for us, who can be against us.
Whom shall I fear? If the Lord is the strength of my life, why should I be afraid of anything? Why should I be afraid of a virus? Why should I be afraid of a military conqueror? Why should I be afraid of a recession or a depression? Why should I be afraid? God has a plan and God will sustain you.
“When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell.” This refers to a past situation where God delivered him.
Psalm 27:3, “Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear.” I’m not going to give in to mental attitude sins, or worry, or anxiety, or panic. “Though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident.” What is the “this”? “This” is God’s promises, His name, His essence, and His character. This is the psalmist’s confidence.
“One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire n His temple.”
Psalm 34 is another tremendous psalm to read and to think about. The psalmist says at the beginning, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Then he talks about deliverance he had received from the Lord. “I sought the Lord—through prayer—and He heard me, and He delivered me from all my fears.” As we face the uncertainty and the chaos today, God will deliver us. He will rescue us from all our fears.
Then if you skip down to Psalm 34:6–8 he says, “This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him.” The Lord answers our prayers. “And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him.”
We fear God. We don’t fear the circumstances or the situation and God encamps around us to protect us. This is the invitation—won’t you experience this also? Trust God in your life and you, too, will have the same result. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”
Job expressed it this way, “Though God slay me, yet will I trust Him.” That is a fabulous verse. No matter what happens, I’m going to trust God because His will is perfect, and His will is best.
I want to close out with these verses from Psalm 91, “Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth—what He has revealed in His Word—shall be your shield and buckler.”
“You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.”
First of all, we’ve seen that God has a plan in allowing sin and suffering into the world. It’s a test for us as believers. Are we going to respond in fear or in faith? Trusting God and having stability versus trying to handle it all on our own.
Second, we’ve seen that God has given us the resources through His Word and His Holy Spirit to have the wisdom to make good decisions.
Third, fear destroys the ability to think and to act wisely. Don’t panic. Don’t worry. Don’t be afraid. Relax. Calm down. Trust God and make wise decisions based on His Word. At this time every one of us needs to be reading and rereading God’s Words every day to be reminded of these important truths.
Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” In Hebrews 13:6, “So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ ”
“Father, we’re thankful for this time we have. We’re in difficult circumstances, people not being able to meet together physically and have physical fellowship, but we can come together through technology and we can worship You together and we do so. We put the focus on You. Our worship is emphasizing Your centrality in our lives.
“Without You we cannot survive. We cannot make it through this situation. We cannot have the stability and the hope that is necessary without You. You are central. Without You, nothing. The sine qua non of our lives.
“Father we thank You for Your provision. We thank You that we trust You, that in Your omniscience You have always known this would come. In Your omnipotence You can provide the solution. You can protect us. You can heal us.
“Even if you take our life and we lose our health and our life as a result of this, as Job says, though You slay us—and that may be Your will—yet we will trust You.
“Father, we thank You that we have salvation in Christ that is not based on who we are or what we do. It is based on what Jesus Christ did on the Cross. He paid the penalty for our sins and by faith in Him and Him alone, we have eternal life.
“It’s not by works which we have done but according to Your mercy You saved us.”
“We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
For those who are listening who have never trusted Christ, never understood the gospel, it is a free offer of eternal life based on what Christ did on the Cross and all you have to do it accept it as a free gift by believing what the Scripture says and you have eternal life.