Letters from Our Leaders
Written by Pastor Peter Renton
This season has been filled with joys and challenges. For some of us, it has been a challenge to be removed from relationships, for others the change of pace has been refreshing. For some of us, this season has brought us closer to Christ. Others, though, find ourselves struggling with sin and temptation in ways unlike before the Coronavirus hit. It may be anxiety, as we see the world around us seemingly in disarray. It may be anger, as we are cooped up with the same few people for weeks on end. It may be lust or coveting, as we wrestle with loneliness and the loss of relationships. I would like to encourage those of us that are struggling with some simple truths from God’s Word.
In Hebrews 3:12-13 God diagnoses the problem we face as we struggle with sin, and He provides a great tool to help us in this battle- the Body of Christ! In Hebrews chapters 3 and 4, God reminds us of the disbelief of the Israelites as they were called into the promised land. God had made a promise that they would enter the land that He had provided, but they did not believe Him. In response, God told them that they would not enter the land because of their disbelief, and that their disbelief would cause them to not enter into His rest as well. Now, God uses them as a reminder to us to make sure that we put our trust in Him at all times. It is in the midst of this teaching that we get these verses:
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
The first thing that we see here is a call to us, as a Church, to look out for each other. God has charged us, the local body of Christ- brothers and sister, to make sure that none of us is overwhelmed by sin and unbelief. Not only does He give you and I this charge, but He tells us that we can help our brother and sister who is struggling! He calls us to encourage one another daily so that we might not be hardened by sin. This is an amazing truth- that the means by which we, as Christians, are to keep a soft heart is by faithfully being in community with one another. The “lone wolf” Christian has removed themselves from the very medicine God has provided for a hardened heart.
As we begin to regather as a church, I want to encourage each of us to keep this charge from God in mind. I pray that as we come back together, that we don’t just “attend” church, but that we engage one another on a deeper level so that we may “see to it that none among us has a sinful, unbelieving heart.” I pray that as we come back together, we are open and vulnerable with one another with our struggles and temptations so that we might be encouraged. I pray that as we regather, we find our church family more focused on what is important, more passionate about glorifying Jesus, and more enthusiastic about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with our friends that don’t know the blessings of right relationship with God and His people. May you be blessed as we gather together, I know I will!
Written by Deacon Adam Hostetter
This latest Pandemic has been an eye opener for me. Nothing has quite affected my life like this before. The Great Recession was definitely a hard time, but I was still in College for most of that time and was largely sheltered from its impact because I did not have a family to support. As I have watched the world crumble under the pressure of this Pandemic, I have had a hard time believing it. A few thoughts that came to my mind were: How could the world be brought down so low and so quickly? And isn’t our Government ready for something like this? I realized that I seemed to be putting a lot of stock in the stability of our world's Governments, Economy, and Culture. Unfortunately, a hope in these things can only bring about sadness and loss.
Thank goodness my Faith is in Jesus Christ and not the world! Just saying those words brings such a comfort and joy to my life and sustains me through these difficult times, and I hope they do for you as well. Isaiah 26:3-4 says this, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” An everlasting rock. Meditate on that for a minute. In this current climate where we do not know what the next days, weeks, or months are going to hold, it is important to remember that God is stable and unchanging. Our reliance should only be on him. Though our world has changed tremendously in the last few months, he has not.
Reliance on God is something I have to keep reminding myself to do every day. It is so easy to rely less on God when the times are good and rely on him more once they get bad. However, Philippians 4:4-7 call us to pray to God in all situations, not only the bad, saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
As I write this letter, Indiana is starting to open back up. This is a good thing, but my fear is that we will all return to our normal, everyday lives, stop relying on God as much, and forget all that God is teaching us through this tough time. My hope is that we all take what God has taught or is teaching us, and continue to grow in these areas even as the comforts we are used to are restored to us. For example, some might be learning how to be alone with God and not depend on earthly relationships to sustain them. As social restrictions ease up, they should not run back to their earthly relationships to be their ultimate source of joy, comfort, or fulfillment, but continue to find these things in a deep relationship with the Lord. Others may be on the opposite end of the spectrum and have realized how much they have under appreciated God’s people and how they need the Church to encourage and bolster them in their Faith, and so they should not allow normalcy from keeping them from investing in the body of Christ. For me personally, I am learning to take comfort in God’s unwavering stability during this unstable time, and hope to carry this dependence on him into the good times as well. Everybody is in a different place and learning different things, but these lessons are valuable, and I hope they are not easily forgotten when things return to normal.
I know this time has been difficult, and may yet go from bad to worse, but I personally have been overwhelmed with the blessings God has been showing me in the midst of all of this. Whole families are spending quality time together, people that have fallen away from God are looking to draw closer, and we, as Christians, have been given a quieter time to spend with God and grow in our relationship with him. This is not an all-inclusive list, but should direct us to the truth that, "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28). God gives us plenty of examples in his Word of his working out good in a bad situation that can help us to trust that what Paul says in Romans is true! Look at the story of Joseph, whom his brothers tried to murder, then sold into slavery in a foreign land, who was then falsely accused and then thrown in prison for years where he was forgotten. After all this, Joseph confronts his brothers in Genesis 50:19-20, saying, “'Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.'” It would have been easy for Joseph to be bitter towards his brothers, but he chose to see God’s will and blessings instead. If you are not seeing blessings, I encourage you to go to God in prayer to ask him to show you how he is working in your life during this time. I believe that when we are in sync with God’s will and not our own, we start to see God’s good works and not just the turmoil around us. I challenge you to find joy, through Christ, during this time. It is very easy to succumb to complaining about our current situation, but we should be an example to those around us. God is our rock and if we rely on him and his firm foundation, he will help us to endure the Covid-19 Pandemic with grace.
Written by Pastor Jim Kintigh
“What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31)
The challenge of those questions have been running through my mind this week. The first question “What then are we to say about these things?” drives us to consider the context of Paul’s words, because in order to understand these questions, we need to know what “these things” are.
The epistle to the Romans is a beautiful portrait of the good news of gospel in its multi-faceted beauty. The big idea of the entire book is found in the simple statement that “the righteous will live by faith” (1:17). He reminds us in the first three chapters of the sinfulness of sin, making it clear that we cannot achieve righteousness by keeping the law. He reminds us in chapter 4 that the righteousness of God has always been a gift of God through faith. He informs us in chapter 5 that this righteousness does not come because God simply overlooks our sin. No, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. (Romans 5:8). God’s holy justice demands that the wages of sin, death, be paid. And in the person of Jesus Christ, the offended God, pours out his wrath on the innocent, willing, divine victim. Our infinite sin debt was borne and paid for by the infinite Son of God. God the Son pays the ransom for our sin to God the Father! He died so that we could have life eternal in His presence! Romans 6 reminds us that although we are once and for all justified in Christ by faith, we are, by that same faith, to walk and grow in sanctification. We couldn’t earn God’s favor by good works, we cannot keep God’s favor by good works either. The Christian life is lived the same way it began, by repentance of sin (“consider yourselves dead to sin”), and by faith (“consider yourselves….alive to God in Christ Jesus” – Romans 6:11). Romans 7 reminds us of the convicting power of the law, it reminds us of our sinfulness, and drives us to God for mercy. Romans 7 also reminds us, as Paul goes from past tense to present tense in verse 14, that the Christian walk on this earth is a continual battle with remaining sin and the flesh. But despair gives way to victory in chapter 8, because the overcoming power of the Holy Spirit of God is given to all who walk in Him.
There you have the gospel, “the righteous shall live by faith”. God has done it all. “What shall we say to these things”? Our salvation is God’s work from start to finish. Romans 8:29-30 gives a breathtaking summary. From eternity past in God’s foreknowledge, to eternity future in our glorification, God has done it all! Christians have spent centuries discussing the meanings of the various stages of salvation mentioned here, but there’s no arguing with the scope of God’s work. From eternity past to eternity future, we were part of God’s gracious saving plan. What shall we say to these things? “Hallelujah!” “Glory to God!” “Thank you, Jesus!” “Make this real in my heart!” “Forgive me for such a small view of salvation!” Those are just a few the thoughts that run through my heart right now.
I’m struck by the second question in this verse “If God is for us, who can be against us?” If I understand the message of the gospel, two truths that I heard Tim Keller say about the gospel fill my mind. (1) I am more wickedly sinful than I have ever imagined! (2) I am more profoundly loved that I could ever hope! GOD IS FOR US! That statement is often hard to believe. It doesn’t mean that life will be free of trials, struggles, loss, or tragedy. That’s what we often want it to mean. What it does mean that in the middle of those trials, of those struggles, of that loss or tragedy, God is not only with me, he is profoundly for me. He has been for me from eternity past in predestination, He is for me today in calling and justification. He is for me in an eternity future of glorification. He is for me in the darkest trial, and in the most joyous victory.
So, what’s the answer to that second question: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” NOBODY! NOTHING! Not even my biggest enemy: me.
Meditate on that truth until it grips and transforms your heart.
Written by Pastor Mike Raasch
The days of Coronavirus have turned into weeks and the weeks have now turned into months, with no real answers or remedies in sight. When I last wrote (March 20th), COVID-19 had taken the lives of 10,038 individuals throughout the world. Today (April 22nd), this heinous virus has claimed more than 180,000 lives worldwide. When will this end? What is going on? When will we be able to go back to life as normal? Almighty God, what are you communicating to our world?
Yes, I’ve learned to wash my hands more diligently and refrain from touching my eyes, nose, and mouth but surely there is more to this pandemic than better hygiene. Surely there is more to this contagion than social distancing and isolated evenings at home. Lord Jesus, what good purposes are you accomplishing in these days? How should your children respond?
Holy Spirit, are we missing something?
I’m reminded of an occasion when those in a crowd asked Jesus for an answer to a recent tragedy. Jesus’ response was far from what they expected. Likely, they were looking for a political response, but Jesus turned the incident into an opportunity to issue a warning. In other words, the inquirers were missing something in the midst of the tragedy. Luke 13:1-5—‘There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’
Pontius Pilate had wickedly slaughtered worshippers in the Temple. Separately, the tower in Siloam had collapsed killing 18 ‘innocent’ bystanders. Both of these disasters begged the question… ‘What is the meaning to these disasters? Was God punishing these Galileans and innocent bystanders for specific sins?’
Jesus’ answer astounds us by giving his listeners a response that relates to every one of us. In essence, Jesus says, “Those who were murdered by Pilate and those who were crushed by the tower of Siloam were no worse sinners…than you.” And the meaning was… ‘unless you repent, you will all likewise perish’ (Luke 13:3, 5). Jesus turns the attention towards their own sin and says… ‘if you don’t repent, you too will meet a judgment like that someday. Let’s not talk about the dead, let’s talk about you. Your biggest issue is not their sin but your sin.’
So how have Americans responded to this worldwide disaster? Are Americans using this time for constructive and virtuous ends? Are Americans repenting? Hardly. Since March 1st, over 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment, which means many are now at home with time on their hands. According to Forbes.com, Americans are consuming more alcohol, smoking more weed, binge watching more Netflix and visiting more pornographic websites than ever. Alcohol sales have skyrocketed 75% compared to March 2019. During the week of March 16th, US consumers streamed 156.1 billion minutes of content. A significant portion of the streaming came from Netflix, which included the popular, yet vain show Tiger King. According to one adult film website, they have averaged 120 million viewers a day since the American quarantine! Sadly, according to thehill.com, child maltreatment fatalities are sharply on the rise while protective factors for children and families are weakening.
COVID-19 is a worldwide God-ordained call to repentance and yet God has a merciful message in the midst of this coronavirus. The message shouts that we are all sinners on course for destruction, but that there is grace and mercy found in Christ through repentance of sin. Let us pray the world hear from the Universal Church a clear call of repentance and grace found in Jesus Christ alone.
Although we cannot control the response of the world, we must examine our response within the Church. Paul said… ‘For what have I to do with judging outsiders (the world). Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?’ (1 Cor. 5:12). It is good and right to continually examine ourselves during these days of worldwide calamity. Repentance requires honesty, and an examined life acknowledges sin. Praise God there is great blessing and freedom in confessing our sin to Him in Christ Jesus.
As we examine our lives and confess our sins, we can be sure we are not missing anything.
Written by Deacon Chairmen Jake Beer
For those of you reading this who know me well, you know that I’m a pretty simple person. I don’t need much to live on and I thrive on the minimalist approach to life. I often find myself considering how many different uses an item has before I purchase it. I’ve also been known to wear my work boots to church. (By the way my wife doesn’t approve of me doing that, but that’s another story.) When Pastor Mike asked me to write a short letter to the church, I honestly had no idea what I would try to communicate. Writing is not something I would consider a normal part of my life, so I honestly felt a little unqualified to be completely honest. I’ve been reading a book entitled “Beautiful Outlaw” by John Eldridge. I’ve enjoyed the perspective of Jesus from the view point of his humanity as I read through this book. It’s caused me to fall more and more in love with him and want to be more like him. It’s caused me to challenge some of the preconceived notions I had about him based on the way us humans have sometimes wrongly viewed him over the years. When all is said and done, I’m sure there are things that I don’t agree with from the author's standpoint, but here are just a few of the ah-ha moments I’ve had over the last few weeks as I read through this book. I hope it brings a smile to your face like it has mine and I would certainly recommend anyone reading the book.
So anyways, let’s ponder Jesus for a few moments…..
John 1:3 says that “All things were made through him (Jesus) and without him was not anything made that was made”. It’s fascinating when you think about what the phrase “all things” actually means. I take it literally to mean….all things. Consider for example the playfulness of the chipmunks and the squirrels. Have you ever just sat and watched them chase each other around the yard? Up and down the trees and every so often you get lucky and catch them wrestling with each other. Or consider the playfulness of puppies. Have you ever sat in a room full of puppies? I have, it is truly one of the most amazing experiences a human being can have. Puppies are so playful and silly. They are born this way. Squirrels and chipmunks are born this way. It is woven into their genetic makeup to behave this way. Jesus made them this way. He designed them intentionally to act this way. What does it say about the Creator that he specifically and intentionally made them this way? Jesus is playful!
Consider the fierceness and passion of Jesus. The man who healed the sick and made the blind see and the deaf hear, is the same man who turned the temple courts upside down. I’ve always loved the passion in this account of Jesus clearing the temple. John 2:13-15 “The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.”
It’s easy to overlook, but notice how it says that Jesus actually makes a whip from cords. This is something that would have taken some time to do. This is not just uncontrolled anger being displayed here in the temple. This is calculated and controlled fierce passion. Can you imagine the chaos that would have ensued during this event? Large livestock running all over from the sound of Jesus cracking his homemade whip. On top of that tables full of coins are being flipped over. You can almost hear the sound of the coins hitting the ground can’t you? Now imagine the money changers trying to pick up all their money while oxen and sheep are running all over the place. It’s almost humorous to imagine the scene. It would have literally been a circus. I love the account in Matthew 21:12-17...immediately after creating an uproar, the blind and the lame start to flock to him and he heals them. It’s such a beautiful and amazing display of Jesus. He goes from fierce and passionate to gentle and loving and ready to heal those who come to him. It’s perfect and I love it!
Consider the generosity of Jesus. Look at the ocean for example. The ocean can carry mighty ships and it’s waves can cause tremendous damage. Yet if you’ve ever walked the beach on a warm summer day, and felt the gentle rolling of water over your feet you’ve experienced the generosity of Jesus. The very fact that we have water on this earth is a tremendous gift in itself. Water is life giving, and I believe it reflects the very nature of the one who created it. When I look at the ocean, it reminds me of Jesus. Powerful yet gentle. Frightening yet comforting at the same time. It’s a beautiful mystery.
Consider the humility of Jesus. The Creator of the universe entered into his creation to rescue it back to himself. We’ve all read the story of his birth, and I trust you understand that the environment he was born into was not a sterile or clean place. There was most likely all kinds of animal slobber and other gross things covering the very manger that he laid in. Can you imagine putting your newborn into something like that? For those of you who have been watching “The Chosen” series on TV, you may remember the scene where Jesus is making dinner over a little campfire on the edge of the woods. While he waits for his food to warm, he is carving children’s toys out of wood blocks. Have you ever considered the humility in this? We know Jesus was a carpenter by trade, and therefore he made things out of wood. Whether he made toys, I do not know...but I like to think he probably did. Anyways, the creator of the universe...the one who literally spoke the galaxies into existence, chose to become a carpenter. What humility! I love this about Jesus. He could have chosen any profession he wanted, and he chose to be a carpenter. Don’t overlook that.
I hope this short little rambling of my thoughts has provided some encouragement to wherever you find yourself in your personal walk with Jesus. Following Jesus is not easy, we will face many trials along the way. We will fall down and get bumps and bruises or for some of us even worse. However, I want to encourage you that it is worth it. It will be worth it on that day when we met our Savior face to face and get to touch him. Hold his hands. Give him hugs. Personally, I look forward to the day where we can do some woodworking together by the edge of the woods while we camp out under the stars of the new heavens.
I love you guys and am praying for each one of you that reads this letter. Soon we will all be together again….until then….let’s keep chasing after Jesus together and striving to be more like him.
Written by Pastor Peter Renton
“This is a different season, isn’t it?”
I don’t know how many times I have said these words over the last few weeks. For me, the hardest part of this season has been being separated from you all, my family and friends. I mourn the loss of relationship and connection I once took for granted. I miss spending time with the youth group and the worship team, especially as we come to the end of Holy week.
We have felt, acutely, the loss of human connection. We are all staying home, under self-quarantine, in order to keep away from this deadly virus. As I stop and mourn this loss, I feel, with a new sense of potency, the impact sin has on our relationship with God.
God cannot, will not, be with sin. His very nature demands that sin be cast from His presence. We see this from the beginning. In Genesis 3 we read of the first sin. Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin entered the world (and their hearts), and God removed them from his presence:
So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. ~Genesis 3:23-24
From that point forward, God removed His presence from the earth. He quarantined Himself from humanity. Instead of social distancing, PPE, 6 feet, and face-masks, there are holy angels and a flaming sword to keep us out.
God continued His quarantine from sinful humanity when He gave Moses and the Israelites the instructions for building His dwelling place on this earth. He would dwell in the inner room of the temple (tabernacle in Moses’ time) called the Most Holy Place. This was where the Glory of the Lord would be present in this world. The Most Holy Place was separated from the rest of the temple by a giant curtain, as thick as a man’s hand, and was to be embroidered with golden angels, just like the garden. (Exodus 26:31-33)
Anyone that entered behind the curtain would be destroyed. Only one man, the high priest, could go behind the curtain, into God’s presence, and that only once a year, and only after making sacrifices for his sins and the sins of the nation of Israel. Only after preforming these sacrifices and being sprinkled with blood could he enter into the Most Holy Place to make atonement for the sins of the people. (Leviticus 16)
We must pause here and consider the seriousness of sin. The reason God is quarantined is not because He could somehow “catch” sin, but because sinful humanity cannot survive in His presence. The wages of our sin is death, and that death is separation from God (Romans 3:23). This is the sad condition of the human heart. We cannot be with our Creator, because we have rebelled and gone our own way, and there is nothing we can do to cure ourselves. Sin is fatal, and it affects us all.
That curtain hung in the temple, separating God from sinful humanity for thousands of years, until Good Friday. Jesus, the perfect One, God in the flesh, was beaten, mocked, and scorned. He was led out of the city carrying His own cross, was stripped down, wearing nothing but a crown of thorns, and was nailed to the cross. He suffered on that cross for six hours. Then Luke records this:
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. ~Luke 23:44-46
It was at the death of Jesus that the curtain, which had separated God and man, was torn in two. Jesus has become the “antidote” for the disease of sin. He becomes the vaccine that inoculates us from the wages of sin. Jesus body was broken, His blood was shed, in order to end the quarantine. It is through faith in the blood of Jesus ALONE that we are rescued and brought near to God.
Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. ~Ephesians 2:12-13
As much as we feel the sting of the loss of relationships during this season, may it be a reminder to us, that because of the blood of Jesus we are NEVER quarantined from God. May it be a reminder to us that our friends and family that don’t know Jesus are still removed from God, and they need the forgiveness of sin that comes from the blood of Jesus. May we celebrate this Good Friday, that although we are removed from one another, we have been brought near to God through the loving sacrifice of our Savior. And may we remember, Sunday is coming!
Written by Pastor Jim Kintigh
“This too shall pass.”
I’ve heard that phrase several times when talking about today’s new normal. Someone even told me that, although he couldn’t remember the reference, the Bible says that, “This too shall pass.” To clarify my friend’s misguided quotation, the specific phrase is found nowhere in any of our English translations of the Bible. It’s actually the English translation of an ancient Persian saying. Although the statement doesn’t occur in Scripture, the principle of the temporary and changeable nature of the circumstances of life is found throughout the Word of God. We’ve seen it clearly taught as
Pastor Mike has led us in our study of Ecclesiastes. Under the sun, nothing lasts, nothing is permanent. It is a breath, nothing more. Today’s health gives way to tomorrow’s disease. Today’s sorrow gives way to tomorrow’s joy. Today’s wealth gives way to tomorrow’s poverty. Everything has its time, everything changes. Nothing is lasting under the sun.
This too shall pass.
I find that truth is comforting. I can endure trials, and not despair, because I know that “this too shall pass.” It is but a breath in our ever-changing lives. It is a sobering truth. I can enjoy blessings and bounty, and not idolize them, because I know that “this too shall pass.” Riches and comfort in this life under the sun are mere breaths. They are neither stable nor enduring. To hold them too tightly is to grasp the wind.
Because of the gospel, it’s also a declaration of hope. One day “the heavens will pass away...the elements will burn and be dissolved... (2 Peter 3:10). “But based on his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13). On the day of our Lord’s return, “this too shall pass” will never again be spoken. Our worship will never again be tainted by self. Our joy will never again be diluted by tears. Our vision of Christ will never again be diminished by sin.
His word endures forever! (1 Peter 1:25)
His righteousness endures forever! (2 Corinthians 9:9)
His throne endures forever! (Lamentations 5:19)
HIS FAITHFUL LOVE ENDURES FOREVER! (Psalm 100:5 and over 50 other places)
May his name endure forever! (Psalm 72:17)
Trusting in Him,
Pastor Jim Kintigh
Written by Deacon Kevin Knaus
What is your response when your life is turned upside down? When you are faced with the phone call, the diagnosis, the job loss, the death, the relationship tension.
As our family has begun our own journey of living in an upside down world and navigated suffering over the past months the words of the well-known hymn “It is Well with My Soul” have been a great comfort and I have been reminded of the following truths.
4 Things to Remember in Suffering
1) It is hard
When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll,
whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’
A faithful approach to suffering and sorrow does not have to involve “faking it until you make it” or masking the grief you feel. The Psalms are filled with honest laments and cries to God in distress.
“My tears have been my food day and night,
While all day long people say to me,
‘Where is your God?’…
Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about in sorrow… “ Psalm 42:3,9
The lament Psalms acknowledge the reality that we all face. Life can be hard and sorrows often seem to flow in like the sea.
2) I am not the first to suffer
The Christian life is often marked by deep loss or personal tragedy. Indeed, the hope of our faith hinges on the brutal murder of an innocent man. Christians in every age since the apostles have endured personal and global trials. Hebrews 11 reminds us of the lives and faith of many saints before us. This “great cloud of witnesses” can give us hope and encouragement as we seek to persevere in our own lives.
What impresses me most about the hymn “It is Well with My Soul” is the story of the writer’s personal struggles. These words carry more meaning when you know that they were penned by a man who had just lost significant real estate investments in the Chicago Fire of 1871 and was grieving the deaths of his four daughters in a tragic ship accident that had occurred just days earlier. In the middle of deep personal tragedy Horatio Spafford was able to acknowledge his grief and trial while turning his attention to the hope and promises that he could stand on.
Human nature would lead me to turn inward to self-pity and self-focus in the midst of my own hardships, but a rich understanding of Christian history will allow me to see my own life in the context of a larger story and keep my focus on the same God believers over the centuries have trusted in.
3) The promises of God remain true
Tho Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed his own blood for my soul.
My sin-Oh the bliss of that glorious thought, my sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more: Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, Oh my soul.
The joy of Christian sorrow and lament is that it never leaves us stuck in despair. Psalm 42 concludes prayers of grief with:
“Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him,
My savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:11b)
Spafford also focuses not on the sorrows but quickly turns the focus of the hymn to the assurance and atonement of Christ’s work on the cross.
When times are good it is easy to feel that we are entitled to perfect health, good finances, a happy family, or healthy children. When hardship strikes, we can either demand answers from God for taking away something we feel we deserve or cling to the promises that God has actually given us.
Through Christ we: Have peace with God (Rom 5:1), wisdom (James 4:7), forgiveness of sin (1 John 1:9), all our needs supplied (Philippians 4:19, Mat 6:31-33), and eternal life (John 3:16, 36) to list just a few. Study the promises and assurances of scripture in both the old and new testaments and you will find that there is much to rest our hope in.
4) Our current purpose and future hope remain the same
And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll:
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so-it is well with my soul.
As sorrows weigh heavy on our hearts and as we continue to wrestle with questions that may never have answers we look forward to and long for the day when creation is freed from its bondage and we obtain the final redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:18-25).
Until that time we can live with the joy found in our creator; seeking to love God and our neighbor, spreading the good news of Christ, and living up to the calling we have received.
May we be a people that suffers honestly, grieves well, loves deeply, and hopes boldly.
Written by Pastor Mike Raasch
It seems each new day brings more cancellations, constrictions, and constraints due to COVID-19. Sporting events have been postponed or canceled; schools have been shut down; restaurants, museums, gyms and movie theaters closed, and now travel bans are being enacted. In the midst of living in a fast and furious world, mankind has been forced to push the pause button. The world seems to be in full-blown crisis. As I write (March 20th), there have been 246,276 people infected worldwide with Coronavirus resulting in 10,038 deaths. That saddens me.
How should we as Christians respond to such a crisis? Fear. Isolation. Suspicion. Anger. Throughout history, Christians have always faced various trials which force them to either respond in fear or faith. At this moment in time, the world desperately needs to see a people that can stare a trial in the face and respond with confidence and joy. How then shall we respond?
The worldwide scare of the Coronavirus ought to remind us of just how fragile we have always been. The reality is that humans are weak and frail, even susceptible to microscopic viruses. The Psalmist (Ps. 144:4) reminds us that ‘man is a like a mere breath; his days are like a passing shadow.’ Moses wisely counseled us to ‘number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.’ We ought never take our lives here on this earth for granted. Enjoy this day!
The worldwide scare of the Coronavirus ought to remind us that we have never truly been in control. We love to think we are in control. We can remotely control our thermostats, we can control our bank accounts with the push of a button, we can control our sicknesses with medicines and exercise. This worldwide virus outbreak has reminded us that we are not in control. As Christians, this reality drives us to the One who has always been in control. As we are reminded of God’s sovereign control, may we never forget our Heavenly Father’s character. He is good, kind, compassionate. We are worth more to Him than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Trust Him this day!
The worldwide scare of the Coronavirus ought to remind us that we walk by faith. In times like these, it is all too easy to be gripped by fear. We tend to ‘see’ the coronavirus everywhere we look. We believe it to be on every doorknob, handrail, and computer keyboard. Sadly, we also view people with suspicion, wondering if the UPS delivery man is the next source of the contagion. Are we panicking? God calls His children to react differently in times of trial. In 2 Corinthians 5:7, the Apostle Paul said that we ‘walk by faith, not by sight.’ We are called to walk by faith. Our faith is not in ‘chance’. Our faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who controls and cares for our every need. Walk in faith this day!
The worldwide scare of the Coronavirus ought to remind us to pray. While brilliant doctors and researchers are urgently seeking to make a difference in the fight against this virus, we can feel helpless and insignificant. For the child of God, there is something we can do…PRAY! We can call upon our Father who is in Heaven. We can pray for our governing authorities as they seek to lead our country and cities. We can pray for the doctors and nurses as they care for the sick. We can pray for those who have been infected by the virus. Pray for those who are more susceptible and the elderly. Pray that the Lord protect us and keep us. Pray for His mercy. As we pray, we have the confidence that He hears our prayers because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. Pray this day!
The worldwide scare of the Coronavirus ought to remind us that our hope is in Jesus Christ. There is a far more heinous ‘virus’ that has infected every individual on this planet. This dreadful virus will not just end in death, but eternal death. This virus is called ‘sin.’ What is our hope in the face of this virus? God became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ and entered a world filled with sick and dying people. He would live among the sick and take upon Himself our infirmities while on a Roman cross. Through faith in His finished work, we are healed from the penalty of our sin. His shed blood is the antidote to the greatest threat to mankind. As believers in Jesus Christ, we need not fear death, much less a coronavirus. In John 11:25-26, Jesus would say ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’