Simple Lessons for The Called

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” – General Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State

If I could break down all I have learned to share with a next generation of those called by God, I would offer these simplified lessons:

  1. Maintain integrity.  “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the perversity of the treacherous destroys them” (Proverbs 11:3).
  2. Preach the Word.  Handle the Living Word of God accurately and herald the unchanging truth of God with conviction. “Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).
  3. Offer application not just information when you preach and teach, because God desires transformation. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them may be compared to a wise man who built his house upon the rock.”
  4. Be willing to engage in strategic innovation without compromising God’s unchanging message in an age where things are changing faster than anytime in human history. This is the heart of what the apostle Paul is sharing in 1 Corinthians 9: 22-23 when he proclaims, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”
  5. Help people to navigate truth in a time of instant information. Wisdom is more than an accumulation of information, and discernment is vital in this age of information overload. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 offers us incredible wisdom, “But test all things.  Hold on to what is good.”
  6. Love the flock. Being an effective leader means nothing if you do not genuinely care about those God has entrusted to you. “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God, and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness” 9! Peter 5:2).
  7. Awaken a passion in followers of Christ to study the word. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
  8. Seek to inspire the church to be filled with a deep love for our Lord that is more than an intellectual knowledge.  Jeremiah 29:13 reminds us of this truth, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”
  9. Maintain a balance in worship that keeps the Word of God elevated but does not devalue music, prayer, giving, the ordinances, and fellowship as essential elements of genuine worship. May we worship as taught in Colossians 3:16-17, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
  10. Learn to work with people and to build unity in the family of faith. “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling of which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Baptist Associations Need Our Prayers –

The Baptist association has been an important part of our history as Southern Baptists. It has been described as “the oldest cooperative unit in Baptist life tracing its existence back over 300 years.” 

The Baptist association has been defined as “a fellowship of local autonomous churches with a singular vision to work together to claim their surrounding areas and ultimately the world for the Kingdom of Christ!”

Southern Baptist associations are much like Southern Baptist churches in that they are a diverse group and are unique in many ways. Some associations are large while others are small, so they cooperate with a neighboring association to accomplish their vision, maybe even sharing an Associational Mission Strategist (AMS).

I am blessed to have been part of some great associations in my ministry.  I remember as a young man how the Green Valley Association brought churches together to do missions that our individual church could not do by itself. I’ve seen associations equip and resource leaders for ministry service through their church.  I know of several Kentucky associations that serve as catalysts for church planting, and others that lead member churches to engage in evangelism and ministry efforts.  

The Baptist Association is a value to member churches and important to their accomplishment of The Great Commission.  Therefore, Southern Baptists have chosen to recognize October 18-25, 2020 as the Week of Prayer for Associational Missions. 

Would you join with me in praying for your association in the following ways?

1. Pray for a spirit of unity and harmony within the churches as they partner together. Satan loves to cause division between believers and churches.  Jesus pointed out the importance of unity in His priestly prayer (John 17) and a lack of harmony between churches is a stumbling block to accomplishment of Kingdom goals.

2. Pray for your Associational Mission Strategist and his family. An AMS is many things to many people, but he must first-of-all be a spiritual leader. He is expected to care for and challenge churches while loving and leading pastors.  He has a difficult task. He and his family will be under attack and need your prayer support. 

3. Pray for a clear vision to plant new churches. There is great opportunity in our state today for the planting of new churches.  New churches are needed as we become increasingly unchurched and lost. Existing churches may not know how to plant a new church, but an association can be proactive and helpful to provide needed leadership and support.

4. Pray for effectiveness in strengthening existing churches. Many existing, traditional churches are struggling today. Their effectiveness is sometimes hindered by history and attitudes that limit their vision and create unnecessary challenges to outreach. An association is able to encourage and provide the resources for dysfunctional churches to become healthy and spiritually reproductive.

5. Pray for a passion and plan to impact lostness, both locally and globally.  The 2010 Glenmary reports shows that only 12.9% of Kentuckians attend a church of any kind.  Lostness in the Commonwealth abounds! Some churches need training, resources, or an evangelistic initiative like the Gospel to Every Home in-order to impact lostness. 

6. Pray that your association is challenged to resource, support and encourage every pastor.  There is no doubt that pastors are targeted by the enemy who desires to destroy their families and ministries. The AMS can be a great friend and encourager to local pastors. Fellowship and time together gives pastors the opportunity to just be themselves and share their needs and frustrations.

So, please pray for your association and your AMS during the week of prayer for associational missions. Lead your church to pray for the association and AMS too!  As the association grows stronger, the churches will benefit and become more effective in their Kingdom work.

Hard Places, Hard Times!

SUPPORTING GOSPEL WORK IN OPPRESSED PLACES AND DURING TURBULENT TIMES!

“14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

The Apostle Paul not only understood that the Great Commission belongs to the local church, but also that “sending churches” must pray, encourage, and partner with their “sent ones.” As Kentucky Baptist Churches, we have the joy of supporting and partnering with IMB missionaries around the world, through our Cooperative Program Giving and Lottie Moon Christmas Offerings. However, the Great Commission is more than simply our giving, it includes our willingness to have gospel partnerships in hard places, among hard people, and during hard times. The spread of the gospel faces challenges because people are battling their own personal sin and pride in the face of the “offense” of the gospel. In addition to the challenge of human sinfulness and depravity, sometimes the gospel runs up against challenging settings. Christians in places of religious freedom still carry the biblical burden to take the gospel into higher security or closed settings. The Great Commission is not an option clause, but a command from our living Lord, Jesus Christ. The ultimate goal for these difficult settings is to see the Holy Spirit establish a long-term, doctrinally sound, multiplying church presence for the glory of God.

If we are to partner in a high security location, we must first build and maintain a relationship with a committed missionary who resides in the difficult place or among the difficult people. Workers in hostile areas live with spiritual oppression as a constant companion, much like a tumor that cannot be removed. A good partner carefully considers the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical challenges that exist in this particular setting.

God can use you and your church to not only preserve the wellbeing of your missionary partner, but also play a critical role in fulfilling the Great Commission by doing three critical things:

Pray
We must pray for our missionaries, but beyond that, they need to know we are praying for them. Ask them for specific requests and then follow up to see how the Lord worked. Find out their specific cultural challenges and commit to pray for them. Paul asked his friends to pray for him, and he gave them specific prayer requests.

Encourage
We must also encourage our missionaries. These are real people who have real interests, hobbies, preferences, etc. Do not forget that they have a favorite genre of music, a sports team they keep up with, jokes they enjoy, frustrations as a parent, concerns as a spouse, and a thousand other facets that make them human. Treat them the same way you treat other friends. Talk with them about their interests, fears, joys, and sorrows.

When neglected, the humanity of our missionaries is what often takes them off of the field. When cared for, the humanity of our missionaries is often what makes them the most effective. People who live in spiritual oppression are looking for someone who is living out hope. Ask your church members, how can we play a part in ongoing encouragement to our field personnel? Find ways, be practical and be consistent.

Go
The Bible is overflowing with commands, reasons, and motivations to go, serve and spread the gospel with your physical presence. It is not only important for some of us to go to difficult places long-term, but also for others to go to these places short-term in order to help our missionaries by encouraging and supporting them. Due to the travel restrictions caused by the current pandemic, you might consider “going” on virtual mission trip, which is an excellent way to pray, encourage, and connect with workers in hard places!  But as you go either physically or virtually, go for the benefit of your spiritual partners and the lost, not to fulfill your own dreams. There is a specific danger present in any type of mission trip that makes it about the individuals going instead of supporting strategy of the workers living on the field.

Also, be realistic about the results you will see during your time in a difficult area, or during your time of virtual trip. In many of these places, the work is long and often times they have yet to see the “harvest.” Radical Prayer, persistence, and patience in working the soil is required. The Lord is free to work in any way that He desires, but those who “go” must keep in mind that they might not see a massive turning to the Lord on their first trip.

As you partner with missionaries in difficult and possibly hostile locations, you are part of bringing unreached and unengaged people to the throne room of God. There are many places you could go or ways you can participate in fulfilling the Great Commission, but the greatest blessing is to go and serve where the Lord calls you. The work is large, the challenges are daunting, the need is overwhelming, but the eternal value of even one soul is worth every bit of effort we can summon. Remember the words of the Lord Himself in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest.”

The Missions Mobilization Team is here to serve you and your church as you seek to fulfill the Great Commission. Even during the pandemic, we can help you Discover the Opportunities, Develop a Strategy, and Equip your Church to Pray, Encourage, Go! Whether you are just getting started or needing to start a new, our team can help you take the next step. Email John Barnett, KBC Missions Strategist, at [email protected] or call 502-654-3385.

Being Prepared

Hurricane Laura slammed Louisiana last Thursday as a deadly Category 4 storm. In Lake Charles, roofs were peeled off, buildings ripped apart, and lampposts scattered like twigs. This storm reminded us again that disasters come and can catch us unprepared for the devastation left behind. Being prepared increases our ability to survive and to respond effectively to help those affected.

The wisdom writer in Ecclesiastes 10:10 declared, “If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen its edge, then one must exert more strength, however the advantage of wisdom is that it brings success.”  Preparing the edge by sharpening the blade will enable the tool to be more effective, just as training helps believers to serve more effectively in response to the survivors of disasters. 

Top ten reasons to be trained in disaster relief:

  1. Training prepares us in our understanding of disasters and the needs that arise in times of disaster.
  2. Training enables us to respond in appropriate and effective ways in times of disaster.
  3. Training prepares us to understand our role as part of a disaster team.  Emergency Managers often list untrained volunteers as one of their greatest problems in times of disaster.
  4. Training enables us to sharpen our abilities, in order to be an asset not a hindrance in the response. Spontaneous volunteers typically lack familiarity with situational assessments and incident management.  Because of this, they usually end up being in the way, rather than providing meaningful help.
  5. Training helps us to understand hazards and safety concerns in disaster areas. Untrained volunteers are much more likely to be injured in disaster response as they are unaware of risk factors.
  6. Training prepares us to understand in a deeper way some of the trauma of disaster victims that we might be able to offer appropriate compassion.
  7. Training prepares the hands to be ready to serve effectively. Becoming trained enables you to respond with appropriate skills and right resources.
  8. Training prepares the head by giving us needed knowledge that prepares our readiness. Untrained volunteers are often unprepared to work long, stressful days in austere and rugged living conditions.
  9. Training and relating to a known disaster response group enables better security in disaster areas.  Untrained volunteers create atmospheres where scam artists, who seek to prey on hurting and vulnerable people, can get access into disaster settings under the guise of being a volunteer.
  10. But the greatest reason to train is that God deserves our very best in all that we do and to achieve the best requires discipline, effort, and knowledge.

Disasters will come.  Therefore, let me encourage you, be prepared to serve by being trained.  Victims deserve that, and even more importantly, God deserves that.

Upcoming Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief trainings are scheduled for:

September 12, 2020 at Calvary Baptist Church in Glasgow

January 9, 2021 at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville

February 6, 2021 at Harlan Baptist Church

March 20, 2021 at First Baptist Church of Murray

April 10, 2021 at Red House Baptist Church in Richmond

You can learn how to become connected and register for training through Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief at http://www.kybaptist.org/dr .

Teachers Struggle with Back to School

It is “back to school” like no other time in our history.  School districts are debating whether to reopen in person or conduct online learning, or a combination of both!  Schools that do reopen may be faced with enforced closures if the virus positivity rate increases within the school or district. The uncertainty of how to respond to the virus has created unbelievable stress for teachers, students and parents. That stress is heightened by the polarization of the loud opinions concerning how teachers should do their job.

Our educational system is built upon the backs of caring, faithful and committed teachers, whom in most districts are underpaid and underappreciated.  There’s a huge learning curve for many since most have never taught remotely before.  Our teachers are working fast and furious to meet the demands of the time.  They know that at a moment’s notice, they may have to pivot and change course… again.

The teachers I know, and I’m married to one, desire to make a difference in the lives of their students.  They teach because it’s their passion, and in many cases, their calling.  I’ve heard teachers talk about the many unusual challenges and I’ve seen first-hand the stress that COVID-19 has created in their lives.  However, they keep pressing on, because of the students.  

Teachers are concerned that online learning may be hindered because some students don’t have access to proper technology.  Will teachers and students be safe if in-person classes are held?  Or, how do you console a child by remaining socially distant? Some wonder if they can effectively teach while simultaneously enforcing social distancing and managing the safety of their students.  The list of questions and concerns goes on and on. 

The people we depend upon to educate our community’s children are struggling and the church has an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ to them.  There are many ways that we can provide encouragement and support to local teachers and doing so will open the door for gospel conversations. It is also very likely that schools will promote and participate in your church’s activities in the future if you provide practical, loving support to their teachers.

Here are some suggestions for how your church can minister to teachers:

  • Appreciation breakfasts/lunches or coffee bars
  • Drawings for gift cards or special services
  • Provide volunteers to help with reading/after school-tutoring etc.
  • Notes of encouragement
  • Personalized care packages
  • Meal trains – volunteers sign up to deliver to teacher’s home
  • Adopt a teacher/classroom to care for
  • Donations from a classroom “wish list”
  • PRAY for them and WITH them

For more information and ideas for how your church can show support and encourage teachers during this difficult time, check out the “We Love Teachers” initiative implemented by Seed to Oaks at www.seedtooaks.com

Standing Ready

Disasters come whether one is prepared or not, and tragically most churches fail to prepare for disaster events in their community.

As Stephen Cyros declared, “Remember, when disaster strikes, the time to prepare has passed.”

Be prepared as a church by:

  1. Encouraging the need for preparation. Church leaders can lead in providing disaster preparation information that includes safety, first-aid, needed supplies, and evacuation or shelter instructions to those in our churches. People who are prepared have increased survivability in times of disaster.
  2. Assessing the greatest and most likely disaster threats for your community.
  3. Examining the church property to determine if there are ways to minimize loss and to improve the church’s ability to withstand a disaster event.
  4. Ensuring that the membership understands evacuation or sheltering plans if a disaster occurs while the church is gathered.
  5. Devising a plan to check on church members in the aftermath of disasters. Focus a priority on the most vulnerable in your family of faith such as the elderly, those with disabilities, single mothers, and those with health issues. This could be a great ministry for deacons or other church ministry groups.
  6. Developing a ministry plan for the church in the aftermath of disasters. Often churches miss opportunities to meet real needs and to have life-changing impact with families in the aftermath of disasters because they have not planned for a disaster. Crisis events open doors for the Gospel as people are seeking help and answers. God has placed the church in communities to be His hands and voice, but we need to think about how we can best help survivors in the aftermath of a disaster.
  7. Connecting with other churches in your community and other organizations to discuss how to prepare and respond to disasters. Most County Emergency Managers would welcome churches who genuinely want to help, and who have a plan to meet vital needs. We can always do more together than any of us can do alone.
  8. Being prepared to pivot the focus of the church in the aftermath of a disaster. The day after a disaster strikes your community is probably not the time to begin a new ministry, but the church demonstrates a lack of compassion and awareness if it does not pivot from the routine and put priority focus on responding to the loss that disasters bring. In the aftermath of disasters, the church needs to show the Gospel in action.

The Scripture gives a great word for the church as we seek to prepare for times of disaster in Proverbs 27:12,

“The prudent see danger and take refuge,
    but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”

Make Sure Zoe’s Not the Last

Last fall, Rockcastle Baptist Association hosted and implemented “Give Hope”, a Christmas Backpack distribution for children in the area.  A young lady named Zoe, who was very shy and hesitant, came and selected a backpack filled with surprises to take home.  She heard the gospel shared and enjoyed the activities and events of the day.  Later that night after arriving home, she opened the backpack to discover a Bible.  Zoe had never had her own Bible and was interested and curious to explore the stories within.  Although she struggled with depression and anxiety, while reading her new Bible she experienced an overwhelming sense of trust, peace, and joy. Zoe was so excited to learn that God could love someone like her and that He died to give her life!  Full of joy, she came out of her room crying and hugging her mom.  I don’t know the individual or church that packed and prepared the backpack for Zoe, but God does, and He worked through them to reveal Himself to a young girl in need of hope.  

Not many months from now, backpacks full of clothes, toys and food items will be distributed and the gospel shared by missionaries and church planters with other children like Zoe. I anticipate the number of families needing help at Christmas this year to be even greater because of high unemployment due to COVID-19.  Business is returning slowly in the Commonwealth, but the future remains uncertain for so many who are still out of work, or only allowed to return part-time. 

The increased need for backpacks and the hope they provide is challenged by the fact that many churches are just now returning to in-person gatherings because of coronavirus restrictions.  That challenge is exacerbated because most small groups and mission organizations who normally assume the responsibility for leading the initiative are still not meeting. 

For this reason, your help is needed so that other children can experience at Christmas this year, the joy and hope that Zoe discovered.   Prayerfully consider the following:

  • Use your social media network to promote the effort and encourage others to participate in preparing and packing a backpack.
  • Some small groups and mission organization are using Zoom, MicroSoft Teams, or Google Groups to stay connected during this time.  Use these platforms to tell about the need and share how your group can get involved. 
  • Lead your family to shop for and pack a backpack, praying together for the child that will receive it.  This is a great way for children to join mom and dad in showing the love of Christ. 
  • Take a few minutes during Sunday worship, in-person, on the parking lot or online, to promote the Christmas backpacks and determine to be the church, not just go!
  • Let us know how many backpacks you plan to pack by registering online so that we can coordinate with the needs of missionaries and church planters.

The coronavirus is not the first challenge the church has confronted when meeting needs and sharing the gospel, and it most likely will not be the last.  Zoe wasn’t the first person to come to Christ because of Christmas backpacks, and my prayer is that she will not be the last.  Let’s work together through this crisis and creatively explore how we might most effectively prepare backpacks to be shared at Christmas, so that Christ will be made known, again and again and again!

For more information about Christmas backpacks, contents, packing, dates and delivery, visit:  www.kybaptist.org/backpacks.

On a Mission From God

Moses was chosen, called, and commissioned by the Lord to deliver and lead the people of God.  Though reluctant to lead at first, Moses demonstrated himself to be a skilled and effective leader.  His uniquely close relationship with God was the foundation of his leadership and enabled him to lead amid a diverse and often difficult group of people.  God himself spoke this validating word of Moses in Numbers 12:7, “He is faithful in all My house.” 

Throughout his journey of faith Moses demonstrated that leaders must have vision, perseverance, and the ability to endure the pain of leadership without compromising their character.  Our character as leaders is always on display to those around us and to those who follow us.  If we crumble and fall into the pit of unhealthy leadership and practices, it will have crippling and devastating consequences for the people entrusted to our care as leaders. If we are not healthy as church leaders then the family of faith will be vulnerable to the plague of disorder and dysfunction.

Humble leaders attract followers and create an environment of trust, and trust is vital to healthy relationships and healthy organizations. Arrogant, autocratic leaders may dominate for a time, but they do not build trust among those who follow them. And eventually, most see their kingdoms crumble around them in the tremors of seismic rebellion.  There is a difference in leading people and driving people. 

 Spiritual leaders have been entrusted by God to lead those whom God has placed in their care. Humble servant leadership is not weak leadership. For leaders, it is not between being strong or weak, the choice is between building God’s kingdom and helping people discover God’s purpose for their lives or building our own little earthly kingdoms and exploiting those entrusted to us.

Leaders who are strong and humble value the people entrusted to them, and when you find this kind of leader, you will find healthy and growing churches and organizations. This is the kind of leader that people will follow.  This kind of leader produces confidence in the heat of the battle.  This kind of leader inspires trust when storms arise.  This kind of leader motivates people to reach heights they never dreamed possible. Ultimately, this kind of leader enables people to reach the place promised to them by God.

It is a paradox that the one whom God entrusts in leadership can be both humble and visionary; he can be a person of grace and yet bold; he can be consumed and yet at peace; he can be filled with compassion and yet speak the truth without compromise. Moses learned the lessons of leadership as a shepherd in the desert and by answering God’s calling with trembling yet unwavering faith.  And in the end, it was said of him in Deuteronomy 34:10, “But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”

When leaders recognize the privilege of being chosen and called by God and give of themselves to humbly serve those entrusted to them, they are secure and can endure because they know, as Elwood Blues put it, that they “are on a mission from God.”

It’s a Perfect Fit

For several years, the Kentucky Baptist Convention has helped local churches and associations to conduct medical and dental clinics that minister to the needs of people in their communities.  The clinics have traditionally been conducted on weekends during the months of March, April and May.  However, the work to meet the medical and spiritual needs of people through the clinics begins months earlier.   The KBC equips churches, assisting with volunteer and medical personnel enlistment, evangelism training, logistics, clinic set up and a follow-up strategy.   

One of the resources provided to churches hosting a clinic is use of a modern, state of the art dental unit owed by SEND Relief of the North American Mission Board.  The cost of the unit and supplies used while in Kentucky are provided by the KBC as a service to our churches. The unit has two operatories and is fully equipped to perform most any dental service, including x-ray. 

The dental unit was purchased with Annie Armstrong Easter offering gifts and is needed to perform the services provided at the clinics, but it isn’t nearly as effective without Martha Smith.  Martha has faithfully served as the primary coordinator on the dental unit since the KBC’s first clinic.  She was ready to go again this year, until COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the clinics scheduled for 2020. 

Martha has been working in dentistry since 1975.  She brings to the clinic each weekend she volunteers, her love for the Lord, her experience in the dental field and an infectious smile.  This ministry allows Martha to mix her two passions, dentistry and helping others.  “It’s a perfect fit for me!”  The weekends on the dental unit are long.  They begin with set up and prep before the clinic opens and Martha won’t finish till the clinic ends and everything has been cleaned and put back in its place. 

It’s obvious that Martha loves what she does and just as obvious is the fact that the dentists and assistants volunteering on the unit love her.  It’s not uncommon for a church hosting a clinic to ask, “is Martha coming again?”  

Martha shared with me that she enjoys listening to and sharing with those who come to the clinics for help. God has opened her eyes through the ministry to the many problems and difficult situations people find themselves in.   They come to the clinics for medical and dental help, but Martha knows that their real need is spiritual healing that only Jesus can provide. 

Martha is thankful that God has provided this avenue of ministry for her.  “I don’t know why Christians think they need to go overseas to serve, when there are so many opportunities for using our gifts and sharing the gospel right here in our own communities”, she said. 

I’m excited and thankful that Martha is willing to use the gifts God has given her for His glory.  She and so many others are blessed because of her obedient service.  Christ followers will always find it a “perfect fit” when we use the gifts and talents God has given us for His glory. 

Do Not Be Alarmed

For most of us our world has changed in 2020.  Our world has been drastically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are washing our hands and using sanitizer more.  We are social distancing and wearing face masks as we try to not get too close to one another.  Many of us have stockpiled food, water, and even toilet paper.  We are weary of the nightly reports of stay-at-home extensions, new cases, death counts, and growing unemployment.  Most Americans believe that it will be a long time before things return to normal, and social media chirps constantly about the new norm.  As we begin the re-opening process, it appears the response to this deadly disease has left us with more questions than answers.

The pandemic has ground our economy to a halt, but it has not slowed the famine in Sub-Saharan Africa that has left millions starving.  It has not ended the Iranian – U.S. tensions that witnessed another close encounter in the Persian Gulf this week.  According to the United Nations Refugee Agency it has not decelerated the number of displaced people across our globe.  Nor has it curbed the active early tornado season that spawned over 100 twisters and left 73 people dead.

I do not claim to be an expert, but I think that I can accurately proclaim, life can be a dangerous venture.  The journey of life often passes through dark valleys.  Valleys that can leave us anxious, frightened, and insecure.  And many ponder “What if it all gets worse?”

As I read the Bible, I am thankful that God is honest with us.  Jesus shared with His disciples and reminds us that difficult days will come. He tells us in the Gospel of Matthew that there will be wars and rumors of wars, famines, pandemics, and natural disasters.  He predicts His church will be persecuted, people will turn on each other and spew hatred against their neighbor, false prophets will appear, and wickedness will increase.  Jesus shares that things are going to get worse before they get better. 

Yet do not miss an important word that Jesus shares with His followers right in the middle of this calamity-filled proclamation.  Jesus shares this key directive in Matthew 24:6 as he teaches about the coming tribulation, “See that you are not alarmed.”  This word “alarm” in the ancient language means “to wail, to cry out in despair, to be hysterical.”  Jesus counsels us when bad stuff comes, do not panic, or fall apart.  And He tells us why with His next words in this passage of Scripture, “because these things must take place.”

Must is a vital word in this passage because it asserts that all events, everything that takes place in this world, from the mundane to the chaotic are part of God’s plan.  God uses all things to accomplish His purposes and plans.  When the world seems to be careening out of control, be reminded that God is still on His throne, and our Lord has promised that He will never leave nor forsake us. He declares to us that trials and tribulations will come in this world and they are very real, but do not let these present troubles blind you to the fact that a better world is coming.  Jesus has formulated the predictive model for our world’s pandemic, and He has established a treatment plan that will cure all that is wrong in our present age.

If you have placed your faith in Christ, it will all work out in the end, and by His grace, He will get you through today and tomorrow. And by the way, if this world is a chaotic mess, be assured it is not yet the end.