Philippians 4:8-9 (MSG)
8-9 “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
A message that I keep learning more about is that for a world to be more peaceful and prosperous, peace must first begin within ourselves. Once this happens, then peace can be experienced on the outside in our surrounding world. A Professor in one of my missionary classes in seminary once said, that in order to change a neighborhood, “one must totally immerse oneself into the community. A person must be a part of, as well as suffer with those who are struggling.”
In our community as well as communities across our nation, there are a lot of people who are becoming overwhelmed with emotions from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Parents and teachers are concerned about this new school year and what it will look like for their children. There are growing fears of a new spike in cases of people infected with the virus. And there are continued worries and anxieties about personal finances and the struggles of those who have businesses or jobs which are strained from the Pandemic.
As a Christian, we are called upon to help our fellow brothers and sisters during times of struggle. However, in order for us to help others, we must first fill our minds and hearts with the best, not the worst. We must fill our minds and hearts with the beautiful, not the ugly. We must take time to allow our hearts and minds to be filled with the Good News of Christ. This means, we take time each day to pray, to read scripture, to read a devotion, and to counteract against the fear and negativity which surrounds us during this time in our history.
When my oldest son was very young, he was scared to go see the doctor. Each time I would be driving him to visit the doctor for a routine checkup or because he was not feeling well, he would always ask, “Dad, is this going to hurt? Am I going to get a shot?” Our fears are often most powerful in the unknowns. During times of uncertainty and worry we often find ourselves asking, “Where will this lead me? Will this hurt? How will this end?”
In the daily devotion I have been reading, “Instead of Fear: What God gives you when you let go of fear” (www.wycliffe.org), it shares the amazing thing about this life, if you’ve read Genesis and Revelation, you know the beginning and the end are more than points on a timeline. The beginning and the end represent the person of Jesus Christ—the Alpha and the Omega, the author and finisher of your faith.
For many throughout our community, for those who do not know Jesus, death is the ultimate fear. However, as a Christian, the death of Jesus and the eternal hope His resurrection brings is the very thing that can take away the believer’s fear: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV).
My friends, there are real things in this life that can hurt and even kill. And this COVID-19 Pandemic is a reminder that the world in which we live is full of uncertainties and that our daily routines can change quickly through situations which are out of our control. However, we should not give into our fears, and we should show by how we live, conduct ourselves, and in the way we treat others, that none of us are alone and that God is right here with us.
As it says in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” You see, knowing that God wins this story and that eternity with Him awaits you, is your ultimate weapon against fear. My brothers and sisters, the next time you feel fearful about your life, this Pandemic we are all experiencing together, or the political situations surrounding our nation, challenge yourself to declare “Who holds you in His hands, Who saved you from death itself, and where He promises you will go.”
Today, I invite you to lay down any of your fears and instead, pick up all the things God has for you in this life and the next. And let us remind one another and the strangers around us, that we are not alone, and that the love, grace, and living presence of Christ is with us all. Because in the end, it is not fear, it is love which always wins. Amen.
Some questions to ask yourself or to discuss with others:
- What is your greatest fear or worry? Is it poverty? Illness? Loneliness?
- What fear do you need to put down?
- What promise from Scripture do you need to pick up?
During this COVID-19 pandemic, it can become easy to forget how fortunate we are in the midst of how our lives have changed with social distancing, trying to keep one another safe by wearing a mask, and with so many large social gatherings being put on hold. For many of us, we can start to grumble and complain and start to feel sorry for ourselves. However, through this challenging time in all our lives, I believe that God is challenging us to look deeper within ourselves and our own faith journey. To see how we can grow closer to Christ during this time when we all have a cross we must bare. Part of the area of growth for me has been in my appreciation for the blessings in my life. I think I do a decent job of thanking God for what I have in my life and that I value the opportunities that I have. However, there are times when I learn a new lesson and sometimes, those lessons are painful.
Many weeks ago, I needed to get some work done on my car. It was a beautiful morning and my house was only about three miles away from the mechanics garage who was doing the repairs, so I just decided to walk home. I knew that my car was going to be at the mechanic’s garage all day and I would just have one of my kids drive me there in the afternoon once my car was repaired and ready.
I was about halfway home when I realized that my loafers that I had just slipped on before leaving the house earlier in the morning were not the best walking shoes. Before long, I noticed my heels were starting to hurt. And with about a mile to go, I finally realized that my heels were sore. I stopped and took my shoes off only to be shocked to see that both of my heels were bleeding. I had rubbed the skin raw off of my heels not realizing that the pain I was feeling was there for a reason and that I should have taken a look at my feet a lot sooner than I did!
As I continued my journey, I pushed down the back of the shoes so that my heels would not touch them and started walking on my shoes like “make-shift flip flops”. I finally made it home and immediately went into my bathroom and dressed my wounds and then got a large glass of water and relaxed in my recliner and turned on mindless television. As I sat there for a while, with my heels still hurting, I thought about the homeless guys that I had seen many times around the community and the greater Orlando area. I wondered how many of those guys had rubbed their feet raw from bad shoes as they were out walking all day and all week. I wondered, “Where do they get their medicine and Band-Aid’s for their feet… for their heels?” As I thought about this situation, I started to get just a brief glimpse of what these guys must go through every day. As my heels were hurting, at least I had different shoes to put on and I had medicine on my wounds as well as a nice comfortable recliner and air conditioning around me.
During this week:
--I invite you to find a quiet place each day and thank God for something specific in your life.
--I invite you to reach out to someone by phone, email, text, or social media, and let them know how thankful you are for them.
--And I invite you to remember when you are out in the community with your daily activities, to try and understand what it is like to walk in the shoes of someone else.
As we each continue to live through this time in our history with COVID-19, political divisiveness, financial stress, and other uncertainties, I pray that God will continue to open our eyes to the needs of others. I pray that the heels on my feet, or your feet, will always be a reminder, of what it says in Matthew 25:35-40, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Amen.
James 1:1-18 (NRSV)
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.
2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. 6 But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; 7, 8 for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
One of the Bible Studies I have been reading is, “Instead of Fear—What God gives you when you let go of fear” by Wycliffe. During this time in history with the COVID-19 pandemic, like you, I fight the anxieties and fears that can creep up on me at different times as I worry about the health and well-being of my wife, my children, my parents, and my extended family and friends. And like so many, I worry about the financial impact of the pandemic and what harm it may cause as well as the civil unrest of wearing a mask in public seems to be causing.
I remember as a young child being out hiking with my family. It had been raining for quite a while, but we were determined not to let that stop us. As we were hiking, I came across a muddy area of the trail. Rather than walk around it, I thought it would be OK to just move through it. Then my feet started to sink into the mud as I quickly realized that my decision was not the smartest of ideas. As I tried to move, my feet just sunk deeper and I started to panic as I could not take a step. As I recall, my family members thought it was quite amusing and had a good laugh. But for me, I was frightened as I tried to take a step and my foot came out of my shoe which was being held tightly by the mud.
As panic began to set in and fear race through my mind, my Dad reached out over the muddy area and pulled me out of my sinking dilemma and even rescued my muddy shoe. During a moment of panic, I felt security through the grip of my Father’s hand.
As it has been said, “Fear can be a sticky thing. Give it a place to grab hold and it can suck you down into a muddy pit.” During this time in our history, fear can seem to be overwhelming. We read the newspaper, watch the news on television, read social media, and basically start to feel as though we have no other choice but to feel fear.
A few questions that my devotion shared with me that I want to challenge you with as well are…
--Have you ever felt stuck due to fear? How did you change how you felt?
--Are you currently feeling stuck because of fear?
--Is there something that is stopping you from taking God’s helping hand? If so, go ahead and ask God to give you the strength to hold His hand and trust Him and let go of the fear.
My friends, there are times when fear can be overwhelming, but God IS ABLE and ALWAYS WILLING to help you. And no matter how unsteady the ground beneath you may feel, have faith in the knowledge that God’s firm grip of a loving hand is ready to help you.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, as we anxiously await to come back together for face-to-face worship, remember what the scripture in James says, “whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” You are not alone. Your loving Father God is waiting for you to take hold of His hand. Let go of fear and grab His hand! Amen.
Pastor Kevin & Carla Evers
A Follower of Jesus who is a Husband, Father, Pastor, creative communicator, drummer, Truth Seeker, and all around coffee drinking beach lover!
"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience."
- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin