Before we take on another book of the Bible in September, we’re doing a mini-series at church, “Lessons Learned During Shelter in Place.” We’re two weeks into considering four lessons learned: Change is Hard; The Flesh is Real; Unity is Work; and, God is Sovereign.
Pandemics have a way of forcing one out of one’s normal routine. Of learning new skills one never thought they needed to learn. Of adopting practices that are uncomfortable, and dropping habits that for so long have defined stability. Change is Hard. But, as the Scriptures remind us, hard is used of God to train us “that we may share His holiness” (Heb. 12:10b). And, while it may be painful for the moment, hard has the potential to yield “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11b).
But the process of purification brought about by hard, first reveals the dross, the impurities, the stuff we’d just as soon stayed hidden. These past several months have revealed that enduring, stubborn reality of the flesh — the sin nature still resident which wars against the Spirit. Put people in a pressure cooker and stuff starts coming to the surface. And I don’t need to look beyond myself in order to see the stuff and realize why sanctification is a thing. A very necessary thing. A sometimes slow, work-in-progress thing.
And when I’m dealing with my stuff and you’re dealing with your stuff and we see stuff differently, then we realize afresh that we really do need to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3a NIV). With our world turned upside down, and with very different views of how to deal with such a world and walk in such a world, we no longer have the luxury of relying on superficial, non-confrontational relationship as a facade for unity. Can’t just talk about sports when we “fellowship” — because, for a long time, there was no sports. Instead, we’re being forced to interact on other simple, straight forward things (not), like assessing appropriate COVID responses, determining how to deal with degrees of systemic injustice, and how to think about such things as peaceful protest which, so often, isn’t. Those topics of discussion will spark some animation around the dining room table.
It’s in light of those three lessons learned, those three operative realities, that the fourth lesson learned becomes so imperative. God is Sovereign. Reminded of that this morning in Isaiah.
The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand . . . ” For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?
(Isaiah 14:24, 27 ESV)
Isn’t so much of the stress of this season related to areas where we feel powerless and out of control? I’m thinkin’. Things that we once did without a second thought are now almost impossible (small example . . . think crossing the border into Canada without an acceptable plan on how to quarantine for 14 days . . . been there, done that), and that can be frustrating. And we have no idea how long we’ll have to surrender control over these no-brainers. That adds a couple of points to the stress chart. And that’s just one small example. We all have enough of those kind of things adding up points on our stress charts.
But I’m reminded this morning as a I read in Isaiah (and it primes the pump of thinking through our mini-series in lessons learned), that our loss of control really is an opportunity for faith. That our piles of plans dumped on the trash heap can point us to the One whose plans never fail. That dealing daily with a lack of normalcy, is another day to thank God that what He has purposed will stand, and that nothing stands unless He has purposed it.
“For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it?”
It’s the bottom line for coping, isn’t it? The bottom line for hoping. The bottom line that keeps us trusting. The fuel that keeps us going. God is Sovereign.
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!
God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne.
(Psalm 47:7-8 ESV)
Our God reigns!
The Lord of hosts has purposed. And it shall stand. And we can rest.
By His grace. For His glory.