I returned from Asia about three weeks ago in mid March. Things have moved along at a surprisingly fast pace, now we find ourselves confined to a small holiday lodge in a small and quiet seaside resort in Devon.
We are living under the British Government lock down instructions. These are pretty restrictive for multitudes in this country but for us we find it relatively easy to get into the rhythm of days and although our usual trips overseas and within the UK for ministry have had to be cancelled we rejoice in the opportunity to be quiet before the Lord. It is not strange to us, to wait on God, to ponder and pray, read and meditate in His word. We embrace this opportunity. Of course, our children are grown up, we have no jobs to lose as is the case with many other families. We continue to trust the Lord for His care as we have done for more than fifty years whilst for others these are strange new times during which they must learn to cast their cares upon the Lord, 1 Peter 5:6-7. Perhaps, all of us must respond to the way Peter begins his exhortation, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time.” There is a “due time,” if there be a dying, there also shall be resurrection, if a winter, it leads to a spring. The circumstances that we, indeed, all mankind, find ourselves now are dying, that in God’s loving purpose, will lead to life for those who yield and learn from Him.
Recent events are a blessing, a gift from God. Now, stay with me here and let us try to work this through. Ultimately all things are from God. Yes, that which has lately come upon the world too. Of course, some will want to argue doctrinal points, they will mention the permissive will of God, or, “God has allowed this to come.” However you look at it though, from Him are all things. We may quibble and temporise but how good it is to know that not only do all things ultimately come from Him but from Him come their extent, limits and boundaries. Apply this to the virus then, He decrees; “this far and no further.” How important to affirm that! When we think about any matter, we must begin with God. Not with the devil, not with ourselves, not with the world system, but with God! If we begin anywhere else, it is there that we shall end up! If we begin with self we shall end back there in misery. Many do make that awful journey, from self, to self. Begin with God and to Him you shall come. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” Words from the Prologue of John’s Gospel. All things emerge, have existence within the Trinitarian relationship of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit.
Try to grasp the, ‘within the relationship!’ Nothing in the creation takes place outside the Eternal Loving communion, which is the Trinitarian Life. The beginning, sustaining, continuing emergence of God’s unfolding work in the universe takes place within the love communion of Father and Son.
Nowhere are we told that God is Power, (though we know He is powerful), nor are we told that He is Purpose, (though we know that He is purposeful). We are not told that He is the Supreme thinker, (though we know that He surely is). What we are told in the scripture is that He IS Light, 1 John 1:5 and God IS Love, 1 John 4:8. He is the God of power, purpose and intellect and we tend to think of God as powerful and purposefully working out the counsels of His mind but how much more we need to learn that He IS light and love as to His Being. What God IS, is in all God DOES; if we put it another way, God DOES what God IS. Light and love is that which God IS. Therefore we can say that all that is unfolding in these days is of His love, for our good, that we might dwell in the light. The Divine Nature is self-communicative love, and He desires to communicate His love to us in the testing circumstances we face today.
Let us take another step. God IS good. Perhaps we have shared in the little saying, it has become rather trite, repeated often in some churches, “God is good, all the time, all the time, God is good.” If all things come from Him then these things are unto good too. In His goodness He gives good gifts. Not so easy to apply that to the events of these days. Can it be that even sore and trying times are gifts, things that some Christians are calling “God’s judgement,” can these be a gift, not only a gift, but a good gift? Some are calling the virus and disruption it is causing, “the work of the devil, resist the virus, quote Psalm 91 over your house.” Well, what is it then? God, or devil or man bringing it upon himself? Ultimately even the devil is an angel fallen whom God chooses to sustain with life. If God is good, then that which He does is good, He cannot do that which is evil. “None is good, save God only,” so said the Lord Jesus, Matthew 19:17. How we understand these things is vital. God is good, He gives good gifts, what is happening is a gift from Him to do us all good. To do the world good, to put a shot across the bows of the pride of man. To burst the myth that life is a pursuit of never ending progress, economically and in every other way. This myth has ruled the Western world for decades. The USA has been the chief exponent of this linear way of looking at things. Ever upward progress, better business, better homes, better jobs, better phones, better everything! Every one of us, or almost everyone, has bought into this lie without hardly a thought.
Because mankind generally walks in darkness there is shock when things are checked and disturbed. People are surprised at first, then panicked. But, God does nothing without revealing His secrets to His servants the prophets, Amos 3:7. Some would not regard themselves as prophets. Warnings come from many sources. Philosophers, scientists, anthropologists, even science fiction writers. But in particular God has set warnings in His the scriptures and reaffirms them particularly at appropriate times in the church by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There are occasions when He gives prophecies through various persons. He gives discernment of times and seasons. He has been sending warnings, in the churches, sometimes quite specific.
Even in our own experience, towards the end of last year there were several prophecies, the most specific being on the final Sunday morning of 2019. The Lord spoke of 2020 being a different year, one that would involve a great shock to the world from which it would not recover. He said that His people, the churches would experience a time of sifting, motives and intents of the heart would be tested and some would fall away. In another such prophecy the emphasis was on the word ‘pruning,’ the church would be pruned, the long straggly branches of ‘progress’ that had been growing in the churches would be cut away by the Father.
We know that sometimes those who prophecy are regarded as negative and judgemental. It has always been so. Many have only wanted pleasant words. But be that as it may, we are glad that God does nothing without first giving warning. If we were to do a little research we would discover that He has been giving warning of serious events to come upon the world and sift His churches in the near future. That recent prophetic word was not an isolated utterance. But it is scripture that testifies most clearly of these things to come. So, the seismic shock by which our lives have been disrupted is not some mistake, some interruption and irritation in the life of the Church and world, but something God has sent in His love, in particular, for His people.
God, the Trinity is a community of persons in love. All that the Trinity does takes place in that realm of goodness and love. I recall the rather mechanistic terminology of Bible Seminary days. When discussing God’s action in the drama of history, God was, ‘the efficient cause.’ He acts, sending the wind make a path through the Red Sea. His action in the plagues in Egypt, the holding back the flow of Jordan, high drama indeed but they are not fiats, ‘things’ from which He in His Being is detached. Thinking of these as simply His acts, creates distance from what He is! The “Prime Mover,” sitting distant from the drama sitting before a gigantic chess board moving pieces as suits Him. No! We should understand all He is doing as coming within the fruitfulness of His own loving relationship, Father with Son in the Holy Spirit. He is here. There is nothing remotely hard, callous or merely ‘intelligent’ about it. All has the warmth of His caring love, His mercy, His humility and lowliness intrinsic to it. Ponder the word, ‘underneath,’ found in Deuteronomy 33:26-27. Moses, God’s servant has been blessing the tribes of Israel. Then comes this climax! “NONE is like Jeshurun’s God.” “Jeshurun (almost God’s pet name for Israel), you have a God like none of the god’s worshipped by the tribes around you.” “HE rides on the heavens for your help, and His excellency is in the clouds!” Certainly we are in some clouds right now, clarity is in short supply; but there is God, right here, in these things! “The Eternal God is our refuge.” Not “God is our refuge,” but the ETERNAL God. “And underneath are the EVERLASTING arms.”
Most of us live in our minds. We seldom drop down ‘underneath’ to find those arms! Our thinking impedes us. Perhaps God’s loving purpose in these present times is that we begin to learn stillness. To sink down into the place of rest in God. Our minds churn on thinking, thinking. There is no rest. Our thoughts are either in the past or in the future. Test yourself, take a moment to analyse what you are thinking about. If it is the past, there may be nostalgia, regrets, bitterness, rancour, each causing emotional response in the heart. If your thoughts are of the future, there is hope, mixed with worry, anxiety that causes the heart rate to increase. Yet, the amazing truth is, that we only have the ‘now moment.’
Right now, fall into the everlasting arms. Cease from thought, surrender to God, be still and for a moment be consciously aware that you are in Him. You may only manage a moment, a brief minute before the mind kicks in with its relentless memories or anxieties about the future. Quietening of the mind and discovery of the rest that comes from trusting God is our way forward.
The Eternal God and the everlasting arms await our attention, God IS love, God IS good, all the time! Let us go on!