I recently wrote a post with this same title, but today, I took the time to do something I have not done in a long time; record a new Youtube video. Psalm 93 recently ministered to me as I read it, and scripture says to comfort others as you have been comforted, so I wanted to put it to video as well.
I pray you are doing well, and that the Lord is drawing you closer to his side during this distressing time.
Bob Kauflin, formerly of the group GLAD, did us a favor and pulled out a song written in 1980 to reminded us how a song can stand the test of time and speak to us in our current situation. Even in quarantine, we have every reason to be glad.
Here is what Bob wrote:
A very long time ago, I was in a group called GLAD, and one of our most well-known songs was “Be Ye Glad.” It was written by Michael Kelly Blanchard and is still one of my favorite all-time songs. Julie and I have been talking about how relevant it is in this current season. So last night my daughter, McKenzie Fuller, and I recorded a version. Hope you enjoy it.
Follow along with the lyrics below and be blessed.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17–18, ESV)
In these days of confused situations In these nights of a restless remorse When the heart and soul of a nation Lay wounded and cold as a corpse From the grave of the innocent Adam Comes a song bringing joy to the sad Oh, your cry has been heard and the ransom Has been paid up in full, be ye glad
Oh, be ye glad Oh, be ye glad Every debt that you ever had Has been paid up in full by the grace of the Lord Be ye glad, be ye glad, be ye glad
Now from your dungeon, a rumor is stirring Though you have heard it again and again Ah, but this time the cell keys are turning And outside there are faces of friends And though your body lay weary from wasting And your eyes show the sorrow they’ve had Ah, the love that your heart is now tasting Has opened the gates, be ye glad
So be like lights on the rim of the water Giving hope in a storm sea of night Be a refuge amidst the slaughter Of these fugitives in their flight For you are timeless and part of a puzzle You are winsome and young as a lad And there is no disease or no struggle That can pull you from God, be ye glad
If we withhold the doctrine of the sovereignty of God while discussing coronavirus, we withhold one of the most precious balms of comfort for the Christian found in the word of God. Scripture does not shrink back from showing us God’s sovereign rule amid distress, and neither should we. We indeed only have two choices when it comes to the evils besetting us in covid-19, either our Lord is still in control, or something else is, and he is doing the best he can to manage the situation and turn it for our good. The latter would be an appalling reality because God would no longer be God, and we would have no reason to take comfort. Psalm 93 is an excellent place to find real comfort, especially if we read it in light of the multiple distresses that are coming our way due to coronavirus.
The Reign of God
1. The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
The first two verses of this short psalm begin by focusing our attention on the attributes of God, primarily as they relate to his sovereign reign. It does not matter what we may face, his throne is established, and his eternal decree orders all things.
He is robed in majesty. Sovereignty is his garment. He is the supreme authority over all things, and He has put on strength as his belt. The belt that holds his rule in place is his power. His omnipotence can never be thwarted. No sin of man, no deadly virus, or any other calamity can ever diminish his perfections. He reigns on high.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. The world will stand as long as our Father wants it to stand. Humanity will endure as long as he sees fit. Even considering covid-19, the planet continues orbiting the sun and spins with perfection upon its axis, all because of our Father’s established rule.
2 Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.
His throne is established from of old; He is from everlasting. We may not have been paying much attention to it before now, but once a microscopic particle altered our lives, we began looking around for meaning. Our minds were turned to thoughts of our frailty and his strength. As Charles Spurgeon put it, though he may now appear in more conspicuous sovereignty, He is no upstart sovereignty. He is from everlasting. The Lord is eternal, and so are his glorious attributes.
Coronavirus Lifts Its Voice
3 The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.
The floods have lifted up, O Lord. We saw it first when a few people began to get sick and and some of them die. Then it began to spread, and the number of those infected began to grow. The whole world began to pay attention to the rising tide.
The floods have lifted up their voice. We heard its shouts of conquest as it began to conquer one country after another. Victory after victory, as it shut down enterprise after enterprise and sent people running for the cover of their homes.
The floods lift up their roaring. The market crashed, employment rates crumbled, and grocery stores were depleted. The sound of the roar sent anxiety and distress deep into the heart of nations as wave after wave was announced in real-time on the news and in social media.
God is More Mighty than the Virus
4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!
As we trembled before the tempest, we were reminded that there is one who is more mighty. The Lord can restrain it. His knowledge and power are far greater than that of any enemy. He can bring it to an end in an instant if he so chooses. He is the Almighty. This truth also means he could have prevented it if he had desired, but he did not. His ways are higher than ours.
5 Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O Lord, forevermore.
His Decrees are very trustworthy. What he chooses to do is right, even if we do not fully understand. His word stands unmoved. His promises do not waiver amid chaos. We are to build our house on the rock, and when the waves crash upon it, it will stand. He is trustworthy.
Holiness befits his house, O Lord forevermore. All he does is good, and even the distress we face is for the good of those who love him. God is light, and in him, there is no darkness at all. As he wears the robe of majesty, the only proper adornment of his house is holiness. It is his beauty and splendor. It is also the only ornament appropriate for his people. Through the tumult, he is orchestrating it all to conform us to his image and adorn us in a similar beauty. He will complete the work he has begun in us, and we never need to fear because his reign will never end. He is the Lord forevermore.
We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. -Romans 8:28
Oh truth most divine. Oh words most consolatory! All things under the government of an infinitely great, all wise, righteous, and beneficent God, work together for good. What that good may be, the shape it may assume, the complexion it may wear, the end to which it may be subservient–we cannot tell. To our dim view it may appear an evil, but to God’s far seeing eye it is a positive good. His glory secured by it, and His end accomplished–we are sure it must be good.
How many whose eye traces this page, it may be whose tears dampen it, whose sighs breathe over it, whose prayers hallow it, may be wading in deep waters, may be drinking bitter cups, and are ready to exclaim, “All these things are against me!”
Oh no, beloved of God, all these things are for you! “The Lord sits upon the flood.” “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters.” “He makes the clouds His chariot.”
Be not then afraid. Calmly stay your faith on this divinely assured truth, that “all things work together for good to those who love God.” Will it not be a good, if your present adversity results in the dethronement of some worshiped idol; in the endearing of Christ to your soul; in the closer conformity of your mind to God’s image; in the purification of your heart; in your more thorough fitness for Heaven; in a revival of God’s work within you; in stirring you up to more prayer?
Oh yes! good, real good, permanent good must result from all the Divine dispensations in your history. Bitter repentance shall end in the experienced sweetness of Christ’s love. The festering wound shall but elicit the healing balm. The overpowering burden shall but bring you to the tranquil rest. The storm shall but quicken your footsteps to the ‘hiding place’.
In a little while, oh, how soon! you shall pass away from earth to heaven, and in its clearer, serener light shall read the truth, often read with tears before, “All things work together for good to those who love God.”
Ever to be remembered is that best and brightest of hours, when first we saw the Lord, lost our burden, received the roll of promise, rejoiced in full salvation, and went on our way in peace. It was springtime in the soul; the winter was past; the mutterings of Sinai’s thunders were hushed; the flashings of its lightnings were no more perceived; God was beheld as reconciled; the law threatened no vengeance, justice demanded no punishment. Then the flowers appeared in our heart; hope, love, peace, and patience sprung from the sod; the hyacinth of repentance, the snowdrop of pure holiness, the crocus of golden faith, the daffodil of early love, all decked the garden of the soul. The time of the singing of birds was come, and we rejoiced with thanksgiving; we magnified the holy name of our forgiving God, and our resolve was, “Lord, I am thine, wholly thine; all I am, and all I have, I would devote to thee. Thou hast bought me with thy blood–let me spend myself and be spent in thy service. In life and in death let me be consecrated to thee.” How have we kept this resolve? Our espousal love burned with a holy flame of devoutedness to Jesus–is it the same now?
Might not Jesus well say to us, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love”? Alas! it is but little we have done for our Master’s glory. Our winter has lasted all too long. We are as cold as ice when we should feel a summer’s glow and bloom with sacred flowers. We give to God pence when he deserveth pounds, nay, deserveth our heart’s blood to be coined in the service of his church and of his truth. But shall we continue thus? O Lord, after thou hast so richly blessed us, shall we be ungrateful and become indifferent to thy good cause and work? O quicken us that we may return to our first love, and do our first works! Send us a genial spring, O Sun of Righteousness.
I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. – Isaiah 44:22
Sins Like Clouds
Attentively observe the instructive similitude: our sins are like a cloud. As clouds are of many shapes and shades, so are our transgressions. As clouds obscure the light of the sun, and darken the landscape beneath, so do our sins hide from us the light of Jehovah’s face, and cause us to sit in the shadow of death. They are earth-born things, and rise from the miry places of our nature; and when so collected that their measure is full, they threaten us with storm and tempest. Alas! that, unlike clouds, our sins yield us no genial showers, but rather threaten to deluge us with a fiery flood of destruction. O ye black clouds of sin, how can it be fair weather with our souls while ye remain?
The Clouds Blotted Out
Let our joyful eye dwell upon the notable act of divine mercy–“blotting out.” God himself appears upon the scene, and in divine benignity, instead of manifesting his anger, reveals his grace: he at once and forever effectually removes the mischief, not by blowing away the cloud, but by blotting it out from existence once for all. Against the justified man no sin remains, the great transaction of the cross has eternally removed his transgressions from him. On Calvary’s summit the great deed, by which the sin of all the chosen was forever put away, was completely and effectually performed.
Return to the Lord
Practically let us obey the gracious command, “return unto me.” Why should pardoned sinners live at a distance from their God? If we have been forgiven all our sins, let no legal fear withhold us from the boldest access to our Lord. Let backslidings be bemoaned, but let us not persevere in them. To the greatest possible nearness of communion with the Lord, let us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, strive mightily to return. O Lord, this night restore us!
Since they have closed the gyms, and we are all stuck at home, maybe it is time to bring out the chin-up challenge. Chin-ups are one of the best workouts because they impact so many muscle groups. Chin-ups develop grip strength, forearms, biceps, triceps, shoulder, but most significantly, back strength. They will also work your core. If you do not do chin-ups regularly, you will notice a significant difference after when you finish this challenge. The best part is it only takes about three to five minutes a day.
Here is how the challenge works. It lasts four weeks, and to start the challenge, you will need to be able to do ten chin-ups in a row. If you cannot do that, see below.*
One set of ten each day for six days and one day of rest. I prefer Sunday to be my day of rest.
Two sets of ten for six days and a day of rest. You do not have to do the two sets back to back. I tend to do one in the morning and one in the evening.
Three sets of ten for six days and a day of rest. Again, feel free to spread out the sets throughout the day.
Four sets of ten for six days and a day of rest. Again, feel free to spread out the sets over the course of the day.
*If you cannot do ten chin-ups in a row, and I know that is most of us, here is what you need to do. Every day do as many chin-ups as you can but stop one short of failure. Failure simply means, if you were to attempt one more chin-up, you would not be able to complete it. Be sure to stop before failure since you will be doing this six days a week with one day of rest. Even if you can only do one chin-up now, before long, you will be doing ten.
Surely I am with you all the days, to the very end of the age! -Matthew 28:20
The path in front of me may be full of flowers or full of thorns. Or, as is more probable, flower and thorn may be mingled together. The sky may be light or dark. The weather may be glorious summer or bleakest winter. But I go safely and happily, if the Lord Jesus, who can and will supply my every need, is with me all the days.
Days of Discipline
Some of the days will be days of discipline of the pruning knife and the cleansing fire. But when He is with me, the discipline is a blessing, and not a curse. It teaches me to grasp His strong right hand with a tighter hold, to pray more earnestly, to find heights and depths of meaning in the promises of God, to feel for others who are in tribulation.Mind and heart and character are bettered by the endurance of affliction.
Days of Monotony
Many of the days, too, will be days of monotony. They must be spent in little things–household labors, common concerns, unnoticed toil. I may long for a more striking and interesting experience. But when He is with me, I know that He makes my life like His own–the blessed life He lived among carpenters’ tools, and village streets, and peasant people. The drudgery is a love-message; it is Jesus Christ in disguise!
Days of Temptation
Every day will be a day of temptation. In the home, in the business, in company, in loneliness; I shall encounter the devil’s subtle snares. But let my Lord be with me, and temptation will but reveal the closeness and blessedness of the tie. It will be an instrument which He uses to impart more maturity to my graces, more courage, more patience, more trust.
Day of Death
Perhaps one of the days will be the day of death. But if He does not leave or forsake me, then death will be an ingredient in the training that fits me for the glorious inheritance! As John Bunyan pictures it, I must cross the ‘River of Death’ to reach the ‘Celestial City’. Jesus did it Himself, and the disciple is not above the Master. His Everlasting Arms will sustain me in the flood; and, on the other side, I shall enter the ‘Beautiful Gate’ and see His face!
All Your Days
All the days He is with me to the end, and through the end, and beyond the end forever and ever! Whether I live, therefore, or whether I die, I am His and He is mine!
I am thankful for the option of online worship in times like these, but we need to be clear, it is not church. During this time, when we are sheltering at home to slow the spread to coronavirus, having the option for watching our local churches conduct some kind of worship program is a good thing. I recently wrote a post that argued that deciding on temporary online gatherings is a matter of Christian liberty during this unprecedented time. Each church must make its decisions based on its context and convictions. However, church is much more than watching worship leaders and pastors over the internet. Yes, we can listen to the music, and some might even sing along. We can also listen to the word preached, but there is way too much we are missing out on online to call it church. Here are some of them.
1. Fellowship and Accountability
The Bible is clear that iron sharpens iron, and so one man sharpens another. If you have never been intimately involved in a local church, you may not know what I am getting at. It is difficult to put into words, but if you have experienced it, you will immediately understand. If you have attended church virtually for only one or two weeks, I know you are already missing it.
The music and preaching of the word are necessary means of grace in the life of a believer, but there is another thing the Holy Spirit uses just as much as those two things to keep us walking in his ways; I do not want to let my fellow church members down. We have covenanted together to place our lives under the lordship of Christ Jesus, and when we gather, I know we will interact with the scriptures and pray together. When temptations surround me during the week, my mind often imagines what it would be like to look at my brothers and sisters in Christ in the eyes and act like I have been living holy during the week. It is unbearable. I also know that when I do fall, they will be there to point me to the nail-scarred hands to find forgiveness. Online worship misses out on this aspect entirely.
2. Undivided Attention
We need to be honest here; we are easily distracted people. Even in church, the enemy tries to pull our thoughts away from our good and gracious King, but, remotely, on a device with so many notifications ready to alert us to other shiny things, it is almost impossible. We also must admit that we rarely take “corporate” prayer seriously when watching online. You may be better at this than I am, but for me, there is no comparison to my level of engagement when I am at church and when I am sitting in front of a live stream.
3. Encouraging Your Pastor and Other Leaders in the Church
Pastors and church leaders need the corporate nature of worship just as much or more than we do. They face the same temptations we face and need us to be there for them just as much as we need them to be there for us. There are also temptations to despair that pastors face that we laypeople may never know because the enemy is after them. Teaching online is a way to keep ministering during a time like this covid-19 pandemic, but it can quickly steal their strength.
I currently teach a class at the church where I am a member, and since the students were not able to meet this week, I sent out a quick video covering the material in the curriculum. I was glad I was able to do it, and several people responded with appreciation, but I assume, if they are like me, they probably did not spend much time with the video. A few may have watched it all the way through, but most of them probably just clicked on it for a few minutes to see what it was all about and then went on to something else. Please, do not get me wrong; I am not blaming them for anything. I know this is how most people responded to the video because that is what I do with many similar videos. We cannot encourage our pastors and leaders virtually like we can when we gather, and the enemy will tempt them to discouragement. Perhaps we should all email our pastors today to tell them we are thankful for them.
4. Bearing the Burdens of Others
When we gather, we are not only nourished by our fellow believers, but we nourish them as well. They have time to let us know about their praises and their pains, and we can speak the word of God to them. They may already know what the scripture says, and they might have read the verses themselves earlier that week, but when they know that someone else understands and can comfort them because they have been through it too, it is priceless. Though this may happen to a small degree in virtual communities, it does not occur as frequently or as profoundly as when it is face to face.
I am sure in all the worship services you have watched online; you have never been served communion by your church leaders. Biblically, two of the most important means of grace are word and sacrament, and the latter is always missing online worship. This point alone to should be enough to convince us that an online service is not church.
6. Putting Our Gifts Into Practice
As believers, God has given all of us spiritual gifts, and most of the gifts, like service, encouragement, helps, and showing mercy, among others, do not happen when the people of the church watch the leaders online.
7. A Taste of Heaven
Finally, corporate worship gives us a small glimpse of heaven. In this fallen world, we may only get that glimpse as through a dark glass, but it is a glimpse none-the-less. Hearing the other voices singing with you when you sing praises to your God, reminds you that you are not alone. To borrow an example from the life of Elijah, God has kept thousands of others who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Someday, all believers will gather in Christ’s presence in heaven. Corporate worship should remind us of this, and that is missed when we are unable to come together to praise his name..
I, for one, am thankful for the technology we can use in these trying days, but the time cannot come soon enough for me when we will all come together and enter his courts with praise.
How do you live with discouragement? Every attempt to remove yourself from the trial fails. When people look at you, they see courage, but you know it is nothing but a stiff upper lip. The last thing you want to do is burden them more than you have to.
The problem is that every setback brings you a little lower. It has become so much of a pattern that when you see a little light at the end of the tunnel, you refuse to let it lift your spirit because it has let you down so many times in the past.
You know you must fight, but the desire and will to do so has been beaten lifeless by the enemy. You had the courage once, but it has been taken from you. So what do you do now? Do you allow the misery to take over? Do you resign yourself to it? Clearly, the answer has to be, no, but what do you do?
It is at this point you find your will exhausted, and that is probably a good thing because perhaps the battle is not yours to fight. Or perhaps you have been fighting the wrong battle. The first thing we must begin to realize is that, in at least one sense, discouragement is not always the enemy. Maybe, just maybe, it is a tool in the hands of our loving God to do us good. Bear with me for a minute.
Our God is sovereign. He is not simply trying to manage the chaos of this world. He is in complete control of it. His sovereignty becomes clear when we ask two questions of any hardship. Did God know this was going to happen, and could he have stopped it? If we answer no to either of these questions, we truly are in trouble because God has ceased to be God, and something else is mastering him. This, of course, can never be because there is nothing beyond God’s knowledge or power. Being God means he knew you would face this and that you would respond to this trouble with discouragement, so dismay was part of his plan. I know this is the hardest part of the pill to swallow, so let me elaborate for a minute because the payoff will be worth it, and without this pill, experiencing disappointment will be unbearable.
The most significant objection people have with the conclusion drawn from the fact that God knows what is happening to us and could stop it, and that discouragement was part of his plan, lies in the fact that discouragement is often a sin. If God’s plan for us was to reach a point of discouragement, doesn’t that mean that God is causing us to sin?
The problem is that this way of thinking is too simplistic. The disconnect is in failing to realize that we are already sinful. The fact that the Lord allows us to face situations that draws our dross to the surface, in no way makes him the author of our sin. This understanding lines up perfectly with scripture. We are responsible for our sin, and God is completely sovereign. We cannot deny either of these truths if we wish to remain biblical.
If you are God’s child, and he has brought you to a low point, he’s doing it because he loves you. There is something he wants to do with this discouragement in your life, and ultimately, like all dross drawn to the surface, he will wipe it away.
The first thing we need to do when discouragement hits is to ask ourselves why we are demoralized. Discouragement is almost always tied to the things of the world. Our hearts cling to them, and when hardship hits, they start to falter. Dismay almost always involves the removal of some earthly pleasure. We have errantly placed our hope and trust in some aspect of the world.
Homes, cars, jobs, human relationships, health, quality of life, or even mortal life itself; discouragement is always the result of losing, or the threat of losing, one or more of these. But even as these begin to show weakness, God has not failed us. Knowing that God has not failed us, and we are still dismayed should be an indication that we have misplaced our trust.
This revelation of misplaced trust may be the the first blessing the Lord is bringing to us. He is going to use it to set us more firmly upon the rock of Christ Jesus. When we find ourselves discouraged, we are not to resign ourselves to it. We are to change the way we see it. Instead of trying to will our way out of it, we should ask the Lord what blessing he is giving us through it. The most significant blessing will always be increased faith.
Scripture tells us, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials (1 Pet. 1:6).” There are two things we need to see in this verse to help us. First, we need to realize that this happens after we have received the gospel. That is what “in this you greatly rejoice” means. We rejoice in the gospel. This verse is talking to believers, and the trial taking place is happening to Christians. The second point is that it says you have been “grieved” by the trials. One version says, “distressed,” and another refers to it as “heaviness.” The point of all these synonyms is that these are trials you will feel. These are not merely outward trials you will float through on a spiritual cloud. They are trials that will hurt your heart; they will bring you low. Dare I say, “discourage” you. And as the passage indicates, if they hit us, they are necessary.
There is a reason for this adversity. It is not pointless. The passage continues, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith may be tested,” and that faith is worth more than gold. It is worth more than any earthly possession because faith is our trust in God, and he is purifying it. The result of this is the praise and glory of God (1 Pet. 1:7).
Even when our health fails and we find our quality-of-life slipping, we must remember that even though the outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. This continued renewal in the face of hardship is why we do not lose heart (2 Cor. 4:17).
How do we not lose heart? The scripture tells us, “by looking not to the things that are seen, but the things that are not seen.” For the things that are not seen are eternal, and everything else is passing (2 Cor. 4:18). If the things of Earth are not letting you down yet, they will.
How do you live with discouragement? You allow it to do the work God intended it to do when he sent it to you. You let it turn your eyes away from this world, begin looking toward home, and be renewed spiritually. All of this will end in the glory of God, which is the chief end of man. This is where our true enjoyment will be found, and that enjoyment is eternal with a weight of glory that cannot compare to the heaviness you are facing now. Let the dross rise to the surface, look to the things unseen, and your loving Father will begin to wipe it away even if the trial remains.