I remember visiting The Falklands with a press corps from Northern Ireland. It was back in the early ‘90s and the objective of the trip was to look at how a TA company from Northern Ireland was coping as it took over from a bunch of regular Army troops.
On the 18-hour journey to the other end of the world it struck me that when I was there I would test a faith question I’d always had – would God be there too or did he mostly reside in Northern Ireland and the northern hemisphere?
A stupid question really for a Christian of some 20 years to ask but nevertheless I had a need too know if our God was indeed omnipresent.
So on a trip to Port Stanley, the islands’ capital, I dandered into the cathedral through the arch entrance made of whale bones and took a pew and waited. Sure enough God showed up in the presence of his Holy Spirit and my faith soared and I was grateful he’d indulged such a selfish pursuit. Of course I knew the Lord dwelt within me and in effect we’d travelled together to the other end of the planet; I just wanted to know if he’d lasted the trip!
The point is the Lord is with us always. He doesn’t take a holiday from us or do a runner when the going gets tough.
I’m reminded of the story of Paul and Silas in jail when the earthquake strikes. It’s nicely recorded in Acts 16:23-34.
After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
With the doors flung open by the earthquake most people in Paul and Silas’ position would have escaped – but they didn’t. They stayed, such was their love and care for their jailers and the other prisoners as well as their devotion to their mission and calling. So remarkable was their action that the jailer asked them, what he must do to be saved.
In staying Paul and Silas also provided a metaphor for God in that when things are tough and situations look hopeless God is right there in the middle of it all WITH US! He doesn’t leave; he stays! And in staying he invites us to come to him and ask what we need to do to be saved even though the physical harm and danger may have passed.
Surely one can see the parallels with today’s crisis. It doesn’t really matter if the virus has been sent by God or not (something which is using up a lot of people’s brain time and causing sleepless nights if the Internet and social media are anything to go by) – in fact no one can definitively say it’s either. What matters is that we acknowledge that God is sovereign in his world and free to do as he pleases and we witness to his enduring love through Jesus Christ. More so it’s vital we acknowledge that he is still present in his world – he’s here right in the middle of it all with us. He hasn’t left like the jailer feared Paul and Silas had done – the Lord has stayed and we, like the jailer, should humbly fall on our knees before him and ask – what must we do to be saved? The answer is the same today as it was given to the jailer more than 2000 years ago:
‘BELIEVE IN THE LORD JESUS AND YOU WILL BE SAVED.’
Over to you!
Just a thought… Blessings, Carlton.