My dear friends, I am sure that you don’t need me to point out that the present pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus is quite unprecedented in modern times, in terms of the scale of the disease and the degree of uncertainty and disruption being caused to everyday life.
But, as Christians, we have a perspective which the world, sadly, does not have - one which places all events, good and evil, within the eternal perspective of God’s saving plan in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the centre of all history, the one who providentially governs his world right down to the smallest detail. More importantly, he guides all events, great and small, and weaves all our prayers, spoken and unspoken, into his eternal purpose, so that God is magnified and his people sanctified.
The apostle Peter captures these timeless truths when he writes:
‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.’
We shouldn’t minimise the challenges we will all face in the weeks and months which lie ahead; but those challenges though considerable, will also provide great opportunities. We will, by God’s grace, be able to demonstrate to a watching world, and maybe ourselves, the reality of the deep truths which we profess - that there is a God who has created and sustains us, pouring out his blessings of common grace even on a world which has rejected him. That there is a wonderful Saviour who still holds out his hands to any who will come to him and he will not turn them away. That God’s living presence comes into our hearts by his Holy Spirit, to enable us to endure and triumph over things of which we are humanly incapable.
It is a matter of historical fact that in the past the church flourished in times like these - times of pestilence and social disruption. This is the way one scholar describes the remarkable resilience of the Christian faith as it appeared in the first few centuries, ‘..an advantage Christians enjoyed over pagans was that the teaching of their faith made life meaningful even amid sudden and surprising death…even a shattered remnant of survivors who had somehow made it through war or pestilence or both could find warm, immediate and healing consolation in the vision of a heavenly existence….Christianity was, therefore, a system of thought and feeling thoroughly adapted to a time of troubles in which hardship, disease and violent death commonly prevailed.’ People couldn’t help but see the difference and so many came to Christ.
As a fellowship we have been singularly blessed with faithful Bible teaching, prayerfully applied, over many years and it has simply thrilled this pastor’s heart to see the fruit of that in the way members of this fellowship are showing so much practical love and care, not only to each other, but to many outside the church, as, indeed, it should be. And I am sure that will not only continue but increase during the present crisis.
As a staff team we have been working hard to put things in place so that we can continue to minister to each other and our neighbours. Please check our website and the Covid-19 link which is updated daily with practical information and spiritual helps for individuals and families. We hope to continue broadcasting pre-recorded services for each Sunday. We will be connected to the fortnightly prayer meetings by streaming. We are also using a variety of social media, as well as simply phoning people, to keep in touch with each other. Home Group leaders and small group leaders will be seeking to help church members in whatever way they can, which is in addition to the care you are already showing towards each other. You can still ring the church office and, if there is not an immediate reply, please leave a message and we will get back to you, or send an email or text.
I can honestly say that not a single day goes by without Heather and myself thanking God for the privilege and joy of belonging to this church and working alongside such wonderful, godly people. Every single one of you is dear to us. And it is especially in times like these that we appreciate all the more how precious you are and we can’t wait until we can all meet together again.
In the meantime let’s take things one day at a time, knowing that God is faithful, and trusting that the ‘joy of the Lord’ will be our strength.
Let me end with this blessing from the letter of Jude, ‘To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.’
It is Christ alone, the solid, immovable rock, on which we stand.