Seeking Peace in the Midst of Distress (Psalm 120)

INTRODUCTION

Things are overwhelming at the minute! The news is one negative headline after another; even as we sit in our houses and wait for Covid-19 to pass, we are not really sure how long the ‘wait’ is. Yet, that is all we can do – wait; without any real understanding of what we are waiting for. Day after day, the weight of worry increases as infections rise, and deaths with it. It is overwhelming. I remember when we were starting hearing about Coronovirus in Wuhan in December 2019, thinking to myself: “Flip, how awful for them and that city.” Yet, I was glad that it was there and not here! Then, as covid started to wreak havoc in Italy again, I remember thinking; “That is quite close to home, but it is not here thankfully!” Then I flew to Nigeria to spend some time with the Anglican Church there, (and had the best ten days, something which I will write about later!) and for nine days away we heard so little of it. Covid faded to the back of my mind as we were overwhelmed the beauty of a country and its people. On our last night, we tuned into CNN (of all networks), and within a few seconds of watching an excitable newsreader, we realised how much had changed. Airlines had collapsed, boarders were shutting, and companies on the brink of bankruptcy, and everyone was trying to get home. It was overwhelming, and I would say that was the first time I felt apprehensive about all that has been going on. Suddenly what was distant felt close.

The question that suddenly dominated my mind was “Where do I I turn now?” When I was flying back to Ireland via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the airport was full of people who where searching for security, and answers. The Smokers walking urgently to the smoking area, the drinkers heading for the bar, those people walking about in full-body suits (to keep the germs away!). Each is trying to deal with their fears in their own ways. Each was looking for some help, some comfort in the middle of all that has been overwhelming us.

In times of crises and stress, I wonder how you cope? We all have those things, routines or possessions which become our sense of normal when normality starts to fade. Those things that for a few seconds offer us the hope that what was might be again. Those things are often good, but, after a few draws of the pipe, their effects decrease, their joys fade, and the distraction they once offered seems no more. Then we are left confronted again with the state of the world and our place in it: Fear, worry, stress, and anxiety all increase as we wonder what will happen. We worry about our health, job, family, friends, and those that we know to be vulnerable. We wonder when we eventually get through Covid-19, just what effect it will have on our lives? It is overwhelming. The strange thing now in this season is that everything has changed. Now, we do not know where to look for a break from the stress. Suddenly all that was routine and escape has become a luxury and a memory: nipping out to the garage for milk, meeting a friend in a coffee shop, the gym and shopping. It is all gone.

What Now?

The question becomes: What now? Where do we look too when normal disappears and everything that gave us security, hope and meaning with it? We suddenly look to something else. It is the most basic instinct of being human, (even beyond Covid) when we suffer the loss of something that gave us worth (a relationship, friendship, or work), we look to find something else to define ourselves against and to centre ourselves in. The Gym, A diet, the latest self-help mantra that promises a better us in three weeks. Perhaps we look even deeper into ourselves and hope that we find something that cannot be taken.

Without sounding pessimistic, or fatal, the truth is that everything we see, and all that we know as normal is temporary. The last few weeks have simply brought that home to us. It has no guarantee of eternity, and we can guarantee that something (or someone) someday will take it from us; time, economics, politics, and if not them – death. We will lose what we find our value in, or it will lose us by letting us down. “Now” is only different because the last two weeks have exposed so the weakness of what the world though secure, our normality. It is overwhelming, and the question thus remains – what now?

NOW: LOOK TO THAT WHICH IS UNCHANGING

Over the past couple of weeks, much of the world and church has moved online. It has been so encouraging to see local Churches who may not have been adept at social media and technology adapt, for the sake of the Gospel. It has been so encouraging to see ministers preach, people pray, small groups meet, and even Gospel mission move online evens meeting in new ways. It is beautiful that as the world searches for new meaning through a screen, they are being met with Jesus. Praise the Lord the churches response has seen the Gospel message go out into more homes than it ever has. Who knows what seeds have been planted!

What has been an exciting trend online is the amount of material being produced from the Old Testament Psalms. Not just within the Anglican Church, but across the churches as I browsed some of the online options (Churchflix launching soon), I noticed so many different people teaching from this great biblical resource. Offering faith, hope, assurance and certainty to a world that is searching and asking “What now? “It makes complete sense! I do not think there are more honest collections of songs and poems in Literature. The 150 Psalms reflect the fullness of life; there is something to convey the emotions of any occasion, any feeling; Joy, Sorrow, fear, overwhelmed, anger, loss, hurt, betrayal, mundaneness. If you are looking for something to put to words what you cannot, before God, you will find it in the Psalms. It is the book for this season, and the book for all seasons because of David, and it’s various authors experienced the fullness of life. Let us take King David for a moment and consider all that he went through: One minute he was on the mountain top, the next he was in the darkest valley. He was on a flat, before finding himself in the depths of Sheol. Time and time again, David (whether through the assault of an enemy, the sins of self, or just providence) found himself, being overwhelmed, and wondering where he could find comfort and hope. King David’s life (like all of us) was one of turning to the wrong things as much as the right, before eventually coming back to that one consistent thing in his life – Yahweh. The God who out of love and Grace, when David strayed; God reached when David sinned; God forgave. The God whom all the Psalms declare that we must look to and seek in every season of life. Think of all the various dramas that David went through:

  • Being pulled from the fields at a young age and told that he would lead a nation. (1 Samuel 16:8-12)
  • Playing in the court of Saul and finding favour because of his musical ability (1 Samuel 16:14-23)
  • Facing Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
  • Dealing with Saul, and his attempts to kill David (1 Samuel 18:10-14 & 19)
  • Dealing with his time wandering in the Wilderness, trying to be faithful to God but just barely surviving as well as leading his men through these moments. (1 Samuel 20-30)
  • Taking to the throne (2 Samuel 2)
  • Leading and trying to establish the security of the nation as a civil war raged between the house of David and Saul (2 Samuel 3)
  • The Positive season of victories in battle, and seeing great success politically (2 Samuel 7-10).
  • The sin and despair of Bathsheba, the murder of her husband, and the political fall out that came from this (2 Samuel 11)

There are so many more occasions that show why David’s writing is so useful. He lived life fully and experienced the breadth of emotions. The psalms are not some philosophical waffle of a man in a bubble, they are songs and poem written in the reality of life, by those who knew God. For me, The Psalms have been soo benefitical today (In Covid-19) because they express what I cannot. Whatever we are feeling at the minute that emotion has been covered, thought through and brought to God: Fearful, Lonely, overwhelmed, anxious, angry (at God), abandoned (by God)…… Now I want us to begin a journey through the Psalms, as we consider the Songs of Ascent. It is my prayer now that God would use my feeble writing and thinking to challenge, and encourage you in these overwhelming and unprecedented times.

PSALM 120 | THE JOURNEY BEGINS

Introduction

Psalm 120 marks the beginning of a group of the Psalms (120-134) that are known as the Songs of Ascent or The Pilgrim Psalms. They were sung by Jewish Pilgrims once they began their upward ascent to the city on the hill – Jerusalem. I love that sense of journey that follows them, and I think that is why they are so relatable for us in the coming weeks and months in the midst of this new normal. Whether we are Christian’s or not, we all walk the road of life, and with the road comes unexpected turns, bends, bumps and valleys. It is safe to say today we find ourselves not just in a new valley, but having been forced off-road and down a track that we have never travelled before.

It should have been a good year!

Strangely ‘2020’ at the break of the this new year, seemed like it was going to be a good one. The road ahead seemed straight and clear, the tarmac smooth: The UK had elected a stable government which had promised the end of Austerity and to line the streets with gold and jobs. The economy globally was picking up, and finally the new James Bond was going to be released. Then we get three miles down the road, and suddenly everything has changed, and the question is: “So what now?” The answer; Simple, we adjust, we adapt, we use what we have got. We move forward.

Different Road; Same Method

I love driving and the freedom that a car brings. I love to take a drive randomly to just help myself to think (no unessential travel during covid-19). However, I must clarify something: I love driving in the UK and Ireland, not Africa. A few weeks ago, I was in Nigeria (a fantastic experience). While there, I can say I loved being driven around, and I was glad I was not driving! Why?! It might be (basically) the same thing, but it is radically different. The roads are full of potholes (or inverse speed bumps as we called them) and the rules of the streets were radically different! Thrown into that the climate, traffic, and general madness of it all and I can tell you I would not have survived driving twenty miles! Yet, as we travelled several hundred miles over the ten days there, I never once felt at risk. Why? Because those who were driving us knew how to drive there! It is not just they could drive a car, but they knew the roads and the rules that came with them. Now, with time I could have adjusted to being there and slowly started to drive, on the quieter roads first. I could have advanced to the highways, and then maybe someday I may have even assaulted the traffic around Abuja (on the way to the airport). Why do we say this? It is a reminder that regardless of where we are, the tools of travelling stay the same, what changes are how we use them. Today, the surface of our travelling might have changed, the speed at which we move forward may have slowed – yet, we must still move forward. And as Christians, we must move forward with God. Thus the question is, How? On this journey of life, and if we are a disciple of Jesus this journey of Faith, we have all the tools we need, so while the road of travel has changed, we go as we have before in a different way! We ascent the hill that is before us, with Christ and the confidence of Christ. We might be moving a little slower because we are unsure of the terrain, but we are still running. So let us move and make our moving be shaped, and informed by God’s word. Specifically today Psalm 130

CONTEXT OF PSALM 120

This Psalm is an individual song of Lament with a hint of thanksgiving. It appears to have been written by one who lives outside the nation of Israel, among a pagan people. Those who do not understand the ways of God (v5). Someone who is overwhelmed with life and feeling the weight of distress and worry. The pain is related explicitly to how deceitful people are stirring up gossip and slander against this person, and have hearts for war. Today, we are in a land where not prepared for, facing an unknown and worried. Thus, I feel this Psalm is apt not just for today because it expresses the dominant emotion of this current situation, but thankfully shows us steps to move us forward, help us process all that is going and look to God amid all this confusion and fear.

Psalm 120:1-7 NIV

1I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.

2 Save me, LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.

3 What will he do to you, and what more besides, you deceitful tongue? 4 He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom bush.

5 Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek, that I live among the tents of Kedar!

6 Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.

7 I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.

IN DISTRESS WE LOOK TO THE LORD (1-4)

In Nigeria, as we drove along a dusty street my gaze was caught by a massive advertisement. It described a “miracle cure” for any conceivable illness or ailment that you might consider (It would probably even cure Covid-19), added to that It was so good it also covered emotional illness and stress. It was an advert that gave a glimpse into the mind of this world because as ludicrous as it sounds, it offered what everyone is looking for – a quick solution and hope. When we find ourselves in situations unprepared for, we want a quick fix. I do not know how well that cure would sell, but sell it would! Even though the people who might buy it knew it was nothing more than a con, we want hope, even the slightest hope that it may have a positive effect. It is not Miracle cures ; the whole advertising industry is build on the premise of (false) hope.

  • Its not just deodorant – it’s the deodorant that will finally get you a relationship.
  • It’s not just a car, it is the car that will help you impress all those people who don’t like you.
  • It is not just aftershave, it’s the aftershave that will finally show the world you have made it.

We no longer buy items for what they do; we are seduced by them and the illusions that go with it. Especially in distress we find ourselves looking to the promise and hope these things offer: Drink, TV, people, places and things. When the going gets tough often our first port of call is to good things that promise us much, then after short period of time, we feel even more abject, distressed and overwhelmed. Why? because false idols offer a false hope. That which is temporal can only offer something temporary. Thus, in times of distress (and all times) we must turn not to that which is created, but He who is Creator. It is that trust we see in this Psalm, and that turning that acts for us as a guide and model in this our time of distress.

What to Do: Cry out to the Lord for Help (1-2)

Our Psalm begins with an instinctive reaction reaction. That reaction is in all of us and tells us much about who we are, and where we are in life (and with the Lord). I wonder if you where in the same distress what would be your base reaction. Today, we are being challenged to put down whatever we might already grasped in the midst of our Pandemic-stress and turn anew or afresh to the Lord. What must we do when we feel overwhelmed? As this Psalm implores us we must look to God. The God who knows our pain, worry and distresses. The God who is near, remember Christ who walked among us and understands the fullness of humanity. When the road is gone, and the track unknown we look to Him who remains constant as our guide, and companion. We must trust God in the midst of chaos.

That first movement – reaching out to God in prayer – in distress is essential to understanding this Psalm. It acts for us as a the model for our lives. Whether we are in the stress of Covid, or in a moments of great joy, our first port of call must be God. As the New Living Translation phrases it: “I took my troubles to the Lord, I cried out to him and he answers my prayer.” Notice the active movement; this is not a passive whimper to God! No, it is an active movement to the Father in times of distress. This cry out to the Lord is also linked back to Psalm 119 which ends with a wondering away from the Lord. Thus, this first Psalm of Ascent begins with the assurance that God is approachable, and will hear the pleas of his people.

How: The Duality of Prayer

As We Pray

In life there are different ways to seek to the comfort of the Lord. The most obvious one is shown here: Prayer. We must pray to God, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, and through the intercession’s of his Son. Now, it is important to be real here, this is not a call for us all to become ‘great spiritual beings’ who wail before the Lord for 6 hours a day to bring us relief from this Covid-chaos! That may be someones gifting and that is good. This call to prayer is a call to be real. And what we see here is not only a challenge, but the model of prayer. Verse two is not long in word count, it is not deep in imagery or theology. Yet, it is real, and enough for God. So in this crises let us be a people who pray – yes. But let our prayers be real to us and God. We are alone in our houses, there is no one to impress, but we must empress on the Lord the needs of our lives, families and nation. We must be a people who pray.

So We Read

Everything is best in company, especially prayer. I do not mean here the company of others, but accompanied by Gods Word. As we communicate with him our needs and the needs of the world in prayer; God, by his Holy Spirt will speak, comfort, and direct us by his word and the work the Spirit is doing in us. That is why it is the living word of God and this is the wonder of walking with God and being transformed into the image and likeness of his Son! So as we seek to be a people of prayer, we must equally grow in our desire to know his word. I love how John W. Yates II puts it: “This is because the Bible speaks the very word of God. It feeds the soul, convicts of sin, imparts saving knowledge, and leads to the justification of sinners.”1 So as we are a people of prayer, let us also be those who reading his Word; and allowing his truth to be spoken to you, comfort you, and slowly transform you. Let us not fool ourselves that some random thought that comes into our head is what the Lord is trying to speak to us, let us instead be comforted, transformed, and challenged by his actual words. How important is the Word of God to the disciple’s life of faith; becuase it offers us something for everything season of life, Thomas Cranmer captures it succulently:

“Thy wife or husband provoketh thee to anger; thy child giveth thee occasion to take sorrow and pensiveness; thine enemies lie in wait for thee; thy friend (as thou takest him) sometime envieth thee; thy neighbor misreporteth thee or picketh quarrels against thee; thy mate or partner undermineth thee; thy lord, judge, or justice, threateneth thee; poverty is painful unto thee; the loss of thy dear and wellbeloved causeth thee to mourn; prosperity exalteth thee, adversity bringeth thee low. Briefly, so divers and so manifold occasions of cares, tribulations, and temptations, beset thee and besiege thee round about. Where canst thou have armor or fortress against thine assaults? Where canst thou have salves for thy sores but of holy scripture?” 2

A Model Prayer (v2)

Verse two seems to recall the prayer that has been offered. We find that the person here is distressed overlying lips and deceitful tongues (modern-day gossip and rumours being spread). In comparison to today, perhaps this feels small and insignificant… Yet, we are taught here that no pray is unwarranted and no concern beneath the concern of the Lord. How? Because this prayer appears in Scripture. By its being here, it is our example. Let us not underestimate what we are facing individually and collectively. Furthermore, let us be assured that no matter our context and the prayers that derive from that – God will hear them.

Let us not think ourselves too small or too beyond the care and concern of God. He is infinite enough and gracious enough to hear all the short and big prayers the world can offer. Today, let us bring to God whatever is distressing us, no matter how we view it. In faith, through prayer and petition, make us trust the Lord, we must bring it to the Lord. To follow Jesus is to trust Jesus and to journey with Jesus means letting him know the things that make our road difficult so that he can make our burden light. That is the essence of friendship and relationship.

God Over All Things (3-4)

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” – Galatians 6:7-8 NIV

Reaping and Sowing

What we sow in life, we will reap. It is the most basic logic of living on earth, and Apple trees produce apples, potatoes grow more potatoes: Thus, for the human what they sow into the soils of this earth they will reap. That is what Paul is hitting at towards the end of Galatians, and that is what we see here. Verses 3 & 4 paint for us the eternal fruit that awaits those who have sowed in the flesh, the false tongue of those who oppose the Lord. It is also a confidence in the acting of the Lord. It is not that the Psalmist desires the torture and destruction of those who are opposing him. No, he so confident in Gods sovereign acting over the world that he trusts the divinely appointed outcome. The Psalmist he knows that he will be delivered from all the pains and stresses of this world. Additionally, he believes that the Lord will act to correct the curse of sin afflicting this planet, in this case, dealing with those who walk in the flesh.

A Difficult Image to Understand

The image of pointed arrows and burning coals on those who oppose the Lord is not an easy one for our modern minds. It can make God seem distant, fearful and unapproachable. Yet, it is a relevant image. From the Christian perspective, it reminds us that all actions bear the eternal consequence. In essence, one day we will stand before the Lord (either as our saviour or Judge) and we will bear account for our lives. That choice is ours, and it is ours now to make. Right now, how are we concerning God? Secondly, it a beautiful and assuring image because of the certainty it offers. It is not that the Psalmist cannot wait to see those who distress him suffer, it is that he cannot wait to see the Lord act. This Psalmist knows God and trusts him, beyond mere knowledge – it is intimacy, and with that intimacy comes confidence. So close with God, so good is this relationship and trust that even when it seems like God is not in control the Psalmist is confident he is, thus he knows and trusts that the LORD will act.

How does this relate to Covid-19, how do ‘judgment, coal and arrows’ offer us not fear but comfort at this time? Personally, I think they are of great support and encouragement for the Christian in this, and a plea for those who do not yet know Christ. The comfort and motivation come in the remembrance of the big picture; This Psalmist finds himself in a pagan land, isolated and socially distant facing the oppression of his enemies. It would be easy for him to turn his back on God and presume himself abandoned. Then decide to look only to himself, but confidently in the face of all logic he chooses to trust God, he decides to believe that God was still sovereign and in control. That was his confidence amid chaos, it fuelled his prayer and his belief that eventually, God would act twofold – to rescue him, and to judge those who oppressed him. He had hope amid hopelessness.

Covid-19 defies all logic, we find ourselves living in a new world, that no movie director would have been bold enough to write a script to then no director could have imagined: businesses closed, borders shut, and economies having the pause button pressed on them. Sadly, not even the church has been immune! It almost feels like God has left the world to our own devices and our own fate. But what may seem is not; part of our witness today is to remain confident amid chaos; to stand firm on our foundations while other structures collapse. To be like the Psalmist here and trust God. To pray confidently, knowing that God is in control (even when the opposite seems real). To know that He is not distant. To declare that God is active now in the world, in this crises for His Glory and the Good of those in Christ. To know God is to trust God and to trust God is to live with the illogical confidence that when the world tilts one way and then another God is still on his throne, still reigning and still over all things.

“Here is a fundamental difference between the man of faith and the man of unbelief. The unbeliever is ‘of the world’, judges everything by worldly standards, views life from the standpoint of time and sense, and weighs everything in the balances of his own carnal making. But the man of faith brings in God, looks at everything from His standpoint, estimates values by spiritual standards, and views life in the light of eternity. Doing this, he receives whatever comes as from the hand of God. Doing this, his heart is calm in the midst of the storm. Doing this, he rejoices in hope of the glory of God.” – AW Pink | The Sovereignty of God

OUR DESIRES SHOWS OUR BELONGING (5-7)

When times are good, it is easy to be ‘good’. When the road is smooth and comfortable, it is easy to look to and try to and look like Jesus. When we live in the bible belt, it is easy to be ‘Christian.’ Yet, the mark of true faith is not found on the mountain top but in the normality and madness of the valley. It is why Paul writes those challenging words in Romans 5 3-5:

” More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance. Endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Or Peter writes in his First Letter (3:14):

“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.”

Then even James at the beginning of his Letter:

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:12

It is not just that suffering is the mark of genuine Christian faith. It is much more than that; it is how the person reacts to hardship, or in suffering is the mark of whether their faith is true, or just beneficial. How? Because in those moments what we value, what we cling to shows in our living. Thus, if faith is real in those moments of distress and being overwhelmed, then it shows because that is where the person turns. Here amid his suffering the Psalmist turns not to the Sword, but God in prayer. It showed where his true faith lay – In Yahweh.

Called and Meant to be Different

If you want to know the foundation of someone’s life, watch them in difficulty. It is then that the illusions of security fade away, and all the idols are stripped away, and then all that matters is left for us. Thus, in the bareness of that situation, that moment the genuineness of our faith is know because who we become so much clearer.

It is the toilet roll test, think about the last few weeks as Covid-19 took hold of our society, and we started to realise how serious it was. When it was clear that one of the side effects of the virus was not an urgent need for the toilet. Yet, people still stockpiled toilet role. Images of people in supermarkets across the western world (USA, UK Europe, Australia) queueing with nothing but toilet roll. People were literally spending £100 to stock up on nothing but toilet roll! Why? Because in times of great corporate distress, our real fears show. Such is the weakness of our foundation outside of God that we have no confidence in it! We do not trust the government or the supply lines that stock our shelves, nor do we seemingly trust our neighbours to not be selfish, so we act out of fear and self-preservation. More often showing our true nature: “of course we want to help other people, but first we need to help ourselves!” That may often be the way of the world, but it should never be the way of the Kingdom (of God). Yet, sadly it can be hard to disguise those who claim Christ as their own from the crowd. Too often we find ourselves swept up in the tide of culture, when we have been called to stand firm in it, or even swim against it.

As we walk with Jesus, we should look different from the world that we are walking in, especially in times of crises. That difference is shown most clearly in the imagery of this Psalm. How do we know the faithful follower of Christ in all seasons? By how they live in a hostile and challenging world. Are they one who trusts God or are they one who fades into the fog of culture. Consider the example in this Psalm: whereas in this case, the (pagan) people are set on war and violence. The one who waits (and in their waiting – trusts) for Yahweh and looks to him desires the things of God even amid turmoil and stress; he desires peace. Even though he has lived a long time admits a crocked people, he has not been corrupted. Even though he is in the midst of turmoil and distress, he has not been overwhelmed, his desire is still for the things of the Lord – the Shalom of the Lord. A peace that transcends any of our notions of peace, it is not an absence of conflict he longs for, or that enemies would become friends and sign some accord to live amongst one another, nor it is it something akin to The Good Friday Agreement this is real peace, divine peace. Consider these words from Dan Taylor: “shalom: all things in their created place doing what they were created to do in a loving relationship with their creator. And, amazing grace, it is a story into which God invites you and me as characters.” 3

Today, we must ask ourselves “Do we look like Christ or the world?” Now that the facade has been stripped back and we cannot dress up in fines suits or dresses for church on Sunday. That suddenly ‘church’ is not about being seen, but solely in our homes, with our families, or by ourselves…. Is ‘church’ still important to us because our ultimate desire is too known God and to make Him known? Or now that it has lost its visibility and usefulness to us, do we simply not bother?

How are we standing Before God?

Today, of all days we cannot look ‘Christian’ it is ourselves alone before God. There we stand, but the challenge I want to pose is: “How do we stand?” when everything is stripped away when the benefits of the faith in the earthly sense are not visible: Do we still look to God? In the midst of the Chaos, pain and confusion do we still desire the things of God? Peace over war; other’s over self; love over hate; true over lies; faith over fear. Or is it that amid distress that our lack of faith actually shines out. Again, let us not set the bar so high as never to reach it. Following Jesus is not a call to perfection, it is a call to faithfulness. Faithfulness means not that amid the every changing world our thoughts should never stray, that we never think of self-preservation: No, it means that amid our sin, mistakes and stress our ultimate security, hope and desire are Christ and his Glory.

We are not perfect, but we who are in Christ are being perfected, being made more into the image of the Son of God, by the power of the Spirit working in us. Whether they are in Delight or Distress (Scantificaltion). Thus, while the desires of our heart will be influenced by where we find ourselves, they are in a way above our circumstance. Perhaps today, we will take a moment (with all this time that comes from Self-isolation) to stop, sit down and set aside all that distracts us, open up God’s word, and Pray. Asking that God would examine us, challenge us and show us where we are with him. That in doing that we will ask ourselves (This includes me) this day: What do we (I) desire amid this pandemic-distress? Are we Longing for the Shalom of God, for the rule of God over this world, or are we more concerned with your stock of toilet roll? In crises and distress, the realness of our faith is made known. It’s my prayer that as the worries and madness of covid-19 go on, that your confidence in God and desires for the things of God grow with it. That as this happens, God will use you more amid this madness to draw others back to himself.

CONCLUSION: LET US GO ON WITH GOD FOR HIS PEACE

No matter the road, the journey must go on. Yet, we can choose how we go. Amid the distress, we can look like the world, or we can look to God and give the world something to look at. I think its apt to finish with words from Pauls letter to the Romans when he reminded them of how secure the work of Christ was when he declared:

” Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,b neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Our Peace: Nothing can separate us from Christ

It is the grasping of this truth that is foundational to all that we are as Christians. Firstly because when we grasp this truth, we grasp that whatever we gain, or whatever we lose in the world, we have all that we need in Christ. This is the foundation of trusting that God is at work. As Christian’s, we live within tension: We have received fully all that is our need, and yet we have more to receive. This is our foundation, our security, and our hope in an ever-changing world. It is the unchangeable truth of the rule and reign of Christ and all that he has done.

Additionally, It is this truth that enables us to pray with confidence that God will act; because we know that we already have received fully. It is this foundation than enables us to read God’s word as we pray, to seek Christ and his example. We have seen Christ already, and we want to see him more! Thus, in distress and chaos may we look to the Lord! What is the source of your hope, your security when the foundations of the world shift? Are you able to stand firm on the rock that is Christ?

Let us come to him anew or afresh but let us go to him and trust him to do what he said he would do! Finally then as we wait for him, let us wait as him – patiently on the Lord. Amid the covid-crises let us see the opportunity to bring Glory to God’s name (and to show people the way to the fullness of life) by living differently to the chaos of the world. That as the lockdown takes hold of our culture and context, we show something greater by taking hold of Jesus. As we desire the things of God, that we also seek to continue the mission of God, however, that is possible in our own contexts. This week, and in the weeks ahead in our fears and feelings of being overwhelmed let us bring our petitions to the Lord for our needs, and the needs of the world; then let us amid chaos seek the things of God over the fears of the world, so that in our living the world will see God.

Our Call: Being Peace

“I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.”
Psalm 120:7 NIV

I love that the Psalm finished on this. The Psalmist not only knows Whos he is, He knows What he is about. He is for peace (Shalom) meaning in his active living he is one who will pursue the Shalom of God. A reminder to the disciple of the reality of our discipleship. As we weight for the rule of God, we are to be people who live it out, God works his peace into the world through the body of Christ who is empowered by the Holy Spirit to live out the mission of God. Today, as we go forward into a period of distress, let us consider how are we for peace? Where right now (even in the middle of social distancing, and isolation) can we bring about the peace of God? How is God calling us to act? It might be phoning someone, maybe checking in on that neighbour we know to be alone. Perhaps an act of community service: lifting litter on the road outside our house, keeping an eye on our streets. Today amid our distress if we are for Christ, we too need to be for peace and pursue it. Secondly, even though we are scattered and not able to gather together physically, we must consider how our Churches for Peace are? As communities and families of faith, as we wait for God, how are we active for God in our streets, neighbourhoods, towns and villages? Do people even miss on now that we are unable to gather and function organisationally? Let us ask ourselves (individually and institutionally) are we acting our the peace of God amid the world’s distress, and is there any evidence for it?

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” – Galatians 6:9-10 NIV

  1. from “The Future of Orthodox Anglicanism” by Gerald R. McDermott, Gerald Bray, John W. Yates III, Stephen Noll, Timothy George, Andrew Pearson Jr., Barbara Gauthier, Chandler Jones, Ephraim Radner, Eulid Wabukala, Foley Beach, Mouneer Hanna Anis, Ray R. Sutton, Russell Reno III)
  2. (from “The Future of Orthodox Anglicanism” by Gerald R. McDermott, Gerald Bray, John W. Yates III, Stephen Noll, Timothy George, Andrew Pearson Jr., Barbara Gauthier, Chandler Jones, Ephraim Radner, Eulid Wabukala, Foley Beach, Mouneer Hanna Anis, Ray R. Sutton, Russell Reno III)

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