14 October 2020
I have never been drawn to hypothetical questions. You know, the questions that start with, ‘What if?’
I recall responding reluctantly when, as a corps officer, questions about life and spiritually began with ‘What if?’ Then, as our daughters grew, and more of the hypothetical questions came, “Dad, what if?” It was a good thing that their mother was close by.
I have always wanted a journey marked by certainty, steadfastness, whose central focus was a God who was Alpha and Omega and, so, for many years I have steered away from what might happen and fought against seeds of doubt. I have myself been clinging to Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” In my view, you can’t mess with that!
COVID-19 has presented its fair share of challenges and the greater of these have been personal – death, hardship, loss – in various forms. These are real and remain significant. Added to the human toll is what comes for someone like me, a leader, focused on an international movement and a world facing innumerable uncertainties. This period of pandemic, despite my preference, has generated a number of ‘What if’ questions.
Today, not only do I want to break all my rules, but I want you to reflect with me. The exercise of faith according to Hebrews 11 puts us in touch with what we do not know, brings us into a world of trust. In doing so, it links us securely to a God who is Sovereign.
Verse 1: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
So – disclaimer – there is nothing good about COVID-19, but, what if there are silver linings, positive outcomes that become available, as we press hard into prayer, resulting in the discernment of his will for his church, for his Army?
- What if God, in the midst of uncertainty, is doing a new thing and opening a door to a new era of the Church, redefining its mission in the world?
- What if in our failure to care for his creation, this time is a pause for the earth to breathe, for us to evaluate and begin again?
- What if lockdown is not about Netflix, puzzles and walking and is God’s way of saving us from a frenzied life that was unsustainable?
- What if we have to consider that the central focus of his Church was never meant to be a building but being community connected?
- What if his mission in the world was Spirit-inspired and directed and institutional methods fell away?
- What if online church wasn’t the only option, but simply a reminder he is doing a new thing as couch churches turn thousands into Messiah magnets?
- What if we are finally catching glimpses and standing on the edge of a ‘next’ normal?
- What if God is answering our prayers? “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done!”
- What if? God is near?
Realities filled with uncertainty prevail and for millions of people, health, daily provision, employment, future plans and dependence upon what we strived to create is shaken to the core. My heart breaks for the deep sense of tragedy that is creeping into lives all around the world.
My appeal to the Army – to officers and soldiers – is that while the world recoils, we distance and are unable to gather, we will not miss the opportunity to draw close to the heart of God. That we examine our obedient faith. That we scan the horizon and apply a holy, heavenly perspective with eyes fixed on the author and finisher of our faith.
I can report that across the world ...
- The Army is serving.
- There is sustained generosity.
- There are people, ready, engaged and taking responsibility for mission.
I am amazed by the creative way our Army has adjusted, refocused and turned itself towards people in need. Let me note that everyone is not on level ground. Resources vary around the world. While some serve with adequate resources, others serve and give while they are without, marginalising themselves further and turning little into much. Thank God we still know how to help each other. International Headquarters continues to help with a world and a ‘One Army’ response. God bless each of you! God bless The Salvation Army.
I wish I could:
- change our circumstances
- alleviate the suffering
- remove chaotic realities
- end poverty and hunger
- quiet the unrest and risk to life
- have the world receive the Saviour
It seems that the challenge with these and other things are a part of our broken, fallen world.
There is a relevant question for all of us, while we exist between normals, while we wait, while life seems to be paused: “In the between time, in the meantime, ‘what are you doing?’, ‘what is the Army doing?’ and in particular, ‘what is God doing?’”
I want to remind you that faith in God is a well-placed faith and ‘if’ life’s events create cataclysmic realities, we are in his hands.
He is our Saviour.
He is the author and finisher of our faith.
He is Sovereign.
He assures us of a heavenly provision.
Countless times daily, I place family, Commissioner Rosalie and I and the whole Army, in his hands and then declare:
I am not afraid.
I am in his hands!
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
God help us to be faithful, in the meantime, while we actively wait on him.
God bless you.
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