Billy and Johnny were making a commotion and causing poor Mrs. Smith a great deal of trouble in Sunday School class one spring morning. She finally had enough, and she sent the boys to talk to the senior pastor. Johnny went into his office first. Johnny felt very tiny sitting across from the pastor’s big desk. With a calm voice, the pastor slowly said, “Johnny, where is God in all of this? Where is God in all of this? Now I want you to think about that. Go, send Billy in.” Johnny went out to tell Billy it was his turn, and Billy said, “Johnny, is it bad?” to which Johnny responded, “It must be, they’ve lost God and they think we have something to do with it!”
When life doesn’t unfold the way we thought it would, when sadness comes, when pain comes, when a pandemic comes, it is easy to wonder, “Where is God in all of this?” There are many Sunday School answers I might offer to this question, like, “God will never give you more than you can handle,” but times like this feel bigger than Sunday School answers. Times likes this ask big questions and demand big answers. The answer to the big questions we now ask, is singular. His name is Jesus, and He is the only solution.
When Jesus was dying on the cross, they mocked him saying, “He saved others… but he can’t save himself!” Of course, Jesus could save Himself! He is the Word of God, the Lord of all creation! But in His own words He came “to give His life as a ransom for many.” He did not save Himself from the cross, because He came for the purpose to give His life, to die on a cross, for many, so that when they believe in Him, they will be saved.
This salvation is a two-fold salvation. The bigger of the two is the salvation that we learn about in Sunday School. When you put your faith and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then the promise of eternal life in John 3:16 is yours. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV) One day all of us will die, and this promise means that even though your body dies, your soul, the inner part of you, will live forever with Jesus in a place we call heaven.
But the second part of the salvation that Jesus offers, many miss out on, especially when fearful and troubling times come. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV) This pandemic, and every other sickness, and every other hardship we encounter in this life happen because we live in a fallen world that will continue under a curse until Jesus returns. (see Genesis 3:17).
These hardships we encounter are of the thief and are thieves themselves. A thief has only one purpose, to steal and kill and destroy. But, despite the work of the thief, Jesus promises to give us life to the full. An audacious promise in our current circumstance. And that is what this is, our current circumstance. This too shall pass, and what will life look like when it does? I don’t know. This I do know, God’s promises are true, and in this current circumstance and in future circumstances, in Christ, we have fullness of life. So how do we take hold of this full life? What practical steps should I take? Psalm 91 records 5 things you must do when troubling times come to take hold of and sustain fullness of life.
First, you must dwell, or live, in the Lord (v1). Our bodies, these tents of flesh and bone we live in while in the world, that will not change until we die. But as we live, we choose where the essence of our soul, our thoughts and hopes and dreams, dwell. We choose to put our thoughts and hopes and dreams into the things of this world or in the Lord alone. When we dwell in the Lord, the promise is rest (v1). In our current circumstance many of us are being forced to rest our bodies, but how many need rest for your minds and souls right now?
Second, you must trust God. The language here states “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” (v2) This is more than trusting Him for salvation. This is a daily action, a daily choice, that no matter what comes today, I will trust God because He is my fortress. He is the safe place I run to when trouble comes. When you trust God in this way, the promise is safety, deliverance, and protection. (v3-v13) It is interesting that verse 3 speaks of deadly pestilence and verse 6 speaks of plague and pestilence. The Word of God is eternal and is relevant to our current circumstance.
Third, you must love God. (v14) What do you love? who do you love? Do you love anything or anyone more than God? He must be your first love. When you love God first and above all, the promise is He will rescue you. (v14)
Fourth, you must acknowledge His name. (v15) We acknowledge the names of things every day. We acknowledge our family name, the name of our job or career or position in life, the name of our college, and the name of our favorite sports team. We acknowledge the name of our religion, our race, our gender, and our sexual orientation. Acknowledging the name of these things is all about our identity. But God wants our identity to be in Him alone!
Did you know that every time we acknowledge something as part of our identity, we speak the Name of God? I am a husband. I am a father. I am a data governance manager. I am an Ohio State football fan. These things are true about me, and in each one, I have spoken the name of God, the great IAM. But more than anything I might acknowledge about my own name may this acknowledgement always be first: I am a follower of Jesus. I am a child of the King. I am a child of God. First and foremost, God I acknowledge Your great name! You are the great I AM. You are my God, and I am yours. When you acknowledge the name of God above any other name, He gives you the promise of protection. (v14)
After you have chosen to live in God, trust God, love God, and acknowledge His name, fifth and finally, you must call on Him. (v15) God is our loving Heavenly Father, and He wants us to come to him with our hurts and needs and hopes. He wants us to call on Him and ask him for help. His promise is, “I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” (v15) Notice, the statement, “I will be with him in trouble.” This means trouble and troubling times will come. When they do, call on the Lord.
The final promise of Psalm 91 is a direct correlation to the two-fold promise of salvation we have in Jesus. “With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (V16) Do you desire satisfaction in this life? Do you desire eternal salvation?” Give your life to Jesus. Trust Him and through Him live in God, Trust God, Love God, and acknowledge the name of God. When troubling times come, as they have now, call on the Lord your God! I don’t know how He will deliver you, but I know His promises are true. They are yes and Amen in Christ. And even when all of life is turned upside down, and sometimes it is hard to find God in all of this, we can be confident that He seated on His throne and He will answer us when we call.
In these days of social distancing, if you have fallen ill or if you are well, I encourage you to take this time to draw near to God. He is so very near to us. Spend time with Him every day. Read the Psalms. Read about the life of Jesus in the gospels. Take this time to live in God, trust God, love God, acknowledge the name of the great I AM, and call on Him for help. Soon enough, we will be back to the overwhelming pace of life. Don’t waste this gift of time with your Creator. He made you and He loves you. Many blessings. Be safe and well.