Sermon: Contagious Hope

by Gary Johnson, e2 Executive Director 

 

Text: 2 Chronicles 7:14 

Introduction

The numbers are staggering – and I’m not referring to the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or the number of people who have died from this virus.  The staggering numbers that have caught my attention are the number of coronavirus cures that are being developed.  An article appeared in Forbes indicating that there are “no less than 267” cures being developed across the country and around the world (Forbes.com; “Handicapping the Most Promising 267 Potential Coronavirus Cures” Nathan Vardi, 04/08/2020).  Of the 195 countries in the world, 185 nations have confirmed cases of COVID-19 (Aljazeera.com 04/12/2020).  Immunologists around the world are working around the clock to find both an effective treatment and vaccine for this highly contagious – and in some cases, lethal – virus.  Nations – including the United States – want to be healed.

In this third and final message in this mini-series called Contagious, we will explore an ever-familiar text to many Christians.  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).  What does the Lord mean when He said, “…and will heal their land?”  Can God heal this land and all others?  The people of planet earth want a cure from the coronavirus. We want the land to be healed.

More than the coronavirus is contagious.  Fear, panic, uncertainly, grief and more are all contagious.  But, there remains something that is far more contagious.  In the first of these three brief messages, Psalm 11 spoke to us of a contagious faith, and in the second of the three, Habakkuk 3 spoke to us of a contagious joy.  Finally, 2 Chronicles 7:14 speaks of a contagious hope.  This verse is familiar to many people.  From refrigerator magnets to plaques on walls, people often recognize this verse from the Old Testament. 

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 

Context Before Content

This verse is often taken out of context, much like Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”  That statement of Jesus was not about a worship service or small group gathering.  It was about discipline when a believer sins against another believer.  Context is of vital importance in understanding the content of a verse or passage.  Similarly, it is very easy to twist the content of this verse and passage when we fail to establish the context.

In 2 Chronicles 3-5, King Solomon built and furnished the temple of God in Jerusalem.  Once finished, Solomon dedicated the temple as described in 2 Chronicles 6.  All of Israel attended the dedication.  It lasted fourteen days, and Solomon sacrificed 22,000 head of cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats.  That was the biggest bar-b-que on record!  This offering was to be eaten by the people, and at the end of the two week celebration, Solomon “sent the people to their homes, joyful and glad in heart for the good things the Lord had done…” (2 Chronicles 7:10).

During the temple’s dedication, Solomon offered an incredible prayer (see 2 Chronicles 6:14-42), and not long after that dedication, the Lord spoke to Solomon, and this ever-familiar verse was a part of God’s response to Solomon (see 2 Chronicles7:12-16).  God spoke first of the nation’s relationship with Him, and then God spoke to Solomon about his relationship with him (vv. 17-22).

To be clear, God spoke to King Solomon about the nation of Israel.  The “land” to which God referred was the land of Israel.  When the Israelites sinned against the Lord, there would be suffering (i.e., no rain, plagues of locust or disease).  But if they responded by humbling themselves, by praying, by seeking God’s face and turning from their wicked ways, God would hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.  Simply put, that is the context.

Does this, then, apply ONLY to Jews today, and specifically those who happen to reside in the nation of Israel?  Can it possible apply to Christians in America?  I believe that it can speak into our lives.  Before his execution, Paul said: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Paul also wrote to believers throughout the region of Galatia: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  Paul went on to say in that passage, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-27, 29).

It is suitable and appropriate for any Christian – a child of God – to obey the spirit of this verse; trusting God to hear, forgive and heal when the believer becomes humble, prays, seeks God and turns away from wickedness.  This is timeless truth to be pursued by Christians the world over.

There’s one more insight from the context that we do not want to miss.  God spoke this as a warning to Solomon and the people of Israel.  That was nothing new to God.  From the beginning of measured time, God has spoken words of warning to those whom He loves.  He warned Adam and Eve not to touch the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but they did.  God spoke words of warning to people in the days of Noah before the flood, but people didn’t listen.  God warned His people before they entered the promised land to be faithful, but they didn’t.  Over and again, throughout Scripture, the one, true living God – who is slow to anger and abounding in love – has warned people before a calamity came.

A few nights before writing this, a tornado touched down on the west side of Indianapolis.   Though no lives were lost, several buildings were damaged, and thousands were left without power.  The storm front came late in the evening, soon after the sun had set.  We saw the storm approaching.  Even though it was dark outside, the storm front looked darker still.  It was a defined wall of darkness pushing over the city by ever-increasing winds – and it was then that the storm sirens began to sound.  Have you heard a blaring tornado siren, one that warns people of a coming calamity?  When the siren sounds, we are to take immediate and appropriate action!

Could COVID-19 be a warning to us?  How about H1N1 in 2010?  Could the terrorist attack of 9-11 in 2000 have been a warning sign?  How about Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, Andrew and Irma – and a host of tornados as well – could they have been warnings to us?  And what about famines and earthquakes and tsunamis?  Could they all be warnings?  Jesus spoke of these types of moments just days before He died on a cross.  

Matthew 24:6-8

You will hear of wars and rumors of war but see to it that you are not alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains. 

When an expecting mother has birth pains, it’s a warning that something is going to happen.  Similarly, God allows, He permits suffering the world over to warn us that the end of this life is yet to come.  The return of Jesus Christ is going to happen and God wants no one to perish eternally, but for everyone to be saved (2 Peter 3:9)

Do we want to be healed of COVID-19?  Absolutely.  Yet, we need to understand that the ultimate healing we need across America, and around the world, is spiritual because the ultimate event that will eventually occur is the second coming of Jesus Christ!  The contagious disease sweeping across the country and around the world is not merely COVID-19.  It is the ravaging of sin – and there is already a cure!

There are certain steps to be taken to be cured of COVID-19; they could be taking acetaminophen for the fever, a z-pack or other medication for infection, receiving breathing help whether elevated oxygen or use of a ventilator, even receiving antibodies from a person who had and beat COVID-19.  If a person has cancer, there are steps to be taken to be cured of the disease.  A cancer patient may receive radiation or chemotherapy to shrink a tumor so that it can then be removed surgically.  In this verse, there are FOUR clear, easy-to-understand steps to be taken to be cured of our sin sickness.

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  

The first treatment step is humility.  In Hebrew, the word humble means “to bow the knee” or “to submit with humility.”  It is an intentional decision and action to be humble.  And how we think determines how we act.  If we think with humility, we will act in humble ways.  In this passage, people were to bow the knee to the sovereignty of God – and nothing has changed.  The same must happen today if we are to be healed of our sins.  Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  Think of “nothing” here as a zero – and then erasing the rim!  That is how much we can do apart from Jesus.  Just how humble are you and I?

Here’s a quick quiz to determine if we think of “me, myself and I” too often.  Let’s ask ourselves: how often do I need to be first in line to check out at the store, or first in line at the stop light?  How often do I use the pronouns, “me, mine, my, myself, I,” etc.?  Can we pass the quiz?  Just remember that “God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6), and I would not want God against me.

This is not only essential for individuals, but for a nation – like that of America. God requires a nation to be humble.  How can God lead a nation if that nation refuses to admit their need for God?  If COVID-19 is another wake-up call from God, we had better humble ourselves and admit that we need Him; that it is in God that we truly trust.

A leader in America once said, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven.  We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity.  We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.  But we have forgotten God.  We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.  Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!  It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness” (Abraham Lincoln; March 30, 1863, Proclamation for a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer). 

His words back then are words perfectly applicable for today.  

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  

The second treatment step is prayer.  The word “pray” in this verse is collective, meaning that the nation is to pray for the nation.  The people of Israel were to pray for their nation, and the same would benefit America today.  Would it not?  What IF tens of millions of Americans prayed for the healing of our nation, not only from COVID-19, but from our sins?  Moreover, the Hebrew grammar in this word and verse means that the praying continues!  It wasn’t just a “one and done” kind of prayer, but prayer that doesn’t cease; similar to what Paul commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, when he said, “Pray without ceasing.”  What if a miracle drug was found to not only cure COVID-19, but even to prevent it, and it was required of every person to take this drug every morning – one pill, every morning of every day?  Without taking the miracle drug, a person would contract the virus and certainly die.  Would not every person take this one pill a day every day?  Certainly.  Unceasing, unending prayer is the same vital necessity.

We learn from good examples, like those of Jesus. Mark 1:35 states, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up and left the house and went off to a solitary place where He prayed.”  Prayer was a vital part of the life of Jesus, and Jesus was God!  Even on the final night of His life, Jesus prayed with His disciples—and that prayer is the single longest prayer of His recorded in the Bible (John 17).  From that time of prayer with His disciples, Jesus went to Gethsemane, where He prayed so intensely that drops of blood came from His forehead.  Even from the cross, Jesus prayed (i.e., Father, forgive them…; My Go, My God,why…; Father, into your hands…”)!  And, we will never pray as individuals or even as a nation until we first humble ourselves and admit our need for God.  

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  

The third treatment step is to seek His face.  The word “seek” means to “search out or to run hard after;” whereas the word “face” refers to the personal presence of God.  Putting those words together, to “seek my face” means to pursue an intimate, personal, authentic relationship with God, our Creator, Sustainer, our Father.  Does that describe us, whether individually or as a nation?  When we look at the impact of COVID-19 particularly on the American culture, it’s easy to see that this could be a birth-pain of something yet to happen, a warning sign of a coming calamity.

God warns His people in the Old Testament not to worship any idols, but to worship Him alone.  Being that God is immutable (i.e., unchanging), it is logical to believe that God wants us to be faithful to Him and not worship anything or anyone other than Him.  I like how Bob Russell describes this moment in time across America: “We worship money, and the booming economy comes grinding to a halt.  We worship sports, and the biggest games are canceled.  We worship entertainment and parades along with concerts are postponed, bars and restaurants closed, and the party life shut down.  We worship science, and the leading medical experts disagree as to the proper course of action to counter the pandemic.  We worship our impressive churches, and now even our church buildings sit empty on Sunday morning.  Is this mysterious period a mere freak of nature?  Or is Almighty God warning us – begging us to turn to Him for life that is truly life?” (Bob Russell Ministries; March 29, 2020; “Lord, We Need You!”)  When we individually – or even as a nation – seek God for a personal, authentic relationship with Him, we will be healed. 

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  

The fourth and final treatment step is to turn from our wicked ways.  “Turn” means to turn back, to stop going in the wrong direction; whereas the word “wicked” is the strongest word in Hebrew for sin, and the word “ways” translates as “roads or journeys.”  But those three together and we are to turn away from the vile, vulgar way we walk day-to-day on the wrong road of life.

Famed psychologist Karl Menninger published a book in 1973 that became a bestseller, Whatever Became of Sin?  He noted: “The very word, sin, which seems to have disappeared, was a proud word.  It was once a strong word, an ominous and serious word.  It described a central point in every civilized human being’s plan and lifestyle.  But the word went away.  It has almost disappeared – the word, along with the notion.  Why?  Doesn’t anyone sin anymore?  Doesn’t anyone believe in sin?”  Dr. Menninger observed that was redefined as a crime committed by individuals or a symptom of a disease to be treated psychologically.  Whatever became of sin?

Individually and as a nation, we need to come to grips with the fact that our sins are against God, and it is our sin that put Jesus Christ on a cross!  Jesus didn’t just have to be arrested, tried and mistreated. He had to be killed in the most brutal and humiliating way.  He had to experience – for the first and only time in His life – the complete rage and wrath of God on our behalf.  He HAD to die for your sin and mine.  COVID-19 is still rampant in the world and it is highly contagious, but so also is sin.  And everyone has it.

We will NEVER turn from our wicked ways, until we seek His face.  And to seek His face means that we will pray. But we will never turn from our wicked ways, seeking His face in prayer until we humble ourselves.  These four essential and necessary steps to healing are inseparable!  They are tightly woven together, fully and completely dependent on one another.  Moreover, 2 Chronicles 7:14 is not a one-and-done experience.  These four steps to real healing are a lifestyle.  Jesus Christ wants us to live in a constant state of humility, corporate prayer, spiritual growth and repentant, both individually and as a nation.  When we do, we position ourselves to experience God’s best for us, individually and as a nation.

When it comes to COVID-19, we continue to hear good news with the bad news.  We hear of people who test positive with the virus and then they are healed of the virus.  Now, there’s good news about the “sin” virus.  IF we pursue the four steps to cure our spiritual sickness, God responds in three specific ways.  What happens is conditional.

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  

God didn’t say, “Perhaps I will hear from heaven,” He said, “I will.”  Remember, God is immutable.  The God of the Old Testament is still the same in nature in the New Testament.  God said, “Call to Me and I will answer you.  I will show you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).  God does not fail to answer.  He doesn’t put us through to His galactic voice mail.  He always answers; it’s just that we fail to recognize His answer as His answer is not THE answer for which we hope.  And keep in mind what the psalmist said: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened…” (Psalm 66:18).  When we seek His face, turning from our wicked ways, God hears our prayers.

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  

And in that moment, God forgives us of our sins.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  God’s forgiveness is beyond our comprehension!  He removes our sin from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12), and buries them in the “depths of the seas” (Micah 7:19) where He “remembers them no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  

God still heals the land of nations.  After all, God causes nations to rise and to fall.  He is merciful to individuals and entire nations.  The prophet Jeremiah wept over the destruction of Jerusalem and the southern kingdom.  In his profound grief, Jeremiah declared: “Because of your compassion we are not consumed.  Your mercies never fail, they are new every morning.  Great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).  The Hebrew in this text means that every morning comes with new mercies not experienced before, and that from a loving, compassionate God who allows and enables us to exist from day-to-day.

A Warning of a Coming Calamity

Tornado sirens warn of an approaching storm with lethal winds.  Likewise, throughout the centuries God has allowed hurricanes, earthquakes, famines, wars, disease and more to give us pause; to stop us in our tracks and to look to Him.

Whether COVID-19 takes our lives or not, we will someday die.  Whether we die of a disease or a disaster, we will leave this world and enter a realm beyond the door of death.  Hebrews 9:27 tells us that it is appointed for everyone to die and then face the judgment before God.  Those who are not followers of Jesus Christ face an eternity without God in a place of everlasting suffering – Jesus said so.  Yet, those who surrender their lives to Jesus Christ, live eternally with Him on a new earth (Revelation 21:1 and following)—and it is all because Jesus Christ died for our sins and we trust Him completely for the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life.

In a harsh environment, we can live for three weeks without food, for three days without water, for three hours without shelter or clothing, and for three minutes without air.  In the harsh environment of COVID-19, we can’t live a second without hope, and such hope is contagious.

Peter wrote his letters to believers who were discouraged.  Because of the great persecution sweeping across the Roman Empire, many Christians were driven from their homes, separated from their loved ones, imprisoned for their Christian faith, and many lost their lives.  Peter wrote to them, saying… “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 – kept in heaven for you…” (1 Peter 1:3-4).  Notice the phrase “living hope.”   People put their hope in money that runs out, cars that rust out and clothes that wear out.   But Christians put their hope in Jesus Christ.   Jesus provides us with a living hope based on the historical fact that He was raised from the dead, conquering sin and the grave.   Jesus Christ is alive forevermore and He alone is our Living Hope!  There’s a hymn that was written in the 1800s and that we have sung many times over the years, and the opening line declares, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”  Let’s build our hope on Jesus Christ – and when we do, that hope becomes contagious!

Hope has a name … “Jesus.”

 

************************************************************************

Copyright 2020 by e2: effective elders. All materials presented by Dr. Gary L. Johnson are copyrighted material. You may use this material for your teaching purposes. In doing so, please retain all copyright, trademark and propriety notices on this document, and do not make any modifications to the materials. For any uses other than this, written permission is required. (e2: effective elders; c/o Dr. Gary L. Johnson; 6430 S. Franklin Road; Suite A, Indianapolis, IN 46259).

Sermon: Contagious Joy

by Gary Johnson, e2 Executive Director 

 

Text: Habakkuk 3:16-19 

Introduction

Lamentations 5:15 states: “Joy is gone from our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning.” In America, our dancing has certainly turned into mourning, and it’s true not only across America, but of countries around the world. As COVID-19 spreads across our country, so also does increasing sadness. Grief is more than real.

Most of us have experienced grief, particularly when someone we loved passed away. Grief is triggered by loss, and most of America is grieving because of who—and what—we are losing. Our dancing has turned into mourning. Yes, thousands of Americans have died from COVID-19. We grieve their loss. As well, our grief has been triggered by the loss of jobs, the loss of a healthy economy, the loss of being with one another, the loss of a high school or college commencement, the loss of a wedding and reception, and more. The list of what we are losing only grows with each passing day, and a collective sadness spreads across the country and around the world as fast as the coronavirus. Our dancing has turned into mourning.

But what IF our mourning could be turned into dancing? Is it even possible? The answer is unequivocally, yes! From Psalm 30:11, we sing these words: “You have turned my mourning into dancing.” We will discover in the Scriptures HOW we can most certainly turn our mourning into dancing; our sobbing into singing.

This is the second of three brief sermons, “mini-messages” called CONTAGIOUS. Not only is COVID-19 highly contagious, but so also is fear, panic and uncertainty. This weekend, a couple in their early 50s in Illinois were victims of fear as they died in an apparent murder-suicide (link to local news story). When they thought they had contracted the virus, their fear and panic so overwhelmed them that they ended their lives abruptly. Their autopsies revealed they did not have the new coronavirus.  Remember, fear will always knock at your door, but just don’t invite it in to stay.

While we are in what is thought to be the worst of the pandemic, I feel lead of the Spirit to write three simple messages on three specific texts for a time such as this. Last week, Psalm 11 revealed how we can experience a Contagious Faith instead of a contagious fear, and this week, we discover that Contagious Joy can be more than real when the Lord turns our mourning into dancing.

Years ago, the late Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the five stages of grief to us. As we grieve the impact of COVID-19, we experience denial when we think “this virus won’t impact me.” We then move to anger as we consider lost physical or financial health, graduations, weddings, family gatherings, and more. Next, we begin to bargain as we think if we social distance for a couple of weeks, everything will be fine—right? Then, as we move into depression we are convinced that this will never end, that life will never be normal again. Yet finally, we arrive at acceptance and we resolve to move on in life, to take the right and necessary next steps through this season of loss.

Someone in the Bible came to a place of acceptance, and his name was Habakkuk. His story is told in the Old Testament. Though Habakkuk came to a season in life of horrific suffering and his dancing was turned into mourning, he came to know real joy – and so can we when we make his story our story.

Habakkuk’s Story…

Let’s take a look at Habakkuk’s story first from the proverbial 36,000’ as we need to understand what was taking place. Though Habakkuk has a difficult writing style, we can quickly understand that something painful was about to happen. These three short chapters reveal that a storm is building on the horizon and it is not happening atmospherically, but spiritually. Not only has the Northern Kingdom (i.e., Israel) been carried off into exile by the Assyrians, but the same will soon happen with the Southern Kingdom (i.e., Judah). Why? The people of God have rebelled against Him and have rejected Him. They have turned to idols of all shapes and sizes and have become unfaithful in the most ungodly of ways.

Now, Judah is about to be invaded by Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar will marshal his vast army and will destroy the city of Jerusalem—including the temple of God—and take survivors into exile. Habakkuk’s dancing would be turned to mourning, and in roughly eight short years from the time of his writing his “oracle” (1:1). Life as they knew it to be would be radically changed. Not only would thousands of people lose their lives, but they would lose their homes, their crops and livestock and more, bringing wave after wave of grief. Yet, his mourning would be turned back into dancing.

Let’s now descend into the text from our 36,000’ perspective. As we look at some of the verses, we need to know that there is something very unique in this book of the Bible. This book is a conversation between God and Habakkuk! 

Habakkuk 1:2-3

How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.

Habakkuk wasted no time in his conversation with God. Speaking TO God, Habakkuk began with the hard questions: “how long” and “why”. Habakkuk began with persistent, ever-familiar questions. He wanted to know WHY the “destruction, violence, strife and conflict” were plentiful in his nation had rejected and turned away from God. And Habakkuk wanted to know HOW LONG his suffering would continue. And check out God’s answer in verse 5.

Habakkuk 1:5-6

Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own.

And then God continues in the following verses, saying how He—God—has ordained, set apart the Babylonians will destroy Jerusalem and the land of Judah for their rebellion. It was a harsh answer to the hard questions asked by Habakkuk. In verse 5, the word “you” is not singular. Over and again, it is plural, meaning that this was an answer for everyone to hear. It wasn’t only for Habakkuk, but it was for Habakkuk to share throughout the city of Jerusalem and beyond. One more thing, the word “oracle” in verse 1 (and elsewhere) means “burden.” First, the word “oracle” means burden. Habakkuk had the heavy burden of communicating this news to all of God’s people. It’s one thing to share good news, yet entirely different to be the bearer of bad news. The name Habakkuk means “embrace.” Habakkuk had some bad news that he had to embrace, and the only way he could do so was to embrace God as his refuge and strength—which is exactly what he did.

Descending yet deeper into the text, check out how the conversation between Habakkuk and God ends. Though the conversation begins with hard questions and harsh answers, it ends with real hope.

Habakkuk 3:16-19

I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer, he enables me to go on to the heights.

All of chapter 3 is Habakkuk’s prayer to God, remembering and acknowledging the indescribable power of God as in times past. And thinking of what lay ahead, not only for the Israelites but for the Babylonians as well, Habakkuk was shaken. He doesn’t like what he hears, the answer he has received to his questions. In response to God unleashing His power in times past, Habakkuk was physically shaken. His “heart pounded” in his chest and his “lips quivered” in fear, while he became so weak that his legs trembled, making it difficult stand and move (v. 16). Moreover, Habakkuk would wait for calamity to engulf the invading Babylonians, for suffering and hardship to sweep over them.

And there was more. In all the ways that Israel was strong, they were suddenly weak. The agricultural and economic health of Israel was unexpectedly gone. There were no figs on the trees, grapes on the vines, and a complete crop failure when it came to olives. And to make matters worse, there were no sheep or cattle to be found! The food chain and economic engine of Israel was abruptly gone. This was a harsh, hard reality for Habakkuk. Yet, Habakkuk was able to make decision; an intentional, a deliberate decision. Without the evidence of God’s material provision and protection, Habakkuk chose to rejoice in the Lord, to be joyful in God for the Lord was his strength. Despite how bleak life looked, Habakkuk chose to rejoice in God. He would be victorious and not a victim.

Push Pause

We need to pause briefly in the conversation between Habakkuk and God and see some similarities with life today. America and much of the world has been invaded by COVID-19. Massive losses are real; from the passing away of people, to the loss of jobs, and much more. As COVID-19 spreads across the country, so also does fear, panic AND grief. A tsunami of sadness drowns people in despair. Like Habakkuk, we ask “WHY” this is happening and “HOW LONG” until it is over. And after asking the hard questions, we don’t like the harsh answers and observations we see, such as the increasing numbers of people testing positive with COVID-19 and the rising number of people who have died of this virus. We do not like empty parking lots and idle businesses. We do not like canceled commencements and closed churches. As in the day of Habakkuk when the olive crop failed and sheep and cattle were nowhere to be found, we find ourselves shaken to the very core. Our dancing has turned into mourning.

Think with me. There’s a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is rooted in our circumstances. For example, people get a promotion and raise at work, a student wins a scholarship, a company has record sales, and more. People are of the mindset that winning the lottery brings immediate happiness. Yet, research proves time and again that winning the lottery makes misery a reality. According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, 7 out of ten people who suddenly receive a windfall of cash will lose it within a few years. It’s called the curse of the lottery. Easy come, easy go. Divorce, depression, tragedies are a part of winning the lottery. [Melissa Chan, “Here’s How Winning the Lottery Makes You Miserable,” Time (1-12-16)]

Not even money – and lots of it—can make us happy. Money, and the things that money can buy, do not bring us joy. There is a difference between happiness and joy. We learn from Habakkuk how to find joy. Like Habakkuk, we CAN turn our mourning into dancing. We CAN experience a contagious joy. How did Habakkuk’s sobbing turn into singing? Knowing that his city would be destroyed and his life forever changed, how was he able to rejoice in the Lord? And, how can we? The answer lies in chapter 2. Think…www.joy.

Habakkuk 2:1

I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.

Habakkuk mentioned an important, a vital practice in his day – and that being the city watchman. It was essential that men be stationed on the ramparts of the city wall to look for any threat advancing coming towards the city, as well as for anyone approaching with that which was good for the city. For example, in 2 Kings 7, enemies of Israel had surrounded the city of Samaria, laying siege to it. The resulting famine claimed many lives of people in that city, but four men left the city and walked into the enemy camp to turn themselves in—only to discover that the camp had been abandoned and mountains of food was left behind. These men returned to the city and called out to the watchmen on the walls and at the gates that they had good news.

W for Watch!

While in the midst of COVID-19, make certain to watch for God’s goodness, and we will be able to rejoice in the Lord. Our mourning will turn into dancing. The media continues to feed us a constant feast of bad news. Remember, we become what we eat – not only physically but also mentally. If all we hear is one piece of bad news after another, we will be crushed by the weight of hopelessness and worry.

Amazon keeps track of your highlights and mine. When we read e-books and we mark sentences, Amazon knows what we highlight, and they take note of it. Amazon released a list of the most popular passages in some of its bestselling books. Amazon even indicated the most highlighted passage in the Bible. It wasn’t John 3:16 or Psalm 23. It is a text that speaks powerfully into a worried world, and it is Philippians 4:6-7. [Robert J. Morgan, Worry Less, Live More (Thomas Nelson, 2017, p. xiii)]. When the Apostle Paul was imprisoned, he wrote a letter to a church in Philippi, and in that letter, Paul said…

Philippians 4:4-8

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or trustworthy—think about such things.

“Think” is a word in Greek from which we derive our word logarithm, which is a very difficult part of math demanding some prolonged thinking! Throughout this crisis, take time throughout the day to look for the “goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13). Call it a “take 10” break…ten minutes to focus on specific good in life right now. Count them on your fingers – food to eat, a roof over the head, a car to drive, a phone in my hand, an internet to surf, a Bible to read, family and friends to love, the Spirit who never leaves me, Jesus who saves me and a Father who loves me, etc.

W for Word!

Did we notice that in addition to watching, Habakkuk said that he would “look to see what he will say to me.” He would look to hear a word from God. God has been speaking from the beginning of measured time when he said, “Let there be light,” and being that God does not change, He is still speaking today. The question is: are we listening? In our hands, we have the timeless Word of God and it is filled with words of strong promise and wise counsel. It is a “lamp to our feet and light to our path” (Ps. 119:105). Romans 15: 4 reminds us that “everything written in the past was written to teach us so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.” Are we spending more time reading the news or the Word, more time playing video games and binging on Netflix or reading and thinking on the Word? When we turn to the Word of God, we hear from God and when we hear from God, we can rejoice in God – and our mourning will turn to dancing.

W for Worship!

Habakkuk 2:20

The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him.

God was then and will also be worthy of our worship. Even when Jerusalem was destroyed, God was still in His holy temple, sovereign and in control. And remember that silence before the Lord is not only for reverence, but also in acceptance of God’s judgment. Habakkuk was accepting the grim reality that God was about to punish the Israelites by the Babylonians. It left Habakkuk silent before God. We worship God not only with our songs, but with our silence.

Habakkuk asked God WHY suffering was happening in the land of Judah and HOW LONG it would last. Though it wasn’t the answer he was hoping to hear from God, Habakkuk accepted what God had to say and, in the end, Habakkuk chose to “rejoice in the Lord.” The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). We can know this joy when we watch for the goodness of the Lord, hear the Lord speak to us in His Word, and we sincerely worship the Lord, know that He is in His holy temple, worthy of our worship. Happiness is rooted in circumstances, but joy is rooted in our relationship with God.

Friends, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus said to His disciples: “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” Jesus has overcome the world.

We are beginning to hear in the news of people who tested positive for COVID-19, struggled with it, but in the end overcame it. Now, their blood is being drawn and antibodies from their blood are given to people struggling with the virus – hoping that it will help people conquer COVID-19. That news story reminded me of another story from years ago. When diphtheria raged throughout Europe, Dr. Felix Ruh, a friend and colleague of Louis Pasteur, infected twenty healthy horses with the bacteria and one by one, each horse died, that is, except one. That strong horse conquered diphtheria, it overcame the pandemic. Dr. Ruh then took blood from that horse and inoculated over 300 hundred babies in Paris nearing death from diphtheria, and they lived. They were saved by the blood of the overcomer. And so are we! The bad news is, yes—in this world, we will have trouble. If its not COVID-19, it will be something else. But the good news is this, Jesus is the Overcomer! He alone is the One who saves us.

Joy is real. We may watch a spectacular sunrise or sunset and we don’t want it to end. We may travel and see a spectacular site where we’ve never been; seeing and swimming in an ocean for the first time, looking and walking into the Grand Canyon for the first time, and we don’t want that moment to end—but it does. Whatever that joy filled moment is, we say or think: “I don’t want this ever to end,” but it does. When we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ and we trust in His death on a cross for the gift of eternal life, we will be with the Lord and one another forever. There will be unspeakable joy. We will say or think: “I don’t want this to end. I want this to go on forever,” and it will. This is the Gospel, the Good News from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That word – “Gospel” – also means “the joy news.”

My parents were kids during the Great Depression, and when they were in high school, World War II impacted them—and everyone in America. Then, it was the Korean War, and then the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the list goes on and on. Over 100 times, we read a phrase in the Bible that just simply says, “And it came to pass…” The Great Depression came to pass, as did World War 2, as did Korean War, and more. It came to pass, and this crisis will come to pass.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Let’s spread some contagious joy!

 

************************************************************************

Copyright 2020 by e2: effective elders. All materials presented by Dr. Gary L. Johnson are copyrighted material. You may use this material for your teaching purposes. In doing so, please retain all copyright, trademark and propriety notices on this document, and do not make any modifications to the materials. For any uses other than this, written permission is required. (e2: effective elders; c/o Dr. Gary L. Johnson; 6430 S. Franklin Road; Suite A, Indianapolis, IN 46259).

Sermon: Contagious Faith

by Gary Johnson, e2 Executive Director 

 

Text: Psalm 11:1-7

Introduction:

In the early 1990s, an advertising campaign was launched that still impacts people to this day. The commercials showed many famous men and women and each person appeared to have a white mustache, which then prompted the question: “Got milk?” It’s a product brand for which many dairy producers are exceptionally grateful. The advertising campaign was an overnight success – and it remains memorable to this day, some twenty-five years later.

Regretfully, in these challenging days, when we hear someone cough or sneeze, we are not asking, “Got milk?” To the contrary, we ask or think: “Got it? COVID-19?” When we acquire some aches and pains, we ask ourselves: “Got it?” When we develop a sore throat or begin to feel a little warm, we ask ourselves: “Got it?” In this new year, a new virus has caused us to live in a new way – and in a way we do not enjoy.

Every day, we hear of how the coronavirus becomes increasingly contagious across the country and around the world. It has become a pandemic (i.e., a disease that spreads across a country or around the globe) and one that is foremost on our minds. Yet, we need to remind ourselves that there are other pandemics that have spread—and in some cases continue to spread—around the world, such as:

  • Malaria: In 2018, the World Health Organization reported 228 million people with malaria throughout the world, and with over three billion people at risk of contracting malaria. Regretfully, over 405,000 people died of the disease, and it takes the life of a child every two minutes.
  • AIDS: Since the initial diagnosis of AIDS, the World Health Organization reports that over 75 million people have contracted the disease, killing more than 32 million individuals. In 2018, 1.7 million people contracted the disease.
  • H1N1 (Swine Flu): The CDC reports that in the flu season of 2009-2010, more than 60 million Americans contracted H1N1, with 274,000 people hospitalized, and over 12,469 Americans died of this pandemic.
  • Seasonal Flu: The CDC reported for the 2018-19 flu season, 35.5 million Americans contracted the flu, resulting in 34,200 deaths, including the deaths of 136 children. In this current flu season (2019-2020), 38 million Americans have contracted the flu and 23,000 have died from it.

Each of these viruses have reached pandemic levels because of being highly contagious. But not only does the disease spread, something spreads along with it: fear, panic, uncertainty and more. In this current pandemic of COVID-19, people the world over are gripped by fear of the unknown: “Will I or someone I love contract the virus, be laid off from work, become bankrupt, lose my house, etc.?” Fear is as contagious as the virus itself.

Yet, what IF we—the Church—were contagious in another way. What IF we had something that began to spread from across town where we live to across the nation we call home? What IF people wanted what we have? Can we—the Church—become contagious in this way?

 

In response to COVID-19, we ask the question:

“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

This question was first asked nearly 3,000 years ago when a young God-follower was being chased by King Saul of Israel. The young fugitive was David, who would become the king of Israel in place of Saul – and Saul knew that to be true. He knew that his days were numbered and that is why Saul was determined to hunt David down and kill him. David’s closest friends and advisors looked at life in Israel under Saul and they concluded that life—as they knew it—was being destroyed. The foundations of law and justice under Saul were all but gone, destroyed by Saul’s jealousy and hate, prompting the question: “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Some 3,000 years later, we could make the same assessment. When it comes to life as we know it, some people would say that the foundations are being destroyed. When COVID-19 began to spread across our country, it wasn’t long before the economic foundations of the USA were being destroyed, or medical service infra-structures were destroyed, or school systems, or insert whatever aspect of society you wish. But remember, it wasn’t a statement that was first posed 3,000 years ago, it was a question. “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” And today, as COVID-19 appears to many people as destroying the foundations of life as we know it, what can we—followers of Jesus—do in response?

As we dive into the text, it is vital that we understand the context before we look at the content of Psalm 11. When David wrote this Psalm, he was being chased by King Saul who wanted David dead. Saul was hunting him down like an animal to be captured and killed. David’s friends feared for him and urged him to flee to the mountains, hiding from Saul and his thousands of soldiers. But David had a different idea, and therefore, a different response because how a person THINKS determines how a person ACTS. Now for the content.

Psalm 11:1-7

1 In the Lord I take refuge.   How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain. 2 For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart. 3 When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? 4 The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord is on His heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; His eyes examine them. 5 The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence His soul hates. 6 On the wicked He will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. 7 For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice; upright men will see his face.”

This Psalm has two basic parts or sections: verses 1-3 and verses 4-7. In part one, young David was told…

Contagious Fear

In verses 1-3, David asked his friends, his counselors, his advisors: “How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.”

Simply put, David rejected their advice to run for the hills, to flee in fear (i.e., “how can you ask me to flee like a bird to the mountains”). Saul and his soldiers had their bows bent with their arrows ready to fly and pierce the hearts of David and his men. David’s friends and counselors were well aware of the looming threat Saul posed. For whatever reason, these men quaked in fear and their only advice to David was to flee, to run for a hideout in the hills because according to them, “the foundations were being destroyed.”

But in response, David chose NOT to listen to them. He chose NOT to take their advice. He chose NOT to be overwhelmed with fear.

Contagious Faith

In verses 4-7, David responded in a far different manner than expected by his friends and counselors. The first words out of David’s mouth to his friends and counselors were: “In the Lord I take refuge” (v. 1). David wasn’t about to hide in a mountain cave. He took refuge in God Almighty! Why? David had learned to put his faith in God and God alone. After all, this battle with Saul was not the first in which David anchored his faith in God—even when others did not.

In 1 Samuel 17, we read of David confronting not only a warrior named Goliath, but the entire army of the Philistines. When King Saul and Israel’s army refused to confront the enemies of God, David did. And why? Young David was not overwhelmed with fear, but he was overcome by faith in Almighty God.

1 Samuel 17:45-47

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give all of you into our hands.”

While the entire army of Israel quaked in fear, David stood—and acted—in faith. David fulfilled the definition of faith as provided in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” David was sure that God would empower him to conquer not only Goliath, but the entire Philistine army. Moreover, David was certain of this victory though it was still unseen. Such faith is contagious.

In his Psalm, David wrote of three reasons WHY he had a contagious faith in God and did not run in fear (see verses 4-7).

  • God is in control.

David declared that the Lord is “in His holy temple” and “…on His heavenly throne” (v. 4). Simply put, God is in control, complete control. David was emphatic in this declaration in that he said the Lord IS, not perhaps or maybe or that He might be—in His temple and on His throne. David declared absolute, unchanging truth. David had already been anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel (1 Sam. 16:1-13), and knowing that God is in control, David knew that he would eventually be Israel’s king and not killed by Saul.

  • God is concerned.

Also, in verse 4, David declared that God “observes the sons of men; His eyes examine them.” David repeated this comment in verse 5: “The Lord examine the righteous…” David knew that Almighty God was fully aware of what was happening in his life moment-to-moment. David had faith in God that the Almighty was truly concerned for him. David would write in Psalm 139:2-3, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”

Moreover, in verse 5, the phrase “examines the righteous” means “to test, to prove” something about those who are God-followers. This is yet another dimension as to God being concerned. God is concerned for His followers that they pass the test, that they prove to be faithful to God in difficult trials. David knew that God was testing him while Saul was chasing him. God was watching David to see if David would anchor his faith in Him in the face of difficulty and death.

  • God is consoling.

David was able to anchor his faith in God because of God’s great consolation. David found God to be consoling in both His Person and His Promise. David declared that the Person of God is both “righteous” and that He “loves justice” (v. 7). Righteous God will do only that which is right, and He is just. As well, the Promise of God is that those who follow Him “will see His face.” God promises eternal life when every one of His followers will finally see Him face-to-face.

Contagious fear did not capture David. To the contrary, David’s contagious faith in God enabled him to face every day in the strength and confidence of Almighty God – no matter how close Saul came to take his life.

How Does This Speak into Our Lives?

In Romans 15:4, the Apostle Paul wrote: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.” The story of David speaks loudly and clearly into our lives some 3,000 years later.

We are being “chased down” –not by a person—but by a virus that threatens our lives. It is easy for us to reach the conclusion that “the foundations are being destroyed” here in our country.

  • Our economic foundations are being destroyed as jobs are lost, savings are spent, investments no longer exist, and our nation’s economy crumbles.
  • Our social foundations are being destroyed as people are urged to disconnect relationally for an unknown period of time.
  • Our political foundations are being destroyed as politicians continue to argue with and accuse one another in unrelenting conflict.
  • Our medical foundations are being destroyed as hospitals across our nation are crushed with tens of thousands of people needing treatment of all kinds.

So, the question remains: “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” From David’s psalm, there are two answers to that question. We can be overwhelmed by…

Contagious Fear

Remember, the word “contagious” means that a disease passes from one person to another, it is communicable by contact.” COVID-19 is not the only virus spreading across America, but a virus of FEAR washes over our nation like tsunami. Some of the news coverage – whether in print or media formats – has ignited fear among Americans with one story of “breaking news” after another. An article that fueled fear across our nation was run in the New York Times entitled “Worst-Case Estimates for U.S. Coronavirus Deaths” (NYT; Sheri Finks, 3/13/2020) and the article quoted the CDC as saying, “As many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die.” Statements like this causes fear to explosively spread across the US just as if we were to throw a five-gallon can of gasoline on a bonfire.

Fear is contagious. It spreads. It knows no bounds. Children and teenagers can become “infected” with fear as it spreads from their parents and grandparents. The elderly and those at-risk of contracting the virus often struggle with fear as they hear news reports of deaths involving their demographic. Fear envelopes employees, business owners, health care providers, and more.

To prevent contagious fear from “infecting” us, we need to practice “media distancing” in a real way. Change the channel and watch something other than “breaking news,” which is nothing more than repeating the same news stories from yesterday. News outlets spread stories of gloom-and-doom with rolling statistics on the screen of the growing numbers of people infected with COVID-19 and those who have died. Why don’t we hear the GOOD NEWS of those who have not only contracted COVID-19, but have been cured of the virus?

Contagious Faith

Like David, the better and right response for us to have is one of contagious faith. When the foundations are being destroyed, the righteous can—and must—live by faith. AND it can be contagious – spreading from Christian to Christian!

Remember, God is immutable. God doesn’t change. He even declared in Malachi 3:6, “I, the Lord, do not change.” Therefore, God is STILL in control. God is STILL concerned for us. God is STILL consoling us. Nothing has changed about WHO God is or WHAT He is capable of doing.

Australia is moving – literally. In 2016, National Geographic reported that the continent moves 2.7 inches per year in a northerly direction and in a slight clockwise motion (Brian Clark Howard; “Australia is Drifting So Fast GPS Can’t Keep Up;” 9/23/16). Since the last correction of their GPS coordinates in 1994, the nation moved 4.9 feet. Moreover, Australia’s GPS adjustment in 1994 was a correction of 656 feet! The reason for the shift in location is due to the tectonic plates on which the nation is built. Deep underground, there is subtle and continual movement in the rocks under Australia.

Much is changing around us, and not only the continent of Australia. As God-followers, we must remember this: God does not change. When coronavirus is changing so much in our lives, our faith is built on the unchanging truth that God remains who He is—forever.

On the night before His death, and as their world was suddenly coming apart at the seams, Jesus told His follower, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Looking closely at that phrase, the word “troubled” means upset, frightened, even terrified. With Jesus about to be taken from them, these men were suddenly upset, frightened and terrified. As well, this phrase was not a suggestion. It was a command that was to be continually obeyed 24/7 (as it is a present tense imperative). No matter the time of day or the day of the week, and no matter the circumstances in life, these followers of Jesus were NOT upset, frightened or terrified. But how can that be?

Jesus went on to say: “Trust in God. Trust also in Me.” The word “trust” means to be convinced that it something is true, to be persuaded that we can place our confidence in God and Jesus. When they took Jesus at His word, they could anchor their faith in Him. Psalm 20:7 states: “Some trust in chariots. Some trust in horses. But we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Our currency and coins state: “In God we trust.” Do we?

In this time of contagious fear, do we trust in God? Jesus commanded us to do so. The question is: will we obey?

Remember this fact: how we think determines how we live. It bears repeating; how we think determines how we live. HOW we think about God determines HOW we live on a daily basis. We must be convinced and persuaded that God is in control, is concerned and is consoling us. Then, we must live in a manner that demonstrates our beliefs.

The mouth of the Amazon River is more than ninety miles across and its current is so powerful that it pushes freshwater two hundred miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. Centuries ago, when seafarers floated for days without the wind blowing and drinking water supplies dwindled on board, they would often call out to nearby boats asking for life-giving water. Much to their surprise, a sailor would call back, “Put down your buckets! You’re in the mouth of the mighty Amazon!” All they could see was their fear of dying of thirst. They were blind to the fact that fresh water was within their reach.

As breaking news continues to spread contagious fear across America, we must never forget that God is within our reach. He is Immanuel, God with us – and He is for us. God is bigger than COVID-19 and the fear it brings. Like King David, do not listen to people who urge us to run, “fleeing to the mountains.” Instead, stand on the promises of God and become infected with a contagious faith that spreads from us to our families, to our circle of friends and beyond.

Jeremiah 32:27

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is there anything too hard for Me?”

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Copyright 2020 by e2: effective elders. All materials presented by Dr. Gary L. Johnson are copyrighted material. You may use this material for your teaching purposes. In doing so, please retain all copyright, trademark and propriety notices on this document, and do not make any modifications to the materials. For any uses other than this, please contact gary@e2elders.org for permission. (e2: effective elders; c/o Dr. Gary L. Johnson; 6430 S. Franklin Road; Suite A, Indianapolis, IN 46259).

Does God Still Heal?

by Gary Johnson, D.Min.

 

This essay can help elders encourage individuals in their sphere of influence experience both help for today and hope for tomorrow in these uncertain times as we answer the question: Does God still heal?

 

As we welcomed the arrival of 2020 in the early hours of January 1, never would we have imagined that we would welcome a new life-threatening virus to the United States. In simply a matter of a few weeks, this new virus (SARS-CoV-2 virus / COVID-19 is the disease) has not only swept around the world from nation to nation, but it has now swept across our country to the very places where you and I live. Moreover, as one day passes to the next, both the number of infections and deaths continue to rise. Panic is real. Anxiety is measurable.

Many people – even the strongest of Christians – struggle with fear of the unknown, wondering if they or a loved one will contract the coronavirus. And should that happen, we wonder, does God still heal? If we or someone we know and love contracts this virus – or any disease for that matter – does God still heal? It’s one of our most pressing yet unasked questions.

We hear updates that our medical systems are insufficient to handle the anticipated number of Americans who will contract this disease. Knowing that there is not yet a vaccine for this virus and that the number of beds in ICUs are limited for such a crisis, people’s panic is amplified. The New York Times ran an article with statistics from the CDC saying there could be more deaths from this virus than the number of Americans who died in World War 2 (“Worst-Case Estimates for U.S. Coronavirus Deaths”; 3/18/2020). Our lives have been invaded by a life-threatening enemy.

When I read that article, I thought of one of the most powerful invasions that took place in World War 2. It was the invasion known as D-Day. On June 6, 1944, our Allied Forces launched a massive attack against Nazi Germany along the beaches of Normandy, France. The battle began just before dawn. Indescribable emotion gripped the hearts of many thousands of soldiers landing on those beaches, even as they witnessed more than 4,000 fellow fighters gunned down by the Nazis. Massive confusion reigned with more than 11,000 planes flying overhead, more than 6,000 vessels sailing towards shore, and more than 150,000 soldiers landing on the beach. Yet, when the battle came to an end and the smoke cleared, a conclusion was reached and it was obvious who would eventually win the war.

As this new virus invades your world and mine, we experience emotion and confusion that will lead to a conclusion. In the midst of it all, let’s ask – and answer – the question: does God still heal?

 

EMOTION

2 Kings 20:1-3

About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: “This is what the Lord says: Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.”

When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” Then he broke down and wept bitterly.

King Hezekiah experienced his own personal D-Day. His life was suddenly invaded by a life-threatening illness. The prophet Isaiah went to the King and told him he was terminally ill. Hezekiah was told to put his house in order for him impending death. Hezekiah was to make sure that his last will and testament was written, his accounts at the bank were in joint custody, and more. Notice also, that his D-day invasion was full of emotion. Immediately he prayed, while sobbing uncontrollably.

Centuries later, nothing has changed. COVID-19 has suddenly invaded our lives and as we hear that people of all ages are becoming infected, emotions begin to unsettle us. We panic and the shelves in stores become empty. Worry and anxiety begin to take their toll as we hear of schools shutting down, and the closing of offices, restaurants, work places and more. We become unnerved when we begin to cough, sneeze, run a fever – wondering if we have the virus. And not only do we experience emotions, but…

 

CONFUSION

2 Kings 20:2-3

When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” Then he broke down and wept bitterly.

Notice that Hezekiah prayed, asking God to remember how he had lived a devoted, faithful, godly life. King Hezekiah was a morally good king, a godly king. We even refer to him as “good King Hezekiah.” Could Hezekiah have experienced confusion? Could he have struggled with the “why” question of suffering this terminal disease? Was God punishing him for something in his past?

This line of questioning has always been part of this life. Many people are confused, thinking that each and every illness is a direct consequence of sin. Yet, that is a wrong assumption. Before Jesus healed a man who had been born blind (John 9:1-3), His disciples asked Him, “…who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus’ answer was that neither of them had sinned. His being blind had nothing to do with sin. Even the righteous man Job was afflicted with much suffering. His wealth was stolen from him. Serious illness afflicted him. Then all ten of his children were killed in a single catastrophe. Once Job’s three friends arrived to console him, they quickly began to accuse him of cherished sin in his life that resulted in what they believed to be God’s punishment. What CONFUSION!

Should we be personally impacted by the coronavirus, we should not be surprised when confusion comes. In confusion, we may struggle with the question, “why do bad things happen to good people?” If we allow confusion to reign and we assume that our sickness is God’s punitive response to our sin, we may begin to doubt His love and care for us. Our confusion becomes worse when we hear of people being healed, but we know of others who are not. Is God’s love and care arbitrary? Will our prayers make a difference? Will God hear even hear them?

 

CONCLUSION

2 Kings 20:4-6

But before Isaiah had left the middle courtyard, this message came to him from the Lord: “Go back to Hezekiah, the leader of my people. Tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you, and three days from now you will get out of bed and go to the Temple of the Lord.  I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will rescue you and this city from the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my own honor and for the sake of my servant David.’”

Once the smoke-filled skies cleared over the beaches of Normandy, France, we knew who would eventually win the war. The conclusion of all the battles that were fought throughout the World War 2 led to the final victory of the Allied Forces against the Axis. Likewise, a conclusion was reached by good King Hezekiah: 1) God heard the king’s passionate prayer, 2) God’s heart was deeply moved because 3) God healed Hezekiah. Previously, God had told Hezekiah to “Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die; you will not recover” (v. 1). Obviously, God relented. God showed mercy.

God is immutable. God does not change. He even declared, “I, the Lord, do not change” in Malachi 3:6. That means you and I can reach the same conclusion whether we are “invaded” by COVID-19, cancer, TB, malaria, H1N1 or another disease. The conclusion of the matter is this: God STILL hears our prayers, we STILL can touch the heart of God, and God can STILL heal.

 

A PRACTICAL APPLICATION

As elders, we must remember that the first-century church faced life-threatening disease. Believers experienced fear as they saw loved ones become ill and die. How did elders back then respond? What action did believers take back then?

James 5:13-18

Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.  Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

 

Context Before Content

Here’s the context.

The author of this brief book in the New Testament is the half-brother of Jesus. James did not believe that his big brother was the promised Anointed One until Jesus was raised from the dead. It wasn’t until Jesus died on the cross, was buried in the tomb, and then raised to life that his little brother James became a believer – and what a strong believer he was! James was also known as “James, the Just” and “camel knees.” He was “Just” because he was very devoted to his faith, even praying for hours on end at the temple in Jerusalem. His long hours of praying on his knees caused them to become deformed in some manner. Tradition teaches that when James would not renounce Jesus as his Messiah, he was taken to the top of the Temple and thrown him to the ground, in hopes of killing him. Surviving the fall, he was then stoned and beaten to death with a club. James died as a martyr sometime in the 60s, decades after the resurrection of his brother, Jesus.  

Now for the content.

When we go to the doctor, our physician looks us over and makes some observations. Let’s do the same with this passage. Let’s just look it over, making four observations that help us as elders to minister to people when their health, or the health of someone in their congregation, is threatened by COVID-19 or with any other illness or injury.  

Observation #1:

In these six consecutive verses, something keeps being repeated and that something is prayer (vv. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18). Prayer is the theme of these verses, not illness. We shouldn’t be surprised by this because James was a man devoted to prayer. James commands us to pray. As a matter of fact, of the 108 verses comprising the entire book of James, there are 54 imperatives in Greek. An imperative is a command, and a command is meant to be obeyed. A number of those commands are in this passage. When a person is in trouble (v. 13; suffering hardship, difficult times, trials, persecution) or sick (v. 14 to be weak, having no strength, being incapacitated or disabled), that person must pray. Don’t just run to the doctor. Run to God.

Observation #2:

When a person is sick, they are to call the elders (v. 14). Elders were – and still are – the spiritual leaders of the local church. One of the words for an elder in Greek is poimen, meaning “shepherd.” A shepherd cares for the sheep, which is a powerful metaphor for elders of the church to care for the people of the church.

In the first century church, people struggling with illness called for the elders to pray over them and to anoint them with oil. There are two words for “anoint” in NT Greek. One word means a religious and ceremonial anointing, such as in anointing an individual as the new king. The second word for anointing is practical in nature, such as when oil was put on something (i.e., rubbing oil on a wound, treating the person medically). In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan traveling on the road to Jericho. When the Samaritan came upon the man who had been robbed, beaten and left for dead, Jesus told of how the Good Samaritan “poured oil and wine on the man’s wounds,” (v. 34) thereby cleansing his wounds and medically treating him. First-century elders were like modern-day doctors who, at times, treated sick people medically, as well as spiritually.  In this twenty-first century church, when we are afflicted with illness and injury, be sure to call on the elders to pray over us and be certain to seek medical treatment from our physicians. Pray! And have elders pray! Run to God, and after doing so, go to the doctor. Do what is medically right, reasonable and necessary. And remember – as the SARS-CoV-2 virus keeps us physically away from one another, we can still have the elders pray over us. Consider using Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or any other medium. Let’s leverage technology during this crisis period. 

Moreover, the elders were to anoint (i.e., medically treat) the individual “in the name of the Lord.” This phrase means that the elders were depending on the Lord, trusting in the Lord to bring healing to the individual. They waited on the Lord for His will to be done. Waiting on the Lord and praying for His will to be done in times of illness is not easy. In our age of instant everything, waiting is hard. Praying for the Lord’s will to be done is difficult to pray. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed: “Father, if it be possible, may this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Your will be done” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus had to suffer the wrath of God for the payment of our sins. He was not exempt from suffering and death. In times of suffering, it is exceptionally difficult to pray: “Lord Jesus, your will be done; nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.” Praying that takes courage and surrender.

Verse 15 reads, “Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.” Jesus was known as the Master Physician while He walked on this earth. Of the thirty-seven recorded miracles of Jesus in the Bible, twenty-eight involved physical healing. Fully seventy-five percent, three out of four miracles of Jesus, were of physical healing. Being that Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forevermore,” all that He has ever done, He can still do. I, personally, have witnessed healings of people where confirmed illness was diagnosed and confirmed healing took place, and the only explanation could be God.

Then again, there are moments when the Lord chooses not to heal in this life. Every person dies at some point in time and by some kind of illness or injury, even if it is simply old age. The only way “to be home with the Lord” is to be “absent from this body” (i.e., to die; 2 Corinthians 5:8). Even Elisha, the great prophet and miracle-worker, suffered from an illness from which he eventually died (2 Kings 13:14). His complete healing happened when he went home to be with God. Paul healed people and even raised them from the dead, such as the young man Eutychus, who fell out of a third-story window and died from his injuries (Acts 20:9-10). Yet, Trophimus was another friend of his, whom Paul had to leave behind ill in Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20). Paul could heal people, so why wasn’t Trophimus healed? Moreover, why wasn’t the Paul himself healed? There was a time in his life when he had a “thorn in his flesh” that “tormented” him (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). The very same Greek word used in James 5:14 for “sick” (astheneo) is the same word Paul used to describe his thorn. Something took place in Paul’s life that caused him to become sick, weak, and incapacitated. He prayed three times, begging God to heal him, and yet, Paul wasn’t healed. God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Now, there’s one more thing about the word “well” in verse 15. “Well” is the Greek word sozo, and one of its meanings is “to save.” We must remember that because of sin, death happens to all of us. There will be some illness or injury that will claim your life and mine, but those who die in the Lord are ultimately healed (i.e., saved). When we turn to the Lord in prayer, waiting on Him, trusting in Him, submitting to His will in our lives, “the Lord will raise us up” (v. 15). We will be more alive than we have ever been in this life, never to die again! The curse of death will be destroyed (Rev. 22:3). When the Apostle John wrote: “No longer will there be any sea” (Rev. 21:1), he was writing from the prison island of Patmos, separated from his loved ones who were back on the mainland, with roughly sixty miles of open ocean separating them. “No longer will there be any sea” means that when Jesus returns and God creates the new earth, the curse of death will never happen again. Death will never again separate us from one another. Now, death is an interruption, a separation that will someday come to an end for those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ, trusting in His death on a cross for the forgiveness of their sin.

Observation #3:

James ended verse 15 writing about sins being forgiven, and he continued into verse 16 writing that we must “confess [our] sins to each other and pray for each other so that [we] may be healed.” Why did James bring up the issues of sin and confession in relationship to illness? Simply put, sin was the cause of illness from the beginning of time, having its origin in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve committed sin. The entrance of sin into this world brought death.

Romans 5:12

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.

The curse of death is the result of sin. Our bodies age, illness strikes, and we eventually die. Still, there are times when we see a direct relationship between sin and sickness. We may have not cared for our bodies; our life choices or patterns (substance abuse, anxiety or compulsive worry, overwork, etc.), may have brought on us an illness or condition that leads to death.

As we work through these observations, we need to remember that a spiritual healing must take place in our lives with God. All of us struggle with the sickness of sin that results in death, both physically and spiritually. If we die without Christ as our Savior and Lord, we experience a spiritual death; that is, eternity in hell – forever separated from God. We must be spiritually healed of our sin and only Jesus Christ can accomplish that healing for us through His death on the cross. As elders, we must help people find this ultimate healing as we urge them to believe, repent, confess, be immersed and remain faithful.

Observation #4:

In verses 16-18, James emphasized the importance and power of prayer. Not only is prayer possible, it is powerful. When people are “righteous” they sincerely walk with God with a hunger and thirst for all that is good and right, a vital and faithful relationship with God can result in powerful and effective prayer. Remember, prayer is depending on and trusting in God. Prayer aligns our lives with the will of God, submitting to His sovereignty. Prayer is not thinking of God as being a genie in a lamp, who says to us, “Your wish is my command.” Rather, when we continue to sincerely walk with God, we grow increasingly able to say, “Your will for my life is my desire.”

Our Prayer for you…

Our Father in Heaven,

Please enable each and every elder serving Your Church to be shepherds of God’s flock that is under their care, for those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. Remind them of Your promise: The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love and rejoice over you with singing. As the foundations are being destroyed, urge them to not let their hearts to be troubled. But to trust in You and in Your Son Jesus, our Great Shepherd,

In whose name we pray,

Amen.

 

******************************************************************************

Resources Consulted:

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Kistemaker, Simon J. James & 1,2,3 John Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986.

MacArthur, John. James Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1998.

Nystrom, David P. NIV Application Commentary: James Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997.

Rienecker, Fritz. A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991.

Wright, N.T. The Early Christian Letters: James, Peter, John and Judah Louisville, KT: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.

******************************************************************************

Copyright 2020 by e2: effective elders. All materials presented by Dr. Gary L. Johnson are copyrighted material. You may use this material for your teaching purposes. In doing so, please retain all copyright, trademark and propriety notices on this document, and do not make any modifications to the materials. For any uses other than this, written permission is required. (e2: effective elders; c/o Dr. Gary L. Johnson; 6430 S. Franklin Road; Suite A, Indianapolis, IN 46259

Play #9: Crisis Response

by Gary Johnson 

In Acts 27:9-44, Dr. Luke provides a detailed account of a storm. Paul was standing trial and he appealed his case to Caesar in Rome. Hence, Paul was on a ship, en route to Rome, when it was caught in a storm. According to Luke’s account, the storm was both 1) sudden and 2) serious. The storm was a “northeaster,” and from that word we derive “typhoon.” It was life-threatening. Moreover, the crew took drastic measures to save their lives, such as in the passing of ropes under the ship to hold it together, as well as throwing the cargo and rigging overboard to lighten the ship. In reading carefully through the text, Paul provided exceptional leadership throughout the two-week ordeal, helping all 276 men aboard to survive.

Similarly, every day, everywhere in the world, crises happen. A crisis can be both sudden and serious, causing great fear and distress to the people impacted by it. Elders, like Paul, must lead courageously and competently through the crisis for the well-being of the local church. Elders are called “shepherds” – and shepherds protect sheep. Ergo, elders must protect the congregation in times of crisis.

Being that crisis response and management is an enormous field of study and leadership, this article provides merely a simple step-by-step template to follow in the event of a sudden and serious crisis impacting the congregation.

Step Identification: Like clothing, crises come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Not all crises are alike; one may involve the church building (i.e., a fire, flooding, etc.); whereas, another crisis may intimately and personally impact the lives of people (i.e., sexual abuse, injury, etc.). A “one-size-fits-all” response to a crisis is not appropriate. Elders must identify the type of crisis impacting the church and then move to the logical and right next step.

Step Safety: Again, depending on the nature of the crisis, step 2 is essential when there is a threat of harm to individuals. In the case of fire, an active shooter, injury to individual(s), etc., an immediate call to 9-1-1 must be made. The church must have an evacuation plan that is known to the congregation, in the event of fire, sudden storm (i.e., tornado), active shooter, etc. The local church must have an emergency response team within the congregation. These individuals can be volunteers with training in first-aid, security skills, etc. Moreover, first-aid equipment should be available in the church to use until emergency response personnel arrive on the scene.

Step Triage: The elders must appoint an emergency response team whose responsibility is to triage the crisis. Just as when individuals are taken to a trauma center following a massive accident and the medical team is trained to triage injuries, so also must the local church have a trained and identified team of individuals who will triage the immediate steps to take in the event of a crisis. This team, appointed by the elders, must be given authority, along with their responsibility, to act on behalf of the church with immediacy. When a serious crisis suddenly occurs, there is little time to call an elders’ meeting.

Step Communication: A communication strategy must be developed. Should a crisis occur that is immediately visible to the public (i.e., a fire, a shooting, etc.), media representatives will appear at the church, wanting to interview people. One person should be the designated spokesperson for the local church so that this individual alone is providing information to the media. Also, a communication strategy includes the manner and method in which the congregation will be provided with appropriate information. For example, if there are allegations of sexual abuse of a minor, this information must be expertly handled with both law enforcement and the congregation. Again, the nature of the crisis dictates the type of communication that is necessary in that very moment.

Step Professional Assistance: The elders must contact the insurance carrier providing coverage for the congregation. Whether storm, fire, flood, abuse, malpractice, etc., the congregation must carry adequate and appropriate insurance coverage, and the congregation’s insurance agent must be contacted immediately and informed of the crisis. Moreover, the church may have an identified attorney who provides legal services to the congregation. Depending on the nature of the crisis, the elders may contact this individual with information of the crisis at hand.

Step Damage Control: The elders and staff must work with one another as the crisis unfolds in the following days, weeks, months and even years. A strategy for continuing appropriate communication must be developed, and it must address what is being posted digitally on social media platforms. Moreover, the long-term response must include ministry to individuals directly involved in the crisis (i.e., victims of the crisis).

Back to Paul. When reading through Acts 27, it’s important to notice Paul’s great declaration. To survive his sudden and serious storm, Paul shouted over the wind that he “had faith in God,” and not in the ropes placed under the ship, nor in the pilot of the ship, etc. His was an anchored faith! Moreover, Paul yelled to the men in the midst of the storm, “So keep up your courage men…” His was an active faith, as he attempted to encourage and build others up, pointing them to God, as they faced fear head-on.

Like Paul, elders must anchor their faith in God, believing that He alone is the source of unlimited wisdom and strength to survive any and all crises. Moreover, elders must point people to God, actively sharing their faith in hopes that others caught in the storm of crisis will survive by the great mercy of God. 

Running the Play: 

During a crisis, action is preferred to inaction, especially acts of faith and ministry that are obviously selfless.

40-Day Prayer Calendar for Pastor Search

Full-color PDF to download and print:

Pastoral Search Calendar 

_______________________________

Viewable on this page: 

A 40-Day Prayer Calendar for a Pastoral Search
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
  Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6
Day’s Reading: Proverbs 3:5-7 Revelation 2:1-7 Ephesians 4:1-6 John 15:1-8 John 15:9-15 John 15:16-17
Prayer for/that: …our congregation to trust the Spirit’s leading; that our leaders, especially, would listen for Him and trust His prompting. …our congregation to return to her first love, Jesus; that our leadership would hear from Him clearly during the search. …our congregation to continue in unity and peace; our leaders would strongly sense among themthe unity that only Jesus can bring. …our congregation and leaders to always abide in Jesus & bear much fruit to God’s glory during this “in-between” time. …the people of our congregation to remain in Jesus’ love for and with each other; that we and our new pastor would be bound together by Him. …this interim season of ministry to continue bearing spiritual fruit glorifying God; that our leaders would see answered prayers in their  lives.
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10 Day 11 Day 12 Day 13
Psalm 139:23-24 Ephesians 6:10-11 2 Timothy 2:1-2 James 1:5-8 Colossians 1:9-12 Ephesians 6:18 Acts 2:41-42
…our leaders’ hearts would be pure while working through this search process; that our future pastor’s heart and life would be pure before God. …we would understand searching for a pastor is primarily spiritual, therefore spiritual attacks will come; for God’s protection while we search. …our future pastor & family to be strengthened by God’s grace; that our future pastor would be a spiritual example worth following. …our leaders to seek and experience God’s wisdom while reviewing resumes and contacting candidates. …our future pastor be convicted it’s God’s will to make a ministry transition; that God would be glorified by ALL – by us, by candidates, by people “left behind.” …we would pray in the Spirit and not just from our own agendas; that we would persevere and be alert to God’s answers to our prayer. …our congregation would reflect the 1st church’s health in discipling, prayer, ministry, worship, fellowship, and witnessing.
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Day 14 Day 15 Day 16 Day 17 Day 18 Day 19 Day 20
Revelation 3:14-22 John 13:34-35 Ephesians 3:20-21 Psalm 51:10-12 2 Timothy 4:1-5 Hebrews 13:17 Joshua 1:9
…we would all fight spiritual apathy, we would continually repent of lukewarm spirituality, and pursue both God and the lost with zeal like Jesus. …our leaders to be obedient to Jesus’ command to love each other; that His love would be seen in us by the lost and watching world. …the power of Jesus to be known in and through this church body and that all the fame, credit, glory would be His through this search process. …each person in leadership would stay close to Jesus, hearts cleaned by Him; that our new pastor also have a clean heart before God. …our new pastor to faithfully share the Word of God and the love of God. …our new pastor to faithfully lead & love the people of this body and of the Church; that we rise up with new leadership & serve alongside. …our leaders to be strengthened by God and sense overwhelmingly His presence and guidance.
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Day 21 Day 22 Day 23 Day 24 Day 25 Day 26 Day 27
Revelation 3:1-6 James 4:1-12 John 17:20-23 2 Timothy 2:15 Jeremiah 33:3 2 Kings 6:14-17 Colossians 3:12-17
…us to hold firmly to the message of Jesus; that our congregation would be full of the life of the Spirit & enabled to pursue God’s vision for us. …we would always humble ourselves before God; that He would bring revival to us as we draw near to Him. …unity in our body so the world will hear the Good News of Jesus through us; that our leaders would remain united in decision-making. …a pastor who rightly handles and teaches the Word, and our search team as they look for such a leader. …us to feel a deep and urgent drive to pray for God’s will to be done in our search and for God’s vision for our church to be realized. …we would see as only God can enable; that our steps would be directed by God; that we would have His protection. …our congregation to grow in love toward each other; that any broken relationships in the church would be reconciled.
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Day 28 Day 29 Day 30 Day 31 Day 32 Day 33 Day 34
Revelation 3:7-13 Romans 12:12 Hebrews 10:19-25 1 Peter 5:1-4 1 Peter 5:5-7 1 Peter 5:8-9 Ephesians 5:15-16
…God to open doors for us and that we would see such open doors; that we would persevere and non-believers would see God’s love on and in us. …we would be confident in the hope God gives, patient when we encounter hurdles in the search, and faithful in prayer as a body. …we remain committed to biblical worship; that our leaders would boldly go to into God’s presence in worship, seeking wisdom. …our future pastor to lead people in God-honoring, biblical ways; that our future pastor’s walk with Jesus would not falter. …deep respect, an attitude of serving and great mutual humility between our congregation and future  pastor. …our congregation would be alert to the activity of the [one & only] enemy and pray for other congregations engaged in pastoral searches. …our leaders’ meetings would be Spirit-directed, time spent effectively & efficiently; that God would reveal His will to our new pastor.
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Day 35 Day 36 Day 37 Day 38 Day 39 Day 40  
1 Timothy 3:1-7 Ephesians 1:15-23 Philippians 2:1-11 Galatians 6:9 Isaiah 55:6-9 Matthew 28:18-20  
…our new pastor would exhibit the character of Jesus in public & private; the new pastor’s family would have God’s favor as they transition here. …our new pastor to grow in the wisdom & knowledge of Jesus; that our church would look to Jesus alone as the Head of His body. …Jesus’ attitude of humility & serving soaks into us all – leaders, people, pastor – both during and after the search. …our leaders would not be weary in their work because we know and see God’s hand in answered prayers and the “harvest” that only He gives. …we would continue seeking God diligently and trust that He alone is bringing together our body and our future pastor. …our congregation always embrace our Great Commission; that our future pastor will be such a leader, doing the Great Commission, an example that we eagerly follow.  

Table of One Anothers

One-Another 55 references  (This will open a PDF document in your internet window that you may save and use as you wish.)  

Web link to “ah-lay-lown” on Interlinearbible.org to see all 100 uses: https://biblehub.com/greek/strongs_240.htm

Our list, in plain text, of 55 “one anothers” / “each others” as applicable to living in a faith community: 

  1. Mark 9.50
  2. Luke 24.32
  3. John 13.14
  4. John 13.34
  5. John 13.35
  6. John 15.12
  7. John 15.17
  8. Acts 7.26
  9. Romans 1.26 
  10. Romans 12.10
  11. Romans 12.16
  12. Romans 13.8
  13. Romans 14.13
  14. Romans 15.5
  15. Romans 15.7
  16. Romans 15.14
  17. Romans 16.16
  18. 1 Corinthians 7.5
  19. 1 Corinthians 12.25
  20. 1 Corinthians 16.20 
  21. 2 Corinthians 13.12
  22. Galatians 5.13
  23. Galatians 5.15
  24. Galatians 5.26
  25. Galatians 6.2
  26. Ephesians 4.2
  27. Ephesians 4.32
  28. Ephesians 5.21
  29. Colossians 3.9
  30. Colossians 3.13
  31. Colossians 3.16
  32. 1 Thessalonians 3.12
  33. 1 Thessalonians 4.9
  34. 1 Thessalonians 4.18
  35. 1 Thessalonians 5.11
  36. 1 Thessalonians 5.15
  37. 2 Thessalonians 1.3
  38. Titus 3.3
  39. Hebrews 3.13
  40. Hebrews 10.24
  41. Hebrews 10.25
  42. James 4.11 
  43. James 5.9
  44. James 5.16
  45. 1 Peter 1.22
  46. 1 Peter 4.8
  47. 1 Peter 5.5
  48. 1 Peter 5.14
  49. 1 John 1.7
  50. 1 John 3.11
  51. 1 John 3.23
  52. 1 John 4.7
  53. 1 John 4.11
  54. 1 John 4.12
  55. 2 John 1.5