Faith In A Crisis

  • Faith In A Crisis
  • Various Scriptures
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • March 22, 2020
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3-22-20 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

Good morning Church! It is good to be with you this morning, even if we have to do so via online. If you’ve been around LakeRidge recently, then you know that we have been in the midst of our Lenten series, “David: A Man After God’s Own Heart.” I’ve been enjoying this series, and I hope that you have been as well, but with everything that is going on in the world right now, I feel led to lay that series aside this morning.

 

I feel it is important for me to speak directly into the situation we are all dealing with because of the impact of Covid-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus. You have most likely been inundated with information, but today I don’t want to give you more information. I want to take this opportunity to speak into the lives of those connected to LakeRidge as those who are called to live by faith.

 

I’d love to tell you that I know exactly everything that is going to happen in the days ahead, but the truth is, I don’t. I’m not an infectious disease doctor with a wealth of knowledge about pandemics. But I do know the One who has all things under control, and I want to point us to Him this morning.

 

This past week we have seen things take place that none of us would have imagined. Think about it for just a moment:

  • March Madness and other sporting events – cancelled
  • Concerts, Conferences, Gatherings – cancelled
  • Universities have shifted classes to online
  • Travel bans have been put in place
  • And perhaps most importantly, toilet paper and other supplies are in short supply.

 

Put all of these things together, and it can start to feel a little bit maddening. You have to ask yourself if all of this is taking place what your response is going to be. Are you going to freak out and stockpile enough hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes to last you for the next ten years? Or are you going to choose to live as a person of faith?

 

I know that some of us struggle with the need to be in control and to know exactly how things are going to happen. I can fall into that camp from time to time. I’d love to tell you that I know exactly when this season of social distancing will be over, and a more normal life routine will return, but I don’t know.

 

Even though I’d love to be able to project out into the future and know how things are going to go down and what the timeline is going to look like, I can’t. We are now in a moment when we have to make decisions based upon what we know at this moment. We have to pray for wisdom and discernment. We have to make the best of the situation in which we find ourselves. We take it day by day, knowing that we’re going to make the best and most wise decisions as possible.

 

As disciples of Jesus, I hope you’ll know that the filter that forms our decisions is very different from this world. Our filter is not the same as this world. In fact, Scripture tells us in Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

 

Did you hear that church? We are not of this world. We are not like everyone else. We are not to live in fear. We, as followers of Christ, are not going to live in fear.

 

In fact, when Jesus was comforting His disciples in John 14:1, He said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” He then went on to say in verse 27, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

 

With the 24-hour news cycle and people being closed up in their homes more than normal, it can be easy to become anxious and afraid of what’s going to happen. Am I going to be okay? What does this mean for the economy? What does this mean for our world?

 

However, because we know Jesus, we do not live in fear. He gives us a peace that is not of this world. It is from His kingdom. We live by faith and not by fear.

 

I love the way that New Living Translation translates the words of Jesus in saying, “I am leaving you with a gift.” This is a gift. Some of you should receive this gift today. If someone gives you a gift, you should be excited, and when you open up the gift, you cheer and say, “Thank you for this gift.”

 

Our God is giving you a gift, and the gift He gives is peace of mind and heart. When the rest of the world lives in fear, we open up the gift from our God, peace of mind, and peace of heart. A peace that is not anything this world would understand. It’s a peace that only comes from heaven. Jesus says, “The peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or be afraid.”

 

You have to understand that God is not surprised or caught off guard by any of this. God is not panicked. He’s not taken aback. He is not surprised. He is not afraid. We have to remember that our God is always faithful. He’s always in control. Our God is good. Our God has a plan. Our God will never leave us. He will never forsake us. He’s working in all things, everything, everywhere, every day. He will not leave you.

 

Whatever you’re going through, our God is working for good. Whatever battle you’re facing, our God is with you. If our God is for you, who can be against you? Our God is present, and He is always good. We, as followers of Jesus, live by faith and not by fear.

 

My go-to verse of Scripture in moments like these is 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

 

How do we respond when the world feels like it’s falling apart? We don’t respond like the world responds. We are not like the world; we do not think like the world.

 

We are sacrificial, not selfish. Now technically, we are selfish. Without Christ, we’re selfish. How many of you have ever had a two-year-old in your house? You never have to teach a two-year-old how to be selfish. They instinctively know how to look at you and say, “Mine.” Our human fallen nature is very selfish.

 

But our redeemed nature, because of who Christ is, is not selfish but reflects His nature, the most sacrificial love in the history of the world. The One who gave His life for us dwells within us. As followers of Christ, we are not selfish, but we’re sacrificial in what we do.

 

Paul told the believers in Philippi this in Philippians 2:3-4, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”

 

He didn’t say, “Go freak out and hoard supplies. Stock up on all the toilet paper, Clorox wipes, and non-perishable food that you can so that the grocery store shelves are empty.”

 

Paul said, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” What we have to understand is that we are the body of Christ, and because of that, we put others ahead of ourselves, and we have a fantastic opportunity to not be selfish, but instead be sacrificial.

 

I love what happened in the early Church, in Acts 2:44-46, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”

 

They didn’t hoard. They weren’t selfish. They weren’t rushing to guard their own supplies. Instead, they sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

 

What I hope you’ll understand is that in the next few weeks or months, you may have more opportunities for generosity in the name of Jesus than you could at any other time. You may have something someone else needs, and you recognize God has blessed you to be a blessing to someone else.

 

Not just materially, but spiritually. By faith, you’ll know people that are hurting and afraid. When you see these people, don’t just give them something material, give them hope. Give them companionship. Speak faith into the lives of others who are so often paralyzed by fear.

 

Scripture goes on to talk about this New Testament Church in saying, every day they continued to meet together publicly in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes, and they ate together and were glad and sincere in hearts. They met together publicly and they met together privately.

 

For us right now, the whole public part isn’t going to be possible as we try to live into the guidelines that our federal, state, and local government has given to us. However, we can live into the idea of every day.

 

For far too many people, Church is something that they go to on Sunday mornings one day of the week. Can I just tell you that there are so many things that are wrong with that notion?

 

First of all, the Church is not a building. While we certainly have a beautiful building that functions as a great base from which to do ministry, the Church is not a building. The Church is made up of people. People are the Church. The Coronavirus can cause us to have to close up our building temporarily, but it cannot close down people.

 

We are not the people of a once per week faith. Notice the phrase “every day” from Acts 2. It is a phrase that might be easy to breeze past as unimportant, but it is incredibly important because we are meant to have an every day faith.

 

We might not be able to gather together for a while, and quite honestly, we don’t know how long that is going to be. But, we can exercise our faith each and every day. We can worship every day. We can pray every day. We can study God’s Word every day.

 

Please know this, our staff here at LakeRidge is committed to being as creative as we possibly can during this season. We are going to do as much as possible to make content available to you to help you live into your faith during this season. I encourage you to stay engaged with us through social media, our website, and through communication we will send out via email.

 

Matthew 5:14-16 says, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

 

You are a light. We let the light shine; we do not hide it. Unfortunately, during this time, there will be so many people who feel incredibly unsettled, unsure, and anxious. They are looking somewhere for hope. The good news is, what are you? You are hope-filled light-shiners. You are love-givers.

 

Listen to me, church, the virus may be contagious, but I’m praying for some Jesus followers that are even more contagious with His love, with His grace, spreading hope, spreading light. I believe that the hope that Jesus brings spreads faster than any virus all over this world. Because, listen, church, whenever the world grows darker, the light of Jesus shines brighter. We are the body of Christ. We don’t hide our light; we let it shine.

 

What are some ways that you could allow the light of Christ to shine through you right now?

  • I’ve noticed lots of you have been spending even more time than usual on social media. Take this as an opportunity to testify the goodness of God in your life by posting encouraging Scripture passages. What if you shared brief parts of your testimony? Those are some great ways to let your light shine.

 

  • What if you spent some intentional time thinking about the people you know who are not Christians and do not have a vital faith to sustain them in moments like this? What if you intentionally prayed for those people each day that God would make Himself known in their lives during this time? What if you showed love for them by checking in on them with a phone call or text message as a way of demonstrating the love of Christ practically?

 

  • Maybe you need to consider how you can let your light shine in your own home? How can you take on a servant’s heart in how you treat your spouse or your children? Be the one who points the rest of the household to Christ.

 

Those are just a few ways in which you can let your light shine right now. You are creative, smart people. I have no doubt that if you prayed and thought about it, God could reveal all kinds of ways that you can let your light shine right now.

 

If you’ve heard me preach very many times at all, you know that I love to talk about how our God is in the business of redemption. He loves to take things that might otherwise be wasted and take them, turn them around, and use them for His good.

 

The situation we find ourselves in right now is ripe for God’s redemption. I don’t believe that God caused the Coronavirus to take place, but God sure isn’t going to allow it to be a wasted, useless circumstance in our lives. God looks at the Coronavirus, and I believe He sees an opportunity for His Spirit to come forward and to move in the lives of people in ways that it probably wouldn’t otherwise be likely to happen.

 

Recently, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the idea of Sabbath. I don’t know that our culture is very good at practicing a Sabbath. It is supposed to be a day set aside for prayer, worship, Scripture, family, and rest. In too many households, this a foreign concept.

 

Many of us have little to no margin in our lives. We tend to stay busy and spend lots of time rushing from home to work, from activity to activity. Sometime late in the day, we find our way back home again only to feel exhausted and weary.

 

What if we took this unexpected season we find ourselves in, and used it as a way of rediscovering or, in some cases, discovering God’s plan of Sabbath for our lives.

 

Every week when I stand up to preach, I greet you by saying, “Good morning, church!” I did the same thing this morning. I hope this helps you to remember that we are the Church. You and I are the Church together, be it in a sanctuary, the activity center, or across the world wide web.

 

We are the Church. We are not the world, so we don’t think like the world. We think and act like the Church, the people of God, people of faith.

 

We live by faith, not by fear.

We are sacrificial, not selfish.

We shine the light, not hide it.