Today’s Bible Study (to support our weekly prayer) addresses who God is and how we can make decisions with faith and wisdom rather than fear of things. A big decision for many believers in England at present is whether or not we should be returning to church services when they reopen. I seek to address this decision during the Bible study.
The video is below, followed by a summary of the Bible Study and some suggestions for prayer.
Most of this year has seen a lot of fear… People have feared for their health, their lives, their families, their jobs, their security, their future.
While in some ways, people became used to lockdown, as the country opens up, fear is increasing. How should we be as believers? How should we respond to churches being allowed to have limited services?
We need to remind ourselves of who God is. He is the one who says, “Fear not, for I am with you.”
This isn’t a message telling you to come to church (or telling you to stay at home). Rather I want to give you the truth about who God is, because this will help you as you seek Him and reach a decision about returning or waiting. I pray that the decision that each of us makes will flow from the fear of the Lord and faith in Him, and the wisdom He gives, and not the fear of sickness or death.
For some of you, the fear of the Lord, and faith and wisdom, may lead you to stay at home for now and receive the word of God through the videos. For others, fear of the Lord, and faith and wisdom, may bring you to decide that there is no reason to stay away from church; so, with all the right, wise precautions, you come and join with God’s people.
I) God is sovereign over the nations (v1-4)
The passage starts (v1) with the Lord allowing Himself to be challenged, as if the distant lands (coastlands) are taking Him to court. Many would accuse Him today. Why has He done this and brought the virus?
The answer is simply: He is God. What can they say (v1a – silence)? They are but dust (40:15). Rather, they need to “renew their strength” (40:31) – come to Him in faith – see who He is, as He is going to show them in the remaining verses.
v2: Someone is being stirred up from the east. This passage doesn’t tell us who, only that he is successful. Nothing can stand in the way of the ultimate purpose of the Lord.
Note: “victory”(v2) is translated “righteousness” in most other versions. Over everything, even though people and things may do evil, the Lord is working for righteousness.
He brings life and builds up (v2-3) – He grants victory and He pulls down. The nations are in His hands.
He is eternal (v4). He is the beginning and the end. He is the source of all and He will oversee history to the very end – even today. This is why we can trust Him.
II) The response of the nations (v5-7)
V5: Fear of God’s power and the invader of v2. There is fear today. Coronavirus has proved that we are not the masters of the earth.
Helping each other (v6). It couldn’t be predicted more accurately! Today, humans have pulled together to fight a common enemy called coronavirus; the problem is that we have pulled together with only human wisdom, in our own strength.
They spend their time building themselves and approving one another in building false gods and trusting them to save (v7). Anything, even a good thing, that we trust to save or rescue us, becomes a false god.
We are different from the world. Our trust needs to be in Him. v8 begins: “But” – you don’t need to trust these false gods.
III) The call to the church (v8-10)
Who we are – because of what He has done:
- Chosen. If you are Christian, you are not Christian by accident but through His sovereign power. He called Jacob, He called Abraham and He called you.
- Offspring of the covenant. The promise of blessing to Abraham, is made to his true offspring, who believe in the Lord and to whom the Lord counts as righteous.
- Called from the ends of the earth. We are rescued by Christ coming from glory to earth, to find us in the pit of our sin, to rescue us through suffering our death.
- Servant – we belong to Him. We therefore need to submit to Him
- Secure – I will not cast you off. Whatever happens, He will not cast us away. Even if the worst happens and we face the end of our earthly life, that will not separate us from the Lord.
- Fear not – don’t stand in terror or awe of what is going on in this world. Don’t let your concern about what is going on control you.
- Be not dismayed – do not look upon these things with fear. We can spend so much time gazing at coronavirus or any problem that it can fill our minds and hearts.
- “I am with you.” Isn’t that enough? I don’t need to say any more – just receive this truth. The Lord is with you.
- “I am your God.” These other things are nothing besides Him.
- “I will strengthen you.” I will put into you strength and courage.
- “I will help you.” I will assist you; I will give you what you need.
- “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” – by His power and authority He will hold onto His people.
So, while the world is gripped by fear, Christians have this eternal, sovereign Lord who is with us. So, we need not fear what they fear.
Although He is with them, the Lord doesn’t tell them to go marching off to face this invader. He tells them not to fear. Being fearless does not mean being foolish; it means responding with faith and wisdom and, whatever challenges we face, to remain faithful to God.
Daniel faced the prospect of going to the lions’ den if he prayed to the Lord. Fear of lions could have caused Daniel to stop praying, but his fear, reverence for God was greater – and this led him to obey God first and leave the lions with Him.
On a normal day, Daniel would wisely avoid the lions. He had a healthy respect for the lions’ teeth, but this did not control him. He didn’t go each day to dance in the lions’ den, but nor did he let fear of the lions stop him obeying God.
With coronavirus, we don’t go and dance in the lions’ den and ignore the sensible advice about social distancing and masks and so on. But nor should we let fear of it grip us so that we do not obey the Lord.
We approach coming back to church in the same way. We don’t dance in the lions’ den if the health advice demands we stay away. If we are able to come, we do, but we don’t pack into every seat and refuse to sanitise our hands or any other piece of guidance. Rather, we come in faith and we follow wise advice to limit infection.
We are to be people of faith and wisdom and not controlled by fear of things, but the fear of the Lord. So, each of us needs to seek Him, and approach this decision in the fear of the Lord, knowing that He is with us, knowing that He is our God who will strengthen us, help us and uphold us by His righteous right hand.
Suggestions for prayer
1) Giving thanks for what God has done
Go through verses 8-10 and use them to bring praise to the Lord
2) Bringing our fears to Him
Talk to Him about the things that are troubling you and that make you fearful. Ask Him to help you to trust Him
3) Our brothers and sisters who need to know especially that the Lord is with them
Pray for our brothers and sisters around the world. Pray for Vietnam (more details at this link – https://www.opendoorsuk.org/news/latest-news/pastor-ngoc-vietnam/ ). Vietnamese Pastor Ngoc asks that we would pray:
- For Vietnamese Christians to grow in their prayer life.
- For the church to be able to teach and train people in the word of God.
The pastor says, “If the church does well with these two, living in prayer and understanding the Word of God, then we will stand firm in their faith. We can face every trial differently for we have been transformed.”
- For the distribution of aid. Christians have been refused government help during the Covid-19 pandemic because they are Christians.
- Praise God for Pastor Ngoc’s church being able to distribute aid and that they have seen on average 10 converts every week.
Let’s also pray for Christians in India. Here is the latest news from India to help you to pray: https://www.opendoorsuk.org/news/latest-news/coronavirus-surging-india/
- Pray for Christians who are unable to access aid because of their faith.
- Pray for pastors of independent churches who have lost income because churches are not meeting due to lockdown.
- Pray for strength and provision for Open Doors partners who are distributing food and aid to needy Christians.
Let’s also pray for believers know to us who especially need that awareness that the Lord is with them.
4) Pray for your local churches/those known to you who are working to reopen
Pray for wisdom for all involved in the planning and for the services themselves.
Pray that God would be glorified in the strengthening of believers and in bringing people to Christ.