In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.” Ecclesiastes 7:14 NIV
It’s easy to feel happy on a sunny day, when all is well, the birds are singing and life is going along swimmingly. But what happens when waters are rougher, bad news comes, or the days feel just plain hard?
God wants us to feel gladness when times are good. He has made each and every day. We are called to rejoice in all of them whether good or bad. Happiness is determined by our circumstances, but true joy comes when we can find the silver linings, hidden in our darkest hours-when we can sing his praises no matter what. We don’t know what the future holds for us here on earth, but we can find our delight in the knowledge our eternity is set in beauty.
God, please help us to understand that our happiness and true joy is in you. Help us to find a deep and abiding satisfaction in each day that goes beyond human understanding
Does Acts 5:29, that “we ought to obey God rather than men,” mean Christians must defy the government’s order of sheltering-in and not assembling?
Local congregations of the Lord are autonomous, meaning self-governing. However, God’s authoritative word transcends all congregations and is the sole authority by which all should be led. In all matters of doctrine, God’s word directs (2 Tim. 3:16-17). In matters of opinion, there is discretion within the bounds of God’s will, never beyond God’s will (Rom. 14:1-4). Elders and faithful leading brothers without elders can make decisions in behalf of the congregation (Heb.13:17; 1 Tim. 5:17; Col. 1:2). There is much confusion as to whether church leaders have the authority to cancel worship services because governing authorities have mandated it so due to the Coronavirus.
1. Many say we cannot cancel services because of Acts 5:29, that “we ought to obey God rather than men.” The context of Acts 5:29 was the Jewish council persecuting Christians to stop Christianity altogether (5:17-20,22-23,25,27-29,40). But that is not what is happening now with the shelter-in bans and restrictions because of the Coronavirus. The reason for them is not persecution, but protection. They are enjoined up all citizens and businesses, not just Christians and churches. Christians are not being singled out. We are all part of a world-wide health emergency.
2. Not assembling for worship is only sin if we “forsake the assembly” (Heb.10:25). Meaning, if we blow it off for frivolous reasons or even for persecution (12:4), which the virus is neither. The Coronavirus is not frivolous or a means of persecution. Most of us have encouraged someone who is sick to stay home on Sunday to protect them from getting worse and infecting others. The same was true regarding the contagious disease of leprosy (Lev. 13:43-45). If “one” can stay home away from worship without sinning because of sickness, then all can.
3. Unlike the flu, one can be asymptomatic with the Coronavirus, meaning sick without symptoms. Therefore, every member should be viewed as though they have the virus, not as though they don’t. Hence, we have social distancing of 6 ft away. It is contradictory to ignore the health order and come together as though the pandemic is not serious and then practice social distancing which physically acknowledges there is a serious health risk. Because that would not only be an indication of defeating the purpose for which isolation is intended, which is to minimize contaminating others, but would also acknowledge that one is knowingly putting others in unnecessary danger.
4. God gave governing authorities for the protection of its citizens (Rom. 13:1-5). The laws and bans being instituted because of the Coronavirus are intended to protect lives which is consistent with God’s will. If these laws aren’t contrary to God’s will, we should all adhere (Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). Many brethren have rightly cancelled worship services because inclement weather to also protect members. Meeting for worship is not at all costs. If it was, no one could miss for any reason. It is faithful Christianity that is at all costs (Rev. 2:10; Heb. 10:39).
5. Jesus as well as the old law taught mercy over sacrifice (Mt. 12:7-13). Read Micah 6:6-8. Notice that without mercy sacrifice means nothing. Mercy compassionately helps (Lam. 3:22; Tit. 3:4-5). Disregarding the well-being of others lacks mercy and compassion (Lk. 10:30-37, [33,37]). Christianity and worship are not at the expense of others to needlessly put them in harm’s way. Who tells the aged widow she must drive on ice to not miss worship? That isn’t even Christian (Mt. 10:16; Acts 16:27-28). Yet, some equally have members treacherously venturing out in the midst of this crisis.
6. Being isolated at home should not prevent us from giving God worship, no more than it did with John being isolated on the isle of Patmos, who was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:9-10). My family will come together at home on Sunday and give God worship until we are able to assemble again with our brethren.
What should we, the children of God do in these times of adversity?
There is only one righteous Judge of all humanity that all human judging ought to imitate which is God (Gen. 18:25; 2 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 12:23). He judges righteously by his righteous word. “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness” (Ps. 119:172; cf. 19:7-9; 2 Tim. 3:16). “O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah.” (Ps. 67:4; cf. 96:13; Rev. 19:11). “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31; cf. Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10-11). “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day”
(John 12:48; cf. Rev. 20:11-12).
Many believe it is wrong for people to judge others but they are unaware that God commands it. Jesus said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). The Lord taught our standard of judging others should be righteous too. The only way for us to rightly do this is by the word of God. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Through the scriptures alone we are able to determine what righteousness is. Since everything which is consistent with God’s will/word is righteousness, we must conclude that anything that is contrary to God’s will/word is unrighteous and therefore wrong. “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17). “…sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4; cf. Heb. 2:2; Jas. 4:17). So, if someone is sinning and the sin is pointed out, it is not that person who is judging them, but God who said the activity was wrong through his word.
This means many have misunderstood Matthew 7:1 that says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Jesus is not saying to judge in John 7:24 and not to judge here in Matthew 7:1. This context is about unrighteous judging. We should righteously judge others the same way we want to be judged (Matt. 7:2,12). It is wrong and hypocritical to judge the wrong in others while ignoring our own (Matt. 7:3-5; 1 Cor. 11:28; 2 Cor. 13:5). However, it does not mean that one has to be perfect or sinless to judge others. No, just faithful. The Lord wants us to help others by correcting their transgressions through his word (Matt. 7:5; 28:19-20).
The greatest need of the church, today, is not a “Pulpit That Will Draw”, but “Pews That Radiate”. Where were you Sunday night? Yes and where were you Sunday morning and Wednesday evening? Were you somewhere, doing something for which you had more enthusiasm than you had for being a Christian?
Not only is the world listening to the preacher’s word but they are watching your life. Immorality or indifference from the pew often erases great sermons from sinner’s minds.
If the folks coming, for a visit on Sunday morning, mean more to me than to be in my place at the Lord’s with God’s family, I doubt if there is really a place set for me Sunday night to piously nibble on the left overs.
Hebrews 10:25, KJV: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
Few of the world’s great leaders have had followers to shed tears at their passing. In this country, Franklin Roosevelt did. Martin Luther King did. John F. Kennedy did. Sadly, many rulers’ deaths have been greeted with joyous celebration.
Lately I reread those passages that detail the death of Christ and was again surprised that few of the men who had followed Him cried. Luke records that “…there followed Him a great company of people and of women, which also bewailed and lamented Him.” Since the response of Christ was, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me but weep for yourselves and your children” I think it must have been the women who were tearful. Luke 23:27,28. It is strange that weeping is not mentioned of the men. Simon Peter had wept bitterly when the enormity of his sin of denying Christ dawned upon him. But tears are not mentioned as he viewed the crucifixion. Nor are they mentioned of John or any of the other Apostles.
They must have been terribly disappointed. Two of the disciples, as they traveled toward Emmaus, explained, “…we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.” To see all the miracles that proved His divinity and accept the claims He had made that He was the Messiah for which Israel had eagerly looked and then see their King enthroned on a cross, must have devastated them. But they did not cry. On the first day of the week, Mary was standing outside the empty sepulcher weeping when the angel said, “Woman, why weepest thou?” Then when Christ appeared, He told her to enter the city and tell the others He was risen.
We are accustomed, when we try to explain the Gospel to people, to emphasize that when Christ was crucified, He suffered just as much as we would if we had nails driven through our hands and feet and were suspended by these wounds upon a cross. But wonder with me, may it not have been much greater suffering? I think it is significant that when the death of Christ is mentioned in the scriptures, the greater number of times the word “suffer” is used rather that “death.” Samples of this would be Luke 24:45, “…it behooved Christ to suffer.” Heb. 13:12, “…Jesus also suffered without the gate.” “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins…” I Peter 3:18. Why might His suffering have been far greater?
The death of Christ involved suffering for sins that had accumulated since the foundation of the world plus all the sins that would be committed from His death forward until the end of time. He suffered, not just for Himself, but for us all. Isaiah says, “He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows…he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities…” Isaiah 53:4,5. He cried for a Jerusalem that had refused to accept Him and even today is filled with grief when we fail Him. There is reason enough for us to cry also! But do we?
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you, I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto my; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3).
I Go to Prepare a Place.
A survey of brethren would reveal that many have an answer for what Jesus is doing while he is away. They believe the Lord is still preparing eternal homes for us in heaven and when he finishes he will return. They see him building spiritual homes in heaven and maybe even working with spiritual tools such as a hammer, nails, and a saw. Now, it is true Jesus was a carpenter by trade while on earth (Mark 6:3). It is also true that faithful folks like Abraham desired a city “…whose builder and maker is God” (Heb.11:10). But it is not true the bible supports the theory that Jesus is away building spiritual homes. The Lord is not working on our eternal homes at all. The mansions/homes for saints to dwell in were already in existence as was scripturally proven in part one of this article. Even the Hebrew writer affirms this as he spoke of the ones who had died in faith like Abraham, “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared (already/past tense) for them a city” (11:16). Jesus did not go to heaven to prepare eternal homes but went to the cross to do so. The homes/dwelling places were already prepared but no one was worthy to inhabit them because of their sin (Rom.3:23; 6:23; Rev.20:14). So, the Lord prepared us places in heaven by purifying us from sin by his sacrifice and through his gospel so we may enter that holy domain (2Cor.5:21; Rom.1:16-17; 1Pet.1:3-4,18-23). Again, the way of the cross was the way in which Jesus prepared eternal homes for us in heaven. Our Lord had to horrendously suffer and die that we may obtain entrance into the Father’s house (1Cor.15:1-4; Heb.12:2-3). Without Jesus going to the cross for us there was no way to one day inhabit the homes that God has prepared (2Cor.5:14-15; Eph.2:1-13; Heb.2:9-15). “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).