As the Prime Minister’s press conference ended, it was clear that life was going to be very different for the next few weeks, possibly months, possibly longer. Severe social distancing measures were announced in the next attempt to combat COVID-19. It was not long before my phone began to ring, text messages, emails looking for direction and answers. What would we do as a church to face this crisis?
As a pastor, I felt totally inadequate and, in some regards, overwhelmed. But then Psalm 46:1-2 came to mind, ‘God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…’ Then many other verses came flooding into my mind. Once more the great truth was impressed upon me: we fight hopelessness with the Word of God. We fight fear with the promises of God.
The Scriptures are full of exhortations for the believer to have hope. This hope honours Christ because it is bound up in him and our union with him. To be without Christ is to be hope-less, whereas the believer is born again to a living hope in the Saviour. 1 Peter 1:3, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’
The Scriptures are vital in keeping that certain hope in view. Romans 15:4, ‘For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.’ This great verse tells us that the Word of God instructs us, is the God-given means of developing our patience and comfort, all of which is to sustain our hope.
When the instructions of the Scriptures are properly understood and the Spirit of God takes those truths and applies them to the believer, the outworking is patience and comfort, a patient endurance and contentment even when life is tough. If we want to have staying power and endure to the end in the path of costly obedience, we need to feed on the Word.
The Scriptures give us God’s perspective on things, show us his character, recounts his providential dealings with his people, all his promises, the glories of the gospel and so much more. All of God’s Word is there to point us back to our great God in order that we would have hope, even in the darkest days.
Henry Martyn was a Cornish missionary in the early 1800s. A short, yet full life saw him serve in India, Arabia, and Persia. He sailed from England in 1806 leaving behind his fiancé Lydia Grenfell whom he would never see again. On the boat he battled self-pity and discouragement. How? With the Word of God.
It was not long after he arrived in Calcutta that he faced a devastating trial. Veteran missionaries preached directly against Martyn and his doctrines. They accused him of being inconsistent, extravagant, and absurd.
He wrote this journal entry at the time: ‘In the multitude of my troubled thoughts I still saw that there is a strong consolation in the hope set before us. Let men do their worst, let me be torn to pieces, and my dear Lydia torn from me; or let me labour for fifty years amidst scorn, and never seeing one soul converted; still it shall not be worse for my soul in eternity, nor worse for it in time. Though the heathen rage and the English people imagine a vain thing, the Lord Jesus, who controls all events, is my friend, my master, my God, my all.’
The young missionary had learnt that the battle against discouragement and hopelessness must be fought with the truth of God’s Word. That is the same for us in these strange days. And as Deuteronomy 33:25 promises, ‘As your days, so shall your strength be.’
Jonathan Stobbs is Pastor at Penzance Baptist Church, Cornwall, and director of Evangelical Times.