Greetings to our dear Friends!
We reach out to each of you in these stormy times with this note, from our heart to yours. Inconvenient troubles and real physical dangers are elbowing their way into all of our daily routines. Just a few short weeks ago, most of us could not have imagined dealing with shortages of basic paper products and household cleaning sprays. Going to church where we shared hugs and smiles with so many who love us, chit-chatting with friends over lunch, visiting with neighbors at arm’s distance in the yard, shaking people’s hands…what an impact “social distancing” is taking on our everyday life! Keep at least 6 ft. between you and everyone you cross paths with! Stay home if at all possible! Isolate yourself alone if necessary!
Loneliness has been thrust upon so many of us by this virus. Just imagine how isolated are those who have tested positive for this disease. Widows and widowers are at home by themselves. Nursing home residents are in lockdown and under restrictions to their rooms. Volunteers dedicated to nursing home ministry cannot visit facilities. The closest we can get to our friends and extended family is a phone call or a computer screen. And we have done nothing wrong to deserve our unwanted isolation. The Apostle Paul certainly felt this way. Listen to the pain in his heart as he wrote to his beloved student, Timothy:
“At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me.” 2 Timothy 4: 16-17
From a dark, damp, cold Roman prison cell, Paul probably awaits imminent execution. During his first trial he had no one to help him in his defense before the Emperor. The charge, the verdict, and the eventual sentence were unjust. He was looking at having to pay with his head for trying to help folks avoid eternity without God! And he was just being obedient to what the Lord had called him to do! Think about it…after what Paul had done for so many people…and how faithfully he had served Jesus for all those years! Now he was facing the prospect of execution for it. If anyone ever had a reason to get depressed or to get mad at God, Paul did. BUT, instead of getting mad at God, he leaned more heavily upon Him.
And what did the Lord do? Commute the death sentence? Destroy the Emperor? Confuse Paul’s accusers? Help Paul escape from prison? No! What DID the Lord do? He stood with Paul, because Paul kept his heart open to Jesus. Paul loved Jesus. And he never stopped loving Jesus, no matter what. It was a great encouragement to Paul for him to know the King of kings stood beside him as he faced the whim of the Emperor of Rome! And what else did the Lord do? He strengthened Paul!
The God of the universe not only kept Paul company through his trial, He also gave him the possession of strength inside, of personal fortitude, of supernatural calm in the storm! Oh! How often this is unlike our response to the troubles of life! We’re subject to get upset with God and everyone around us if things get too bad. But, like Paul, when we lean on Jesus in the storm, when we call on Him, He always comforts us with the reassurance of His presence and with the strength to keep our peace and hope in the thick of it all. This is not theory or cold theology. This is not fables and dreams. The experience of His strength imparted to us is real and vital and available to us all, all the time, by the presence of His Holy Spirit in our life! May we be evermore encouraged to seek the Lord, not run from Him. May we not blame God in these present trials. May we not let bitterness sour our souls. Oh, if we could talk to Paul NOW, I’m sure he would say it was worth it all! May our Father give us patience in these trials – AMEN.
Jerry and Dar Johnson