A holiday message from the Rev. Andres Reyes, pastor of the First Baptist Church
In the minds of many, we live in unprecedented times. COVID-19 is freaking everyone out. The media isn’t helping either. That is why it is important to think logically and historically about the troubling times we live in.
To put things in perspective, pandemics have existed throughout history. We simply have short memories when we have not properly learned history (no thanks to the current debacle of our public education system). And the blessing of American wealth — even homeless people in American have more than the homeless in the majority world — tends to build false expectations that everything will always be wonderful.
In ancient times, pandemics were known as plagues. Around 430 B.C., a plague broke out in Athens that some claim took as many as 100,000 lives. Around A.D. 165–180, the Antonine Plague broke out and claimed over 5 million lives.
Then, of course, there was the Black Death/Bubonic Plague (c. 1346–1353). It stretched from Asia to Europe. It altered the course of western history. Some say it took the lives of half of Europe. The European death toll was most likely around a third or quarter (25 million; 75 million worldwide). This was the worst recorded plague in history. It was transmitted through “fleas from black rats” (Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times, 340).
The question is, how do we keep our spirits up and think clearly through troubling times? The answer is very simple. It is not exhaustive. That is why it is necessary to listen to medical professionals — there is wisdom in the counsel of many (Prov. 11:14). Yet, it is complete and sufficient. How do we keep our spirits up and think clearly through troubling times?
Focus your mind and heart on the truths of the Christian Scriptures. The Bible is made up of 66 books. The Bible has everything you need in order to make sense of life. It is not exhaustive. But the Bible is complete and sufficient. The Bible provides the necessary framework you need in order to think through life’s circumstances. That is one of the reasons why church is necessary for your life. Church is the one place you can regularly go to and listen to the teachings of the Bible.
Here are three key things the Bible teaches that are guaranteed to calm your anxiety/fear and help you think clearly through these troubling times. (1) God is sovereign. Sovereign is not a word that is thrown around in our culture a whole lot. But sovereign simply means “in complete control.” God is sovereign. God is supreme. God is the being who is in chief control. The Bible says, “You alone, whose name is the LORD, Are the Most High over all the earth” (Ps. 83:18).
The simple fact of God’s sovereignty is vitally important for getting through troubling times. It may seem elementary to some. But if you do not master the basics, you cannot master anything else. So always remember that the God of the Bible, the only true God, He is sovereign.
(2) Turn to the guy in control. Many people hear that the Bible teaches that God is sovereign and they think, “Well, how can God be sovereign and loving if evil exists in the world?” That is a legitimate question. One that cannot be fully explained in a news column. But we can give two brief answers that will hopefully help us think in the right direction. First, more mature and understandable beings often see the bigger picture, the greater good. God understands the bigger picture more than we ever could. That is why he is God and we are not.
Second, the goodness of God and the existence of evil should not push you away from the only one who is in control and can make sense of it. It should draw you closer to him. No child hates his parent because he is sick. Children go to their parents when they are sick. Children will even take disgusting medicine from parents because they believe mom and dad have it all under control. My 2 yr. old daughter recently got a shot from the doctor. The attendants were surprised that she did not even flinch. The doctor said, “Do you know why she didn’t care about the shot? She didn’t care about the shot because she trusts that her father [me] is in control and would never allow ultimate bad to happen to her.”
That was an inciteful observation. But that should be illustrative of our relationship with God. When you have a problem, you shouldn’t run away from the one who can make sense of it. You should run to him. Turn to the one who is in control. Turn to God.
(3) Find a Bible teaching church. Make finding a Bible teaching church a top priority after all this blows over. It is easy to say that you can learn the Bible for yourself. But odds are that you will most likely not. That takes a decent amount of self-discipline. And it is much easier to learn something when you are within a culture that is doing the same thing. That is a part of what a church is.
A church — among other things — is a culture of people who is built up by the knowledge of the Bible. A true church learns the Bible together. A true church practices the Bible together. A true church experiences life together. A true church has each other’s back through thick and thin together. True churches lovingly rebuke one another and restore one another. They weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. In the end, a true church will be the most beautifully close family you could ever have.
Pastor Andy’s Sermon will be live streamed on the First Baptist Church Facebook page.