Sometimes we have moments where the events of the day – those things that take over our airwaves and monopolize our thoughts – just need to be addressed. The coronavirus – COVID19 – is one of those things.
When I was a kid, my siblings and I would get in trouble for what seemed to us like the most ridiculous things. We should have known better, but we did something – you can fill in the blank because we did everything– and we were found out. Mom or dad would call us together and put us through what felt like the Spanish Inquisition. For a reason unknown to me, my brother would sometimes glare at me and say “What are you lookin’ at?” as if to say, “I caught you looking at me and I don’t like it! The more you look at me, the more they’ll think I did it!”
One time, I decided to do some “adjusting” to mom’s sewing machine. For those of you who don’t use sewing machines, the bobbin is a spool of thread under the presser foot that supplies one thread to the sewing machine. Don’t ask me how I know this…. One day, I wanted to be helpful and change the bobbin – why? I have no clue. But I was determined that this would be helpful, so I got Dad’s small screwdrivers from his workbench and took all of the screws out of the sewing machine. (By the way, nobody told me that the bobbin could be released by a little lever in the front of the bobbin case.) So there I was with a handful of screws and still didn’t have the bobbin out. I decided that I’d better put it all back together and nobody would know the difference. Wrong. Just like always, I had a few screws left over. Not knowing where they went, I just threw them away.
About 3 days later, my mom decided to use the sewing machine. Much to her dismay, she found that it didn’t work properly. As she investigated the problem, she noticed that some pieces were in the wrong place, and some were missing. In order to get to the bottom of this dilemma, my parents lined up all 4 of us kids in the living room, in yet another Spanish Inquisition. There we stood, from the oldest to the youngest, tallest to shortest. Unfortunately, I was the youngest and the shortest, so I was at the end of the line. As mom held up the screwdriver that I forgot to put away, she said, “Who tore apart my sewing machine!?”
Do you remember those old-fashioned Venetian blinds – you know the kind with the vertical strips instead of the horizontal slats found in most popular blinds of today? Just like those old-fashioned Venetian blinds, my 3 other siblings flipped sideways down the line at me simultaneously… As if to say, “We know who did it!” All of a sudden, I heard my brother’s words come out of my mouth, “What are you lookin’ at!” Needless to say, I didn’t have to admit that I was the one who took sewing machine apart! To this day I still have a few loose screws.
You know, so many times, we use a glance – a look – to change the direction of the group’s attention. If I pointed to the back door of our church, you might look back to see what I was pointing at. If one of the kids ran across the front of the church, we would look to see where he or she was going. Oftentimes where we gaze gets the attention. We give attention to the place we’re looking at the moment. Oftentimes, what we’re looking at isn’t the important thing.
Today, I hear God reminding us that our gaze, where we’re looking, gets our attention. And sometimes, that attention takes our eyes off of God. All we need to do is turn on CNN, or Fox News, or pick up the newspaper to know more information about the coronavirus. Sure, it’s important to know information. The virus is a real thing. But when the enemy wants to take our focus off of God, he creates hysteria. We spend more time listening to the news about illness. We spend more time reading about how quickly it is spreading around the globe; and we spend more time learning how to avoid getting sick, than we do reading the Word of God. The spirit of fear that the enemy has planted in our environment has taken our gaze off the Father. As we are worrying about washing hands, finding another bottle of hand sanitizer, or wondering why toilet paper seems to be disappearing mysteriously from the shelves of our local stores, our focus remains on the situation and not on the Savior.
The apostle Paul reminds us that the things we see are short-lived, but the hope we find in Jesus is eternal. In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, he tell us that “We view our slight, short-lived troubles in the light of eternity. We see our difficulties as the substance that produces for us an eternal, weighty glory far beyond all comparison, because we don’t focus our attention on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but the unseen realm is eternal. When we focus our attention on what we see right in front of us – those things that are taking our attention off the spiritual and godly things of the world – we get derailed.
The difficulties in life are real. This virus is real, obviously. But we must remember that these difficulties are not the end result. When we have hope – the hope we find only in Jesus – the difficulties of life don’t overtake us. The stress, the worry, and the fear that the devil wants us to feel, becomes secondary, and will disappear when we put our sights on our Creator. Paul tells us that when we view these slight, short-lived troubles in relation to eternity, it helps strengthen our faith in our walk with Jesus.
James reminds us this (James 1:2-4): My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.
God certainly doesn’t cause us to be sick or cause the virus. But He does take every opportunity to help us grow in our faith — to grow in our trust of Him, and in our ability to lean on Him in the good and the bad. This virus, or any other problem in our life, is no exception. God uses everything to bring him glory.
James goes on in 1:12 to remind us that “If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God! True happiness comes as you pass the test with faith, and receive the victorious crown of life promised to every lover of God!”
This virus has many different effects on many different people. It’s nothing to be taken lightly. Handwashing, that new term “social distancing” that we’ve been hearing all about, and plain ordinary common sense are critical right now. One thing that isn’t necessary, is fear. The spirit of fear can and should be dealt with. As carriers of God’s glory, as temples of the Holy Spirit, we have the right and the authority to cast out the spirit of fear in the name of Jesus. And even in the illness, even in the atmosphere of caution, even in the time of uncertainty, we don’t have to have fear.
In his letter to the church at Philippi, Philippians 4:4–9, Paul reminds us this:
Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let joy overflow, for you are united with the Anointed One! Let gentleness be seen in every relationship, for our Lord is ever near.
Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things.
Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Is this time in history a season of life? Of course, it is. Even in this time, God’s word reminds us to be cheerful. With joyous celebration. We’re to be joyful, because we are united with Jesus, the anointed one. Paul reminds us not to be pulled in different directions (double-mindedness) or worry about a thing. It was as if he knew exactly what we would be feeling at this moment. Paul might not have known, but God knows. We are reminded not to worry about a thing. Instead of worrying we are told to be saturated in prayer throughout each day offering our requests to God with thanksgiving. We’re reminded to tell God every detail of our life. And that peace – that wonderful peace that we find only through Christ Jesus – will overflow our lives.
God is telling us to keep our thoughts fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. Is the coronavirus any of those? It might be real, but it’s not honorable, or admirable, or beautiful, or respectful. Nor is it pure, holy, merciful, or kind. No! God tells us to keep our thoughts fixed on Him, and nowhere else. And when we do, the God of peace, Paul says, will be with us in all things. Not a few things, not just the things that we take to Him in prayer, God’s word says that God will be with us in ALL THINGS when we keep our thoughts fixed on Him.
In this topsy-turvy time, and from now and through eternity, I encourage you to keep your eyes on God. If I were to ask you that question, “What are you lookin’ at?” you want to be able to say, “I am looking at Jesus. He is my hope. In him I placed my trust. And because of his gift to me, and because I have given Him my life, I have no fear.”
Don’t let the enemy steal your hope. Don’t let fear creep into your lives. It is the devil’s hope that we stop worshipping together. In the hysteria, he wants to dissolve the church. He wants us to pull apart and get out of the habit of worshipping together. I promise you that even in the swirling atmosphere of uncertainty, we will continue to worship. Since the Governor has now recommended that we not assemble, we will still have worship on our live stream at Connect Church. You will have the opportunity to log on during that time, or any time, so that we can continue worshiping as the body of Christ. Just go to Youtube.com and search for Connect Church Blairsville to find our channel.
What are you lookin’ at?
Keep your eyes set on the prize. James 4:8 tells what we need to hear today — Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Wash your hands — that’s good advice for the current situation! All joking aside, James is reminding us that doubt – double mindedness – is a sin. When we aren’t reading His word, praying, and worshipping together, we begin to doubt. When we doubt that God protects us, we are saying, “I hear you but I don’t know if I believe it completely.” James tells us to keep our eyes on God – not on the things that are happening around us. When we keep our eyes on God, it allows us to come near to him. And when we come near Him, he comes near to us. When we are in his presence, we are purified; we are washed clean; and in the presence of God, fear cannot stand. Mark my words.
He is who I’m lookin’ at. What about you?