March 28, 2020

A Message of Encouragement from Pastor Mark

 

March 28, 2020

Dear Family and Friends of Open Door Worship Center,

As we will not be gathering for corporate worship until further notice, I am once again offering these words of encouragement.


PRAYER AND THE PRESENT SITUATION (PART 1)

I read the major newspapers every day, and I am hard pressed to find a whole lot of encouragement there. Everyone is searching for answers, and of course we hope and pray that medical science will find a solution. But with regard to the ways in which people can find “peace in the midst of the storm,” I see many articles offering “Tips for Maintaining Mental Health,” but still, there is much, much fear. During this most difficult time for all of us, there are two main verses from God’s Word that that we will visit, one from the Older Testament and one from the New Testament. We will examine the Older Testament verse in today’s lesson, and then we will examine the New Testament verse in PART 2 to follow. Both passages are in reference to the benefit of prayer in a time of trouble and anxiety.

The Older Testament verse is found in Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling… Be still, and know that I am God..." (ESV)

(Some of you may recall that in the musical worship at our church, we sometimes sing a wonderfully joyful chorus that is based on verse 2.)

Let us focus on just two words found in verse 10a: “Be still.” Grammatically, it is in the imperative mood, which means that from the speaker’s perspective, it is a necessity, and therefore considered a command. The Hebrew word for “still” (rapa) can be interpreted in a negative or positive manner. Negatively, it means to “slacken” or “sink down.” But in this verse, it is to be interpreted positively, whereby it means to “Let go, relax.”

Perhaps you have heard the familiar aphorism, “Let go, and let God.” More than 30 years ago, these beautiful words were said to me by a lovely nurse at the hospital where my grandfather lay dying.

But how does the believer find help to “let go” of anxiety?

One way to do so is found in 1 Peter 5:6-10, where we are enjoined to humble ourselves under God’s hand…casting our anxieties upon God, because God cares for us. (Isn’t fair to say that being closer to God prevents us from having to cast that heavy rock of anxiety so far?!) 

Then, let us take note of 2 Chronicles 7:14, where humbling ourselves under God's mighty hand brings healing to the nation: "If My people will humble themselves and pray...”

So, through Solomon, God called the people to "humble themselves and pray" in order to experience healing of the nation; and through Peter, God calls the Church to “humble yourself under God’s mighty hand" in order to experience relief from anxiety. Being willing to heed these two imperatives of Scripture together suggests that in times of severe confusion and anxiety, it benefits God’s people (“My people”) to go to God in humble prayer.

So we see that the way to exclaim, “we will not fear” (Psalm 46:2); the way to “cast all our anxieties on God” (1 Peter 5:7); and the way to, “Let go and let God,” is not to feverishly run only to the world for all our answers, (although God has gifted scientists with intellectual skills to help us), but to place ourselves under God’s marvelous hand in humble prayer. What, then, is the result of our "being still” and “letting go," and our taking meaningful time out for humble, (and more than perfunctory), prayer?” God says that we will then know that God is God (Psalm 46:10).

To be sure, prayer, much like love, is sweet, as in the famous hymn, "Sweet Hour of Prayer." But let us be perfectly frank. Prayer – also much like love – is a very complicated thing. We do not mean to suggest that prayer is a panacea that alleviates us of all common-sense practices and duties in these dangerous times. And, of course, we humans are very often disappointed when prayers are not answered in the manner in which we had hoped for or expected. Certainly, there must have been some human disappointment felt by the Apostle Paul when his prayer was not answered according to his request (See 2 Corinthians 12:8-9).

Consequently, there are foolish people who utterly reject the efficacy of prayer, and there are equally foolish people who consider prayer to be tantamount to a simplistic, magical, religious incantation, that once offered, permits or absolves us of misguided actions or no action at all. Childhood prayers before mealtime and bedtime are wonderful, but the fervent prayer that James spoke of (James 5:16) is hard work!

But even if, because of God’s infinite wisdom, prayer does not change God’s mind about a particular issue, there is even non-religious empirical evidence to suggest that prayer changes us, (and therefore the situation), in a positive, strengthening way. (We may speak more of this concept of how prayer changes us in PART 2.)

Well, with great respect for your busy lives, (and to give you more time to pray!), I have committed to keeping these email lessons fairly brief. Therefore, I will say so long for now, my beloved friends!

In the meantime, please let us remember to protect ourselves; to be patient with social distancing in order to flatten the curve; and to do our best to get plenty of rest. Jesus promised us His peace that the world cannot give” (John 14:27). To find it, let us be found spending more time in humble prayer, being still, and casting all our care upon God, because God does indeed care for us. Thank you for your continued prayers and support of our church family and our worship center. Please be encouraged to submit your requests for prayer to us.

Love in Christ Jesus,

Pastor Mark