In this season of social distancing for most, and extreme isolation for others, as we all try to fight for faith in the face of COVID-19, I decided to share one thought a day from my daily devotional time in the hope of strengthening other’s hands in God (1 Sam 23:16), and encouraging friends forward in faith. As a pastor, who cannot gather with the people God has entrusted to His care, my hope is that these devotions, though simple, will be a small way for me to disciple people towards courage in the season of Coronavirus. You can subscribe at the bottom of the page to receive an email for each new post, and feel free to come back daily and share with anyone who might find them beneficial.
I use a reading plan that has me in different parts of the Scripture every day of the week, and so each day’s content will be dictated by the required daily reading of that plan. I am trusting God that He will speak from different parts of His Word, as He always does.
Thursday, March 19
Reading: Isaiah 25-27
I am a worrier.
I wish that was a typo related to an incorrect choice of homophone option, thus declaring me to be a brave and fierce warrior for God, but mainly I am just a worrier. I worry, a lot, even at the best of times, and it turns out that the combination of COVID-19, constant newsfeeds with ever changing graphs, various theories on a never-ending social media stream of insanity, and government regulated social distancing leads to quite a bit more worrying, in fact it leads to rather a lot of worrying, if I am honest. I am fighting it with faith.
Isaiah 26:3-4 then came as a welcome and soothing balm to my overstimulated, anxious soul this morning. The book of Isaiah is written to a people in strife, a people who are given to worry, and with good reason. They had rebelled against God and had fallen away from His blessing, and were experiencing His discipline, felt in His seeming distance from their troubling circumstances. Isaiah spoke to remind them that God was pulling them back and that He would redeem His precious people from the mess that they were in, but it was going to take repentance and returning on their part. God hadn’t moved away, they had, but He wasn’t finished yet.
Isaiah 25 turns and begins to speak of what it will look like when God ultimately redeems His people, swallows up death, and wipes away their tears, removing the curse that they have lived under for so long. It is a beautiful picture of God serving a lavish meal of grace for His people from all of the nations of the world. But, there is a waiting that needs to happen until that day comes, and that is where the people of God are prone to give in to worry. We aren’t built to wait, and we don’t know how to be certain of the not yet realities of mountain top meals with God while we wait in the difficulty of life’s uncertain valleys now. It is difficult to picture our lavish feast when there isn’t even tinned goods on the shelves of out H-E-B.
Isaiah 26:3-4 though gives us a clue on how we wait without giving in to worry. It says,
3 You will keep the mind that is dependent on you
in perfect peace,
for it is trusting in you.
4 Trust in the Lord forever,
because in the Lord, the Lord himself, is an everlasting rock!
— Isaiah 26:3-4 (CSB)
The way to wait in perfect peace is to keep our mind dependent on God, trusting that He is our everlasting rock. The ESV says that our minds need to be stayed on God. Locked on, committed, unmoving.
What is interesting to me is that while it could have spoken of devoted hearts, it says mind. Without giving in to some new Gnostic separation, this is actually a bit of a theme of the Scriptures, that we need to be people who focus our minds on the things of God. I have come to realize that the trajectories of our lives are shaped by the thoughts that we think, and the thoughts that we think are shaped by what we give our attention to over and over again. This is why Paul tells the Romans…
2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
— Romans 12:2 (CSB)
In an age of worry, we need to get a hold of our minds. They need to be renewed to a different way of thinking, a way of faith in our everlasting rock. This stopped me in my tracks this morning. What am I giving my thoughts to? They aren’t neutral and they aren’t in response to neutral things. They are setting a trajectory in my life, one of constant worry.
And so, I wrote in my journal this morning.
FOR EVERY ONE LOOK AT CORONA … TAKE TEN LOOKS AT CHRIST!
It is important in these unprecedented times for our minds to be informed, but it is essential in these unprecedented times for our minds to be transformed. Do the research, yes, understand how serious this all is, yes. And … know that without transformed minds we will have nothing of value to offer to the world of worry around us.
Paul taught us to adopt this posture of fighting worry by changing our minds when he gave us the antidote to unhindered anxiety and worry in Philippians 4. He said,
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6-7 (CSB)
Don’t worry, but rather pray, which is you speaking to God, through which your mind will remember that He is God and you are not. Unchecked worry is the act of praying to ourselves, putting us in a loop of self-reliance and its resultant fears.
Don’t worry, but rather petition God, which is you asking God to meet your needs, through which your mind will remember that you are desperately needy, and that God is a loving provider of all of our needs.
Don’t worry, but rather give thanks, which is you remembering the faithfulness of God, through which your mind will remember that He is a solid rock who has never failed you before and isn’t about to start now.
Ah friends, I want to be a warrior of faith rather than a worrier full of doubts. I need to set my mind on the certainty of God, and ask Him to provide the perfect peace that He alone can offer.
Courage, dear friends. Keep you mind stayed on you rock.