Many of us feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under our feet. Life as we know it is changing and at such a rapid pace that our minds are struggling to keep up and process what’s going on. Each day is filled with new information and new challenges, accompanied by a whole range of emotions. Some of these emotions are sinful while others are commendable: an odd, possibly perverted sense of excitement as we look at the news to find out what’s happening next, sadness coupled with a heartfelt desire to help as we learn of people near and far who are suffering, and fear as we wonder whether we might catch the virus and as we move towards the unknown in truly unprecedented times.
One feeling or emotion that I sense everyday is a desire for self-preservation: a selfish urge to run for safety, to look out for number 1, to seek the upside for myself as things go downhill. I find I have to stop and check myself every day because my job every day, and now more than ever, is to serve other people rather than myself. But I don’t help myself by pretending that feeling is not there. I don’t know about you but if you’re honest with yourself and dare to look, you will no doubt find the same desire in yourself. It’s selfishness - sin - which exists in all our hearts and it’s no surprise that it shows itself in times of difficulty when we’re prone to feeling under pressure, panicked even.
What makes you feel safe? Where do you find your security? We all want to feel safe and in such unsettling and uncertain times people are seeking security in all sorts of things. Here are 3 examples of what many people appear to be thinking:
- ‘If only I fill my bathroom with loo rolls and my kitchen with food, then I will feel safe.’ It sounds absurd when I put it like that but many people are seeking safety here at the expense of others. Lucy’s sister, who lives in Ottawa, told us that in a shop she went to someone had spent 300 Canadian dollars on 480 loo rolls! My guess is that even that amount won’t satisfy the shopper’s craving for safety (they’ll be out shopping again!) and though we might not go to that extreme, we’re tempted to buy more than we need because others are and/or the shelves might be empty.
- ‘If only I switch my shares for bank account savings then I will feel safe.’ Many people with saving and pensions invested in equities will bemoan the sharp stock markets falls over the past month. Plain and simple savings in a UK bank account protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme seem far less risky. But even cash savings are susceptible to inflation and no savings strategy (whether it be loo rolls, food or cash) will ever provide lasting safety (see Luke 12 verses 13-21 and Jesus’ reassuring words that follow in verses 22-34).
- ‘If only I keep my job then I will feel safe.’ I want to be particularly sensitive here. I have no intention of being flippant because fears over job safety are acute and personal. Our work matters to us and losing it could lead to all sorts of unwanted consequences. Work is good - it was God’s pre-Fall idea - and we suffer without it: financially, psychologically, socially. Not that we can’t suffer without shopping or savings but work is our good, God-given means of providing for ourselves and those who depend on us. However, just as the loo roll will run out and the savings will suffer from future inflation, the job will come to an end sooner or later.
Returning to the question, where do you find your security? What, or should I say, who can lead you through the deepest struggles, the darkest suffering, even the ultimate defeat of death itself? Answer: only Jesus. Jesus offers true and lasting security. He is able to cope with our greatest difficulties. Indeed, he has already won the victory over our greatest enemy. At John Fleming’s memorial service earlier this month, we were reminded of the apostle Paul’s wonderful words in 1 Corinthians 15:
“‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15 verses 55-57.
So much has changed since we met that day at St Peter’s but Christ’s victory over death hasn’t changed and our unchanging God remains the same. Having defeated our greatest problem of death, it is surely safe to trust him in the difficulties we face each day. Mike concluded the memorial service with a reminder that John would want us to stand firm in the Lord, which is how Paul finishes his chapter:
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15 verse 58.
A final thought: Instead of listening to another 20 minutes of the news, why not listen to a previous sermon on the ‘Talks’ page of the website which will help you consider Christ and keep things in perspective. Mike’s sermon on Ephesians 1:1-11 and my sermon on 1 Peter 1:1-9 (links below) are about the blessings and privileges of being ‘in Christ.’ I’m not suggesting that we ignore what’s going on in our world or that we become ‘so heavenly minded that we’re of no earthly use’ as the saying goes. Lifting our sights to Jesus in heaven should make us ‘so heavenly minded that we’re of great earthly use’ (see also Colossians 3). Our safety in Christ, who sets us free from sin, should liberate us from serving ourselves to serve others.
Love in Christ,
We hope and pray that the SPLOG (St Peter's blog) will provide encouragement & spiritual food during the coronavirus crisis. It's mainly for the St Peter's church family, but everyone's welcome to read it!