[First published in the monthly congregational “Notes” for March, 2020.]
While the bushfires were burning throughout much of January, we saw remarkable examples of dedication and cooperation. Almost the whole nation bonded together to provide financial relief and ongoing support. We were urged to change holiday plans to support and revive affected areas. Many did. Many, even non-Christians prayed for relief, despite the fact that the Weather Bureau had said there would be no useful rain until April. Well it rained enough to extinguish the fires and break the drought in many places. Did we give thanks? Perhaps some did. [Did you?] For many, it was simply that, “the Australian spirit has triumphed again.” But not for long! How is it that a nation which united so wonderfully in the face of fierce bushfires could turn suddenly into one where neighbours selfishly fight for a roll of toilet paper(!) or a bag of pasta in the cool comfort of a supermarket aisle?
The answer is “Fear“, fear of uncertainty as a microscopic virus highlights our frailty and even mortality. Fires bring uncertainty as well but at least we can see them and we know how to respond even if it is tough. Viruses are more challenging, but we have met and overcome many, and vaccines fence off most other nasties. If these fail, there is sure to be a modern medicine somewhere! Yet here we are with the whole world in increasingly Babel-like confusion and Australia wondering what to do with its toilet rolls! All the medical & scientific progress of the past 100 yrs now counts for nothing! We are afraid, because our self-sufficiency has been shattered! Hmm…
This is still God’s world. He made it “very good”. He placed it under a curse because of human sin but graciously left its management and development up to us. The sad fact is that with advances in human understanding we rebelliously squeezed Him out instead of worshipping Him. At best He is a vaguely helpful “God of the gaps”. Like Pharaoh, our humanistic world does not want to acknowledge Him even if the evidence is irrefutable (eg. Exod 8:19), so on occasions He intervenes to remind us that He and not Man, is the Mastermind of the universe.
Many are working for a real solution to the coronavirus and we pray they will speedily succeed, BUT whether they do or not, we also pray that the world will humbly repent and submit to Christ.
And in the meantime? The exhortation, “Fear not” or its equivalents such as “Be not afraid” occurs many times in the Bible. In every case the reason given is tied to the Person, Power and Purposes of God. He is Omniscient, Almighty and very much in control! Not one atom escapes His notice. We do not fear because there is One over, around and underneath us as a secure foundation. He is Transcendent. Trusting Him in all circumstances is not a guarantee that nothing will ever “hurt” us, but that in all that happens, in tears and in joys, He will carry us through and give us grace to serve Him. It is not a groundless optimism, but one grounded in the fact that we have seen God prove the perfect confluence of providence and love at the Cross! We therefore have the highest of reasons to trust Him to work all things well and we can take deep comfort from the assurance that nothing in all creation [even a virus] can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Rom 8:28 & 39).
By definition there can only be One Ultimate Transcendent. If we reject the love of God in Christ, ultimately we will be left with only lies or wishful thinking to secure our present and underwrite our future. We would plead with a friend if we thought they were stupidly trusting in lies or wishful thinking in the face of a bushfire or even coronavirus, so we ought not to trust our future eternal security to such things either.