“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (The Apostle Paul, from Ephesians 3:14)
When I was 17 years of age I contracted a serious streptococci infection. For several weeks I was in an infectious diseases hospital near London, at times very near death. My life was saved with a 3-hourly vaccination of Penicillin in my backside and having a mouthful of ulcers removed with tweezers, one by one. I cried at every treatment. In that same hospital there were young people with polio, breathing through iron lungs. Most died – there was no vaccination to help them. Now, thanks to science and the development of vaccine, polio is rare, as are many other diseases.
Last year, in the Australian state of Victoria, over 700 aged people died in nursing homes and hospitals due to COVID-19 – there was no vaccine then to help them. This year, a different story, thanks to science and vaccine.
No, this is not a plug for vaccination, results must speak for themselves. I’ve had my first jab, a decision based on professional medical advice and prayer, not from social media. No, this is a request for prayer and faith. Society tends to rely on itself, often forgetting God’s promises to us. In Paul’s letter to the people of Ephesus, 3:20,21, he goes on to say: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Paul caught his breath in wonder at the very thought of it. When Paul was commissioned to take the message of salvation to the Gentiles, a new phase of God’s plan was opened up. As people of all nations are brought together in Christ they demonstrate God’s power and wisdom, not just to the watching world but to the powers beyond and behind it. The scope of God’s purpose is breathtaking. Paul has prayed that the church might have understanding. Now he prays more urgently than ever before that they may have love; that they may be strong; that Christ may make his home in their hearts; that God may fill them completely. He can do all this and more.
That watching world is suffering, we all are, but are our prayers directed only to that suffering; our own problems and dilemmas? We have much to learn from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. We must remember that God can do more than we can ask for or imagine according to his power that is at work within us. We need faith now more than ever; faith that the scientists he has endowed with skill, supplemented with our faith and prayer, will solve this disease, as they have for many others. Our current vaccines are not perfect, but they are improving, they are saving lives, and I give thanks to God for that.
When I first entered ministry over 50 years ago I encouraged my parishioners to kneel at the communion rail. That must have seemed rather heartless. Now I can kneel but can’t get up. But I can still pray, I can still give thanks, and I do so daily for what God is doing and can do for us all during this pandemic.
Have faith, Pastor Ron Clarke
Optional Bible reading: Ephesians chapter 3
This week I am including some study notes:
What is God’s purpose in allowing COVID-19? Without being too dogmatic, we know that, generally speaking, one of God’s purposes in trials is to get the world’s attention off themselves and onto Him, their Creator and Saviour. Millions are asking this question right now, believers and non-believers alike, which means that God is on their minds. God desires for all people to earnestly seek Him and find Him, discovering that He is actually close to us. God desires us to sense our own weakness and needs so that we put our trust in Him. God desires people to fear Him with proper reverence and awe; to love Him more than their own lives; and to show love and gratitude for the Saviour by loving and helping fellow humans, especially the suffering. God desires to shift our focus and affection away from this temporary, troubled world to our eternal, heavenly home.
Times of trouble such as the world is facing now are a prime motivation for us to store up treasures in heaven rather than cling to treasures on earth and to be good stewards of those blessings God gives us in this life. God wants us to trust Him absolutely, knowing that our times are in His hand.
Ultimately, it is the poor and hurting who seek God, not the rich and comfortable. It is danger and calamity that turn men to their Saviour, not health and wealth. It is suffering that wakes us to our true need. C. S. Lewis put it this way: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”
Life for all people means facing suffering, death, and their eternal destiny. Even if – no when – we develop immunity to COVID-19, we can’t escape the fact of trouble in the world. What’s best for us, in any situation, is to seek God: “Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:2).
This is one of a series of weekly messages of encouragement, now in its twenty-sixth year, originating from Gympie, Fraser Coast, Queensland, Australia. A companion Bible study page is available each week. To subscribe via email send to w4[email protected] with the words ‘Subscribe Word (or) Subscribe Word & Study’. Our ministry is free and emailing lists are confidential. Tell a friend or why not put a note in your church newsletter or pew sheet about this ministry – we welcome new subscriptions.Pastor Ron Clarke OAMWord for the WeekMbl.: +61 488 424 321