Faith And Ministry In A Time Of Crisis
By Rich Carmicheal
The situation in the United States is dire. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic by itself would be major cause for concern, but alongside this are many other conditions that reflect the moral and spiritual breakdown in the nation, including immorality, lawlessness, violence, anger, rioting, confusion and division. Many people have lost their ability to reason clearly, and we have reached the point where many are calling “evil good, and good evil” (Isa. 5:20). Traditional values are being rejected and there is growing hostility toward Christianity.
Such conditions are not surprising since they are the natural consequences of a nation rejecting the Lord and His Word. As the Apostle Paul teaches in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18). When people do not glorify God as God, they become futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts are darkened (v. 21). Professing to be wise, they become fools, changing the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, exchanging the truth of God for a lie, and worshiping the creature instead of the Creator (vv. 22-25). They finally reach the point at which God gives them over to their sins (vv. 24-28). The sins Paul goes on to list are tragically similar to those of today! (vv. 29-31).
God Works Through His People
As God’s people in such an hour, we obviously need His resources for life and ministry. In an article on page 3 in this issue, Bill Elliff reminds us of the difference one godly man filled with faith and confidence in the Lord can make in a national crisis. At the beginning of the Book of Nehemiah, the people in Judah and Jerusalem are “in great distress and reproach” (Neh. 1:3), and yet, by the end of the story, the conditions are dramatically transformed and the people are filled with rejoicing (12:43). And all of this turned on the faith and courage of one man, Nehemiah, who believed God’s promises, and who sought God for mercy and help in a desperate situation.
In an article on page 4, Charles Spurgeon shares another example of the impact a godly person filled with faith and the life of God can make in a seemingly hopeless circumstance. In that particular case, the Apostle Paul was one of 276 people aboard a ship in the midst of a ferocious storm that lasted many days. The conditions were so terrible that “all hope that we would be saved was finally given up” (Acts 27:20). And yet, Paul received a promise from the Lord that He was granting Paul the lives of all those who were sailing with him (v. 24). He believed the Lord and responded and ministered accordingly, and everyone survived the storm and subsequent shipwreck.
Of course, the issue is not really about what men and women are able to do, but what God is able to do through them. There is no way Paul himself could have brought 276 people to safety after a shipwreck. And there is no way that Nehemiah, in his own resources, could have brought about the dramatic change in Jerusalem. But when God has made a promise, He has infinite resources to fulfill it, and anything is possible! As Jeremiah exclaims, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You” (Jer. 32:17). He made this exclamation, by the way, in response to God’s promise to restore His people from captivity, a promise that seemed impossible from man’s perspective.
What do you believe is possible for the Lord to do today? Could He yet bring a spiritual awakening among the lost and within the church in the U.S. and beyond? What could He do if His people took Him at His word and truly began to humble themselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways according to His call in Second Chronicles 7:14? Would He keep His promise to “hear from heaven, and…forgive their sin and heal their land”? The Lord obviously always keeps His promises and always has the power to do so. The question is, will His people believe Him and respond accordingly?
Our Refuge, Strength and Help
Or, on a more personal level, do you believe the Lord has the power to sustain you through this crisis time, and to work in and through your life? Consider, for example, just a few of the truths and promises in Psalm 46. The psalm begins: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling” (Psa. 46:1-3). Is it not comforting to know that the Bible does not pretend that life is easy, but readily acknowledges that we go through times of trouble, even to the point where it seems like everything is giving way. And yet, no matter how terrible the situation we face, God promises to be our refuge, our strength, and a very present help!
God is our refuge. Because of who the Lord is, we can fully trust Him as we flee to Him for safety and protection in times of trouble. Under His wings we take refuge (Psa. 57:1; 91:4), and underneath us are His everlasting arms (Deut. 33:27). He is our rock and fortress, our strong refuge to which we may resort continually (Psa. 71:3).
God is our strength. Our own strength is very limited, and we can reach a point where our own strength fails. But our God’s strength is unlimited and never fails! “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power...” (Psa. 147:5). “By the greatness of His might and the strength of His power” the stars are in place – and this is the God who promises to give us strength when we are weak and wait on Him (Isa. 40:26-31). He strengthens us “with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Col. 1:11). No wonder Paul could exclaim, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”! (Phil. 4:13).
Near the end of Paul’s life, at a crucial and challenging time, he could testify, “…The Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me…” (2 Tim. 4:17). May we likewise look to the Lord to give us the divine strength we need for our lives and for the ministry He has entrusted to us in this critical hour. In the midst of the spiritual battle that rages around us, may we be “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” and take our stand! (Eph. 6:10).
God is our help. In Psalm 121, the psalmist says that our help comes “from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (vv. 1-2). Is it not reassuring to know that the Maker of heaven and earth is the One who helps us? If He created all of this, then surely He has the power and the understanding to provide whatever help we may need!
This is true even in seemingly impossible situations. Consider, for example, the people of Judah in Jehoshaphat’s day as they faced inevitable defeat from the combined armies that were set to attack them. What did the people of Judah do? They “gathered together to ask help from the Lord” (2 Chr. 20:4). And in response, the Lord intervened and miraculously delivered them from their enemies! Again, there is no situation too difficult for our God!
Psalm 46 also reminds us that He is a “very present help.” (v. 1). Twice in the passage, the phrase is repeated, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (vv. 7, 11). No wonder the psalmist writes, “Therefore we will not fear…” regardless of how bad circumstances may be (vv. 2-3). If our God is with us, if He is our refuge, our strength and our help, then we will make it through. “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear…’” (Heb. 13:5-6). The Lord also reassures us with this word: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10).
About This Issue
At the heart of this issue of the Herald is a call to believe God and to respond accordingly – to believe Him for what He can do in our nation, both among the lost and within the church, and to believe Him for what He can do in and through our individual lives. The hour is crucial and it is time for the people of God to step up in faith and courage. We are, after all, the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt. 5:13-16). We are not certain how long we have before the Return of Christ, but with all the time we have, and with all the heart we have, let us seek our God, believing Him to do impossible things in keeping with His wonderful promises, and let us minister to others with the divine resources He provides.