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WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT: During the Days of a Pandemic

Dr. Chet Harris Regional Director of Wesleyan Covenant Association of East Ohio “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” 1 Timothy 2:25 – 27 This morning I received an email informing me that our planned and greatly anticipated vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia is canceled due to the health threat of the corona virus. This email was followed by another alerting me to the delay of one month for an item I had ordered online. Today marks five weeks since I have been permitted to visit with my mother at her assisted living apartment. Lastly, we ate the last slice of bacon this morning. I read as part of my devotions the scripture printed at the forefront of this letter. What timing! I admit to feeling a little discouraged with all this social distancing and continued dire information about the virus. As I listened to the health professionals warn us the virus will most likely return, I could not help but recall Arnold Schwarzenegger’s words as the Terminator, “I’ll be back.” How comforting! Then I remembered the words of our Lord, nestled at the conclusion of Matthew’s account of the life of Jesus, “…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” These words of assurance are offered to us immediately after what we call the Great Commission, wherein Jesus commands evangelism as an act of discipleship. In Matthew’s gospel this final instruction comes immediately after the rather terse and distinct account of the resurrection. After the resurrection the disciples follow Jesus’ instructions to meet Him at a designated place. It is a mixed reception, however, as some of the disciples doubt it is Jesus while others worship Him. I suspect that even today there are many followers of Jesus that are caught between the two polar responses of doubt and worship. Many of us ask, “Is this ever going to end?” and we complain, “All my plans are trashed, why is this happening?” While we cling to Christ’s promise and yet feel the closeness of His presence diminished, we need to remind ourselves not to yield to feelings born of negative origins. He is present during all the chaos offering us counsel, understanding, and strength through these unprecedented times that leave us shaken and confused. (As an aside, we live in a world that does not understand this promise, nor the connection believers have with God during the good and not so good days on planet earth. Incidentally, Jesus never defers the doubter, but rather allows them to witness the truth and embrace it.) Paul teaches in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” I appreciate the way Paul ties together the supernatural connection God has for us with the call of self-discipline. We need to take responsibility for our reaction to this health crisis that has redefined our lifestyle. This is a critical time for all believers to remain spiritually disciplined – connecting with each other, committing to quality study and reflection on the Word of God, journaling both our positive discoveries and challenges as we read Scripture, worship, pray, and call on the presence of God to bring all this to the point of living a victorious life in Christ. I would encourage you to remember the eternal promise of Jesus that He will be with us. The greatest affirmation of the power of God is seen in our resurrected Savior – death is defeated, and the absolute transformation of our life is made a reality. Through His mighty act of salvation, we are now dead to sin and alive in Christ! Therefore, we do not need to worry about our life, Jesus will never leave us! Even in our earthly death, Jesus resurrects us into life eternal. We are living eternity, NOW!!! No virus can take that away from us. Not to sound trite, but Jesus has all the angles of life covered! Refuse to worry, do not define your life in the boundaries of fear, instead claim the power of the resurrection in your life. Live life victoriously and without worry or fear. All for the Kingdom, Dr. Chet Harris

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