I think this will be my final letter for the Gazette as pastor at Emmanuel, but I have thought that before, then Covid-19 happened! We have had a significant month. A date has been agreed when the current pastorate should end; the final AGM of Emmanuel as a particular charity has been held; a call has been issued for a new
pastor and sadly a member of our wider congregation has died. There have been good things as well with people coming to faith and new members being added to the church. All of this is happening when Newport has been placed under local lockdown. It is a time of change and that brings uncertainty. How do we cope? As always the answer is found in the Word.
Isaiah 35 is quoted in Hebrews 12 reminding us that old truth is good Truth. It is a very practical encouragement, but is also totally God centred –
3 Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
At these times we must be very careful about where we focus. I am going to remove a comma in verse 4 and encourage you all to “Behold your God”. Isaiah is introducing a specific statement of truth concerning the judgement and salvation of God, but we need to look unreservedly at God. He is the only unchanging point in life and experience. We think life is stable and that we are not changing, but dig out some old photographs – look at the clothes, the furniture, the cars … We are changing constantly, but we don’t notice it. However
when change is forced on us it unsettles us.
Is Isaiah addressing you as one who has ‘an anxious heart’? God understands and throughout Scripture speaks to those of us who are anxious; see for example Philippians 4:6 ‘do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.’ Here he says, ‘Be strong; fear not!’
Notice the order of this exhortation, before God deals with the fear He calls his people to ‘Be strong’. I want every person reading this to make this their focus – Be strong. Do not be bowed by circumstances; pressured by others and circumstances or weakened by anxiety. Rather look to the Lord, who is still ruler of heaven and earth and is still building His Church. With that focus on the One who is unchanging it will be far easier to ‘fear not!’
It is important also to see that this is not simply about you as an individual, but about all of us as parts of the wider community of the church. God calls us to ‘Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.’ Fear and anxiety so often drain us of strength and purpose, so as we see others struggle encourage them to ‘behold your God.’ Have you ever been in a situation where someone has said, “I could not have managed that without your help”?
At this time of change, DO NOT GIVE UP, but Look to God in Christ and enjoy His resources as well as strengthening yourself as you strengthen others, and to Him be all the glory.
Your very grateful fellow-believer,