Here we are. One year later. A moment in history where anyone of age will be able to say, “do you remember what you were doing the day the whole world shut down?”
Friday March 13, 2020 I was sitting at a table with a group of high school young men as we finished our bible study, one of the young men said, “preacher, what you think, is this thing going to shut us down and if so, how long will it last.”
I did not have an answer. Truthfully, as the days and months came, I had a lot more questions than answers. But, that morning at Chick-fil-A was just the beginning.
I left there and went to Ingles just to get a few things and I was shocked. It looked like the weatherman had called for snowmageddon. People were lined up down the freezer section with shopping carts full, some with two carts full. And if you remember, you know, they were full of toilet paper. Who knew?
So, I grabbed more items than I had planned and then told Courtney to go by as well so we could load up. Sounds crazy now, but we just did not know.
As the weekend progressed, we changed our services to be safe and make everyone be as calm as we could. I had no idea that March 15th, 2020 would be our last service in that sanctuary as a congregation until June 14th. And even then, it was limited seating and we had made extreme changes.
Changes. That is a good word for the past year. Everything changed. How we lived out life pre-Covid 19 changed. Everything.
That Monday, March 16th we met as pastor and deacons and worked on a plan that we thought would help us for the shutdown the government was asking us to do. Then, I went home, not knowing that is where I would work and even worship for the next couple of months. The whole word seemed to shut down.
Now, here we are, one year later. I have had many thoughts and ciphered over the events of last year. Trying to glean some insight and wisdom. As always, God's word give me clarity.
Psalm 63-66 was a part of my daily bible plan for the week. It was Ps 66 that got to me. It spoke to my heart of what I had been feeling and let me also see what I believe God was doing and is doing right now, one year later.
I believe He is leading us from adversity to abundance. Let me explain.
This Psalm highlights the journey of the nation of Israel as they made their way out of Egypt and into the land of promise. You will often see the writers of Psalm use that journey as a reference to God’s power and provision. They will not only celebrate it but use it a tool to remind them of how God has been with them and will continue to be with them, no matter what they faced.
Let me share a few of the verses of this great Psalm that really spoke to me:
8 Let the whole world bless our God
and loudly sing his praises.
9 Our lives are in his hands,
and he keeps our feet from stumbling.
10 You have tested us, O God;
you have purified us like silver.
11 You captured us in your net
and laid the burden of slavery on our backs.
12 Then you put a leader over us.
We went through fire and flood,
but you brought us to a place of great abundance.
Notice right off the bat, the writer reminds those who would sing this (it was a song of worship) that God has our lives in His hands, and He keeps our feet from stumbling.
In other words, He is faithful no matter the journey. Amen! Looking back, one year later, God has truly been faithful. Even when I was lost and wondering, He never was!! He kept us from falling, He was with us every step of the way.
I may not have seen it clearly then, but, wow, looking back, I sure can.
But what got me was verses 10-12. The language now moves to showing that even in God’s faithfulness and Him keeping us from falling, it does not mean we are excluded from adversity.
As a matter of fact, it would appear the Psalmist was saying, it was God who led us into the adversity and testing: “You have tested us, you have purified us like silver, you laid the burden on our backs.”
Could this be true? Absolutely. God will lead us in a path to test us not to cause us to stumble but to cause us to stand. He allowed adversity in the path to bring them to a closer walk and witness for Him.
In Deuteronomy 8 the Bible says that the Lord led them on the journey so He could humble them and test them to see what was in their hearts.
Will He not do the same for us, His children by faith in Jesus? The answer is yes. He will often take us through the flood and the fire, both of which, “fire and water”, are symbolic of extreme and varied dangers.
Again, not to cause us to fall but to cause us to stand. His greatest desire is to shape us and mold us into His image and He often uses adversity as the sandpaper of our lives to get the “rough” edges off and reveal more and more of His son.
What about our journey over the past year? Can you look back and remember adversity? Sure. All of us can. It does not mean we all faced the same “floods and fires”, but I believe we all faced some.
Let me list a few that I witnessed in my life and in the life of others:
· Fear of the unknown
· Loss of contact with family, church, and friends. Lost the feeling of community
· Feeling of isolation
· Churches shut down, schools shut down and whole community shut down
· Dear people called to heaven that we could not honor them the way we would normally because of restrictions.
· No weddings, graduations, no family BBQs – no celebrations
· People we love who got the virus and some even passed away
· Many of us who as individuals got the virus and some extremely sick.
· Social and Political unrest and outcome of elections
· Many losing jobs, business suffering and nowhere to turn
· Depression, discouragement, and loss of hope
· No toilet paper, Coke Zero Cherry and having to eat imitation Spaghetti O’s from the discount store because they were all gone at the grocery store. (had to give some humor, was getting too heavy for me)
I could share more and many of you went through more, but I think we can all agree, looking back, one year later, there was adversity.
But let us go forward in this great Psalm to see what comes next. The writer says two things.
1) God brought us through the fire and the flood. Do not just rush past that. God is always leading us through the valleys, through the trials and yes, through the fires and floods. We will come to the other side!!
2) He leads us through the adversity to abundance!! In other words, He has something in store for us. With each valley there is a mountain. After each flood and fire, there is always new growth and new life.
Let me camp out on that last one a minute.
I love to look at other translations to gain a clear picture of what God is trying to say. Here are a few that give us a great insight to the other side of adversity:
“we went through fire and through water, but You brought us out into a broad, moist place [to abundance and refreshment and the open air].”
The Amplified Bible.
“We went through fire and through water: But thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.”
King James Version.
“we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.”
New Revised Standard Version.
“Finally, he brought us to this well-watered place.”
Can you see it now? The Lord brought us through last year, a year of adversity to lead us to a place that is abundant, broad, refreshing, and well-watered. All of which speaks of new life and a satisfied soul.
It does not mean that we will all be rich, not sick, and never face any problems. Not outwardly anyway. Now it can happen. I believe God will bless us in these areas, often after we have had a time of trials. But the greater truth here is the change that comes inside of us!!!
By God’s grace, His plan is for us to come through adversity, better not bitter. Having a greater appreciation for His grace, for His mercy and knowing we cannot face life alone and we need His power and strength for every day.
The fact is, one year later, not only is life now different, but we are as well!! What that difference looks like will now be our choice.
Do we choose to walk into the abundance that the Lord has promised: to renew us, give us fresh wind and take a long breath and see how blessed we are by His grace and goodness?
Or do we allow last year to make us bitter, angry, vengeful, judgmental, and never see the good in anything and just die in the valley of floods and fires. I do not mean you will die physically, but your joy, your love your dreams, they will die.
With all that is within me, I want to be better and not bitter. I believe deep in my heart; this year will be a year of abundance. Maybe not in money or riches – but one of joy, gladness, hope and seeing lives changed by the power of God.
God has brought us through that He might lead us to a place of refreshment and renewal! But I must choose to see God’s word lived out in my own life.
The choice is before us, one year later. God’s words says, we are in His hands and He will NOT let our feet stumble. He has led us in season of adversity and now He desires to lead us to a place of refreshment and abundance.
Let me see, hard choice huh? Better or bitter, blessing from God or just stay in the same shape.
It should be an easy choice, but we often trip over it. The Lord told the nation right before they were going into their land of abundance that the choice was simply and even right in their hearts. In Deuteronomy 30:
9 The LORD your God will make you prosper abundantly in all the work of your hands with children, the offspring of your livestock, and your land’s produce. Indeed, the LORD will again delight in your prosperity, as He delighted in that of your fathers, 10 when you obey the LORD your God by keeping His commands and statutes that are written in this book of the law and return to Him with all your heart and all your soul.
11 “This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach. 12 It is not in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 13 And it is not across the sea so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’
14 But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it. 15 See, today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 For I am commanding you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and multiply, and the LORD your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
17 But if your heart turns away and you do not listen and you are led astray to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I tell you today that you will certainly perish and will not live long in the land you are entering to possess across the Jordan.
19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20 love the LORD your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the LORD swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Choose life!!! Choose to walk in obedience and find the abundance God has promised!!
One year later – we have gone through the adversity and now, God desires to lead us to abundance. Choose life today and watch God move in your life in a powerful way. We will choose to see the abundance that God has for us as we move forward or will we stay stuck in the past, one year later and only see the adversity and not the abundance.
And listen, do not take my word, I am just a pastor and a preacher. But take the word of the one who spoke this world into existence and who can never go back on His word.
Now that is a truth worth living.
God bless you all and love you all and thank you for taking the time to read my simple thoughts. It is my prayer that you walk in His abundance as we face the year ahead.