Sep 10, 2020 | 4 min read | Dave Patty
“I’ve just stopped counting on anything.”
My friend is normally quite optimistic, so his comment caught me by surprise. We were working on ministry plans for the Fall, while trying to guess what kind of conditions we would face in the months ahead. The only constant we could find was uncertainty.
In Europe, as in most parts of the world, these last months have been challenging. One week, the restrictions are easing, and a successful immunization for Covid-19 seems just around the corner. The next week, cases are rising, meetings are restricted, and local officials are scrambling to respond.
Uncertainty is wearing. It is energy-sapping, fear-producing, and fogs our view of the future. Yet, for us believers, the unchanging Word of God can bring a clear light to our uncertain and confusing path. I experienced that this week as I read through the book of Romans. Here is what I found—a successful immunization strategy for Covid-19 from Romans chapter five.
Joy - “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings....” In contrast to happiness, joy is a choice, an attitude that is always within reach, no matter what the circumstances. We can rejoice in the grace of God, in the love lavished on us by the Father, in the sufficient work of Christ, and in the sovereign purposes of our king. Without demanding a change in our circumstances, joy changes us, releasing us from a crushing slavery to events and forces out of our control.
Endurance - “...knowing that suffering produces endurance...” Endurance is the ability to keep going in spite of difficulty, the tenacity that learns from failure, and the perseverance that stays on course in spite of opposition. Unfortunately, this amazing character trait cannot be learned without actually experiencing difficulty, failure, suffering, and opposition. In an age where much of the difficulty faced by preceding generations has been removed by advances in technology, we have been given an unprecedented opportunity for precious growth—delivered by a tiny virus we can’t contain.
Character - “...and endurance produces character...” Success can be stolen from you, talent can be lost, strength can wane. But character, the inner quality of your soul, can flourish even when everything else is lost. Think of the people you most admire. Most likely it is their character that draws you to them. Yet, their inner strength did not develop in a vacuum. Suffering is the crucible of character and it cannot be forged in any other vessel.
Hope - “...and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame...” In contrast to worry, hope looks to the future with eager expectation. Hope is the confident assurance in the power and purposes of God, the anticipation of his goodness waiting for us around the next bend, and the settled rest in our Father’s compassionate care. Although hope is oriented to the future, it changes the basic nature of the present, anchoring us through the winds of change and giving lasting meaning to what appear to be random and unfortunate events.
The most stubborn viruses require a “cocktail” of drugs. In the midst of uncertainty, Paul delivered joy, endurance, character, and hope to me this week.
May you and I be faithful in applying his medicine.
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