Dear brothers and sisters around our IFES family,
I want to share with you some reflections arising from the circumstances our world is facing just now. This new situation of Covid-19 has made us aware once again of the fragility of the human condition, regardless of the continent in which we live or our social status.
Psalm 46 provided the inspiration for Martin Luther to write the hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”. It seems to me that this psalm reflects what we have been experiencing for a few weeks now.
In the face of the dangers and threats surrounding his people, the Lord reveals himself as a stronghold, a shelter where his people find safety. Thus, in the face of the foaming and roaring waters (verse 3), God reminds us that a river of grace flows in abundant streams which “make glad the city of God” (verse 4) and those who find refuge there.
Faced with the invisible and pervasive danger that surrounds us, we must not forget, dear friends, that there is a refuge, a fortress, a help which does not reside in us, but in God! In the Psalm, the sons of Korah speak from their own experience with powerful words that call us to hold firm to hope and to keep going.
I want to share with you three words of advice from the Psalm.
The first is: Stop!
The writers give glory to God and honour him in the first 10 verses of the psalm. They speak of his almighty power over nature and against the enemy. Then comes verse 10. God speaks with this powerful reminder: “Be still, and know that I am God”.
Having talked of God and his mighty power in the first nine verses, we are confronted by this divine command: Be still. Stop!
Brothers and sisters, when normal life collapses around us, it is often difficult to stop. Indeed our worries make us more agitated! Stop? No way! On the contrary, we are inclined to go even faster as if our destiny lies in our own efforts.
But God tells us here to be still. To stop in our tracks, in our planning, our projects. To put down the anchor and focus on who He is, to recognize His Lordship, to turn our eyes, often distracted by other destinations, to Him! To spend time at His feet, in silent submission and to listen to His voice far from the turmoil that shakes our world. It’s not just about stopping, but about doing so before God. It is an invitation to reflect on what God has to say to us, to me. To see what he has for me during this storm and to ask him what he wants to teach me.
My second recommendation is: Do not be afraid
We read in verse 2: “… the earth give[s] way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea”, and in verse 4: “… its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging”. This makes us think of hurricanes, tsunamis and volcanoes. We feel so small and insignificant when we are confronted with these phenomena. But God introduces the verse with these words: “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way…”
We can experience the unleashing of the elements, whether natural, political, war or disease as is the case today, and find ourselves gripped by uncertainty and fear. But verse 2 offers a remedy for our anxiety: “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way..”
No matter what happens in our lives, no matter how small and vulnerable we feel, we must remember that the God of the universe is with us. The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). As we face the storm and a time of trial, let us keep this promise in our hearts. Covid-19 may lead us to doubt in the omnipotence and greatness of God, it may even cause our trust in him to falter. Verse 2 is an answer from God himself. It is an invitation on his part not to lose confidence in his promises.
And lastly, the third call from the psalm: Let us rely on God
Sometimes we feel helpless in the face of the problems and difficulties that confront us and our strength is so diminished that we are unable to face the trials that beset us. David found himself defenceless in his fight against Goliath. He knew he could not win a battle against a giant. He was no match for him. But he believed that his God was greater than his enemy. Verse 11 reminds us “The Lord Almighty is with us”.
Dear friends, we can only really understand this promise when we stop and turn to the Master of our destiny, putting all our fears and anxieties into his hands. I invite you to keep your eyes turned on him, praying that the Lord of Peace will reveal himself and be glorified through this current situation. Let us give to God what is due to him: honour and glory and praise.
Since we are unable to meet together in person, I encourage you, dear friends, to make use of the all the other means of communication available to us such as social networks, phone, email and SMS, so that we can maintain our strong bonds of fellowship and friendship. And I invite you once again to remain united in prayer for each other as this is the heart of our movement.
My friends, in this time of crisis, the leadership and staff of IFES will do our best to keep in touch and to respond to your basic needs. However I also encourage each of us to be that link at all levels of our fellowship: to help, give support and connect, between your local groups, across cities, within countries and even in your IFES region. Through our unity, and fellowship at the national, regional and international levels we can be a source of encouragement and blessing for each other.
May the Peace of the Lord be with you.
My fraternal greetings to you all.