This was my first ever sermon preaching in our parking lot (because of Covid)!
Before I jumped into the sermon below, I gave a brief word (in keeping with Pentecost Sunday) re: being filled with the Holy Spirit. In a nutshell I stated that it is very interesting that the one command in the Bible to be filled with the Holy Spirit is found in Ephesians 5:18, and is immediately followed not by a practical step for us as individuals (such as praying or reading our Bible or speaking in tongues), but rather by a practical first step by us as a corporate people/God’s people = “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;”. This has huge implications for us as spiritual families/congregations; one of which is – singing God’s songs to God is not an option. It pleases Him and it edifies those around us. This is one of the reasons we are meeting outside for now btw in light of Covid and CDC guidelines.
INTRODUCTION - - When I was growing up in the church in the South, from time to time we would sing traditional African American spirituals like this one:
“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands; He’s got the whole world in His hands; He’s got the whole wide world in His hands; He’s got the whole world in His hands.”
Do you know that the prophets that God raised up to minister to the people of Israel often spoke of God’s hands?
The prophet Isaiah for instance - often had to rebuke them for being oblivious to the work of God’s hands in their midst. For example in Isa. 5:12, God said of His people Israel, “…But they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord, Nor do they consider the work of His hands.” (repeat) Later in Isaiah Ch. 45:9 God strongly warns His people with these words, “ Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker – An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?” Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?” Which is another way of saying, “God is not involved with us.” “He is distant, far away and doesn't intervene in our circumstances” If He even exists, He does not really care about our day to day worries and fears. Perhaps He is out there somewhere, but He can’t make a difference in the challenges I am facing or that we are facing as a nation.” He has no hands……
Often in recent months, when I find myself worrying about something, the Holy Spirit will bring the latter portion of Isaiah 50:2 to my mind, where God asks Israel, “…Is My hand so short that it cannot ransom? Or have I no power to deliver?”
Can I ask you, on a scale of 1-10, ten being very strong and unshakeable, how strong is your faith and trust in the living God– after 3 months or more of living in a Covid traumatized world?
One of the great problems with Israel, and I dare say one of the great problems of the church today is if we are not very careful, we can easily become blind to what God is doing in our world –even in its darkest hour. Especially when something like Covid-19 invades our world, and pretty much every media outlet becomes singularly focused on this invasion, and we therefore find ourselves listening to them far more than we normally would – perhaps not realizing in so doing that we are exposing our souls to men and women who on the most part are oblivious to the hand of God in our world. Most of these news reporters and commentators live in a constant state of trauma and stress because they are constantly having to cover big problems and disasters, and they do not have the hope and peace and assurance that comes from knowing that our God is a hands on God – a God who gladly and routinely intervenes in the affairs of the earth.
So for the next ten minutes or so I want to proclaim to you a few truths about God’s hands or God’s interest in and involvement in this broken world. Here’s the first one:
I. The Economy is in His hands – The economy is firmly in His hands. More specifically the needed financial and material provision for all of God’s sons and daughters is firmly in His hands – regardless of what is going on in society around us – regardless of the state of the stock market, or the job market or the black market or any other market.
He has communicated that in many different ways in scripture. Allow me to share a few with you.
King David in a prayer before the gathered people of Israel - declared these truths: I Chronicles 29:11, 12 – “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.”
God Himself said in Psalm 50:10-12 “For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is mine, and all it contains.”
God created everything in the heavens and the earth, and while He has allowed mankind to manage it or in many cases mismanage it, He has never given up His ownership of it, and His right to distribute it and do with it as He pleases.
Jesus often spoke to His disciples of the tenderness and carefulness of the Father to provide for His sons and daughters - - Luke 12:22-32 “And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.”
Covid or perhaps I should say leaders’ responses to Covid has wreaked havoc on the economy of this world. And who knows when the economy of this world will recover. But God’s economy has not been touched. It continues to flourish. And many of us have seen Him provide in unusual and creative ways during this Covid Crunch.
One of the ways the church’s light can shine the brightest in times like these is when everyone else in the culture is hunkering down in fear and hoarding whatever they have, …… God’s people are as generous and engaging in good deeds as ever! Because we know there is no lack with the Living God. May that be ever more true of us! I’m confident it will be.
Well not only is the economy in is Hands, ….
II. Our health is in His hands - - Our health and healing is in His hands. He designed the body; He gives life to the body; He sustains the body; He heals our bodies; He protects us from anything and everything that could harm our body. And He wants us to know and experience Him in this way come Covid or whatever.
God has always been concerned about and committed to the health and well being of His people. For instance He made this promise to the Hebrews soon after He had delivered them from Pharoah in Egypt:
“You shall not worship their gods…But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst. There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.” Exodus 23:24-26
Recently my wife has had some problems with one of her eyes, and as we’ve prayed about it we were drawn to the example of Moses in Deut. 34:7, which said of Moses at the end of his long life, “Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.” And based on his example, which God obviously wanted in the Bible for our inspiration, we have asked that our God who created the eye ball and all the intricate parts within it will give us good eyesight all of our days.
Psalm 91 was probably the most quoted Bible passage in the church world wide in the early days and weeks of Covid. It is a wonderful Psalm full of promises of God’s protection of His people who walk with Him and seek refuge in Him. Specifically protection from pestilences and plagues. Listen to a few of these promises: “For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence. …You will not be afraid of the terror by night, Or of the arrow that flies by day; Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon….No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent.”
It is promises like these that enabled many of us in these last few months to enter our work places, grocery stores and gas stations and pharmacies and even the homes of needy people with confidence that God would protect us.
John the apostle, in his letter to one of the beloved servants of the early church named Gaius said these words, – “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” III John 2 John knew from walking with Jesus that He was highly concerned for both the souls and the bodies or health of men and women, young people and children. That’s what gave him the confidence to pray such a prayer for those he cared for and ministered to.
The economy is in His hands; Our health is in His hands; and finally…..
III. The Church is in His hands - - He is its most able Founder, Sustainer, Purifier and Leader. Jesus said, as is recorded in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 16, “I will build My Church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
The apostle Paul proclaims Him as the Head and CEO of His church in Colossians 1:18, “He is also head of the body, the church;…” How wonderful it has been in this Covid period to listen to and answer ultimately to Him and not to any human personality.
I love that passage in Romans 14 where Paul asserted Jesus’s commitment to strengthen His disciples, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls’ and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:4
While this Covid intrusion had our heads spinning initially – I’m speaking of the church in our nation - - Jesus our Head and our Refiner and Purifier Has been using this added stress to expose to us the cracks in our foundation; He has been using it to show us how to better walk by His Spirit and not the flesh. He has been using it to show us how vain and futile it is to give so much time and attention to so called experts, when we can actually hear the life giving voice of the all wise living God. He has been using it to cleanse us from the fear of man; and from being so influenced by the prevailing tide of public opinion, and to get us to the place where we solely live to do His will – like Jesus did when He walked this earth – regardless of the potential consequences, or the opinions or judgments of man.
The Church is in His strong hands dear brothers and sisters. If our black brothers and sisters in the south after all the misery we put them through with slavery and then the oppression of racism - - if they could sing this song with confidence, surely we can. Do you remember the second verse? “He’s got you and me brother – in His hands. He’s got you and me brother in His hands; He’s got you and me brother – in His hands. He’s got the whole world in His hands.”
Prayer for the people re: economy, health, and the church and for justice and healing re: the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis; and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit