Go for it! Let’s get to work! Full speed ahead! Chop, chop! What are we waiting for?
Sometimes our message from the church is to get busy. We must act out our faith. There is good reason for this. The word apostle means “one who is sent.” Angels are “messengers” carrying news from God. Prophets are people who tell what is God’s will in the current situation. The Bible from beginning to end tells us what God’s people do. God’s people care for the poor, tend the sick, help those in need as well as a myriad of other things. Faith without works is dead, wrote James.
But that is only part of the Christian life. It is very American to go, go, go and do, do, do. The business of America is business.
But right now we can’t do lots of things. We are confined.
Part of the Christian life is to S. T. O. P. Jesus did that. In the gospels we read that often he would “retreat” and go off to pray, (Lk. 5:16) to commune with God, to refuel. He was in that regard the first “social-distancer.”
If we are constantly busy, constantly doing, we will run out of gas. We need to refuel. We need to reconnect with God. What is more, we need to remember that God is God and God is at work for us and in us. To do that takes time and reflection.
Let’s go back to a pivotal place in the Bible. God has freed his people from Egypt with the Passover. Pharaoh has let the Hebrews go. But then he changes his mind and sends his crack troops out in chariots to recapture the people or possibly to slay them. They are in a real jam. Pharaoh is bearing down on them on the one side and on the other side is the sea. What should they do?
In the fourteenth chapter of Exodus we read, But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” What should the people do? Keep still! Over and over again we read that the people do not save themselves. God saves them. In fact, in history in the Bible it is not the strength of the people, nor is it their action, but it is God who saves. God rescues. God delivers.
In the twelfth century BC, in the period of the Judges, the Midianites gathered an enormous army to attack Israel. Gideon prepared to make war and defend the land. He had a much smaller force with only 32,000 men. God ordered Gideon to send 22,000 of the men to return to their homes. For God, that left still too many in Gideon’s army. So, God reduced their force to 300 soldiers. I did not leave any zeroes out of that. Three hundred men against the tens of thousands of Midianites. Israel defeated the Midianites (Judges 6-8).
God gives the reason for reducing his force to three hundred men. Before the battle, God tells Gideon why he is reducing the size of his army so drastically. “The Lord said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’” (Judges 7)
God wanted there to be no doubt whose victory this is. They won because of God. The odds against them were deliberately ridiculous. But God gave them the victory despite the pathetic tininess of their army.
This scene is reenacted in the Old Testament. Sometimes when Israel is straying into idolatry God allows weaker forces to vanquish them. It is the other way around when the people cry out for help.
You need only be still. Christian service is indispensable. So is stillness before the Lord. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46)
Being still and quiet before God is not laziness. Essential to our faith is communing with God and recalling that he is the one saving, not us. Consider that prayer is an essential component of the Christian life, indispensable. But prayer usually happens in stillness. Christian action arises from the stillness and prayer. Action does not displace waiting on the Lord; acknowledging that God is the one saving.
The world is in the hand of God. When you read the historical books of the Bible know that you are reading real history. But it is different than a history textbook because Bible history shows the divine truth. God is acting behind the scenes. And his action is for our benefit and his glory.
Sticking with military imagery of Moses and Pharaoh and Gideon and the Midianites, Paul writes, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rmns 8) and “ But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 15) Note that the victory is given to us.
Let us pray. Lord, you have the whole world in your hands. Forgive us when we fret and teach us to trust you. Calm our anxious hearts and give us peace. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.