Yesterday I was reminded of a story from the life of Jehoshaphat – one of the kings of Judah – from 2 Chronicles 20. An enormous army was coming to attack the people of Judah, and Jehoshaphat was terribly afraid. Rather than fleeing the battle, trying to make peace, or wallowing in fear, Jehoshaphat “resolved to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3). He called for all the people of Judah to join him in prayer and fasting asking God to show them what to do. While I encourage you to take a few moments and read through the whole story, let me give you the spoiler – God responded to His people’s cry for help. He gave them clear instructions. God’s people responded in obedience, and God gave them a powerful victory.
I confess that I really needed that reminder yesterday. I needed to be reminded that I must be resolved to seek the Lord always but even more so in times of fear and uncertainty. These are such times. It is so very easy to become fearful in these times of business closings, events being cancelled, and constant updates regarding the number of those who are sick. It seems as though everything that was certain a few weeks ago is suddenly on very unstable ground. I understand this because, if I’m really honest, I’m experiencing many of the same emotions. I know God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment; but sometimes that truth is much easier to say than it is to live. I needed to be reminded yesterday that I can take my fear and uncertainty to the God of the universe when I resolve to seek Him.
Yesterday, Matthew Jones, Cory Bennett, and I met with the leaders of several churches in our Independence Baptist Association in Batesville. During that meeting, we were briefed by two medical professionals regarding the newest information from Princeton virology and, more locally, at White River Health System. All the information we are receiving is that the COVID-19 virus is incredibly resilient and difficult to kill. A few hours after that meeting, we received word of the White House recommendations that Americans refrain from gathering in groups of more than 10 people for the next fifteen days (through March 31).
This information has weighed heavily on my heart. I love you. I love to worship with you. I love to hear you sing and to open Scripture with you. I love to laugh and cry with you. You are my family. I love that I am not the only one who feels this way. Based on the information available, we began to pray about how God would have us respond. I believe God has spoken clearly, and after consulting with our deacon body, I am confident in God’s leadership. First Baptist is cancelling all regularly scheduled church activities beginning today through March 31. We will continue to work with the Mountain View School District to distribute food to those students and families who rely upon those meals. The church office will continue to operate according to regular office hours at this time. We are currently looking at all options related to online streaming or recording new services, and we will provide information to you as soon as possible once those decisions are finalized. If you are not aware, you can access nearly 3 1/2 years worth of recording services (including music and my sermons) through our website, our podcast site, iTunes Podcast, Google Music, and iHeart Radio.
My first sermon series at First Baptist was in the fall of 2016. It was titled Be the Church. Those words have never been more true. While we will not be meeting together physically over the next few weeks, we are still the church. We are still called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our homes and our community. Ministry will continue. Serve your neighbor. Love those closest to you. Worship together as a family. We are the Church, and right now God has allowed this virus to scatter us for a season so that our ministry might multiply. He is going to use this to grow His Kingdom. God is going to use this to grow you and me. God has gifted and equipped you and me. He has chosen to place you and me in these crazy times. He has prepared us for such a time as this. Let us go be the Church, and may God allow everything we do to be for His glory and our neighbor’s good!