Summary: This is a message of encouragement. In this message I share Scriptural references of how important we are to God and what we should be remembering in our current circumstance.
As Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure He understood what they would be facing after His death. He understood that they would be scared and would be scattered to their own homes in isolation. Knowing this, He was preparing them so that they would not lose faith; so they would not lose hope. I want to open the message this morning with what Jesus told His disciples in John chapter sixteen. Look down to the end of the chapter at verses thirty-two and thirty-three. It reads, “Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:32-33) Jesus said in Him we have peace. Even though in the world we will have tribulations, Jesus has already conquered the world. If Jesus has overcome the world then it does not matter what the world brings forth – it’s already defeated by the one we serve. In Jesus Christ we can have peace because He has already overcome this world.
Now, if you have been watching the news you have seen or heard about pastors keeping their Churches open even after being asked not to in order to slow the spreading of the virus. Some have taken the stance that to shut their doors means they are not operating in faith. Others have stated that regardless of what their city, county or state government says about Churches not being essential businesses, they disagree, which gives them the right to disobey the orders to remain home. I want to make one thing clear and that is the “Church” is not a building. The “Church” cannot be closed because the Church is the people not the building. If we believe that the Church is the building, then yes, Churches are being closed and people’s faith is being impacted. However, if you believe, as the Word teaches, that the Church is the people who have accepted Christ as their Savior, which means He lives in them and not in a building, then the Church is literally wherever “we” are located. An example of this is seen in Paul’s letter to the Romans.
In Romans chapter sixteen as Paul is closing out his letter and mentioning those who were also working in the ministry, he mentions Priscilla and Aquila. In the fifth verse he says to greet the Church that was meeting in their house. The Church is not a building, but people who are in a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:19-22 says, “Now therefore you are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto a holy temple in the Lord: in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.” Each one of us is part of the household of God, an individual building that makes up a holy temple in the Lord. So, whether we meet at 15 N. 14th Street or as we are virtually in our homes, we are still meeting as a Church. Our Church doors are not closed – we are open!!!
I wanted to open with this statement because some people are struggling with being ordered to remain inside and not being able to worship God together with other believers in the same space. Some people are thinking that this is a test of their faith and their right to worship God publicly is being attacked as was evident of a pastor being arrested this week for not abiding by his state’s stay at home order. Regardless of what the Word says, there are people who believe that they can only worship God in a Church building and anything else is just not genuine. It is important to know and remember that God dwells within each of us. If you are feeling that your faith is being tested right now because of the virus or because you’re being required to remain home except to handle essential business, I have some encouraging news for you. God knew this day would come and what we are facing and He has already made provisions for us.
James 1:2-3 says “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience.” Ah, here we have it. The word “temptations” in this verse means “tests or trials.” We know that Satan will use any and every situation to test our faith as he tries to get us to abandon the promises of God. I want you to notice what I said. I didn’t say that Satan causes the test; I said he will use the test in every way imaginable to get us to doubt God’s love and His faithfulness towards us. And to be honest, sometimes those tests can be really, really tough – including how some are viewing the current world situation. But here is the deal: while we know that some seasons in our lives will be more trying than others and it will be hard to find joy in those seasons, James tells us that it is possible to have that joy. So if James said we could have joy in the midst of our trials (tribulations) it had to have been for a reason. It had to be because it was in fact the truth. So if it is true that we can have joy in the midst of our trying, hard times and currently we are struggling to find that joy, then we have to ask ourselves this question: “Am I going to trust God and take Him at His word or not?” Before you answer that question internally, let me share with you what God has said about you specifically.